The year’s first quarter has come and gone. Is your sales team’s excitement about the New Year still burning brightly, or is it already showing signs of fizzling out?
It’s early April, which means Q1 is in the books (and hopefully so is winter).
But we’re also heading into a time of year when the initial burst of renewed energy at the beginning of a new year is quickly wearing off. And that dip in enthusiasm often yields a far less exciting byproduct than sunny skies, says sales consultant Jim Keenan: sales rep burnout.
“Everything that goes up must come down, and that’s certainly true of the initial excitement of a New Year,” says Keenan, a top sales influencer and the author of the popular sales blog, A Sales Guy. “When salespeople get too fanatically focused on making their quotas, they can be driven insane by the numbers. And if they don’t hit their numbers at the end of Q1, all of the excitement they had about a fresh start in 2013 can quickly dissipate.”
Sales rep burnout can be caused by any number of factors, but Keenan says it is typically the result of two things:
- Every sales conversation or review focuses solely on numbers — getting prospects to buy, closing deals, filling the pipeline, etc.
- Customer needs and exciting new initiatives are tossed aside as reps scramble to hit quota.
“Ultimately, that creates this culture where if a sales team or salesperson doesn’t hit their numbers, they’re failing,” Keenan says. “That takes a lot of the fun out of selling and kills team moral pretty quickly.”
So, how can your business avoid sales rep burnout as it heads into Q2? Keenan recommends doing three things:
1) Build a Culture of Learning and Teaching
More insights on managing a high-performing sales team from Jim Keenan:
As much as you need your salespeople to sell, Keenan says they should be doing it in the context of teaching and educating the customer — providing solutions that change their focus and allow them to see the value in your product. Salespeople can’t do that unless they’re taking time to learn about their market, industry, and product.
So, rather than asking your team to focus solely on prospecting and quota attainment, Keenan says you should encourage them to take an hour of their day to read a book about new sales methodologies or learn about the solution they’re selling.
“As salespeople learn, they’ll grow professionally and they’ll feel re-energized,” Keenan says. “And that will make the time they do spend prospecting and closing much more powerful.”
2) Put the Customer’s Needs Front and Center
By encouraging your salespeople to more deeply explore customers’ needs, pain points, and impediments, they will naturally develop a better understanding of those buyers and will be much more prepared to sell to them. Naturally, that will make it easier to hit the numbers that so many companies are obsessed with, Keenan says.
“Salespeople shouldn’t spend all of their time cold calling or drafting proposals,” Keenan explains. “They should also spend time in the customer’s world — reading blogs that matter to their buyers, visiting forums that their customers post to, digesting content that matters to their customers. That will provide critical context and make the process of selling much simpler and more genuine.”
3) Set Aside Time for Feedback and Idea Sharing
Why wait till the end of the year to know you’re in trouble when you can do something about it now?
When things are going badly for salespeople, their tendency is to feel like they’re the only ones struggling. Typically, that’s not the case. That’s why Keenan suggests providing forums or mediums for team feedback, commiseration, and idea sharing. By doing that, you can let salespeople blow off some steam, gather fresh ideas from their peers, and create a plan for addressing their problems.
“That can be accomplished with something as simple as a brown bag group lunch or a brainstorming session over morning coffee, but the idea is to encourage your reps to take a step back and reflect,” Keenan says. “Maybe they spend an hour learning about a creative new solution, or maybe it’s a super-productive meeting about a new sales strategy. Either way, it will break things up and continue to foster that culture of education.”
Those ideas, Keenan says, encompass a more tactical approach. A more strategic approach would be to establish an ongoing coaching cadence to address potential issues that could cause sales burnout and tackle them proactively.
The Bottom Line
Sales rep burnout is a real thing. Left unaddressed, it can cause your reps to begin focusing on the wrong things or, much worse, Keenan says, they may start looking for a different job altogether.
Have your sales teams experienced sales rep burnout in the past? How have you addressed it?