In a recent DePaul University survey, sales organizations reported that the average instance of employee turnover costs their company $97,690.
A lot of factors contribute to turnover, of course, but in the sales world burnout—in particular—is a huge contributor.
For example, my friend Stephanie Green worked as a customer service advocate for three years at Verizon, which required selling as well as providing support. She told me that after she burned out she just stopped trying at work.
“I literally started using any old reason as a good enough reason to skip work and stopped genuinely caring about doing above the bare minimum or being concerned with making my customers more than just barely satisfied,” Stephanie says.
Sales is a hard job, but burnout isn’t inevitable. Sometimes, burnout happens because you hire the wrong person for the job. But that’s not always the case.
It’s more likely that you could be rewarding your sales reps more effectively for a job well done.
As a sales manager, one of the most effective steps you can take to prevent sales burnout is to reward small wins.
Sales managers who take the time to celebrate small victories end up with happier, more productive reps who are less likely to quit.
Below, we’ll look at how this works and hear the unvarnished truth from burnt out sales reps. We’ll also ask and answer three key questions to help you learn from other managers’ mistakes and keep your sales reps happy, your retention rate high, and the sales rolling in.
3 questions to ask yourself to prevent sales burnout
People hate losing more than they like winning.
To demonstrate this consistent psychological quirk, Steli Efti points to research by Dr. Kahneman, who uses a coin toss example. “I’m going to toss a coin,” Kahneman tells his class. “If it’s tails, you lose $10.”
Then Kahneman asks his students how much they would have to stand to gain by winning in order to take the gamble. On average, students said that they wanted to know they could win twice what they might lose before even considering taking the bet.
What does this have to do with sales? According to a recent DePaul University survey, sales reps miss 42% of their quotas.
That’s a lot of losing. And reps hate it.
Nate Masterson, marketing manager at Maple Holistics, recently told me:
The DePaul University survey shows that missing quotas correlates to the 26.9% turnover rate for inside sales positions (25.7% for outside sales). And half—yes, you read that right—of sales rep turnover is attributed to resignations that arise (in large part) from burnout.
Sales reps like winning almost as much as they hate losing. You can use this to your advantage by identifying small wins and celebrating those moments. But if you’ve never done that before, it can be difficult to know where to start.
You probably have questions about what a “small win” looks like and what rewards work best to prevent burnout. Let’s see if we can head them off.
Question 1: How do you prevent losses from burning out your sales reps?
A good way to mitigate the psychological effects of losing, a sales reality, is to minimize losses and magnify wins.
Steli Efti suggests celebrating smaller victories, such as hitting daily cold call goals. “By celebrating the small stuff, you add importance to every win and add a positive spin to the ‘no’s,” Efti writes.
Continuing this thought, Nate Masterson says:
Question 2: How do you effectively reward your sales team’s wins?
To get ideas about how to effectively reward your sales team’s wins, check out “The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million” by Mark Roberge (it’s also on our “3 B2B Lead Generation Books You Can Listen to on Audible” list).
In particular, chapter eight talks about team-based contests to motivate and reward sales teams while fostering a collaborative corporate culture.
I spoke to Plethora CEO Nick Pinkston about how he makes his rewards pull double duty: thank and motivate. He takes his reps to The Battery, a swanky members-only club in San Francisco. “It’s a fancy place to build their ambition and utilize it,” Pinkston said. “We go there and they think about what it would be like to have more money.”
This might not be applicable if you don’t live in a major city, but you can alter it to fit your situation.
Does your town have a sports stadium where you can get box seats, or a museum where you can get a premium guided tour? Most any kind of attraction will do to reward your team. And group activities have the added benefit of being good for team bonding and building rapport.
Question 3: How do you make sure everyone feels rewarded?
It’s important to remember that not every sales rep will respond equally to the same reward. As a manager, you must take the time to get to know individual employees’ motivators.
“Managers tend to be one-trick ponies,” Focal Point Data Risk business development director Justin Avery told me, speaking to how some managers can, by default, manage their employees the same way they were managed.
Sure, most people with jobs are motivated by money. But it’s not a prime driver for every salesperson.
Avery went on to say:
Other potential rewards include a gift card to a store or restaurant you know the rep likes, an expensed private car to the office, an in-office leaderboard, or a team-wide email or Slack shoutout.
Reward activity and outcome
Of course outcomes matter. But activities matter too.
By rewarding smaller wins, you’re encouraging the behavior that leads to sales while making your reps’ lives a little more pleasant.
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