Sales Stress: Tips to Help Managers Avoid Aggravating Their Reps

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No matter how great of a sales manager you are, sales will always be a stressful, tiring job.

Automotive sales and service pro Craig Poché told me:

“Most commissioned positions in the industry are 55+ hours a week, and if you are on commission you are ineligible for overtime … Customers seem to be getting worse too, and customer satisfaction surveys are a huge part of pay plans and job retention, so that’s inherently really stressful.”

Long hours and unreasonable customers come with the territory when you work in sales.

But that doesn’t mean sales managers don’t have any room to make life easier and more pleasant for their reps.

Sales Stress: Tips to Help Managers Avoid Aggravating Their Reps

“Every salesperson knows the quality of their sales manager will have a profound impact on their own success,” writes Steve Martin for Harvard Business Review.

Martin’s research shows that 69% of successful sales reps (those who exceed their yearly quota) had a sales manager they rated as above average.

And there’s a direct correlation between sales organization quality and sales leadership quality. Most sales reps who rated their sales organization as “excellent” rated their sales manager the same way.

Managing well boosts sales effectiveness. Poor sales management, on the other hand, will lower your team’s morale and limit their productivity.

How managers are creating sales stress—and how to stop

Last week, we talked about how expensive sales rep turnover is and how celebrating small wins can boost morale, prevent burnout, and decrease turnover rates.

This week, I talked to more sales reps about their experiences with managers who contributed to their stress instead of reducing it.

Let’s take a look at some bad behaviors that you, as a sales manager, may be guilty of. If you’re vigilant about identifying and eradicating these tendencies, your reps’ stress goes down while morale goes up (and sales numbers may just rise right along with it).

1. You don’t listen

Connor Watson, who worked as a sales agent at the San Francisco Symphony for about a year and a half, told me recently: “I’m currently sitting in my sales office, and I am completely burned out by my manager’s style. He is completely unwilling to hear new ideas.”

Watson said his manager has been out of the trenches for so long that he’s not aware of where his experience differs from his employees on the ground. As a result, his boss often gives employees “unwarranted and unhelpful” advice.

 What to do instead

In sales, everyone is pressed for time. Always.

Every moment you spend coaching a sales team member is time neither of you are making sales. While the prospect of listening to someone repeat the same advice over and over again doesn’t hold much appeal in any circumstances, it can be particularly grating in a high-stress sales environment.

Dr. John A. Kline, a senior executive (SES) and academic provost for Air University, writes that C-suite executives at companies of all sizes say that poor listening is the No. 1 problem within their organizations.

“Furthermore, they declare that listening is the communication skill most crucial to success,” Kline writes.

Tip: Listen to your employees when they tell you how to manage them better.

It’s important for subordinates to listen to managers, but communication goes both ways.

Feeling like they’re not being heard is an unnecessary source of stress for many sales reps, while listening to your reps shows that you respect their perspective and that you care about them.

This can go a long way toward building goodwill and trust, and you might even learn something from each other.

2. You set your reps up for failure

Before becoming a freelance writer, Matthew North sold insurance for a decade.

He talked to me about his burnout experience:

“What contributed to my burnout was that the company would recycle leads. If a person said they weren’t interested, we’d call them back again until they either blocked our number or asked to be removed from our list. It was very uncomfortable calling the same list of disinterested people over and over again, and the company I worked for was unsympathetic toward their salespeople. The model worked great for them because they squeezed as much value from their leads, but it was very hard on us. Most people quit because they knew the business was only in it for themselves.”

 What to do instead

This should probably go without saying, but don’t set your reps up to fail.

Tip: Make sure your sales team’s leads are qualified so they don’t feel like they’re wasting their time or making people angry with irrelevant offers.

Set your reps up for success by providing the best tools and technology for their tasks. It’s important that reps have all the materials they need, including an understanding of the buyer process and a list of common sales objections.

A recent DePaul University survey found that 38% of respondents don’t currently use any sales acceleration technologies, which—according to the authors—”represents an important opportunity for technology providers.”

The 62% of sales organizations that increase sales effectiveness through sales acceleration technologies reported using:

  • Data subscribers and enrichment (40%)
  • Communications/dialing technology (38%)
  • Predictive intelligence and lead scoring (21%)
  • Lead flow management (19%)
  • Gamification (12%)
  • Data visualization and application experience (7%)

If your lead volume and quality are leading or tempting you to recycle leads, it’s probably more cost-effective to invest in sales acceleration tech than to have sales reps chase bad leads. And it will certainly make life better for your reps.

Managers either increase or decrease sales stress. Which are you known for?

If you find yourself with high turnover and demotivated, disengaged reps, look inward.

Are there things you’re doing that are making your direct reports’ lives harder with no real benefit? Do your employees avoid giving you feedback on your management style? If so, it’s time to make some changes.

Sometimes, preventing burnout is as much about what you don’t do as what you do.

To avoid burning out your sales reps with unnecessary stress, don’t ignore critical feedback or make them suffer through irrelevant leads and bad technology. Instead, be sure you’re actively listening to them and setting them up for success.

If you need better software to help your reps spend less time on routine tasks and more time selling, check out Capterra’s sales acceleration tech, sales force automation, contact management, sales enablement, lead management, and CRM software directories. You can compare hundreds of options side-by-side, read reviews from real users, and filter results by desired features.

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About the Author

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz helps B2B software companies with their sales and marketing at Capterra. Her writing has appeared in The Week, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications. She has been quoted by the New York Times Magazine and has been a columnist at Bitcoin Magazine. Her media appearances include Fox News and Al Jazeera America. If you're a B2B software company looking for more exposure, email Cathy at . To read more of her thoughts, follow her on Twitter.


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