Sales Management: How to Avoid Burnout among Team Members - dummies

Sales Management: How to Avoid Burnout among Team Members

By Butch Bellah

You can’t operate at your best if you’re mentally fried (that’s a medical term). You need to keep this in mind as a sales manager, for yourself as well as your team. Many times your top performers possess a drive that is almost insatiable.

They’re so driven and laser focused that they fail to take care of themselves — until they crash. Everyone needs time away, time to recharge the batteries and just relax.

But, the ones who need it the most are generally the ones least likely to take it. They don’t want to miss anything, or they don’t feel as if they can turn their territory or accounts over to anyone else while they get in a few days of rest.

There’s an odd paradox found in top producers: When they’re at work they feel guilty about not spending time with their families; yet, when they take time off, they feel guilty that they’re not working. It leads to a never-ending cycle and they end up working themselves until their health breaks down. It’s just not good for anyone.

As a professional sales manager, you want your team members to perform at their best, but they can’t do it if they work themselves to the breaking point. You have to let them know that rest and relaxation are both part of the prescription for success.

You may have seen people go for several years without taking a vacation because they felt nobody else could handle their business for them. If you ever find that to be the case with a member of your team, insist — yes, insist — that he take some time off.

You may be the first person in line to learn and participate in ongoing training, but part of managing your team is knowing when to say when. Make whatever arrangements are necessary to have your over-worker’s accounts covered while he gets away.

If people don’t take breaks, they’re setting themselves up for a textbook case of (cue the scary music) burnout!

Burnout occurs when someone works himself beyond a healthy state. Physically, mentally, emotionally — he’s just out of gas. He’s used up all his reserves, his tanks are empty, and his battery is dead.

Burnout is actually rather common in certain industries, but it can and does take a heavy toll on the employee and ultimately those around him.

The best way to deal with burnout is to avoid it in the first place. Instead of being reactive and waiting until one of your people is already there, be proactive and help keep everyone from ending up burned out.

As a manager, you need to be aware of what it takes to meet your requirements. If you ask your salespeople to make a certain number of calls per day, be sure it’s not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally possible. For example, assume a salesperson is spending his day calling on and soliciting new business.

Even though he can physically make eight to ten calls per day, mentally it’s almost impossible to make that many new calls each day. Because you have to be “on” and have your energy at such a high level when calling on new accounts, the best you can do is make five or six new calls a day.

Now, you can make more calls, but those prospects are basically wasted because you don’t have the necessary energy and enthusiasm as you did for the first half-dozen calls.

Understand the physical, mental, and emotional toll sales and the sales process has on your people and ensure your expectations aren’t overly aggressive. Helping them develop good, sound habits in their scheduling and quotas can go a long way to avoiding burnout.

Another thing you, as a sales manager, can do is to make sure you allow plenty of time for projects you assign to your team. If they’re doing their regular job and you add an entirely new set of tasks to that, be aware that something is going to suffer. Let team members help establish timelines and deadlines for additional projects or allow them to ask for help with part of the process.

Burnt out employees are a real problem today. Some believe more than 80 percent of the workforce suffers from it. Sales professionals are at the high end of the spectrum, some believe. The job is stressful enough. Do what you can to help manage that and foster an environment where your people can be successful without putting their health at risk.

Burnout is nothing more than a fancy name for stress. That’s really what it comes down to is being overly stressed. Nobody can be on all the time — it’s just not possible no matter what his personality type. Even that happy-go-lucky Type A personality needs some downtime every now and then.

A few things that personally help avoid burnout and keep yourself mentally sharp are:

  • Unplugging: Every so often you need have to force yourself to unplug and get away from the computer, cellphone, iPad, and so forth. It can be frightening initially until you realize that the world isn’t going to end if you’re away from your favorite device for a day.

  • Having a creative outlet: If you have a salesperson struggling with burnout or you see the classic symptoms, suggest a creative hobby. As silly as it sounds, something like drawing or jigsaw puzzles gives you time to let your brain have fun and still work. Most salespeople can’t turn their brains off, so the trick is to give it something else to do.

  • Taking a short get away: Even if you’re not an avid outdoorsman, but you still may want to take a day occasionally and get back to nature. You can take a walk, sit on a park bench, or just go sit in the backyard and watch the clouds. If you see signs of burnout, the best cure is usually outside.

  • Playing with a pet: Some time with a pet and not only do you recharge your batteries, but you put a lot of things in perspective, too.

Notice none of these involved traveling. If your salespeople travel, the last thing you need to do is coach them on taking a trip. They see the inside of the car, hotel, and/or airplane enough.