Avoid Sales Rep Burnout by Saying "No"

sales rep burnout

As we’ve discussed before, sales rep burnout is real, and it’s a major challenge for professionals in sales. The emphasis on the hustle culture has helped fuel the already demanding career of sellers, and it’s all taking a toll.

But what can a rep do to smartly manage their time and mental health while still demonstrating they are a team player?

Sales rep burnout can be avoided

Being able to politely decline requests at work is an important skill for both maintaining relationships and staying productive,” say the professionals at Indeed​.com. “[It] allows you to maintain these professional relationships and develop honest and skillful ways of interacting with the other party.”

While managers may not always follow best practices to avoid sales rep burnout, sellers themselves can protect themselves—and maintain their professional reputation.

When being asked to take on yet another task, salespeople should first consider whether saying “no” would be a valid response or merely an excuse. The Balance Careers’ Dawn Rosenberg McKay recommends asking yourself the following questions:

  • Am I already working on several high priority assignments that leave me no time for this one?
  • Does this project have a higher priority than my others?
  • Can I delegate some of my work to subordinates or coworkers?
  • Can I put some of my lower-​priority assignments on the back burner while I work on this new project?
  • If I don't currently have the skills that are necessary to complete this assignment, can I acquire them quickly?
  • Am I the only person in the organization who has the skills and background to complete this assignment? In other words, is my employer relying on me?

These questions can help get to the root of why you feel the need to decline. Are you anxious the task may be too challenging? Or do you simply not have enough hours to give your best and protect your stress levels?

How to professionally decline

Once you’ve decided declining would help you avoid burnout, it’s time to tactfully respond to the request. Honesty and transparency can go a long way, especially if you provide concrete reasons why you are declining. “Make it crystal clear that you have given it serious consideration,” Rosenberg McKay advises. If you are qualified to work on a project but have too much else to do, your boss may help you delegate your other assignments.

Show that you care about the task by brainstorming and then offering an alternative, Indeed​.com suggests. “Try to brainstorm at least two possible alternative solutions to the request. The better you understand the reasoning behind the request, the easier it is to identify solutions. If possible, propose two or three of the possible alternatives you brainstormed earlier.”

Beat sales rep burnout by looking out for yourself

Burnout is a major issue in the sales world, affecting both individual reps and their companies. According to Dooly, 69% of sellers say “they have experienced burnout due to their job. Of those 69%, half said that they feel burnt out often, which is not conducive to a happy and functional workplace, let alone to high retention.”

Even managers who do have their teams’ best interests at heart may not even realize that they are contributing to burnout. Do what’s best for your mental health, your career and your company by being aware of your workload and being proactive to prevent taking on too much.

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision-​makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.