Leading a Team – Why Poor Performance Isn't Always the Result of Burnout

BY Kathy Crosett
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If you’re leading a team of sales reps, your top concern might be figuring out how to motivate them to produce at a high level. Favorite tactics of big sales organizations range from offering membership in the President’s Club to handing out high bonuses. New Gartner research shows that you might have a better outcome by determining what’s bothering your sellers instead of appealing to what might motivate them. Gartner analysts have a point as their research found that nearly 90% of reps “report feeling burned out.” But other research shows that poor performance isn’t always the result of burnout.

Leading a Team Through the Pressures of Burnout

Managers who are leading a team know burnout is real. They have guided employees through a pandemic, economic uncertainty and the seesaw decision-​making process around whether team members need to put in face time at the office.

At the same time, reps have had to scramble to learn a new way of selling. For many reps, video calls have replaced the in-​person contact they used to enjoy with their prospects and clients. Who can blame your team members for feeling burned out?

Pinpointing the Causes of “Drag”

Some cases of burnout can be linked to the concept of “drag” discussed in a recent Gartner article. While Gartner analysts link the causes of some low performance to institutional issues, such as putting sales reps through an extensive approval process to get a deal approved, there are other factors at play. Specifically, the manager can be a source of drag.

You can alleviate some performance issues by helping your reps focus on specific problems they’re encountering in the sales pipeline. If they’re struggling with difficult prospects, they may welcome your suggestions on new tactics to try. And they’ll also appreciate the empathy you show them.

Many reps appreciate their managers and would follow them to a new company, according to our research. But findings from our Voice of the Sales Reps survey shows there’s room for improvement. Over 30% of reps believe the top weaknesses of the current manager include motivating team members, holding efficient meetings, and lack of timely responses.

As an agile manager you should act on these causes of drag. For example, instead of assuming all of your team members are motivated by money, review their psychometric assessments to determine what really matters. They may want opportunities to expand into new roles. In addition, make sure you don’t let unanswered questions drag on for days. Your team members should be your top priority.

Developing Attractive Solutions

Our research reinforces the notion that pay isn’t the only detail keeping sales reps in their current positions. When leading a team, managers should also know that nearly 30% of sales reps will stay with their current company if they could have access to a more flexible work schedule or greater opportunities to earn paid time off.

You may be willing to work extra hours. And you may have the flexibility to put in extra time. But not everyone shares your commitment to spending time on work and on location. In fact, sales professionals want the ability to work from locations other than the office. And they’re also interested in compressed work weeks. One study finds that they’re willing to take a pay cut to get these benefits. This detail should attract the attention of business leaders who are looking for a way to inspire their sales professionals.

Leading a Team to Success

The job of a sales rep has never been more challenging. They’re facing more competition and buyers are putting up more hoops for them to jump through. The last thing your team members need is a demotivating manager and work environment. When leading a team, make it your top priority to improve every internal process for your reps. And don’t be afraid to explore different definitions of full-​time work and paid time off.

Photo by Fox on Pexels.