Stress In Sales: How to Be Proactive to Prevent Burnout

BY Jessica Helinski
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Stress is a part of many sales reps’ lives, and a survey found that 57% of sales professional respondents feel like they are close to experiencing burnout. 

The high-​stress job, combined with stressors outside of work can be overwhelming, affecting reps physically and mentally. It’s important to be aware of how you’re feeling and just as importantly, how you are dealing with it. While stress isn’t totally avoidable, you do have power over how it affects you and ultimately, your career.

We have to understand that stress isn't the problem because we can't control the stress that is going on outside of ourselves, regardless of what we try to do,” explains Dr. Kathy Gruver, PhD during an episode of SalesFuel’s Manage Smart podcast. “So much of it is in our own minds. So, all we can do is reframe those stressors. We can change our mind and make a decision to respond to these things rather than react.”

Stress: How to recognize it

Gruver points out that many behaviors that indicate stress are simply accepted as a part of life, when in fact, they are warning signs. “There's so many warning signs,” she says. “Everything from gum chewing, sleeplessness, having muscle tension, shoulders up around your ears…the inability to take responsibility for things when we do them wrong…”. Those shouldn’t be “normal” behaviors, but you may have encountered them for so long, you accept them as such. “Our body adapts to them, and we forget that they're actually telling us something,” she explains. Recognizing these as signs of stress is the first step to managing yourself better.

Overcoming stress your own way

There are so many ways for reps to manage stress, and it will depend on each person’s situation and preferences. Sales Health Alliance wants reps to know that if they are experiencing stress, they are far from alone. “For an industry that prides itself on high performance, our data shows that nearly 60% of salespeople underperform due to challenges with mental health,” their recent article reports.

Reps who experience stress should take a look at their current work habits and relationships. You should examine and look for where you are being pushed to your limit. Whether it’s dealing with a difficult team member or working late, be thoughtful about what is contributing to your stress. Then, seek out ways to establish boundaries. “Salespeople are an ambitious bunch,” writes Lestraundra Alfred for HubSpot. “While that ambition is admirable, it can also lead to burnout when it’s fueled by unrealistic goals… sales goals should be realistic, actionable, and clearly communicated so everyone being measured against them understands what they are accountable for.”

Ask for help

It’s not easy for people, especially independent, driven reps, to seek help. But it’s vital when you’re experiencing stress. Whether you’re a senior salesperson or a newcomer to the industry, receiving support can be a lifesaver when you’re on the edge of burnout. Speak up, whether it’s to a manager or a team member. As Alfred points out, “Not only will communicating what’s going on relieve some of the pressure you’re experiencing but speaking up when there’s enough time to mitigate the issue gives time and space for your manager or mentor to work with you and find a solution.” When it comes to stress, being proactive is a must. Otherwise, you risk burning out and then face a potentially long road back to productivity and good mental health.

Breathe and meditate

The idea of meditation or breathing exercises may make you roll your eyes, but it’s worth considering. Gruver shares that she wasn’t keen on the idea of meditating before she tried it. “I had horrible times meditating,” she admits. “I thought I'd lose my edge. I thought it would be too hard to do… I had all these huge misconceptions about meditation, but I found ways to do it that make us more productive, that allow better communication, better leadership.” She adds that once she tried it, she found that “it allows us to up our game and be more present. It lets us pause so that we can respond rather than react.” [If you’re interested in trying one of her suggested breathing exercises, check out the podcast episode as she guides listeners through an easy introductory exercise.]

Focus on what YOU can control

All of the stress-​relief tips shared by Alfred and Gruver deal with actions and behaviors that reps actually have control over. They both emphasize that focusing on what you can control and then doing the work can majorly impact stress levels, and subsequently, your sales success. As Gruver points out, “negative things happen. There are things outside of ourselves we can't control…what we can control is our thinking.”

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash