Working in sales is hard. Period.
No matter how many web articles promise to share the secret formula to making big money while working minimal hours, any professional salesperson will tell you those opportunities are about as rare as a golden goose.
The actual tried and true strategy to becoming successful at selling is old fashioned hard work and dedication. Of course, spending long hours chasing leads all day can eventually lead to mental exhaustion and burnout, which will negatively affect your productivity and sales numbers. But if you stay proactive and watch out for the warning signs, you can keep sales burnout at bay and hit your numbers in stride.
Warning Signs of Burnout
If you’re getting a full night of sleep but still find yourself downing Trenta coffees from Starbucks to stay awake, that’s a problem. While there’s a common misconception that being tired is a result of physical activity, your yawn-filled afternoons are often the result of mental fatigue from work. Stress can keep your mind buzzing even when you’re off the clock and without giving your brain a chance to truly relax, you’ll find yourself in a constant state of exhaustion.
Forgetting to return calls, missing important meetings and lacking creative solutions to present to your clients are all surefire ways to lose out on an important deal. They also are the result of someone who is unorganized and mentally scattered. When stress and exhaustion begin to take over the brain, organization and sharpness are two of the first qualities to suffer. Unfortunately, both crucial to closing deals and keeping clients happy.
The most classic sign of a burned-out salesperson is a negative attitude. They complain about their boss, clients, coworkers and anything that gets in their way. Instead of handling a problem, they will complain about it. They possess the terrible trifecta of being tired, unorganized and angry.
How to Prevent Burnout
Find a Positive Mentor
The key word here is positive. Having someone who can offer uplifting advice and encouragement when you have a slow month is essential to keeping your morale high and preventing burnout.
Find an experienced salesperson that you feel comfortable going to for advice or just to vent. Chances are they’ve already dealt with your exact problem several times throughout their career and will have some helpful tips to get you through the rut.
Plan Out Your Day
Starting your day without a plan is a recipe for disaster. With most salespeople having to navigate through countless emails, phone calls and meetings each day, planning and efficiency is key.
Schedule separate time blocks for each task to avoid getting sidetracked and don’t overbook yourself. You shouldn’t be sending out emails if you’re in an important meeting and this unnecessary multi-tasking will only lead to mistakes and added stress. Staying on track will increase your productivity and in turn, keep you in the right state of mind.
Exercise and Eat Right
While leading an active lifestyle and eating healthy may not directly relate to closing a sale, they are essential to a healthy mind state. You will have more energy throughout the day, be more confident and feel better about your work-life balance. Not to mention, there’s no better way to ward off stress and negativity then burning off a few calories after a long day at the office.
Front-Load Your Day
Behind much of our stress lies a sneaky culprit – procrastination. In the book “Eat That Frog!” by Brian Tracy, we learn an entirely new work style, one where we identify our most challenging and valuable task, the “frog,” and complete it first thing before touching any other tasks.
Which of your most important and valuable sales tasks have you been avoiding? Tracy says, Before you begin work, ask yourself, “Is this task in the top 20 percent of my activities or in the bottom 80 percent?” if it’s in the top 20 percent and you really don’t want to do it, that’s the one you must do.
Getting the hardest and most important things done first will help you in a myriad of ways.
To name just a few benefits, you will:
- Rebuild momentum and a sense of accomplishment
- Regain your passion and excitement for what you do in sales
- Get out of the rut of meaningless minutia
- Reduce overwhelm by making your first task of the day clear (part of proper planning)
- Take advantage of the mornings when our minds are least taxed
- Train your mind for increased willpower and self-discipline
In a nutshell, stop avoiding the bigger tasks that will make the most impact on your sales numbers, and you’ll start winning again. Do them FIRST.
Go on a Low-Information Diet
Between T.V., radio, and social media, our brains are constantly inundated with information to filter through, and most of it has little to no value to our daily lives, bringing no economic value to our sales strategy.
The times when the mind could be categorizing important information from the day’s real-world interactions, the typical American stuffs ever more information in, by watching T.V. shows or mindlessly scrolling on social media. With these habits, burnout is inevitable.
What are your habits like? Answer this honestly. And if you find that you have some bad habits around media consumption, try taking a break, or greatly limiting your time spent on devices, even if you think it’s helping you relax. It’s only adding to the anxiety.
Unplug the T.V., log out of Facebook, watch that awesome sales keynote some other week, and give your brain some needed space to defrag.
Choose Your Uniform
Until you’re off the edge, select a basic uniform that you will wear. I know this sounds strange, but hear me out.
Go with a black shirt and blue jeans, everyday. If your workplace doesn’t allow for this, choose something work appropriate but always keep it the same colors. This will reduce the distraction of deciding what to wear, and save more of your brain power for tasks that matter, avoiding what is now commonly known as “decision fatigue.”
It’s no small wonder why some of the most influential people in the world have a ‘uniform.’
- Barack Obama – gray or blue suit
- Mark Zuckerberg – Brunello Cucinelli t-shirt
- Steve Jobs – black turtleneck, jeans, and New Balance tennis shoes
- Dr. Dre – Nike’s Air Force 1 shoes
So ask yourself, could your burnout be caused in part by daily trivia? Your new uniform will help you streamline your decision making and improve your focus throughout the day.
High-level producers should seek quality in the things they consume. There’s an old saying that says, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
If you watch funny cat videos on YouTube for hours on end (or insert ridiculous waste of time activity here ________), all that junk food you’re feeding your brain will take its toll. It’ll result in sluggishness and a constant craving for more dopamine hits.
Instead of stuffing your face with mind-trash, try some higher level inspiration on for size, that’s more fitting of the successful salesperson you want to be. And I guarantee this will decrease your chances of burnout.
Some of my favorite sources of high-level inspiration are:
- Art or Modern Art museum
- Nature hiking
- World-class entertainment such as Cirque du Soleil
- Live music
- Fine dining
- Visiting a beloved friend or relative
- Cultural events in your area
- Traveling to a new city
- Reflecting on the good in your life, writing and sending someone a thank you note
Not only will this bring more interest to your life, it’ll give you more to talk about with your colleagues and prospects.
Get Out of Your Mind
Maybe your brain has been giving you no rest, going a million miles per hour. There’s that person you need to call back, those 5 different deals to juggle, and quotas to hit. You may feel like you’re going out of your mind, and maybe that’s just what you need to do! Now before you shave your head and join a nudist colony, let me explain.
With how overloaded our brains can get, it’s easy to disconnect from the physical world around us. Here are some tips to “re-connect” and get some balance back:
- Get a one hour deep tissue massage
- Hop in a sauna or hot tub
- Go for some dance lessons
- Hike, ski, play tennis, anything that gets your blood flowing
- Ride a roller coaster at a theme park – that’ll wake you up!
- Do a high-intensity workout like Crossfit or P90X
- Spend time with a beloved pet, tossing the ball or going for a run
Whatever makes you sweat or reinvigorates your senses, putting them front and center – go for it! It’s time to remind your mind to reconnect with what really matters. Extra points if you can do one of these things in the middle of the day as a pick-me-up.
Try this simple exercise, and repeat it any time you’re feeling stuck. A“brain dump” is cathartic, and helps to clear out anything that’s clogging your brain so you can finally think straight again. Seeing your thoughts on a physical piece of paper will make you feel more in control, and provides a solid foundation for un-cluttered and effective decision making.
TIP: If you’re really worn down, it might make sense to space out these steps over the course of 3 days, rather than tackling them all at once.
Get out a piece of paper or notepad and write down everything that’s on your mind. Yes- everything. It doesn’t have to be related to business, and it doesn’t have to be negative. Upcoming events and appointments, business ideas, anniversaries and birthdays, people you need to call back… Don’t stop until you can’t think of anything else. (Ok, maybe grab more than one sheet of paper!)
Circle the MUST DO’s and mercilessly scratch out the things you’ve decided you’re NOT going to do. Making a decision to let go of some things will motivate you and free up mental energy for the tasks that are more important. Sometimes, it takes more self-control to say “no” – and it’s considerably more powerful to cross something out than to let it hang over you and drain you. Crossing it out and deciding not to do something IS an action. And sometimes it’s a good one.
Transfer these MUST DO’s into your calendar or task list. Remember the “Eat That Frog” method and be sure to prioritize the few tasks that will have the most positive impact on your sales number, and more importantly, your personal sanity.
A great time for the “brain dump” is in the evening as thoughts are racing through your head. Rather than letting them rule your night, catch them in the act and write them down. It’s wise to capture and contain your wild rabbits.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Which of these preventative anti-burnout measures will you apply this week? Hopefully one or more. And remember, your mind was only designed to run so hard. So go easy on yourself.
And don’t forget to drop by the C-Level Partners blog to read more articles on all things business and sales success!
Until next time. . .