Sales is a naturally competitive environment, and one rooted in productivity and closing more and more deals. But that environment can be overwhelming and can take its toll on a person's health over time, particularly when mental wellbeing is concerned.
Burnout can result in a number of negative side effects, from lower morale and higher absenteeism to decreased productivity and a negative impact on your bottom line. So, if the goal is to get more from your team, pushing them to their limits every day is unlikely to work out in the long-term. The trick is to work smarter, not harder, in order to maintain efficiency without falling foul to burnout and mental health issues.
Much of the advice you'll read about today will be from a sales team perspective, but can of course be applied to other teams in your company as well.
The first step to increasing productivity and efficiency is to start with a winning team, which requires a smart onboarding process. Before new hires start, educate them on the company culture so they can come into the team feeling confident, prepared and up to speed straight away. It helps people to hit the ground running, which is precisely what you want from a productive team.
From day one, your new starters should understand the history and mission of the company, how teams are structured, and the values of the business. Make sure they have a great first impression and feel welcomed, just as you’d want a prospect to feel. Then, over the course of their first few weeks and months, you can focus on collaboration, training and creating milestone-based goals, with regular check-ins to make sure they’re on track and feel supported.
One of the primary causes of burnout is, of course, overworking and struggling to fit everything in each day. If your staff are feeling like they regularly need to work overtime to get things done, then something needs to change.
Chances are that there are tasks your team are doing throughout the day that can be streamlined or removed entirely. To increase sales and keep your team happy and healthy, automation is the key.
For example, automated emails for prospects, based on certain actions, can play a huge role in the efficiency and growth of your business. In 2022, leading sales engagement platform, Sopro, released a whitepaper entitled 'The State of Prospecting'. It states that "While other marketing channels take time, with email prospecting you can deftly respond to a crisis, announce a change of direction, launch a new initiative, capitalise on a new message, and reach a new audience." Email prospecting saves your team time without compromising on the service you provide to your customers.
Recommended reading: 9 Tips for Newsletters & Email Marketing in E-commerce
Assess the daily tasks your sales team are undertaking and ask which of those tasks are repetitive, and how much they need to be personalised. The likely culprits may be welcome emails, follow-ups, lead nurturing, upselling and handling new prospects, all of which can be automated to free up time and ease the stress placed on your employees.
Sales can be a lonely career, particularly for those working remotely, and that can be detrimental to one’s mental health. It’s also not conducive to productivity. So, while it might be the norm to feel like a lone wolf, the reality is that you need to foster a more collaborative environment to stave off burnout and to increase productivity.
There are plenty of tools available now to improve collaboration within teams, but it can also be as simple as offering advice to colleagues, seeking counsel from a team member or manager or scheduling in more one-to-ones or group meetings so everyone has a chance to bounce ideas off one another and connect.
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Having social activities outside of work hours can also be great to ease those feelings of loneliness and build relationships, which can improve morale, foster loyalty and make people more motivated to do a better job.
In sales, there are numerous opportunities to learn and build your skills, and it’s also a field that offers rapid development for those willing to work for it. But in striving for success, staff may become burnt out and overwhelmed in a bid to do more and achieve goals faster.
A personal development plan can be a great way of streamlining that success and making growth measurable, keeping teams on track without them feeling like they have to do everything at once.
A personal development plan, or PDP, is a document that defines the skills an employee wants to improve, with a set timeline for achieving them. Managers and employees can work on this together to identify two or three main skills and the steps needed to develop them, which makes it clear and actionable. Staff will feel confident that they’re making progress, without being pressured to do too much too soon, for the right balance of progress and manageability.
Sales isn’t necessarily intuitive as far as careers go, and it often takes guidance and the insight of someone who’s done the job for a while to really master it. For new employees, in particular, the learning curve can be stressful. But in an industry this fast-paced, managers and senior members of the team might not have the time or bandwidth to help everyone on the team get to the standard they want to reach.
A sales coach or mentor who’s separate from the organisation can help employees build up their skill set and keep them on the right track, so they can put their efforts to the right tasks and achieve more in less time. It’s easy to get into a routine when you’re doing the same job every day, and having outside perspective and expertise can help team members to shake things up and view tasks or projects differently, and find new ways to work that may be more effective.
If you want to improve efficiency, you need to find ways to get the most out of your day, and for sales staff that means focusing on the bigger, more profitable accounts. That’s not to say that you ditch all other clients entirely – naturally, all clients have value to offer a business in one way or another. But those high-potential prospects or clients that are more likely to provide repeat business should be the priority when it comes to building and growing your business, because they offer a better lifetime value.
Considering the lifetime value a prospect can help staff to use their time wisely. They can schedule their day based on the goals they’re trying to achieve and the accounts that have been prioritised so they can follow up with clients more easily and spend less time trying to close deals on prospects that aren’t delivering as much value for the business as a whole.
Working in sales can be very busy and overwhelming, but if you allow the pressures of the job to interfere with the mental health of your team, it is going to impact their motivation and their ability to do the job well. And that in turn will have a negative impact on the profitability of the business.
Avoiding burnout is vital in any role, but especially in an environment as time-consuming as sales. By applying the tips above, you can create a more efficient and productive workspace that allows people to balance work more effectively.