Sales fatigue happens to the best of us and doesn’t tend to wait around for when it would be least harmful; that’s why we will demystify this phrase and help equip you to take a proactive stance against sales fatigue.
What is sales fatigue?
Sales fatigue is an acute mental health condition that affects an individual’s motivation, engagement and performance. That means up to 15% less profitable, 18% less productive, and 37% more likely to be absentee according to Gallup reports.
Specifically, sales fatigue is part of a sales-specific burnout scale that ranges from “primed for peak performance” to “I am putting in notice of resignation”. By managing our levels of stress and recovery, we can maintain a healthy balance to keep hitting quota without sacrificing our mental health.
A career in sales is a marathon, not a sprint. That means longevity needs to be a focus just as much as sprinting at your next month’s goals, or you risk full on burnout.
This can be difficult since we tend to be judged weekly, monthly and/or quarterly which incentivizes pushing ourselves in any given sprint (something we often wear as a badge of honor, justifiably so - we earned it!).
In order to keep ourselves happy, healthy, and on our game - let’s first look out for symptoms of sales fatigue, the levels of fatigue we go through, and finish with strategies to mitigate or avoid sales fatigue altogether.
Symptoms of sales fatigue?
The reality is that many of us have gone through various cycles of fatigue in our jobs. This is normal. If any of the following apply to you now - don’t worry! We are going to make sure to give you what you need to manage your fatigue.
That being said, oftentimes the early symptoms are easiest to manage if we act quickly. The first thing to look out for is feeling tired all the time - especially if the amount of sleep you are getting is regular. That, and a sense of always being behind or looming tasks to be done without the motivation to start moving is classic signs of job fatigue.
Additionally, if the work you are doing feels below par for you, or you are taking excessive amounts of time to do the work - you are likely to be experiencing signs of fatigue.
In sales, this might mean being way behind on logging activity in salesforce, falling behind on follow up emails, or failing to hit activity metrics; especially if you have had periods where these goals were easy to be on top of.
Levels of sales fatigue?
Fatigue either slows the output, or increases the stress associated with achieving your baseline output compared to working when primed for peak performance. It is not uncommon for this to happen as a reaction to failing to meet sales or activity goals, and often silently festers inside reps until manifesting as full blown burnout, a mental health episode, or resignation.
The first level of sales fatigue is languishing fatigue, where a salesperson becomes disconnected from their work and feels empty in their role. This may come from something as small as slipping performance (no matter how subtle), concern over career path, or environmental factors happening outside of the workplace in general.
The next level concerns acute fatigue, where performance starts to trend downward and reps become further dissociated from their jobs. At this level, employees are at risk to be poached by other organizations, despite possibly not having said anything to their teammates, management, or even HR. Most organizations cannot afford to churn too many performers due to neglecting fatigued employees. Losing these performers would be a big hit to their business’s revenues.
Lastly comes full blown burnout. Here, you can kiss your reps’ effort goodbye, because they are done. At this point, you may risk having toxic employees on your hands, which can cost an organization upwards of $12,000 per person and spread like wildfire. These people may show open dissent, be cyber liabilities, and require intentional support to get back on track.
Strategies for mitigating sales fatigue
Now for the good stuff… how to manage all of that fatigue. The truth is, what works for any given person is based on a wide range of factors and unique to that individual alone. Think of this all as balancing stress and recovery like an athlete. There is no one size fits all solution. Here are a few options to try:
This is one that I personally use to manage my days. Essentially, it focuses on producing a large stress stimulus (a spike), followed by medium stress days that should feel low in stress by comparison.
A model for this might be:
Monday - High Stress
Tuesday - Medium Stress
Wednesday - Low Stress
Thursday - High Stress
Friday - Medium Stress
You could also do the same for a working month or quarter, where you have high stress periods and lower stress ones. What really matters is that you use this to push yourself on high stress days, and really take the time to recover on low stress ones.
This technique relies on setting timer intervals to complete smaller chunks of work in manageable sprints.
The standard way is doing 25 minutes of undistracted work followed by a 5-minute mini break.
This works when you break work into smaller chunks like making 30 cold calls, or sending a few personalized emails. Make sure not to stretch the breaks or let technology creep into the equation and distract you…
Realign Your Goals
Okay, this one is admittedly a little meta, but bear with me. If you are experiencing fatigue, try realigning to your personal mission or “why”. Any time that I feel like I am coming up against a wall, I remind myself why I’m working so hard.
In my case, that is to prove everyone right who’s believed in me most and provide a comfortable life for my family. With that in mind, it makes grinding through a few more calls, hosting a couple more demos, or whatever else much easier to handle.
It could also be your “why” for a given role, focused on promotions or other future opportunities.
Sometimes all it takes is a friendly face checking in on you, or holding you accountable to your own goals. Teaming up with someone, whether or not they’re in your organization, is a way to stay connected to friends while achieving greatness together.
These are best implemented prior to sales fatigue setting in, so that by the time any issues arise you are already familiar with each other and have built up trust.
Ask For Help
This is probably the most underrated one on the list. As someone who sells to sales leaders, I can say with confidence that your managers want to help you.
I know that at times you may feel at odds with management, or members of your team, or whatever else - but the truth is that if you approach any of the above and ask for help - they will be happy to do what they can.
When doing so, try to make sure not to be placing blame or making accusations; and engage assuming positive intent.
This is our fire alarm traditionally, but I think we should see it more as a yearly check-up.
When you start to feel fatigue or burnout setting in, taking a few extra days off to unplug from work is one of the most effective ways of recovering.
The key is making sure to actually unplug, and allowing yourself to relax. We’ve all (myself included) taken vacations where we thought about work the whole time and just ended up more stressed.
If you aren’t good at using PTO currently, start by throwing a few 3-day weekends on your calendar. It doesn’t matter whether you use them for a big trip or just to sleep in; these extra breaks will help normalize time off.
I personally am a believer in taking at least a full week off once per year, with smaller breaks along the way.
We started by taking a look at what sales fatigue is, how it relates to burnout, and why mitigating it is crucial to achieving performance goals.
Then we identified some warning symptoms and levels that sales fatigue sets in at. Again - this is all part of a complex system of ever-changing factors, all unique to each individual. As fatigue festers, it worsens.
Arguably, the most important thing here is identifying and addressing issues as they arise and not once they’ve started hurting performance.
On an ongoing basis, having a way of managing these factors and using the right sales fatigue mitigation strategy at the right time will help create distance between you and your competitors.