Sales is often a fast-paced, high-stress, unpredictable environment — and for many that choose to go into a sales profession, that’s what they love about their work.
They get the opportunity to meet new people, have thought-provoking conversations, and influence their compensation. Working in sales can provide flexibility and control you won’t see in many other professions.
But sometimes, the go-go-go attitude and pressure to perform can start to take a toll. The inconsistency and unpredictability stop looking like a fun opportunity and start feeling overwhelming and scary.
Sales professionals are prone to burning out — 67% of sales professionals said they agree or strongly agree they are close to experiencing burnout, something that can take weeks (or even years!) to recover from.
Proper stress management is crucial for anyone who works in sales. Here are some tips on how you can keep stress levels at bay in a sales job.
What causes stress for sales professionals?
Simple “self-care” practices like taking a day off work or escaping on a short trip for the weekend can help reduce stress, but if you’re not identifying the source, it’s likely to come back the next time you return to work. In order to effectively manage stress in a sales job, you first need to understand what is causing so much anxiety.
Here are some of the most common reasons sales professionals experience stress at work.
1. Pressure to meet quotas
For sales professionals, meeting quotas acts as a simple metric for success — you either meet your quota or you don’t. And while it can be expected that a rep won’t perform their best each and every month, pressure to keep delivering can build and build. After one great month, it can feel like you constantly need to one-up your past performance to prove your skills.
But in sales, your past isn’t your only competition. Many companies create competitive environments for their sales teams, hoping to motivate individuals to work harder and sell more. When you’re feeling on top of your job, this environment can be exciting — but when you’re already feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it only contributes to the pressure.
2. Unpredictable income
According to Indeed, earning potential is one of the top reasons someone might choose a job in sales. When you’re paid based on the amount you sell, there are unlimited opportunities — but it also means that an off month could really hurt your wallet.
Fluctuating income can quickly create stress for sales reps. If they’re not on target or a large deal falls through, it can spike anxiety that makes it difficult to sleep or focus.
3. Lack of content and resources
Our sales environments are growing more and more complex. Prospects and customers have access to more information, meaning sales processes are more difficult for reps to navigate and control — especially when they’re given outdated training or aren’t provided with tools and resources to help them succeed.
A lack of access to appropriate sales content, resources, and tools (including knowledge on how to handle objections or rejections) means reps are on their own to figure out how to educate and connect with their prospects. In addition to managing conversations and closing deals, they need to strategically create pitches, decks, competitor comparisons, and other forms of content — cutting into their selling time and contributing to an already stressful environment.
4. Excess busy work and administrative tasks
Operations, marketing, finance, and other departments in the organization depend on sales reports for forecasting and projecting, which means they need accurate data from reps. But for already busy sales teams, logging and managing that information can be complicated and frustrating.
When sales reps are already stressed, the busy work of administrative tasks can feel overwhelming. The more complicated the processes are for managing and organizing that data, the bigger impact it can have on the team’s stress levels.
8 ways to handle stress in a sales job
Knowing your source of stress is just the beginning. Here are eight ways reps and teams can manage their work environment to reduce stress on the job.
1. Break down quotas into achievable goals
Looking at any large, long-term goal can feel daunting. But when you break that goal down into smaller chunks, it can feel more achievable and less overwhelming.
While your quota (or a level beyond that) might be your ultimate goal, you can set monthly, weekly, or even daily objectives that help you stay on target.
For example, if your quota is to convert 4 new customers a month, you know you’ll need about 1 new deal a week to stay on track. If you need 5 leads to convert 1 customer, you can figure out that you’ll need to reach out to 20 leads each month in order to end with 4 new customers.
Working from smaller goals helps you move forward while staying on track, preventing you from reaching the end of the month and panicking because you’re far from achieving your goals.
2. Automate the mundane tasks
Automation can be a sales rep’s best friend, especially when it comes to tackling administrative work. Here are some tasks sales teams can automate to work more productively:
- Message and meeting follow ups and check-ins. Set automatic follow-up messages after a certain number of days to prevent prospects from slipping through the cracks.
- Email templates. Having pre-made email templates can make regular communication easier — just choose the appropriate template, fill in personalized details, and send.
- Meeting and pitch scheduling. Tools that can automatically find open space on your calendar can make scheduling a breeze.
- Logging activities like connections and communication. A CRM that automatically captures and tracks calls, emails, and other forms of communication can keep activity logs up to date and accurate.
- Data entry. Data entry is time consuming and frustrating. Automating data tracking and input gives your sales team their time back. A platform like Weflow can simplify the data entry process to help your team stay organized while maintaining the integrity of your sales info.
- Lead and prospect research and identification. Tools that automatically pull lead and prospect information can help you build accurate lead profiles in just a fraction of the time.
Just remember — any time you automate, you want to keep a close eye on data entries and correspondence. While automation tools can dramatically improve productivity, you don’t want to lean too heavily on automated processes or you might lose the human element that is so important to closing sales deals.
3. Ask for support
It’s not always easy to ask for help, especially in positions that can feel isolating and competitive. But it’s important to acknowledge that we can’t always do it all alone. Knowing when to ask for help or support is crucial for being successful and avoiding stress or burnout.
Assistance can come in many different forms. Here are some areas where sales reps might need a hand:
Insight from other company departments
Gaps between departments can lead to siloed information that just makes everyone less efficient. Marketing and product groups have deep knowledge of what customers are looking for and how products work to meet their needs — but if they’re not sharing that information with the sales teams, reps are left figuring things out on their own.
Connecting sales, marketing, and product departments can help them work together to uncover shared challenges or provide insight that helps them do their job better. If a rep is struggling to understand how a product works or what challenges their prospective customer is facing, they might need to reach outside of their own team for help.
Associate assistance on extra tasks
We’ve all had busy days or weeks where it just feels impossible to handle everything. We’re trapped in meetings, have dozens of emails to reply to, and a handful of phone calls we need to return. In these situations, what we really need is someone capable of stepping in and crossing a few tasks off the to-do list.
While many sales teams thrive in competitive environments, sales reps should feel comfortable reaching out to an associate or other team member to ask for some assistance. At the end of the day, the sales team is there to support the customer and the company as a whole — not to compete with one another.
Additional guidance, mentorship, or training
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in sales — you still might run into something you just don’t know how to do.
Remember when you first started preparing for your sales interview? You probably got some advice beforehand - even if it's just from online resources.
Similar situation now, but you move a couple of steps forward since then.
Whether it’s a new sales strategy or a tool you just can’t seem to figure out, wasting time and energy trying to learn on your own will only set you further and further behind.
Know when to look out for external resources and ask for additional training or guidance.
Advocate for yourself — if there is a new skill you want to learn, a tool you want to get better at, or you just need a little extra explanation to fully grasp something new, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
4. Take intentional breaks
When you’re busy, it’s easy to fill your regularly scheduled breaks with extra tasks. You take your lunch at your desk or use your commute to make phone calls. Once in a while, this is a great way to stay ahead of your to-do list — but if it starts to become a regular practice, you’re not giving yourself enough time to rest.
Set intentional break time and use your time away from work to truly detach from the job. Here are some ideas:
- After a long meeting or stressful client call, set a 20-minute timer and read a (non-work related) book.
- Take lunch with a colleague and make work-related conversation off-limits.
- Block off 15 minutes of your afternoon on your calendar and go for a brief walk.
- Meditate for 5 minutes before jumping on a pitch call.
- Use your commute time to listen to a podcast, audiobook, or your favorite music.
5. Use data to make better decisions
Stress can occur when we’re not optimizing our time and working productively. If we’re making the same mistakes over and over or losing opportunities because our processes aren’t working as they should, it can cause us to fall behind and feel overwhelmed.
Improve productivity by looking at your sales data to find patterns or areas where you might be able to improve. For example, if you find you’re consistently losing prospects at the same stage of the sales process, this might be a sign that you need to switch up the way you’re working.
With the help of data, you can make better decisions so you can work smarter — not harder.
6. Focus on self-improvement
How you spend your time outside of work will impact how you are able to manage difficult or stressful moments on the job. If you’re not taking care of yourself (including your physical, mental, and relational health), that will show up in how you perform at work.
Make sure you’re:
- Getting enough sleep.
- Eating healthy balanced meals.
- Staying active and exercising or getting physical activity a few days a week.
- Building and maintaining healthy relationships.
- Prioritizing your mental health and wellbeing.
- Investing in new hobbies or doing the things you enjoy.
7. Be prepared for rejection
It doesn’t matter how good of a salesperson you are — getting told “no” is just part of the sales job. You’re going to run into rejection at some point in your career, so it’s important to be prepared for how to handle those let downs.
While some rejections will be easier to get over than others, having a routine that brings you out of the funk of getting a “no” from a prospect can help shake those negative feelings. Here are some ideas:
- Establish a gratitude practice to focus on the positives in your life.
- Take yourself out to your favorite lunch or grab a treat to boost your spirits.
- Vent about it with a colleague.
- Get excited about your next opportunity.
- Make a list of all the things you’re good at and refer back to it.
Remember — a rejection in sales is rarely personal. It just meant your product wasn’t a good fit. Not letting those rejections get to you can help you stay positive and prevent you from falling into stress.
8. Get involved in sales communities
Having a group of other sales professionals to connect with is a great way to fend off stress and burnout. When you’re a part of an active community, you can all work together to share stress-busting tips and ideas on how to be more productive without feeling overwhelmed.
You can join in-person meet ups, connect virtually through Slack or social media, or meet like minded people in person at sales conferences or other events. Here are a few popular groups to get you started:
Working in sales doesn’t need to be stressful
Truly eliminating every source of stress in your life or career isn’t realistic, but changing how you handle those situations can prevent them from feeling overwhelming. The key is finding what works for you.
If you’re feeling stressed at work, start with the step most likely to make the biggest impact on your current situation. That might be asking for help, taking an intentional day off to rest and regroup, or getting more organized with your tasks and todos. Whatever it may be, remember to put yourself first — you can’t be a successful salesperson if you’re not taking care of your physical and mental health.