• August 30, 2022

Gartner Finds Nearly 90 Percent of Sellers Feel Burned Out

Nearly 90 percent of sellers report feeling burned out from work and more than half (54 percent) are actively looking for new jobs as a result, according to a survey by Gartner.

In conducting the research, Gartner found two distinct factors contributing to sellers' overall energy toward work—drive and drag.

"Sellers experiencing drive feel engaged at work, ready to act, and mentally alert and are persistent in the face of obstacles," said Alice Walmesley, director of advisory in the Gartner for Sales Leaders Practice, in the report. "Drive is associated with higher quota attainment and lower burnout, and the good news is roughly three out of four sellers report having high drive.

"The challenge is drag, the opposite of drive, which manifests in avoiding or procrastinating work, boredom, and a struggle to focus. Sellers experiencing drag achieve lower quota attainment, have higher burnout, are more likely to express intent to leave, and have shorter expected tenures. About a quarter of sellers experience high drag, and more than half experience medium levels of drag," she continued.

Chief sales officers (CSOs) typically look to cultivate drive with compensation, recognition, and organizational culture, but these approaches often fall short, according to Gartner. The survey revealed a significant disconnect between levels of drive and how sellers perceive just how much their sales leaders know about their motivations. Fifty-nine percent of sellers said their leadership doesn't understand how to motivate them, and 67 percent said their leadership is overly optimistic and disconnected from reality.

"A lack of seller drive is not the problem," Walmesley explained. "To really unpack what motivates sellers, CSOs need to treat drag as the bigger obstacle to overcome by understanding and addressing its presence within their sales organizations."

Key Causes of Seller Drag

Seller drag comes from multiple sources, but the Gartner survey revealed the following four key sources:

  • Lack of development opportunities;
  • Feeling like just another cog in a machine;
  • Lack of clear manager feedback; and
  • High burden of non-value-added administrative tasks, such as seeking multiple approvals for deals.

"For these reasons, 70 p;ercent of sellers who report high levels of drag are actively looking for new jobs, compared to only 7 percent of low-drag sellers," Walmesley said. "Not only are high-drag sellers more likely to be out job hunting, but their performance also suffers. The mean quota attainment for sellers reporting low levels of drag is 1.7 times higher than for sellers reporting high levels of drag."

Sales leaders tend to invest their resources in chasing marginal increases in drive, but Gartner research shows that those who properly diagnose and address drag with the following three tactics can expect greater improvements in seller retention and performance:

  1. Identify sources of drag by conducting one-on-one interviews, focus groups, listening sessions, workshops, and surveys;
  2. Empower sellers by giving them the freedom to solve customer problems, rewarding them for improving business processes, and supporting new ideas, even when they might be risky; and
  3. Ensure opportunities for growth with a clear development path through the organization.

"CSOs with a renewed emphasis on the seller experience and a laser focus on reducing drag can go a long way to ensuring that sellers stay engaged and motivated through current and future disruption," Walmesley concluded.

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