Insights / Sales / Article

The Top 2 Reasons Your Sellers Are Quiet Quitting

September 30, 2022

Contributor: Jordan Turner

Major disruptions continue to upend the world of enterprise sales, leaving sellers feeling frustrated and lost. Two actions from you can help.

Sellers are exhausted. They feel disconnected from their organizations and colleagues, unclear on their future within the business, and challenged by increased complexity. In a recent Gartner survey of over 900 B2B sellers, 89% report feeling burned out and 54% are actively job seeking.

What’s more, sellers think management doesn’t understand how to motivate them: 67% say that their leadership is overly optimistic and disconnected from the reality in which sellers operate today.

Retention has always been important and is more so given labor markets, but addressing quiet quitting is equally critical to making sure sales quotas are met. Quiet quitting is a term that describes employees who are not motivated to put their all into work. They're not actually quitting, but they have mentally checked out.

Download now: How to Motivate and Retain Your Sales Team

So how do you reinvigorate your sellers?

First, understand that motivation consists of two forces: drive and drag. Or, in other words, what motivates sellers towards work and what demotivates them away from work. 

A driven seller feels mentally engaged at work, takes initiative, is persistent and ready to act at any time. In contrast, a seller experiencing drag feels bored, procrastinates, or avoids work altogether, and struggles to focus. Drag is an example of how quiet quitting might manifest within sales.

“To motivate sellers in today’s environment, it’s critical to understand drag as well as drive, but the dynamics are complex,” says Colleen Giblin, Principal, Research at Gartner. “For many sellers, these opposing forces present themselves simultaneously in various aspects of day-to-day work. They are not extremes on a single spectrum.”

It may seem logical to invest in resources to capitalize on drive, but it’s actually more impactful to the business to prevent drag. Seller drive is already high — 76% of sellers experience a high level of drive or motivation toward work. But drag is also prevalent, and it is drag that is most associated with lower quota attainment and higher intent to leave.

The top two reasons sellers are demoralized

It’s critical to address — and reduce — what demotivates your sellers and two reasons surface as the biggest culprits in creating drag.

No. 1: Lack of development opportunities

Without career development opportunities, sellers can’t envision a long-term future with the organization. This isn’t surprising considering that sellers traditionally climb the career ladder in sales by graduating to new or larger accounts, segments, or goals — maybe even moving into management. But this vertical path through more complex or better compensated roles within sales can feel restrictive, because it provides only limited opportunity to flex a wide range of competencies.

Just by enabling your sellers to envision a career path that aligns with their aspirations and interests may increase the likelihood that they continue to meet quota in the short-term and stay with the broader organization — along with their institutional knowledge — in the long-term. Sellers experiencing drag from a lack of development opportunities are up to 35% less likely to attain quota and up to 51% more likely to be actively job-seeking.

You might question expanding career development opportunities for sellers if those opportunities make it easier for them to leave the sales organization. But our research shows that when a seller can see a clear career path in the organization, it has a direct impact on quota attainment. A seller that feels locked in to a particular career path is more likely to look for outside job opportunities, and their pre-resignation performance also suffers, leading to lost revenue. 

Download now: Actionable Insights For Forward-Thinking Sales Leaders

No. 2: Feeling like a cog in a machine

Fifty-six percent of sellers feel like a cog in a machine and 76% feel that sales leadership dictates how to meet their sales objectives. Those who feel this way are more likely to be subpar performers and seek opportunities to leave the organization. 

Empowerment is key to addressing this source of drag as you encourage sellers to make their own decisions, solve customer problems and improve business processes. But this requires sales leadership to support new ideas even when they are risky, foster creative freedom to solve for customer needs, and reward sellers for finding ways to improve sales processes. 

You don’t have to hand over total control to sellers. Instead, carve out carefully scoped opportunities for empowerment within select guardrails.

In short:

  • Sellers’ needs and the selling environment have changed. 59% of sellers don’t think management knows how to motivate them.

  • Because of this, there are high levels of seller drag, or a demotivation away from work. This is detrimental to quota attainment and retention.

  • To combat seller drag, understand the two main drivers: a lack of development opportunities and feeling like a cog in a machine.

Colleen Giblin is a Principal in Gartner's Sales Research Practice. She develops and communicates provocative, practical insights that reflect and address sales leaders' most critical priorities.

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