Eighty-nine percent of sellers report feeling burned out from work, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc. Over half (54%) of respondents report actively looking for a new job, too.
Gartner surveyed 908 B2B sellers in December 2021 and January 2022 to determine what motivates them and found two distinct factors contributing to a seller’s overall energy toward work – “drive” and “drag.”
“Sellers experiencing drive feel engaged at work, ready to act, mentally alert and are persistent in the face of obstacles,” said Alice Walmesley, Director, Advisory in the Gartner for Sales Leaders Practice. “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.”
Chief sales officers (CSOs) typically look to cultivate drive with compensation, recognition and organizational culture, but these approaches often fall short. The survey revealed a significant disconnect between levels of reported drive and sellers’ perceptions of what sales leaders know about their motivation.
Fifty-nine percent of sellers said their leadership doesn't understand how to motivate them and 67% said their leadership is overly optimistic and disconnected from seller reality.
“A lack of seller drive is not the problem,” said Walmesley. “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 four key sources:
- Lack of development opportunities
- Feeling like a “cog in a machine”
- Lack of clear manager feedback
- High burden of non-value-added administrative tasks, such as seeking multiple approvals for deals
“For these reasons, 70% of sellers who report high levels of drag are actively looking for a new job, compared to only 7% of low-drag sellers,” said Walmesley. “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.”
Three Ways to Reduce Seller 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 these three tactics can expect to see even greater improvements in seller retention and commercial performance.
- Diagnose sources of drag by using a combination of 1:1 interviews, focus groups, listening sessions, workshops and surveys.
- 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.
- Ensure opportunities for growth via a career lattice that provides them 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,” said Walmesley.
Gartner clients can read more in "Motivate Tomorrow’s High Performers by Focusing Seller Energy on Growth." Additional information is available in the Gartner ebook, “Sales Leaders: More Than Half of Your Sellers Are Looking for a New Job” and complimentary webinar, “Increase Sellers’ Motivation, Hunger and Energy to Close More Deals.”
About Gartner for Sales Leaders
Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions, unlock existing growth potential, and optimize sales force enablement. Follow news and update from the Gartner Sales practice on Twitter and LinkedIn using #GartnerSales. Members of the media can find additional information and insights in the Gartner Sales Newsroom.