EPISODE 538: Avoiding Sales Burnout with Gayle Lantz

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast, sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, was recorded on June 11, 2022 and featured Gayle Lantz, author of Take the Bull by The Horns: The Busy Leader’s Action Guide to Growing Your Business…and Yourself.]

Find Gayle on LinkedIn.

GAYLE’S TIP: “A couple of things to avoid burnout. One is the internal perspective. If you are facing this personally, to get quiet, to really do some introspective thinking about what matters most to you right now so that you can get clarity. Often when we’re overwhelmed or burned out, there’s total lack of clarity. So just settling yourself down and getting a clearer sense of what matters to you most now is important. From the employer perspective, they can help facilitate that process to give employees openings to have these kinds of conversations that they really need to be having ideally with their leaders or management so that they can support, drive, become more aware of some of the issues that employees are facing. There’s a line of questioning that you can do, there are assessments that you can use to incorporate all kinds of tools that can help you gain that awareness and clarity that’s needed when you get to that point.”


Fred Diamond: Gayle, you’ve surpassed the 100 mark with your podcast. Congratulations. You’re the founder and CEO of WorkMatters. We’re going to be talking about a really important topic. We’re doing today’s recording in June, the show’s going to go live sometime in the summer, but the topic is not going to change which is retaining great people, attracting great people. The mission of the Institute for Excellence in Sales is to help sales leaders attract, retain, motivate, and elevate top-tier talent, particularly of diverse audiences. It’s always been hard and it’s getting harder and harder. Why is that?

Gayle Lantz: Wow. You’re starting out with a tough question, but I think one of the keys is to just increase understanding. The more diverse the talent is that you’re trying to attract, the more important it is that you understand who they are as individuals. Everyone is so different, and so the way that you try to attract in today’s world may be different compared to what you did in the past where you may have had a more uniform approach. I think being creative and being more personal in your approach is what will help serve you best in today’s world.

Fred Diamond: There are so many factors in today’s world. Again, we’re doing today show in June. We’re two years after March 2020 in the whole new world, and there are so many ramifications. One of them, of course, has been things like the Great Resignation, and the fact that people are choosing to live where they want to live. Question about that. The return to the office. Give us some of your thoughts on that because one thing that we learned pretty quickly is that even in the virtual world, you need to be nearby if you want to progress your career. If not so in the office, you need to be close to leadership so they see you, feel you all the time. What are your thoughts on that?

Gayle Lantz: Yeah, I agree. I think that there needs to be some way to stay in touch with your people. Ideally, it would be in person but the reality like you said is people want to work for organizations where they have flexibility to work in the way that they want to. In many ways they can be more effective in doing it their own way. Organizations need to be more flexible in how they’re allowing people to work. Like I mentioned before, working harder to really get to understand what makes the employees tick. There are still ways to do that virtually, but that’s where there can be a great disconnect is when you make sweeping statements about what you think people want when everyone has a different idea of what that looks like.

Fred Diamond: As we’re talking here, as I like to say, all politics is local. Everybody is dealing with their own stuff. One thing we learned early on during the whole pandemic process was, everybody in the world was dealing with three things. Getting past the COVID side of the pandemic, two, getting past the financial implications of the pandemic, which still resonate, and thirdly, whatever you’re personally dealing with. Some life change, maybe dealing with the COVID, a mother who’s ill or death or whatever it might be. Talk about that a little bit. Talk about, where are people right now and how do companies need to be thinking about where people might be?

Gayle Lantz: Let me just share just from a meeting this morning. I was with a group of entrepreneurs and business owners and we went around the room and the question that was put on the table was, what is really true for you right now? If I’m being honest… We all had to fill in the blank. Ninety percent of the people expressed some form of burnout for whatever reason. They’ve been grinding so hard. They’ve been pushing themselves.

These are typically very highly motivated people, but they’re admitting in this room that they feel like they’re spent and they need more than just time off. They’re rethinking everything. I think that it’s more and more common in a lot of the groups that I lead and clients that I work with confide that burnout is a huge issue for them personally. It’s tough especially when they’re in leadership roles, and they’re expected to be motivating others. There’s additional pressure at that level as well.

Fred Diamond: I want to ask you a question. We had a guest on the show, her name is Christy Jones. She’s a sales trainer. She’s based out of St. Louis. She made a great point. She said, “Don’t let a short term emotion lead to a long term decision.” Let’s talk about some of the things you just mentioned here. Let’s say you’re struggling right now because of whatever the reasons might be and there are so many reasons that are justifiable. Do you recommend people just throw away the baby with the bathwater and just leave and just quit and go to a hotel in Montana and just write poetry or take a sabbatical? What is your recommendation to companies from a short term perspective versus, “Is this what you really want to do”?

Gayle Lantz: A couple of things. One is the internal perspective. If you are facing this personally, to get quiet, to really do some introspective thinking about what matters most to you right now so that you can get clarity. Often when we’re overwhelmed or burned out, there’s total lack of clarity. So just settling yourself down and getting a clearer sense of what matters to you most now is important.

From the employer perspective, they can help facilitate that process to give employees openings to have these kinds of conversations that they really need to be having ideally with their leaders or management so that they can support, drive, become more aware of some of the issues that employees are facing. There’s a line of questioning that you can do, there are assessments that you can use to incorporate all kinds of tools that can help you gain that awareness and clarity that’s needed when you get to that point.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here that comes in from Lou Anne, “Can Gayle speak to sales because it’s so high pressure and there’s so much stress?” Let’s talk about salespeople specifically. Again, it’s a Sales Game Changers podcast. Sales is hard. To be successful in sales, in the best of times is hard. There’s expectations, they raise your quota, customers change. One of the big challenges, Gayle, of the last two years hasn’t been what’s going on with you and your company, it’s what’s been going on with your customers’ customers’ customer.

The whole supply chain has been affected. Let’s say you’re selling something and your customer sells supplies to another industry and that industry has been disrupted, and there’s been so many industries that have been disrupted. You may be doing the right thing with yourself, your company, and then something just happens that you couldn’t even really plan for and there’s so much expected with sales professionals right now. Let’s talk about that and maybe even other intense positions at companies. What are some of your thoughts?

Gayle Lantz: I think first of all to acknowledge that those are situations that happen, many of which are beyond your control. As someone who is in sales, you know the importance of staying focused on what you can influence and control. To acknowledge that those are changing factors that can impact performance is one thing that you can do to not take it personally, to double down on how you can think creatively, and maybe talk to some other people about strategies that they’re using that can be effective even in the midst of those changing environments.

I’m a huge advocate of trying to bring people together to learn from each other and leverage the power of different experts in the room or just experiences that people have. I don’t think enough of that is done sometimes in sales. People feel like lone wolves as they’re out there tracking alone and then they have a big win and all of a sudden they crash.

I think really surrounding yourself with other people who are positive and who can contribute ideas and call out what the reality is, while at the same time putting a focus on, what could we do differently? What’s something new we haven’t thought of? Is really important to spark in your employees. Because a lot of times you’d be surprised, Fred, they have the answers. That doesn’t have to come down from top level leadership. More communication with the people who are on the line there can generate a lot of great solutions that many people haven’t even considered.

Fred Diamond: Well, let’s talk about that for a second. Gayle Lantz is the host of the CEO on the Go podcast, which has just passed its 100th episode. Actually, by the time people start listening to this, you’ll probably be up to number 110 or so. You’ve also written Take the Bull by the Horns and you’ve created The Leadership Journal. Both are available on Amazon. Let’s talk about the motivation of sales professionals. It’s interesting, everybody thinks it’s about money, and we talk about this all the time. Yeah, it is, and there are so many other things. From your expertise for the sales leaders out there, what is it that truly motivates their top performers?

Gayle Lantz: Well, I think that’s such a great question. I love to talk about motivation because it is so different for each person. But what I noticed is the increasing importance of purpose. People care so much about purpose. I was just on another webinar that gave all kinds of amazing statistics on why people are becoming more purpose-driven. I think that’s something important to be aware of. It’s not always about the pay. People want to feel like they’re doing work that matters, which happens to be the name of my business, WorkMatters.

I think that the more you can tap into understanding what drives them, there are some people who may be motivated by learning. They love learning new things. They need to be in an environment where they feel like they’re not doing the same old, same old. They want a new challenge. There are some people who may be motivated to be in a completely different experience or a different location. If you’re in sales, the more you can talk about your aspirations, or what you have a natural interest in with people in the organization who can give you feedback or ideas, the more likely you can make that happen.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here from Maxine, a follow up question. Maxine says, “Can Gayle expand on how I can achieve my purpose while working for a company?” Talk a little bit about that. Again, a lot of people who are listening today, about 20% of our audience either work for themselves, or they’re the owner of a small business, so they can donate charity, they can take the day off to volunteer, feed the homeless, whatever it might be. When you work for a company, how do you get that purpose that we’re all talking about?

Gayle Lantz: Purpose doesn’t always have to be charity or volunteering and giving in that way, although that certainly is extremely purpose-driven work. But it might mean, part of my purpose is just trying to make a positive impact in the workplace. If I don’t feel like I’m able to make a positive impact or help inspire positive change, then I get frustrated. That’s something that’s really important to me as an example.

I would encourage Maxine to think about, what is it that’s really driving you now and what might that look like? To become more convicted about talking about that, if you’re not. “This is something that’s really important to me. This is something I would like to see happen,” and to be clear about it. Sometimes when you’re frustrated, it’s because you’ve lost sight of what your purpose is too.

You can get so busy so that everything just seems to be swirling, and you stop and you go, “Why am I even doing this?” To reconnect with your purpose in a way that’s meaningful to you, I think is so important. I can’t say that there’s a one size fits all strategy for doing that, but just to become more intentional about focusing on that can help you figure out ways to do that in your work.

Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about from the corporate side, though, as well. We work with companies at the Institute for Excellence in Sales like Salesforce, which is very charitable, very focused on making the world a better place. A lot of the other companies that are members of the institute, JK Moving is one of our gold sponsors. It’s a very successful moving and shipping company in the DC region.

They have built sustainable farms out in Ashburn and Loudoun County. Has nothing to do with moving people or companies from building to building but they’ve put that in for the people. What is your recommendation for companies? Is it important to have that aspect? Is there too much you could do? Can you get by with dealing none? I’m just curious on what your recommendations are to CEOs listening out there.

Gayle Lantz: I think it’s something that CEOs definitely need to consider and to not force it upon employees. I like the idea of having employees work together and figure it out, see what bubbles up, what they care about. If you can align what you’re doing with what your employees care about, then you’ll have more power going in that direction.

I just interviewed a wonderful CEO who has a business headquartered in India and they just adopted an orphanage there as an example. That was a natural thing for them to do given where they are and the work that they’re involved in. I think that there are some natural opportunities for companies to be more giving, to contribute to causes that matter. I would caution about doing that in a way that doesn’t appeal to what employees care about.

Fred Diamond: How should companies support their people who are individually trying to find purpose? Let’s say I’m a sales professional, and I have a territory for a technology company. Let’s say I sell some type of technology to the Eastern Region and I’m a good sales rep and reach my quota, etc. But because of everything that we’re talking about here, Gayle Lantz, I’ve decided that I need more purpose in my life and it needs to be giving back. What would be your recommendation to the leadership of that company to support that person who is a good performer? The person is not saying, I want to go to India for six months and work in an orphanage, I want to have a day where I can just go feed the homeless because that’s really important to me and I’m still going to meet my quota.

Gayle Lantz: I think what the company can do is to invite those kinds of conversations. Employees would probably appreciate being asked, “What do you care about? What might be something interesting or valuable, or meaningful that you would want to work on? A difference that you want to make.” To begin challenging them. Some people don’t even have the time to think about it but for those that do, and I was one of those too when I was in the corporate world. What is it? There’s got to be something more than this, or I needed to feel a deeper sense of purpose.

Companies can do more to open that line of communication and create a safe environment where people can express what they really care about. It goes back to a cultural issue, really creating a culture, where people feel like they can talk about whatever they want to with leadership especially and feel like they can make a positive impact to drive some decisions. I think that’s one of the best things that you can do is for the employer to be more proactive and opening the dialogue around that and bring in resources, coaches. There are all kinds of resources when you talk about purpose.

Fred Diamond: Right now, there’s a ton on mindfulness and purpose. It’s been so apparent. Things like emotional intelligence and things that used to be known as soft type skills, if you will. I tell people, emotional intelligence is a hard skill. If you’re in sales, you better be emotionally intelligent especially because, like I’ve mentioned before, everybody in the world is dealing with challenging things.

We got a question here from Jean. Jean says, “I’m a new manager. I’m afraid of screwing up. Can Gayle give me some advice?” There’s probably more to the question, Jean, but thank you. That’s all that Jean had written in. Let’s talk about some of the mistakes that you see time and time again because it’s shifted where it really is the employee in a lot of ways is in charge. We’ve heard stories, Gayle Lantz, that people were accepting job offers and just not even showing up. That’s happened at various times when unemployment has been so low, but it seems to be commonplace now, even for great companies with great talent.

Gayle Lantz: I would say, first of all to Jean, watch that self-talk. If you’re afraid to screw up, what is it that you’re concerned about and how can you reframe that into, “here’s what I’m committed to doing that will help us succeed”? So to not shoot yourself in the foot coming out of the gate, but to believe that you’re in your role for a reason, and so there may be mistakes that will be made that overall you’re really positioned to be the positive influence and to really get that more embedded in your mindset. I would suggest that off the bat.

In terms of other things that leaders can do or mistakes they can avoid is even on the recruitment side. In sales, a lot of times, sales candidates are attracted to a role because they think they’re going to make money or they’re sold on, “Oh, you’re going to make a ton of money. It’s super easy. You’re going to be killing it when you get in there.” Then they land there and they’re like, “What have I done?” It doesn’t turn out to be that way.

Setting clear expectations even on the recruitment side can help you get someone in the door and off on the right foot instead of trying to oversell or win them over too much. I think being realistic about what they’re getting into just helps that. Also, like I said before, a lot of managers aren’t taking the time to fully understand the talent that they have. What their communication styles are, what their driving forces are, even some of their top skills.

Some of that needs to be tested out and you don’t figure it out until they’re in the role, but through assessment services and interview process, you can really detect where a person is exceptionally strong and put those strengths into motion to leverage them better right out of the gate. For example, somebody who really likes to engage with people well versus somebody that likes to do a little more research on the front end.

Everybody’s different. All sales roles require different kinds of skill sets. Doing your homework to be clear on who it is that you’re trying to attract, sometimes benchmarks can be created, job benchmarks so that you’re hiring the right fit. That can avoid a lot of problems. You have that person that you interview on the front end, and then it’s Jekyll and Hyde. They turn in to be a different person because they’re good at interviewing, but they’re not really good at sales. Those are the kind of mistakes that you can avoid when you do a little more homework and thought work to be clear on who it is that you want to get through the door in the first place.

Fred Diamond: Gayle, I want to talk about diverse audiences for a second. We run at the Institute for Excellence in Sales, a global Women in Sales program. We’ve had over 120 women around the globe participate. Originally when we launched it, it was in person and live in the DC area. The Institute for Excellence in Sales were based in the DC area. Then when shutdown happened, we shifted to virtual. We’ve had women in Singapore, Hong Kong, Europe, all across the United States.

The US Chamber of Commerce came out with report about two weeks ago that said, a million women in white collar-ish type of working jobs have left the workforce. We know that the women between the ages of certain age have been the most affected from employment perspective because they’ve had to be the full-time mom and home keeper and school teacher and counselor and all those things. One of our missions is to help bring women in sales to thrive with companies. What are some of your recommendations for companies to attract diverse talent? Could be women, could be minorities, specifically into sales. I’m curious on your thoughts on that.

Gayle Lantz: I think finding ways to connect them with each other, to know that when they get into your organization they will be part of a community. There’s a sense of belonging, so that they’re not going to just be given the directive, “Here, go out, here’s your quota.” But you will be surrounded with a group, could be a small group even to help support you, to help you learn as you go so that they do feel fully supported from the beginning and to learn what their needs are too from the beginning.

I keep going back to the same thing, understanding who your people are to the extent that you can before you bring them on board. But women in particular, they’re so relational and so I think finding ways to build those connections within your organizations. It doesn’t need to be just women with other women, by the way, but something that really helps them feel a strong sense of connection with other people in the organization would be something important to do.

Fred Diamond: I’m curious, I like to ask this question. You gave a lot of great ideas on how managers should be thinking about their employees. Give some insights for the individual contributors who are listening to today’s Sales Game Changers podcast on what some of the challenges that are facing their leadership. We tell this to people all the time. Whenever someone says to me, let’s say maybe their first or second job into sales, “I’m not getting the attention,” I say to them, “Well, this is what your boss is challenged with and this is what his boss is challenged with and this is what her boss might be challenged with,” so that they understand where they fit in into the overall spectrum of the organizational challenges. Give us some insights, what do you think leaders are really, really authentically struggling with right now?

Gayle Lantz: Well, aside from burnout, which we’ve talked about, which is becoming more and more evident, I think it’s dealing with change. Some of them are exhausted from, “Okay, now we’re going to meet in person. No, now we have to go virtual again.” There’s a lot of flip flopping around that is forcing them to have to adapt. That’s another challenge that they’re facing.

To your point, there’s a changing going on in their environment, or perhaps in their industry that’s affecting the company that they’re with. They might be looking at more strategic issues at higher levels of leadership that can affect a salesperson. Communication is just always one of the biggest issues. Communication can never be strong enough, good enough. It’s always an area in almost every organization that I work with, especially with salespeople that needs to be improved in some way. At levels of leadership, that’s one of the challenges. How can we reach people, communicate expectations, help them feel supported in ways that are meaningful to them? Does that give you a sense of some of the challenges that there are?

Fred Diamond: Yeah, it does and there are so many of them. I have a question for you. Again, you’re the CEO of WorkMatters, and you help companies with corporate culture inspiring change. When do you get called in? Of course, you do a lot of marketing, you have the great book, of course you’re the author of Take the Bull by the Horns, and you’re also the podcast host of CEOs on the Go. But when does someone call you to come in and to have an engagement? Where are they at that cycle of life?

Gayle Lantz: They typically say something needs to change. I’m not sure what, but we need to move forward in a new direction. We need to get our team on the same page, or we want to create a culture that we know can really help our people thrive. They’re usually at some kind of turning point or awareness level where they’ve been trying some things and they want to do things differently but they don’t really know how. I show up as a catalyst in that process. Culture is a sweet spot for me. Helping companies create culture.

My son is a sales professional with SaaS Company, sells software, fast growing company. Culture is so important. He was here over the holidays with me and did a really big sale. When he heard about it, we were standing in the kitchen and he goes, “Wow, I just made the sale but I’m standing here with my mom in the kitchen. This is so anticlimactic.” Normally, they’re in the office and they have a big Gong and they celebrate.

Creating ways to celebrate virtually, in person, I think that that’s so important. I just bring that up as an example because I think that helps salespeople to stay motivated to know that they’re being recognized, that they’re seen even in the ups and downs, not just when they’re shining and make the sales, but creating cultures that can really help bring out the best in them. That was just a funny example that came to mind.

Fred Diamond: Just the being in the room with other people it’s so critical. It’s interesting, we did a big event yesterday, we had over 100 people at our Annual Award event. The reason I bring this up is, I had to tell people when to clap. I introduced somebody, and people were just watching this person come on stage and I said, “This is when you clap.” It was like, “Oh!” People just started to clap and then the next time, people knew. They forgot how to be an audience. One of the challenges.

I got one last question for you before we ask you for your final action step. Can culture change in a positive way in a second? Things can go wrong in a second. There are so many ways things can go wrong, of course, but on a positive side, can culture shift with something, either a benefit, a presentation by the CEO, a document, a tweet? Just kind of curious, or is it, let’s get in there for the slog, this is going to be 2, 3, 5 year process to flip where we’ve been to where we want to get to?

Gayle Lantz: I think culture can change if it’s a commitment at the top levels of leadership. If you try to do it from any other level, it really doesn’t work as well or can’t be sustained. It has to start at the top. Our company helps organizations transform in record time and the processes that we use are really inspiring to help people do that. I’m even surprised sometimes at how quickly you can begin seeing positive shifts.

Fred Diamond: I want to thank Gayle Lantz for being the guest today on the Sales Game Changers podcast. Gayle, before we ask you for your final action step, just want to acknowledge you again, 100 episodes of your podcast. You’re the author of the award winning book, Take the Bull by the Horns, and you’ve done so many great things. Obviously, when we were doing the prep for the show, we like to do some research on our guests, etc., and there are so many accolades from people for the work that you’ve done for them.

I just want to acknowledge you for the difference you’re making with so many companies, especially right now, even for some of the most stable, successful companies on the planet, it is a challenge for all the reasons that we discussed. Gayle, we like to end every Sales Game Changers podcast with an action step, something specific. You’ve given us 15, 20 great ideas. Give us one action step people should do right now after listening to today’s Sales Game Changers podcast.

Gayle Lantz: If you do nothing else, reach out to someone who’s a few steps ahead of you in sales. Could be a mentor, could be someone in a different organization and just say, “I’d love to get your feedback or perspective on some of the issues I’m thinking about. On how I’m selling, on my career, whatever.” But talk to other people about what you’re thinking and what your possible aspirations are. The more you can talk it, the more it’ll happen. So do reach out to someone who’s a few steps ahead and who you trust, that can give you some valuable perspective to help you generate some ideas to keep you moving and getting what you want in your work.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great idea. We talk a lot about getting a mentor, but people want to be asked to be mentored, especially someone who’s been successful in sales. You see people who are in their 50s, 60s, sometimes their 70s right now who have had great success with great companies and they want to give back. One of the things that we’ve learned, Gayle, is to be successful in sales, it’s not about the sale, it’s about the service.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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