5 Reasons Your Sales Reps Hate Their Jobs and What To Do About It

U.S. companies spend over $900 billion on their sales forces – three times more than they spend on all advertising media. However, sales teams deliver only 50% of the revenue performance that their strategies and sales forecasts have promised.

While sales processes, training, compensation plans, technology, marketing support, and product lines matter, sales reps who simply dislike – or hate – their jobs is one of the most understated and overlooked aspects impacting sales force performance today.

Gallup’s “The State of the American Workplace” found that employees who are engaged – those people who don’t hate their jobs – are more likely to improve customer relationships and increase sales performance by 20%.

And while today’s senior sales and HR executives are working hard to create a workplace that allows individual reps to thrive – monetarily and mentally – cultivating a high-performing sales force has become increasingly difficult. According to the latest study conducted by salesforce.com, a mere 20% of B2B sales teams are considered “high performing.”

So, if you are a senior leader reading this article, it is statistically likely that your team is falling short of their revenue goals. Extended sales team underperformance causes a downward spiral where missed targets lead to low commissions which damages morale and increases turnover.

This damaging cycle must be stymied immediately and it can start with understanding if and why your reps hate their job.

To begin that process, here are the top 5 reasons sales reps hate their job:

1. Sales Goals are Unrealistic

All great salespeople set aggressive goals for themselves and excel when challenged. However, unrealistic goals can be demoralizing or even lead to inappropriate behavior. A Harvard Business School paper titled Goals Gone Wild found that indiscriminate goal-setting can lead to increased unethical behavior, distorted risk preferences and corrosion of organizational culture. Last year, because of relentless sales goals, Wells Fargo employees opened more than 2 million fraudulent accounts which cost them their jobs and their clients $2.4 million in fees.

In Annie McKee’s book titled How To Be Happy At Work she aptly noted that “when ambition is coupled with hyper-competitiveness and a single-minded focus on winning, we get into trouble. We become blind to the impact of our actions on ourselves and others; relationships are damaged and collaboration suffers; we start chasing goals for the sake of hitting targets; and work begins to lose its meaning.”

Ultimately, the best salespeople excel when pushed, but unachievable goals lead to stress and resentment. It is important that C-Suite executives have a firm grasp on reality when it comes to setting quota and revenue targets.

2. The Product is Terrible

In some cases, poor sales have zero to do with the capability of your sales team, but everything to do with product flaws. Bill Gates cites the enormous flop of the 1957 Ford Edsel as his favorite case study in this regard. Ford invested $400 million in what was supposed to be the car for the middle class. Unfortunately, the Edsel had oil leaks, sticking hoods and trunks that wouldn’t open; Americans wanted a smaller and more economical car. When teams are losing – be it in business, the military or sports – people often start looking for someone to blame. But, as author and sales training expert Colleen Francis correctly notes, executives need to “think less like a judge and more like a diagnostician. They need to see failing sales as a symptom of a problem and spend more time asking why it happened rather than on deciding who is to blame.”

3. The Company is Full of Toxic Employees and Bosses

Data crunched from 50,000 employees at 11 companies found that top talent is 54% more likely to quit when they work for  or with a toxic person. Getting the right people on the bus – and knowing when to tell toxic employees that this is their last stop – is essential to sales team success. With 4.7% unemployment, corporate America is currently facing the most competitive war for talent since 2001. To win that war, companies need to identify and remove toxic employees and have a structured, rigorous and scientific recruiting process in place to attract and retain true A-players.

4. There is a Lack of Administrative Support

Good salespeople thrive off the thrill of the kill. They do not like filling out mounds of paperwork. Selling Power Magazine recently cited a study that found the average sales rep only spent 10 percent of their time actually selling. Paperwork, administration, travel and other duties suck up the rest of the time, dramatically reducing sales productivity. After reviewing sales data from 40 companies in technology-related industries, McKinsey’s global sales and channel practice found that the best sales teams split their workforce 50/50 between those in a pure sales capacity and those in support roles. To keep reps happy, it’s important to ensure they have the support that they need to sell and make their numbers.

5. The Compensation Plan is Below Market

The Human Resource Management Journal, which collected data from face-to-face interviews at 1,293 private sector workplaces, released results in January that performance-related pay – such as sales commission – was positively associated with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and trust in management. Yet, Peak Sales Recruiting’s 2017 Sales Compensation Report found that 70% of employers are not putting appropriate compensation plans in place to retain A-level talent. With talented salespeople tending to be coin operated, aggressive, and risk-loving individuals, they want a compensation plan where earning potential is unlimited. When compensation isn’t at or above market, sales reps begin to hate their jobs. It’s why High-performing sales organizations have been found to consistently reward their talent with compensation packages that are above market. To create a winning compensation plan that aligns with company goals, it is critical to make them achievable, easy to understand, and uncapped.

The bottom line is that happy employees are more engaged and perform better than those who feel marginalized, underpaid and mistreated. By understanding the five reasons why sales reps hate their jobs, senior executives can take action that will lead to a dramatic increase in performance, happiness and revenue.

Keith Johnstone
Keith Johnstone
Head of Marketing

Keith Johnstone is the Head of Marketing at Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company launched in 2006. Keith leads all marketing activities and has successfully grown revenue and lead volume every quarter. He plays a key role in driving Peak Sales Recruiting which leads the industry with a success rate 50% higher than the industry average, working with a wide-range of clients including boutique, mid-size and world-class companies including P&G, Gartner, Deloitte, Merck, Taser and others.
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