Quiet Quitting in the Sales Department

Quiet Quitting in the Sales Department

There’s a common sales challenge that is rarely discussed. The popular term is called quiet quitting. It’s not a new phenomenon. Back in the day, we called it “slacking,” “checked out,” or “burned-out.” What it means is a sales rep is doing the bare minimum to maintain employment. Whatever you call it, since the “Great Resignation” more organizations are having to deal with sales reps who are quiet quitting while still on the job. This article explores why it’s happening and what sales leaders can do about it.

Being in sales, you’ve likely found yourself in a situation where you’ve been ready to quit due to a problem but remained quiet. It’s a shared experience, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. Quiet quitting is self-sabotage that stops you from achieving your sales goals and moving forward in your sales career. Fortunately, there are strategies to help you overcome it. With the right approach, you can take control of your sales growth and move forward with your goals.

What is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting occurs in sales when the sales rep loses motivation and remains silent about it. It doesn’t just happen in sales — you might want to break off a relationship or end a project, but you keep that feeling to yourself. This type of quitting is akin to self-sabotage because it prevents you from solving your problems and moving forward. You might be dealing with a quiet quitting situation if you often want to change but don’t do anything about it.

Quiet quitting is often accompanied by frustration, resentment, and hopelessness. You might feel like you’re ready to leave because a situation is too difficult or you’re not getting the results you want. Instead of addressing the issues, you keep them to yourself. In sales, this often happens if the sales reps perceive the goals that they are supposed to reach are impossible, and they instead settle for what they are currently producing.

Common Causes of Quiet Quitting

There are many potential causes of quiet quitting. However, in sales, self-sabotage often stems from a lack of confidence or negative self-talk. If you don’t believe in yourself or your product, or lose faith in your employer, you may be tempted to remain quiet rather than face the specific challenges. Quiet quitting may also be triggered by the belief that you can’t improve, that improvement is not worth the effort, or that you are embarrassed to ask for help.

Whatever the thinking, it’s a mindset and not reality. The thought patterns of quiet quitting include believing the bare minimum is okay. Sales reps can retrain their brain to think that getting close to quota is good enough. Sales leaders that tolerate this behavior do more damage than good. Sales leaders who accept good enough are reinforcing mediocracy. Sales mediocracy can quickly create a good enough sales culture that permeates the entire sales team.

Signs of Quiet Quitting

If you’re dealing with quiet quitting personally, you may notice several signs: you’re ready to leave but remain silent. You often feel frustrated, resentful, and maybe even hopeless. You think the situation will always remain the same, or you have no control over your sales outcomes.

If you are a sales leader, signs someone has quietly quit on the job can be less noticeable. The challenge is to discern a skills gap between a quiet quitting situation. A quiet quitting problem is about effort and attitude. A new sales rep who has never exceeded quota likely has a skills gap. A veteran rep who has become consistently average has likely checked out.

Strategies to Overcome Quiet Quitting for Sales Reps

For sales reps, the first step is to evaluate your situation. “Is this sales role still right for me?” is the question that demands an honest answer. If the answer is no, you are doing your company and customers a disservice by staying on the job. If the answer is yes, you need to find the resources to change your mindset. You can contact a trusted friend or mentor for honest feedback.

If you want to break the thought patterns that lead to quiet quitting, you’ll first want to shift your mindset. This starts with developing a positive mindset. You can increase your confidence, focus on your strengths and accomplishments, and adopt a positive perspective. If a sales slump is causing it, think base hits, not home runs. Small sales and little victories can cure negative self-talk.

How can changing your mindset help? Beliefs influence behaviors. The more you focus on the negative, the harder it becomes to take positive actions. There needs to be more than positive thinking alone. Other actions that will improve your mindset include self-development courses, journaling, and surrounding yourself with positive people. Simple but not easy. A price needs to be paid.

Quiet quitting often stems from believing that you must solve every problem independently. Another way to break the quiet quitting mindset is to ask for help. This could include hiring a coach or joining a coaching program. If you’re dealing with an attitude limiting your performance, asking for help is an excellent first step.

The worst thing you can do as a sales rep is nothing. The second worst thing you can do is try to fix everything alone. Other people in your corner will help you overcome challenges, increase productivity, and gain the support you need to change your current situation.

Strategies to Overcome Quiet Quitting for Sales Leaders

The first decrease in production or sales activities is a warning sign. If you are a sales leader and you have a hunch that a sales rep has lost motivation, it should need to be addressed immediately. It is even more important with a remote sales team to catch a quiet quitting situation early. Your historical sales data will provide the story.

For example, during the pandemic, we had a client who switched to a remote sales force. They immediately saw a drop in sales performance with about 25 percent of their sales reps. Since it was not the entire sales team, something these reps were doing was causing the performance issue. These reps believed, “You can’t sell this product virtually.” This belief influenced their behavior. It was not the product, the market, or the fact that they were selling virtually.

This mindset caused reps to be only partially committed to their virtual presentations. It was not like these sales reps didn’t want to sell. They did not have the skills to do it successfully virtually. It’s like the person that goes to the gym and does not like to train legs. They do leg exercises but not with the same effort as they would train their upper body. We all want to do what we are best at and avoid difficult activities.

Creating a Support System

Quiet quitting often occurs when a sales rep underperforms, feels isolated, or remains unrecognized. Traditional sales leaders think,

We provided onboarding sales training, product training, sales collateral, and the best sales enablement technology on the market. What else do the sales reps need?”

How about a sense of belonging? A sense of contributing, recognition, and career development. The old-school mentality of “here’s the product, go sell it” hinders engagement. When sales teams are selling remotely, the feeling of isolation can further hamper engagement. An unengaged sales rep is another name for a sales rep who quits quietly.

The ability of sales leaders to engage reps working across the country or around the globe will make the difference between a cohesive team that consistently makes their numbers and one that struggles and hinders growth. Sales leaders must be forward-thinking when selling remotely to set sales reps up for success.

The Argument for Quiet Quitting

Some believe quiet quitting is in the best interest of the employee. The logic is they are hired to do the job. They do it. You should not expect them to go above and beyond the duties which they are paid to do. That is true for any position that is not compensated by performance.

This article is not asserting that employees should perform work and not be compensated. In the sales department, part of the compensation is based on performance. When you are paid by commission, this changes the dynamics. If, as a sales leader, you have the resources for ten sales reps, three are exceeding quota, five are meeting quota, and two are just below quota, you are forced to make a business decision.


Every sales rep gets frustrated or hits a sales slump sometimes. However, it can become a problem when the frustration becomes chronic. Sales leaders must remain vigilant, guarding against quiet quitting. Sales reps may need help finding solutions, and when they don’t, it leads to poor performance. The best sales reps maintain the mindset their personal value has more value than their product. We call this a trusted advisor. The best sales leaders instill this mindset in their sales team. With this mindset, there can be no quiet quitting.