Sales People are driven. Usually by a desire to win, to meet targets and to make commission. That’s true for me too. I am determined to get as much or maybe more done in less time, to work smarter not harder and to enjoy more time doing things I like with people I love. So I have looked carefully at how I work, what I see in organisations I work with and some of the research in this field.
How long is too long?
The hours you need to put in will depend on a lot of factors. These can include the stage you are in your career, what you are working on at the time, the style of management and culture of your employer and the general economic climate.
In my opinion if you are young and just starting out in your Sales career you probably should work long hours. It really helps to get as much experience as possible as soon as you can. You won’t get as tired out by the long hours when you are young and your enthusiasm and work rate can go some way to make up for lack of experience.
And whatever age you are there are times like the run up to a big presentation when everyone is really fired up and working late is part of the excitement of working in Sales. Most partners will understand if you put in a few late nights or weekends at times like this.
But when it happens every weekend, when you miss anniversaries, kid’s birthdays and start cancelling vacations it becomes a real problem for Sales People, their families and the organisations they work for.
Long hours cost employers money
The simplistic calculation is that by getting staff to work longer hours for the same money you get more out of them. But there comes a point where the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you may even lose more than you have gained. Lets look at some of the downsides of a long hours culture.
Start with mistakes. Tired people make mistakes. Tired drivers kill other road users that’s why there are rules about how many hours lorry drivers can be behind the wheel and they have tachographs to enforce the rules. Tired Sales People also make mistakes that may not be fatal, but they can be very costly.
Every organisation needs Sales People who are enthusiastic, creative and thinking on their feet all the time. Sales People who work long hours every month are often none of these things. People who are exhausted by long hours all the time quit their jobs. Finding, hiring and training replacements costs money and usually cause a dip in productivity overall.
And people who are stressed get sick and have to take time off, which certainly doesn’t boost their productivity. Possibly the most disturbing thing I read was a report prepared for the police in Buffalo, New Jersey USA. The findings were complicated but my take out was that tired police officers made mistakes and misjudgements that led to their own loss of life or the lives of the public they were paid to protect!
What is the solution for Sales People?
This is not an easy one for individual Sales People or for organisations. As I said to start with, many Sales People are their own worst enemy. They love the job, they have a strong work ethic and they want the rewards. So they push themselves hard at the expense of themselves and their families. If you are one of these people and you have the power to change how many hours you work think hard about what you really want.
More time with your loved ones may make you happier and perform better when you are at work. Looking after your health makes you stronger so diet and exercise are important and if you have a hobby that helps you unwind all the better.
How can an organisation help?
The first thing the organisation should do is look critically at how they manage Sales. A culture of focusing on deals you can actually win is much better than having a pipeline full of “dead horses”. Conducting effective Opportunity Reviews results in new ideas and a higher probability of success. And a good Sales Process helps Sales People progress opportunities more quickly and effectively.
Technology should be enabling but all too often poor CRM systems force Sales people to sit in front of screens ticking boxes when they should be in front of customers or with their family. As an organisation, decide how many hours or what percentage of a Sales Persons time should be spent on non-selling tasks then make sure the admin tasks fit within the time box.
Love your work
This is the simplest way to achieve a good work/life balance – though perhaps the hardest. If you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work. And Sales is a job you will love if you are doing it well in the right environment. Even if you put the hours in you come home full of energy and enthusiasm and you get more done while at work so you probably don’t have to spend so much time there anyway.
Ask yourself these questions
Is your relationship under strain because of the hours you work?
Is there a high staff turnover or high levels of sickness in your team?
Did you read to your children at bed-time last night?
PS: The title of this blog was inspired by a statement made by the CEO of a well-known international company with headquarters in Zug: “If you work here don’t expect to tell your children bedtime stories”.
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