You’re in Sales? Give it a rest.

A couple of weekends ago, I went mountain biking with a bunch of my friends to the Whakarewarewa Forest (Redwoods) down in Rotorua.

We’d driven down from Auckland the night before, hired bikes and gear and were expecting to be hitting the trails for at least 4 hours on the Saturday morning.

After about 2 hours of hill climbs and rapid descents down some pretty tough terrain, it occurred to me that not only were my arms and legs aching, but I wasn’t concentrating at all on what I was doing and I was on autopilot.

That’s not too bad when you’re pedalling along in a park on a Sunday afternoon ride with the kids, but when you’re flying down a hill at 40 kilometres an hour with trees either side of you, concentration is something you definitely need in your life.

It was when we reached the bottom of that particular run that I suggested to the other guys that we take a break and grab a coffee.  (C’mon, we are from Auckland)

As we were sipping on our double shot choca mocha soy lattes (in recyclable cups), I started to think about why and when my concentration had lapsed.

When we set off that morning, I was focused, I was reading the trail about 5 to 10 metres ahead of me and I wasn’t looking at my front tyre.  I was planning my turns before I got to the next corner and I was thinking about how my bike would land before I jumped off a ledge.  But, as the morning progressed, my focus shifted to only a metre or two in front of me and I stopped seeing what was coming up ahead of me.

That’s when the risk kicked in.

I was no longer thinking about; how I was going to tackle the next challenge, which was the best line to take; or how I was going to avoid the huge obstacle ahead of me.

Instead, I was just going through the motions because I was tired.

To be honest, I was actually quite lucky not to have hurt myself or worse.

It’s a similar thing in Sales.

We as sales people are expected; to operate at 100% at all times, to be motivated at all times and to have an abundance of energy which other departments in the business can only look at in awe, asking themselves how we do it.

Business itself benefits from this expectation and perception, as the energy that sales people put into their work equates to better productivity and profit each year.

We’re guilty of perpetuating this image ourselves by continually reeling off the ‘work hard, play hard’ line as we hit the gym at Les Mills at 6am, knock back a Berroca mid-morning and then skip lunch, all in the pursuit of being the best we can be.

The issue with this ideal sales person image is that it’s unrealistic and it deters us all from giving our best in the respective sales jobs we do.

Giving 100% effort, 100% of the time is impossible.  (There is a reason we have lunch breaks, weekends and annual leave)

It’s called having a rest.  And, I feel that if you’re in Sales, then rest is your friend.

Sales is a hard profession, one which taxes us both physically, mentally and most of all emotionally.

We’ve all seen sales people who look tired, worn out, or worst of all burnt out altogether, especially when they can’t see it themselves and their results are suffering dramatically.

These tired, worn out or burnt out sales people aren’t really helping themselves, the companies they work for or their customers, which is a terrible scenario for all involved.  This means that when the next restructure occurs, their name will be banded about behind closed doors.

How does this happen?

Well I can tell you that those sales people didn’t plan to burn themselves out, but they didn’t help themselves either.

Chances are they were amongst some of the best performers in their respective businesses, riding high on the adulation, burning the candle on both ends and being financially rewarded for their efforts.

At some point however, they didn’t notice that their attention had moved from looking at the road ahead, to only looking at their front wheel.  They became transactional, they became more cynical and they stopped seeing the opportunities that come with market change.

They became tired and they didn’t even know it.

Why?  Because they didn’t take a break, they wanted to make hay whilst the sun shone and then they got stuck in a rut and stopped thinking about how they could be successful tomorrow, as well as today.

They started skipping lunch breaks, regularly ‘catching up’ on emails on Sundays and not having a week, or two off between leaving the old job before starting the new one.

Sales people who are really passionate about their own long term success and that of their customers need to think more than a metre or two ahead of them.

They should be reading future market demands, the implications to their customers and how best their own business should navigate such changes way ahead of time.

That’s how to have the best chance of succeeding again and again, by taking the time to continually plan ahead and that can only happen when you occasionally stop and take a break from the day to day grind.

Thanks for reading and hopefully you’ll be back next week.

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