“Actually, David, I work my butt off to obliterate my target, I’m doing just fine, thanks.”
And therein lies my point: The fallacy that 60+ hour weeks, chugging buckets of coffee, and juggling dozens of prospects at the same time equates to the magic formula of #winning.
What you’ve become adept at is spinning plates. You’re a performer — and all that plate spinning will come at a price.
Your physical and mental health, relationships — you know, the important stuff — well, remember Newton’s law. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Hardwired Creatures of Habit
Can we all agree that by virtue of its targeted nature, sales is a pressure cooker of a job? Right from the off, there are some fundamentals deeply rooted within the majority of sales professionals’ minds:
- I must hit target.
- The more I sell, the more I’ll make.
- My job security relies on my ability to hit/exceed target.
And my personal favourite: You’re only as good as your last FY performance. That one’s a real kicker.
Okay… What’s the point?
Well, think back to your first year in sales. Did you nail it by coasting or did you categorically “work your butt off?”
For those who missed target in their first year, would the same apply for year two? I’ll go out on a limb here and guess the answer is yes to the latter.
In those formative years, the institutional takeaway is that success is equal to working like a machine.
You fail to distinguish the bad habits from the good ones and the whole experience blurs into one. That’s why salespeople are SO resistant to change. Once they’ve found something that “works,” they stick to it. Religiously.
In a nutshell, my point is this: Just because you always reach your destination, it doesn’t mean you’re taking the best route. Why choose to swim against the tide?
To an extent, I was one of those salespeople.
I always chased the big fish. I worked evenings and weekends. I never stopped. I won (a lot) but at a cost. I could barely sleep; I was constantly wired.
My health plummeted off a cliff. I put my partner through hell. But so what? I was winning right? The harder you work, the better the results.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and when I look back, I see just how wrong I was.
Those who blindly follow the classic, those-who-work-harder-do-better paradigm have, quite frankly, been duped.
Do you know the definition of “harder” as an adverb? “With a great deal of effort.”
Sorry to break it to you, but effort shouldn’t be considered the golden barometer of your likelihood to nail your target.
Unfortunately, it’s perhaps the most commonly misguided belief in business. If you must abide by a general rule, try this instead:
Those Who Work SMARTER Do Better
Archimedes said it best: “Give me a long enough lever and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.”
Those who “work smart” will outperform and, ultimately, outlast those who don’t.
Just because you’ve found a way, it doesn’t mean that a more effective way doesn’t exist. Yet time and time again, sales professionals bury their head in the sand when faced with change and any disruption to their precious system.
5 Ways YOU Can ‘Work Smart’
1) Technology exists. Use it.
I can’t recommend enough that you familiarize yourself with Sales Hacker’s Sales Tech Landscape. It’s the definitive guide to the rapidly expanding universe of sales enablement technology, and it’s a must-read for any self-respecting sales professional.
There’s a tool to optimize just about every part of the typical sales cycle, both at a personal and organizational level.
Dip your toes in the water by trialling a few. Finding the ideal tech stack to supplement your process might take some time in the beginning, but it’ll pay dividends in the long run.
It could be something as simple a collaboration tool designed to streamline complex bid process, right through to an automated outbound lead generation tool or comprehensive B2B buyer database.
There are over 900 suppliers of SalesTech available, a 15% increase on the previous year, so no time like the present!
2) Stop trying to do it all. Delegate and build trust.
Ditch the micro-management. Did you know that multitasking has been proven to REDUCE productivity?
Studies conducted at Stanford, Michigan, and Sussex University all support the prognosis that multitasking has a negative effect on attention span, brain function, and productivity.
Enterprise level B2B transactions often requires a cast of dozens, and it’s your job to empower and enable those experts. Once you’ve delegated responsibility for a task — say, proposal design — you’re done.
There’s no reason for you to sit on the shoulder, micro-manage or input beyond your first brief. If there is, you’ve either:
- Fluffed the brief
- Appointed the wrong SME
- Failed to establish trust with your support team. This will impact every transaction until you address the root cause.
It’s all too common for the lone-wolf mentality to creep in and for sales professional to get stuck in the weeds. Establish trust with your support team and respect their areas of expertise. They’ll recognise it and pay your enablement back in spades.
3) Switch Off
The cheapest and most effective tool in your sales armoury, yet the most commonly underutilised…
Yes, by stopping what you’re doing, you could see dramatic improvements in your mental performance.
It will feel completely counterintuitive, but this is science. Try crushing your target in the midst of a burnout. I’m speaking from experience and from having seen it happen to others. Not pretty.
I get it. Switching off is difficult. But this is exactly the conditioning I was referring to earlier in the article. This one takes practice — and reframing the paradigm that doing nothing is, well, doing nothing…
Incorrect. By switching off, you’re giving your brain a chance to reset and recover.
Incorporating rest as a vital component of your sales system will:
- Make you more productive
- Encourage greater clarity of thought
- Improve your mental and physical health
(Credit to Katie Maycock, Corporate Anxiety Specialist for the inspiration behind this point.)
4) Continuous personal development
It’s not enough to rely on your business to facilitate the development required to keep up with the pace of modern-day sales. Adopting a “flat-earth mentality” is a sure-fire way to render your successful methods-of-old obsolete.
Familiarize yourself with the latest sales research and studies. Follow credible sales blogs and RSS feeds. Listen to your audience: When was the last time you asked for constructive personal feedback following a decision that didn’t go your way? Pursue 360-degree feedback at least once a year.
Stop focusing on what an incredible sales professional you are. It doesn’t make you any better. Instead, become a critical thinker. Challenge your own belief system.
Why do you do the things the way you do? How did you come about that knowledge/information? What aren’t you so hot at? How could you “sharpen the saw” this week? Continuous self-reflection is a great way to develop your skills.
5) Embrace Data Science
Whether it’s on a personal or organizational level, data science has the power to make your life as a sales professional a whole. Lot. Easier.
Before I go on, let me be clear. No, I’m not suggesting you become a data scientist. Rather, embrace and encourage the application and output of data science.
Gut instinct and feeling can be now be re-enforced with quantitative evidence — building greater levels of assurance and certainty in critical decision making.
Accepted. That was a mouthful. Here’s what I mean…
Figuring out which prospects to pursue, which territories to focus on, where to set your price, whether to bid or not to bid, identifying your optimal lead gen process, sales forecasting… I could go on…
If you’ve got the historic data, use it.
At an organizational level, if you haven’t formally established your sales data strategy yet, you will lose out in the long run.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage the power of data as an individual. Get to grips with your social and performance-based insights and analytics (predominantly LinkedIn and CRM) and begin to identify your own optimal system.
It might seem intimidating at first, but remember point number 4 above: You should be in a continuous state of development to work smart.
What’s the Takeaway?
- Optimize your sales process through technology. Automate manual and repetitive tasks wherever possible.
- Stop multi-tasking. Ditch the lone wolf mentality and learn to trust the expertise of those around you.
- Build adequate rest into your sales process.
- Adopt a continuous personal development mentality.
- Embrace data to build assurance and resilience into your decision making. This one’s a no brainer.
Whatever you choose to take onboard, remember this…
No job, no matter how big the commission package is, should come at the expense of your health.
You owe it to yourself and those around you to work smart. Don’t believe the red-eyed workaholics, in the long-run, working yourself like a mule isn’t an admirable nor effective business trait.
Focus your energy into finding optimal ways of achieving the same or even an improved outcome — and look forward to health, wealth, and happiness.