Author: Chris Gillespie
Fatigue can show up in a number of interesting ways and it’s up to both management and sales professionals to self-assess and realize when they’re overworking themselves. With my background in wilderness Search and Rescue, I liken this to going for a very long hike: You’d assume that by not stopping, you’d go faster and further. In reality, if you don’t take frequent breaks you’ll slow down to a crawl and then start making poor decisions. This is exactly how hundreds of people get lost in national parks every year and have to be rescued.
The same exact principle is true in the workplace. If you are grinding yourself into the ground at your computer screen prospecting for twelve hours each day and not taking breaks, you’re going to do a very poor job. This can be tolerable for short stints, but as a salesperson, you really don’t have the luxury of redoing some things. You only get one shot at making a killer first impression. You only get one good discovery call. And you only get one presentation to the CEO. If you’re not performing optimally during these critical moments, your sales will suffer.
While it’s true that as a sales professional, you’re not at the helm of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker or the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, mistakes made when you’re tired can still be damaging to your career. The Canadian Organization of Health and Safety claims that the effects of fatigue are similar to being drunk:
These effects kick in after the 9th-12th hour at the office and linger for days. In this state, you’ll make poor first impressions, retain less from your discovery calls, and get outmaneuvered in negotiations over and over again. You’ll address clients by the wrong name, miss obvious social cues that it’s time to stop talking, and get generally upset when prospects don’t do what you’d like them to do. Clients will avoid calls with you and your productivity will plummet. Your manager will be on your case to perform and you’ll get frustrated, compounding your problems.Keep this up for a sustained period and you’re going to make fewer sales and eventually start worrying about your job security. More importantly, the long-term effect of fatigue is burnout. Long hours at the office come at the expense of more than just sleep: it eats into your personal interests and your social life and deprives you of the inspiration to go to work in the first place.
So how do you spot fatigue? Just look for bumbles, mumbles, and stumbles. This was our rule of thumb in Search and Rescue: When people start stumbling over rocks, mumbling their words, or just bumbling around with pointless repetitive actions, it’s your job, as a peer, to draw attention to it. Their brain and body are taxed and they’re not making great decisions. This is when hikers read the map upside-down and get themselves lost in the dark.In sales, this is when you misquote the customer by a full decimal point, put the wrong company logo on your slide deck, forget what you’re saying mid-sentence, and draw a complete blank on critical questions. Your clients will be incensed at your lack of thoughtfulness and in sales, perception is reality. You’re going to lose deals because you didn’t connect with people. And it’s up to you and your team to help keep each other out of this state.
As salespeople, it’s important to self-assess and understand that working smarter doesn’t mean running yourself ragged. It means getting a decent amount of sleep and prioritizing your key interests and hobbies. It means setting your phone down when you go home. And it means that the entire sales organization is working together to keep each other balanced so that you can each be your best self and go on closing deals and winning.
Do you feel like you do a particularly good job of maintaining this balance? Share your story below.