The science is now definitive on this—Americans are overworked, and it’s taking a toll on our health and well-being. In a Gallup poll of over 10,000 full-time employees, nearly 50 percent of respondents reported that they usually work more than 40 hours a week, with 60 percent saying they work at least 50. It may not sound like much, but those extra hours can add up to big-time health issues down the line, with some studies even finding that working just a few extra hours a day can increase the chances of heart-related problems by a whopping 60 percent.
With the pressure to meet quarterly goals always looming, encouraging your sales team to occasionally take their feet off the gas may seem counterproductive, but doing so could actually make them healthier and more effective. Working smarter (not harder) is the remedy, and having the right insight on your side in advance can help your team do just that.
Why work less?
This may sound a little too good to be true. Working less and winning more? Nice in theory, but probably a little too pie-in-the-sky to live up to its claims. However, there’s mounting evidence to suggest that working more doesn’t necessarily result in more productivity. In fact, it may even reduce it.
When you consider the ever-increasing list of health concerns related to overworking (like depression, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and heart disease) working less won’t just make your team more productive, it’ll make them healthier, too. The subsequent reduction in stress and improved overall health can spill over into their day-to-day lives, injecting them with the newfound energy they need to chase down leads or give them that eureka moment they’ve been waiting for to put the finishing touches on a pitch.
These benefits ring doubly true for salespeople, whose success is often determined by their ability to master the art of all things interpersonal. Staying sharp, making judgement calls, and assessing nonverbal cues were all areas hit hardest by burnout from overworking.
To combat this, some employers are shortening the traditional eight-hour workday to six, or offering the option for four-day weeks. But even if your employer hasn’t yet jumped on the bandwagon, there are still methods you can employ on your own to reduce stress and help your team take it easy—all while remaining just as, if not more, productive than before.
Work smarter with the right insight
Instructing your team on how to find the perfect balance between managing stress and meeting daily obligations may seem difficult, but it’s doable—all you have to do is change how they work.
Think about it: They could make hundreds of cold calls a day or carry out a series of spam assaults on your buyers’ inboxes at night, but that’s not going to increase the chances of making a sale. And even if they do eek out a few promising leads in the process, they’ll be too exhausted to do anything with them. If you just replaced all those hours calling with a select few in-depth conversations with a buyer who’s already vetted, whose needs you clearly know, and who’s in the right position to buy, they’ll likely be met with less stress and more success.
To get there, look at the organizations you’re planning on penetrating and use social media to see if your sellers can identify any potential decision-makers within the business. Deploy a social selling strategy to see if the articles they’re sharing or the comments they’re leaving around the web can give you any clues as to what they care about or what business problem they’re most likely looking to solve. If you or your team have any network connections who used to work at your target organization, lean on them for insight into the buying process and major pain points.
Having this information in advance is critical, as your staff will be able to better target their messages to align with your prospects’ needs. Approaching decision-makers right off the bat with a cure for what ails them most is immensely more productive and considerably less time-consuming than taking multiple shots in the dark. It’s good for your prospects, it’s good for your business, and it’s good for your sellers’ health—and that’s’ a win-win-win.
Ok, they’re working less. Now what?
So your staff is now adept at arming themselves with the right insight in advance and wasting less time chasing after hopeless leads. So, what should they do with all this new free time? First and foremost, encourage them to take vacations. Now, all this within reason of course—you don’t want them skipping town with a hot deal coming down the pike or being OOO at the crucial end of a quarter—but periodically taking time off is one of the most fun, scientifically backed ways to boost productivity and prevent burnout.
If you’re not yet prepared for your sales force to go full-on Ferris Bueller, consider sending them to industry conferences and events as an alternative. They’ll be refreshed with a little travel and time away from the office, yet engaged enough to stay stimulated. While these events are great opportunities to pad your pipeline with new leads, they don’t have to go with that goal in mind. Treat them as opportunities to meet and talk trade with like-minded professionals or to seek out interesting seminars to learn something new.
If the thought of your team working less is making you uneasy, take baby steps: have them set aside some time every day to break up the routine and read up on the latest industry news. Staying abreast of current breakthroughs and trends will keep them ahead of the curve and make them more well-rounded salespeople. After all, today’s buyers want salespeople who are concerned with solving their problems first and selling second. The more they know, the more helpful they’ll be when prospects come calling.
The jury’s in: we’re overworked, and it’s hurting our health and productivity in the workplace. But outside reducing your team’s hours, what can you do to strike the right balance between keeping your team fresh and focused and getting the job done? Science has shown that easing up a little on work can actually make your staff more productive. And if they approach prospects after they’ve got the right inside information on their current business needs, they’ll make better use of their time and close more deals than if they spent twice that time cold calling.