Many years ago I played AFL football and back then, the coach and fitness staff would literally run us into the ground, especially during pre-season. And just when we thought that we had finished a session, they would put us through another gruelling test, designed to stretch our limits and take us beyond what we thought was possible. Fast forward 25 years and AFL players today, whilst they are still tested to their limits, the training loads are measured so precisely, that each player has a personalised program and they are measured to the minute in terms of the time they spend on the training track. Sports science has progressed so far in the last 25 years that it is now recognised that the rest and recovery between training & playing is actually as important as the playing itself.
There is much we can learn from elite level sport that can be applied to sales and especially sales leadership. In fact, rest and recovery is a key ingredient to your long term sales leadership success. No longer is it productive to spend 10 hours straight on the road prospecting and selling as there is now an inflection point where you start to see diminishing returns. This leads to reduced productivity, less engagement with your team and customers, and ultimately can result in lower sales numbers. It is now no longer about quantity, it is more about quality.
Now please do not think for a second that hard work is no longer required – it still is. And you will still come up against obstacles, objections and challenges, however, with a definitive focus on rest and recovery, you will actually be better equipped to handle these challenges.
As I write this, we are now at the beginning of the New Financial Year. I trust that the year that has just completed has been a fruitful and successful one, and that you have set yourself up for an even better year to come. Now is actually the perfect time to sit back, take stock, reflect on the year that has just been, and put in place your quality plan for the new year. For myself, I am spending the first week of the new year in Fiji, away from the cold Melbourne winter, in a beautiful and warm environment where I can relax, reflect on the year just gone and begin to prioritise the year ahead.
As a sales leader for many years, I discovered that often the line between the old year and the new year was blurred, and that as soon as the 1st July came around, my senior executives were focusing on what my team was going to deliver in sales results in Quarter 1. It was almost as if the previous year counted for nothing. And this approach often had the affect of creating disengagement, highlighting fatigue, which more times than not, lead the team to deliver a lower than expected Quarter 1 result.
So as we begin the brand new sales year, understand that rest and recovery is actually critical to your long term sales leadership success, and critical to the success of your sales team. Here are some key points to consider and take on board :
- Before moving into new year mode, it is vital to reflect on the year that has just finished. Take some time out, sit down and really reflect on what happened the previous year. Identify what went well last year, highlight the wins, and take time to acknowledge yourself and the team for the wins. Also identify what didn’t go so well and identify the learning(s) out of that, so that you are well placed not to repeat it this year. Also identify what you want to maintain, or continue to do this year, that will continue to deliver you a result. This time of reflection is vital to your success moving forward and cannot be underestimated.
- As part of your reflection, also consider the role you have played in your team’s success over the past year. Do you need to continue to play the same role this year, or do you need to play a slightly different role? For example, did you find yourself getting deeply involved in sales campaigns and strategies over the last year in order to get the sales across the line? Ask yourself if this is sustainable moving forward, or should you now focus time and attention on better training your sales people so that they are able to develop a higher level of independence?
- Can you improve your productivity? Did you find yourself working exceptionally long hours last financial year, including weekends, simply to stay on top everything? If the answer is yes, it is time to cull activities and look to delegate some responsibility. Often a symptom of ‘busyness’ is getting involved in too much, and at a far too deep a level, and this can often come back to trust – i.e. you may not have a high enough level of trust in your team to get things done. So take a step back, take a deep breath, and identify ways that you can place greater trust in your team this year. This will release time in your diary – you may still have to step in every now and then, but you will very quickly develop independence within the team.
- How much ‘me’ time did you have last financial year? How was your health and fitness? The older I get, the more I realise that my health is everything, which means that I must make it a priority. Like a professional sportsperson trains religiously and recovers religiously (often in equal amounts), so too must you as a professional sales leader. If you are spending 10-12 hours per day in sales leader mode, with no recovery and no exercise, your effectiveness will be severely diminished. As a minimum, take an hour everyday for you to exercise physically, to move your body – this dedication will have a wonderful flow on effect to your role. In fact, you may even find that you have increased energy. And please ensure that you drink lots of water, as water aids your recovery and will help with your energy levels.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. Now there are many theories out there around sleep, how much is enough, versus how much is too much. My experience has been a minimum of 7-8 hours quality sleep each night increases my ability to be effective and productive. This amount of time allows the body to recuperate and get prepared for the next day. Make sleep a priority.
This new year is going to be your best yet, if you choose it to be. As such, it is so important to stack the odds in your favour, and take the time to rest, recover and rejuvenate. Not only can you do this now, but make sure that you prioritise this throughout the year. If you do so, you will remain at the top of your game, you will notice your effectiveness and productivity will rise and what will happen to the sales results? They will almost take care of themselves!
Here is to you having your best sales year yet!!
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Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.