Let’s go ahead and put the truth out there: It seems nearly impossible to have work-life “balance” in any role in today’s market without very intentional planning. This is especially true for salespeople. The constant demand to be available at any time for clients and for your company can burn out even the most promising sales professionals well before their careers ever get going.
We have the ability to always be in contact with our company and clients through text, email, social media, and other channels.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s easy to stay “on” when it comes to our work life; in fact, it’s easier now than it was 20 years ago to avoid shutting off work. Our phones are constantly buzzing. Social media apps keep us connected 24/7. The constant “ding” of a new email entering my inbox interrupts the day. We’re plugged-in to more devices throughout the majority of our day than ever before, and sometimes it’s hard to turn it off because we’re so afraid of missing something.
But just like that smartphone you sometimes forget to plug in, at some point our bodies and brains run out of battery, too. We need to recharge ourselves before we run out of juice. That juice could be stamina, motivation, energy, excitement, or any other positive force that drives salespeople to succeed.
This stresses the importance of balance.
For a personal example, during the periods when I worked all day, seven days a week, I found that after five or six days, my creativity, patience, and willpower diminished immensely. I struggled writing short blog posts and the small tasks that would normally take 30 minutes would stretch throughout the majority of my day.
My brain was running on fumes because I was solely invested in the work. I neglected the recharge. I became addicted to always being “on,” whether it was being available by phone at any hour for customers, constantly engaging followers on social media, or prospecting new clients. Eventually, I went from being productive to only being busy — and busy doesn’t necessarily equal productive.
Once I started forcing myself to take breaks and observe weekends, I found that my work productivity, focus, and energy skyrocketed those first few days back. In fact, I got more done within a four-or-five-day span after resting than I had in a 12 to 14 day stretch of working nonstop.
The ability to step away from our work, both physically and mentally, is ultimately what makes us more productive in it.
It’s almost like physical fitness. You only gain strength by training a few days in a row, then resting. Your body needs the right nutrition and rest in order to repair those muscles. If you keep working out the same muscles day after day after day, your body never gets the opportunity to repair itself and grow stronger.
Our brains work the same way and require rest in order to perform at their peak.
Creating the necessary rest — time away from work — requires intentional action. Every one of us has been guilty of slipping into the trap of constantly being on call, especially because today’s technology makes it possible. When it comes to salespeople and the multitude of parties they’re in constant communication with, it seems necessary to live this kind of lifestyle.
But everyone in sales can create a healthy balance with their work-life responsibilities by taking careful action to plan ahead, set boundaries, and discipline themselves.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
A successful salesperson creates a plan with their customers to account for onboarding, as well as details on how they can build a successful business relationship. Just the same, that salesperson can create a plan that explains what to expect from their ongoing communication. Let the client know when you’ll be out of town, who your next point of contact is, and upcoming scheduled meetings to help you both plan out a steady communication thread that doesn’t have to include after-hours contact.
You can prepare clients ahead of time, and help ease any concerns or questions, by clearly setting your calendar – and availability – in advance. This establishes the norms of your relationship with the client, rather than simply diving in and, after the relationship has been ongoing, you find yourself always on call.
You have to teach people, even your clients, how you want to be treated. Understand what areas of your life outside of work need to be non-negotiables. Block them out on your calendar, every day, to set a personal appointment with yourself for these times. For example, I have colleagues who have daily appointments to:
These appointments are as important as any work-related ones on their calendars and are treated as such. Afford yourself the same important appointments as you do your clients.
Once your boundaries are established, including when you’re available and when you won’t be, set clear, realistic expectations with your customers. You can also reassure them that you’re available to them during the remaining hours.
And here’s the thing: It is 100 percent acceptable to leave your phone in another room or turned off during these non-negotiable times. The world won’t end. (But if it does, your latest work email won’t matter, right?) This encourages us to stick to the boundaries we’ve set and slowly trains us to take a break from our devices.
Give yourself something to look forward to. The beauty of planning trips is that you create excitement by mentally preparing for where you’re going and what you’re going to be doing. Plan out two or three trips you can take over upcoming weekends during the next nine months.
I believe in frequent getaways, even once a quarter. The beauty of these getaways is that they can be three nights (Thursday–Sunday) and don’t have to cost much. Hop in a car for a road trip. Take a quick flight to the beach or the mountains. But once a quarter, schedule time to get away from work, away from your routine, and into a new setting to help you recharge.
These short, extended weekend trips can do more for my mindset and energy levels than taking only one two-week vacation each year.
The most difficult part of creating a work-life balance that fits your lifestyle is committing to it. Everything is easier in theory, but when a client starts calling during family dinner, will we stick to our boundaries and call them back at a more acceptable time? Or will we interrupt dinner to take the call?
The good news is that this discipline isn’t something you’re simply born with. It’s grown, one choice at a time and one day at a time. Every time someone asks for work to be done during our protected time, we are given an opportunity to reinforce:
The discipline to commit to boundaries, especially before they become professional habits, is what separates those who are able to succeed at work and those who burn out. Successful salespeople forge the discipline to create the space in their work and life in order to recharge — and thus be more efficient and effective when working.
Healthy balance outside of the office doesn’t generally happen on its own. You plan what you eat, how much activity you get, and what choices you make. The same thinking applies to crafting a healthy balance inside the office, too.
Be intentional about these four steps and you can strengthen your professional relationships without sacrificing your personal life.