When I was 22 years old, I started my first job at a big consultancy firm. Soon enough I noticed that consultancy alone did not really float my boat. By doing some exploratory work within the company, I found out that there was a sales department. The stories I had heard about this department were very mixed and differed significantly per person.
There was one thing that stood out: everybody is opinionated about working in sales. Some people describe it as a living hell but others describe it as the indispensable front line of the organization and that it should be considered an honour to work there. Besides, the freedom and money should be huge drivers for working in sales, right?
All those scattered opinions about working in sales didn’t really help me much further. But I did have the urge to find a place where I could spread my wings and enjoy working for the rest of my career. At that time I thought “I’ll never find that place if I do not try new things and take risks”. Hence, I decided to apply for a role in sales as a youngster. Sales at the consultancy was led by an old boys’ network. As a 22-year-old, I didn’t really fit in. Nevertheless, it was kind of a calling and I decided to pursue it. Eventually the organization saw the benefit of adding some fresh perspective and energy to their sales organization.
In the years to come I worked in sales for 4 different companies. I have read a lot about quality of work life and have had the honor to coach several sales professionals. This blog post is a consolidation of the research into the quality of work life in sales and of my own experiences, including what I have learned from our clients at Amplio Coaching. At the end of this blog post, you’ll understand what quality of work life looks like in sales and how you can hone it.
What is QWL?
For sure, you have come across the term QWL several times in your life. But what does it mean, exactly, and why should we care about it? QWL stands for Quality of Work Life and can be measured in different ways. Throughout the years, business scientists have discovered that QWL is a very important measure. That’s because the workforce is basically the heart and soul of the organization. Even when robots replace a lot of our jobs, the soul of the company will still reside in the workforce. Hence, the success of a company depends highly on how it hires, motivates and retains its workforce. To be able to maximize these activities, a high QWL is essential.
Consider the QWL of a company to indicate how healthy this company is. The healthier it is, the better equipped it is to perform well, outgrow the competition and seize the momentum that is present in their specific industry. There are loads of models and methodologies for measuring an organisation’s QWL. I prefer not to make this post a scientific dissertation so I’ll leave a thorough analysis to you. You can start with the 11 most often used ones.
QWL in Sales
The QWL concept gains value when you utilize it to understand differences in businesses. By using this concept you can understand company size, company performance and functional departments better. Knowing that QWL correlates with company performance, it’s a metric considered to be very important to drive. Industries are competing to have a high QWL to attract talent. So are the different functional departments.
Repeated research across geographies and industries clarifies that the QWL score of working in sales does not deviate significantly from the average within an organization. However, the volatility of the QWL scores in sales does significantly differ from the average QWL volatility per function. This means that the amount of people with either a very high QWL or very low QWL is larger in sales than it is in other functional areas. You can consider that to be good news. You can reason that when we increase the low scoring ones in salesp, it will positively impact the overall QWL of sales considerably. Maybe even to the extent that sales can become the functional group with the highest QWL score. But before running too far ahead, tet’s try to understand this volatility.
Why is the QWL in Sales so volatile?
The finding that QWL volatility is that much higher for sales makes you wonder why. For that answer we have to focus on what is different about working in sales than working in other functions. A few of the differences that stand out that can explain this volatility are the following. Working in sales means:
You are quote/target carrying
All your actions are scrutinized by external an internal parties
You have to deal with high amounts of uncertainty
So let’s dive into these things that make a sales job significantly different from any other. And let’s analyse why this could affect the high volatility of the QWL for the sales function.
A company only grows if it grows existing customers or acquires new customers. That is what the job of a sales professional basically boils down to. However, we all know there are so many factors influencing whether customers are going to buy from you or not. Nonetheless, as a sales professional you are kept accountable for bringing in a certain amount of revenue. Given the fact that a lot lays beyond our circle of influence, this can induce some serious stress. Some people are better at coping with this kind of stress than others.
However, one thing is certain here, and that is that carrying a quote intensifies the expectations from and hence pressure on people. And that could partially explain the volatility in the QWL score for the sales function.
Actions are scrutinized
Working in sales is working on the front line. You have to deal 1v1 with customers or prospects on a daily basis. But at the same time, all the other functions within the company rely on your work. So you’ll have to justify, explain and discuss your sales endeavours with the entire internal organization. This could lead to you feeling like you are constantly the center of the attention in the organisation. Not everybody likes this to the same extent.
High amounts of uncertainty
Not everything that you do in life is in your circle of influence. In sales, you have to deal with a lot of variables and you have to keep a lot of balls in the air. That you will fail once in a while and have to bounce back is inherent to the sales job. Unexpected events are right around the corner every day. This uncertainty can be scary. People who underestimate this will have a very low QWL while working in sales. Hence, this could be a strong influencing factor as well.
What are ways to improve QWL?
Organizations work on numerous things to improve the QWL within their organization, like job rotation, growth opportunity etc. However, the question is, do you want to leave it to the organisation and wait for how things turn out? Or do you want to take matters into your own hands? Amplio Coaching helps people who work in sales to improve their QWL. Let me give you an overview of ways to improve QWL and which are specifically effective for the sales function of an organization.
Increase self-awareness and hence self-esteem
This is a personal process that is important in every job function, but can give you an edge in sales. In sales, you have to deal with a lot of adversity. Being self-aware and boosting self-esteem is important to keep you going.
How did this play out for me?
When I started my first SaaS Sales job, I mostly just followed what others did and what worked well for them. By starting to understand myself better through having a mentor, reading self-awareness books and following an NLP course, I was able to create my own sales style. That boosted my confidence and fortunately my sales results.
Feel empowered in doing your work
Working in teams is challenging, especially when there are conflicting personalities on the team. However, if you manage your expectations and emotions well and work towards a win-win, it can boost your QWL.
Have a solid work/life balance in which you have time to recover
We all need a professional and personal life. We can’t only invest time in our professional life or only in our personal life. This balance tends to be skewed in sales. Because of the pressure of a sales quote, personal life can get neglected. This affects the QWL negatively.
How did this play out for me?
I had difficulty maintaining this balance well at the start of my career in sales. My enthusiasm got the better of me and I focussed too much on my sales career. Through self-reflection and, to be honest, several interventions, I started to understand what a healthy balance was to me. My coach/mentor helped me understand what the right work/life balance is to me.
Set realistic goals that motivate you and guide your energy
It’s important to drive that energy that you have in you well. Don’t let it languish or overcook. It’s about finding the right goals and processes in professional and personal life that can boost your QWL and overall happiness.
Work not to work more but work more effectively
We tend to have a linear approach to life. We believe that if we invest more, we get the same amount back. However, that’s not how life works. With the pressure and uncertainty inherent to working in sales, this tends to be a go-to for sales professionals. However, by instead working more effectively and setting the right habits, performance and QWL can increase.
How did this play out for me?
Time management, time management and time management. That is what works for me. If I do not have a clear plan of how I’m going to invest my time, I tend to ruminate and be far from effective. Over time I started to understand what my productivity pitfalls are and I try to anticipate them every morning. Lastly the 80/20 rule helped me to focus my time well.
How you can calculate your QWL score
You might wonder where you stand on the equilibrium of QWL. QWL is a scientific concept and less applicable to measure yourself through an online test. Nevertheless to get a sense of how balanced your work-life is, you can use a test developed by social scientists Joanie Connell. In this business news daily article
, you can find the test and assess how balanced your work-life is.
How you can calculate your QWL score
You might wonder where you stand on the equilibrium of QWL. QWL is a scientific concept and less applicable to measure yourself through an online test. Nevertheless to get a sense of how balanced your work-life is, you can use a test developed by social scientists Joanie Connell. In this business news daily article, you can find the test and assess how balanced your work-life is.
If I had been aware of this information when I was considering a move towards sales, I would have spent some more time evaluating this step. Working in sales can result in a very high QWL score but also in a low QWL score. If you are able to work around the challenges in sales, you can boost your overall QWL score. It would be great if youngsters could be guided in this process when they come from university. It would boost overall job satisfaction, job performance and economic wealth in countries.