One of the most important things that I learned about working as a salesperson is that your effectiveness is limited by your energy level.
In other words, if you have a lot of energy, you’ll sell more than if you are fatigued.
I wrote another article about this where I compared being a salesperson to being an athlete. In that article, I briefly mentioned the Gas Tank Theory.
Having started my sales career in the kiosk industry, I realized early on that the more tired I was, the worse I would sell.
How I discovered the Gas Tank Theory
Sales conversations essentially follow the same structure every time – you qualify, pitch the product, handle objections, and then close.
There are only so many reactions a customer can have to something that you can say.
They can be positive, negative, or neutral.
Each of these categories is manifested by a certain set of behaviors.
Selling situations are just a matter of identifying which reaction the customer displayed and selecting an appropriate response from a prepared set of your own.
For example, let’s say you’re talking to a customer and it’s finally time to mention the price. When you do, their eyebrows shoot up towards their forehead, they gasp and say, “Oh my god, WOW that’s expensive!”
You would then be safe in assuming that the customer feels that the price you told them is higher than they thought.
Conversation-specific knowledge leads to its own set of implications which would open up new trees of possibility in terms of the corresponding responses you would select for them.
If, on the other hand, you tell the customer the price and they say, “Hmm. Okay. That’d actually not bad for everything you get,” then we could assume that this price is well within their price range.
Now, just because one customer balks at the price and the other handles it like a mature adult doesn’t necessarily mean that one will buy and the other won’t.
But after you do enough demonstrations and talk to enough customers, you’ll learn how to deal with each of them accordingly through a combination of trial and error and research.
Selling situations involve thousands of micro-analyses and decisions on the part of the salesperson.
How to pace yourself as a salesperson
This process of analyzing, selecting a course of action, and then executing that action thousands of times per day is physically exhausting.
If you have the (mis)fortune of having an additional physical element to your job – say stopping customers as they walk past your kiosk and demoing a hair straightener – then the process becomes even more physically exhausting.
What ends up happening is that as the week wears on, your average level of physical energy (and its accompanying mental acuity) begins to drop.
After your day(s) off, you come back to work fresh and ready to kill.
- On your first day back, you’re full of energy
- On your second day back, you still have energy.. but a little less
- By the third day, you’re running on fumes
- The fourth day is a punch to the gut… yet you press on
- You get through the fifth day your survival instinct alone
Something interesting happens on the sixth day, though.
On the sixth day, your Gas Tank begins to adjust to being perpetually empty.
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure if you just get used to performing while exhausted or if your Gas Tank actually “expands” in response to the stress you’ve put on it for the past five days.
Probably a little of both.
As human beings, we’ve conditioned ourselves to take one or two days of rest every five or six days. If you think about it, it’s actually pretty strange.
Animals in the wild don’t take days off.
They don’t have regimented weeks where they punch a clock, work for several hours a day, and then at a specific time to home and lounge around.
They also don’t take one or two days off per week to lounge around and do nothing.
So why should we?
Anyone who has ever had their own business knows what it’s like to work seven days a week.
You don’t even really feel like you’re working, at least not in the same sense as you would if you were working for someone else.
Working for yourself has a much more powerful sense of urgency attached to it. There’s always so much to do, you always feel like you’re behind on something.
Having a sales job is similar to working for yourself.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you never take another day off. (But I kind of am.)
If what I’e experienced about the Gas Tank Theory is true, then it’s actually in your best interest as a salesperson to work 7 days a week instead of taking a day off.
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve had periods where I worked 2-3 weeks at a time with no days off in kiosk sales, and every time I eventually adjusted to the exhaustion.
I sold a ton in those periods. And perhaps more importantly, my emotional and mental state stopped taking a hit from the physical exhaustion.
Sure, I still experienced a drop in mental sharpness as a result of being un-rested. But given the choice, I preferred that to going through the same cycle of rest/exhaustion week after week.
How to avoid burnout
After all, that’s really what wears a salesman down.
It’s not the bad days, per se. Although too many bad days in a row can crush anyone’s spirit.
What leads to burnout is the unpredictable rotation between good days and bad.
It’s not knowing whether you’re going to make a bundle of money that day or if you’re going to be a talkative “volunteer” for the day.
Okay, so now that we’ve explored the Gas Tank Theory, what are some things we can do to “expand” our Gas Tank?
As I mentioned in the Salesman Athlete article, I believe that salesmen need to be conditioned to perform at a high level over an extended period of time.
(That said, I have definitely met many incredible salespeople who couldn’t exercise their way out of a wet paper bag. But sales is hard enough as it is, I couldn’t imagine doing it in poor health!)
In my experience, there are four main ways to maintain the integrity of our Gas Tank.
- Eat healthier food
- Work fewer hours per day
- Take drugs and supplements
I’ve gone over the first two in my Salesman Athlete article.
Regarding working fewer hours per day, this should be obvious.
The fewer hours per day you work, the more gas you have in the tank for coming days.
The best illustration of this is a comparison of when I started working in kiosks vs now.
Back in the day, you would work from open until close. Malls in the United States were open for 11 hours a day.
So you’d get to work at 9:30 (30 mins before the mall opens), work until 9:30 (30 minutes after the mall closes), and then go home.
Not only did this leave salespeople perpetually exhausted, but it left them no time to do anything else in their spare time.
Fast forward several years – as the industry expanded, the standards relaxed as the style of work became more mainstream and technology began taking over.
Back in the day, you could “abuse” salespeople by making them work so many hours. But with more popularity came more “regulation.”
Instead of 11 hours of work, salespeople began working in 8 hour shifts. Like a normal job.
These additional 3 hours a day did wonders to put more gas in the tank of your average salesperson.
For me, this meant time to:
- work out
- record videos
- write articles
- have a social life
(Still working on that last one…)
When you work fewer hours a day, you ultimately extend the burnout-proof-ness (yes I just made that up) of your salesperson.
The same was true for when I worked in Australia and New Zealand.
Before the industry changed and workers in American malls were grinding for 11 hours a day, halfway across the world in Oceania workers were only putting in 8 hour shifts.
This wasn’t because of altruistic Israeli kiosk owners – this was because in that part of the world, malls are only open from 9-5.
So you’d wake up, go to work, put in your 8 hours and then have the rest of the evening to do whatever you wanted.
Each season of work I put in over there, I managed to double my tour of duty. Instead of getting burnt out after 3-4 months, I put in 7-8 months each time.
I also made a lot more money.
How to improve your [sales] longevity with supplements
Supplementation, the second method of expanding your gas tank really deserves its own article.
To touch on it briefly, if you take two identical salespeople but you give one of them a specialized cocktail of supplements designed to improve mental acuity, physical endurance, and emotional stability, the one who supplements will perform better in the long run.
I’m not suggesting that you should be railing lines of coke in the bathroom in between appointments (although that would make an interesting experiment).
There are thousands of supplements out there that are well-studied and scientifically proven to give salespeople a much needed edge when talking to customers.
In my experience, beneficial supplements improve one of three areas:
- Mental sharpness
- Emotional stability
- Physical endurance
This article is already getting long enough so I’ll save this topic for another time.