Make Your Sales Job More Meaningful: How to Find Purpose in Your Work
April 11, 2018
When did you decide to build a career in sales? Was it a conscious decision as a teen? Or did you find yourself migrating to the field after discovering you had a knack for connecting people with things they need?
Whatever your reason for working in the sales profession, chances are you’ve been disillusioned a time or two. It happens to almost everyone at some time.
Thirty percent of American workers view the work they do as “just a job to get them by,” according to a report published by Pew Research Center in October 2016. About 18% of U.S. workers say their job is a stepping stone to a career, according to the same Pew report. And a Gallup study released in 2017 revealed 51% of the nation’s estimated 100 million full time employees are disengaged in their work, having little connection to and finding little meaning in it.
These findings about the state of the workforce may alarm you. However, another, more productive way to look at the data is to grasp the significant opportunity it presents for consciously finding purpose and value in your work. The average person will devote over 90,000 hours to work between the ages of 20 to 65. Why not choose to develop a more positive mental outlook by actively recognizing the value of what you do and your power to help others.
Take Pride in the Mundane
Author John Coleman recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “To Find Meaning in Your Work, Change How You Think About It.” In his article, Coleman explains his belief that purpose is built, not found. “Working with a sense of purpose day-in and day-out is an act of will that takes thoughtfulness and practice,” Coleman writes.
His article describes a unique, longstanding annual competition held by the New York City sanitation department dubbed the Sludge Olympics. The participants compete in various events to demonstrate skill in their work. The job is dirty, physically taxing, and generally goes unnoticed by residents. But as one competitor explained, “It’s enough to serve the public.”
This attitude is a prime example of how to take personal pride in the mundane parts of your daily workload. Put in a sales perspective, remember prospects appreciate timely, thorough, and well-organized communication. A salesperson who consistently delivers clear, detailed information not only helps themselves by minimizing their own administrative chaos, but also helps their prospect get a solid grasp on the situation. Effective communication builds trust.
Create the Work You Want to Do
Coleman’s article goes on to describe a study conducted by Yale Professor Amy Wrzesniewski, who interviewed hospital custodian staff to determine what helped certain team members excel.
Wrzesniewski learned the custodians looked beyond the tactical requirements of their jobs to discover ways to enhance the quality of stay experienced by hospital patients. The workers would “[create] the work they wanted to do out of the work they’d been assigned—work they found meaningful and worthwhile.” For example, one worker rearranged artwork in the rooms of comatose patients to help stimulate their brain activity.
Anyone can dig deeper than the scope of their functional work assignment to create enhanced value for those they serve. As an example, a salesperson can ensure their offering is well suited for their marketplace by getting involved with developing tests, running evaluations, or observing field tests.
First-hand accounts of the product in action along with customer feedback could help a salesperson generate valuable insight for their company’s product development team while ultimately improving the product taken to market. In this manner, you take more ownership of the products you represent, which can make you a more genuine resource to prospects.
Make Your Work Bigger Than You Are
We’ve all spoken of people who “go out of their way” when we’ve inquired about a product or needed information about subscribing for a service or setting up an account. Considering 84% of B2B sales happens on referral, there’s great opportunity for salespeople who go the extra mile with their prospects.
One approach to try involves thinking about the downstream effects of your efforts. By taking care of your prospect’s needs in a timely, efficient manner, you help them avoid future hassles, saving them time, and connecting them with (what you believe is) the best solution to their problem. You’re more than a salesperson. You’re a problem-solver whose work impacts bottom lines and helps other people shine in their own work.
We all know that sales can sometimes be tough. Buyers are wary, budgets shrink, and competition can be stiff. When you face a not-so-great day or week, it’s important to remember the big picture, and remember that this, too, will pass.
One healthful way to make the not-so-great periods pass is to take control of your outlook and focus on ways to connect your work with the end user or application. Continue working closely with your prospects and don’t be afraid to ask, “How can I serve you better?"
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Photo: Caleb Roenigk