The recipe for a successful salesperson is complex—just a dash of dedication and a pinch of work ethic won’t do it. In fact, Sales Hacker suggests that there are no fewer than 10 ingredients that blend together to create top performers. These qualities span a broad spectrum of personality traits, from emotional outlook to goal orientation, and they all have one thing in common: they’re impacted by the amount of sleep you get.
As a sales leader, you probably already encourage many or all of these qualities in your team members. But if they’re suffering from high sleep debt then their ability to take advantage of and master these traits is limited. Think of sleep as the mixing bowl that holds all of these ingredients together. Sleep debt—the burden imposed on the brain when it doesn’t get as much sleep as it needs—puts cracks and holes in that bowl, making it impossible for the 10 traits of a talented salesperson to truly blend and rise.
Even if your team members say they prioritize healthy sleeping habits, they’re likely accumulating sleep debt. By their own admission, 70% of adults are underslept. An even higher percentage of your team is likely sleep deprived; people tend to overestimate how much time they spend asleep each night.
What’s really disconcerting is just how much performance can dip after what seems like a relatively “okay” amount of sleep. Research shows that getting a consistent six hours of sleep a night (two hours short of the average need of roughly 8 hours) for 14 consecutive days can produce the same decline in cognitive performance as getting no sleep at all for two nights in a row. All of that sleep debt can have a measurable effect on the 10 qualities you’d want to see in your team members.
If you’re an upbeat person, you’re an optimistic and energetic presence in your office. Problems are challenges to be solved rather than chores to be done, and people might compliment you on your positive attitude. In the sales world, rejection and setbacks are guaranteed, so an upbeat nature is a huge asset—it functions like a shield against negativity and burnout. What’s more, upbeat people are actually better at envisioning and building new skills than more negative people.
The Sleep Connection: Catching up on sleep leads to an upbeat attitude. Studies have found that working to minimize sleep debt—even via a short 20-minute nap—can cause a significant uptick in your emotional state. In one study, for example, “extended sleep” resulted in a 64% increase in mood, vigor, and alertness. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, has the opposite effect: it lowers mood, and can actually cause people to speak with more negatively-coded vocal patterns, which no client wants to hear.
A passionate salesperson has genuine enthusiasm for the job. Passion comes with curiosity, a magnetic intensity, and a desire to go above-and-beyond the standard. It has a positive correlation with many desirable work behaviors, but more importantly, it means that your team members truly care about what they’re doing each day.
The Sleep Connection: If you’re building up sleep debt, you’ll find it hard to feel passionate about work. But if you’re pushing back against sleep debt, you can rediscover your drive. One study of more than 4,500 participants concluded that efforts to improve sleep could make a major difference in “negative views of work,” bringing passion back to the forefront. Another study showed that getting the right amount of sleep can enhance passion in two ways: it leads to more personal enjoyment of the work and more involvement in cooperative work interactions, both of which contribute to overall passion for your gig.
Successful salespeople have a knack for original, creative thinking. They devise new strategies for their projects instead of always relying on old standbys. They’re the ones that pepper their emails with clever phrasing, and find fresh ways to connect with potential buyers––think scouting an art gallery over attending a convention. Creativity gives them an edge in problem solving, handling objections, and identifying opportunities.
The Sleep Connection: Sleep powers the lightbulb that pops up over a creative’s head. Multiple studies have linked getting enough sleep to elements of creativity, including “cognitive flexibility and the ability to find remote associations.” It’s not just a slow and steady boost, either—sleeping well also facilitates those “Eureka!” moments of insight, during which your brain makes a quick leap in a new direction.
Defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another,” empathy is so valuable to a sales team that it’s been called a “superpower” by sales leader Todd Caponi. An empathetic salesperson tries to mentally become the buyer. Nourishing your empathetic side makes a difference in every stage of the sales process, whether you’re trying to win trust or incorporate feedback.
The Sleep Connection: Becoming a master empath starts with sleep. Without it, you can expect tension to build in work relationships, as sleep deprivation curtails empathy by decreasing interpersonal functioning skills. The good news: reducing sleep debt means stronger empathic abilities. Catching up on eight hours of sleep, for example, can increase your empathic response by 30%.
Accountability can be a particularly tough trait to exercise, because it often manifests when you’ve done something wrong. An accountable salesperson will own up to mistakes when they occur, and take steps to correct what went awry. On an every-day basis, being accountable means that you’re reliably responsible for the tasks assigned to you.
The Sleep Connection: If you’re holding yourself accountable, you’re making a mature moral decision. However, research has shown that sleep debt can impede moral reasoning, making a person less principled and more likely to behave unethically. One study proved that losing as little as 22 minutes of sleep a night can hinder a person’s self-control—enough to swing them to the opposite of accountability and towards cheating, fudging-the-numbers behavior. Sleep debt therefore has some scary implications for salespeople with a lot on their plates, even those who might normally be very accountable when well-rested.
So much of sales work goes unseen by the client. Salespeople have to prepare pitches, scripts, reports, and more, lest they come across as unprofessional during their presentations. Improvisation and spontaneity surely have their place in the sales world, but they have to spring from a well-prepared foundation.
The Sleep Connection: Sleep debt wreaks havoc on so many aspects of cognition, but one of them is executive functioning, which includes a person’s ability to plan ahead. When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain struggles at even the most elementary planning skills, including “updating strategies based on new information [and] risk assessment.” Lose enough sleep, and you might find yourself unprepared when it matters most, such as during a meeting with a coveted prospect.
Salespeople not only have to woo buyers with an enticing product—they have to use the most impressive tech possible to source deals and make their point. It’s safe to say that top-performers realize this. In three years of sales surveys by LinkedIn (2016-2019), “planned investment in sales technology has grown by 53 percent,” and 97% of sales professionals rank technology as “important or very important” to their craft.
The Sleep Connection: New sales technologies, whether they’re social tools or foundational software, always have a learning curve. Unfortunately, sleep debt steepens that curve. Sleep is vital for efficiently learning both motor and perceptual skills. Frighteningly, research indicates that missing a night of sleep after you learn a new task (say, how to navigate a fancy new customer management system) cancels the “unconscious processing” that your brain does to help you improve at that task. Even if you catch up on sleep the next two nights, the damage is done: the study concluded that “sleep within 30 hours of training is absolutely required for improved performance.” If you want tech-savvy salespeople, you need to start with sleep.
You can always tell when someone isn’t quite “present” at their workplace. A highly engaged salesperson is attentive, alert, and ready for a meeting or a surprise phone call at a moment’s notice. They might be multitasking, but their mind isn’t wandering; they’re laser-focused on the job at hand.
The Sleep Connection: Science points to healthy sleep as a predictor of workplace engagement. When you get the optimal amount of sleep, you’re replenishing the “self-regulatory resources needed to be engaged in work tasks.” If you have sleep debt, however, your capacity for attention and engagement drops dramatically—to the point where you might as well be drunk! In one study, sleep-deprived participants had reaction speeds that were up to 50% slower than participants with a blood alcohol content of .05%.
Short-term and long-term goals dictate the successful salesperson’s next move. The best goals have three qualities: they’re ambitious, they’re realistic, and they’re measurable. For example, “getting better at cold-calling” is a more vague, less measurable goal than “up the success rate of my cold-calls by at least 30%.” Sales teams should be holding their goals in their minds as they work, aiming to hit both personal and professional goals regularly.
The Sleep Connection: Steady progress towards a goal requires some advanced thinking. You need focus, determination, and the capacity to zoom out to bigger-picture concerns and timelines. You already know where this is going… an accumulation of sleep debt limits all of those cognitive skills. Additionally, it can make it harder for a person to delay gratification, which doesn’t bode well for long-term goals that require a lot of patience.
The sales industry is built on relationships. Your team members nourish relationships between themselves and their clients, between each other, and between network connections across companies. Without earnest collaboration and trust, nothing gets done!
The Sleep Connection: We already know that sleep debt affects your empathy and interpersonal functioning, both of which are fundamental to relationship maintenance. Research also indicates that it can make you more mistrustful of others, and hinder your ability to quickly recognize and interpret facial expressions. Sleep-deprived managers can even kick off a trickle-down effect, as they’re more likely to berate their employees, resulting in strained relationships across the whole team. Put plainly, if you’re not sleeping well, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to lead and to connect with people, both on and off the clock.
Salespeople with sleep debt are not yet the best sellers they could be. To get specific, we found that when a salesperson lost one hour of sleep per day for a week, they experienced a 9% decrease in contract closures the next day! Sleep debt also has far-reaching consequences: it means you won’t learn new technology or skills as fast, and its effects on social intelligence could burn costly bridges between you and prospective clients. Sleep is not a luxury that provides an extra boost—it’s a necessity, one that measurably affects the characteristics of successful salespeople and, therefore, the success of your entire team.
Luckily, we know that the inverse is also true: when you cut down on sleep debt, sales go up. Over the course of an 8-month trial conducted in collaboration with a Fortune 200 company, we saw an average increase of 14% in monthly revenue and a 50% increase in outbound sales calls from sellers who used Rise to combat their sleep debt. A second study teamed a law firm consultancy with Rise, and saw a 30% boost in weekly sales after employees dedicated themselves to catching more z’s.
As a team leader, you're primed to help your employees tackle their sleep debt. Share these first steps and set them on the road to enhancing their sales-boosting traits:
Awareness – Educate yourself and your team on the science of how sleep correlates with performance. Reading this article is a great start! Next, look further into the Two Laws of Sleep. Sleep debt (how much sleep you've missed, relative to your need, in the past 14 days)and circadian rhythm (your body's natural pattern of energy peaks and dips) play into all aspects of your work life, from memory to executive functioning, ultimately influencing your overall work productivity.
Environment – To encourage naturalistic sleep you want your bedroom to be cool, dark, and quiet. Encourage employees to set the thermostat to between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, ensure their rooms are dark enough that they don’t know when the sun comes up (we recommend a mask), and wear earplugs.
Behavior – If you're having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, adjust your daily routine. Some tips: In the morning, get natural sunlight first thing and be active. During the day, stop drinking caffeine as early in the day as possible, or switch to decaf. Be calculated with naps: it’s best to keep them to 15-20 minutes or a full sleep cycle (90 minutes) and avoid napping too late in the afternoon. By evening, you should avoid late large meals, limit alcohol, Netflix and scroll social media the smart way, and block blue light (we recommend these orange glasses).
RISE offers reminders to help you manage blue light. Just go to the "Energy" tab and add the "Wear blue-light glasses," "Wear sleep mask," or "Check your environment" habits to your energy schedule. You'll get a reminder each night to keep you in rhythm.
Use your Melatonin Window: RISE uses your sleep times to predict the circadian phase when your brain is producing the optimal amount of melatonin to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Sleeping according to your ideal circadian timing leads to higher quality sleep, better health, and productivity.
Evening routine reminders: RISE offers evening routine reminders. Just go to the "Energy" tab and add the "Evening routine" habit to your energy schedule. Your most common evening activities are organized into your energy peak or wind-down time with reminders to help you stay on rhythm each night.
You now know that sleep has the power to feed or starve some of the most influential qualities in a salesperson. Imagine these traits manifesting to their fullest extent in your employees—all while health and morale levels are up, too. When you commit to cutting sleep debt, you’re channeling science to ensure a more empathic, inventive, and successful sales team.
Learn more about Rise for sales teams.
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