Give Your Reps a Stress-Free Vacation

By Heather Baldwin

Almost everyone has commented at one time or another that they need to return to work to recover from their vacation. While usually it’s said only partly in jest, the planning, packing, coordination and expense of a vacation – not to mention the stress of thinking about your in-box piling up in your absence – can be more stressful than going to work each day. In his book, Winning Under Fire: Turn Stress Into Success the U.S. Army Way (McGraw-Hill, 2005), Dale Collie offers these suggestions for helping your sales reps return from vacation stress-free and ready to give 110%.

1. Avoid announcing job changes, territory changes or new responsibilities just before reps leave for vacation. The amount of effort reps will be able to put toward their new responsibilities will be minimal, but they’ll be thinking and worrying about the changes while they are gone and will have no one with whom to discuss their concerns.

2. Two weeks before their vacation sit down with reps and ask what they’re working on and what needs to be done before they leave. Then monitor their efforts. Reps shouldn’t spend their last day at work trying to meet deadlines.

3. Allow an extra half-day or full day for vacation preparations. Chances are, the distraction of last-minute vacation preparations is going to consume a good part of the sales reps’ last day at the office anyway. Giving them time to take care of those things will be of negligible cost to the company but of enormous benefit to the reps.

4. Distribute responsibilities so reps return to an empty in-box, empty voice-mail box and an empty list of email requests. Reps should be updated on what transpired when they were gone, but shouldn’t have to worry about handling it all on top of their normal duties.

5. If you have vacation contact information for the rep, do something special. Send a hand-written note or postcard to be delivered to the rep’s room or send flowers or a fruit basket. “This is a home-run relationship builder, family trust builder and stress reliever,” says Collie. “If your budget is as limited as the Army’s, the personal note is an effective approach.”

6. Plan for reps’ returns by scheduling time to discuss their vacation (relationship building) and to catch them up on what has transpired while they were gone. Keep a log of things to tell the reps so your discussion is meaningful.