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Does a sales army march on its stomach?

Posted on: October 21, 2021

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Category: B2B marketing

Does a sales army march on its stomach?

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Those clever people at Pipedrive put together some fascinating research recently.

Using anonymised sales data from their CRM’s records of sales activities they were able to look at how the way different cultures take (or don’t take) lunch can affect productivity. Here’s an overview of their datasets that plotted eight countries’ lunch habits and their resulting productivity.

What should an hourly productivity chart look like?

With no access to actual, factual data you may guess that such a chart would:

  • Show a sharp rise in the morning in terms of activities (calls, meetings, emails sent, etc.) completed
  • Register a sudden dip that represents our lunch hour
  • Reveal another sudden peak immediately after our return from lunch that then tails off as the day drags its way toward a close

But the data unexpectedly showed that there were three ‘typical’ curves rather than one.

Hourly sales productivity charts across the globe

All of the eight countries surveyed, broadly speaking, fell into one of three possible productivity categories:

  1. Those whose peak productivity takes place after lunch (such as France and Switzerland)
  2. Those whose peak productivity takes place before lunch (such as India, Spain and South Africa)
  3. Those who don’t appear to break for lunch (such as the United States’ East Coast, Poland and Russia)

Category #1: the after lunchers

It seems that in countries where peak productivity takes place after lunch, a well-earned rest and a hearty meal allows salespeople to focus and work harder.

The French salespeople seem to take lunch seriously: you can see productivity tailing off in the hour before the break itself. But productivity then rises to a high level and maintains this between 16:00 and 18:00.

Line graph of sales productivity throughout the day in France

What we are seeing is a lunch with very low activity levels. Following this relaxing period, where productivity in France is at the lowest of any other country’s lunchtime, the French sales teams work like troopers for the rest of the day.

That lunch, in effect, fuels their afternoon.

Category #2: best in the morning

In countries where peak productivity takes place before lunch, energy is preserved for steady post-break performance.

In Spain, lunch usually lasts for two hours on business days but the siesta appeared conspicuous by its absence in the Pipedrive data.

You can clearly see the two-hour break in the chart below.

Line graph representing sales productivity over time in Spain

It should be noted that the Spanish now use lunch breaks for business meetings and that the long lunch and lower activity levels of the afternoon are reflections that Spanish sales teams work till quite late in the day – typically 22:00.

Category #3: Lunchers at the desk

The final category includes countries with no apparent lunchtime. For different reasons, these salespeople do not appear to take lunch breaks.

In Poland you can see no lunch break – just incredibly hard work throughout the day. Their peak productivity takes place at 13:00, while high productivity runs from 10:00 to 15:00.

Line graph showing sales productivity over time in Poland

Notably, all countries where lunch doesn’t affect activity levels are all operating in a difficult sales environment typified by a low overall close rate. This suggests that it is not lunch that affects the way you sell – but the way you sell that determines how you get to eat lunch.

Bitesize snackables (or food for thought)

To wrap things up, here are three observations for you to chew on.

  • Lunch like you mean business. The best way to get a productive afternoon is to lunch as if the world depended on it.
  • For those struggling to close, keep plenty of healthy snacks at your desk station. These will help you maintain productivity even if you skip a big lunch.
  • If it’s going to be a late night, make it a long, late lunch.
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