5 Reasons Former Athletes Make Great Sales Reps

By March 22, 2016
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I joined my first sports team in February 1995, reporting to the local little league. Since then, sports have been a major part of my life. I fell in love with the physical exercise, competitive nature, and being a part of a team.

Growing up a two-sport athlete, I was always off somewhere practicing. I dedicated countless hours to developing my physical and mental capacity to be better at my craft. Sports kept me busy, focused, and most importantly, out of trouble.

I picked up a few things in my time as an athlete that have made it into my day-to-day life as an employee here at EverString. I’ll (hopefully) make a strong case for why you can’t go wrong adding a former student athlete to your sales organization. Here’s a few reasons why:

#1 Practice Makes Perfect

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Athletes seldom give up. In fact, I’d argue that quitting is never an option for a dedicated athlete. Athletes proactively pursue solutions to problems by subjecting themselves to rigorous training and endless repetition. Need something done? Let’s work until we get it right, because we all know a job half done, isn’t a job done at all.

Nothing will prepare you more for a sales role then driving to get it right over and over again. On the SDR team at EverString, we practice by doing. Mock calls are our move. Locking yourself in a room with peers and managers alike to practice your phone skills is the single greatest way to perfect your pitch. Unless you practice over and over again, countering different objections each time, you simply just won’t get better. And as athletes know well, if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse.

#2 Athletes Are Passionate About Achieving Their Goals

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Athletes are familiar with goal setting and the work it takes to achieve those goals. An understanding of what to do, how to do it, and why it’s important makes athletes successful in achieving both individual and team goals. So if you ever manage an athlete, I can tell you that making this clear goes a long way. 6:00 AM weights anybody?

Goal setting is something any successful team does. A weekly ‘sales huddle’ is an EverSting team practice that helps us set goals and keep track of progress. The huddle helps us identify where we are today, where we need to be tomorrow, and where we should be in six months. The meetings help us to track our progress, and celebrate small wins along the way to the big win—a closed deal.

#3 Athletes Are Coachable

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As athletes, we understand that we don’t have all the answers. Our unwavering willingness to get better at what we do helps us ask questions first and take action second. The world’s top athletes aren’t found—they’re trained. Plus, if you don’t listen to the coach your butt will be right next to the others on the bench.

To the athletes out there in new sales roles across the country, don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question, except the one you don’t ask. This was the case on the field, and it’s still the case in your new job.

The worst type of sales rep out there is the “lone wolf”. The one who thinks his way is fool proof, and that he has all the answers. An example here is the rep who doesn’t buy in to the overall sales method the organization has laid out, or who doesn’t use the tools put in place by management to help him be successful. The lone wolf does things his way or not at all. The best reps are the ones constantly asking questions. They are always curious about ways to improve, and are committed to crushing it!

#4 Athletes Are Team Players

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Athletes know that goals are not achieved by just one individual’s contribution, but rather through camaraderie and teamwork. They utilize the unique and complimentary skills of each teammate to create a well-oiled winning machine. They understand that putting down a team member only hurts the team in the long run.

At SalesLoft’s Rainmaker 2016 conference, Ali Gooch of SalesForce said in her session, How to Specialize Your Sales Team So You Can Actually Scale, that she looks for “compassionate competitiveness” when hiring sales reps. She explained that compassionate competitiveness is that quality in an SDR that shows that sure, she wants to be the stand out rep, but she only feels good about it if her colleagues are at their best. Team players hold their colleagues to the highest standard—pushing them day-in and day-out so that the TEAM is working to its full potential.

Celebrating teammates’ successes (as well as your own) is a great way to facilitate this kind of attitude. On our team, we use a meeting board. Anytime one of us sets a new meeting, it goes on the huge white board hanging on the wall of what we call “the SDR pit”. The board is a carrot and a stick— it celebrates wins, but it also creates a sense of urgency in the pit. We can all clearly see how well (or how poorly) we’re doing compared to our peers.

#5 Athletes Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

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No matter how much an athlete practices, unfamiliar and unique situations will arise. That’s just the way it works—on the field or on the phone. You have to improvise and adapt to overcome the unexpected. No matter how many mock calls you do, you will get a new objection every once in a while. No matter how long you’ve played basketball, you’ve never faced a Steph Curry.

Successful SDRs must be agile and adapt on the fly to get prospects to agree to the next meeting. Prospects are rarely out there looking for your product when you pick up the phone to call them. A predictive platform can tell you when intent data is present, but even then there are very few leads within a given territory that will present intent at a given time. Because of that, you need to be ready to counter any objection that comes your way on the fly.

So there you have it. Are you hiring sales reps? Consider adding some former athletes to your team.

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