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    Looking for a good salesperson? Find an athlete

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    Excelling in athletics requires a very specific lifestyle. Long hours practicing, early morning practice, late night games, honing their skills for years in search of that elite level status. But those long hours put in not only hone the body, but the mind, and that applies beyond athletics. There are some pretty solid reasons that these trainable qualities will make athletes a great addition to your sales arsenal.

    Athletic skills transfer

    The skills that athletes develop on the field don’t just stay on the field. Obviously fancy footwork and throwing prowess won’t be much of much practical use in sales. But there are skills that are taught in training that will apply, such as dedication, focus, and flexibility.

    Like athletics, sales require thriving in a highly competitive field. It takes focus to identify a customer’s needs and wants, and flexibility to accommodate changes. Keeping an eye on the prize and doing what it takes to get there is necessary both in sales and sports. No game is the same, just as no sale is the same. That flexibility becomes a valuable asset on the sales floor.

    Whether someone is winning a game or winning a sale, it involves strategy, the ability to objectively assess the situation, and lots of patience. “I never worry about the problem. I worry about the solution,” is a famous quote by basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal. Identifying the goal and utilizing effective strategies to get there is one of the most important things that athletes can bring from sports to sales.

    “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” -Vince Lombardi

    Athletes love winning

    All sport is a competition. Athletes compete against others and themselves, and sales is no different. The ‘thrill of the chase’ is a major aspect in both fields, meaning that salespeople who have that same love of competition are likely to push themselves to do better, just like they would in sports.

    As football coaching legend Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.’  That competitive drive is immensely useful in winning a sale, so if the sale falls through it won’t be for lack of trying.

    Passion is vital to any career, but it is especially necessary in fields where performance can vary drastically. Pushing to meet continuously changing goals will serve any salesperson well, rather than settling for complacency.

    Athletes don’t internalize failure

    Not every sales pitch will be a success, just like no athlete will win every game or competition. Learning to accept a lost cause and taking rejection with grace is a major part of sales success.

    Accepting that failure and the ability to learn from mistakes to do better next time is integral to developing in the field. Resilience is a necessary trait in top athletes, and it is a necessary trait in sales. It may be difficult to learn, but having the ability to bounce back is not a universal skill among salespeople.

    According to Forbes, 95% of Fortune 500 Companies have CEO’s that played college sport. While we can’t draw the conclusion that athletic ability equals success in sales, there are some strong correlations between the two that highlight the importance of a skillset that is compatible to sales.

    These are not always innate talents but take time and dedication to learn — and that is the most important trait of all. Finding someone who is a winner on the field just might net you a win on the sales floor.

    Originally published May 3, 2019, updated August 25, 2023

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