The performance and success of athletes should not only resonate with sports fans but also with business-minded professionals who believe in the importance of culture, teamwork, resilience, leadership, and focus.
As this blog title suggests, it’s been a great time to be a Boston sports fan. This past February, we saw the Patriots win their 5th Super Bowl with one of the most improbable comebacks in sports history. That title marked Boston’s 10th championship, out of the 4 major sports teams, in the last 15 years.
As I reflect on those championships, there are certain players and coaches that come to mind. The characteristics of these individuals helped shape the foundation of these 4 organizations to help lead them to their success. Those same characteristics are what separate good sales professionals from the best sales professionals.
Here are 5 Boston sports legends that can teach us a lot of about sales greatness.
- James White – Ramp Up
To quote Courtney Williams from a recent Forbes article titled “Sales Is Not Easy – And Neither Is Finding Good Sales People,” he writes, “Have realistic expectations. Even if you find someone with great skills and industry expertise, it will take time to bring them up to speed.”
No one knows that more than running back James White of the New England Patriots. He was the 130th player drafted in the 2014 NFL draft. During his rookie year he played only 3 games that season and was inactive for his team’s Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Now, just two years removed from that game, James White led the Patriots to their 5th Lombardi Trophy finishing the game with 6 carries for 29 rushing yards, 14 receptions for 110 receiving yards, and a total of 3 touchdowns.
- Kevin Millar – Attitude
From the Business News Daily article titled, “14 Important Traits Successful Salespeople Share,” Mike Kunkle of Brainshark, Inc. noted that, “Top salespeople … tend to be upbeat, and radiate a sense of humor, fun and general positivity. While grounded in reality, they focus on what they can control, stay on course with optimism about what they can achieve, and [don't] let the rest drag them down.”
Kevin Millar, 2004 World Series Champion, brought this same level of optimism to the Boston Red Sox. As his team was down 3-0 to their rival, New York Yankees in the ALCS, Millar was caught on camera numerous times telling reporters and his teammates, “don’t let us win tonight.” After winning 4-straight against the Evil Empire and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, Kevin Millar’s positive and optimistic attitude has been credited with the identity of that team.
- Matt Patricia – Experience
David Patcher, Co-Founder of JumpCrew, wrote in an article for Entrepreneur Magazine titled, “Building to Scale, 'No Experience Required.’” He writes, “In the old economy, companies typically hired for the kind of experience that would minimize the investment required in training. In the SaaS economy, however, hiring and training are inseparable. Success requires that organizations and individuals have a mutual commitment to ongoing learning and skills development.”
New England Patriots Defensive Coordinator, Matt Patricia, is often criticized of his football background. His coaching career started as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Not known for their football program, Patricia was asked the same question at his first three coaching stops, “Are you sure you want to do this?” Since joining the Patriots in 2004 as an offensive coaching assistant, he has played a pivotal role in their two most recent championships. His success has impressed teams and owners throughout the league and he has been one of the most sought after coaches to fill vacant head coaching roles over the last two seasons.
- Kevin Garnett – Focus
Technology enthusiast and business owner, Tracy Watson, wrote about this important trait for BusinessToCommunity.com in an article titled, “5 Traits Shared by the Best Salespeople.” He explains, “A sales person with focus is one that is driven to reach their goals and is generally self-motivated. Incentives are always effective, but not the driving force with these salespeople. They don’t require direction or guidance at every turn or appear anxious about procedures. In an interview, these candidates will give clear answers to questions and demonstrate a history of achieving objectives.”
To quote Kevin Garnett, “At the end of the day, you’re responsible for yourself and your actions and that’s all you can control. So rather than be frustrated with what you can’t control, try to fix the things you can.” Acquired by the Boston Celtics from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett’s focus helped lead his new team to their 17th World Championship. The ability to focus is pivotal in the success of any team or organization.
- Nathan Horton – Dominance
In an article published in Cleverism Magazine titled, “The Top Characteristics of Great Salespeople,” they wrote about the importance of dominance. “Dominance refers to a control over the communication and relationship of a salesperson with the customers. A salesperson must not be overbearing but should also not succumb under the pressure of the customer and should have a non-threatening control over him/her.”
During the Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup Championship run, Nathan Horton’s ability to dominate in pressurized situations helped his team hoist the Cup that year. In their first-round series against the rival Montreal Canadiens he scored overtime game-winning goals in games 5 and 7 to help his team advance. During game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals he once again scored the game-winning goal with minutes left in the third period to earn his team a trip to the finals.
Whether or not you are a Boston-specific sports fan, but are in fact a “sales athlete”, you can agree that these traits separate the legends from the rest.
What are some other sports heroes you admire and what characteristics do they have that salespeople also possess?