How team sports made me a better businessman

As a nation, we are obsessed with sports – whether it be football, basketball or baseball (not to mention all the other sports people play, like golf, volleyball, fishing, and what have you).  Like many men and women, sports played a huge role in my life since I was a kid.

Today, I want to share with you how sports team involvement can make our professional lives better.

A little background

My Dad was a football and basketball coach when I was young, so I was around sports almost 24/7. When Dad became principal at our high school, I was just beginning to get into organized sports. We played baseball in the summer and hoped to be good enough to get on an all-star team, so we could play most of the summer. As I got older, we played baseball during the summer and school sports during the school year including football, baseball, and basketball.

What sports involvement teaches

Being involved in sports in some way teaches everyone, young and old, valuable life lessons. Here’s 10 powerful attributes I gained from team activities. I know from my own experience that these contribute to Over The Top Performance!

* Creates a sense of belonging
* Teaches teamwork
* Improve social skills
* Builds confidence
* Builds self-esteem
* Keeps you in shape
* Develops lifetime friends
* Teaches leadership skills
* Helps develop mental and physical toughness
* Teaches goal setting

Making connections

Each of the 10 attributes I listed above have been vital in my business success. But sports also made it possible to have connections I may not have had.

For example, in my last year in college, I was dating a girl who had a sister and brother-in-law who lived in Georgia and they introduced me to the owner of Sunnyland. Because I played football at Auburn for a while, I piqued the interest of the company owners who were huge Auburn fans. They offered me what became my first sales job out of college. Without the football and Auburn connection, I probably would not have been high profile enough to get that job at my first company.

Once I got the job and got a few years of experience with the company, it became apparent that all of our big customers had charity golf tournaments. I had never played golf before I got married, but my wife (the college sweetheart from the first story) was a big golfer and gave me a set of clubs as a wedding gift. I started playing and got pretty good. But the thing that impressed most of our customers was that I hit the ball long. Now, I didn’t always know the direction the ball was going, but wherever it went, it went long!

This skill made it where many of our customers loved playing with me. Plus, every tournament had a long drive contest, which I usually won. This brought a lot of attention and since no one at the company I went to work for liked to play golf, they would send me to the tournaments. This made it possible for me to build some strong relationships, some that I continue to talk to 30 years later.

Find common ground

In today’s world, many companies limit how buyers and suppliers can socialize. Some of the bigger retailers even have a zero tolerance for fraternization, so you cannot entertain them over lunch, or having a drink after work, or in any other social atmosphere. The one exception is still charity golf or tennis tournaments. We support the different charity events because it is the right thing to do, but it also provides opportunities meet and talk to different associates and management at the companies you sell to.

Lots of things have changed over the years in selling customers, but the one thing that has remained constant is that buyers buy from the people they know and trust. You cannot build those relationships just calling on buyers. You must find a way for them to get to know you outside of the sales call. The way that worked for me through the years is the charity golf tournaments. I highly recommend you try them for yourself or find some other team activity that will help you grow as a business professional and a person.