I recently read an intriguing article on LinkedIn about student athletes and sales. Having played college football for 5 years I wanted to weigh in on what athletics has taught me and how it enabled me to become a successful BDR.

No doubt about it, playing a sport in college is like having a second job.  On average a student athlete spends about 40 hours a week dedicated to his/her sport. Multiply 40 hours a week for 5 years and you have spent way more time around your athletic team than the classroom. Some of the traits that have been ingrained in me through athletics will last much longer than any class. Once I began working as a full-time business development rep, I quickly realized the lessons I learned throughout my time as an athlete can be applied to my sales career.

Here’s what I learned:

Response to a Loss
Obviously this comes with the territory in both sales and athletics. You’re going to lose. You’re going to be outperformed at times. It’s how you can respond to that loss which is going to either make or break you. It’s tough to put an endless amount of time into training and practice only to go out on the field and lose the game. Likewise, in sales it’s tough to put in the effort into sourcing a good potential prospect and putting yourself on the line by calling them out of the blue only to hear, “I’m not interested”. Failure will happen in life. When you put that behind you and not let it be a distraction, you can improve for the next game, the next prospect call, and put yourself into a position to win.

Control the Controllable
This is one thing my coach would always stress. “You need to control only what you can”. Worrying about things that you cannot control will only hurt the current task at hand. You can’t worry about a test the next morning when you’re out on the field. The same applies to sales. There will be unexpected things that come up. For example, a prospect may have to reschedule a call or meeting to next month, causing you to miss your quota. If you spend your time stressing about these uncontrollable moments instead of moving on to the next call, it will damage your performance.

Attention to Detail
Paying attention to the little things and being consistent about completing the tedious small tasks will help you in the long run. If a wide receiver in football ran an 8 yard route when it was supposed to be a 10 yard route it could result in a turnover, changing the whole landscape of the game. The same applies to sales. If you’re not focusing on the small details, such as setting follow up tasks or taking detailed notes when on a call with a prospect, then you could potentially lose the sale. In sales, doing all the small steps will ultimately result in increased success.

The most experienced and successful teams in sports have a high level of trust, not only in each individual but the process as well. In a game, if your opponent senses hesitation, they can exploit your team’s weaknesses to their advantage. The same can be said about business development teams. If a BDR doesn’t fully believe that their product or service can help the prospect, more often than not, the prospect will sense this, dramatically decreasing your odds of moving them to the next step. When you trust your product or service and truly believe it can help, you’ll put more energy and effort into each call. Bringing that energy and trust on a call will go a long way in closing that deal.

While I didn’t know it at the time, my experience in sports developed many of the key attributes that made me successful in the field of sales today.  Drawing parallels between the two has allowed me to widen my perspective on how to overcome obstacles, achieve goals and work effectively as a team.