5 Reasons Why Athletes Make Great Salespeople

As the 2016 Olympics in Rio come to a close, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these athletes from around the world compete at such a high level in celebration of the human competitive spirit.  

My excitement for team sports will continue as baseball heads towards playoff elimination and professional and college football seasons begin. Plus, the NBA, NCAA basketball, and professional hockey are right around the corner. It is the best time of the year for team sports fans.

While I’m excited to be a fan, I miss playing team sports. I miss competing for a spot on the junior varsity high school basketball team, where I practiced every day with teammates that eventually won the state championship. I reflect on my days as the team captain for my high school soccer team. This is where I learned my first lessons in leadership followed by a humbling experience as a role player on my college varsity soccer team. Post team sports, I spent 7 years racing in triathlons, culminating with a completion of an Ironman.

While I miss the team camaraderie and individual goal-setting, my body has determined that it is time to for me to retire from competitive athletics. Fortunately, I realize that a lot of what I learned through sports is transferable to business, particularly in high growth companies and especially in the roles of business development and salespeople.

Here are 5 reasons why athletes make great salespeople:

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Athletes have to be driven to improve at every practice and they are almost never satisfied with their last match. They are laser focused on goals and tune out any distractions.  Salespeople must have that same drive and ambition if they are to be successful. 


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Competitive Spirit

Athletes don’t give up, no matter how hard the challenge. If they miss a goal, they get right back up determined to achieve that goal.  When a salesperson pitches a client, they often don’t close the deal on the first, second or even third attempt. There is a resilience that is required to keep working hard until they have won the business. Athletes learn from that experience and as salespeople approach the next sales opportunity with new learnings and increased confidence.


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Positive Energy

The speed of a growing technology business parallels the frantic pace of sports. Athletes know how to create a passionate, high-energy yet fun workplace.  When not at work, athletes are running, working out, and keeping busy to be able to maintain high energy levels. They pick up teammates that are down and create new heights of adrenaline through team camaraderie.


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Work Ethic

Athletes are accustomed to working through adverse situations and have determination, not just on game day, but also during the countless hours of practice leading up to game day. They are committed to their sport even when it means sacrificing time with friends and other interests. In a high growth technology company, significant time and hard work is spent preparing for big milestones; athletes understand the need for practice required before an event and that achievement is only possible with hard work leading up to the big milestone. 


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Most sports culminate with a team championship. Athletes have to ‘buy-in’ with their teammates towards a shared goal. Often times this means putting aside individual goals for the greater good of the team.  That same teamwork is critical for performance in the workforce.  Whether it is training a new colleague or collaborating with a supervisor or product manager, or working with a lawyer to close a complex enterprise deal, teamwork is necessary for a successful workplace and most athletes know the importance of this skill.

Is an athlete’s championship performance due to natural genetics or the result of hours of training? After watching the Olympics the past 17 days, the answer is  a combination of both genetics and hard-work as prerequisites. As it relates to sales professionals, I believe that ambition, competitive spirit, positive energy, work ethic, and teamwork are all necessary and prerequisites for success. If you have these qualities, you will succeed at Shiftgig (apply here).

Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Simone Biles – if any of you are seeking your next career, my advice is to take your drive, energy, and work ethic into business. Follow your passion, set your goals, and refuse to stop until you have won the Gold in your next career!

About The Author

Eddie is the Executive Chairman and one of the founders of Shiftgig. He is also co-founder and board director of One Goal, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that improves college acceptance and persistence by empowering urban high school students through a teacher-led 3 year fellowship.