“Now, restaurant fail. Children go to state college. Serious students powerless against drunken jockocracy. Baseball hats everywhere…..

One of my biggest recruiting projects (spanning six years) involved recruiting sales people for a Fortune 500 company.

The sales managers told me that people who had a sports background generally made good sales people. Some others in the company felt that the sales managers just liked to hire people they played hockey with.

I will admit that at first I was skeptical. I wasn’t a jock in school even though I liked sports and lets face it there is a certain anti-jock undercurrent in modern media. There are very few teen movies where the jocks aren’t depicted as more than loutish bullies and drunks. An interesting exception is “The Election” but I am straying from my point here.

I soon found out that the sales managers were more or less correct. People with exposure to organized sports particularly at the collegiate level and beyond seemed to do better than those who were more “bookish” during their school years. This wasn’t 100% true but it was true the majority of the time.

I made it a point to try and understand this and soon found out that former jocks possessed two key traits that helped them be successful in selling.

One was that they were very very competitive. In sales to be successful you have to be competitive. You have to want to win that deal and that competitive drive as a prime motivator is key to helping you achieve that. Of course you aren’t going to win every deal and that’s where the second trait comes in.

I found that people who had played competitive sports were also more equipped to deal with losing. There are very few athletes who reach the pinnacle of their sport or who even win a local championship and even if they do they don’t win every game. So they are exposed to losing. They have learned to take these defeats and learn from them and still come out for the next game (or sales call) fully prepared to give it their all and fight tooth and nail to win.

These two traits I believe really help people with those experiences do very well in sales.

This morning however I realized that there was a third trait that they possessed that was crucial as well. I was listening to a sports talk show and one of the commentators was talking about professional athletes and how they have the ability to take criticism. He said that most of the time even if you are doing well your coaches are focusing on what you are doing wrong. So you have to get used to hearing a barrage of criticism on a daily basis.

I believe that the ability to take criticism in all forms and use it to your advantage is a key factor in success (I wont admit to having this trait in any great amount). The higher up you go in the corporate world the more criticism you may have to face. Even if you achieve the pinnacle of success and become CEO of a large publicly traded company you will still face the slings and arrows of the board, shareholders and of course the press.

Which is why I think that parents should encourage their kids to get involved in organized sports. It doesn’t matter if they never make it to the big leagues. They will still inherit some valuable skills that will help them wherever they go in life.

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