5 ways how a job in Sales helped me become a better coach
In 2014, I took up the opportunity to take a sales consultant role at a leading building company. An associate of mine had encouraged that I try doing it and would be successful. I was feeling the financial pressure of a young family and a sales consultant role is the only real high income prospect for a sport educated, university drop out. I was lucky through my network to be handed the opportunity of a role with BGC selling house and land packages aimed at first home buyers. I had never worked in an office (except for at home in my tracksuit pants) and it was actually quite a novelty to have to shave and tuck in the shirt into the black slacks. I was also in an opportunity to drop the amount of tennis clientele I was coaching and still oversee my tennis coaching business. It was to be a very busy year in the rat race.
I was involved in the building industry from April to December when I resigned after my most successful month. I had decided the month before that I wasn’t going to do it the next year but I had 2 deals nearly completed and then 2 more landed on my lap that month. I actually think that I had achieved the momentum which the sales managers talked about but I felt great when I resigned. I felt burned out and basically a bit of a fake as I didn’t have any passion in what I was doing. My sales manager said that if I didn’t have a small tennis coaching business providing some level of income and security, I would have pushed harder and sold more. He was probably right.
As a job it is a cut throat business. It is a numbers game and reminded me a lot of sport. You had almost no repeat clientele and you dealt with a lot of uneducated first home buyers who are guided by what you tell them. Once I had my training period, I was lucky to sell at least one or two new homes each month which kept me hanging in there with a job. Once you are trained up, the expectations were to sell 3 plus to keep your job and a different representative got fired every month in a constant turnover of smooth talking, street smart vagabonds through to more refined, professional workers wanting to be responsible for what they earn. It is totally commission only and you can make no money through to $750,000 per year for the best representative in that first home buyer space.
So in parts I enjoyed the change but it made me really appreciate what type of life I had created through tennis. I was lucky enough to receive great sales training along with learn from others as well as learn from the failure and success of face to face selling. What I didn’t really consider is how much I learnt from the job that I could apply to my true purpose of coaching other people.
Lesson 1 – Talk less and listen more
I though Sales was all about smooth talking which I wasn’t too bad at. However I quickly learnt it was not at all. It was about listening and asking good questions. If you have the key information from someone on their fears, desires and situation, then you can ‘sell’ them on what they need. So I am trying to ask more questions in lessons and leaving more space for them to talk. It can feel uncomfortable but it seems the wise one says less and can help the other person better by knowing more about them.
Lesson 2 – Road Mapping
Once the sales process has started, we were taught to road map our clients through the journey. Building a house is a long process so road mapping helped you to educate them on what they should expect to happen. Let them know what to expect in 3 months’ time and when they should expect it to be finished and the order of what happens between now and then. Tennis and sports development is an even longer process than building a house and educating clients in what direction you are taking and what to expect at each stage along with way.
Lesson 3 – Resilience
Sales ripped me up and then spat on me when I was down. All of these are rookie sales lesson but I had people agree to sign that evening and then pull out with no notice and never respond again. I had a family get me to arrange multiple custom designs for them and spend 5 hours late at night working on a home they had zero intention of purchasing with me. I drove to Mandurah to meet a guy before he kept me down there before pulling out and never answering the phone again. I had hours of time wasters and I cold called hundreds of people who had a bad credit history. This was all difficult. In relation to tennis, it’s obvious, expect rejection (losses), focus on your game and do everything that is in your control to be more successful.
Lesson 4 – Training
The positive of the industry is the focus on constant training. Refining sales scripts, working with mentor sales managers and comparing notes, scripts and techniques with fellow consultants was positive and really impressive. To be constantly improving, you need to be constantly learning. Interestingly the commission only, sales figures type of culture only encouraged the training as everyone wanted to be better and selling more. This was great to see in a non-sporting environment and as we expect our clients to constantly learn, it’s important for tennis coaches to constantly be learning as well.
Lesson 5 – Do what you love and what you believe in.
The truth is in hindsight, I have never cared about new homes. I did it partly for the challenge and partly for the money to see if I could transfer industries and do well. Bricks, doors, windows and wardrobes are boring to me. I also knew that financially it was smarter to buy an old house in a good street and my job was to sell the opposite of that. I wasn’t being authentic and I learnt that I like to work in Sport. Through tennis, I can help kids and adults and help them improve their tennis games and in turn, their quality of life. This comes naturally to me and I do not feel like a fake doing it. I ended up doing just ok but not great in the industry. However it was definitely worth the experience.
So I would suggest anyone in any industry should learn about the sales process. It will improve your communication and as I was taught, we are always selling something. It may be ideas, it may product or service or it may just be selling yourself and your own strengths.
I am glad I am back between a tennis court and a couple of hours per day on a laptop. Most importantly, I don’t have to wear black pants and uncomfortable shoes.