Hiring Athletes… A Great Bet for Inside Sales Jobs

I just spent the afternoon of July 23rd and the morning of July 24th at parades.  One was Bountiful City where I grew up, and the other was the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City.

My family and I run a Hawaiian Shave Ice shack during the summer to teach our kids how to work and to help them make their own money.  We also pick some of the largest events in our area to bring a portable booth we bought at Costco and our Hawaiian Shave Ice machine.  We started this in the summer of 2008 and we have learned a lot of things real fast.  One is that you can lose money real quick trying to sell shave ice when everyone else is doing the same thing or when conditions are bad.  The other is the power of strong salespeople.

Most shave ice booths set up shop and wait for people to come to them.  They may put up a banner to get attention (advertising), or they might pass out 2 for 1 cards or buy 10 get 1 free (marketing.)  If the day is hot and there is lots of people then things work and they make sales and they will usually make a couple of hundred dollars more than the entrance fee and the health permit.  If it is rainy or cloudy you can count on losing money.

Having been in sales all of my career I immediately thought of taking our Shave Ice to the customer.  Last year we made three trays that strap over the neck and shoulder and around the waist to keep hands free and hold 20+ Shave Ice cups and syrup and we sent out two or three of my kids (and myself, I couldn’t resist) into the crowd.  We tripled our sales.  This year we wanted to expand two more.

So the question comes up, who do I hire?

In my years at Franklin Quest (now FranklinCovey) I learned that there is an extremely high correlation between successful sales reps and those who excelled in competitive athletics.  I wanted to know what made up the top 10%.  Most of them had excelled in competitive athletics or something else that was competitive.  There were two or three other significant correlations, but the athletics is the one most broad and the one easiest to apply.

The discipline of competitive athletics and the ‘will to win’ map onto sales.  I noticed this in my telecom days as a founder of UCN, Inc (now inContact).  My old football coach Mark Padgett was working at a competitive telecom company and so were Mark Blosch and several other athletes I was familiar with.  I played middle linebacker in high school and made the lightweight varsity football team at Navy (though my neck and shoulder injury that put me down my senior year reoccurred.)

The world of sales seemed to be populated with ex competive athletes from high school and college.

So I just looked around my neighborhood at the young men who I had always noticed were very strong in athletics.  I invited two of them to come sell for us at the parades.  One grew up from a family of athletes strong in baseball especially, and the other is the most intense basketball player in the area.  He lives and breaths basketball.

I then invited them both to learn from and compete with my own son, Jon.  Our business is named JonnyK’s, after my son Jon and my brother Jon (he has two shacks in Bountiful.)  I coached Jon up through the years of little league football and he is the hardest hitting middle linebacker pound-for-pound that I ever coached.  He then transferred his natural and learned athleticism to competitive rugby (he is on United Rugby, the team that placed 2nd nationally and is the only team that consistently gives Highland Rugby a run for their money).  He also trains throughout the offseason in boxing under Jay, Gene, and Don Fullmer.  He has sold Shave Ice for couple of years, but those two gave him some real challenge their first day.  Give them another year and they will be pretty good salespeople.

How did we do?  Amazing.  I won’t give numbers because I don’t want more competition in my Shave Ice business than I already have.  If you were at either one of those parades you probably saw us yellling, “Get your Shave Ice, fight global warming,” or something crazy.

My reps at XANT all seem to have excelled and achieved in their youth in the kind of things that can be picked out easily in resumes and interviews.  And whether it is weightlifting, bodybuilding, snowboarding, or ultimate fighting, they seem to continue their intense quest for personal achievement even today.

Author: Ken Krogue |
Summary of Ken Krogue’s Forbes articles

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