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From Pro Ball to Sales: 5 Ways to Knock it Out of the Park

September 5th, 2018
By Kevin Gergel

When I first started my business to business sales career in 2007 with AT&T, the struggle was real!

In an 18 month span, I went from being a single, minor league baseball player who only really cared about his batting average to becoming a husband and a father with a corporate sales job, a monthly quota and a mortgage.

Oh and by the way my wife’s father and two brothers happened to be WWE wrestlers Dusty Rhodes, Goldust & Cody Rhodes…no pressure right.

To put it lightly, the transition from baseball to professional selling was anything but smooth. I dealt with major identity issues, new financial responsibilities and a whole new world in corporate America.

On one hand I was certainly proud of my baseball career which included winning the AAU 16 year old junior Olympics with East Cobb Astros, a national championship with Lassiter High School, an All-American senior season at Kennesaw State and a 24th round draft pick selection by the Seattle Mariners.

On the other hand I had no idea how to properly leverage that background.

Should I bring up my baseball career? Should I not bring it up at all and “close the yearbook”? Do these people think I’m a just a dumb jock? Am I good enough?  Am I smart enough to understand business? These are the types of questions that kept popping up in my head during before, during and after sales calls.

Unfortunately, I came to the initial conclusion that it was best to distance myself from my baseball background and keep everything strictly “professional”.

As a result, I became almost robotic in nature and tried so hard to fit into the business world. Needless to say, that was the wrong approach. I wasn’t connecting with my customers, wasn’t providing value to my colleagues, wasn’t hitting my monthly sales quotas and was miserable.

Thankfully, with the help of an incredible support system, I took a deep breath and realized there was a better way to approach sales, business, and life.  My family and friends encouraged me to leverage my background and not bury it.

Instead of shying away of my baseball past, they encouraged me to lean into the lessons it taught me. They told me the insights and experience I gained while playing baseball made me a unique and valuable asset to any organization.

Looking back, I’m so thankful for their advice because once I started tapping into the lessons baseball taught me and let my true personality shine through, I started to thrive. I realized it was possible to be “professional” and still have a personality. I realized baseball truly prepared me for corporate America, especially business to business sales.

Now with more than a decade worth of experience and success, I’m excited to share five insights which have helped me the most in my professional selling career.

1. Passion

Baseball is such a grind especially as you get older and are playing AAU, college and pros. You are at the ball field every day with minimal time off. If you don’t truly have passion for the game, you will eventually burn out and come to resent it. The same can be said in the professional selling world which is also a grind.

If you are not passionate about your company, your products and services, your customers and your ability to help solve real business issues and provide value, you will quickly burn out. It’s so important to find a company who offers products and services you believe in and work with clients you respect.

2. Irrational Confidence

I stole this term from Bill Simmons but I absolutely love it. In baseball as a hitter, you are going to fail and fail often.

When you get to a certain level, everyone has talent. What separates the good from the great and the great from the elite, is the mental game – the ability to wipe away failure immediately.

Let’s say you are in a slump and are 1 for your last 20. You have been trying and failing. The key is to walking up to the plate with confidence you are going to get a hit regardless of what happened last time.

The same concept can be said within sales. You have to have 100% confidence in yourself and your solutions even when you have been striking out. What helps breed confidence?  Proper preparation. This leads into my next point.

3. Hard work in the form of routine/consistent deposits of time

Anyone can work hard some of the time. Those who seem to be most successful have the ability to follow a formula or structure that works for them on a daily basis.

In baseball, every morning when I woke up, I knew what my day would be like because every minute was laid out for me on paper. I had a routine that allowed me to fine tune the skills needed to be successful.

In sales, if you can structure your calendar in a fashion that promotes consistency you will be set up for success.

4. Positivity

Again it’s all about the mental game and positivity certainly ties into passion and confidence. When I think of positivity, I think of how you carry yourself on a daily basis. Positivity has to be a way of life.

Are you choosing to believe that great things are going to happen? Are you willing to look at setbacks through the lens of learning opportunities and way to get better?

Personally, my Christian faith plays a big role in this area. People are drawn to positive people and on the flip side, negativity rarely adds value.

5. Fun

Loosen up! It seems silly but the more fun I had playing baseball, the better I performed. The same can be said with my sales career.

Baseball is not life and death. Sales is not life or death – loosen up and enjoy yourself. I like to try to have as much fun as possible with my internal colleagues and externally with my clients. This ties back to letting your authentic personality shine through.

So the next time you look in the mirror, I’d encourage you to ask yourself a few questions:

Do I have passion?
Am I confident in myself and my company?
Does my calendar show structure?
Am I a positive person?
Do people want to be around me?
And finally am I having fun?

If you answer yes to these questions, odds are the success, the money and the opportunities for career advancement will take care of itself.  If you answer no, it’s time.

To connect with Kevin on LinkedIn, click here.

6 Responses to “From Pro Ball to Sales: 5 Ways to Knock it Out of the Park”

  1. Fred Sanderson says:

    Kevin—love the article and thanks for sharing. Having played college football at UGA, I identified with much of what you said. I feel privileged to have been part of your career at Lassiter and enjoyed that National run. Three things in your aticle jumped out at me and carried me through my career—be positive, work hard and always have fun!! Proud of you!!

  2. Donny Hood says:

    Thank you Kevin. I can’t tell you much I struggled and still occasionally struggle with the things you wrote about in this article. I would have loved to have had an opportunity to have read this 16 years ago. I always knew I had so much to offer. I just didn’t know how to capitalize on my strengths in the business world.

  3. Tom Frederick says:

    Kevin, Great article and excellent points. To focus on one point in particular, when it comes to sales specifically, believing in your service and company is a critical elements. I believe that all too often people are drawn to a company not by deep research in the history of that company delivering on great programs, or hearing from past sales reps how awesome they are to work for, but because a recruiter got in touch and said “I think this is a great fit and they can pay you $X”. And then, after arriving at the company figuring out what they do well and where they fall short.

    But you can start with truly believing in the industry you represent and that it provides true, lasting value to the client. Think about how a pro ball player would urge a fan to come to the park to watch a game in a stadium they love! You’d be like a puppy urging someone to come out and throw the ball around, hardly able to contain your excitement! That kind of excitement and confidence is contagious with prospects.

    After that, it’s worth doing the extra work to decide if an employer is the right fit… do they deliver on the promise? Do they support the team? etc And if someone is in an after-the-fact situation, focus on what your employer does well and help them do the other things better! Be a problem solver and contributor and a positive influence on your industry!

    Wishing you great success in your career!

  4. John Merritt IV says:

    Great article, so many great points!

  5. Bobby Duley says:

    Kevin great article! Having witnessed you managing you professionally during the first 18 months of your career at AT&T I can tell you that I saw your talent and potential right away — I’m glad to see you successfully navigated those early stressors in your life — which I believe contributed to you putting undue pressure on yourself! Glad you found the truth! And good job to share and pay it forward through your wonderful heartfelt article.

  6. Justin Schuda says:

    Hi Kevin, I can’t believe I am just coming across this article now! The first part of the article really hit home for me. I played minor league ball for 6 seasons, and after leaving the game entirely(coached for another 5 years after my career ended) I did the same thing as you… distanced myself from my baseball past as it didn’t seem to serve me. I have been in the hospitality industry for the past 8 years, and I’m contemplating transitioning to sales-POS systems for merchants, restaurants, retailers, etc… Thank you for giving some internal insight to the struggles you experienced and the tips to overcome, embracing your baseball past and using it to succeed.

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