I can remember it like it was yesterday: my first day with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies in July 2003. I showed up right on time (9 am)… and at 9:05 am, I was told my daily goal was to make 100 outbound calls per day to local businesses and residents in the Atlantic City area to sell them (not try to sell) season tickets, group outings and partial plans.

My boss was amazing, and I will never forget what he taught me about perseverance, handling objectives and presenting sensible solutions to prospects. He was also tough: within a week on the job, I went into his office to tell him I had 20 solid season ticket leads, to which he replied, “Bob, there are a lot of people interested in going to the moon and in fact will tell you they are very interested in going to the moon. The fact is though, none of them will ever get there.”

What he was trying to tell me is that I hadn’t made it far enough through the sales process with these people for them to be considered solid leads. I had good conversations, but not presented them with options that were catered specifically to them. I will tell you what happened once I applied this vital principle, but first, here are the top five traits of great sales people that I have identified over the course of my 12-year career in sports and entertainment:

1. Ability to listen. I have had many people tell me throughout my career I don’t talk enough to be a good salesperson, but I’ve found that you have to ask great questions and then listen to what your prospect has to say. In fact, I would say 75% of your time with a prospector should be spent listening before you present a solution.

2. Willingness to help colleagues and industry professionals. Old school thinking about sales people is that we are selfish and self-centered, but I love helping people. Not only is it good karma, but by helping others, you are building your network with the person you are helping and the people they are helping. Also, we all know how tight the sports and entertainment industry network is. Most of the best professionals in our industry are known for helping people.

3. Awareness of industry news. Sure, it’s important to tune in to SportsCenter throughout the day, but it is even more beneficial to know what is going on in the professional world of sports business. Who signed who as a new title sponsor? Which executive landed that big role everyone was coveting? Which ticket sales teams are crushing their season ticket and groups numbers and why?

4. Desire to stay active. Regardless of how much time you have in the day, I think it’s critical to make time for working out, intramurals, etc. I remember my first big conference in Dallas – somehow, I made it into the gym at 5:30 am the first day of the event where, to my amazement, I saw all the big names attending the event working out. Being there helped me make a great first impression, and taught me a good lesson. Staying active helps most people stay positive and become more goal-oriented so, unless you are naturally gifted with eternal sunshine, it’s definitely an approach I’d suggest.

5. Ability to present prospects with something they will like. This sounds so simple… but how many times has somebody tried to sell you something that you would never like in a million years? Why did this happen? Because they didn’t get to know you, ask you enough questions, and listen to your answers. Think about Doctors and Lawyers. They always – well, most of them, anyway – ask you many questions before deciding how to help you.

Now let’s go back to my first week with the Bullies. My boss told me to call those 20 people back and find out more about them as professionals, family people, hockey fans, and friends. Begrudgingly I did, and within one week, I closed my first full season sale and first group sale. The first was a guy who actually told me he appreciated the fact that I got to know him as a business person and took the time to work with him to identify that he could use the tickets to entertain clients and reward his employees. The second was a group leader from a church who liked that I catered my solution to the needs of her congregation.
In sales, nice guys finish first.

Agree (or disagree) with Bob’s tips? Let us know at @TurnkeySports.

#####