Episode TwoHundredFortyThree

Sales Lessons from the NFL

Guest: Ernest Owusu, Sr. Director of Sales Development at 6Sense

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About This Episode

Ernest didn’t expect there to be quite that much overlap between what he learned in the NFL and his new career as an SDR.

(Hint: Very hard work is a big one.)

But the success that Ernest Owusu found in the NFL as a defensive end translated directly to his career path in sales, straight up the chain to Sr. Director of Sales Development at 6Sense.

“Once I finished playing, I immediately jumped into the SDR role and I grinded, worked really hard, perfected my craft, trusted my process,” Ernest said.

Let’s dive into his insights into 3 attributes of SDRs who have what it takes to excel.

It’s the process, not the goal

Everyone wants to be a top performer in sales. Nobody shows up as an SDR hoping to do a mediocre job.

It would have been easy to get intimidated as a college freshman thinking about his dreams to be on the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, Ernest threw himself into perfecting his craft.

He focused on honing specific skills, not about playing in front of 100,000 people and signing autographs.

Out of the season’s ten 60-minute games, Ernest might play for 15-20 minutes each. But he spent about 8 hours a day for most of the year just… practicing.

“I wasn’t really focused on the amount of time and work I was doing. I’m here to get better, and that’s the goal,” he said.

Honestly, he wasn’t driven by the goal. He was driven by what he could do daily to make himself better.

As a sales professional, it’s the same. Base your wins upon your improvement, not necessarily the byproduct of stats.

Hungry to learn & improve

As an SDR as well as a leader of SDRs, Ernest said that he stays constantly self-aware of his strengths and weaknesses.

From a coaching standpoint, he encourages his team members to figure out their strengths and aim to get better at those.

He calls it a commitment to growth mindset.

Example: I know I’m really good at calls. Every single time I call, I’m going to be looking out for this one thing so that I can nail it. I’m going to prioritize that focused skill and spend time every week learning how to get even better at it.

As a sales leader, he says to schedule time for self-improvement, whether that’s listening to sales leadership podcasts or another educational discipline.

Because, look, there’s no one to say that you can only get this good and then you have to stop.

Whether you’re blowing your number out or not, don’t ever get comfortable. Make a commitment to your own success.

PS: Self-improvement can be creative. Ernest used martial arts to improve his football as well as his sales.

Be humble

In a sense, the leap from football player to SDR was a complete reinvention. Ernest views life as a series of seasons, many of which mean doing something completely new.

“One of my first cold calls, I had a CMO just like send me to hell and back. Geez, crazy. I’ve never had that happen. So there were definitely some humbling moments,” he said.

One chapter ends when you are exceptional, another starts with you knowing nothing. 

He tells new SDRs to have strong self-awareness about the particular skills that meant success in your previous roles — and look for opportunities to apply those in sales.

He’s known former lawyers who make great SDRs because of their research skills and former athletes who make great SDRs because of their persistence.

“Know what that skill set is and look for opportunities to apply it to your career,” he said.

Ernest’s 3 takeaways

  1. Learn your strengths for how you’re going to win.
  2. Become exceptional at your strengths.
  3. Apply that mastery to your sales process so that you can achieve repeat successes.

Connect with Ernest on LinkedIn.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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