We’ve all been there. Anxiously looking for a common denominator between you and your tight-lipped client – or boss. Talking about your fabulous weekend with friends or your children’s latest theatrics is too personal, politics are off-limits and the weather is boring and too expected. If you’ve never considered using sports as an anchor for a conversation in this type of situation, here’s why you should.
Understanding and following sports provides an edge that most women under-utilize in our sports-obsessed and male-dominated business culture. Unfortunately, this is because it’s assumed that women are generally not interested in the local sports scene. While there are plenty of women that are avid and knowledgeable fans, research shows that we are the minority. We can attribute this to women generally being raised in an environment where they are not taught the fundamentals of sport at an early age as our male counterparts are. Even if you played sports growing up, which many of us did, it doesn’t translate to understanding professional sports.
The social and professional benefits of understanding sports are obvious. Not only does understanding the fundamentals of the game provide a rewarding viewing and social experience, but it can also give you the leg up with men and other sports fans.
Living in the greatest sports city in the country we are blessed with countless opportunities to cash in on conversation starters regarding our perpetual sports scene. You don’t need to be a vault of sports knowledge or know the starting line up of every local team to do this, but you do need to know what you are talking about to intelligently engage your client, boss, colleague – whomever – in a relevant and timely sports conversation. With the right recipient, sports can be the perfect icebreaker and create an ideal opportunity to connect on a personal level with a stranger.
Ten Ways to Follow & Use Sports in Business Situations:
- Find out your client’s sports interests. If they are from Chicago – are they a Cubs or Sox fan? Do they hold Bears season tickets? Understanding your client’s sports affiliations provides an immediate social connection and building block for future conversations.
- Watch the headlines. Knowing your client is a huge Sox fan provides an easy opportunity to shoot a quick email or to pick up the phone and talk about the Sox sweeping the Detroit Tigers this past weekend – a relevant and fun topic that can easily transition to business.
- Know who the local teams are playing that week. Discussing who the team is facing that weekend or who they just beat the previous weekend is always top line discussion for sports fans.
- Know how your local teams are stacking up. Are they leading the division? Are they struggling at the bottom of their league or division? Are they on a hot-streak?
- If your client is from another city – be aware of relevant and timely sports news in your client’s hometown. For example, if your client is from LA, you better know that the LA Kings just won the Stanley Cup – a first in the history of the franchise.
- Use headline sports news to start a conversation. Nothing is more effective than starting off a meeting with men than using a sports analogy that parlays into business and is relevant to what happened the night before.
- Know the star players on your local teams. This is an obvious talking point for sports fans.
- Utilize your company’s hospitality resources. It’s so easy to tell women to learn to play golf – but people fail to mention the time, money and commitment that holding your own in 18 holes requires. An easier option? Request tickets to the upcoming game and prep yourself with the info listed above. Three hours of uninterrupted time sitting next to your client with beers and on-the-field entertainment beats chasing them around the green looking for the right minute to ask for the business.
- Use sports as an opportunity to meet the client or bring the client to town for business and pleasure. Again, watch the team’s schedule – if you know there’s a hot series coming up and your client is a huge fan – they’ll have a hard time saying NO to great seats and you accompanying them.
- Realize that there’s always next season. Understanding the dynamics of sports – the wins and losses associated with the game – the team effort necessary to pull out a win – all provides a useful and timeless mantra that can be replicated in the boardroom.