My work environment is different that most.
I’m an NFL sideline reporter. For me, “going to work” means heading to the practice facility, talking to guys in the locker room and observing NFL games from the sideline.
It’s such a unique position, there’s an assumption that what I do wouldn’t apply in any other work environment, but sports is a business. That means if you take a step back from the actual sports talk part, there are strategies, processes and techniques you can borrow from sports and apply to your work environment.
Here’s an example, the money is in the follow up in business right? You can’t engage with a potential client or a potential employer one time and expect to do a deal or get offered a job. The same principle is true in an NFL locker room. I can’t talk to a player one time and expect him to spill his guts in a post-game interview. Follow up strategies are incredibly important in business and in an NFL locker room.
My friend Elizabeth Case from Yellow Dog Consulting loves to talk about the importance of follow up strategies for entrepreneurs. I shared this guest blog post that outlines exactly how I approach follow up in an NFL locker room. Take a look and use it to develop your own follow up strategy.
Follow up Strategies Inside an NFL Locker Room
If you were to follow me inside an NFL locker room during the Seahawks weekly media availability you’d notice a couple things. First, it doesn’t look like I’m doing much of anything and secondly, my conversations aren’t as football driven as you’d expect.
Which is exactly how I planned it.
And I do, quite literally, plan out my interactions with the athletes. I’m strategic in the way I approach building relationships to reach best-case scenarios.
Here’s what happens
I start with a “3 Player Max” rule.” As in, I’m not going to try and meet 10 or even five new players at a time. This is the time to be narrow-minded and focus on two, no more than three, people at a time, because the moment I meet those new players I initiate a follow up sequence that follows this timeline.
Make contact within 24-48 Hours. Maximize the initial introduction by having a second point of contact within two days. For me, that could be a simple as a head-nod or a smile in their direction in the locker room. It could be saying “Hi,” as I pass a guy walking through the locker room. It’s a casual exchange, but one that reinforces our initial meeting.
First name exchange within 5-7 days. Get on a first-name basis within a week of the initial introduction. I not only want to stay on a player’s radar, but demonstrate that I’m paying attention. My first-name exchanges sometimes sound like this, “Heck of a catch in practice Tyler.” Or “Justin, I meant to tell you after the game, but that was a great play on third down.” Or “You’re playing my kind of music today Doug!” Adding their first-name to an exchange personalizes the conversation, and helps develop the relationship.
Talk expertise within 10-14 days. Tap into expert opinions and perspective within two weeks of making the introduction. There’s a reason I introduced myself in the first place. Now that I’ve developed a baseline for the relationship, I’ll initiate football-related conversations. Sometimes that’s actually walking up to a player after the game and asking for a post-game interview. Other times, it’s having a mid-week conversation with a player about what I should be look for in a specific matchup.
Keep ‘em in the loop. Once the relationship is established look for ways to stay connected. Players need to know I care about them on Wednesday, as much as I do on game day. This is another way of saying, don’t be one of those people who only calls, emails, texts or writes when you need something. Maintain relationships that put people first.
The relationships I develop with athletes aren’t much different from the relationships I develop with colleagues and business clients. The conversation topics differ, and the meeting rooms I’m in smell much better than an NFL locker room after a game, but the overall conversation and follow up strategies are the same.
Here’s how it works for you
Identify two or three people you want to connect with. They could be folks you meet at a networking event, an industry conference or perhaps they’re already in your office building. Develop a follow up plan based on the timeline above. Include ways to show up within two days, one week and two weeks along with topics you want to discuss (i.e. their expertise) and subjects you’ve already talked about that can be used as conversation starters.
Oh, and one more thing, don’t wait to put your follow up plan in place. I never know when a player is going to make the biggest play of the game and become my target for a walk-off post-game interview. It’s one of the reasons I’m consistently following up and maintaining relationships throughout the season.
You don’t know who holds the keys to your next biggest opportunity, until you commit to your own follow up strategy.
I’ve shared more of my conversation strategies from inside the locker room in my latest book The Influential Conversationalist. I also asked a few of the players I work with for their insights in the book. Order your copy of The Influential Conversationalist today and start working on the conversation skills that develop leadership potential.
Jen Mueller is a rock-star public speaker with an outside-the-box approach to business communication. When she’s not dodging Gatorade baths on the Seattle Mariners television broadcast or running the sidelines of the Seahawks games on the radio broadcast, she’s developing new ways to make sports conversations useful in business. She founded Talk Sporty to Me in 2009 and has helped thousands of business professionals communicate more effectively. Hire Jen for your next meeting, retreat or conference. Jen@TalkSportytoMe.com.