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Why professional athletes make great salespeople with Alex Opacic

Teaching Startups To Fish

TSTF_Converting Sporting Skills into Sales Triumphs with Alex Opacic_01-LinkedIn

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In the sprint of startups, catchphrases like resilience, tenacity and rebound are brandished as the crowning qualities for success. But who personifies these better than athletes? Immersed in a world of discipline, diligence and constant iterations to improve, they bring in a fierce wave of value into the business landscape. Join us in this episode of Teaching Startups To Fish, where we dive deep into the potency of this ground-breaking synergy.

Chartering this exciting territory with Mladen Jovanovic is no other than Alex Opacic, the brains behind Athlete2Business and a former professional basketball player. Opacic opens up about his personal transformation from athletic stardom to stupendous success in sales, inspiring the establishment of Athlete2Business. Join us to explore how athletes channel their indomitable spirit into pushing groundbreaking strides in sales roles, emerging as true game-changers in the corporate field.

Timestamps

1. Introduction and Background (00:00:15 – 00:04:56): Introduction to the episode, welcoming Alex Opacic, providing a quick introduction about his professional background, his origins, journey to professional basketball, and the transition to sales.

2. Life After Basketball and Beginning in Sales (00:04:56 – 00:09:33): Rehabilitation, interest in PR jobs, transferable skills from professional athlete to sales, and Alex’s successful start in sales.

3. Sales Skills and Experiences (00:09:33 – 00:16:18): Keys to successful salespeople, learning through failure, the importance of commercial awareness, and introduction to Athlete2Business.

4. Athletes in Business (00:16:18 – 00:20:49): What sports produce successful salespeople, sectors where athletes excel, business and athletes.

5. Evaluating Skills and Hiring (00:20:49 – 00:34:41): Evaluating various skills such as communication, humble confidence, emotional intelligence, commercial awareness, tips for hiring salespeople, the difficulty of hiring salespeople, interviewing and understanding personal values, changes in the recruitment process, the three stages of interviews, and roleplay in sales interviews.

6. Sales and Recruitment Future Outlook (00:34:41 – 00:41:06): Importance of the discovery call, future predictions about the world of sales, evolution of recruitment and sales roles, discussing technology’s potential and limitations, automation in the sales process, the role of humans in sales in the future, final thoughts and wrapping up the discussion, and Alex’s contact information and concluding remarks.

Here’s how to get in touch with Alex Opacic: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexopacic

Transcript

Mladen Jovanovic: Welcome to another episode of Teaching Startups to Fish sales Scale and Startups. Today I’m going to be talking to someone who’s a little bit different than the other guests that we’ve had on.

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Alex Opacic is a recruiter that specialises in putting athletes into sales roles. He’s also an ex professional basketball player, which we’re going to touch on a little bit as well. I’d love to welcome you on, alex, welcome to the pod.
Alex Opacic: Thank you, Mladan, I appreciate it. Mate, very excited for this conversation. So, yeah, looking forward to dig deep here.
Mladen Jovanovic: Awesome. Now, quick intro, tell me, who are you and what have you done in the world of sales?
Alex Opacic: Perfect. Yeah. My name is Alex Opacic, as you mentioned, former professional basketball player, played till I was about 24, 25, college in the US and also professionally in Europe, semi professionally here in Australia also. Then after struggling to figure out what’s next with my life, after retirement from basketball, due to three knee surgeries, I took some time off to really figure out what I want to do. But eventually I landed in sales and I worked in media sales for roughly about eight years and then two years in tech sales.
Alex Opacic: And, mate, I absolutely loved it. It just catered to that competitive nature that I had in sport. The adrenaline rush, the constant chase for something, because sport is all about chasing wins and the game on the weekend and getting better. And I found sales to be very much similar. So I had, I’d say, a decent career in sales and in my network, I just noticed a lot of other athletes who were quite good at sales, who were exceptional, actually.
Mladen Jovanovic: Did you grow up in Australia and then you moved to the US?
Alex Opacic: Yeah, I was born in Croatia, ex Yugoslavia, and moved to Australia in 1996. I was ten years old. So, yeah, I grew up here up until I was 18 and then moved to the US when I was 18. I lived there for four years.
Mladen Jovanovic: Tell me about that. How did you end up in college ball? What was the transition? How did you just say, you know what, I’m going to pack my shit and I’m going to go to the US.
Alex Opacic: Like, what happened? Yeah, so when I was about, probably about 14 years old, I started emerging as one of the best young players in Australia because I’m pretty tall. I’m six foot nine now, but I think I must have been six foot five or something. When I was 14, I was just tall, so I started getting scouted by all the basketball scouts. So I started taking basketball very seriously and straight away it was my dream to play college basketball.
Alex Opacic: Everyone watching college basketball, especially back then, it was a lot bigger than it is now, huge in TV. So when I was 17, I got a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport, and this was in 2004. And at that time it’s like the place you want to be at if you want to be a professional basketball player. And so we had a lot of college scouts come and watch us train at the Is. I played for the under 17 Australia junior team as well, and again, more college scouts.
Alex Opacic: So yeah, man, I had a few choices to go to various Division One schools and I ended up choosing Furman University in South Carolina. It was a really good sales pitch that put on me. And yeah, man, I had an absolute blast. It was time of my life, to be honest.
Mladen Jovanovic: That’s awesome. I’ve always had these dreams while growing up, watching those bloody college movies and stuff that come out of the US, I think, I don’t know, everyone’s had went through that phase of that would be awesome. So knowing someone that’s actually done it, I told you last time, my cousin actually went to play ball as but so anyway, you went there, you didn’t have I’m assuming that you had no idea that you were going to end up in the world of sales, is that right?
Alex Opacic: No, zero clue.
Mladen Jovanovic: So tell me about that. So you said you retired, professional athlete. How old were you when you retired?
Alex Opacic: I was about 24, so 25 actually. I finished college. I got a professional gig in Greece, and after Greece I played in Croatia and Macedonia over there because I also have a passport, so I was a local, which was great, but in Croatia I hurt my knee. It was just an overuse injury, really. Cartilage tear, and it’s a cutthroat world over there.
Alex Opacic: I was injured. I was going to be out for twelve months. They pretty much cut me. They were like, we can’t pay you sitting on the bench. We’re not a massive club.
Alex Opacic: This is Rieka, mate. Rieka. If you’re not good to them, they’re not going to pay you, which is fair enough. Nothing against them there. That’s the world.
Alex Opacic: And came back home to Sydney, 25 years old, failed dream of trying to be my dream was to try and play very high level in Europe, Euro League and all that, and moved back in with my parents. Twelve months of rehabbing on my knee. After surgery, I was like, I need a job. Great, let’s get a job. What I do, I had a communication degree from college in the US.
Alex Opacic: I typed into seek jobs for athletes, and all these jobs popped up on seek, like sports people, jobs for athletic people. I’m like, yeah, let’s apply for that. That’s me. Applied for it, went to the interview. It was one of those charity sales jobs, like you’re on the street selling charity.
Alex Opacic: It wasn’t for me at the time. And I take my hat off to people that do that because that’s so tough. And I’ve met a lot of really great salespeople that come from that world by the way it was commission only, so now it wasn’t for me. So that twelve months during rehab and it ended up being a year and a half. I literally had no idea what to do.
Alex Opacic: No clue. Applied for a lot of PR jobs because I have a communication degree. I wanted to work in PR, all I could get was internships. Meanwhile, a lot of my former basketball teammates and peers doing great things in Europe and NBL, some playing in the NBA, and here I am on the train, living in Liverpool, going on a job interview in bloody North Sydney. I’m like, what’s my life gotten to me.
Alex Opacic: It was tough.
Mladen Jovanovic: So at this point, you’re 24, 25, you’ve already had a career, right. You’ve had ten years of playing basketball and then went up to the elite level of playing basketball, and now you’re looking for your second career. At this point, people are coming out of university and still trying to figure it out. I wouldn’t say you’re far behind. I think you’re well ahead, right.
Mladen Jovanovic: Having a career as a professional athlete, because going back to that point, there are certain skills you’ve taken away. There’s that drive, there’s that grit, there’s that persistence, resilience of actually getting through the sport, the trainings and everything along with it. So when you got into Sales, how do you think what are some of the transferable skills that you took from being a professional athlete?
Alex Opacic: Yeah, I got into Sales when I got better and I started playing semi professionally. It was the best gig I could get. You don’t get paid much, so I needed a full time job. Long story short, the team hooked me up with an account management job, which is Sales. I had no idea at the time, but Sales with one of their sponsors, and I immediately just part of me was like, okay, my basketball, I’m now like 26, right?
Alex Opacic: So my basketball career is not going to happen anymore at the elite level, so let’s really focus on this. And I started really enjoying Sales because of that hunting and competitive nature and going after trying to win new business, I started reading books about Sales. The company I worked for had a really good onboarding structure. Southern Cross, astero probably heard, a big media company. They own Triple M today, FM network, great coaching, but the number one.
Alex Opacic: And I started emerging as one of the better salespeople straight away ended up winning like, top performer awards and all that stuff. And reason being is because of my resilience, I’d say. And my peers at the time, I’d have one on one with my sales manager and peers, and they used to come up to me like, Alex, you’re so resilient and diligent. I don’t know how and I guess clueless in the world of things sometimes. What do you mean resilient?
Alex Opacic: What is like, you get knocked back so much, but you just don’t care you just keep going until you win. I’m like, yeah, so what? That’s my.
Mladen Jovanovic: Nothing compared to tearing a ligament, right?
Alex Opacic: Exactly. Yeah. It’s nothing compared to I didn’t go into this story, but in between playing in Greece and Croatia, I was signed to play in Cyprus. I lasted there for a week and I got cut in Cyprus and the coaches look, Alex, we had you on for a week trial. We don’t think you’re right for.
Alex Opacic: I had so I was in Cyprus, I had no job, I had no way of getting out of Cyprus because I had to book flights and all that. I had to get out of the apartment. Like, they gave me two days. So then I remember I just went on the beach and I just sat on the beach overlooking the water and just going. For whatever reason, it was like one of the most serene moments of my life.
Alex Opacic: I had nothing, I’m stuck in Cyprus and I just sat there overlooking the beach. But I don’t know, experiences like that just make you resilient and I like, in sport, you lose a lot more than you win and you just get used to losing. Really? That’s it.
Mladen Jovanovic: And I think that’s one of the biggest things they say about salespeople getting into the industry. Because usually, as you said, they either start fundraising for charities or something that’s like door knocking or cold calling. And that’s where there’s a lot of rejection, like on the phones, trying to get someone to buy something without ever seeing your face or ever hearing about your company. That’s tough. So I think resilience is key.
Mladen Jovanovic: What else do you think is key? What are some of the traits you think are key for salespeople? To have successful salespeople?
Alex Opacic: Yeah. To delve deeper into it, you have to be a good listener, you have to be able to ask the right questions from your prospects and like a detective probe for a problem or maybe an opportunity that you can uncover in their business and then slide your product or service in as a solution. So it’s asking them the right questions for them to give you an answer that they need your product, if that makes sense.
Mladen Jovanovic: Yeah, I always harp on about that when people turn around and say, oh, you’ve got the gift of the gab, you should be in sales, which is completely wrong. It’s not about talking, you’re not trying to trick people into buying something, it’s about listening. It’s about really understanding their problems and then being able to tailor a solution to solve their problems and actually deliver some value. Because if you sell something and three or four months down the line, they’re not getting any value, the customer is going to churn. Right.
Mladen Jovanovic: You’re going to get a bad review, you’re going to get a bad name in the industry and you don’t want that happening. It’s not worth ten, 5100 grand or whatever you’re going to make from that one customer. The more important thing is that, as you said, you become that detective and then follow up to become that trusted advisor. Right. It’s like another example I always give.
Mladen Jovanovic: It’s like going to the doctors and telling the doctor, I’ve got a headache. And he starts giving you medicine, cancer medication, without asking you any questions around. Where have you been sitting on the chair for a while? Are you stressed from work? Are you dehydrated?
Mladen Jovanovic: There’s a lot of questions that you need to ask first before offering anything.
Alex Opacic: But yeah.
Mladen Jovanovic: What else do you think.
Alex Opacic: To be able to have multiple of those conversations? I call them discovery calls, where you’re delving into clients problems and using your solution to fix the problem. You need to be able to get in front of the client first. So I’m talking like a holistic 360 sales here where you’re generating leads. You’re running the discovery meetings and you’re closing the deals as well.
Alex Opacic: The generating of the leads part is diligence, resilience and diligence. You just have to keep going after it. I think research as well. You’re better off let’s call it trying to generate leads, or let’s call it cold calling, hunting for new business. You’re better off going after ten carefully researched businesses than 50 just gun ho, go for it, call everybody.
Alex Opacic: I think it’s a combination of being diligent and resilient and sticking to a process of going after leads and at the same time being intelligent enough to research and be aware of, okay, are those leads actually good for me? And I think that comes with experience and a lot of research. Like it’s the only way to find out is just do research into the companies you’re trying to go after.
Mladen Jovanovic: And then what about coming in as a professional athlete? You probably didn’t really understand how organizations function, company structures.org, charts, things like that. So how did you go about ramping up on the whole business acumen side? And the reason why I’m asking is because I think that there are definitely two fundamental things that we always look for when we’re hiring salespeople, AES, SDRs or whoever. And those two things are business acumen and curiosity.
Mladen Jovanovic: There’s a few other traits that we look for, but those are probably the two key ones. And business acumen is quite important, especially if you’re going for an account exec or senior account exec. So how did you get yourself up to speed on that front?
Alex Opacic: I’d say it’s going through a lot of failure trying things and not being good at it, and then stepping back and understanding why wasn’t I good at that and doing that a lot. And then figuring out through experience, understanding, getting better commercial acumen. So what I mean by that, I didn’t go into the in between that period of a year and a half where I was going through my knee rehab and looking for jobs. I was probably fired about five times in different jobs, and I probably quit jobs about three times. I did a lot of roles where I was there for three months.
Alex Opacic: It was one of those cold calling roles similar to charity sales. I worked for a company called Marcus Evans where we had to make 80 cold calls a day and I had training for 4 hours. Okay, 4 hours of training. And it’s great. You’re on the sales floor now here’s a phone and a laptop that you can use between four people.
Alex Opacic: So you got to take goes on the laptop and then you’re literally just sitting on your phone and just cold calling for and I did that for three months, failed miserably. I was so bad at it. But it was like the best sales school you could ever get. That just gave me more and more resilience. And the reason I fail I don’t want to say the word, a lot of athletes, everyone each to their own, but I was pretty clueless coming out of basketball about the world of business and life.
Alex Opacic: All I ever and that’s my fault and this is why I try and teach other athletes to not do that. But all I ever wanted to do was play basketball. I thought I was going to play basketball till I was 99. When I was in college, I’d just hang out with the basketball team occasionally I’d branch out, hang out with the football, I hang out with athletes only I was in class in school, but I wasn’t really mentally in class. So I was very commercially clueless when I came out of basketball.
Alex Opacic: But I just threw myself in the deep end with roles. And I’m being completely honest here, I was one of those people that was probably good at interviewing for whatever reason, but I was actually pretty shit on the job initially when I came. Would I hire me as a 24 year old? Absolutely not. So we look for that now.
Alex Opacic: So I threw myself in the deep end there with roles with minimal training and just failing. And it wasn’t until I landed the role with Southern Cross Hysteria, they had a really good three month onboarding and training program for rookies and I learned so much there. And my sales manager who I work with now, Joe Anson, and he was incredible for instilling commercial awareness, competence into me through I worked with him for three years, and that’s where I got it. So just a mixture of failing, having a good manager, having a good manager listening. I had the drive, I had the resilience, I had the want.
Alex Opacic: I wanted to be successful. I was willing to run through a brick wall. But my commercial awareness was a two out of ten. And because I had the work ethic, I just kept doing and failing, kept doing and failing, kept doing and failing. And it just all came together, eventually there’s only so much you can fail, right?
Mladen Jovanovic: And when you started talking just then, you said you try and teach athletes not to do what you did. So tell me a little bit about the recruitment company you’re running now, athlete to business and why is it different from other recruiters?
Alex Opacic: So, yeah, so athlete to business stemmed from my years in sales and noticing a lot of other athletes who were successful in sales. But I also noticed a lot of other athletes who struggled with that transition like I did as well. So I started the business to bridge that gap, essentially. So I started the business to raise awareness to the corporate sector of the potential that athletes can have in sales. And I also am raising awareness to athletes.
Alex Opacic: Hey guys and girls, there’s this whole other career out there for you that you probably don’t even know about, no one ever tells you about, but you can have a really successful career out of it. It’s sales and here’s how it works. And then this is at the junior level, obviously, I would connect businesses as a recruitment agency. We connect businesses with athletes who want to go into sales and want to be successful in sales in these SDR roles, junior BDM roles. But we also have a massive network of ex athletes who are already high performing sales professionals as well.
Alex Opacic: So that’s what our business is all about is basically getting athletes with the athlete mindset. And then we also have an internal check score that we measure I know we’ll get into this, which is we measure people on their communication skills, humble confidence, emotional intelligence and commercial awareness. And that’s more at that mid to senior level as well.
Mladen Jovanovic: That’s a really interesting one that I want to talk about. But before we dive into that, I want to understand, are there particular sports that produce better salespeople or ones who are more likely to be successful or the athletes function better in consumer sales or B to B SaaS sales or is it just broadly sales or tell me a little bit about that. Which sports yeah, talk to me a bit about the difference in sports and the salespeople they produce and also which type of sales they are good for.
Alex Opacic: That’s a really good question and we should run some data on this to get I want to give you evidence and concrete answer on that. So, long story short, I don’t have an answer. There isn’t one particular sport where an athlete is doing athletes do well in sales and there isn’t a particular industry that athletes do well in sales. Naturally, my network is within the media space and the tech space a little bit in construction and engineering as well. Ecommerce is an area that we’ve dealt.
Alex Opacic: It’s just where we’ve developed networks of business relationships in and they want to hire athletes on their sales team. But we see a lot of athletes in medical device sales, pharmaceutical sales, and recruitment. Sector recruitment is pretty much a sales job. There’s a lot of athletes that go into recruitment as well. If I can pinpoint probably for us, the majority of where we place athletes into is in the technology space, into tech sales and recruitment.
Alex Opacic: But in terms of actual sports, they come from. When I initially started the business, it was very heavily skewed towards rugby players, rugby union. And when I started business, that’s just where my network happened to be. I was doing a lot of marketing and getting my name out there, and I just happened to meet a lot of rugby players who quite well educated, commercially competent, and that’s just where my network but now I’ve expanded. We work with football, round ball game football, world game, basketball players, olympic athletes, tennis players, swimmers.
Alex Opacic: We work with hockey players as well. You probably notice there’s a hockey league here in Australia.
Mladen Jovanovic: A friend of mine came from Canada, two brothers, and they were playing semi pro, and they jumped into the league in Melbourne. And damn, they’re good, man. They won the final, I think it was last year or the year before, and they had a proper video set up, commentary, everything. And it wasn’t like because I hadn’t heard of it since until they told me about it and I was watching it.
Alex Opacic: And they are so good.
Mladen Jovanovic: Like, the way they skate, the way they like, it’s insane. Anyway, yeah, sorry.
Alex Opacic: I went to a Sydney Bears game in person. It was incredible. Imagine going to an NHL game. I’ve never been. I’d love to go now.
Mladen Jovanovic: I’ve been twice. Unreal experience.
Alex Opacic: I bet.
Mladen Jovanovic: Okay, diving in now. You mentioned earlier about check, C-H-E-C. What is check? So is this something that you’ve developed?
Alex Opacic: It is. We’ve coined the term in the help of people around us, my business coach as well. But what we’ve noticed with athletes is they have, like me, they’ll run through a brick wall to be successful. So they have that drive, the resilience, the discipline, work ethic. They’re coachable as well, right?
Alex Opacic: And most of them, a lot of them supposedly the good team players, so they have that innate, those soft skills and drive. What I found I mentioned we have a massive network of ex athletes who are successful in sales already. And what I found there’s a common skill set amongst those ones and also a common need from our clients when they are recruiting salespeople that we’ve summed up into check. And check stands for communication skills, humble confidence, emotional intelligence, and commercial awareness. So when you get someone with that elite athlete mindset who scores, we grade people out of five on all four of those.
Alex Opacic: For someone who’s really good at check, 99% of the time, they turn out into an exceptional salesperson business professional. That’s what we found is the key to a successful salesperson so how do.
Mladen Jovanovic: You evaluate communication skills? And I’m going to do this for each letter, communication skills, how do you evaluate that?
Alex Opacic: Everything is gut feel with us, we don’t have fancy systems and computer psychometric testing, et cetera. It’s literally gut feel. And without sounding arrogant, that gut feel has been pretty good so far. As the business grows, we may or we may not come up with some sort of computer algorithms and et cetera that check things. But we ask people questions, we talk to them.
Alex Opacic: I get a sense for their communication skills. And if they’re going to fit in with the corporate sector, enterprise medium, whatever it is, multimedia businesses, can they sell to C suite executives? What are their communication skills like? So we ask a lot of questions and listen and see what they’re saying, how they’re saying it. We’re constantly judging people on how they connect words, their tone, energy, enthusiasm, and level of intellect when they speak.
Mladen Jovanovic: And what do you think is more important, verbal or written communication skills? Are they equally.
Alex Opacic: I think verbal has a slight advantage still, because written is still important as well, because a lot of SDRs and I do my lead generation with the messaging first and emails first. And you want to be professional on emails. But once you get somebody on the phone or get in front of a client, your verbal communication skills will close the deal. Your written communication. If you’re exceptional at written communication skills, you might generate leads.
Alex Opacic: But if you suck at verbal communication skills, you’ll probably never close a deal.
Mladen Jovanovic: Makes sense. All right, next one. Humble confidence. How do you test for humble confidence?
Alex Opacic: It’s one of the easier ones to test. Again, we ask a lot of questions and we listen to what they’re saying. Our clients, again, demand this a lot. You don’t want someone arrogant. A lot of our clients, if I may say, you can bleep it out if you need, but we always get no dickhead policy.
Alex Opacic: We want no dickhead policy. So we test for arrogance. Test for arrogance. And with some athletes, they’re arrogant. Not ibrahimovich arrogant.
Alex Opacic: But I find him funny, man. I find him comedic. Yeah, he’s a good dude, but we test for that. But on the flip side, you don’t want someone too shy. You don’t want someone who lacks confidence and is scared in front of C suite executives and et cetera, et cetera.
Alex Opacic: So you want somebody who is very humble but very confident. That’s what we try and find.
Mladen Jovanovic: That seems like a magical unicorn balance, though. I don’t know.
Alex Opacic: I know. Hence why the awesome thing with our business model is it’s very niche what we look for. But the challenge with our business model is it’s very niche of what we look for. I can give you a quick example. The other day I spoke to a former athlete.
Alex Opacic: I won’t say the sport just because they might but it was a former athlete, and I was asking questions, and he was saying things like, I know if I get this job, I just want to be in a role because I know I’ll smash it wherever I go. I’m really good wherever I go. I’m the top performer. So, yeah, just get me a role with a lot higher base salary, because wherever they put me, I’ll smash it. Humble confidence, zero.
Alex Opacic: We’re not putting that person forward. Okay.
Mladen Jovanovic: And then emotional intelligence. What is it and how do you test for it?
Alex Opacic: It’s interesting. How do you define emotional intelligence? Empathy is a big one. Knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it, and.
Mladen Jovanovic: Again, how to say it.
Alex Opacic: I struggle with yeah, I do sometimes as well. And we test for that again through just asking a lot of questions and listening to what they’re saying. It could be little things like, I’ve got a meeting in five minutes, but blah, blah, blah. And then they keep talking. Or things like, I’ll ask a question sometimes people bid around the bush or set up a story for a very long time and then answer the question.
Alex Opacic: It’s just answer the question. Be more efficient when you’re bidding around the bush and telling your story, and then get to the actual question. All part of emotional intelligence. And yeah, we sense it. I just sense it on the phone who’s a bit better and who’s not?
Mladen Jovanovic: And the last C?
Alex Opacic: What was the last c Commercial awareness.
Mladen Jovanovic: Commercial awareness, okay. How do you test for that?
Alex Opacic: Again, through asking a lot of questions. It’s usually more around your sales process. Tell me how you go about generating leads. This is the company that I’m working with. How would you go about generating closing deals for them, getting an understanding of they know how to connect the dots to make a sale.
Alex Opacic: They can see where the money is coming from and how the business generates revenue and can articulate that quite well.
Mladen Jovanovic: And how long would it take you to figure out a check score, on average? By talking to someone?
Alex Opacic: So we probably an hour.
Mladen Jovanovic: An hour? Damn. I was going to say let’s do a live role play. What’s my check score?
Alex Opacic: You and I met in person the other week, and we chat, but you’re through the roof with check score. You’re probably teaching me on check. Usually as a recruiter, you’re busy and you’re trying to find the best candidates for your clients, but sometimes we can tell within the first five minutes if someone’s not. And then we can tell, like, all right, this person’s good. Yes, that’s good.
Alex Opacic: They score good there. Let’s keep going. So, on average, 45 minutes to an hour with someone who’s got a lot of potential, and we think they’re really good at check. We’ll spend that time with them to really get to know them, truly understand for the. Commercial awareness.
Alex Opacic: A common question we ask is and there’s various different other examples when you’re walking down a grocery store, when you’re going down the aisle, what do you see?
Mladen Jovanovic: Shelves.
Alex Opacic: Yeah. What else? People usually it’s a tough question, but sometimes people will blurt it out. But the answer is leads.
Mladen Jovanovic: I would never have said that one.
Alex Opacic: I know it was a sales manager that asked me a long time ago, and I said the same thing. I said groceries, said products, and then when I said products, he was like, you’re close. I’m like chips, cereal now, you’re way off now. But leads because he’s like leads you can hit up because obviously I worked in the media space, we asked certain questions like that just to see how their brain thinks and tell me, let’s.
Mladen Jovanovic: Throw in some freebies out there for people looking to hire, mainly me, because I’m hiring at the moment. So how do you give us some tips for people and companies looking to hire salespeople? Because I personally think that it’s one of the hardest roles to hire for, because salespeople can be very charismatic, they can be very good at selling themselves. And unless you come from sales and you don’t know how to dig into the results and get the right answers, it’s very difficult hiring salespeople. So what are some things I don’t know if you can give us like, top three or any sort of guidance on what to look out for, what to consider, or what to do when hiring salespeople apart from call athlete to business?
Alex Opacic: Yeah, of course. I think it works that this is the other reason recruiting salespeople is so hard. Sometimes I actually find those that don’t perform well in interviews and also sometimes those that maybe have not had great results in their previous job for whatever reason, they actually end up being really good salespeople for your company. So to add more recruiting salespeople is really hard. There’s another one there for you because that makes it extra harder.
Alex Opacic: Here’s my advice. Here’s how we do it. You’re more than welcome for everybody to do it. I’m not giving away secrets here. It’s hard to do this, hence why people use recruiters.
Alex Opacic: But number one thing is headhunting. If you want to find the best sales person, you’re most likely going to have to go headhunt somebody who’s performing somewhere else or doing quite well. He’s thinking about another opportunity, but they’re not actively applying because they’re doing okay here. And they don’t have time to be applying for jobs because they’re trying to generate revenue for every business they’re working with paying the mortgage. I found in most instances the best salespeople we find come from being headhunted as opposed to applying for jobs.
Alex Opacic: It’s like the way you look at let’s say you’re running a football team and you’re like, all right, open tryouts this weekend. Do you think Lionel Messi is rocking up to the open tryout. I’m not saying get a Lionel Messi equivalent of sales, but that’s what’s going to happen.
Mladen Jovanovic: I love how you use Messi instead of Ronaldo good man, he just won.
Alex Opacic: The World Cup Player of the Year. I think that arguments so headhunting is the first thing I’d say. Then we go into the interview process, and I would say for the first interview, just get to know them as a person. Try and leave the technicalities out as much as possible, because keep in mind, people are nervous when they interview. And as I said, some people are really bad at interviewing.
Alex Opacic: It just is what it is. And you might be nervous as well. I don’t know when you’re hiring for yourself. So just have a life discussion. Tell me about you.
Alex Opacic: What do you like? Blah, blah, blah. Just get to know that. I’d say hire for culture. It’s obvious.
Alex Opacic: Hire for culture first and foremost. So the only way to do it is just to get to know the person. So just get to know them and have a relaxed and open discussion and be like, does this person have good values? Do I want to work with this person? Are they a part of our company values?
Alex Opacic: Just leave all the technicalities and all that out of it. Minimal. You can ask a few questions, you tell me about your role, why are you looking for new opportunities? Blah, blah, blah. But 80% of that initial conversation should be just on a bit of a personal level and getting to know them.
Alex Opacic: And then 20% should maybe be a bit of technicalities and just gauge whether you want to. Could you have a beer with this person at a pub? I call it the beer test or the wine test or fucking tea, coffee, whatever. Pleasure.
Mladen Jovanovic: Because I think that’s probably one of the most important things. Right. Cultural fit. If they’re not a good cultural fit, it doesn’t matter if they’re an all star performer, if they’re not getting along with the team, if they’re not getting along with management, if they’re not gelling with the company, you’re wasting your time. They’re not going to be happy.
Mladen Jovanovic: You’re not going to be happy.
Alex Opacic: Exactly. And they’re going to just create a bad culture amongst everybody else as well.
Mladen Jovanovic: Interesting, up until now, throughout our recruitment process, we’ve been running that as the last stage. Okay, that’s been the last stage. First one is a deep dive into the CV. Second is a trait based assessment. Third is a practical component.
Mladen Jovanovic: And then we do the cultural assessment at the end. So you reckon start with the cultural?
Alex Opacic: Yeah. Million percent, yeah. Don’t waste your time, don’t get all the way to the end. And then you find out the person’s a serial killer. Okay?
Alex Opacic: I always start off with that first.
Mladen Jovanovic: All right. I’ll start running that from now on. We’ll see how we go.
Alex Opacic: Yeah. And as you’re speaking to them, you’re keeping an eye on, I guess in that part, you keep an eye on mostly on that humble confidence, emotional intelligence as well, and communication skills. You’re seeing how that’s you don’t really get into the nitty gritty of the commercial awareness yet, but you’re almost starting to tick the boxes of communication skills, EQ and humble confidence in that initial chat.
Mladen Jovanovic: Interesting. Any other tips?
Alex Opacic: Stage two is the technical part. Then you get into the nitty gritty of tell me about your sales process. What do you know about us? How would you go about what would you do in the first three to six months if you were in this role? Start getting into the technicalities of whatever they are, of the role KPIs, delve into the numbers that’s it the best salespeople, they know their numbers.
Alex Opacic: And then I would do a third interview, which is a role play. See them live in action, how would they sell to you? And that’s it. Cap it at three. Don’t do seven, don’t do one.
Alex Opacic: I think three is the ideal number. It’s still very hard. Don’t get me wrong, I struggle to find great salespeople myself sometimes. It’s not easy, otherwise we’d all be millionaires, right? But that’s the best process.
Mladen Jovanovic: I’d say so for the roleplay, we had different role plays for different roles before. Like for an SDR BDR, we used to get a discovery call role play happening or like a cold call. And then for the account execs and up, we would have a sales call or a presentation. But recently I decided that it is going to be one role play for all roles, and that’s going to be a discovery call. Because me personally, I believe the discovery call is one of, if not the most important part of an entire sales process.
Mladen Jovanovic: So what are your thoughts behind having a discovery call as the role play? Or do you think that it should be split up between presentation and email correspondence and things like that? So what is an all star role play?
Alex Opacic: Bang on. I agree with that. Discovery call is the most important part of the whole sales process because you can somewhat teach somebody on the lead generation. You got to see their want and their desire. You could run a role play for lead gen, and the person could absolutely suck.
Alex Opacic: And you can just say, hey, don’t do that, do this. Okay, lead generation, let’s be honest. It’s emails and written communication skills which you can coach people through. And then when you’re picking up the phone and calling somebody, you’ve got like 20 seconds to gain interest. So you can teach that mostly discovery call is you either have it or you don’t.
Alex Opacic: I think very hard to teach that because discovery call could go a thousand different ways, right. Depending on your questioning style and depending on the answers that they give you, I think, yeah, this discovery call is definitely the best way to run a mock role play.
Mladen Jovanovic: It’s very hard to teach, but I’ve successfully taught. I’ve completely turned around someone’s Discovery core and probably one of my proudest moments. It’s one of our account execs.
Alex Opacic: Yes.
Mladen Jovanovic: When he started out and discovery was probably the absolute last thing he knew how to do. But now, oh my God, what a gun. Absolute gun.
Alex Opacic: That’s awesome.
Mladen Jovanovic: He will find out pain that you didn’t even know you had.
Alex Opacic: I’d love to delve into your discovery principles.
Mladen Jovanovic: I don’t want to teach it again. That was a long process over a.
Alex Opacic: Coffee or a beer.
Mladen Jovanovic: Awesome. Now I want to hear and I ask every single person that comes on this podcast, how do you see the world of sales evolving? Now this could be the example I always give is do you think we’re going to have that predictable revenue model going forward with SDRs feeding into account execs who feed into customer success and so on? Or do you think that now with technology coming out with AI and all these other tools that are available, do you think that some roles are going to become obsolete or do you think the entire world of sales is going to change because now people have access to so much more information? Take this question wherever you want.
Mladen Jovanovic: You don’t have to follow that line, just take it wherever you want. I just want to hear your opinion on how do you see the world of sales evolving?
Alex Opacic: It’s interesting because I think the world of recruitment is evolving as well in a very similar way where the sales function is being split into there’s SDRs, there’s account executives, BDMs, whatever you call it, the world of recruitments being there’s a trend going on now recruitment is 360 where you’ve gone after candidates. You’re managing the clients and then you’re also going after new clients. Some companies are splitting that into three and you got a candidate manager that’s it someone who just speaks to candidates. Then you got someone who’s just an account manager just looking after the clients that you already have. And then you got someone who’s a new business person going after you.
Alex Opacic: So there’s a thousand different ways. Is technology going to change things? I’m not sure. Some of the stuff I see in AI is incredible. But one thing, I’m not expert in this thing, but I think the biggest need and the biggest skill going forward that will never be changed for salespeople is that Discovery call.
Alex Opacic: I don’t see how an AI can delve or a website or an automation can delve into the client’s true problems or opportunities that arise. I think you need a human for that all the time. And I think that’s going to be the most important skill going forward is helping providing a service, solving problems is going to be the most important element of sales that I think will never change. Will the SDR function be more automated. Probably like that already.
Alex Opacic: How well they do it, I don’t know. I personally don’t like the automated stuff that I get in my inbox. Is that ever going to fix and change? I don’t know. Maybe.
Alex Opacic: I don’t know. Closing the deal once you’ve got all the information that you need as a buyer, it’s just like a yes or no. So the presentation part, yeah, you can get a human to do it, but could AI or some sort of automated process do it in the future? Potentially after the Discovery Call has been delved deeply into it. I guess we’re brainstorming here and just chewing the fat type of thing, but I’m just thinking, like, all right, hey, we’re doing a Discovery Call here.
Alex Opacic: You have an hour. Let’s chat. Perfect. So you do a discovery call. Great.
Alex Opacic: I’ve got all the information I need. What I’ll do next week, you’ll get a video presentation from my robot who will sell the solution to you. Everything’s been spoken about. Boom. All you got to do is sign it.
Alex Opacic: Is that okay? Yeah, perfect. But you can say that confidently. I always say presentations are sold in the Discovery Call. You should have all the information in Discovery Call.
Alex Opacic: It’s like, okay, great.
Mladen Jovanovic: So, Mr.
Alex Opacic: Client, if we do XYZ and we come back with a budget of one, two, three, are you happy to go ahead with that? I always try and close in the Discovery Call. I’m not sure yet. Great. What can I help with?
Alex Opacic: What’s the not sure part? How do I turn this eight into a ten? And there’s various different ways you can do that. It sounds like you’ve got the magic pill for our bullet or whatever the question there, but I think, yeah, the Discovery Call, I don’t see how that will ever be lost in sales. Unless they make a freaking super EQ robot, then we’re all out of a job.
Mladen Jovanovic: That is a perfect note to end on, and I’m so happy you said that. That just shows me that you guys do things differently. At athlete to business. Discovery calls are number one. That is awesome.
Alex Opacic: They are, man. They are. You have to be good at Discovery Calls to be good in sales.
Mladen Jovanovic: Alex, tell us where people can find you if they want to get in touch.
Alex Opacic: I’m on LinkedIn all day, every day as your content’s king in my world as well, I post all the time. So if you want to be bombarded by content such as what you and I spoke about today, world of sales, athletes in sales, I’m on LinkedIn. So just at Alex opacic. O-P-A-C-I-C. We’re also on instagram at athlete to business.
Alex Opacic: Athlete the number two business. Our content is a bit different there, bit more humorous and catering to the Instagram crowd, if you want to follow us there. So, yeah, where you’ll find me?
Mladen Jovanovic: Mostly awesome, man. Thank you so much for taking the time and we’re going to catch up for another drink soon, but I really appreciate it. I will push this to live. I will add your details down at the bottom as well. Get in touch with Alex and he does have some awesome educational content.
Mladen Jovanovic: He’s not going to start spamming you about whether you need someone hired. It’s genuinely good content. So jump on LinkedIn, jump on Instagram, follow Alex and we will chat to you in the next episode.
Alex Opacic: 100%. Thanks, Mud. Appreciate it, man. Had a blast.

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