As executive director of Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission in Lane County, Oregon, Janis Ross draws on her diverse experiences in hotel sales, meeting planning and executive positions. But when she thinks back to important lessons she’s learned over the course of her career, she recalls a man she worked with before she entered the sports tourism industry.
The late Jay Musselman came to work with Ross’ regional office at Service Corporation International, where she was his assistant and sales management coordinator during the late 1990s.
When Musselman joined the global organization, his region, which included 300 salespeople in a multistate area, was the lowest-performing in the company.
Ross was struck by the approach Musselman took to turning that record around.
“He never talked about sales goals; he never mentioned where that sales team was in terms of performance,” Ross says. “He talked about developing people. He asked them what their personal goals were.”
Musselman made clear to his sales team he supported them in all aspects of their lives, including things like charities and other causes they were involved with.
Ross admits she and some of her colleagues were a bit skeptical at first that this kind of approach could improve sales results. But by the time Musselman reached his first anniversary with the company, his was the top-performing region and remained in the top three for the rest of his time with that company. “As a mentor, he showed me that if you focus on developing people, the rest comes,” Ross says.
The realization that a sales job was all about building relationships with people was what led Ross to go into sales. Her next job was in sales for Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon.
“He was the one who made the lightbulb go off,” Ross says, and to this day, she looks at her job with Eugene, Cascades & Coast Sports Commission as building and nurturing relationships that benefit the surrounding community.
Have a mentor you’d like to highlight in a future Connect Sports article? Email Matt Swenson at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.