As a sports agent, I negotiated a lot of big deals. But one of my most memorable wasn’t a multi-million dollar contract for a high-profile athlete. It was the time I struck a deal with a local apartment complex to live rent-free. After graduating from Michigan State University, I moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in sports. But there was one problem: I had no job and only a little money saved up. So I had to get creative, curious, and find my way!
My Move to Atlanta
I grew up in Michigan where I played tennis at Michigan State and taught tennis in the summers. After college, I moved to Atlanta with just $2000 and no connections, with the dream of one day becoming a sports agent.
I was living on a friend’s couch to save money when I learned that tennis is a big deal in Atlanta, and a lot of apartments had tennis pros for their apartment complex. Oftentimes those tennis pros were able to live for free in the apartment complex in exchange for giving tennis lessons to the residents. I knew that this would be the perfect way for me to save money as I grew my career.
My Story of Living Rent-Free
The apartment complex I wanted to live in already had a tennis pro, but that didn’t stop me. I met with the apartment manager and initially, she blew me off because how could I help her when she already had a tennis pro? That’s when I noticed the pizza restaurant across the street.
I went over, introduced myself, and got these guys to promise me that they would give me 15 pizzas for free one time a month that I could give to the residents at the property. And then, we’d put a coupon in the newsletter that I would stuff in the newsletter that I’d seen when I was in there that would drive traffic back to the restaurant.
After that, I call my buddy at Wilson Sporting Goods and ask him if he’d send me Wilson’s stuff down because I could give it away to people at the tennis clinic. I also remembered that I’d written tennis tips for the Michigan State magazine and printed those to potentially reused to get future residents excited about the program.
I continued to stop by to build a relationship with the apartment manager and share my ideas with her demonstrating what a relationship with me could look like and how I could add value. And you know what? When the tennis pro finally left the apartment complex, I was the first person she called for the job.
Get Curious About How to Add Value
When it comes to building relationships and unlocking opportunities, it’s all about getting curious about how you can add value. For example, what did the apartment manager really care about? She cared about keeping her community happy, keeping her residents happy, keeping her occupancy up. So I had demonstrated to her how I could add value to help her achieve her goals.
Get inside the head and the heart of the person you’re negotiating with to make it so hard for them to say “no” because you’ve shown them what what “yes” could look like.
The tennis pro before me had been great, but he didn’t have Wilson stuff, the free pizza, or tennis tips. In the end, the building manager didn’t want to go back to the file folder of people who had probably stopped by over the last however many years to try to lock in this gig. I lived in that apartment complex, taught tennis every Tuesday night for free for nine years.
The Game Changer Takeaway
I would challenge you, pull back and identify the gaps in the lives of the people that you want to work with and identify where you can add value. Get in their head and heart. Add value to their worlds. Act like you have the business sometimes before you have the business. Be curious about the ways in which you can add value.
Stay curious because it creates chances.
More on Curiosity:
- 3 Ways Curiosity Enhances Relationships
- How Fearless Leaders Cultivate Curiosity
- How Ted Lasso Uses Curiosity to Create Connection
- Get Curious Inside of Change
The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to up their game. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. Her company offers training and coaching programs to help leaders unleash their potential, including: Game Changer Negotiation Training, which teaches business people a framework for successful negotiating; The Energized Leader training, which teaches people how to manage their energy to achieve focus and freedom; and a monthly coaching program, Game Changer Leadership Huddles, to help members recharge their purpose and mindset. Sign up to receive our newsletter, subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast, and watch her TED Talk on The Secrets to a Champion Mindset.