I know virtually nothing about basketball. The last time I watched an entire basketball game straight through was when my parents took me to a Seattle Sonics game in middle school. Yet when I saw the news of Kobe Bryant’s death, I audibly gasped.

Such was the impact of the man on the court and off. Even ardent hockey fans are forced to mourn his passing. I’ve found myself devouring every memorial, tribute, and profile in the 24 hours since the news broke. Kobe was undeniably brilliant on and off the court, while at the same time undoubtedly flawed.

As with any time, a giant in a field unexpectedly passes, it’s appropriate to take stock and remind ourselves what lessons we can learn (in this case as sales professionals).

sales strategy

1.   Kobe knew not just who his audience was but who it could be

One of the things Kobe will likely be remembered for is his role in popularizing basketball in China. While the rise of social media perfectly coincided with his own rise on the court, Kobe took deliberate action by participating in multiple sponsorship tours as well as the 2008 Bejing Olympics. It would have been far simpler and easier to focus on the US market alone.

Sales lesson: Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing future business by focusing only on the obvious business in front of you. Small investments in new markets can pay off big time in the future.

2.   Kobe epitomized the “Mamba Mentality”

It’s not about swagger, bravado. It’s about focusing each and every day on how to improve your skills. Kobe’s work ethic was legendary – as was his intolerance for teammates who didn’t in his mind match the dedication.

Sales lesson: Get a little better every day. Focus on stable, consistent growth through repetition and being a student of your craft.

3.   Kobe built a brand of unfiltered opinion

Love it or hate it; Kobe was always honest and transparent with his opinions. They carried weight because even if you disagreed, his performance on the court earned him the right to have said opinions. Beyond that, he was consistent with those opinions – he wasn’t prone to criticize one teammate for not working hard and let another off the hook.

Sales lesson: Transparant and consistent communication with everyone in your network (coworkers and prospects) builds trust that earns you the ability to speak hard truths and forgiveness when you stick your foot in your mouth.

sales leader

4.   Kobe led by example

One consistent theme from those who played with Kobe was he demanded nothing of others he didn’t demand of himself. His support of charities, his eye for business, as well as everything mentioned in here he lived and created a model that current NBA stars still follow.

Sales lesson: Hold yourself accountable to yourself. Don’t preach how important activity volume is and then fail to follow your own prescription.

5.   Kobe diversified his time

Beyond the traditional investments that professional athletes typically make, Kobe was one of the early athletes to begin participating in venture capitalism. Adding that to family life, charity work, and an academy award for his short animation “Dear Basketball,” he had a full and I’m sure fascinating day-to-day life, which was challenging and rewarding.

Sales lesson: Don’t forget to have a life outside of work! You never know where your inspiration or business will come from next.

This is just a brief list cobbled together by someone who can’t even begin to speak to his impact on the game of basketball – I’ll leave that to the true fans. This leaves me to ask – were there any lessons I left out?

Share your thoughts below, and if you’re inspired and able, please consider donating in his memory to some of the charities Kobe and his family support.