Company Culture

5 Lessons Sales Managers Can Learn From Game of Thrones (No Spoilers!)


All right, all right, it’s official: we’re jumping on the hype train.

But aside from being an easily-exploitable topic to market our blog with, there really is a lot to learn from the world of Westeros when it comes to sales and leadership. After all, it does take a bit of hero-complex to survive this fantastical world of sales—doesn’t it?

Dragons and magic notwithstanding, the stories from Game of Thrones are an invaluable mine of lessons about the real world that we deal in day to day—because at the end of our day, sales is about people: people who experience love and loss, people who have deep pockets and deeper ambitions—people who simply want to create better lives for their families.

So with that in mind, here are the very real-world nuggets of knowledge that GoT has for those of us brave enough to take on the realm of sales management:

Everyone Wants A Queen (Or King) To Follow

Right from the very first episode, it seems there are dozens of people who make claim to the “Iron Throne,” that is, seat of the one true ruler in all the land.

And sure, what man or woman of great ambition wouldn’t try to become ruler of the world?

But what’s more interesting than that is all of the people throughout the series who have no claim to the throne—and yet will live and die by the man or woman they believe is the rightful heir. Without even the slightest hesitation, scores of people are willing to risk it all to defend the bid of their respective “king” or “queen.”

The lesson? We all need a leader. And if we have one that we truly believe in, we’re willing to sacrifice everything for them.

That’s the power of good leadership. And it’s something that every sales manager needs to wear with weight. We’ve been given our roles because someone believed in us. Someone in an even greater position of power saw our potential—and now it’s up to us to inspire the members of our team to rise to their potential.

We Prove Ourselves In Battle

Thankfully, battle in the sales world doesn’t quite look like what it does in Game of Thrones.

And save for the occasional papercut or two, it’s a heck of a lot less blood.

But what you’ll see on Game of Thrones is that a house that’s not fit for battle is a house that doesn’t last very long.

Enter: Healthy Competition.

Healthy competition is a drum we beat quite frequently here on the blog. It’s not about last-woman-standing, or even necessarily crowning a victor. It’s about giving everybody the chance to prove their fighting power—and much like the old truism, allowing iron to sharpen iron.

Without the chance for your employees to see where they stand amongst the rest of their coworkers, it can be easy for their skill to dull—getting comfortable just coasting along. But when a “stronger army” comes along, they’re given the opportunity to stand up and show their true potential.

This is often most easily captured through concepts like a sales leaderboard, where employees can see their numbers stacked up against the rest of the office.

The upside? Way fewer sharp objects.

Remember Your House

The concept of family is one of the strongest through-lines in Game of Thrones. People live and die by their “houses” or “banners.” Their allegiance means everything, and it almost always comes back to who their father or mother was. Without any allies, you probably don’t have many pages left in your story.

In sales, we can often feel like we’re off on our own islands. We’re just operating as individual contributors, clocking in and clocking out.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Thankfully, our houses in sales aren’t just our siblings or parents—in fact, we get to choose the sales team that we’re a part of. And those members of our sales team are a huge asset. They can be allies on major negotiations, or simply a soundboard when we’re feeling stuck in our strategy.

Don’t allow yourself, or the members of your team, to get stuck in the mentality that they’re only out for themselves. Our teams are the greatest resource that we have—let’s use them to our advantage!

Don’t Forget To Send a Raven

If you hadn’t caught on, GoT takes place in a world that’s come and gone long ago—way before the days of direct messages, smartphones, or even the pony express. It’s likely that the word “instant” doesn’t even exist.

In fact, the most efficient form of communication in Game of Thrones is to send a raven from one castle to another—all communication flowing through a single source, taking days or weeks at a time to send a single, short, hand-written message.

Sometimes it seems like some managers in our world haven’t gotten the message that it’s not the same for us. Communication is open, and easy, and free here.

So why don’t we do it more? Writing for Inc., Kenny Kline explains that “When you focus on enhancing communication within a team, you facilitate higher productivity, improve morale, and build a healthier office culture.” Sounds like a no brainer, right?

We’ve got the technology, we’ve got the tools—so don’t skimp on creating a culture of consistent, effective communication. Just send the raven already.

Winter Is Always Coming

The phrase you’ve probably heard more than a hundred times, fan or not, when you think of Game of Thrones, is that “winter is coming.”

We don’t have to get into the nitty gritty of what it means for the show (Though, speaking of open lines of communication, why don’t you ask one of your GoT-fan coworkers today?), because you probably already know all too well how it applies to us in sales.

It’s just a fact of life that we’re going to have hard months as sales people.  We get into slumps, deal with rejection after rejection, and have to weather any number of storms. But here’s where we don’t need to wait on television, blogs, or George R. R. Martin to understand the truth: in time, winter will pass. In the world of sales, the good guy does win. It’s about learning to persevere, making the most of your mistakes, and growing into the hero that you deep down know yourself to be.

Now get out there and claim what’s yours.