Gamification Motivation

What March Madness Has Taught Us About Sales


What more appropriate metaphor is there in the sales world than sports? From Hoosiers to Creed, we’ve used the stories of sports elites to inspire us, to motivate us, and to teach us how to get up even after a bad break. So it comes as no surprise this time of year that a blog like ours might turn the spotlight over to the NCAA’s premier event: March Madness.

Sixty-four teams go in, one emerges a champion just a few short weeks later. It’s fast, it’s crazy, and there’s plenty we can learn from it about how we run our sales floors. Here are just a few of the lessons that March Madness has shared about what it’s like to be in Sales.  

Stat Obsession Is Real

One quick perusal of FiveThirtyEight’s homepage will tell you this time of year is just as much about the numbers as it is the players on the court: live-updating rankings, win percentage, and analysis ad nauseum about what something like a triple double means for a player’s chances of moving on to the NBA.

So what does that mean for sales? Should we be creating stats sheets for every AE? Maybe not, but numbers do matter–even to the players. Studies like one by HBR reporting on an initiative by Cisco Systems show us that numbers can make a big difference when in the right hands: “The company created a site where managers could log in and see up-to-the-minute sales performance—listed by region, product line, and so on—all the way down to the level of individual account executives.

The site also contains data about reps’ pipelines, including the size of each opportunity, what kind of technology the customer requires, and who the competitors are.” This resulted in forecast accuracy plus or minus 1-2%. When sales reps were able to track their numbers, it helped them to to be better in touch with their performance, and make better business decisions.  

Competition Isn’t A Bad Thing

Whether you went to one of these schools or not, you’re well aware of the gargantuan reputations dynasty teams like Duke, UCONN, and Villanova bring to the table. It’s not just their academics, but years of a reputation defined by competition that have made them athletic titans.

Competition isn’t just a reason to pit two teams against each other, competition is what makes us better: we are refined by challenge. So whether it’s selling against your top competitor or it’s some light-hearted intra-office faceoff for a spot on the top of the stack rankings, one thing is clear: competition helps us to be our best.  

Don’t Count Out The Cinderella Story

And of course, while there are always the titans of industry who look to be the surefire winner, March Madness has always taught us that you shouldn’t discount the underdog. Whether it’s a team like Florida Gulf Coast that makes a movie-like run, or an upset like Michigan State’s loss to Middle Tennessee, the scores aren’t final until the last buzzer of the game. The Cinderella Story teaches us that even if you’re at the bottom of a leaderboard, it’s not the end. There’s always a chance to climb higher, do better, and make a place for yourself at the top. What the leaderboard shows us is not our permanent place, but rather where we can be and where we can go.

Sometimes it takes switching up your selling strategy or the way you approach a situation. When you find something that works, stick to it and go in strong. You’ll make a comeback that’ll even surprise yourself. Whether you’re in the middle of your own mad season, or you’re just looking for some renewed motivation, always remember: anything can happen.