Four Lessons for Sales Managers from March Madness

BasketballWe’re down to this year’s Sweet 16. And if you’re a sales manager, you should be paying attention to more than your bracket. After all, March Madness just works. And just like it engages your sales team in the tournament (maybe even too much at times!), its concepts can motivate your sales team within their work environment.

In Final Four spirit, below are four lessons sales managers can take from March Madness to do just that. Some may say these lessons revolve around sales contests, while others call it gamification – we like to say it’s about helping get your team focused. Take a read, and then you can head back to your bracket.

1. Call the team in for a huddle.

March Madness has a way of bringing people together. It’s not uncommon for former college roommates now living across the country to take time to connect before brackets close and then keep in touch for the trash talking that follows. Just as the web does for brackets, you should be opening channels for communication during team contests.

If you use Salesforce, Chatter provides a great opportunity for this. One of LevelEleven’s tech-industry clients recently engaged their team in competition and watched global collaboration skyrocket thanks to Chatter. Colleagues who had never met before started congratulating each other on contest accomplishments. Ultimately, this increased communication led the organization to become a more cohesive unit.

2. Recognize that it’s not about the actual trophy.

What’s up for grabs on your current bracket, a trip to Hawaii? Didn’t think so. But you’re probably still pulling hard for a W. If you ask people why they like to participate in contests, bracket pools, etc. they won’t say it’s because they have a shot at the prize – it’s because they like to compete. This same idea can be translated to work contests.

That being said, don’t get overly fixated on incentives – you’d be better off spending time finding more ways to tap into your employees’ competitive nature, keeping people updated on where they stand relative to their peers and encouraging some trash talking as referenced in point 1 above.  (Read our most recent post on using small incentives for success here or download our “Sales Contest Toolkit” for the four keys to running a successful team competition.)

3. Watch the benchwarmers rise.

The casual basketball fan tends to come alive this time of year, because suddenly, there’s competition surrounding them – filling ads, radio shows, news headlines and water cooler talk. Create a culture of competition in your workplace, and increase your chances to witness the same thing.

Such a culture can be created by encouraging co-workers to engage in friendly trash talk on Chatter, reminding your team about competitions at meetings and displaying leaderboards within Salesforce or on big screen monitors in your office so everyone can see the results. Twice in the last few months, we’ve watched clients take similar approaches and then observe previously disengaged sales reps step up when presented with a contest.  (Download one of those stories, from hiredMYway, here.)

4. Lock down the top recruits.

Any team that succeeds in March Madness gets more than a win: They automatically advance in recruiting incoming freshman and growing their fan base. Successful work contests can create similar results.

Focus on using contests to motivate behaviors, and  you can improve your workforce for the long term, which should lead to the growth of your client base. As for recruiting, don’t be afraid to show potential new team members that you can be a coach. Share how one of your reps grew sales by 20% after your last contest, to show candidates they’ll grow as a professional if they commit to your organization. Then when you start bringing in the top recruits, you’ll really get some competition going.


We all know that once a team enters the Big Dance anything can happen; even a lower-seeded school can make it to the top. Implement our “Final Four,” and you’ll give your team the chance to develop its own Cinderella story – even if that means going from great to greater.

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