5 Lessons Sales Teams Can Learn from March Madness

It’s time to break out your brackets. March is upon us and we are closing in on one of the most exciting tournaments in sports: the NCAA Basketball Tournament, better known as March Madness.

March Madness serves as a spectacle of some of our favorite things about sports today. Small schools play the role of Cinderella, new stars emerge, and every game is a battle of life or death. From the extensive preparation that teams go through to the heart and competitiveness of the players, there are many parallels to sales organizations. Whether it’s preparing for a demo or trying to manage the pipeline, here are five key lessons that sales teams can take away from March Madness:

1. Bring an underdog mentality

A 12 seed has beaten a 5 seed 44 times in the first round of March Madness. When you are selling, whether you feel like a 12 or a 5 seed, it is important to bring the same mentality every time. Even if you and your team feel like you have a sale locked in, it is essential to bring the same effort and focus that you would for the most important sale you’ve ever made. An underdog team has that chip on its shoulder and is motivated to play their hearts out, because no one expects them to win. Sales teams need the same mentality.

2. Have a game plan

Doing research on your opponent is critical in every game of the tournament. Coaches and players work extremely hard to combat the other team’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses. Who are the big players at the company you’re trying to sell to? What are their strengths and weaknesses? It is important to research and understand the roles and responsibilities of the people you are presenting to so that you can understand how exactly your company can best help theirs, and there is no better way to get a leg up on this process than researching and creating a plan.

3. Make adjustments

In basketball, the whole outcome of the game could come down to a final play. Maintaining composure and making the adjustments needed to execute plays in high-pressure situations is the difference between winning and losing. Sales teams must be equipped with the tools and abilities to make adjustments on the fly as well. Sales reps are constantly presenting to different customers, verticals and industries; the situation is always unique. Equipping your sales team with the right content at the right time allows them to make these adjustments seamlessly, and is vital to successfully executing the sale.

4. Always have a competitive mindset

Despite the excitement, teams still become lax against lower-seed opponents. Look no further than powerhouse Georgetown falling to little-known Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the 2013 tournament. Georgetown was clearly more talented, but a lackluster performance led to their demise. No sales team wants to be lackluster, ever. No matter how big or small an opportunity is, any sales manager will tell you that every deal is important. If sales teams rest on their laurels and put less effort into certain deals, a competitor with more hustle could swoop in. Make sure you bring a competitive edge to every meeting, every presentation, and every demo.

5. Play all the way to the buzzer

Arguably the most thrilling part of March Madness is the abundance of comeback victories, buzzer beater wins, and last-second heroics. While teams would undoubtedly rather have the game wrapped up by halftime, the last second win can be even sweeter. Your sales team is probably the same way. Whether prospects are evaluating competitors or reevaluating their own needs, the sales cycle can be long and tiresome. But you never know what could happen at any given time, so making sure you and your team are following up appropriately and making all the necessary moves to stay in the game is critical. Budget could open up, new people could be brought into the mix, competitors could drop out, and more. The key is ensuring you are right in the mix to give yourself the opportunity to hit the game winner.

Sales teams and college basketball teams have a lot in common. And more often than not, it’s the ones that work harder that see the most success. How far down the bracket will your team make it?