March Madness! A favorite harbinger of spring of ours arrived this month – the NCAA Basketball Tournament. This exciting annual event consistently serves up great games, thrilling surprises, underdog wins, and a preview of rising stars.
The players and coaches we see at the tournament offer up great entertainment, sure, but also some solid lessons for sales teams who, like our favorite Cinderella teams, strive to see success and advancement through winning.
Lessons Sales Teams Can Learn from March Madness
“I get a group of people who are talented to commit to excellence and to work together as one. That’s where it starts. Different talents, same commitment.” – Mike Krzyzewski
1. Create a Game Plan
Surprise wins are fun to talk about and watch on replay, but wins don’t usually happen without a solid game plan. Every team that makes it to the tournament does so because they refined their game plan and they know their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
The right research before a sales call or meeting is essential to gaining the advantage.
Questions you need to ask yourself: Who are the key decision makers at the company you’re selling to? Who are your industry competitors, and what are their strengths and weaknesses? How are you helping current clients in the same industry and what have the results looked like?
Doing the research and sticking to a successful game plan will lead to more consistent wins for your team.
2. Establish Short- and Long-Term Goals
During March Madness, each game provides an opportunity for short-term goal success to ultimately become a long-term goal accomplishment – win this game so you can move on to the next, and the next, and the next, until the ultimate goal is attained.
The same holds true for a sales call – establish a connection, engage in a meaningful conversation, and be ready to conquer each next step as it comes.
It’s important, before any tournament or sales-cycle, to also prepare for the long game.
Who are the opponents and where is the opportunity? Which members of your team have mastered the fundamentals so they are prepared for all situations and scenarios? What are the possible roadblocks to closing the deal?
Having a comprehensive plan prepared allows you and your team to be entirely focused on each short-term goal knowing that the long term-program is in place.
3. Stay Focused
Every game is going to have predictions of who will win. But if March Madness teaches us anything, it is that those predictions can be spectacularly turned over at any moment. Who can forget when, in 1996, Princeton, a number 13 seed, defeated defending champion UCLA in the first round. No one saw it coming…perhaps with the exception of Princeton.
Whether you feel like your team has a sale locked down, or you feel like the underdog with little chance, it is important to stay focused and bring a winning mentality to the table every time.
It’s crucial to never underestimate your competitor or your own team, and bring the same winning effort and focus to every deal.
4. Stay Sharp and Consistent
The sales cycle, especially for complex B2B sales, can be a long one. It is important to keep working to keep your sales skills sharp, and remain consistent and competitive until the very end.
Some of the shocking wins by underdogs have happened when the favored team rests on prior success and doesn’t expend the mental energy needed to bring their A-game to the court.
Surprise wins are fun to watch on TV, less so when you see your deal scooped up by a competitor.
Make sure your team is following-up properly and staying invested in the deal throughout the whole sales cycle.
The same holds true for the cold calls made at the very beginning of the sales cycle. Every call, whether with a solid prospect or a far-reaching one, should be approached with the same level of interest, enthusiasm, and follow-through.
The attitude and effort you put in to a call will be reflected back by the prospect, and can make the difference between someone who will engage in a conversation with you, or try to get off the phone quickly.
The skills and mindset of winning basketball teams are similar to those of a winning sales team. Anything can happen once the ball is in play, but by preparing to win and staying consistent to the very end, you will gain the advantage and opportunity to triumph over your competitors.