March Madness is here, and whether you are a loyal basketball follower or someone who tunes in to see Sister Jean support Loyola courtside at age 102, the NCAA tournament brings entertainment for everyone. March Madness captivates people for several reasons–from the teams’ preparation to the spirit of the schools and communities to the victories of your favorite underdogs. But how does this connect to sales?

Athletes and professionals share certain qualities that provide a competitive advantage. Here are some significant lessons sales professionals can take away from watching college athletes compete during March Madness:

  1. Competition Isn’t Always a Bad Thing: Positive competition makes us work harder and brings out the best in everyone involved. Many of us are refined by a challenge because it allows us to tap into our potential, grow, and hopefully succeed. In competitive sports or in business, if you want to “play,” you must work hard to earn your opportunity. If you slack off, there is always someone ready and willing to take your spot. No sales professional wants to be lackluster, ever. Bring a competitive edge to work with you every day. Here are some benefits you may see:

    ·        Increased effort and productivity
    ·        Better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses
    ·        Sparked creativity
    ·        Greater motivation amongst your colleagues

    1.5 Get Comfortable with Pressure:
    With competition comes pressure. The stakes are high during March Madness. Pressure is on the athletes to perform—screaming coaches, physical strain on the body, etc. Sales professionals face pressure as well (albeit of a different nature). Reps can process pressure positively by tapping into the energy it brings. Create a sense of urgency for yourself by setting personal, short-term goals that lend to your long-term strategy, holding yourself accountable, or benchmarking against a high performer. Never get too comfortable.
  2. Benefits of an Underdog Mentality: The average number of upsets in the NCAA tournament is roughly 12 each year. Underdog teams approach every game with a chip on their shoulders. A little extra effort, motivation, and passion will often lead to a win, regardless of seeding. When you’re selling, whether you feel you have the deal locked in or are the underdog, bring a consistent, strong mentality to every call and every opportunity.
  3. Insights from Winning and Losing: Teams competing in March Madness experience the joy of winning and the pain of losing. More importantly, athletes appreciate the preparation and effort behind a win while recognizing the need to identify and correct past mistakes. This same mindset translates to sales: win or lose, learn from the experience, resist dwelling on the outcome and focus ahead on the next opportunity/deal. Anyone in sales will attest to the power of resilience.
  4. The Power of Teamwork: Assists are just as important as baskets. On a sports team or a sales team, you quickly learn the value of being a good teammate. Whether it’s cheering someone on or celebrating the outcomes of a well-played game, it all has application in the business world. The lesson is this: no matter what position you play (or sales role you hold), doing your job to the best of your ability is critical to the entire team winning.
  5. True Leadership: Leadership is such an integral part of March Madness. Athletes learn and practice the essential skills of leadership, such as leading by example, encouraging those who are struggling and inspiring their teammates through their words and actions. Some of the strongest leaders on a team may not have the official designation of captain/manager/vice president, but their contributions are every bit as valuable.

The mindset of winning teams in the NCAA tournament is like a winning sales team. Anything can happen with this amount of pressure—but being able to adjust while counting on your teammates will make all the difference at the buzzer (or the close of a sale).

Will this sales year be your 'one shining moment'?