March Madness - Or How Your Sales Leads Are Like 6’4” College Athletes


Have you ever noticed how many similarities can be drawn between March Madness and the typical sales funnel? No? Take a playoff bracket and rotate it sideways so the finals are at the bottom…the two form the same funnel-like shape, where tons of players go in, and one winner comes out. It makes sense once you start to think about it. From the emotional journey to the factors that go into making a team a winner, read on to find out why the sales funnel is like March Madness.


Sales Funnel



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At the beginning of every playoff, there are a big clump of players/teams all milling around, each a prospective winner. There are favorites and underdogs. Some teams you know, others you have never heard of or seen before.

At a big conference or start of a campaign, there are a big pile of prospects. Some are favorites (from a company you’ve worked with before) and some are underdogs (you’ve never heard of them, but they could be promising).

Once the teams are picked for the lineup, you start watching the games. Ideally, you catch as many as you can, but unless you take the entire month of March off, you are streaming highlights, reading news articles, or talking to people who have seen the games you missed.

Once your leads get into the system, you start marketing campaigns. Ideally, you will see responses to emails or other campaigns come in, but unless you spend your entire day looking at every single response, you are looking at reports, reading marketing updates, and talking to people who have possibly had dealings with your contacts.

As the teams move into the Sweet Sixteen, then the Final Four, you start to learn the teams and the players. You pick your favorites, start to realize you may have “bet” on the wrong team, jump on a new bandwagon. “No, no, I’ve always loved Eastern Kentucky, I’ve rooted for them from the start.”

As your leads start to engage with your marketing efforts, the percentages get higher, and they start to filter into your arena. You pick your favorites, start to realize you may have “bet” on the wrong prospect, jump on the bandwagon. “No no, I knew from the start when I met him at Oracle OpenWorld that he was a hot lead.”

You’ll end up with just a handful of contenders left. You start to get emotionally attached, and hopes flare. You can almost taste the money.

And of those handful, some, but not all, will end up as winners.

It turns out that there are a lot of similarities between a sales funnel and a basketball bracket. After all, sports analogies are pretty common when it comes to sales. Phrases like “run interference,” “drop the ball,” “hit your stride,” or “jump the gun” are pretty typical in any good sales manager’s pep talk.

Let’s take a look at one more area where you can compare sports to a sales: building a winning team. There are a number of strategies that sales managers can steal from good coaches in order to build a team that works together to end up on top.

What makes for a winning team?

- practice, practice, practice - use good teamwork - hire or cultivate the best talent - use your best players, but if they start fouling, pull them out. - know your opponent - have a good offense - have a better defense - keep your eyes on the prize - take it one game at a time (where every game is a new challenge, but you need to draw on experience) - bring it home - if you are really far in the lead, bring in your second string players to give them experience - don’t give up (even when it looks like the game has been lost) - if it boils down to free throws, give it your best shot

And most importantly, believe you can do it. Even if you are the underdog, the new guy on the team that no one has ever heard of, this year can be your year. Believe in yourself, get yourself some ringers on your squad. Hire a darn good coach, and then do your best to take it home. Sometimes, all you need is a wing and a prayer.

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