Play The Sales Game Like Leicester City

On the first day of the English Premier League (EPL) season betting agency, Ladbrokes, offered punters 5000/1 odds that soccer team, Leicester City, would take the 2015/16 season trophy. The same betting agency had odds at 1000/1 that Playboy millionaire, Hugh Hefner, would admit he’s a virgin! Leicester City’s EPL win is guaranteed to become a business case study on how a team can achieve victory against long odds. So how did they do it?

sales performance lessons from leicester city

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Some Facts

  • Leicester City Football Club was formed in 1884. They won their first division title in May 2016 (that’s 132 years of persistence).
  • The team manager, Claudio Ranieri, had never won a first division title in his 40-year career.
  • Leicester City only returned to the Premier League in May 2014, after a ten-year absence, when they won the Championship (level 2 of English football).
  • They lost three times in the 2015/16 season and finished 10 points in front of their nearest challengers (Tottenham Hotspur).
  • All players performed extremely well but there they had a top achiever, Jamie Vardy, who entered the Guinness Book of Records with his 24 Premier League goals in one season.
  • The coach regularly named the same players to start the game. In fact, Leicester City used fewer players than any other team.

Did they win because they pay more?

No. Out of 20 teams, Leicester City ranked 17 in terms of its expenditure on salaries.


Then How Did They Win?

“Business as sport” is a bit of a cliché but there are concepts business can borrow from sport to think, act and win like Leicester City.

  • Persistence – Despite the long odds, Leicester City players always brought their best on game day. Always believe it is possible and never give up…even if it takes 132 years!
  • Team Work – Leicester City’s striker, Jamie Vardy, scored an impressive 24 goals for the season. But he didn’t do it alone. He was supported by his teammates who each had their own critical role and responsibilities to help the team win. What’s more, the manager let the same team play together consistently so they formed a unit. Know who your top achievers are and rally the sales team behind them so your team can think and play like winners.

Sales Comp Manager Insight

  • Reward your sales team for performance. Despite paying lower salaries than most of the EPL, Leicester City had big money ‘at risk’ to play for as a team.

Leicester City are set for a potential £150m boost for winning the Premier League title, analysts at sports data and marketing firm Repucom have said. The sum comprises Premier League prize money, Champions League participation cash, and increased match day revenues from ticket and hospitality sales, BBC News.

  • Go beyond money. A meteoric rise as high and mighty as Leicester City’s requires discretionary effort from the whole team. Leicester City Striker, Jamie Vardy, says the team are like brothers in terms of their team spirit.

When training and matches are finished, we’ll all go out and have food with each other and we’re always together with each other. That shows how much of a unit we are as a team and it shows in our performances week in, week out, said Striker, Jamie Vardy.

sales compensation manager insight

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We hear you, sometimes business is not like sport

There are some key areas where the workplace is not like the sporting field. To name a few:

  1. Talent – Leicester City may not pay the most in the EPL for its talent but all their players are A-grade. What’s more, if a soccer player is off-form, they can be rested or even dropped. In the business world, it is likely you will have to have a mix of A, B & C grade salespeople. Removing poor performers from the team can be difficult. Even with a mix of talent, it is still worth thinking about how your sales team can play a united game like Leicester City.
  2. Complexity – A game of soccer is played once a week and it is over in a couple of hours. Professional coaches can sit back and watch hours of video footage covering all aspects of the game making tweaks to their game strategy ready for next week. Sales Directors and Managers often manage multiple teams across different locations with different customer groups or distribution channels selling a variety of products or services. You probably don’t know what your competitors are up to and the information is often less than perfect. Good information systems to sort data and present it logically are critical.
  3. Systems – Leading on from the point about complexity, most professional sporting teams have excellent systems to capture every piece of data about individual players aggregating up to an overall picture for the team. Few businesses can claim their information systems provide this level of detail, which means Sales Directors and Managers are trying to coach without all the information they need.

key areas where the workplace is not like the sporting field

It can be difficult to keep track of the play so always:

  • pick your key performance measurements and review them regularly
  • invest in your sales performance management  systems
  • tweak your game plan regularly to improve performance
  • add ‘measure the sales team’s performance’ to your weekly to-do list.

The power of the ‘business as a sport’ metaphor is to look for the areas of your business where you can play like Leicester City.

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