Fantasy football season – the annual scourge of employee productivity — is almost upon us. And that means for the next 4 months sales leaders will be facing off against a powerful enemy in the way of sales team engagement.

Ask anyone who has played fantasy football and they’ll confess to conducting fantasy business – waiver wire pickups, trades, score checks, and of course, trash talk – on an almost daily basis at their office desk. At best, it’s a minor distraction. At worst, it’s something resembling FX’s The League – where plot lines revolve around bored, white-collar executives who feverishly obsess over their fantasy football teams at work.

Rather than focus on the inherent challenges that fantasy Football season poses for sales force engagement, the purpose of this post is to highlight its opportunities. Namely, the opportunity to run the most epic, immersive and successful sales contest in your company’s history.

A Fantasy Football Approach to Sales Contests

Fantasy football season presents the perfect time to run a unique brand of sales contest, one that focuses on teams, rather than individuals, and scoreboards instead of leaderboards.

Industry experts from the Harvard Business Review and elsewhere have long championed focusing coaching and motivation efforts on the middle 70 percent of sales force performers. The reason being that sales teams stand to gain the most value from pushing their core performers to a higher level of output. “Moving the middle,” so to speak.

And amazingly enough, a Harvard Business Review feature article from March found that a sixty-member sales team at Clayton Homes “achieved stunning boosts in productivity over sustained periods of time” by, of all things, creating a fantasy Football-style sales contest using their own Salesforce data.

How so? They set up a fantasy football-style league where managers drafted 12 teams of 5 reps apiece, and ran weekly competitions during a 12-week season. At the end of each week, the team that scored the most points (based on 3 key performance metrics) won its matchup.

The top 4 teams squared off in a playoff for a major reward.

By co-opting fantasy football, Clayton Homes ran a quarter-long sales contest that proved hugely successful in driving key performance indicators, peer-to-peer coaching, and a sense of healthy competition in its sales culture. By making success a team effort, it was able to get more out of its core sales personnel and far exceed its own objectives in running the competition.

Co-Opt Distractions to Drive Sales Productivity

Regardless of whether you buy into the idea of running your own “Fantasy Sales” competition, there’s a salient lesson here for those charged with driving sales team productivity.

Every workforce leader — regardless of company size, industry or success rate — invariable contends with external distractions the outside world pushes onto its personnel. Social media, holidays, major local events and yes, fantasy football, are all potential productivity-killers lurking in the back of your workforce’s minds.

As our example here with fantasy football shows, an effective practice for combating these external productivity sappers is by co-opting them. Run a fantasy football-style sales contest, make social selling a codified part of your sales process, or incentivize high performance with tickets to that special upcoming event your sales team can’t stop talking about.

Whatever the case, consider co-opting the distractors of your sales force, rather than ignoring or admonishing them. In doing so, you’ll create a happier, more productive sales force and a better work environment for your team.

About the Author

Jeremy Boudinet is the Director of Marketing for Ambition, an App Exchange platform that syncs Salesforce with any data source and tracks real-time performance data across your entire team. Visualize core benchmarks, score overall user performance, and set up custom sales contests complete with TV leaderboards, email alerts, personalized highlight reels and theme songs, plus much more. Learn more @ambitionsales.