What Sales and Marketing can Learn from ‘Game of Thrones’

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Warning: Minor spoilers ahead if you are not fully caught up on Game of Thrones  through the third season/book.

In less than a week, every office around the country will be discussing the latest events from Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode. Who will rise to power? Who will fall? Who will die? Will Jon Snow know something?

But with every question answered, another three always seem to be added! One question people rarely ask is “How can my sales and marketing teams be more like these characters?” That said, if you look past the pure evil and deadliness of most of them, there actually is a lot to learn!

Game of Thrones

Below are characters that best embody different members of the sales and marketing departments, and what you can learn from each of them.

Director of Sales: Tywin Lannister

He’s the mastermind behind all of the Lannister family strategies and conquests. He knows how to get what he wants from who he wants. In the world of Westeros his determination is downright scary, but in a sales department, it’s inspiring.

He’s ruling Westeros through his daughter, who’s ruling it through her son. Even so, he has thousands of followers who are willing to do his bidding. Sure, the main reason is because he’s absolutely terrifying, but from a leadership perspective, he knows how to run a team. He delegates tasks to the right people, and if necessary, he’ll step up and take care of things himself, like reigning in a whiny, annoying brat of grandson/King. Tywin is successful and almost always wins, whether in battle or closing the sale.

Sales Executives/Associates: Jaime Lannister, Cersei Baratheon

Jaime and Cersei are just as fierce and determined as their father, but get their hands dirtier.

Jaime’s on the front line. He fights the Starks and the Tullys. He protects his King, but knows who his orders come from. As a sales executive, he won’t take “No” for an answer. He’ll fight for your business, doing whatever it takes to close the sale. His numbers will be the best in the company, and other sales people will strive to be just like him. His tactics may be aggressive for some, but he still gets the job done.

Cersei, while still a force to be reckoned with, isn’t as direct with her “sales” tactics. She schmoozes with her network, puts ideas into people’s heads without them realizing it, and rules a kingdom through her teenage son. While her end-game might not be recommended, her tactics work in a sales department. She’ll nurture each lead until they are ready to be pounced upon and converted into a sale. After many emails and calls, she will make you feel like you convinced her to let you buy her software.

Director of Marketing: Daenerys Targaryen

While Daenerys technically isn’t in Westeros, I couldn’t leave her out! She’s determined, smart, and never gives up. In the world of marketing, this type of person needs to be in charge.

Like Tywin, she knows how to run a team. She leads by example, showing no fear, even if it means burning herself alive with her husband’s body and dragon eggs. She can (literally) survive any type of fire that needs to be put out by a marketing department. And she will do anything to accomplish her goals. When her husband is dying, she does everything possible to save him, even though in the end she loses more than she gains. She walks for miles across a desolate wasteland, fights for the well-being of her dragons, and stands her ground when it comes to her morals and beliefs. I think every Game of Thrones fan cheered when she yelled “Dracarys” and freed the slaves.

Her intense determination and will to keep fighting, even after immense failure, is what all marketing professionals should have. You need to be able to think on your feet if something goes wrong, no matter how much you counted on that potential success. Stuff happens, and the best marketers face it head-on and turn it into the next great opportunity.

Public Relations: Sansa Stark

Sansa is very concerned about her image, as well as her family’s image. She scolds Arya for not dressing and acting more like a lady, she wants her father to admit to his “treason” instead of ruining her potential new family, and she constantly works to maintain good relationships with those who have power over her. While a little extreme, this is the work of a master PR professional.

Image and perception is everything in PR. How your company is viewed by stakeholders and the public is incredibly important when building a successful brand and company. Sansa, the daughter of a “traitor” creates a new image of herself to protect those left in her family: the Stark brand. Sansa takes it too far by changing everything about herself just to please her captors, but she obviously knows how to produce a popular, sustainable image.

Social Media: Varys

“The Spider” seems to know everything about everyone. No secret conversation or love affair is safe from him. His network spans across the entire kingdom and across the narrow sea. Everything seems to go through him, even if those involved have no idea.

In marketing, this is social media. Everyone is connected some way or another, either through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. And who coordinates all of this for a company? Someone just like Varys! He has thousands of spies collecting information for him, and then he puts it all together to create a plan. Social media managers must do the same thing. They need to manage their network across multiple channels and find the necessary information to further their company’s goals. When news breaks, social media team members should be the first to know, especially if it affects your industry. Varys does this perfectly, and is always ready to either hide the next scandal that hits, or use it to his advantage.

Design: Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion is clever, but is rarely appreciated for it. A perfect example of his best talents is the battle at Kings Landing, from the end of the second season of the show. He designs an incredible battle plan that literally sinks his enemies in defeat. He may not have the strength of his brother, but his creativity helps the Lannisters wipe out most of Stannis’s army.

That creativity is crucial for a designer in a marketing department. As someone who has no skill for design (stick figures are as advanced as I go), I truly appreciate those that can do it for me! No one else could have drawn up that battle plan, and, in most small companies, no one else but the designer can take your crazy ideas and turn them into exactly what you need to take your marketing efforts to the next level. Tyrion’s designs helped the Lannisters win the battle; designers can help you win at marketing.

Finance and Budget: Petyr Baelish

“Littlefinger” seems to be able to make money appear out of thin air. Whenever a huge feast is to be thrown, somehow the debt-ridden kingdom is able to foot the bill, thanks to “creative accounting” by Baelish.

Yes, this type of financial management is not encouraged, but the ability of Littlefinger to manage money and balance the budget is important to all sales and marketing departments. More money shouldn’t be spent on a promotion to gain more leads or close more sales than what is actually made from those efforts. Someone like Petyr Baelish is needed to keep marketing costs in control and assist in calculating just how much each lead is actually worth.

I am in no way recommending the exact strategies Littlefinger utilizes to balance the Kings Landing accounts, but there’s nothing wrong with a little creativity!

Freelancer: Bronn

Bronn sells his sword to the highest bidder at the time: Tyrion. As long as Tyrion pays, Bronn fights for him and remains loyal to him. But he also makes it clear that if the money disappears, so does he.

While sword fighting is very different from the usual freelance marketing work, the principles are very similar. Freelancers will work for you as long as you pay them a fair price. If there’s a higher quote from someone else, they’ll take that job. While most freelancers aren’t going to betray you as soon as someone comes around with a competing offer, it’s best to treat them well to keep your “sellswords” happy.

Intern: Hodor

Most people view interns as young kids that are there to make copies, get coffee, and be seen, but not heard. Hodor does a lot of grunt work in the series, especially when caring for Bran and acting as his substitute for legs. He does not speak, except his name, and will do whatever you ask.

However, like interns, Hodor shouldn’t be underestimated. Without him, Bran would be unable to walk, let alone escape from Theon when Winterfell is taken. Interns usually are tasked to complete boring, tedious work, but it’s all necessary and important for the company’s success. Without Hodor, who knows what fate Bran may have suffered? Without interns, who else would support the sales and marketing teams as they drive the company towards greater success?

Every member of every team is important. Every character of this show has some part to play that affects everyone. Westeros may be a crazy place, but it’s no different than the Sales and Marketing Departments!

Who else from Westeros should be involved in sales and marketing? What could we learn from them?

Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.

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About the Author

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Caroline Malamut

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Caroline is the Vendor Marketing Manager at Capterra. Her love of marketing began while growing up in Philadelphia and has only grown since attending the University of Pittsburgh. In her free time she enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, and cheering on her Philly and Pitt sports teams.

Comments

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HA!! I am one of the biggest Game of Thrones fans. Best show ever – great comparisons above! Not sure I would want any of the Lannisters on my sales team! Also I think I’d give a promotion to Daenerys or Tyrion to the position of CEO, if Tyrion can keep his act together (doubtful!). Great stuff, thanks for sharing!

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