Dungeons & Demand Gen: Why D&D can make you better at marketing and sales


By Win Salyards, Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

There’s a reason the senior sales leader at the last company I worked for led a weekly Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) session every week with a number of his sales and account executives. While he ran it because he loved to play D&D, I’d also suggest that his love of D&D made him a better salesperson. 

For those unfamiliar with how D&D (and other tabletop RPGs) are played, here’s a quick introduction. In each D&D group, you have several players and one Game Master(GM) who acts runs the world the game is set in and all nonplayer characters (NPC) the players interact with. Each player creates a character that is their conduit and lense for interacting with the story the GM weaves together. Whether actions that characters take are successful or not is decided by the roll of a 20-sided die. 

It is well known that roleplaying games train your empathy ‘muscle,’ and as a matter of fact, it is one of, if not the, most essential skills you should develop as a marketer or salesperson. So, other than the research that has shown games like D&D help increase your ability to navigate social situations and empathy, why do I say D&D can help you be a better marketer? Here are three reasons:

Stepping into character

When stepping into the world of D&D, you create a character to play as you interact with the world. This character is your lens. You create a background for the character, along with what motivates them, what pain points they may have, and what flaws—using these tools as a way to get into character and fully understand how your character makes decisions and interacts with the world. In many ways, putting together a character is similar to building a buyer persona. Buyer personas give your team the tools and context needed to step into the ‘character’ of your buyer. 

Separating yourself from your character

An important part of D&D is the mitigation of metagaming. Metagaming is the use of knowledge that you as the player know but your character wouldn’t, for your own benefit. Not metagaming requires you to separate yourself from your character, and this can be not easy, and there is a certain amount of practice needed to notice it. As marketers, we need to do something similar when building buyer personas and a buyer’s journey. We need to separate what we know from what the buyer knows and when. We know about our product and how to find it, but the buyer doesn’t. Separating ourselves from the buyer allows us to fill in the gaps within a buyer’s journey. Answering questions like, where would the buyer hear about my product? Or why would the buyer come across a piece of content?

Navigating decisions with “real” consequences 

Every decision you make in D&D could have “real” consequences in the game for your character. It’s important to understand this and learn how your character would approach important decisions and what they weigh when making the decision. We need to do something similar with our buyers. Understanding what our buyers take into account when making an important decision or how they react to problems they’re facing.

D&D and other tabletop RPGs are incredibly fun, but they can also be a great practice ground for things we run into daily as marketers and salespeople.