Two weeks back the New England Patriots thumped the Los Angeles Chargers. You have to live under a rock to not know how successful they’ve been. Let’s put it this way… Kansas Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is the leading candidate to win the MVP in the NFL this year, couldn’t get driver’s license the last time the Patriots weren’t in the AFC Championship game. My brother Jack O’Hara, who was born in 1999, has no memory of the Patriots missing the playoffs, except the year they went 11-5 with Matt Cassel due to Tom Brady tearing his ACL in 2008. I’m sure there are tons of motivation speakers out there that could talk about about having a winners mentality, and how driving in private jets to their next million dollar deal is awesome. I’m not going to do that today. As a lifelong Patriots fan, who also remembers the Ben Coats, Terry Glenn, Shaun Jefferson, Bill Parcels to Pete Carroll era of the team, I know I’m spoiled. I’ll tell you some things managers can learn from the Patriots success. (Note: This blog post was written prior to the Patriots clinching a trip to their 3rd consecutive Super Bowl).
What the New England Patriots Can Teach You About Sales

Lesson 1: One vision will always beat out two visions.

For people that don’t know this, one of the things that makes the Brady-Belichick era of the Patriots so unique is that Belichick has a final say on the roster.

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Belichick scouting talent at the NFL Combine

Most NFL teams have a General Manager who decides who makes the roster, and then the Head Coach will decide how to use the talent the GM has supplied on the roster throughout the season.

The Patriot Way is wrapped around only one vision. Whether you are a CRO, CMO, VP of Sales or a VP of Marketing, one vision will always beat out two or three different visions.

In the case of the Patriots, the framework is wrapped around the concept that not one player is bigger than the team. Belichick has this philosophy ingrained on the way the roster is built, all the way to the way they execute plays on Sunday. It isn’t one architecture either. In the early days of the Patriots dynasty, they built their team on a strong defense. As the years have gone on, they’ve pivoted from that to a strong offense and conservative defense. As Brady has aged, they are now building the team to be more adaptive to their surroundings.

Whether it’s marketing picking an event to sponsor, or a sales rep trying to post content on Linkedin, all revenue at a company should fall under one vision. What is your brand and your sales team going to be known for?

One vision always wins out. At LeadIQ, we’re really trying to drive our vision around the idea that every rep should feel good about their job, whether they work at a big company or a small company.

Lesson 2: Letting great people go is sometimes for the best.

Ok. We talked about how the Patriot way is all about how one player is never bigger than the team. This lesson is two fold. On the talent side, you need to get rid of toxic talent, no matter how good it is. Over the past decade, the Patriots move talent away if there seems to be problems in the locker room.

One example that comes to mind is in 2016 when the Patriots traded away Defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals, and Linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns in the same season.

Both players were considering extremely talented and appeared to be core members of the Patriots defensive blueprint for years to come. However, Collins was known for freelancing on the field, and not listening to coaches.

Chandler Jones on the other hand was due to get a big contract extension at the end of the season, and had been arrested by law enforcement the year before for doing drugs. This off the field distraction caused a concern for the locker room, and had they rewarded Jones, it would have set a bad example of the young players.

Both of these players have a ton of talent, and Chandler Jones has flourished in Arizona. However, that same season, the Patriots despite losing both starters via trades, made it to the Super Bowl and beat the Atlanta Falcons.

Lesson 3: Don’t discount on pricing. Make a value ceiling for each customer and stick to it.

Now let’s talk about the other part of the previous lesson. Let’s use the player metaphor for your customers as well. If you are working a deal with your customer, and they keep trying to negotiate down the price, while you can respect every company has a different budget, you also need to respect your company’s budget. That budget includes time, support, server load, labor, everything.

Back in 2003, I’ll never forget the day I got out of school and found out the Patriots cut Pro Bowl safety Lawyer Milloy. His cap hit was going to be $5 million dollars, and with his tackle, int, and sack numbers were heading on the decline.

lawyermilloy Lawyer Milloy was a core part of the Patriots defense for several years.

The Patriots had set a ceiling for how much they were willing to pay for him that was below the $5 million dollar mark he was due. He refused to take a paycut, and the next day, he was cut from the team. The locker room was shocked.

A week later, playing on his new team, the Buffalo Bills, Lawyer Milloy and the Bills crushed the Patriots in the season opener, 31-0. To this day it is still one of the worst defeats in the Brady-Belichick era.

However, the Patriots bounced back after Week 1, and went on to defeat the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl that season. What’s even better, in week 17, they played the Bills again, and defeated them 31-0.

The lesson here is simple. Not keeping Lawyer Milloy opened up opportunity for other customers. It freed up salary for the Patriots to bring in running back Corey Dillon the following year.

With contracts and negotiations with potential customers, think about attention you and your staff has to give to a company that doesn’t see value in working for you at full price. Letting a prospect walk away sometimes ends up being the right move in the long run, and will yield more business in the long run.

Lesson 4: Bend the rules, and ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

I know many of the people that read this blog post hate the Patriots. Take away their sustained success, and their dominance over the past 18 years, and it’s very popular to crap on them for the cheating scandals they’ve been charged with over the years.

One of the most popular controversies was Spygate. For people that don’t know what this was, in the NFL, teams are allowed to scout their opponents hand signals. On the sideline, coaches will do something with their hands to tell players on the field what adjustments to make play by play.

However, the NFL made a rule that prohibited teams from recording these signals with a camera. You could only scout teams with your eyes. The Patriots got caught doing this, and it caused a pretty big hatred to grow among football fans outside of New England.

A few years ago, they also were allegedly deflating footballs below the NFL’s PSI standards to make it easier to throw and catch footballs.

I could argue that cheating is wrong, and that these things are unethical. To some of us here in New England, we actually view some of this as gamesmanship.

Don’t lie. Don’t be dishonest. With sales, it’s ok to sometimes bend the rules to gain an advantage. If you have an existing customer who switched from your competitor to you guys, find out what pricing they had before you go into a call with a customer.

Find ways to bend the rules and gain an advantage without getting caught. That’s the one problem for the Patriots. Even if these things aren’t as bad as people say, they did get caught.

If you are reading up about your prospect, or know someone that knows something about them, use that to your advantage.

Lesson 5: Adapt your playbook for your prospect.

Most NFL teams have an identity to be focus on what their strengths are, and put effort into working on their execution of their strengths.

The Patriots on the other hand customize their gameplans week by week based on what their opponents do. It’s one of the reasons they’ve had such sustained success.

Here’s an example. Two weeks back, in the wildcard round of the playoffs, the Los Angeles Chargers had 6 defensive backs on the field against the Baltimore Ravens. The thinking behind it to most media members was that they wanted to have their fast players on the field to deal with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson since he is a scrambling quarterback who likes to tuck the ball and run on many passing plays.

This means that the Ravens offensive line usually started the play pass blocking, so they didn’t need to have big players on the field. The Chargers defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, was praised for the game plan.

So last week when they went up against New England, it was really confusing to see that Tom Brady, literally one of the least mobile quarterbacks in the NFL, was also up against 6 defensive backs, even though we had formations that were running back heavy.

If any team had watched the Patriots all year, they’d realize the New England was less pass heavy this year. They had a much more balanced offense, rushing nearly 30 times more in 2018 vs 2017 (that’s almost two games more of rushing than last year). Long story short, the Patriots ran and smashed the Chargers defense all over the field.

gamechart

What’s even more surprising is the lack of in game adjustments the Chargers did to stop the run.

So how does this equate to sales. On the prospecting end, you need to customize the way you prospect around who your prospect is. Some prospects don’t check LinkedIn all the time. Some prospects don’t check email as often as others. Some prospects have very different jobs even though their titles are the same.

You need to study your prospect and adapt to how you are going to break in and turn it into a deal.

Once you have the deal and you are in the game, you need to adjust your pitch to fit with what the prospect is telling you. I see so many companies make a slide deck, and talk through their power point. Putting my company logo in your slide deck is not customization.

Sure, a sales process is important, but you need to make more than one process for the different types of buyers you are going to come across.

A 200 person company that makes software that allows you to video stream webinars is going to need LeadIQ for a very different reason than a 200 person company that sells analytics software.

Sure, both companies may have to get buy in from marketing and sales departments, but we have to sell to them very differently. Their cultures are different. Their team structure and background are different. Hell, even their geographic culture could be different.

One company may have a more slick inbound process where lead routing is more important, while the other may have more of a “spray and pray” approach to prospecting.

Adapting your sales process to be adjustable based on each deal is the best type of process, and it’s likely what makes a sales team your company’s competitive advantage.

The Patriots have talent, but they’ve also had years where they didn’t nearly have as great of a roster as some of the other teams. Yet, they are one of the final four year after year.

Take these lessons and run with it! Be great, and more greatness will follow.

## Learn the art of booking a meeting once your prospect says yes. Check this out!

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Posted by Ryan O'Hara
Ryan O'Hara
Ryan O'Hara has been an early employee at several startups helping them with marketing and prospecting tactics, including Dyn who was acquired by Oracle for $600+ million in 2016. He's had prospecting campaigns featured in Fortune, Mashable, and TheNextWeb. Ryan specializes in branding, business development, prospecting, and coaching people on how to make good digital first impressions. He also mentors two accelerators, The Iron Yard and The Alpha Loft, and hosts The Prospecting

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