The New England Patriots and How to Build a Successful Sales Team

Published on Feb 7, 2017

The New England Patriots is an excellent model for what a well-oiled machine is supposed to look like. Since Bill Belichick has been at the reigns, The Pats has perennially been a 12-win team. That includes one year with Matt Cassel at Quarterback, and this past season with Tom Brady serving a 4-game suspension). Over the course of 17 seasons, Belichick has won 14 division titles, racked up 26 postseason wins (the most postseason wins by an NFL head coach), 7 AFC championship games, and 5 Super Bowls.

There are many things people can say about the “hoodie”, but one thing no one can discount is his level of consistency.

Outside of his short and dry responses to questions from the media, Belichick’s process-oriented approach to the game has contributed a lot to New England’s dominance.

Let’s take a look at a few principles that organizations can learn from the New England Patriots when building a high performing sales system. 

Know your Strengths

The Patriots have never been perfect. The Patriots won Super Bowl 51 with a flawed defense against a high octane offense in the Atlanta Falcons. Identifying and leveraging their strengths over their weakness is what Belichick and his staff do well.

On the offensive side of the ball, they were missing their superstar Tight-End, Rob Gronkowski for the last half of the season. They didn’t have a dynamic receiver like Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. to cover the slack. They didn’t have a dominating defense like the Giants or the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom”, yet they still found ways to win.

What’s their secret?

Belichick and his staff have a great track record of identifying and leveraging their strengths over their weakness.

Taking an honest assessment of what your sales force does well gives you clarity of what to do in the long run. It allows you to have a bird’s eye view of your sales operations, and take inventory on what actions should be taken to improve efficiently.

The Patriot coaching staff understands there is no way they can be great at everything.

Understanding the DNA of your sales team will help you determine how to build around your weaknesses, what skills your salespeople need to be trained on, and the adjustments to the sales process to overcome your deficiencies.

Create A Sales Plan That Aligns With Your Goals

“In their eyes, Belichick was playing a very strategic, intricate game of chess while everybody else was playing checkers.” – Curtis Martin on how much his former teammates loved Belichick.

In sales, your version of winning the Super Bowl is to meet your sales quota for the year.

No other team in NFL history has attained the level of success as New England. At the core of what influences their operation is the effectiveness of their system.

They approach each season by starting with the end goal in mind. Being clear on what your goals are and the benchmarks you need to achieve are crucial. Belichick and his staff stay on top of what the trends in the league are and adjust their tactics accordingly.

One of the biggest perks to having a clear and concise system, is everyone understands their role and responsibilities.

The Patriots attention to detail and preparation stands out from a lot of other NFL organizations. They lean heavily on data and analytics and utilize their insights to develop their strategy. In contrast, the San Diego Chargers, who have experienced some success over the years have struggled to sustain it.

When asked about his thoughts about analytics and how it effects his game plan, Chargers coach Mike McCoy said that it didn’t. McCoy said, “I’m going to go with my gut decision on those things. No one can tell me on a piece of paper this is the right thing or the wrong thing to do.” Well, we all saw how that turned out. The Chargers ended up with a 5-11 record, they requested to relocate cities, and McCoy lost his job.

Relying on your gut instincts and not having a clear sales plan or playbook is a recipe for disaster.

Having a documented sales process and system is at the core of growing your business. It allows you to be clear about who the right people are for your team’s unique needs and creates transparency for your team.

Have The Right Players and Personnel

“You go to the draft board and think, ‘Here’s a nose tackle. Who needs a nose tackle?’ Well, eight teams in front of you need a nose tackle, and there’s [only] two nose tackles. It’s something you have to figure out where you can get the players to play in your system.” – Coach Belichick

Although it’s Belichick that gets all the accolades as being one of the greatest coaches ever, he didn’t do it alone. New England has some of the best analytics and coaches in the game.

Ernie Adams has served as the Director of Football Research for 16 seasons. Belichick and Adams regularly conduct a deep analysis of game film, stats and trends. These insights are used to develop plays and schemes, prioritize draft picks and determine who they should go after in free agency.   

In your sales organization, you need someone you can lean on to advise on the types of sales professionals you need for your system. 

Now, you may be saying to yourself, it’s easy to be successful when you have an elite Quarterback to execute the game plan. It’s easy to forget that the 5-time Super Bowl MVP wasn’t supposed to be here. Tom Brady was a backup QB, who was drafted in the 6th round of the 2001 draft.

What Belichick and his team understand more than anything, is strength is NOT the same as talent. When Brady was coming out of college, scouts said that Tom lacked the tools to be a starting Quarterback in the NFL. It turned out that what he lacked in talent he was able to overcompensate for with his football IQ.

The difference between the New England approach to free agency and others is that The Patriots focus on selecting the RIGHT player for their system, not necessarily the best.

When the Pats decided to upgrade their wide receiver core this past offseason, Belichick could’ve easily splurged. Mohamed Sanu, was a big name in free agency last season, but Belichick ended up signing Chris Hogan. Sanu ended up signing with Atlanta for $32 million with $14 million guaranteed (653 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns), while Hogan signed a 3-year $12 million dollar deal (680 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns). Who got the better deal?

No matter what your feelings are about the Patriots, their close to 20-years of dominance is unparalleled, especially in the salary cap era. New England’s ability to assess their strengths, recruit and train players that fit their system, and the uncanny ability to abstain from investing too much in low return free agents is the crux of their longevity.   

Everybody wants to have a team full of “Rock Star salespeople”. The truth is, the sum is always greater than the parts, and nobody does that better than the New England Patriots.

By creating and defining a sales system, identifying and building around your strengths, creating a recruiting strategy to attract and retain the right salespeople for YOURorganization, and having the right tools and technology in place, you’re in a great position to exceed your sales targets.

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