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The Inbound Sales and Marketing Blog

Four Things Sales Leaders can Learn from the New England Patriots

by Bill Poole on February 1, 2019

Playbooks aren't only for the Super Bowl - they're also your sales team's road to success. “A goal without a plan is just a wish” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As a Ravens fan, it’s hard for me to cheer for the Patriots. But I must admit that the New England Patriots have achieved a level of success that is unmatched in my time as a fan of the NFL. They have been to 9 of the last 18 Super Bowls, winning 5 of them.

Something that makes it truly unbelievable (especially this year) is that they don’t nearly have the best personnel as many of the 31 teams they competed against, that all started out with the same goal.  

The reality is that a lot of the other teams had a wish, not a goal. Let’s look at some things that the the Patriots have in common with a sales team that turns their goals turn into reality by year-end, rather than failing at their New Year's resolutions by the third week of January.

There are 4 elements of a successful team:   

  1. A Leader - You company's Bill Belichick (Your VP Sales)

  2. A Goal - Win the Super Bowl (An achievable growth goal)

  3. A Plan - Playbooks (For your team)

  4. Consistent Execution - Execute your plan regularly (Don't stop your plan after one month of success!)

A Leader

Without leadership the rest doesn’t matter. The leader puts the team in place and drives the culture and direction of the organization. This involves not only creating the team, but also delegating leadership responsibilities to others on the team as well.

For the Patriots, Bill Belichick always had a supporting coaching staff that shares his vision and approach to winning. Players buy in to the Patriot Way more than any other team in any other sport. When a player joins the Patriots, they quickly adapt to the culture of winning. Where are the Pittsburgh Steelers right now as we head into this weekend’s Super Bowl?

Ensuring your sales team is optimized for success involves placing the right front-line managers, sales reps and support team to get the job done. A good leader knows where his or her strengths are, and also understands when to engage external support to fill any gaps.

A Goal

The leadership sets the goals for the organization, and then gets buy-in from top to bottom. Sure, everyone wants to win a Super Bowl, or achieve 20% YOY growth, right? What happens next is what differentiates the dream from reality.

The big goal is supported by little goals. In football, teams chunk out the season into quarterly goals (3-1 in the first quarter of the season), then into winning games weekly, then to scoring on drives.  

If a football franchise is in rebuilding mode, winning the Super Bowl might be a 3 year goal, but there would be goals set for this year that would support the longer-term goal of winning the title.


For your sales organization, this might mean achieving goals in different product lines, or monthly sales goals. Organizations that know where they are going are more likely to get there. A goal of “Sell More Stuff” is much less likely to drive the results as a SMART goal. SMART goals are:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Actionable

  • Realistic  

  • Time Sensitive

We find it much harder to help a client that wants to “Sell More Stuff” than it is to help a client that has SMART goals.

A Playbook

The goal is set, now what? You need a plan! Goal setting is one thing, but failing to plan is planning to fail.

Playbooks are a tool for both football teams and sales and marketing teams.

Playbooks lay out all of the actions that the team can take to support the goal.

Playbooks include all of the strategies that could be executed, and are also flexible enough to alter given the specific situation.A conversation around your net-new business strategy. Let's Talk.

For a football team, the playbook is learned at the beginning of the season and applied differently given that week’s particular opponent. Different plays are available to leverage in different situations. The Patriots are infamous for dialing in game plans with stark contrasts from week to week with the intention of leveraging the opponent’s weakness.

Sales and marketing playbooks define the different strategies that align with how clients make decisions, giving them what they need, when they need it. Below are some examples of different strategies that your playbook should include.

Marketing Playbooks

Buyers who are actively looking

Strategies to connect with buyers that are doing research on their own.


Strategies to expand your share of your clients wallet by extending the services that you provide for them.

Sales Playbooks

Prospecting Playbooks

Prospecting playbooks enable teams to be more efficient and more effective in the time that they spend prospecting.  More efficient tools allow to make more touches in less time; better quality content allows the touch to be higher quality, and thus more effective.

Opportunity Playbooks

A playbook to assist reps in moving prospects through the funnel swiftly.

The plan flows from the top of the organization to the bottom. All team members have roles, tasks, and awareness as to how they support the big goal.

Consistent Execution

The last step in ensuring your goals are not merely wishes is to execute on the plan (beyond the first quarter!).  Sales teams with very good intentions often fall flat on execution. Why does that happen? Usually it is because they lose visibility to the big picture and to the roles and tasks that support it. Organizations then fall back to the “old way,” or chase short-term distractions that are not aligned with the goals.

The key to consistent execution is summed up in the words of Bill Belichick:  “Do Your Job.” The Patriot Way is a culture of understanding the goal, and how all of the various roles in the organization support that goal.

Changing the culture of a team involves a sustainability plan to ensure the plan is executed on an ongoing basis.  This might mean having an iron-clad sales management process, or leveraging external resources to stay on track.  

As you think back to the 2019 Super Bowl, envision how great your sales team will feel in the 4th quarter with the ball on the goal line, about to meet your goal. What will you do to get them there?

Ready to take your sales department to the next level? Request a free Inside Sales Consultation.

Topics: Sales Training, Net-New Business, Fanatical Prospecting