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What Sales Teams Can Learn From the New England Patriots

By John Chapin

Even those who aren’t fans of the New England Patriots have to admit the team has a formula that works. And the truth is, the Patriots’ secret isn’t so secret—in fact, it’s rather simple and obvious. However, simple and obvious doesn’t mean easy.

Here are four ways a sales team can use the best team in football’s formula to dominate its own field of play:

No. 1: Be willing to charge into Hell.
“Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to die.” I’m not sure who said that, but it is the mindset of most people when it comes to achieving almost anything great. When I work with an organization on where it wants to go, everyone is all smiles—until we start discussing the actual plan for what it will take to get there. Then facial expressions change quickly. Most people want the weight loss, the great relationship, and the win, without the work. If you want to achieve your version of six straight AFC Championship Games and a record nine Super Bowls, not only do you have to work, but you have to far outwork everyone else. You also have to endure great mental and physical pain to grow and become the person and/or team worthy of the reward. There will be long days, tough calls and conversations, rejection, failures, and trials and tribulations that will make the grittiest of individuals cower. Yes, the prize will be worth it, but it takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and pain to get there.

No. 2: Create a winning culture.
The winning culture is built on a foundation of working hard and doing your job. As we know, rarely is it the most intelligent or talented that win—it’s the person who shows up early, leaves late, and gets the job done no matter what. Julian Edelman, a seventh round draft pick, shows up at 5:30 a.m.—before anyone else. Danny Amendola, undrafted, works his butt off too. Same with Chris Hogan, who had only one year of college football experience and about 150 yards receiving. (By the way, he had more yards than his entire college career in one game against Pittsburgh—80, a Patriot AFC Championship record.) The culture also includes perseverance, persistence, mental toughness, a positive attitude, and a team-over-individual mindset. The Patriots had to let two great players go this year because they were poisoning the team. Not easy, but they understand that one negative person, no matter how good, hurts the team in the long run. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, and the weakest link hurts everyone involved with or touched by the team. Your weakest link is hurting you, your profits, your other workers, and ultimately your customers.

No. 3: Develop a leadership team that isn’t afraid to lead.
Leading includes setting expectations, holding people accountable, being a good example, being willing to work hard and make tough decisions, and not giving in to the whiners and complainers. Recently I worked with a company that wanted to get all of its salespeople to the level of the top two producers. I offered them a process to follow, which, when used by other companies, increased sales by an average of 278% over 12 months. The initial reaction from a member of the management team was “If we put this together and force our people to learn it, there will be a revolt. They already think we’re pushing them too hard.” When I asked who would object, I was told it would be the lowest performers. I then asked two pointed questions: Why are they concerned about the opinions of the lowest performers who probably shouldn’t be there anyway? Who is running the company—them, or the lowest performers?

The biggest issues I see in the workplace are a lack of accountability and letting negative, low-performers poison the environment. How long do you think negative people last in the New England Patriots’ locker room? How long are people allowed to skirt their responsibilities and not do their jobs? Exactly. We all know their motto: Do your job. That’s one key reason they are great. True leadership requires being willing to work hard, deal with the issues head on, and get negative, lazy people on board—or out—quickly.

No. 4: Have a process that works—and people who buy in and are committed.
The New England Patriots have a successful process that works. Everyone follows in lock step, like an elite military organization. Those who show up in the locker room are expected to follow and trust in the process. No questioning, no complaining about the hard work, no distractions from the process, just complete faith that the process works and that those calling the shots know exactly what they’re doing. Their only job is to get in line, follow along, do their jobs, and go to a record ninth Super Bowl.

Chapin is an award-winning speaker, trainer, and coach and the primary author of the gold-medal-winning “Sales Encyclo­pe­dia.” Find him at



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