The Patriots’ Bill Belichick is currently the NFL’s longest tenured coach, leading the team since January 2000. Over that period, the Patriots have won 14 AFC East championships, appeared in the Super Bowl seven times, and won five of them. He also holds the most wins of any active NFL coach. Obviously, the man knows how to coach a team.
Sam already explained what Doug Pederson of the Eagles (boo!) could teach us about sales coaching. But, if you really want to learn about how to lead a team you don’t need to look any further than my man, Bill.
Bill Belichick is a master of his craft, and although his infamous press conference manners keep the majority of his thoughts ambiguous, here are the things sales coaches can learn from the Patriots head coach.
1. Be a Player’s Coach
Shawn Springs, who played cornerback for one season with the Patriots described Belichick as the “ultimate player’s coach.” Belichick trusts that his players know the basics and can manage themselves. He even went so far as to tell Springs not to practice on Wednesdays, instead suggesting he take the time to recover, saying “You’ve been in the league for 13 years – you know what to do.”
Darrelle Revis once said, “He’ll ask questions, try to get other people’s insight, especially veterans, to see if we’ve got any insight from playing for many years… He’ll sit down and have a conversation with you.”
As a sales coach, it’s important that you trust your reps. If they’re experienced and produce results, let them manage themselves. If your reps are greener, don’t meddle with every little detail and overwhelm them. Coach strategy and tactics, change processes to make their lives better, but don’t micromanage.
Also, know that your reps are the ones talking to prospects every single day. They see the reactions first hand and feel what works and what doesn’t. Be like Belichick and keep your door open, talk to them, ask for their insight, suggestions, and what they feel works.
2. Know the Game
Belichick understands the game of football like no one else. He is a master of strategy who meticulously studies and analyzes opponents to determine how to neutralize their strengths and exploit weaknesses.
As a sales coach, you should fully understand your company’s industry, competitors, and clients. Know how your competitors fit into the space, what they do, and what they offer so you can better position how your company is superior. Understand your clients and the problems they have, then pass that knowledge along to your reps. Today, by the time a prospect first makes contact with your sales team, they are already in an evaluation stage. Thanks to the amount of easily accessible information, they already have identified their needs and narrowed the list of solutions. Reps need to be able to effectively communicate your company’s offerings, and position them as the best option.
3. Position Players for Success
Belichick is among only a few coaches that routinely use every player on their bench, even in different positions. This is because he always positions his players for success. After Belichick decides on a game plan, he arranges his players in positions where they will be able to perform best against an opponent.
Even in 2009, when the Patriots faced the Baltimore Ravens for a wildcard, Belichick asked Shawn Springs to cover Todd Heap, a tight end, instead of a faster, more agile wide receiver like he normally would. Springs thought, “All I had to do was take away a tight end?” amazed at the simplicity, “Bill, I can do that all day!” Although the Patriots lost the game due to Baltimore’s overwhelming defense (at the time), Heap didn’t catch a single pass and Joe Flacco only completed four passes, thanks in part to Springs’ critical positioning. Even when Belichick develops a complex plan, he positions players for success and then communicates his plans as straightforward tasks players can confidently execute.
Belichick and his staff also excel at the uncovering raw skills and talents often overlooked by other teams. Take Julian Edelman, for example. A quarterback in college, he was not invited to the NFL combine. He later impressed the Patriots at his pro-day, who drafted him to be a punt returner, cornerback, and wide receiver. Edelman has been a cornerstone of the team ever since.
Sales coaches should position their own reps for success by playing to their strengths and giving them clear goals. Furthermore, they should look for uncovered potential in reps, and work to surface it. If a rep is incredible at cold calling, enable them to cold call more. If another excels at making deals with enterprise companies, have them focus on those clients. However, don’t trap them in a particular position, like Edelman they can apply those skills elsewhere.
4. Create a Culture of Accountability
On the Patriots, each player has one specific task to accomplish. They are the only one responsible for carrying out that task. Simply stated in the Patriots’ well-known mantra, “Do Your Job.”
Belichick holds each and every player accountable. He calls out players – even Tom Brady – when they fail, and is even known to trade players when they don’t perform. Although imperfections are openly reprimanded, it’s not a negative environment. In the end, Belichick wants the team to perform at their best and that’s exactly what they do.
Obviously, your reps shouldn’t be in fear of losing their jobs, but you should hold them responsible for hitting their quotas. Provide the coaching and support to get them there. Create a culture of accountability in your organization, and hold everyone responsible for doing their job, including yourself. As a sales coach, it is crucial that you are accountable for hitting your goals and helping reps hit theirs. They will follow your example.
Finally, Go Pats! One More!