Winning: The Patriots Way

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Selling solutions is about more than vending a hodgepodge of products; it’s about pulling those products together in a purposeful way to produce desired business outcomes.

By Larry Walsh

In an interview after winning Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was asked what he would do next after winning the pinnacle game of the football world and his first championship ring. His response was prophetic: “I still have four other fingers.”

Last night, Brady fulfilled that vision of putting a ring on every finger with a come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons, capturing his fifth Super Bowl ring and the Patriots’ fifth Super Bowl championship.

The game itself was unprecedented. The Patriots never led the game until an overtime touchdown put them over the top. They overcame a 25-point deficit, the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history and the third-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history.

Moreover, the Patriots have done something no other NFL team – or sports franchise, for that matter – has done: win consistently.

Since the pairing of Brady and coach Bill Belichick in 2001, the Patriots have posted 14 out of 16 seasons with winning records, won seven AFC championship games, appeared in seven Super Bowls, and won five – one, two, three, four, five – Super Bowl titles. And they’ve achieved all this with a shifting cast of players with varying degrees of capabilities, a few controversies along the way (which I won’t get into), and a couple of devastating setbacks.

The reason I recount the Patriots’ latest Super Bowl victory and win is because they hold a lesson for everyone in terms of organization, management, leadership, and execution – particularly in managing channels and partners. While many sports teams on winning runs adopt battle cries to keep the momentum going, the Patriots have just one locker room slogan that’s drilled into each player’s consciousness: “Do your job.”

Here are a few examples from “The Patriots Way.”

  • Understand the Competitive Landscape: Skills are great, but they really don’t mean much if you don’t know how to apply them, and at the right time. The Patriots do well because they understand their opponents and do their best to nullify those opponents’ best assets to win games.
  • Assign Roles and Responsibilities: Every member of the Patriots has a job, and knows his job. The coaching staff sears their assignments and responsibilities into their brains until they become rote actions. This doesn’t eliminate creativity or individual initiative; it just ensures that everyone knows their assigned objectives.
  • Leverage the Coaching Staff: The Patriots’ coaching staff is just as much a part of the game as the players on the field. They’re constantly studying the competitive landscape, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of opponents, coming up with winning strategies, and directing players on how to win.
  • Maximize Assets: With the exception of Tom Brady, the Patriots aren’t known for having star players. In many instances, the big plays come from utility players, unknowns, and castaways from other teams. The Patriots have a knack for understanding each player’s true capabilities and maximizing those skills by putting the player in the right role.
  • Show Grace Under Pressure: The Patriots never panic. In last night’s game, they were down more points than any team in Super Bowl history. They didn’t start rushing to the line and making hurried plays. They maintained their composure and leveraged their experience to get their jobs done.
  • Maintain a Laser Focus: The entire Patriots organization is focused on one goal: winning. They don’t look for the big plays or aim to make the highlight reels. They just execute on winning. Period.
  • Never Give Up: There’s something about the Patriots that makes opponents and fans believe they’re never truly out of the game. Even when they’re down, they play with a calm intensity that, more times than not, results in victory.

I could keep going, but the point is clear. These same attributes (and more) are applicable to channel organizations. Vendors that understand the partners on their roster and apply their capabilities in a focused direction will invariably win more often than not.

Too often, vendors look to make all of their partners perform equally, push underqualified partners to take on roles they can’t fulfill, don’t study the playing field or convey competitive intelligence to partners, and assume partners know their assignments. Vendors can and should replicate the techniques of the Patriots management to raise their partners to greater levels of performance or, in sports parlance, to help them win.

To be fair, these attributes are applicable to any sports team, business organization, or channel. It’s just that the Patriots are superior at executing against these organizational qualities (and, as a lifelong Patriots fan, I’m gloating a little). Still, everyone in the channel – vendors, distributors, and partners – could learn a thing or two from the strategic, managerial, and leadership qualities of the New England Patriots.


Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.

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