What One Patriots Upset Can Teach You About Smart Selling

Posted by David Hammer on February 1, 2017
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With the Patriots playing in their ninth Super Bowl this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about Patriots upsets--particularly, when the Buffalo Bills destroyed the Pats 31-0 back in 2003.

It was shocking, to say the least. The Patriots were on a run that would end in a Super Bowl championship; the Bills had been (and would continue to be) mired in mediocrity for many years. So how did the Bills pull off not only a victory, but a killing? There was only one reason, and his name was Lawyer Milloy.

Unless you love the Patriots (like me) or love to hate the Patriots, you probably don’t know Lawyer Milloy. At that time, he was the starting strong safety for the Patriots, a veteran who had anchored New England’s secondary for almost seven years, making the Pro Bowl four times and the All Pro team twice. Which is why it was a particular shock when the Pats cut him a week before the season started. Bill Belichick, then early in his run as head coach and general manager, was annoyed by what had become a protracted salary negotiation with his star, and doing what he has since then become known for doing, decided to let the infidel go.

Milloy was (understandably) angry.

Within days, Milloy signed with Patriots’ divisional rival the Buffalo Bills, who just happened to be scheduled to face them in four days. The Bills had lost the last five meetings between the teams, making Milloy the Bills’ most powerful weapon—and not just because of his nose for the ball.

Milloy didn’t hold back. He gave the Bills the inside scoop on the Patriots roster, highlighting tendencies and weaknesses, walking them through their gameplan. He didn’t steal the Patriots playbook, but he may as well have.

That Sunday, the Bills were unstoppable; it was as if they were anticipating the Patriots’ every move. They played so well, in fact, that the Patriots didn’t score one touchdown, field goal, safety or extra point. Final score: 31-0, Buffalo.

The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that year, while the Bills ended up 6-10. But for one shining moment, fueled by one shining star, the Bills taught the world a valuable lesson about how to get things done.

Finding your own Lawyer Milloy

There’s a reason the language of football - playbooks, moving the ball forward, kickoffs - peppers sales vernacular. Sales, like football, is a team effort in which individual performances can provide a dramatic impact. And football, like sales, is a place where the right piece of information, from the right source, applied at the right moment, can change fortunes.

Every seller wants their own Lawyer Milloy; someone with the right kind of knowledge about a prospect that helps you gameplan the sale, review your plays, and call an audible if he sees a better option. These are game-changing relationships that make a win feel easy.

Problem is, finding one is a game of luck (and really good networking). It’s great, but it rarely happens. When was the last time you sat next to the right person at an event, one who gave you the scoop on your deal? Or played golf with the decision maker’s brother?

Making it Easier to Get the Playbook

I started Emissary because I believed that “luck” was actually something you could manufacture. Tinder changed the world of dating - why couldn’t we do the same with sales?

So that’s what we did. We built a platform to help sellers find Lawyer Milloys, thousands of senior execs who intimately know your top accounts, and are ready to help your team win deals and drive revenue.

How do I know it works? Because I used Emissary to raise our own Series A.

I had a big pitch meeting lined up with Mike Troiano, CMO of Actifio and one of the partners affiliated with G20 Ventures. My deck was solid, but somehow I still didn’t feel confident I knew what to say to him; how could I make sure I was explaining our offering in a way that resonated with him?

So a day before the meeting, I hopped onto our platform and booked time with an Emissary from Actifio. In our brief conversation, he told me two crucial things. First, that Mike loves great stories; focus on a single great story rather than an overlong deck. Second, that Mike played football growing up and was to this day a huge Patriots fan.

One hour before the meeting, I threw out my carefully crafted deck, and I decided to tell him the story of Lawyer Milloy.

I closed our Series A, led by G20 Ventures, 4 weeks later. Lawyer Milloy would have been proud.

David Hammer is the founder of Emissary.io, a company that is transforming the way sales teams win. Backed by Google, Canaan Partners, G20 Ventures, and the New York Times, Emissary is the world's first knowledge network for enterprise sales teams.

Follow David on Twitter at @dhammer or email him at david@emissary.io.

Topics: Emissary News, Sales Intelligence