Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Red Sox and other fans, games (and seasons) are won or lost at the beginning, not the end

In sports, there are too many sports about teams winning or losing games in the final seconds. There is even a strong current of thinking that points scored in the final seconds, when "the game is on the line," are more important than points scored at other times. Similarly, winning the last game of the season, when "the season is on the line," supposedly proves the mettle of the team.


Take the Boston Red Sox. As I write this, the baseball team from Boston is trying to get into the post season. A month ago, Boston and Tampa Bay were something like ten games apart in the standings. But Tampa Bay has made up ground, or Boston has lost it, depending upon your way of thinking. Either way, Boston and Tampa Bay currently have identical win-loss records.

So it all boils down to tonight, or possibly tomorrow. If Boston wins and Tampa Bay loses tonight, they're in. If they lose and Tampa Bay wins tonight, they're out. If both Boston and Tampa Bay have the same result (win or lose), there will be a one-game playoff.

Now if Boston loses tonight, or loses tomorrow, there are going to be a ton of people who will loudly claim that Boston "choked" in September, when "the season is on the line."

All of these people are concentrating on Boston's performance in September.

But they're all missing one thing.

Boston played over 100 games before we even entered September. And those games counted just as much as the ones in September.

Yes, Boston played over 100 games. Including the six games that they lost to start the season. If Boston had won even one of those six games in the spring, Tampa Bay would be on the outside looking in right now.

Oh, and there's another oddity about this whole thing. When Boston beat the New York Yankees on April 8, they were no longer tied for the worst record in the U.S.-Canadian major leagues. Who was the other team with an 0-6 record? Tampa Bay. So if Boston wins and Tampa Bay loses today, Tampa Bay can look back at ITS first six games to find out what went wrong.

Why am I writing about this in my business blog? Two reasons:
  • I like baseball.
  • In the sales and pre-sales world, the moves that you make at the beginning of the sales cycle are just as important as the moves that you make at the end of the sales cycle. In a competitive environment, you would prefer that your customers sign sole-source deals with you, rather than going out to bid. You would also prefer that your competitor's customers go out to bid, rather than signing sole-source deals with your competitors. Now I'll admit that there are times when a customer HAS to go out to bid...but there are also times when this is not the case. If the customer likes you enough to give you the business at the beginning - or, conversely, if the customer's relationship with your competitor has deteriorated so much that they go out to bid to get a new vendor - then that's the equivalent of winning on opening day - in a one-game season.
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