2007 Mets, Lesson in Managing a Team

2007 Mets, an Object Lesson by Dennis Taylor

There are always comparisons made between the business world and the sports world and recently one of the most surprising events to happen in sports in a long time occurred in Major League Baseball. With apologies to any New York Mets fans an examination of that event can have direct impact on how we manage our own teams.

As of the 12th of September the Mets found themselves 7 games ahead in the division, cruising towards a pennant and World Series berth, there was no question if they would qualify for the playoffs, just when. As the Mets started play in September they were confident and looking ahead feeling good about what they had accomplished. On September 8th the Mets website made this quote, “September has been kind, prosperous and free of bad karma for these Mets. “We’ve done what we need to do the last few weeks,” manager Willie Randolph said.”

On the last day of the season, less than a month after expanding their lead to the seemingly insurmountable 7 games, the stunned and shell shocked Mets packed up their lockers and went home, not even qualifying for the wild card spot in the playoffs because of losing 15 out of their last 17 games.

Is there anything we can learn from the Mets collapse? Of course there are several things that we can learn and apply in our sales teams.

At the beginning of that unprecedented eighteen days, the leadoff hitter for the Mets, Jose Reyes, was batting .292, above his career average of .284. During the critical last ten games of the season his average was .174, yet he played every game.

As a manager, how long do you wait for a player to perform before you make some sort of change? What if five games into the collapse the manager had said, “Jose you have been great this season, I want to try something for a few games and change the batting order”, would that have made a difference? There is no way to tell for sure but things couldn’t have been much worse.

Why, as managers do we wait so long to change? If you have a producer that has been making it happen but is in a slump, why not jump in and help with presentations and take turns on customers early and often until they get back on track? Why do we wait until the end of the month, or season, to figure out what happened?

The second point we can glean from Reyes’ numbers is this: Who takes the most at bats on a team? The leadoff batter does. That is why the leadoff batter is such an important role, it is his job to get on base the most, in Reyes’ case he started off the year doing what he was supposed to do but by the end of the year he was not and yet he started every game as the leadoff batter.

Who typically gets the most at bats in the dealership? The weakest salesperson. Why? Because, while the better salespeople are selling cars the weaker ones are burning through customers. That is why as managers we have to watch who is taking customers on the lot and making sure each customer contact is getting logged in the CRM and taking turns on those customers. Salespeople change during a month, just like ballplayers change during the season, so don’t assume you know who your best salesmen is today, just because you knew yesterday.

In the first 50 games of the season the Mets produced 33 wins and 17 losses. In the final 112 games their record was 55 and 57, which, as the Mets website pointed out means they played two thirds of the season losing more games than they were winning.

The team that beat the Mets for the division, the Philadelphia Phillies, played .593 ball from July 1st through the end of the season, concluding the season with 13 wins in their last 17 games.

When you start a new month make sure everyone understands that the month ends on the last day of the month, not after the first week. The old saying, “it aint over till its over” couldn’t be more true than in the car business or baseball. Keep your people in the game every day until the month is over regardless of how their month is going. The people that are ‘on fire’ at the beginning of the month tend to lose it at the end of the month and vice versa, unless we are coaching and managing every single day.

The Major League Baseball season consists of 162 games. The Mets season was considered a failure because they needed to win 2 more games to make the playoffs. For the Mets, the difference between success and failure was, statistically speaking, 1.2%.

Each sales team has defined standards (or at least should have) for what is considered success, so the difference needed to turn a bad month into a good month may be more than what the Mets needed, statistically speaking. If we however, never forget that every customer that walks on our lot may be the difference between success and failure, that can create awesome results.

Baseball players every year go to Spring Training and practice the basics, over and over again. Coaches and players understand how important it is to go the extra mile in training and practice.

Salespeople and Sales Managers need to understand that we need to practice the basics if we are going to get better. Getting better results doesn’t involve drastic measures, in sales it just involves asking one more time for the extra payment, making one more prospecting call at the end of the day, or learning one more piece of product knowledge.

The biggest lesson we can learn from the ’07 Mets is that we can always improve, and we can always get worse, our job as managers is to make sure our team is getting better, not worse every day.


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