Skills that Pay the Bills: Effort Matters, but Outcome Matters More!

July 25, 2016

This article is about two things, when to focus, and how to focus! It’s not the output, but the outcome.

I recently watched the NBA playoffs. It was an interesting battle. At the end of game seven, we all knew the Cleveland Cavaliers were the champions. I had been watching the games closely. I understand the nuances in a basketball game that cause a shift in momentum.

After six games, I felt the momentum was in Cleveland’s favor. The Golden State Warriors had some momentum deficiency to overcome. If the Warriors couldn’t level the momentum in the first quarter of game seven, then it was going to be an uphill battle. It’s hard to win championships from 15 points down.    

It’s interesting to me how little things in a basketball game can mean so much. Sometimes the hustle on a loose-ball recovery does more to inspire a team than a breakaway slam-dunk. The crowd loves the slam, but the players understand the extra hustle required for the recovery of a loose ball. I figure most NBA players must prefer running, dribbling and shooting to diving on the floor, getting piled on and fighting for a loose ball.

In game seven, both teams had to leave it all on the court; there was no reason to hold anything in reserve. At the end of the game, it wasn’t the effort that mattered, it was the outcome.

It comes down to the outcome, period; who can correctly measure the collective effort of each player on each play on each team over the course of a game. It’s not that effort doesn’t matter; it’s that outcome matters more!

Likewise, in the daily routine at a tire store, there are hundreds of little details that determine the outcome. The outcome basically boils down to revenue, gross profit dollars, and customer experience or satisfaction. It’s not the effort, but the results.

Your customers have a say-so in the outcome. They directly/indirectly control revenue, gross profit and satisfaction. Have you noticed that customers have more control these days? (I’ll save that for another article.) For your store to have the right outcome, it requires the right input. I’m not an NBA coach or commentator. I do notice, however, that I call time outs slightly quicker than the coaches, and the commentators seem to repeat my comments shortly after me voicing them. In basketball, getting off to a good start matters; likewise, the start of the third quarter matters and, of course, the finish of the fourth.

So, when to focus? My advice to you is this, the first three cars of the day, the first three cars after lunch, and the last three cars of the day matter to the daily outcome. Some store teams start slow, are lazy after lunch, and emotionally close before closing time. These are the times when extra effort, like a loose-ball recovery, can make the difference in the end-of-day and end-of-month outcome.

Solid outcomes require solid input. So, again, when to focus? First three cars at the start, first three cars after or around lunch, and the last three cars of the day. (No closing early emotionally.)

How to focus is a whole other story. Focus on momentum, and listen to the voices in your customer’s head. Customers will usually tell you how they want it, rare, medium or well done. In other words, if you listen more carefully to your customer, you can actually gain momentum and/or recover lost momentum. I have always found that the better I listen, the better I present. It’s not always what you say, but how you say it.

By nature, I’m not a great listener, but I’ve trained myself to be better because it matters. Think of your customer as a loose ball after lunch. You need to jump on that ball; when you do and you make the sale, you will naturally gain momentum. If you listen carefully and present well, you will convert, and your focused effort will be rewarded.

Another point about listening to customers. As we all know, most customers don’t know much about cars, and added to that, customers from time to time just don’t make sense. I used to say, “Customers have voices in their heads.” Customers come to our stores with pre-conceived ideas and/or recent information from a friend or family member that doesn’t line up with what we’ve said or sold or explained.

We have to focus to get inside their heads and really understand what’s happening so we can convert the conversation to revenue, gross profit dollars, and customer satisfaction. 

In conclusion, there are times when extra focus and hustle matter most; during those times, go for it. Secondly, listen well to present well, and make a compelling sales effort.

Winners win. Winners know when to turn it on!  

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected].

To read more of Wayne WIlliams' columns, click:

Leading Up the Hill or Off the Cliff: Make Your Employees See the Light or Feel the Heat

Expenses Creep, and Gross Profit Leaks: Watch the 'Extras' That Affect Operating Expenses

People. Process. Profit: Keep Your Focus

A Simple Technique to Compete with the Big Boys

Helpful Tips for Winners

About the Author

Wayne Williams

Tire retailing expert Wayne Williams was president of ExSell Marketing Inc. and longtime author of MTD’s popular “Counter Intelligence” column.