Mark Twain made the following observation, which he attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Let’s talk about the third type of lie, statistics, and how misleading statistics impact B2B marketing and sales.
According to truthpizza.org, “an obvious problem with statistics is that they can be simply be fabricated. Of course this could be true with any claim, but because statistics use specific numbers, they have a quality of authority about them, and we may be a little less suspicious than we would be for a more descriptive argument. Saying “83% of high school students admit cheating on tests” just sounds more authoritative than “most high school students admit they cheat on tests.”
Take for instance, the below chart which has been widely disseminated and quoted. It supposedly shows how a seemingly reputable organization called the National Sales Executive Association compiled data on how multiple contacts impacts sales close rates. The first time I saw this chart, I had a feeling that the stats are bogus – the data totally conflicts with our team’s experience with lead-to-revenue programs and metrics.
Let’s dig into one of these statistics – 2% of sales are made on the first contact. Are you kidding me? There are many industries where making the sales on the first call is the norm so where does this 2% figure come from?
Of course it is important to follow-up on sales leads and be persistent, which is the point of this graphic. However, these statistics are made up and not based on any credible study. Adam Honing published a very good article about these false claims on Customer Think and an internet search will quickly show you that the purported organization called National Sales Executives doesn’t even exist. The problem is that people who are basing any of their marketing and sales initiatives on these lies pay a price when the reality turns out to be different than what the so-called stats indicated.
As another example, a business/life coach posted the following on her LinkedIn update: “Nine out of 10 people would rather die than change”. Really? Go ask the next 10 people you meet whether they would rather die than change. But I won’t be surprised to find other people quoting this fabricated statistic.
In regards to B2B sales, I’ve had two senior sales executives tell me that their teams close 50% or more of all qualified leads. Really? Between my client-side and provider-side experience, I’ve probably run and measured several dozen lead-to-revenue programs and have never seen this level of proficiency. And in both of these instances the actual data showed that the close rate was below 20 percent.
And don’t even get me started on the companies that publish misleading data to sell their products – e.g. “According to an independent study, 92 percent of the people who take our weight-loss supplement lose 20 or more pounds their first month.” These fraudulent marketers know that gullible prospects hear what they want to hear and will discard common sense to buy the magic pill.
The following story, from a blog called Talk Money Café, shows how statistics can be manipulated: A mathematician and an accountant are in the same room for a job interview. The interviewer’s first question to the mathematician is: “How much is $500 plus $500?” The mathematician replies: “$1,000, of course.” The interviewer then turns to the accountant and asks the same question: “How much is $500 plus $500?” The accountant replies: “Whatever you want it to be.” The interviewer then tells the accountant: “You’re hired!”
The moral of this story is to be skeptical of statistics – especially those that defy common sense and make your marketing goals harder to accomplish.