I have come to love data (metrics, not so much). Most of my work at Gartner focuses on diving deep into data from folks involved in technology purchase (and renewal decisions). There is always more to learn.
But data can also mess us up. Particularly when it is generalized and broad. I shared one example late last year about information overwhelming buyers. Take a stat like that as gospel, and you could really screw things up.
Unless the data value is 100% (almost never), you really have to dig deeper into who is in the %; who is not; what the implications are; what you should do about it.
One of the hot stats these days is [Choose Your Percentage]% of buyers don’t want to talk to sales people. This is usually followed by a discussion around the death of the sales function.
Will that happen-I’m willing to put the percentage at 100% that it won’t in my or even my children’s lifetimes.
In B2B, there are additional questions you should ask:
- What are the characteristics of these sales avoiders?
- What percentage of the buying team includes sales avoiders?
- What are the doing instead?
And the last one is where I think the silliness gets stronger if we stress on this. We know that folks involved in buying consult many sources: vendor web sites, peers, third parties, reviews, associations they are in, partners, etc. And most also talk to sales people.
But when we worry that ‘we don’t have control’ because the sales person interaction chunk is smaller or non-existant, my view is –who cares.
Instead of worrying about that, we should worry about how we are getting mindshare through all the other sources. How clear, complete, and consistent the ‘buying information search’ is across those sources. And how, if and when sales engages, we can build on that work versus rehash or even worse, contradict.
The driver for the consternation lives within organizational silos and biases. Too many organizations still have awkward, or limited, coordination between marketing and sales or other functions. Too many think they have the only one who really “gets the customer.” Too many seek to control the conversation that isn’t theirs to control. There is a different path available.
So, the next time you see a stat that catches your eye. Take a deep breath and contemplate, or explore, more deeply.
- Who’s in the number and Who’s Not
- What risks does this put on me
- What opportunities does it create
- What can we do differently in light of this?
Data is great. Stats are great. But blind allegiance without critical thinking is a road to nowhere.
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