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“Just the facts, Ma’am…”

by David Brock on March 27th, 2017

The phrase, “Just the facts, Ma’am, ” is attributed to Detective Sergeant Joe Friday (played by Jack Webb) in the series, Dragnet.  (Search YouTube or some of the TV Classics channels for episodes.  As a bit of trivia, he actually never said that, but it is very frequently attributed to him).

Detective Joe Friday was a hard-nosed investigator, refusing to be swayed by emotion, guesses, opinions.  Fortunately, his partner and foil, Officer Bill Gannon (played by Harry Morgan) tended to look at these non-factual issues.

Too often, our sales efforts are focused on finding, “Just The Facts.”  We search for the data, we do the analysis, we go through the mechanics of getting information from our customers about making a buying decision.

Many marketers, sellers, content advocates revel in letting customers self educate on the web, thinking buying is just about getting the facts, evaluating the alternatives, and making a rational decision.

If buying were that simple, clearly there is eventually no need for sales people.  After all, AI and other technologies, as well as many of our current content strategies offer prospects and customers data, opinion disguised as facts, and endless reams of information to satisfy the craving for the facts.

But if buying, consequently selling,  is only about the facts, why is it that over 60% of buying decisions end in no decision made?  Why do buying groups implode roughly 37% into their buying process–possibly before they’ve even started their digital research?

Clearly, buying is much more than just presenting the facts and data.  Regardless the volumes of digital data we provide, we will only address a small part of what causes people to buy.

While emerging machine intelligence and AI technologies will help us better understand the facts and data that impact buying behaviors, they may even understand some of the emotions that impact buying behaviors. complex B2B buying is never about the facts.

Buying is really about complex interactions between people.  Lots of them!  In fact, with the CEB 6.8, just among themselves, there are 19.72 interaction paths  (for those of us who struggle dealing with parts of decisionmakers, for 7 there are 21 interaction paths between these.

These interactions with the buying group alone isn’t about the facts.  In fact there may be differing views of the relevant facts.  But each person is a human being, driven by emotions, opinions, personal goals.

Complex B2B buying is really about people dealing with each other—within the buying group, with sales people, with others.  Any time we have people dealing with each other, all the “messiness” of being human intervenes.  It’s recognizing this messiness, not avoiding it, but addressing it head on that’s ultimately most critical about sales.

Lest some take this to extremes, thinking selling is all about emotions and relationships, the facts and data are important.

We have to pay attention and balance each, just like our customers.


Afterword:  While I’ve just begun reading the book, Jeb Blount has written what appears to be an excellent book, SalesEQ, which begins to address these issues.  I’ll be sharing more when I finish, but based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s something you should read.



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  1. Yes David, it’s a lot more than just the facts.
    Buyers have to make a judgement or evaluate whether to buy or not. They weigh up your input versus that of your competitor versus just leaving things as they are.
    Now, as you say, many sales people think the input is “just the facts”.
    People dont buy until they FEEL comfortable otherwise the status quo wins as it is what they are already reasonably comfortable with.
    What makes people feel comfortable?
    I think two things: whether they trust you and whether your offer is presented in a way that they can grasp at a high level and truely understand the benefit to them. (guarantees help here too).
    Both of these are dependent upon your ability to communicate with them.
    They wont know your motives are not self centred until they know you.
    They wont feel comfortable with your offering until they really understand the benefits to them. And for them to understand that the offering has to expressed in their terms, with their language and in alignment with their thinking patterns.

  2. David, very often it’s more about “the beliefs” than the facts. Unfortunately, few sellers, and companies in their ideal customer profile, make this distinction. Beliefs also provide an excellent early conversation starter. For example, “how does your organization feel about the general state of digital transformation, and it’s impact on selling?”

    • Well stated Jim! (Actually, our customers are struggling with their own digital transformations, and need our help.)

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