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The Problem With The Data….

by David Brock on October 13th, 2021

Data has always been a little problematic. Too often, we find the data that supports what the views we may have already formed. We may have problems with certain people, we find the data that supports them being the wrong people, so we can move them out of the organization. Alternatively, we have a person we really like, or a program, or a change initiatives. We find the data to support what we want to do.

Sometimes we use the data to help us identify problem areas, developing plans to improve. For example, no self respecting sales person/manager would find a 20% win rate acceptable. We would challenge ourselves and our people about what we could do better or differently to increase the win rate. Or we wouldn’t accept average deal values that are significantly lower than our peers, or sales cycles that are significantly longer. Or, if we aren’t meeting our goals, targets, quotas. We would assess what we are doing, what we need to change, and how we improve. We would work to change the results and outcomes to match what we want.

We do these things because we recognize the data is not a fundamental law of nature or physics. It is an outcome of the things that we do, the strategies we execute, or our behaviors. We know it we change those things, they will change the outcome.

It’s ironic, that we behave that way with so much data, recognizing we can change the outcomes, hence change the data.

But so often, we treat the data as fixed, a law of nature, that cannot be changed. Prospecting results are fixed, so the only we we get more prospects is to up the volume and frequency with which we prospect. We seldom think about, “What could we change to produces better results with the same number or fewer outreaches?” For some reason, prospecting results are not an outcome of how we prospect, but a fixed mathematical equation.

And, while I will contradict my opening premises, too much of the time, in seeking “predictable revenue,” we treat every aspect of selling as laws etched in granite. (Hmm, I’m imagining sales thought leaders coming down from a mountain with tablets with the 10 commandments of predictability.)

So this is a roundabout way to get to my next #B2BPetPeeves, sales/manager turnover and attrition. The data on tenure in a job/company is, increasingly, appalling. A couple of years ago, tenure was about 18 months. I suspect the tenure has gotten worse, particularly with the added impact of the pandemic, the “disconnectedness,” and the burnout that so many are experiencing.

Add on top of this, the challenge of the next generation of sellers, “Gen Z’s.” The “research” showed the majority of Gen Z’s never expect to work in the same company for more than 2 years. This has become one of the new laws of nature. Gen Z’s are just that way! The same research shows Gen Z’s looking for meaning, purpose, alignment with their own values, and inclusion.

Hmmm, that’s a little perplexing. These research findings seem in conflict. What if we started to challenge the short tenures of Gen Zs (and all other Gens) in the same way we find low win rates unacceptable? What if we started understanding why tenure is falling? What if we tried addressing those conditions and instead of treating low tenure as a law of nature, start looking at how we can increase tenure?

Imagine the unthinkable. What if we started to create places where people want to work? Where they felt what they did was valued? Where they were listened to? Where they have a chance to learn and grow? Where they found meaning and inclusion in what they do and the companies they worked for?

This is just wishful thinking, there are too many organizations that do this. One I’m working with has average sales tenure of 7 years and is growing. Management tenure is 15 years and growing. And the organization is heavily biased to Gen Z’s. Another organization has average tenures of 10 years. Another has…..

What sets these organizations apart it they have purpose/mission driven cultures; values and leadership styles aligned with those purposes. They recognize the real value in the organization has nothing to do with what they sell, or the tools, programs, processes, and so forth. They realize the key differentiator is their people and their alignment with the purpose and mission of the organization.

People are looking for identity, meaning, connectedness, purpose. They want to value and be valued. They want to learn and grow. They want to be heard and to hear. The want to be in workplaces that create great and meaningful work (and where they can have appropriate work/life balance).

We seem to have lost this. Every survey shows employee engagement plummeting. In our quest for efficiency, we treat people as replaceable widgets. If someone isn’t performing, we fire them, replacing them with someone else, and someone else. Likewise customers are widgets in our sales assembly line.

Business has always been about people, caring, meaning, and creating value. It’s so simple and drives such high levels of performance. And when we look at consistently high performing organizations—the data supports this.

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