Can Sales Statistics be Bad and Good at the Same Time?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Feb 20, 2018 @ 22:02 PM

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I received two pieces of bad news relative to statistics.  

The first is about my award-winning Blog.  It seems that readers stay with an article for an average of only one-minute or so.  That means that most readers don't finish the article, fail to get to my summary, and often don't read long enough to get my point.  Basically, everything that comes after the fourth paragraph is not being read.  This could also be good news.  It could mean that I can actually write shorter articles and that would be great for me!

The other piece of bad news relates to my award-winning sales training company, Kurlan & Associates.  I reviewed 5 years worth of statistics on opportunities that weren't closed and it seems that prospects were 6 times more likely to do nothing than to do business with a competitor.  We don't lose very often and I can count on two hands the number of opportunities I have personally lost in the past 5 years.  But it's one thing to rarely lose, and another to learn that 6 times more often than not, a company failed to act.   But these statistics are very misleading. Let me explain why.

Our business is not one where companies always purchase from somebody and it's only a question of from whom (think network copier).  It isn't a given that companies will follow through on training, coaching, sales process, recruiting, evaluating, assessing, sales enablement, consulting, etc.  A few don't have the appetite to spend the money (too late for them).  Some don't believe they really need the help (ego).  Most aren't willing to do the work (change) to achieve results.  

Still reading?  Oh, you're the one who stays past one minute and the fourth paragraph!

These two crappy statistics are connected in that both are related to attention and engagement. 

The one-minute stat is an average.  Some people stay on an article for 5 minutes to thoroughly digest an article while others exit after reading the title or seeing that I am the author.  They must hate me.  It means that there is enough readership so that the average time on page doesn't even matter.  It's a meaningless statistic that might cause some people to find a solution and improve the number.  Not me.  The average is the average and I don't care about averages.  I write for the people who read my articles, not for those who don't.

The same is true for those who in the end, don't buy from anyone.  It means that we are filling the pipeline and the natural attrition in our pipeline is as it should be.  It says that we are qualifying effectively but even that requires some digging to be certain.  Do these opportunities pass through all four stages of the sales process, including a proposal, before the prospects decide to live with the status quo?  Or, are we recognizing their lack of commitment earlier in the sales process and disqualifying the opportunity at that point?  Fortunately, it's the latter.  We usually move on from them before they have a chance to move on from us.  The more meaningful statistic is that we rarely lose!

Are you paying attention to stats like these?  Are they telling you a story about sales effectiveness or lack thereof?  Are the stats suggesting that you need to do things differently?  Do the stats suggest that you stay with an opportunity too long? 

We use a scorecard just like the ones we customize for our clients.  The scorecard keeps us on the straight and narrow and prevents us from chasing opportunities that score below 65 points.  It helps us disqualify very early in the sales process.  Do you have a scorecard that is predictive like ours?

The reality is that there are no bad statistics.  There are statistics that tell a story and those that don't.  There are statistics you can learn from and those you can't.  There are statistics that are forward looking and those that are lagging and that means that there are statistics that are predictive of something and those that aren't.  

When was the last time you looked at some of your statistics to determine what story is being told and the changes you need to make?

Image Copyright iStock Photos

Topics: scorecard, Dave Kurlan, sales metrics, sales process, sales pipeline

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016 and this one for 2017. Read more about Dave.

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