I was reading a very interesting and insightful article this week of Donal Daly, Executive Chairman at Altify, about “The Misleading Statistics Problem and Increasing Customer Complexity”. Donal speaks of the danger of using averages and one line numbers to build a story, that only supports one side of the reality but sells like hot cross buns on an Easter Sunday.
“As with any statistic, to determine its relevance to you, the important factors to consider are (a) the context and scope of the research to ascertain its applicability to your business and (b) assuming that the research is both applicable and valid, to understand the ‘why’ behind the number – what is causing a change if indeed there is one. Without a deep assessment of both of these factors, the statistic (as a compass for change) is worthless. It can be dangerous leading to you to take actions that are uninformed and may be at odd with your best interest.”
Donal calls it the Trust Quandary. You can’t trust any data- or statistics- based advice unless the underlying research methodology/algorithm is fully transparent and contextually descriptive. The blog grabbed me as we as people, as buyers are surrounded by data, statistics and analytics and in my role in sourcing and procurement, I would lean heavily on the validity of data and I would proclaim to base the knowledge that I transfer, the decisions that I recommend, and the business cases I present as much as (humanly) possible on the right data. I still live by it as I find comfort in the knowledge that my decision intelligence can be correlated or corroborated by hard facts. For it is real that “The impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal.” Another quote from Donal Daly.
His article is about the impact of misleading data based conclusions on customer complexity. Buyers (and we are all buyers) are customers, and data is irrelevant, useless and even dangerous if presented and sold as a stand-alone product. It can lead us on a path towards the wrong decision if it is not qualified, validated and verified and relevant to the problem that we are trying to solve. In another Salesforce article earlier in 2016, Donal Daly spoke of 5 sales credibility killers of which the last killer reference links it all very well together “Credibility and its co-traveler trust are the most valuable currencies you have. They are hard to earn and must be spent wisely.” Context, Content, People, Problems, Trust, it all matters so much.
Let me be clear: The same credibility killers apply to buyers. We seem to be convinced that the world has become more complex, however, this does not mean it becomes more complicated. The ubiquity of Data and statistics is often stunning us, paralysing, disabling rather than enabling us. Data itself has no defined owner, data is promiscuous and data has no moral compass. Data is being used and abused and hailed as a solution by all sides of the fence. Data, however visually appealing or smartly presented, should be a mere tool to support the real storyline, which is created by a problem with a certain maturity of content, within a possibly complex context that can only be solved by people (many, few) trusting each other to find a mutually beneficial solution.
Too often we forget to live by and do right by the basic adagio of “People buy from People, People sell to People”. It is the person at the other side or the same side of the table we need and want to trust. It is their understanding of our problem, their solution power, insight and knowledge, their delivery and commitment we sign up to. Data, for all the right and wrong reasons, is being rendered a less trustworthy partner. I am aware this is a very simplistic view of the buyer/seller engagement in the ever-changing complex world today, however, I believe it is a good anchor to have.
I would like to challenge everyone to think away data and statistical analytics for 5 min. Go back to basics and rely on the supplier, buyer who you need to work with in relation to the conundrum of a customer’s problem. Do you believe that the solution you would present would be different, should be different? If the solution is based on the basic adagio, you want to do the right thing by the other party and respect matters, then I would argue it wouldn’t and it shouldn’t.”
Context, content, problems, people, trust, respect matters! Data should never have the leading role in your award-winning production, data will not win the Oscar, people will!