The Dangers of Anecdotal Evidence in Sales

You just know that sales reps shouldn’t prospect for new leads on Friday afternoons. There’s no question in your mind.

“No one is answering phones at that time of day,” you say confidently. “It’s an absolute waste of time.”

However, what is that assertion based on?

Even if you’re judging from years of experience in sales — making thousands of prospecting phone calls and managing even more reps doing the same — it’s not enough.

If you haven’t actually collected the data on those calls and methodically analyzed the results, you’re running your sales team according to anecdotal evidence. Simply feeling as though no one picks up the phone on Fridays is a guess with no factual evidence backing it up.

Unfortunately, many sales leaders have a tendency to rely on anecdotal evidence instead of hard data. Here’s why you should stop following your gut instincts when making sales management decisions, and start running more data analysis.


Anecdotes are Unreliable

Anecdotal evidence is a dangerous thing in sales because it feels true, even though it may not be. Stephen Colbert famously defined “truthiness” as an idea of truth that “comes from the gut” and not from facts. That’s exactly what anecdotal evidence is: truthiness. It’s something that looks and feels right, even if you have zero facts to back it up. When you’re told over and over that something is always true in sales, you should be skeptical. You can’t blindly accept it as fact without any evidence.

If you run your sales team based on commonly accepted wisdom, you’ll never really know for sure what’s working and what’s not. Even worse, you’ll never really know why. A sales team that is run off of anecdotal evidence is working in the dark — making changes to sales processes or selling tactics based on guesses, and then never truly measuring the results. By relying on anecdotal evidence, you are missing out on huge opportunities to improve your sales team and close more deals.

Switch to Hard Data

Instead of believing the same sales lore you’ve heard for years, you must start using data to test everything on your unique, individual sales team. Don’t assume that you already know the right ways to run your sales team, because that’s the way you’ve always done it. Every sales team is different! You should start thinking of everything as a testable hypothesis. Think that you should start sending out more prospecting emails through LinkedIn? Test it. Think that your reps are terrible at converting opportunities with sales demos? Test it.

For example, instead of assuming that your team of reps have a lower connect rate on Friday afternoons, try actually testing it out. Start by pushing your reps to meticulously enter the data into the CRM for every call. Collect the data for a few months, and then analyze it to find out what is truly the best time to dial for your specific sales team in your specific industry. However, you have to be careful. As all good data analysts know, correlation is not causation. Be cautious about drawing conclusions without enough evidence to back it up.

[button size=”large” align=”center” full=”false” link=”” linkTarget=”_blank” color=”blue”]Learn More About Measuring Sales Metrics »[/button]

Change Your Thinking

Now that you’ve done a data-driven analysis on how you run your sales team, use that conclusion to inform your decision making going forward. You might discover that in fact, some people do answer their phones on Friday afternoons, or you may confirm that prospects in your target market are truly unavailable at that time. Whether your hypothesis is confirmed or denied, you now have a reliable, data-backed conclusion instead of a guess.

Testing business decisions isn’t only useful for your prospecting team; it can be applied to every aspect of the sales team. Should you try to reach customers in a new market? Should you try out a new talk track? Should your reps try to increase their ASP? All of this can be tested before it becomes a team-wide change.

Once you move away from anecdotal evidence and start thinking of yourself as a data scientist, you will see huge improvements in your sales team. With the right data, you will be able to reliably grow your revenue.

[image source_type=”attachment_id” source_value=”22194″ width=”632″ height=”250″ quality=”100″ link=””]
[contentblock id=18 img=html.png]