I was always a big fan of The Kids In The Hall, not only because they were Canadian, but also the way they captured the bizarre reality of daily life. One of my favourite recurring segment called It’s A Fact . First and foremost because it was funny, but also because of the absurdity of some of the claims, as though they were fact, highlighting some of the silly things people are willing to believe if they hear it enough times, and especially if it had the backing of an “expert”. And in sales there is no shortage of experts, pundits, or those that try to pass for either.
I was reminded of the segment when a friend sent me a link to a piece by an expert pontificating on the state of sales now, and where it will be in three years’ time. On the one hand I admired the so called expert, having the kahunas to make a prediction so easily validated or disproven in only three years; I have put the date in my calendar, and I look forward to seeing how close they were. Of course we don’t have to wait, we can just go back and see what they predicted three years ago and see how much of that we are seeing now. I have always questioned whether it was the role of sales experts to predict the future, or to help their clients sell better. Certainly we need to look 18 – 24 months out from a strategy standpoint, but not so much to play the Nostradamus of sales. At least he had sense enough to make predictions that he did not have to be around to answer for, and with enough vagueness that allowed the reader to infuse their own bias and allow everyone a level of deniability when it came to accuracy.
The other thing that reminded me of the Kids In The Hall, is that the piece actually started with the very words “It’s a fact”, well what choice did I have but to bring out my solar powered BS meter and have a go. I mean you gotta love pieces that have the headline or begin with things like:
- The Secrets to… (Is this being revealed due to some freedom of information act request, a court order?)
- The Five Secrets of Closing Every time
- Uncracking the Blah Blah Code (do they have to pay Dan Brown royalties when they use that?)
- Or my favourite, as my coauthor insisted on soiling the cover of our book with this one “The Silver Bullet in Sales” What are we hunting here revenue or werewolves?
What they were predicting, long way from a fact, was an idea that has been recycled a number of times, usually as a means of selling product, “this is coming, and I have the cure”. And with the benefit of hindsight, we have seen that the prediction has never really come true, and therefore, does not at all qualify as a fact, but more as promotional opinion.
The “facts?” we were presented with were validated and deemed to be a fact because leading sales experts agree. OK. Well I am not big on the whole religion thing, but this sounds a lot like the following. “There is no god, and the proof is that ten out of ten atheists agree”; or “god exists, ten out of ten Rabbis agree”.
At best unsubstantiated predictions may spur some thinking around how you sell, review your approach, and make adjustments. But if you want to be able to cope with life as a seller in three, five, seven years from now, focus on execution, not whether you should dress to the left, or dress to the right, or whether Jupiter is aligned with Mars. Sales is about execution, everything else is just talk. It’s a fact!