Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, doesn’t suffer fools. He questions assertions that others accept as fact. He challenges claims of “scientifically proven” when he doesn’t see any science. He examines experimental hypotheses, and weighs research methods and data. “The principle is to start off skeptical and be open-minded enough to change your mind if the evidence is overwhelming, but the burden of proof is on the person making the claim,” he says, adding, “I would change my mind about Bigfoot if you showed me an actual body, not a guy in an ape suit in a blurry photograph.” [emphasis, mine]
Just like those grainy images of Bigfoot, marketers often use shaky evidence to support contrivances of irrefutable proof. They crow that numbers don’t lie, and latch onto statistical tidbits to drive home their points. “Studies show . . .” The cliché preamble to a sales pitch.
“Hands down, the two most dangerous words in the English language today are ‘studies show,’” Andy Kessler wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial, Studies are Usually Bunk, Study Shows (August 13, 2017), “If a conclusion sounds wrong to you, you’re probably not a hung-over grad student.” Snarky, but I get his point. Heavy partiers make poor skeptics. What about the rest of us?
Marketers routinely spin study percentages into clickbait. A Frinstance: 39 Shocking Sales Stats that Will Change the Way You Sell, from which I drew this sampling:
- Email marketing has 2x higher ROI than cold calling.
- 92% of all customer interactions happen on the phone.
- 92% of salespeople give up after four “no’s”, but 80% of prospects say “no” four times before they say “yes”.
- 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up call.
- 68% of companies struggle with lead generation.
- 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting.
The article gives separate sources for each of these nuggets, but from there, tracing their provenance becomes convoluted.