by Todd Youngblood
Innumerate: Unable to understand and use numbers in a calculation.
No, this isn’t your “new-word-of-the-day” newsletter. It’s a wake-up call. Innumeracy is rapidly and relentlessly reducing the relevance of one set of professionals after another. Are sales professionals next?
The role of the professional baseball scout got blown up in the late 90s. Up till then, the job required in-depth knowledge of the game, along with years and years of experience watching, evaluating and judging the potential of young athletes.
Today, every team in Major League Baseball puts vastly more emphasis on player performance statistics. The numbers analyst has shoved the scout aside as the critical player personnel decision maker. Scout pay has plummeted. (…but this story has no relevance to sales professionals.)
Wine collectors have forever relied on the reviews of professional wine-tasters, before plunking down thousands of dollars for what they hope will be the “next great vintage.” There’s a robust, extremely sophisticated, amazingly lucrative industry that provides advice about the best wine investments. The demand for the knowledge and skills of the top professional wine-tasters has been driving the price of their services briskly upward …until recently.
An economics professor at Princeton has proven that a simple calculation using three sets of weather statistics beats the daylights out of the pros in predicting future wine prices. The pros are stunned by this career-threatening development, and spend a lot of time bashing and bad-mouthing Orly Ashenfelter’s numbers analysis. (…but this story has no relevance to sales professionals.)
When I bought my first house in 1979, I spent over three hours at a bank in the fancy, corner office of a mortgage loan officer filling out forms and disclosing what seemed like every aspect of my life to get a $30,000 loan. Back then, the judgment of the professional loan officer, with highly honed skills developed and perfected through years of experience was critical to the bank. My loan got approved in “only” seven business days.
When I bought my current house, for a lot more $$$, the realtor asked me four questions over the phone and secured the loan in less than 24 hours. Because of the numbers analysts at the banks, all the loan officers lost their corner offices and high paychecks. In fact, what at one time was a highly respected, professional job – mortgage loan officer – is virtually non-existent today. (…but this story has no relevance to sales professionals.)
How about physicians? Surely such a highly respected, immensely professional group of folks is immune to the number-analyzing geeks. A friend recently asked me what I thought about the treatment regimen prescribed by his doctor for a pretty serious condition. He pointed me to a web site he’d read, and within an hour I had found six others and concluded that two additional treatment options were available. Both of them had what appeared (to me anyway) to be statistically better efficacy rates and lower odds of significant side-effects.
My buddy’s doctor switched the prescription. Switched the prescription!!! Are you kidding me??? Some business consultant from The YPS Group dispensing medical advice??? … that the licensed professional agrees is a better course of action than his original judgment? How can this be? Is it possible that anyone with some basic numeracy and ability to use Google will in the not so distant future be able to self-diagnose? Is it possible that professional physicians are headed down the same path taken by professional baseball scouts, professional wine reviewers and professional mortgage loan officers?
But I guess you’ll still insist that these stories have no relevance to sales professionals. Or maybe you’ll start to learn a bit more about means, medians, bell curves, standard deviations, regressions and correlations. Maybe.
Think about it…