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Winning in Sales is More About Your Heart Than Your KPIs

3 min readMay 7, 2020

I’m admit to being kind of a data geek. I love KPIs, metrics and stats that reveal something new about process and the behaviors of both sellers and buyers.

While I appreciate the value of data, I’ve learned the importance of keeping data in perspective. I’m aware of the limitations of data. And I’m aware of the limits of my ability to fully understand the true meaning of much of the data that is generated by our sales systems.

As John H Johnson pointed out in his excellent book, “Everydata, The Misinformation Hidden in the Little Data You Consume Everyday” we indiscriminately accept much of the data pushed at us at work and in life. We don’t factor in the context of the data we consume. We have an imperfect understanding of the variables that were at play, or that were manipulated, to produce the data we’re consuming. (Click here to listen to my illuminating conversation with John on episode # 459 of The Sales Enablement Podcast!)

As a result, all too often we jump to conclusions about what data is telling us. Instead of learning from it, we typically rush to use data to confirm something that we already believe to be true. That’s our confirmation bias at work. We see cause and effect in data when what we’re seeing, at best, are simple spurious correlations.

It’s this uncertainty about our ability to effectively put data to use that makes it curious that so many in the sales profession are urgently banging the drum that selling increasingly is all about the numbers. The danger with this approach is that it overlooks, and undervalues, the uniquely human experience of selling. There undeniably is one. And you ignore it at your own peril.

Pablo Mastroeni was a great player for USMNT and, from 2014-2017, he was the coach of the Colorado Rapids team in Major League Soccer. Soccer, like most other major sports, has experienced an influx of big data that has influenced how the game is played, how its teams are built and how they are managed. But, it hasn’t changed the fact that the game is still played by humans. Just like sales is a profession is played by humans.

Once, after a tough defeat, Mastroeni spoke from his heart at a press conference about the danger of relying solely on data, in a profession that depends on humans to produce the ultimate outcomes, to chart a path to success. He pointed out that there are limits to how far the data can take you. At some point the human, the player, has to take the initiative and do something that is intensely, and intrinsically, human, in order to make a difference in the outcome.

So it is in sales. The data may help set the table but at some point in the sales & buying process, a seller has to take the initiative and do something that is intensely, and intrinsically, human in order to affect the ultimate outcome.

Here’s what Mastroeni said “Pundits and the people who like to comment on the game will look at possession and shots and all kinds of metrics that have very little to do with heart. And courage. And the commitment to each other…It gets back to saying it’s okay to be who we are….People have lost the plot with all these passing and shooting percentages, ‘if you shoot from here, and do it 12 times, you will score’…Well, I’ll tell you what: the stats will lose to the human spirit everyday of the week.”

The same is true in sales. The stats can tell you a lot. But, if sales reps act merely as cogs in the gears of your sales machine, then you will lose everyday of the week to the sellers that have energized the buyer with their passion, curiosity and heart.

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