Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Asking Questions in the right places

Right now my country (United States) is in the midst of a transition of responsibility from a Democrat President to a Republican. I specifically use the word responsibility because I do not want to use the word power. I do not believe our Government has power over us, they may feel they do, but as long as I have a passport and means, then I am a willing participant in this democracy and can choose to leave - so they do not have power over me. Anyway, back to my point today, the US is in the midst of a transition and the "news" outlets are reporting to us that the outgoing guy's approval rating is increasing and the incoming guy's approval rating is sinking. These polls have been appearing regularly in the news for the last couple of weeks and whenever they do I have wondered to myself how they can be correct given what we know about the outcome of the election (Electoral College results), the popular vote totals, and how polls are conducted.

It occurs to me that this current polling environment is very similar to gathering information from an organization - your answers are going to vary greatly depending upon who you ask and where they are located. I'll explain...

The incoming guy lost to popular vote in the last election for several million votes. News stories have identified an interesting fact, if you exclude California from the voting then the incoming guy WINS the popular vote. The premise here is that California with its huge population, and being a Democratic leaning state (which is why the new guy choose to not campaign there), its sheer size and number of voters had a significant statistical impact on the percentages that make up the Popular Vote count. We are NOT going to discuss the merits of the Electoral College as this point, this is not a civics blog. However I can draw a comparison between California's population, polling, and finding answers. If you exclude the most populous and "left-leaning-never-voting-Republican" state from your poll, you end up with a truer picture of the past election. California is an outlier, statistically manipulating the results, influencing data with marginal impact on the outcome and true situation. This is not a shot at California - beautiful state and everyone should go visit. If you live there, please enjoy the scenery every chance you get.

My theory is this - polls in our current state of political division need to be weighted in the samples based on the election results. Specifically, don't over-poll in California (for example) if you want to get a true gauge on how the entire country feels about the new guy. While I am not saying this is what's being done, I am saying this is a bad idea and maybe these polls are not adequately weighting the sample sizes to include the "deplorables" who chose to vote for the new guy, rather than the old guy's successor. Fact checking and data gathering inside an organization as you seek to identify the true priorities and understand the aims of a company's Business Objectives ALSO requires a diverse sample size. This is true UNLESS there is a single decision maker and he or she has directly told you "I will make this decisions and will buy what I want". But we know that smart business managers are evenly distributing blame and responsibility by putting together teams to evaluate vendors, so it is highly likely you will not find too many Pattons during your sales calls.

By focusing rigidly on the opinions and desires of those we agree with it can become apparent to you that your plan, solution, pricing, and smile are the thing for which your client has been vainly searching until your arrival and you are the solution to all their problems. But, if you keep your sample size restricted to those who already agree with you, the ones to whom you have easy access, or those who are not "challenging" then there is a great possibility that you are missing key contributors and likely do not have the true picture of the situation. As a professional it is important to understand that those who disagree with you or have a different approach or opinion are not wrong. They are making decisions based on the facts as THEY see and understand them to be. Is there information here for you? Very likely there is and it's possible that their insights can enable you to add value beyond where you currently see your solution.

"Sherlock Holmes is an addict who gets high by solving crimes" (I have lifted this quote from the recent BBC series, Season 4, Episode 3). Sales Professionals are addicts who get high by winning, and stay buzzed for quite a while by winning big and winning the unexpected. Poll where your opinions are not the same as the person you are polling and stay buzzed longer than you thought possible.

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