“Learn 5 statistics” – that was one of the first, and as it turns out, the best pieces of advice I was given when I took on my first business leadership role. I communicated every day with customers and prospective customers, in meetings, in presentations and through written formats such as executive summaries to proposals.
Having statistics and facts at my fingertips was a highly effective way of building credibility. Well researched and well used facts and evidence are always heard. They give us and our message authority and integrity and speak to the part of the decision maker’s brain that justifies a decision.
Decisions are made on emotion, justified on facts
In the article ‘Connect with Emotion’ article, we looked at the importance of connecting with the emotional, decision-making part of your target customer’s brain. The research referred to in that article also showed that whilst decisions are made on emotion, they are justified on facts. So, it is essential to have those facts to help them justify a decision to buy from you.
We need to learn, therefore, to use statistics, use numbers and use results. We need to research them and use them consistently through all forms of communication. They are extremely powerful in terms of building credibility and authority and in getting our message heard.
The power of statistics
When I learned my ‘5 statistics’, I saw first-hand the way that customers engaged and listened when they heard these figures.
I found that the most effective approach was a combination of industry statistics and information about our own products. The industry statistics are an important and powerful way of establishing your credibility on a wider level, showing your understanding of the market environment and establishing the context for your offering.
For example, ‘Research shows that shoppers who are advocates of a brand spend, on average, 14% more with every visit to your store’
Then: ‘Shoppers tell us there are 3 ways that they become advocates – and list them’
Then ‘And our product helps deliver these three things by …’
This approach builds a story using the facts, and is much more effective than starting with the features of the product.
Practical ways to use facts to be heard
Facts and figures can, and should, be used consistently throughout every form of communication – your website, your brochures, your presentations, your meetings. Statistics particularly lend themselves to graphic representation and this can be a very powerful way to use them on your website, in brochures and in presentations.
One really important area where statistics can really pack a powerful punch is when you are selling yourself as the product – in your LinkedIn profile, your CV and in your answers to interview questions. So rather than simply using the tired description of yourself as ‘results-driven’, find some results to illustrate this. Increases in sales, cost savings, improvements in customer satisfaction ratings are all good examples.
The same applies to interviews – as an interviewer, I found it frustrating to hear people talk of their ‘successes’ without any evidence to back up their statements.
The ‘STAR’ technique is a way of responding to ‘behavioural’ interview questions such as “Tell me about a situation where you showed initiative (or leadership, innovation, resilience, technical expertise – whatever the attributes the role requires). The aim is to structure your answer as follows:
Situation – brief overview of the context – e.g. where you were working, your role etc
Task – the problem and your task in addressing it
Action – what you did
Results – the outcome of your action.
The results part of your answer is where the interviewer will be looking for statistics and facts as evidence of your success. Whether it is ‘sales increased by 5%’ or ‘I drove the project to complete 2 weeks ahead of schedule’ or ‘the company saved 40% of previous costs’, you need to provide firm evidence if you are to be credible and successful.
We find numbers and statistics reassuring and credible, so use this to your advantage and make sure you use facts to cut through the noise and be heard.