Numbers Don’t Lie but They Rarely Tell the Full Story


by Don Smith

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This morning I found out that I weigh the same as my personal trainer. We're roughly the same height as well, and numbers don't lie, so we're the same, right?

Well, almost. I've just got a little more…abdominal muscle.

Fat dog
Pup Showing off His Abdominal Muscle

The fact of the matter is that I'll probably never be as strong as my trainer. We may have some of the same numbers, but he is in the gym all day moving around weights and showing people how to do exercises. I sit behind a desk and visit the gym three or four times a week. There's more to the story than a single number or even a few numbers.

This Applies to More Than Weight

It's the same with most things in life. Our sales representatives have to report how many calls they make, and I used to try and manage primarily on those numbers. In general, that isn't a bad thing as sales is mostly a numbers game and you can control how many dials you make. The more times you talk to prospects, the more sales you make, so it makes sense to track calls as one key performance indicator (KPI).

It didn't take me long to notice that some reps could make 100 calls a day yet make very few sales, while others did a third of that volume but consistently hit their quotas. The numbers don't lie, but they don't tell the full story, and there's more to sales than just picking up the phone and dialing.

Don't Ignore The Numbers, But Listen to Your Gut

I'm a numbers guy; I like facts and figures and pride myself on making data-driven decisions. I've been a bank director in the past, and know that it is foolish to ignore the numbers entirely, but always remember that the numbers will NEVER tell the full story.

If the numbers say one thing, but your gut tells you another, stop and listen to your gut. Ask yourself what other factors are in play. You will likely find that you are looking at one number, but ignoring other potentially more important ones. I might weigh the same as my personal trainer, but that doesn't mean that I can lift what he can.

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

  1. The numbers can be a guideline, but your gut always knows the way. I recall following a highly successful blogger as a newbie. I could not fathom how he made millions online with a small list of a few thousand people. BUT, this was a few thousand plus engaged, loyal human beings. Imagine 1000 people buying even a 10 dollar eBook and the millions make perfect sense, over years.

    1. He was selling more than a $10 book to make millions off a few thousand people, but yeah, you don’t have to have millions of followers to make money. I’ll take a small number of engaged people every day over tens of thousands who click on an article and two seconds later close the window.

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