I’ve heard the phrase ‘if it can’t be measured it does not exist’ more than a few times. It usually comes out of the mouth of a number cruncher/analytical type with whom I am discussing our sales tests and who is trying to come up with some hard numbers to justify in his mind, why he should proceed. Today, while doing research for this article I searched this phrase on Google and learned about something known as the ‘McNamara Fallacy’ described below. If you are patient enough to have read this far you might be asking yourself what the hell all of this has to do with testing sales people. Please hang in just a little longer because it will all tie together momentarily. At least I hope so!
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The McNamara fallacy (also known as quantitative fallacy), named for Robert McNamara, the United States Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, involves making a decision based solely on quantitative observations (or metrics) and ignoring all others. The reason given is often that these other observations cannot be proven.
The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.
— Daniel Yankelovich “Corporate Priorities: A continuing study of the new demands on business.” (1972)
The connection between implementing sales testing and the McNamara Fallacy relates to the natural, and frankly quite logical, desire of decision makers to base their decision on measureable financial considerations or other hard data. Please understand, I would never suggest that you should purchase ours or any other sales test purely out of the goodness of your heart. Business decisions must make financial sense. When it comes to implementing a sales test there are numerous benefits of sales tests that are quite readily quantified. As well, there are tools such as our cost of failure calculator that provide a very accurate picture of the costs related to the downside of bad hires. But the truth is that a huge financial benefit of using a sales test cannot actually be measured, so according to the ‘if it can’t be measured it does not exist’ folks, any financial gains that accrue from this benefit are non-existent.
A Powerful Rejection Tool
The huge benefit to which I refer is that using the sales test means you have avoided hiring people that you otherwise might have hired if you had not used the sales test. We don’t talk about this much because we usually talk about the more ‘positive’ benefits, such as for example increased sales, lower job turnover and savings of time. In effect, we have tended to present the sales test as a selection tool when in reality it is an extremely powerful rejection tool.
If you could have avoided your last bad hire by using a sales test how much would that have saved you?