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I had several conversations this past week with colleagues and potential clients. What surprised me was how often these conversations turned to the idea of “everybody” as in, “everybody is seeing sales slowdowns” or “everybody does things this way”.

Now, of course, I do understand the value of looking to our peer groups and target clients to be sure that our results are not atypical. But where does the line shift from using these people as a touchstone to turning them into a rationalization?

What I mean is this: when we aren’t experiencing the kind of results we want in our business, we, naturally, want to make sure it’s not just us. So we turn to our colleagues, and try to assess whether our results are typical or not. This is how we might use these conversations at touchstones- a way to understand if our results are typical, expected. These conversations give us a baseline for making sure we’re not so far off the mark in what we’re experiencing- and, for these purposes, these conversations are valuable.

However, there is danger is basing our future business decisions and approaches on what everybody says, because, too easily, we can adopt their experiences as our own- without testing if their results would actually be ours. We can also use their results as an excuse for why we aren’t having the results we want.

An example of this came up last week, when I was speaking with a consultant about her planned conversion path through her service funnel. She was setting up a sales process involving multiple conversions, all within a very short period of time. (What this means, in plain English, was that she was setting up her system to ask for multiple purchases almost one right after the other.)

This type of sales process can result in lower than expected sales, because clients become buying fatigued- they don’t want to keep spending again and again, one purchase right after the other.

When I inquired about why she was planning her system in this way, she told me that this was how “everybody was doing it, because we all know that nobody is selling anything these days”- and this reply completely stopped me short.

First, because that is not my experience, and, second, because she was basing her whole model on what other people were saying might work, without testing if it was true in her market. Rather than launching this model on a grand scale from the start, she would have been better served to implement it on a small scale, first.

I understand that we all want shortcuts, and we want to find the fastest path to profit. But the problem is that we can not adopt models wholesale, just because ‘everybody’ says they will work.

If you have nothing better, and don’t know what else to do, sure, start with someone else’s model. But, as soon as possible, start tracking your own results, and your own sales process, and use that data to base your business decisions going forward.

In the case of the consultant, she had data about her own business that she was not utilizing because she believed what everybody was telling her. Rather than using her points of previous success to guide her future decisions, she was not even looking within her business for answers, seeking them, instead, from her colleagues.

When we start using other people’s results, or lack of them, as reasons why we, too, aren’t seeing results- that’s when touchstone conversations turn into rationalizations.

So, in closing, be wary of what “everybody” says- unless, of course, “everybody” is getting the exact same results you want for yourself.