Lies, Misinformation and Sales Statistics


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sales stats
Perhaps you’ve seen this image on LinkedIn. Did you know it’s completely made up?

As someone who has started his career in sales, been a sales manager and leader, this graphic drives me crazy for a number of reasons.

These purported statistics are completely made up! There is no National Sales Executive Association, nor did they publish any study. Or perhaps they simply removed themselves from Google’s index. There was some chatter on various blogs that these statistics might be from the National Association of Sales Professionals, but I couldn’t find it there either.

Secondly, these are ridiculous claims. Let’s parse a few of them:

48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect

Is this saying, of all the sales people out there almost half of them never, ever followed-up with a prospect no matter what? Or does it mean that 48% of sales people haven’t followed-up with a prospect at one time? I can guarantee that the second interpretation is true, and it’s also a necessary fact. Despite the best efforts of the marketing team, some leads and prospects are not worth following up with. We call that qualification, and the best sales people are very discerning on how and when they spend their time.

2% of sales are made on the first contact

I can think of a big company, Staples, that has sales people who take calls from clients buying office supplies who make many, many sales on the first contact. Are we including them in this statistic? Or Groupon? In the time-share business, as I learned from the great movie Queen of Versailles, over 90% of their sales come on the first contact. I could go on with more examples, but you get the idea.

If the point of these ‘statistics’ to illustrate that sales people should build relationships with their prospects, then I’m all for that, but let’s not pass them off as truth.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


  1. Adam: I’m glad you called this out. Many professionals throw such statistical information around, but I find that the reasons are largely self-serving, so whether you’re working in personal performance, or sales performance, it pays to be skeptical.

    Back in 2010, we experienced a heavy run of this catchy nugget out in the blogosphere: “Ninety percent of all sales people never bother to ask for the business.”

    At that time, I began to wonder 1) where did this stat originate?, 2) how could you ever test this, anyhow?, and 3) even if you could test it, the assertion is so broad, it’s meaningless – sort of like saying that the average salinity of all water on earth is X. So what.

    After a little investigation, I learned that there was no research behind this 90% stat, but in fact, Lee Iacocca coined the quote. In other words, he SWAGed it, and
    It wasn’t long before others pounced on it as ‘fact’.

    Because our culture favors ‘hard numbers,’ and ‘concrete information,’ it got spread all over the place. I expect that along the way, millions of sales self-help books and training programs have been sold just from using this catchy sentence. Thank you, Lee!

    I wrote an article on this topic that might be of interest to your readers, 78% of All Sales Statistics Are Made Up.

  2. Thanks, Andrew. Enjoyed your post. It’s amazing how easy it is to get people to believe anything if it sounds plausible!

  3. Good insights Adam and I’m sure this will help many sales people in nurturing their leads and building up sales pipeline. I would like to know your view on how social media can help in nurturing and establishing the personal connect with the prospect and building up relationships?

  4. Thanks for sharing this insightful article, Adam. Totally in agreement with you about building relationships with the customers for a long term business and account mining. Could you please also share some insights about how sales are improved with follow-ups with the prospects? Thanks


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