The Data Never Speaks for Itself

Published 10/25/2021
All the data, facts, and figures in the world won't make the sale.
Everyone is always looking for ways to close the deal. To make the client sign on the bottom line.
Too often, we fall prey to the notion that the specifications, the facts and figures, the data we've compiled will seal the deal. So we do a data dump on the customer, thinking it will tell the story of our product or service. We think to ourselves "the data speaks for itself".
Although this sounds like a quite logical assessment, as explained by Karen Eber in her TedTalk “How your brain responds to stories”, data never speaks for itself. Data doesn’t change our behavior – only emotions will do that. And data will never be able to generate sufficient emotional responses that will result in a change of opinion or a call to action.
There are several explanations for this. One important reason is that each one of us will understand or interpret data differently. Which seems odd, since facts are facts, right? However, the truth is that we will infer different meanings of facts based on our differing experiences, education, and biases. So, even if data was speaking for itself, we would all be hearing it in our own language.
By itself, it seems, data has no real voice and will never, by itself, be the deciding factor in our decision-making process.
In fact, neuroscientists who have studied decision-making have found that it starts in the part of our brain called the amygdala, or our “emotional epicenter”. It is here, at a subconscious level, where we begin to make choices.
At the basic level, all choices are between pursuing pleasure or avoiding pain. And no, this doesn’t make us all self-absorbed narcissists. At least not on a conscious level. We are all subject to the most elementary reptilian portion of our brain – and this starts before we’re even aware of it. The next step our brain takes is to bring information into our conscious mind, where we begin to apply rationalization and logic to the decision-making process. At this point, we’re fooling ourselves into thinking that we’re making rationally based decisions, not realizing that we have actually pre-decided our choice in our subconscious.
Since data isn’t going to make any difference at the beginning of the decision-making process, we need to look at what will impact it. And of course, this leads us to storytelling. By engaging our listener in a story, we are pre-disposing them to empathy toward us. Empathy results in the release of oxytocin in our brain, which in turn, makes us seem more trustworthy. The very act of storytelling makes us more convincing and believable.
The true magical elixir is created when you add stories and data together. Each, by themselves, are often not enough to seal the deal as they say. However, when combined, they create, what Ms. Eber calls, a “power ballad” where you are connected to data emotionally, which makes you more inclined to trust the data.
As explained by Chip and Dan Heath in Make to stick”, when emotion is applied to an idea or a set of facts, it creates “Velcro Memory”, in which the story and facts makes everything that much “stickier”. And sticky memory is good. It’s what you are looking to create in your potential clients.
When telling a story and interweaving facts and data, it serves to tie the two together in a memorable way. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Let our professional at ASN tell your story for you. As partners in your success, we are in a unique position to tell your story from a third-party perspective, adding credibility and gravitas to your narrative. Give us a call and tell your story - we'd love to hear it.