I’ll Be There, Count On It!

A friend of ours held a Thanksgiving dinner in town. Hordes of people from nearby towns praised the idea, said how much it was needed, and promised to be there. A handful of people showed up, and none of the people who vowed to be there were part of the group.

Another resident here held a free dinner. Again, people promised to be there, and about 20 actually showed. This from three local towns.

I’m not exactly criticizing those who said they’d be there and weren’t. We had a wedding on the day of the free dinner, and it took precedence. That is just life. So I’m really just trying to make a comment on the law of averages.

Out here in Wyoming, where you count things by the each, such numbers are easy to analyze. When sixty people promise to show, and three show up, you NOTICE. You might not notice it so much in a larger area where you don’t personally contact everybody, and where the absence of a few might not matter so much. I think that the tendency to promise to be there, and then to not show is pretty universal though, and affects a range of aspects of operating a business, especially where actually PAYING for something is concerned.

Three weeks ago we got three calls about our software. All three promised they’d be buying within the next 24 hours. One purchased three days later. One purchased just yesterday. Another has yet to do so. Statistically, this is actually way better than average.

Early on in business, when we are just starting out, we get into conversations with people, and when someone promises to call, we get all excited, figuring we all but have our first customer. Then weeks pass and they never call. We quickly learn that more people SAY they will, than actually do.

The tendency in people is to express interest, even if they are not interested, to avoid hurting feelings. They will also promise to call, then promptly forget, say they’ll be somewhere, then look at their calendar and realize they have a conflict, or just plain not feel like going when it comes down to the date.

It is important that business owners understand that tendency, and not count the interest or bank on sales until they are actually made. It is also important that you adjust what people SAY when you are making projections, or analyzing poll or survey data – another place where people tend to exaggerate interest or commitment.

I don’t think there are any simple rules for doing so either, because it can depend on many factors. But in general, you need to water things down by at least 90%, because we find when we get 10% of the number who claim an interest to actually show up, or 10% of the people who say they will purchase to actually make the purchase, that we are doing fairly well. It can be much lower than that though, with some promotions.

When they say they’ll be there, don’t count on it. Take it with a grain of salt. Believe in people, but understand that what they say, and what they do, won’t always be the same, and it won’t always be because they are unreliable or untrustworthy. It is just how life is.

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