Perception Is Reality: Measuring Qualitative Data

Posted by Michael Lindberg on Feb 15, 2018 10:50:52 AM

measuring qualitative data

Measuring Qualitative Data

Whether you are a man or a woman I’m pretty sure you've come across the French cosmetics company L'Oréal’s slogan: “Because you’re worth it”. But how exactly do you measure “worth”?


Did you notice I used the word “measure”? You see, the thing is that any measurement is quantitative because when you measure something, you’re gauging the amount to which it’s happening. Simple - but not quite enough. I realize that it’s great to make a count and then base whatever decision you need to make on that measurement, whether it’s higher, louder, bigger, heavier or whatever you measure. But it really is too simple. Numbers are only numbers, they lack perspective. They lack, among other things, the ability to answer the important question “Why?”


Here’s an easy example: You have two sales people, A and B. Sales person A has more sales meetings than B, but in spite of that B sells more than A. Why? Looking at the raw numbers you would typically assume that A would sell more because he has more sales meetings. You could add additional quantitative measures to get closer to understanding why this is not the case, but you would most likely end up in a situation where the numbers don’t make sense. The reason is simple: Some things, like e.g. feelings, are very difficult if not impossible to measure. Maybe A is not as well liked as B or maybe the customers don’t feel that A is good at explaining the benefits of the product he tries to sell or …

Asking The Right Questions

You really need to dive under the surface and answer the difficult question “Why?” – and that is best done by means of qualitative research that does not measure numbers, but is more concerned with feelings.


To be successful a B2B sales person needs to be perceived as a trustworthy advisor. Maybe that’s why our imaginary sales person A does not perform well. How do you find out? Well, you could ask those prospects and customers he works with this question: “On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 equals “Absolutely not” and 10 equals “Definitely” do you consider sales person A to be a trustworthy advisor?” For sure you would get some interesting results, but not enough insights because what is the definition of a “trustworthy advisor”? If two people interpret this in different ways then you can’t trust the results you get from a quantitative question like this.

Perception Is Reality

Instead you need to talk to people which will make it possible for you to understand their reason for answering the way they do and in that way better be able to interpret the answers and the overall results. And yes, you are right: “Interpretation” is not exact, but it does bring a lot of insights, if it’s done in a professional way. So keep in mind that measurements should be comprehensive and encompass many aspects, not only basic statistics. Because no matter what the numbers show “Perception is reality!”


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Topics: Marketing