Just saying No is not at all the same as not saying Yes

The following article was written by Dennis Roman, Founder of Romans Numbers who is hosting our webinar on 10.10.23: How to utilize Wall Street Analyst Techniques to increase Sales Leads and Deal Flow.

If you got this far then I have succeeded in providing a title for this POV which is at once a conundrum, provocative and maybe even a bit exotic (aka rare).

On the surface, and without any context at all – except for the reference to the author’s firm – it tells us nothing. Even though I know where this POV is going, I even can see how the title could mean different things to different people. But for the sake of brevity, I won’t even attempt to go down any other path then the one I had in mind originally.

As my entire GTM is about finding and qualifying B2B opportunities for tech companies one might take that cue to mean this POV is about how buyers behave when moving along the sales pipeline. But that would be a whiff at bat. Rather I am aiming this concept to be one that can get plastered up on sales’ teams cubicles and daily positive thinking reminders coming in.

So, let us imagine it is 4 pm and we are in a conference room of say Company X – oops that name is already taken. So, lets skip X and go to Company Y. The table has been set with impactful vendor collateral about the firm and the solution being discussed. Prospect execs have all been assembled and Sales is pitching at a good pace and rhythm up front. What may or may not be known is that this prospect group has already seen 3 to 4 other vendors that same day and has a bit of slide fatigue.

The Sales lead is talented enough to keep the audience stimulated and engaged. She regularly checks that the assembled team is grasping the content and is potential impact for the firm. She is asking for questions and if none are asks, then she asks them herself as if she knows what is going thru their minds.

All at once a most senior exec respectively breaks the silence and asks, “Does your offering come in Blue?” (Editor’s note: Here the reader can freely swap in any of the following C++, AWS Cloud, Blockchain, Regulation 12568 compliant, in French et al for BLUE). For many professional sales leaders this presents a fork in the road. If the solution does not come in Blue, the impulse is to say “No”. “Sorry CFO, it does not”. Of if it does come in Blue, the even greater impulse is to say “Yes”. “And it has done so for years.”

While I recognize this won’t be instinctive or self-evident, I submit both answers are wrong headed. I did not say they are wrong as clearly there are objective criteria for No or Yes. I say wrong-headed as every such question is a potential window into the company and the buying committee.

Questions like these can be traps e.g., if the answer is No then you are taken off the list or lost points. If the answer is Yes, you get to remain on the list but may or may not get more points. So, I recommend not being impulsive when answering – either WAY. Whether the answer is yes or no, please use this time to ask back “We know that Blue can be important for some customers so can you tell us where it lies in your list of priorities for a buy decision?” Faced with this most pleasantly presented question back the prospect is duty bound to give up some info they would have preferred not having to do so. The answer of course runs the gamut from 1) we don’t really really care but three other vendors have it in blue so we thought we would ask. 2) we might care in 18 months when we move into northern California as our next beachhead 3) blue is critical to us and basically is a deal breaker 4) you can fill in the next 10 possible answers. No matter what is said you the seller is getting critical info to incorporate going forward.

But of course, before you leave the room the Blue question needs be answered. And here let me introduce one more variation. Let us assume you are responding to an RFP and Blue comes up. It could be question 350 on the RFP and you might be a bit tired and want to just say Yes or No which ever applies. Resist Resist Resist. If it is No, is it No because your firm tried Blue and concluded it is no longer relevant. Is it No because it is No today but is on the roadmap for a future release. Is it No because a regulator in another country shot it down and you don’t want to put your prospect in this country at risk. Or is it yes and it is yes for many years and installed in 25 customers or countries. Or is 80% yes are you are looking for a partner just like this prospect to complete the build out.

In summary, use every available question opportunity to expand the scope of the question to pick up critical info that otherwise might have been missed by an impulsive response. How do we know this? What any cop should when they interrogate someone: “Did you rob the Bank?”  “No, I did not” ………………………. The cop just sits there for 10 beats waiting for more info to be offered up as everyone is uncomfortable with silence. – Except for professional and seasoned Salespeople.


Author Information:

Dennis Roman | 954 806 6660

LinkedInWebsiteYouTube channel