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The Only Seven Responses to Any Question

Robin Starr gave a speech at Toastmasters. She said that there are only seven responses to any question. Let’s look at them through the lens that is professional selling.

Yes

The perfect answer. The one, most hoped for, and best of all responses. What do you want to hear when you ask for an appointment? What do you want to hear when you ask for information? And most of all, what do you want to hear when you ask for the business? There is simply no sound sweeter.

No

It couldn’t be worse, could it? The word “no” is the most revolting and disappointing sound imaginable, isn’t it? But, look on the bright side; you know where you stand. It doesn’t mean you have to give up and go home. You just have to persevere and try again. You didn’t think this was going to be easy anyway.

Maybe

Squishy answer. Indecisive. It’s a hedge. But there’s hope. Your client may need help making a decision. They may need more information. They may need you to create more value, help them make the case, or help them build consensus. From “maybe” a “no” is possible, but so is a “yes.”

I Don’t Know

The answer “I don’t know” can be a wonderful answer for a salesperson, cant’t it? You believe that your client knows their business. And at some level they do. But they don’t know what they don’t know. They believe that you create value as a salesperson when you ask a question that helps them see through new eyes. When you push them to recognize they lack some new knowledge or new idea, you are creating opportunities.

I Don’t Care

Worse than a “no” answer. If your prospective client doesn’t care about the better results you can deliver, then there isn’t anything here to talk about. You say, “I can do better, but it will cost 15% more and produce a return of 30% more.” Your prospect says, “I don’t care,” and you’re done. Unless and until you can help them care.

I Don’t Want to Talk About It

There is a problem. It’s painful for your dream client. It means they have to change. The status quo will die, and it will be replaced with something that is different. It doesn’t matter what that different is; different is bad no matter what. They need to talk about it–whether or not they want to. You help them by getting it out on the table and dealing with it.

I Don’t Want You to Talk About It

One group of stakeholders hates your proposal. They know another group is going to love your big, value creating idea. So they work to shut you down, to block you. They threaten you with the loss of your relationship if you dare to cross out of their silo. The last thing they need is you going and changing things without them being able to control it. They don’t want you to talk about it, but being a value creator means creating the right value—even when it’s difficult.


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