Yes, No, and Maybe: Three Words That Diagnose Lead Quality

There are really only three possible responses to a request or proposal—to accept (yes), to decline (no), or to counter-offer (renegotiate).

While this way of framing is broadly applicable (I even use it with my kids), it can be a fundamental eye-opener for sales and marketing in the realm of product and services companies.

Both yes and no are desirable outcomes in sales. Both signal closure. And with some variation, the sooner we hear either one, the better—in terms of the costs associated with a sale and with the opportunity cost as well.

Renegotiation, however, is limbo—the bardo state. We can’t walk away, because (we tell ourselves), sooner or later we will get to that yes that’s sorta floating out there… somewhere.

Renegotiation often translates to some form of compromise, and no one—not you, not the client or customer—is going to be completely satisfied with the outcome.

Many of us have become resigned to renegotiation, to a maybe. Some may even think wrestling that maybe to a yes is selling. Some think that selling is convincing.

I believe that if we continually find ourselves either having to convince someone to commit to purchase or renegotiating our first offer to get to a yes (or no) then either:

  1. There is a lack of clarity with the offer—and how we are communicating the offer
  2. Or, there is too much focus on the offer. We’re listening with our answer running (!) rather than listening to the needs of the prospect. On the product side, this often happens when one builds the product and then looks for a customer.

So, what does this have to do with Lead Generation?

In the current context, Lead Generation—which sounds very productive and deliberate, doesn’t it (!)—could be defined as “the initiation of interest into a product or services of a business.” And it ranges from straight-forward referrals (if deliberately sought) to leveraging audience0-targeting algorithms (such as on Facebook) to produce leads via paid ads and all points in between.

Done right, Lead Generation efforts yield a steady stream of informed prospects that can, more often than not, lead to good sales conversations.

Done wrong, we not only find ourselves logging a lot of unnecessary “no’s,” but wasting valuable time and energy pursuing the almost-but-not-quite-right “maybe’s” through renegotiation and compromise.

In this second, less desirable situation, the leads we generate are the canary in the coal mine—and reflect problems that can ultimately touch core business issues including:

  • Lack of a sound value proposition—the “what, for whom”
  • Not targeting the right audience
  • Misalignment of messaging to offer
  • Putting the wrong marketing technology to work
  • And more…

The practice of lead generation is an essential part of any new business development strategy. But if it is not based on a sound foundation, it can be a colossal waste of time, energy and money.

Quality lead generation does not start with leveraging online promotional technologies or through the purchase of lists. It must, instead, emerge first from the vision and unique offer of the organization it is designed to nurture.

Great lead generation can educate, can differentiate and can create the conditions for your targeted audience to self select, to recognize themselves as a candidate for your services and to lean into your offer—shifting the sales conversation away from presenting and proposing to exploring the fitness of the prospect for the product or service you provide.