Consider Everything Short of a “Yes” a “No” ( Reblogged . Original by Gordon Daugherty)

Yes Live at Columbia, SC (1974)

Yes Live at Columbia, SC (1974) (Photo credit: Hunter-Desportes)

Willamette University School of Education

Willamette University School of Education (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Classical ideal feedback model. The f...

English: Classical ideal feedback model. The feedback is negative if B (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Consider Everything Short of a “Yes” a “No”

I recently heard Dr. Robert Wiltbank from Willamette University use this analogy and loved it so much I had to share it with others.  Entrepreneurs are, by nature, very optimistic.  It’s one of their core survival skills.  But this often makes it hard for them to recognize signals of negative feedback.  This applies to things like the success of their product and progress towards the business plan targets.  But it also relates it to investor feedback while pursuing fundraising, customer feedback while pursuing a sale or vendor feedback while trying to secure a partnership.  Experienced sales professionals are trained to listen for negative feedback and use various techniques to assess the real viability of the opportunity.  But most co-founders aren’t experienced sales professionals and the techniques I’m referring to aren’t easily learned from a blog post or a book.

One way for a founder to compensate for their optimistic bias is to consider every response short of a “yes” to be a hard “no”.  For example:

  • “Maybe” = no
  • “Let me bring it up with my boss” = no
  • “Not now but perhaps in the near future” = no
  • “I love the idea but we’re just slammed right now” = no
  • “Let’s have a follow-up meeting to get into more details” = no

You get the idea.  Don’t necessarily give up on these opportunities but, more importantly, don’t change anything about your spending patterns, hiring plans or product direction based on these responses that you need to assume mean “no”.  Convert them to a legitimate “yes” and take any corresponding action that makes sense.  And remember that a single “yes” is only a single data point.  If it’s related to a strategic partnership with Google, that’s one thing but if it’s a commitment from a VAR to resell your product you probably want to string up a few more like that before concluding that you’ve got a channel-ready product on your hands.