Some years ago a friend of mine was sales manager for a radio station back east. One day one of his newer sales reps came back to the office all excited.
“How did the call go?” my friend asked.
“Great! Just great!” replied the young rep enthusiastically. “I made the presentation and played the spec tape and he really liked it.”
“Well,” said my friend, “did you ask for the order?”
“Yep,” replied the sales rep, beaming proudly. “And I almost got him to a ‘Maybe.'”
Having been in both sales and fundraising I can understand the young man’s excitement. To the untrained ear, “maybe” sounds so much better than “no.” And since he was a rookie sales rep his naivete can be forgiven. However (and I’m saying this to myself) one of the characteristics of a strong salesperson or a strong fundraiser is thick-skinned self-appraisal coupled with clear-eyed realism. If you ask for the order, or for the donation, and the best you can say is “I almost got him to a ‘Maybe,'” I’m afraid you’re farther from success with that prospect than you think!
My friend the sales manager gently but firmly informed his eager young protege that an “almost maybe” is a long, long way from “yes.” And I’m sure the sales rep’s enthusiasm dimmed somewhat. But he learned what all of us in sales and fundraising have had to learn: that while “yes” is best, a clear-cut “no” is typically preferable to a wishy-washy “maybe.” After all, when the prospect is completely non-committal, what’s the next step? You don’t have one.
So like we said a few posts ago, always close for something — even if the answer is “no.”