Sales Engineer Guide: Yes means "yes" - Explanations mean "no"

What should customers hear when you give a long explanation in response a question that can be answered with a yes or no? 

I believe that they are usually hearing no when they get a long explanation. Short answers usually mean the responder understands the question and is comfortable with the answer. Long answers are a way of applying conditions to the response. Long answers are often an attempt to steer the question in a different direction.  

By yes I mean a positive outcome and not necessarily the word yes.

Ask Questions to Drive the Conversation

Ask questions until you can give a short answer as long as you don't drag it out or frustrate the other party.
I worked with a great sales representative that always seemed dense in meetings.  He asked questions that made him look bad.  Later he told me that it gave the customer the opportunity to in struct and flesh out their needs.

More than sales situations

Asking exploratory questions can be useful in all kinds of situations. I use this job aid both when on the asking side and the receiving side of a question. It has the secondary advantages of showing interest and empathy.


"Will this product scale to meet my needs"
  • Yes - this will meet your needs.
  • No - this will not meet your needs.
  • Long Explanation - 
    • I'm not sure if it will meet your needs.
    • No this will not meet your needs but I don't want to admit it.
    • You asked the wrong question and I will let you know it.
  • Ask more questions
    • I'm not sure if this meets your needs.  Let me understand more so I can help
    • I don't understand the true requirements.  Let me understand more.
    • You asked the wrong question.  Lets help you recognize the right question.



"Do we know why we lost data"
  • Yes - we know
  • No - we do not know
  • Long Explanation
    • It is really complicated and I don't want you to understand.
    • What I am telling you is just a bunch of theories
  • Ask more questions
    • Verify you understand which part of the data loss
    • Discover their bias in the question

Nuclear Example

"Will this reactor accident kill us"
  • Yes
  • Eventually - a version of yes
  • It depends on your exposure  - a version of yes
  • Long answer  
    • I'm afraid to guess
    • I don't want to give you bad news
  • Questions
    • Lets you find out their time frame.


Created 4/2020


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