The Midwest Maybe
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It is worse than no or yes. It is often said out of kindness, but has the opposite effect in many cases. An East Coast investor relayed the term "The Midwest Maybe" to a close friend of mine. When I heard it, I burst out laughing. Then I stopped and realized how sad it really is. We in the midwest are known for being friendly and kind. When asked to buy from a new vendor or to invest in a business or venture, we often reply with a "maybe". What we are not doing in many cases is telling the truth.
For the new start-up company, a "maybe" can be fatal. The start-up hears "maybe" and thinks maybe yes. They work hard to follow up and try to win the business. Only later do they find out that the "maybe" was really a "no" hiding in kindness. For the start-up, the "maybe" became a time and resource waste.
For the company looking to raise money, a "maybe" is seen as interest and perhaps validation. "I have three investors interested!" the entrepreneur claims. Perhaps. Or perhaps what he has are three acquaintances that will not give him the honest "no".
If you hear a "maybe" in business, you need to learn more. Ask what it will take to move the maybe to yes.
If you are the one delivering a "maybe", make sure you mean "maybe yes". If you mean "maybe no", just say no. You will do far less damage and free up the time of the other person to pursue another yes.