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Getting to Yes In the Time of Covid-19

As a marketing consultant for many years, I’ve interviewed thousands of physicians, payers, and patients. It is well proven that body language and facial expressions are an important indicator of how someone is responding to an idea or a new product.

But, in this era or Covid-19, when discussions are increasingly held by video vs in-person, and you can’t see the whole person or accurately judge their expressions or body language, knowing when yes really means yes is critical. 

The Agreeable Yes

Saying yes may just be an automatic response to a question asked poorly:

Salesperson: Do you wish you had a job that pays you more?

Who’s going to say no to that. It’s an agreeable response that requires no action on the part of the person who was asked the question. It’s not a real yes.


The Counterfeit Yes

In the book, Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, the counterfeit yes is someone taking the path of least resistance or shortening a conversation.

Salesperson: “Do you see the advantages of our new drug?
Prospect: “Yes.”
Salesperson: “That’s great. Thanks so much for your time and hope you’ll try our new product.”

The person never made a commitment to use the new product, only that he/she saw its advantages.

The Commitment Yes

Unless yes is followed by a how or a specific action on the part of the person, their yes may be meaningless.  If an interviewee tells me they really like a new product but can’t commit to how they’re going to use it, I discount their yes. It may not be a no, but it’s definitely not a yes I can count on.

Salesperson: “Do you see the advantages of our new drug?”
Prospect: “Definitely.”
Salesperson: “How do you see it fitting into your practice? With which patients are you likely to use it?”
Prospect: “I have at least two or three patients who could use it”
Salesperson: “How can I help you facilitate your trial?”
Prospect: “Coupons or samples would be great.”
Salesperson: “Would it be okay if I stopped by in a couple of weeks to see how the trial by your patients went?”
Prospect: “That would be fine.”
Salesperson: “Have a great day. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”


Wishing you the best of luck during this challenging time.



Harris Kaplan is Managing Partner of Red Team Associates, a boutique life sciences consultancy, and CEO of Healogix, a life sciences marketing research company. His resume includes work on the introduction of more than 100 new products including drug, biotech, device, and diagnostics. He is a commercial strategist who frequently presents and authors pieces on how the shift from a provider to a payer and patient centric world impacts new product innovation. Harris’ understanding of these seismic shifts in the life sciences landscape has made him a leader in the space and much sought after by clients ranging from startups to large multinationals. Harris excels at helping companies develop their commercial and go-to-market plans in support of new products. He has also been an advisor to multiple venture capital and private equity groups relative to assist their portfolio companies.

Harris’ articles have appeared in In Vivo, Medical Marketing and Media, and Product Management. He has presented at Intellus Worldwide Institute, Windhover’s Therapeutic Area Partnerships, IN3 Device Conference, World Orphan Disease Conference, Life Science Alley, the Biotech Conference at UC Berkley, Pharmaceutical Strategy Conference, and the Drug Information Association. He was also nominated as one of Pharma Voice’s most inspiring people in 2011.

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Harris Kaplan, Managing Partner

Red Team Associates