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“It Depends” is Usually the Right Answer (It’s Situational)

by Hank Barnes  |  May 5, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

As an analyst and advisor, clients come to me (and other analysts and influencers–whether with Gartner or other organizations) looking for insight and advice.   In many cases, they are looking for an answer.  But often, the answer is “It Depends.”  And that, while possibly being viewed as wishy-washy, is usually a good answer.

But it can’t stand on it’s own.  What needs to be explored is why “it depends.”  Like choosing which path to take.


And that is all about the situation (or context).

Let me give you an example.  We recently had a client ask what is the typical time to close for a lead generated from a specific marketing activity (this one happened to be in the category of influencer relations–not a formal lead generation program anyway).  Our answer was, “It depends.”   And the we talked about:

  • Where is the buyer in their buying process?  are they exploring?  evaluating? or looking for confirmation deeper in the process?
  • What other decisions need to be made?  Who else needs to be involved?
  • What insights does the activity give to move them forward?
  • What else are the doing?

Similarly, another client was asking me to evaluate the messaging on their Web site.  Did it hit the mark for buyers?  My answer, “It Depends.”  I felt they did a good job explaining the technical details of their product and how to apply it, so for an educated technical buyer that knew, in general, what they were looking for, it was fine.  But if that was not their audience, then they could improve by being more business oriented–focusing on why their solution matters first and guiding people to that detail.

The answer is almost always about the situation.  It’s not just when engaging with us, you need to think about situational awareness with everything your see/read.   I curate alot of content–looking for useful articles to share on my social channels (primarily Twitter and LinkedIn).  I can’t count the number of blogs I see talking about “How to fix your Web Site” or “How to close deals faster” or “The Best Lead Generation Campaign.”  Looking at them, the story may be true—for some cases.  But rarely (probably never) is it a universal truth.  (I would say something like “The importance of honesty” is a universal truth, but many other are not).

So the next time someone answers your question with “It Depends,” don’t view it as a cop-out—as long as they provide some context of their own about the situations when one answer would apply versus another (I would call an “It Depends” answer without any followup or detail a cop-out).   Furthermore, as you explore information, view most advice through an it depends filter (unfortunately, this means you have to go beyond the headline to see if their context aligns with yours—and that takes some time).

I hope this post is useful.  But I suspect I know the answer to that (“It Depends”).


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Category: future-of-sales  go-to-market  

Tags: advice  context  situational  situations  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

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