I’ve seen it often in this business—the prospect landing on neither a yes or a no, and instead shaking their head, throwing up their hands, and touching down in that middle ground of “no decision.” Most sales organizations assess and disposition lost opportunities, and we’ve all seen the “no decision” bucket fill, sometimes a bit higher than we’d anticipated.
For clarity, a “no decision” is when the customer decides to go with business as usual and not move forward with any of the options they had been considering. Several factors contribute to potential sales falling into the “no decision” category, but two stand out as most significant—these are the ones to watch out for—and adjust for:
Involving the Right People
Number one has to do with the right people. If you got to a “no decision” with X Company, the culprit could be your contact there. Possibly your contact was in favor of the sale, but that individual—as enthusiastic as they might have been—did not have the authority or influence to get the greenlight.
When going through the buying process with X Company, vet your contacts to determine if they have the power or influence required. Don’t delude yourself into thinking your contact wields more influence than they actually do.
Through our research here at Janek, we’ve seen the same mistake repeated by many sales reps: an over-reliance on a central contact to move the sale along. That’s not a problem if that contact has the authority to take the sale all the way to the ink on the contract, but too often that’s not what we encounter during the sales process.
It’s often the case that the prospective organization has multiple stakeholders who play different roles throughout the buying cycle, and that those stakeholders will need to reach consensus regarding a sale. In fact, B2B sales decisions are increasingly consensus-based—you don’t have the boss in the corner office running a one-person show, but a group of stakeholders from various rungs of the org chart weighing the pros and cons to reach a collective buying decision.
Central to an effective sales strategy is a thorough knowledge of who the collective players are, and at what stage in the buying cycle each one of them becomes involved. Go into the sale knowing the following:
- Who is involved/must be involved in the sales process
- What their needs are—this can vary from contact to contact
- How you can best influence them, driving them toward a shared and enthusiastic yes
Creating a Business Case
The threat of the no decision is always there. And you need to know that your primary opponent in this case are not direct competitors who provide similar products or services, but the possibility of your prospect sticking with the status quo and doing nothing. For this reason, you need to develop and present a clear and actionable business case. Because if not, the customer likely will not see how adopting your solution will create a value-add for their company.
Sales professionals can make the mistake of selling against the competition rather than preemptively going against that other competitor, inaction on the company’s part. That’s where a powerful business case can help combat indecision. Incidentally, having a sound business case might also give you a leg up on the competition. Think about it—there are two fundamental questions any customer is going to ask before they even encounter you:
- Should we do this?
- Who should we get to help us do this?
Don’t slide past number one in your mind and go right into answering, “You should do this with us!” Instead, craft a business case that:
- Quantifies the impact of the problem the customer faces
- Details the implications of the customer staying with the status quo
- Paints a clear picture of how your solution will result in future growth for the company
In part, what you’re accomplishing with a business case is asking and answering questions the customer might not have engaged with—such as, “What are the implications of doing nothing?”
Keep in mind that a deal always comes down to that famous Shakespearean question, “To be, or not to be?” And, like the Dane at the center of the play “Hamlet,” your customer might decide they cannot answer that question with a straight yes or no, and instead they’ll stall out. Preventing that inaction is part of your job—in other words, prepare yourself to not take “no decision” for an answer. Once you facilitate them doing something, you can drive toward the answer that goes, “Yes—you.”