Depending on the research, No Decision Made (NDM) represents a huge percent of the deals we “lose.” CSO Insights puts it at over 40% of forecast deals. CEB put it at over 60% of pipeline deals. Whatever way you look at it, it represents huge lost opportunity and wasted efforts on our part.
Too often, we shrug our shoulders, “It’s the customers, they just can’t get themselves organized to buy.” “They just couldn’t sell management on the business case.”
We tend to look at this, thinking it’s out of our control.
Reflect on your own deals in the past 12 months. What percent were NDM? What was the value of those deals? What would your performance have been of you had been able to close your fair share of the deals? (Multiply your win rate by the total value)
How much time, how much sales volume did you lose because of NDM? How much time did you waste because of NDM?
As you reflect, these are well qualified deals. Customers recognized a problem or opportunity, understood the consequences of doing nothing, and had committed to address it, but something went wrong. It seems we aren’t serving the customer as well as we can, or creating the value we should by “allowing” NDM to happen.
Now most of you are thinking, “That’s hugely arrogant imagining that we shouldn’t ‘allow’ the customer to have a NDM outcome.” It probably is, but consider this:
- The customer committed to starting the buying process because of compelling business reasons. Presumably, they said, “We can’t continue doing things as we have,” yet that’s just what NDM forces to happen. Don’t we owe it to the customer to help them regroup, maybe to start over? As my friend, Martin Schmalenbach, continues to remind me–we can’t do this to the customer, but we have to work with the customer in helping them find a path to addressing and solving the problem or opportunity.
- As we know our customers struggle to buy. But, with the exception of procurement, that’s not their job. They don’t know how to buy. But we are engaged in working with buyers every day. We know how people organize themselves to successfully buy and to solve problems. We can help our customers with this–either by having them talk to others who’ve bought before, so they can learn from their experiences; or by helping in facilitating the buying process. Are the right people involved? Do they have a project plan? Have they aligned their priorities, agendas, interest–can they find common ground in solving the problem?
- Are we helping them recognize they have to sell their management to get what they want? Are we helping them connect the dots between what they want to do and how it impacts their manager’s and their manager’s manager’s goals? Can we help them show their management how the project is aligned with overall corporate objectives? Are we preparing them to do something they may be very uncomfortable in doing—selling their solution up the food chain?
If we aren’t doing these things, then NDM becomes a failure, in part, of our own deal strategy and execution.
Reflect on it from another couple of perspectives.
We’ve spent some time helping the customer realize they are in “pain,” but in the end they do nothing about it. Except they still know they are in “pain,” and probably want to do something about it, but just can’t. Don’t we create great value by helping them address this and eliminate it.
Think, selfishly, for the moment of the loss of opportunity from your part. If 40-60% of your qualified deals end up in NDM, that means to make your number you have to find deals to replace those! Isn’t it easier to figure out a way, with the customer, to get them back on track?
We can’t think of NDM as a “fact of life.” It isn’t in the customer’s best interests, and it makes things much more difficult for us. We shouldn’t accept NDM, but do everything we can, with the customer, to avoid it in the first place. When it does happen, we should revisit it with the customer, revalidate their interest in solving the problem or addressing the opportunity, and help them establish a new project — guiding them to a successful outcome.
As a crazy idea (particularly if you are opportunity starved), look at your deals that have ended in NDM in the past 12 months. Consider going back to the customer asking, “Is this still an issue? Are you interested in figuring out a way to address it–successfully this time? Can we help you–we know how to do that?”
Thanks to Hank Barnes, “The ‘No Decision’ Decision–Does Everybody Lose? for inspiring this!
Jim Berryhill says
Dave, great article.
Not to get into semantics, but No Decision is a misnomer. It is a decision. Imagine if we could get 5% of the 40% or 60% into the boat! What an enormous impact on our selling results.
When sellers provide quality proposals with quantified value propositions less than 10% of the time, it’s no wonder we get those crazy, business-killing number of NDs.
We don’t have all the answers, but we do give our customers the ability to deliver quality proposals with quantified value propositions for every deal. That alone will impact several percentage points on the ND meter.
Amongst other things, doing so will also impact competitive win percentage and score margin protection during negotiation.
To our customers we say, “you can do it, DecisionLink can help”.
Sorry for the commercial, but this it too big an issue that is too easy to fix.
David Brock says
Great points Jim!
Don Mulhern says
Very thought provoking post, thanks Dave! Far too often “no decision” is accepted as a fact of life in sales with little or no reflection on why it was the outcome (speaks to win/loss reviews). So no learning takes place and opportunities to improve are missed. And as you say, no revisit with the prospect to re-position and re-ignite the opportunity.
Also, I’ve always been a proponent of getting “up the chain” to the prospect’s senior management as early as possible in a deal. Even if it’s just for initial positioning and getting a sense of alignment with his/hers/their priorities. It’s not always possible right away (unless you start at the senior level which I also advocate whenever possible), but when one can it can help to either qualify out early or better yet, decrease the chances for a “no decision”.
Interested in your perspective on this.
David Brock says
Don: In principle, I agree. I call it “right level” selling, that is engaging the highest level person who has an interest in the issue. Sometimes, I think the “call high” is used really inappropriately. Some years ago, when I was EVP of Sales for a technology company, one of my very good RVP’s knew I had a relationship with the CEO of ATT. He begged me to get an appointment with the CEO. Eventually I gave in, I called the CEO, and said, “Could you help me coach a very high potential RVP?” We made the call, the RVP was well prepared, but my friend, after listening, said, “This is what I care about……” After that, he pulled up the org chart, and identified the highest level executive in ATT that cared about the issues we discussed. It turns out the person was more than 5 levels removed from the CEO. (We later had a very nice dinner and bottle of wine–all on my tab for the favor).
What I do think is critical is that we always connect the dots for the value our solutions provide to the strategic priorities of the top management. So many times, I’ve seen sales people win the deal, but not get the order. That’s because they and their customer haven’t aligned the project with the priorities of the top management. Our customers ultimately have to sell what they want up the food chain. Most of the time they are ill equipped to do this. So we have to help them understand how to connect those dots in a business justified solution.
Don Mulhern says
Good clarification Dave. I agree with your “right level” selling point. I over-generalized in my comment by saying “senior executive”. Thanks for making the important distinction!