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The Tragedy Of “No Decision Made”

by David Brock on September 6th, 2017

Depending on the research you read and believe, the number of buying journeys ending in “No Decision Made,” is around 50-60%.

Think about what that means.  Sure, we’re disappointed–it’s a lost opportunity for us.  We may have invested a lot of time, resource, and energy in competing to win the decision from the customer buying team.

But the real tragedy is the lost opportunity for the customer.

The tragedy of “No Decision Made,” is the customer has failed to achieve their goal.  They have failed to solve their problem.  They are missing opportunities they sought to attack.

Think about what the customer undertook to get to the point of making no decision.

They recognized a need to change, they saw an opportunity, they had a dream, they realized there may be problems.

They committed themselves to a change–perhaps acknowledging the costs of doing nothing were likely to exceed the pain of the change.

They organized a buying group with the task of developing and implementing a plan to change.

They invested in learning–both assessing the internal situation, researching potential solutions, understanding the risk and critical success factors in implementing a solution.

Yet at some point, their problem solving process and buying process became unraveled.

Perhaps they weren’t able to align the diverse agendas, priorities, agendas of people involved in the buying process.  Perhaps they struggled with buying–they simply didn’t know how to move forward in  developing a solution and making a buying decision.  Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues involved.  Perhaps, they were disrupted by other priorities or other things going on in their organization.

Whatever the reason, the failure to make a decision, represents a huge lost opportunity for our customers.  An opportunity which has performance, financial, and market consequences.

Sales people have a tremendous opportunity to help customers through this complex problem solving/buying process.  Perhaps, if we are really focused on our customers’ success we have a responsibility to do what we can to help reduce the chance of no decision made.

Where do we start in that process and how do we maximize the value we create with our customers?

Perhaps the best starting point is at the beginning–helping the customer recognize opportunities they are missing, problems they may not have realized they have, opportunities to grow and improve.  We can help them learn, creating a compelling need to change.  We can help them understand the consequences of doing nothing and help them commit to the change effort.

We can continue through their problem solving and buying process.  Teaching them, learning with them, helping them understand how to buy–perhaps through learning from other customers who have face similar issues.  We can leverage our own expertise in dozens of similar decisions, helping to facilitate their buying process.

We can empathize with their challenge and the difficulties they face–while it might be a lost opportunity for us, for our customers the risks may be much higher–their personal and business success/future.  We can demonstrate that empathy by acknowledging the challenges they face and helping them navigate the risks and difficulties they face in solving the problem, making a decision and implementing the solutions.

Our customers have too much at stake to end a buying process with “No Decision Made.”  We create the greatest value with our customers through recognizing the challenges they face in reaching a decision and all the risks and other issues that derail them in making a decision and moving forward to solve their problem.


Afterword:  Thanks to Noah Goldman for provoking my thinking on this topic.


From → Performance

  1. Kurt permalink

    And THIS is the scenario where customer “regret” is appropriate. And where we have fallen short because we didn’t help the customer realize that the resources in time, manhours, money and opportunity cost that were wasted by failing to act on a known issue far outweigh the “cost” (really “investment”) of the solution we have to offer.

    As always, great stuff!

  2. Brian MacIver permalink

    Deciding not to decide, now. Is the most common option is buying, as any pipeline analysis will show.

    But, flogging dead horses is the most frequent activity of Failing Salespeople, who often have the biggest pipeline filled with dead ponies!

    Sales Management is about KNOWING the real status of deals, clearing dead wood out and following the best probabilities, and that is COACHING.

    • Kurt Haug permalink

      Great point Brian. Important distinction to make. You are absolutely right that dead wood clogging a bloated by unrealistic pipeline is a HUGE issue. And in my mind, you’ve connected the dots to the next issue which is coaching.

      “Management” can clear out the crap, but only through “coaching” will sales execs learn to clear it out (or better yet, not even include it) themselves.

      If in good conscience I can say I have presented the best possible value proposition, using all the skills, principles and process at my disposal, and the the customer STILL decides “not to decide,” I need to move it from current leads to a future tickler or trash it– without hesitation or regret.

      I think David’s post as well as my first response were colored by a recent LinkedIn post suggesting that buyers “regret” that they had to resort to accepting our help rather than solving all of their problems themselves…

      • Great points Kurt, Yes, the post was driven by the “Buyer’s Regret” conversation. But this new discussion you and Brian are leading is interesting. A couple of thoughts:

        1. A “Decision not to change” is a decision. Making it late in the buying cycle may be a failure of leadership on the part of sales–for example, the customer has not assessed the cost of doing nothing as greater than the cost of change. Too often, I find both customers and sales leap to the end point without doing that up front work.
        2. What I find, very often, is simply do decision is made–there is not a conscious choice not to change or buy, the process stalls, people’s interests are diverted, they can’t come to agreement. This is a true tragedy, because the problem and the opportunity to do something about it is still there.

        Great discussion, thanks to you and Brian!

    • Great point Brian. I don’t know how many pipelines I review that are filled with garbage. Sales managers need to manage pipeline integrity to help sales people understand the real issues that stand in the way of their achieving their goals.

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