This was the topic on a recent #livesaleslab, and it was inspired from several different places.
First, from sales people asking us, “Why do my prospects disappear after the proposal?” Then, from current clients wondering, “Where is the best place to look to find some immediate sales?” And then also from coaching conversations where sales people were struggling to talk with decision makers, uncover urgency, and find budget.
What do all these situations have in common? Failure to make a decision. It’s not to do something else, or buy something else. More often than not, the option to do nothing is the sales person’s biggest competitor.
And while you should do your own win/lost analysis to determine how many opportunities you are losing to no decision, one Forrester analyst found that 43% were lost to no decision or lost funding.
To do or not to do. That is really your buyer's question.
The sales person’s failure to get the sale is a result of the failure to help buyer’s answer this question. Why do buyer’s opt to do nothing?
First, buyers have to deal with their uncertainty. Will this solution work? Will it work for me? Is this even the real problem and reason I can’t get X? Then there is the fear of change. Is the pain and work of implementing this change worse than the pain and work of leaving it alone?
When sales people don’t help buyers to address these things, they come up against a lack of goal consensus. Sometimes not everyone wants the same thing. Sometimes not everyone knows what they want. When buyer’s can’t agree on where they want to get to, they certainly can’t agree on how to get there. And the more people involved in the process, the more likely no decision will happen.
It is hard to get everyone to agree, but for the sales person who first helps buyers to connect with each other to develop and agree on the problem and solution- it is the opportunity. Sales people fail here when they only focus on the later stage of the buying process- the ‘pick me’ part. Instead focus early on helping buyers determine the solution, and then the best tools or products to implement the solution with.
Another reason that buyers opt to do nothing is simple inertia. How many times have you heard something like; “That might be a problem in a few years, and we will eventually deal with it. For now, everything is good.” When buyers don’t feel the need to change the status quo, or are faced with other demands that seem more pressing- it’s nearly impossible to get consensus and get them to make any decisions.
This is the reason I ask my favorite question, why, a lot. Why are we talking? Why do anything? Why not keep doing what you are doing? Why wait? Why is the problem such a big deal? Why does that outcome really matter? Why aren’t you rich yet? Of course there are more questions you should be asking and ways to ask them, but if you are always thinking about the next why, those questions will come to you. And if no one cares, it’s time to walk away to find someone who does.
These are not just questions for decision makers- but for everyone who is part of the buying and decision making process. Each individual response must be combined together to speak to the group as a whole. The reason that most deals never happen is salespeople don’t do the upfront work to understand the perceived value for each individual and then combine those for the group as a whole. They leave it to them to figure out, and when they can’t (or they would have by now) nothing happens.
To do it means asking questions that get to what the emotional impact of the problem is (what happens if the problem continues), the cost to avoid the problem (the solution), and the risks involved (what could go wrong). Miss any one of these, and it’s likely you will end up in the no decision bucket.
The whole point is to build an agreed consensus in the group of people trying to solve a problem and buy the right solution. The mission of a sales person is to be the connection between a problem and a solution.
So what do you do?
You have a pipeline of stalled deals that no one has responded to in months. You probably have a lot of lost opportunities that never went anywhere. Try sending them an email, “Looks like we were talking a few months ago, and then stopped. Do you remember what happened?” Or “are you rich yet?” If they respond, you have an opportunity to start over.
Learn more from topics like this in our #livesaleslab recaps!