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“No decision” to Buy: It’s Way Too Common
Blog / For Sales Pros / Jul 12, 2017 / Posted by Neal Benedict / 1022 

“No decision” to Buy: It’s Way Too Common

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You can make the reasonable assumption that when your sales team moves an opportunity to the “no decision” column in your CRM, it isn’t the first or the last time. According to research from Sales Benchmark Index as well as other reputable sales research companies, as many as 60 percent of sales opportunities end up as “no decision.” The percentage of your own opportunities that end up there will of course vary depending on client buying cycle, industry, and the exact product or service. I often see that number closer to 30 percent in my own experience. But regardless of which of these figures is accurate, it’s still high enough to be cause for concern to any sales leader.

What Exactly Is a “No Decision”?

Before proceeding further, let’s come to an agreement on the definition of “no decision” as it relates to sales opportunities.

  • Despite exhaustive attempts to move the opportunity onward, the prospect fails to respond
  • The prospect informs you that the purchase is being delayed for an undisclosed period of time
  • The prospect has decided they no longer need a product or service such as yours, and won’t be buying

A “no decision” would not mean that:

  • Another product or service is purchased, even if it isn’t a direct replacement for the existing one
  • The purchase has been delayed for a specified period of time for reasons such as budget

Fundamentally “no decision” is a prospect opting for the status quo. They have decided that the risk of doing something different is greater than the value they would get from buying your solution. To be even more precise the fear of change is preventing them from moving forward with “any” solution including that of your competitor – hence “no decision”.

Why are prospects so frequently opting for “no decision”? My colleague Michael Harris at Insight Demand may argue that it’s because that salespeople are not as effective at delivering valuable insight on unrecognized value and he is right that is a challenge. However, my friend and sales trainer at Sandler, Troy Elmore, may argue that the salesperson isn’t following proper sales methodology that uncovers the client’s real motivation for making a change and he too would be right. But targeting the salesperson’s technique or sale process alone may not fully explain or address the sales challenge associated with “no decision.” There is often a behavioral reason that makes clients shy away from making decisions. Sales professionals can certainly impact those behavioral forces but only when they understand them.

Dr. BJ Fogg the founder of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Standford University built a behavioral model that attempts to define the factors that impact persuasion and the elements that need to be present to lead to behavioral change.

Dr. Fogg’s model would indicate that in order for a person to make a behavioral change (such as using your solution to solve their problem) there must be a convergence of 1. Motivation, 2. Ability and 3. Trigger. According to the behavioral model if a behavior doesn’t occur then one of these 3 elements are missing.

Salespeople are mostly familiar with BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe). The framework goes by many different needs but most sales methodologies still include some form of BANT. It goes by different names and the sequence has certainly changed with most sales professionals realizing that needs/wants are important to understanding before moving toward budget as an example. It may be tempting to simply see the Fogg model as another way to describe BANT. However, it’s not quite that simple.

The Fogg Behavioral Model provides a useful and somewhat unique way to evaluate and reduce the number of sales opportunities resulting in “no decision”. Let’s look at each individual element that must be present in order for there to be a behavioral change and how a salesperson should respond.

Motivation

Motivation is clearly different from want/need. There will seldom be a time when a prospect is in a situation where there is simply no want or need. Most prospects (us) are in a constant state of want/need. However what separates the prospect from a likely buyer is motivation. To what extent has that prospect identified the extent of their pain and is that pain great enough to motivate the prospect to act. A salesperson’s goal should be not to simply understand if there is a want/need but how motivated is the prospect and what is the source of that motivation.

Ability

As sales professionals, we tend to lump “ability” into 2 broad categories.

  1. Money (budget)
  2. Authority (position on the org chart)

However, Fogg points out that there are more factors involved. Consider that there constraints on your prospects time and their capacity to consider a set of solutions. There is social deviance (the risk of making a wrong or unpopular decision) and non-routine anxiety (decisions that fall outside of the norm) that also feed into ability. As a sales professional it is certainly critical to understand the aspects of the budget and how holds the decision-making authority. Making the sale as easy as possible for the prospect by understanding and facilitating the buying process is important to address issues of time and capacity. Providing proof points to reassure the prospect of what their life will look like on the other side of your solution is also critical through the sales cycle. As you can see “ability” is about more than money and authority.

Trigger

Dr. Fogg identifies 3 types of “Triggers”.

  1. Facilitator – This is a trigger that encourages or assists a behavior and makes it as easy as possible for that behavior to occur. A facilitator is effective when motivation is high but the ability is low.
  2. Spark – A “spark” is a trigger that is both immediate but limited to encourage you to take action now. This trigger is effective if there is high ability but low motivation.
  3. Signal – The “signal” trigger is more passive and can take the form of an alert. Typically this type of trigger is most effective if there is high motivation and high ability.

A sales professional needs to become a student of triggers. They need to understand where their buyer is on the continuum. What’s the primary role the prospects needs you to play? Chances are during a sales cycle you will play multiple roles with multiple prospects. However, understanding and being responsive to each of the prospect triggers will allow you to shorten the sales cycle by applying the right influence at the right time.
Sales that end in “no decision” can be extremely frustrating to even the most seasoned sales professional. While there is no silver bullet that will prevent this from happening using the Fogg Behavioral Model to understand the context in which a prospect must make a decision to invest in your solution is useful. When you consider that all prospects are not created equal and that they have diverse levels of motivation, ability and triggers you can adjust your sales conversations to ensure that fewer deals result in the dreaded “no decision” category.

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About Author

Neal is the President and Founder of Silver Brick Management Solutions. Over 20 years of experience in sales and sales management. His passion for sales leadership and strong competencies in strategic planning, marketing. He has helped organizations grow revenue while maximizing profitability.