The Cost of Inaction


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It’s clear that the current economic climate is causing a great of risk-averse behaviour on the part of B2B prospects. More people are involved in the decision-making process, the buying cycle is taking longer, and many more deals seem to be getting stuck in neither a clear win or a loss, but in “no decision”.

We’re hearing that Q4 2008 is proving particularly tough for a number of organisations, with serious consequences for revenue production and forecast accuracy. The effects have been compounded by the extended Christmas break – and there’s no guarantee that momentum will be restored in the New Year – unless something changes.

It seems that prospects are less convinced by return on investment projections than they used to be – even a positive ROI may not stimulate a positive buying decision. With all the emphasis on the avoidance of risk, I sense that a new factor is coming into play – “the cost of inaction”.

The potential cost of inaction is driven by the consequences of the prospect deciding not to deal with a problem right now. It’s concerned with the risks associated with delay or with doing nothing – and it’s a necessary complement in today’s environment to calculating the ROI of a project.

Just as ROI calculations are most credible when they are co-created with the prospect, and built up through the course of the buying process, the same holds true for the cost of inaction.

Savvy sales people – and savvy sales organisations – are probing for the cost and consequence of inaction from an early stage of the buying process. By exploring the impact of not dealing with the issue, they are in a better position to qualify out deals where there is a weak cost on inaction early on in the sales process. Such deals rarely close in today’s climate.

Equally important, where a well qualified opportunity exists, they are consciously building up both quantitative and qualitative evidence of the cost of inaction – and getting key members of the prospect’s decision making team to acknowledge the risks of deciding to do nothing.

Just as with ROI, it’s possible to create tools to help the process along – and provide sales people with the ammunition they need to create a natural sense of urgency and to facilitate the prospect’s buying process.

Bob Apollo
Bob Apollo is the CEO of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B sales performance improvement specialists. Following a varied corporate career, Bob now works with a rapidly expanding client base of B2B-focused growth-phase technology companies, helping them to implement systematic sales processes that drive predictable revenue growth.


  1. Bob makes a great case for looking for ways to add value by offsetting the risks of staying on the current path and living with the Status Quo.

    To add to Bob’s post here are my thoughts on when is the best time to attempt this.

    Even when a strong case can be made for avoiding the risks or downsides of inaction decision makers very often decide to keep what they have – better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

    To execute this as effectively as possible you need to identify the ‘Trigger Events’ that make the buyer realize that the current solution – Status Quo – is no longer viable. These ‘Trigger Events’ make for highly motivated buyers who not only realize that their current solution is no longer sufficient but now have a strong desire to solve the problem. The ‘Trigger Event’ takes the pain and makes it unbearable. It moves something that was down their ‘to do’ list and moves it to the top of the list.

    The challenge is that a lot of decision makers are risk averse – again better the devil I know that the devil I don’t. So even when a ‘Trigger Event’ happens the decision maker is highly likely to go with someone they know already.

    What can you do about this? Identify those you want to have as customers – people with money, the authority to spend it, and influence (the ability to have the solution implemented properly and influential friends or counterparts that can refer you to once your solution is implemented successfully – and start building a relationship with them today.

    I look forward to other comments and suggestions on this post.

    Craig Elias
    Creator of Trigger Event Selling

  2. Craig highlights the importance of influencers. It’s a subject that is worth a full discussion in it’s own right, but there’s no doubt that trusted advisers and influencers have a vital role to play, both during the trigger event and through the rest of the buying process.

    Some measure of pre-awareness is necessary here. Your prospect’s network of influencers needs to be aware of and predisposed to recommend your solutions before your prospect has their epiphany. So here’s the challenge: most “conventional” marketing approaches are really poor at building the right sort of connections with the influencers who matter.

    We work closely with an organisation that is pioneering active influencer marketing: I recommend that anyone with an interest in the subject check them out.

    Bob Apollo | Revenue Insights | Realising the Potential of Your Pipeline

    [img_assist|nid=206187|title=Revenue Insights Logo|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=30]

  3. Bob’s point about influencers is bang on.

    The way that I view the world around ‘Trigger Events’ is that you want to get to those who experience a ‘Trigger Event’ as soon a possible after it has happened.

    The question is how to best do that. Once you have a identified the best ‘Trigger Events’ for the product/service you sell you can then identify and start building relationships with those “in the know” when these ‘Trigger Events’ happen.

    If you want to start this process by identifying the best ‘Trigger Events’ for what you sell download the Won Sales Analysis template at and follow the links to the Won Sales Analysis template.

    Contact me via phone (+1.403.874.2998) or Skype (Craig.Elias) if you want no-charge assistance executing a Won Sales Analysis or brainstorming on who are the best influencers for your business.

    Have a happy New Year.

    Craig Elias – Creator of Trigger Event Selling

  4. Understanding the cost of inaction is a common concern for our podcast guests at SalesTuners. This week’s guest referenced it quite a bit:

    What do you think is the most effective way to communicate the real impact this can have, since it can be kind of an unknown going into a sales-driven conversation?

  5. Hi Ty

    Don’t start by going directly at the cost. Start with the consequences and implications. Build a series of ripples. And then convert those ripples into lost revenue or unnecessary cost.


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