How to Make the Cost of Delay Visible to Your Prospects


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Keeping prospects moving through the buying process is a perennial challenge for B2B marketing and sales professionals. I suspect that all of us have faced this issue in one form or another. We acquire a new lead who seems to be a good fit for our solution, and for a few weeks, she responds to our lead nurturing offers and consumes our content. Then activity just stops. Or perhaps we’ve made a great presentation to the buying group and delivered a compelling proposal only to be told that our prospect has decided not to move forward “at this time.”

When prospects don’t keep moving through the buying process, the result is longer sales cycles, stalled deals, and the dreaded “no decision.” Research from several sources shows that keeping prospects moving has become a difficult job. For example:

  • In the 2013 Sales Performance Optimization survey by CSO Insights, 40% of respondents said that their sales cycles for new customers were seven months or longer. In the 2012 survey, only 33% of respondents reported sales cycles of that length. Research by SiriusDecisions, IDC, and others has also found that sales cycles are getting longer for B2B companies.
  • The CSO Insights survey also revealed that the number of no decisions is increasing. In the 2013 survey, respondents reported that 26.1% of forecast deals resulted in no decisions. That’s up from only 17% of forecast deals in 2002.

Longer sales cycles, stalled deals, and “no decisions” can be caused by several factors, some of which are beyond your control. However, you can alleviate one of the primary reasons that prospects stop moving through the buying process.

Today’s business buyers are incredibly busy, and like the rest of us, they spend most of their working time dealing with issues or problems that they perceive to be important and urgent. If they don’t see a problem as both important and urgent, they won’t give it much attention. That’s why the status quo is usually your toughest competitor. In most cases, doing nothing is the easiest choice your prospect can make.

The key to breaking the grip of the status quo is convincing your prospect that the problem your product or service will solve is worth his or her time and attention. In essence, you must help your prospect answer two questions: Why is it important for me to address this problem or issue, and why should I deal with the problem or issue now?

One of the most effective ways to demonstrate the importance and urgency of a problem is to make the cost of delay visible to your prospect. That’s why I include a cost of delay calculation in every ROI calculator I develop. Most ROI calculators focus on the traditional ROI metrics – the basic ROI percentage, the payback period, net present value, and possibly internal rate of return. These metrics should be included in any ROI estimate, but they won’t necessarily communicate a sense of urgency to your prospect. That’s what a cost of delay calculation does really well.

The basic cost of delay formula is:

Average Solution Benefits – Average Solution Costs

When calculating the cost of delay, you can use daily, weekly, or monthly average values. I typically choose the unit of measure based on the size of the benefits and cost values. The larger the values, the shorter the unit of measure.

To illustrate how the cost of delay calculation works, let’s assume that your company offers marketing asset management/web-to-print solutions to corporate customers. For a particular prospect, you’ve determined that your solution will produce the following financial benefits during the first twelve months after the solution is fully implemented.

  • Reduction of request processing costs – $46,791
  • Increase in gross profits – $25,000
  • Reduction of obsolescence waste – $18,000
  • Reduction of materials customization costs – $16,000
  • Reduction of inventory management costs – $7,404

The annual cost of your solution is $75,000, and you will need one month to implement your solution for this prospect.

Based on these facts, the monthly cost of delay would be calculated as follows:

Monthly CoD = Average Monthly Solution Benefits – Average Monthly Solution Costs

Monthly CoD = ($113,195 / 13) – ($75,000 / 12)

Monthly CoD = $8,707.31 – $6,250.00

Monthly CoD = $2,457.31

To make the cost of delay even more compelling, I will typically include a cumulative cost of delay chart somewhere in my ROI calculator. For this example, that chart would appear as follows:

Making the cost of delay visible to your prospects won’t cure all of your sales cycle problems, but it can create the sense of urgency that will keep your prospects moving through the buying process.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Dodd
David Dodd is a B2B business and marketing strategist, author, and marketing content developer. He works with companies to develop and implement marketing strategies and programs that use compelling content to convert prospects into buyers.


  1. How certain are these costs of delay? Therein lies the rub. Whether prospects supply the financial numbers, or salespeople do, estimates are still estimates. They are underpinned by long lists of assumptions, and a good bit of SWAG.

    Prospects, of course, know this, and they expect estimates that sales provides to be inflated with sunshine. Much as salespeople believe otherwise, the veracity of the numbers are offset by uncertainties. When uncertainties surrounding change are high, maintaining the status quo is increasingly attractive from a decision perspective. There are always exceptions.

    To quote from the blog I just posted on this same topic, “And there are reasons executives make [decisions to delay], namely, ‘once we act, we forfeit the option of waiting until new information comes along. Not acting has value. The more uncertain the outcome, the greater may be the value of procrastination,’ according to Peter L. Bernstein, author of Against the Gods: The True Story of Risk.

    There are two errors salespeople make about this, in my view. First, thinking that ‘no decision’ means a decision has not been made. A decision to delay a purchase, or to maintain the status quo, is a decision. The second error results from the first – failing to recognize that not acting has value. But rather than attempting to discover what that value is – or might be – salespeople persist in offering a one-sided presentation of the “business case.”

    Please see Prospect Decides to Postpone Buying Decision, and Lives Happily Ever After!


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