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


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

Try to imagine a more frightening headline. How about, Sales Team Thrilled to Give Price Concessions! For me, it’s a tossup. Most people have a visceral dislike for indecisiveness.

As Donal Daly wrote in a recent blog, What to Do When ‘No Decision’ is not in the Customer’s Best Interest, “sometimes being outsold means you lost to the dreaded No Decision. In fact, according a report I read from CSO Insights, this is happening 26% of the time. Ouch!”

Others share similar disdain. In discussing a prospect’s choice to do nothing, Bob Apollo wrote, “you might attempt to derive some comfort from the fact that at least you weren’t beaten by anyone else. However, that’s a pretty unsatisfying conclusion.” (In Complex Sales, Your Fiercest Competitor is often ‘Do Nothing’).

There’s a different way to spin this—without losers, dread, pain, and defeat: In 26% of purchasing instances, customers found “no decision” the more compelling choice.

For some, combining no decision and choice in the same sentence might seem odd, but that’s the point. No decision should never be construed as absence of decision. Deciding not to act, postponing a purchase, and re-prioritizing objectives are choices executives make—and are therefore, decisions.

And there are reasons executives make such choices, 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.

Without realizing it, Mr. Bernstein provides the world’s best explanation for why salespeople “lose” to no decision. So the right question to ask isn’t “why are 26% of buying decisions resulting in no decision?,” it’s “how can uncertainty be reduced so that buying decisions occur without delay more than 75% of the time?”

Clearly, not acting has value for prospects—but not for sales executives. And that represents a difficult fork in the road—a bifurcation where vendor motivation clashes with customer-perceived value, and fulfilling those objectives takes inexorably different pathways. Salespeople envision a purchase order right now as the most valuable outcome, and prospects, when faced with sufficient uncertainty and risk, sometimes see not now as the better choice.

Can these two positions be reconciled? Can sales hyperbole like win/win, customer-centric sales goals, and salespeople as trusted advisors reclaim their original, benevolent meanings? Whether you choose to refer to buyer reluctance as do nothing, no decision, or maintain the status quo, salespeople must recognize that prospective customers do not always defer decisions simply out of knock-kneed fear or irrational risk aversion.

Salespeople struggle to grasp the reasons for no decision, evidenced by popular expressions such as beaten by “no decision” and “no decision” as fierce competitor. This confrontational rhetoric serves a motivational purpose for salespeople, but it doesn’t promote understanding about the hard choices buyers face, let alone leave room for nuance. No decision—if that’s the term you want to use—is less a competitor than a possible outcome. A competitor vies for the same objective you want, and deploys resources and tactics to get it. None of which characterizes indecision

For many prospects, not acting right now might be a reasoned—and reasonable—business choice, and it should not be dismissed as “just taking the easy way out.” And many times, no decision isn’t a buyer’s end-point, but a choice prone to change based on developing pressures, forces, and events.

In the right circumstances, prospects can be quite happy with deciding not to decide. Dread and pain, on the other hand, result when people feel helpless and overwhelmed. Salespeople might not agree with no decision, but with more clarity about the rationale, they can manage the risk by planning and responding more effectively.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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