“I approve this project. Let’s get started!”A buying decision. Unambiguous! Timely! Resolute! What’s not to love? How about this:
“We’ve decided to delay any projects involving outsourced software development for another year.”
A little messier. Without knowing the inside story, many salespeople competing for this work would chalk this up as a lost opportunity, and call the situation “no decision.” That’s a confusing mistake, because a decision was made.
Among salespeople, “no decision” has become an overused and misunderstood term. A catch-all to designate buying outcomes ranging from “maintain the status quo” to “we’ll take action later.”
“I don’t get why they didn’t decide! We justified our sales proposal, and proved the ROI. This prospect fears anything that requires change.” Maybe. But that’s often a myth. A decision to delay a purchase or to scuttle a project doesn’t always result from irrational, knock-kneed fear. Just as often, such decisions result from careful evaluation of alternatives against uncertainties and trade-offs. It’s time for sales professionals to drop some long-held myths:
Myth #1: “No decision” means no decision. Decisions favoring stasis, or to delay taking action are choices.
Myth #2: “Your biggest competitor is no decision.“ Competitors are people who intend to thwart your goals, and have means to do so. Without motivation, strategy, tactics, and resources, no decision, by itself, can’t compete. If a company chooses stasis, it’s because someone prevailed in selling that choice.
Myth #3: Prospects who choose to keep the status quo do so because it’s “the absolute easiest thing for people to do.” In fact, for many prospects, the choice for stasis can be gut-wrenchingly painful. How do you allocate limited resources among equally-urgent business issues? Sometimes, by triage.
Myth #4: When customers decide on stasis, it’s because “the salesperson couldn’t move them off the status quo.” Many forces outside a salesperson’s control can and do intervene. Market uncertainties. Budget reallocations. Dried-up funding sources. Mergers and acquisitions. Senior executive arrivals and departures. Rearranged priorities.
Myth #5: No decision represents an end-point, or “no-man’s land” for buyer activity. In fact, there are many reasons for salespeople to stay in the game. Sales forecast dates and buyer project schedules are rarely harmonious.
Myths could never perpetuate without having a tiny shred of truth. Do some companies have a risk-averse culture that rewards managers for kicking decision cans down the road? Absolutely! Are some salespeople so uninspiring that they couldn’t persuade an actuarial to abandon a calculator and a pad of paper in favor of an electronic spreadsheet? No doubt. We accept myths because we relate to the stories. But there are great risks in not questioning them.
Drop the myths about prospect decision making! When the reasons for customer stasis are understood, salespeople can avoid confusion and dread, and better plan what to do.
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