Sales Tips: Understanding “No Decision” Losses
By Gary Walker, EVP of Channel Sales & Operations, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
How long are you going to allow your sales organization to continue to lose good opportunities to No Decision before you take action?
It wasn’t even Christmas yet and I received a steady plethora of emails and telephone calls from salespeople and their managers complaining that opportunities that they were counting on for December had already been lost to No Decision. That’s right, LOST. No Decision is a decision to do nothing or to maintain status quo. If you think this is a sales phenomenon that will simply not happen again, or it will go away if you ignore it – think again.
The good news? It can be minimized – even eliminated – once you understand the obstacles that are preventing a prospect from making an informed selection decision after a long and expensive sales cycle.
The next step is to:
Make the decision that you no longer accept the status quo. You ARE going to correct an underperforming sales team.
Define or redefine your sales process, methods and tactics to eliminate or minimize those obstacles you have identified.
Train (not just educate) your salespeople how to execute against that new sales process.
Monitor and inspect individual sales process execution on a weekly
Provide skill and opportunity coaching to each individual salesperson on that same weekly basis.
Is it a lot of work? The answer is YES. It’s what sales managers are supposed to do. Exceptional performance requires an exceptional effort by the sales team, salespeople and their management.
Just think what your December performance would have been like if only one or two of those No Decisions closed as forecast? The rewards can be HUGE for the sales organization that makes a decision to fix the problem.
Why do your prospects elect to do nothing, despite your and your salespeople’s best efforts? We see primarily five (5) major reasons:
No Business Goal
When we help underperforming sales organizations define (or redefine) their sales process, an opportunity typically goes from “Inactive” to “Active” status when the buyer shares a business goal. We used to define a buyer as someone who would admit a problem or “pain.” However, over the years we have discovered there are very few salespeople (particularly young salespeople) who are able to get a C-level executive of a publicly traded company to admit a problem. Think of it this way: As we approach middle age and start gaining a few extra pounds, it is much easier for us to ‘volunteer’ that we’d like to lose those extra pounds (a goal) than for us to admit that we’re fat (a pain). Get my point?
At CustomerCentric Selling® we subscribe to a core concept: “No goal, no prospect.” At the very minimum, the buyer must be unhappy with some aspect of his business, and want to fix it, to engage with a salesperson and initiate a “buying cycle.” Salespeople who fail to take the time to diagnose and understand their buyer’s business goal and the business issues/obstacles that are preventing them from achieving that goal, either lose the sale to No Decision or get outsold by the salesperson who does.
After engaging with a buyer, how long does it take the average salesperson to determine what they are going to try and sell the buyer? Not long, right? However, despite the salesperson’s best efforts (the four-legged sales calls, the “must have or we won’t buy” reports, corporate visits, etc.), the buyer still may not have a clear understanding of HOW he/she will achieve his/her goal(s) by purchasing/subscribing to your offering. Not having a clear understanding could lead to an incorrect decision by the buyer. Rather than make an incorrect decision, they make No Decision. Often times this is a result of a salesperson wanting to proceed fast and shallow:
Leading with product feature and function before first taking the time to understand the goal that the prospect wants to achieve.
Then diagnosing and understanding the business issues and obstacles that are preventing the buyer from achieving that goal, and…
Then relating HOW the capabilities of the offering can be used to eliminate the prospect’s business issues/obstacles allowing them to attain their goal.
The key to selling is the ability to converse. The conversation between the salesperson and the prospect is where the sale is going to take place. It’s what sets up the proof session. If your salespeople are unable to have a meaningful conversation, an intelligent two-way dialogue with a targeted decision maker about the use of your offering to achieve a goal, solve a problem or satisfy a need, and document that conversation succinctly – then all the training on prospecting, qualifying, presentation skills, closing, handling objections, negotiating, etc. are a waste of money!
How many times have salespeople spent months selling to someone who told them early on that the decision to purchase their offering was their decision, only to find out later they couldn’t purchase ten sharp pencils without someone else’s approval? It happens all the time! It’s a trap that salespeople routinely allow themselves to fall into. While end-users and recommenders are fun to sell to, their needs and requirements in almost all cases is altogether different than the ultimate decision maker – the person with the power and authority to buy. If the individual the salesperson remains engaged with doesn’t have the authority to purchase their products and services, they are not selling. They’re simply providing this person with a free (but expensive for you) education.
I’m not saying that you don’t speak with lower level people in an attempt to find out what is going on in the prospect organization. However, senior executives are charged with identifying and solving problems. Gaining access to the senior executives early in the sales cycle can:
Help eliminate the risk of No Decision
Protect your expensive corporate resources
Cause unbudgeted money to be spent
Dramatically shorten the sales cycle
No Business Value
I’m amazed at the number of salespeople who don’t take the time to understand the value of their products and services to their buyers and more importantly, don’t actively participate in helping their buyer prepare a cost/benefit analysis. Your prospect is not the only one within their organization who is competing for the company’s potentially limited funding. You need to equip the buyer with the logic and rationale to support his/her request for funding.
Another core concept we subscribe to is: “People make emotional decisions for logical reasons.” The seller has to be able to help the buyer relate that business goal back to dollars – reduced cost, avoided cost or increased revenue, among other factors. If you are asking a company to pay $100,000 for your product, the value of achieving the goal(s) better be at least $200,000. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Would you spend $100,000 to solve a $50,000 problem?
Think of the tactical advantage a salesperson has going into price negotiations when he/she knows exactly how much his/her buyer will potentially save and when he/she will achieve a return on the investment. It makes it very easy to say NO in response to a request for a discount without fear of losing the sale.
No Control of the Sales Process
Salespeople tend to wander through the sales process, not really knowing where they are going next. Think about it. Why are sales cycles shorter for some salespeople and inexplicably longer for others? Many sales cycles are conducted via a series of what I call “point-to-point” telephone calls and meetings – not really with any plan as to what needs to be accomplished when and why. As a result, sale cycles can drag on, become inexplicably longer and costlier than they need to be, until they collapse and die under their own weight.
Once the buyer and the other members of the selection committee are interested, we advocate and teach salespeople how to negotiate a written Sequence of Events (SOE). The SOE allows salespeople to obtain mutual agreement with buyers on the steps needed to provide them with all of the information they need in order to make an informed selection decision for their company.
Taking this step accomplishes a number of things:
It qualifies the buyers as being serious.
It allows the salesperson to match the desired pace, as the duration should be determined by when the buyer wants to receive the proposal.
It allows the salesperson and manager to monitor progress as steps in the plan are completed.
Now let me ask you a question: Consider all of your year-to-date (YTD) missed opportunities. What would it have been worth to you and your organization if your salespeople could have reduced their losses to No Decision by 20%, 50% or even 75%?
If you want to correct your underperforming sales team, call me. You have nothing to lose by having an exploratory conversation with me, but you have everything to gain.
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