Join Bridget and me for this episode of Accelerate! to learn how collaboration and engagement can accelerate the buyer’s journey to a productive conclusion.
Welcome to another Front Line Friday with my remarkable guest, Bridget Gleason. On this week’s episode, Bridget and I discuss, among other topics, a listener question from Tim, about how to reduce the frequency of “No Decision” decisions; the root causes of no-decision decisions; and how sales reps can proactively collaborate with prospects to enhance the buying experience to reduce no-decision decisions.
Andy introduces the topic with a reader question from Tim: How do I reduce the number of “No Decision” decisions in my pipeline?
Bridget recommends how to track no-decision decisions to diagnose root causes and coach improvement.
Why 25% of opportunities in a pipeline are not properly qualified for your solution, from the start.
Why managers need to use lost deal reviews to analyze no-decision decisions (because of the waste of time involved.)
Why reps need to view the purchasing journey in two phases: the decision (Are we making this now?), and the choice (Which vendor do we use?).
Customers are increasingly more self-sufficient, doing their own deep-dive research on the Internet, and going through the more of the buying process on their own.
How to win a higher fraction of your deals by learning how to paint the purchasing vision for the buyer.
Why sales needs to collaborate with buyers to co-create value.
Effective collaboration with prospects is a key to helping shrink the number of no-decisions.
Andy Paul 0:35
It’s time to accelerate! Hi, I’m your host, Andy Paul. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing, sales automation, sales process, leadership, management, training, coaching, any resource that I believe to help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business and most importantly, you.
Hello, and welcome to Accelerate! Welcome to another edition of Frontline Friday with my regular and special guest, Bridget Gleason. Bridget, how are you?
Bridget Gleason 1:09
I’m doing great. How are you?
Andy Paul 1:09
Excellent. No complaints. How about that? No complaints.
Bridget Gleason 1:15
That’s the way to do it. No complaints.
Andy Paul 1:19
Yeah. Even if you have them, just keep them to yourself.
I like it.
Andy Paul 1:26
That was the family I grew up in. Yeah, if you’ve got complaints, just keep them to yourself.
Bridget Gleason 1:31
Keep them to yourself.
Andy Paul 1:33
Right, very old school. So good, well, did you get your run in this morning?
Bridget Gleason 1:40
As my mother used to say, is the Pope Catholic? Of course I did. Our last session that we had was on habit. I am such a creature of habit. So yes, I had my great run in this morning. I listen to books when I’m running. I mentioned this also in the last one. I’m listening to A More Beautiful Question, which is great, very provocative. So I had a great run. And you? Did you have a great run?
Andy Paul 2:09
Yeah, not bad. Not bad. For some reason I was not quite at peak form today, let’s say. But yeah, I got it in. It was raining a little bit. That’s always nice. I love running in the rain.
No complaints. And actually, as Fall’s coming and finally establishing itself in New York City and the temperatures start to drop, my absolute favorite thing in the world is running in the snow, when it’s snowing. I love that.
Isn’t that great?
Consequence of growing up in Wisconsin, perhaps. But yeah, I just look forward to those days, which I didn’t have for years when I was living in California. But now that I’m in New York City, I get to enjoy those a couple times a year.
Bridget Gleason 2:57
Andy Paul 2:58
Yeah. So today we’re gonna riff off a question that was submitted by a listener, Tim.
Bridget Gleason 3:07
Good, I love these.
Andy Paul 3:10
And I’m gonna paraphrase his question, which was phrased more lengthly, which was basically how do I reduce the number of no decision decisions that I have prospects in my pipeline? And so this is a problem. Multiple studies have been done, various sources. I think that a lot of people listening probably have seen these. It’s estimated 50% to 60% of qualified sales opportunities in a pipeline result in what I call the no decision decision.
So yeah, I think some people say that that’s a failure of qualification, but I’m not sure that’s the case. As I spend more time digging into this myself, I wonder if it’s more a question of a failure of selling than failure of qualification. What do you think?
Bridget Gleason 4:08
Well, I would consider qualification a piece of selling.
Andy Paul 4:13
Well, yeah, but I’m talking about–
Bridget Gleason 4:16
But you think that it’s that– I think I understand what you’re saying, which is that actually the prospect is well qualified. But the sales person has not been able to bring them over the line.
Andy Paul 4:32
Yeah, we didn’t give them a reason to buy. In short, we don’t do a good enough job of understanding the requirements and providing a compelling reason to make a change from their existing situation, change the status quo to embark on this path of change which motivated them to speak with us in the first place.
Bridget Gleason 4:53
I would say that that is definitely a component. I think sometimes it is just a poor qualification. So I would say, just in my experience, poor qualification definitely contributes to that.
Andy Paul 5:14
Before you go on, I was gonna say, okay, well let’s try to quantify that. Because in our last show, we talked about habits and the importance of sales habits. And great qualification is certainly a habit and a skill that needs to be mastered. But if we were to say, okay, let’s do the even math. So 50% of deals, qualified opportunities, result in a no decision decision. What percentage of those perhaps are a failure of qualification? These people should never have been in the pipeline in the first place. Your estimation? Your experience?
Bridget Gleason 5:55
Gosh, it varies. I don’t feel comfortable giving a number. And the reason is because it varies by sales rep. And I could make something up, and that’s all it would be is I’d be making it up. And I hate that, so I’m not going to give a number. Because then it’s gonna come out somewhere that 30%!
I don’t know, but it makes me curious about it. And I think it’s probably an important one to track by rep, by team, by company. Because then you get at where’s the real issue and where do my sales people need help? Do they need help qualifying so they’re not spending time on deals that should never move further? Or are these actually well qualified, but my team needs training or an individual needs training on presenting a more compelling value proposition or helping a prospect to understand what some of the needs and and issues are that’s going to help them get over the line.
So I think it’s an important one to track. you make. Do you have a number in mind? Do you have a sense? You’re out there as much as I am. Do you have a number of what the percentage might be?
Andy Paul 7:17
Yeah, I think the number is– of that 50%, in my experience, I’m not afraid to throw a number out. I’m not sure that’s true across the board, but this is what I’ve seen. Yeah, about half that number roughly, 25% of all deals, just a lack of solid qualification. This potential buyer was not a qualified prospect for you. That doesn’t mean that they weren’t a qualified prospect to do what they wanted to do what they wanted to achieve, the reason they were in the market in the first place to buy a new solution. But they weren’t a prospect for you for a number of reasons.
And so I think it’s about half has been what I’ve seen. And so I think if you’re saying in general, maybe a quarter of our opportunities fall out of bed because they’re just not really a match for what it is we’re selling for whatever reason. I guess to your point is we need to spend more time helping people understand what qualification really is, right? It’s not enough just that they meet the BANT criteria as a new model.
Sean Burke at KiteDesk is talking about NOTE, which I think is very well done in terms of qualification standards. Because BANT at least is kind of superficial in some respects, right? Budget authority, you need a timeframe. But that doesn’t really get down to what their real requirements are, and are you a fit for them. And can you be a solution that perhaps the customer perceives as a relatively low risk solution for them?
Bridget Gleason 8:56
So Andy, how do you tease out whether it’s poor qualification or poor sales execution, say in a post qualification stage as a manager? I’m curious how you tease that out.
Andy Paul 9:18
It is hard, right? Some of the tests are done, you just have to dig into it as a manager and do deal reviews, both lost deal reviews, won deal reviews. The no decision reviews, I think, are really the most important. Because if it is a qualified opportunity and you get to the point where the customer says, look, we’ve just decided we’re not gonna make a decision at this time, which is in a sense a decision itself, then to me that is the worst of all possible outcomes. I’d rather have gone through a deal and had the customer make a decision and go with somebody else. Because at least then we knew that we didn’t invest our time unwisely. They weren’t going to make a decision. Maybe there’s things we could have done differently to win the deal.
But gosh, if you invest a lot of time with a prospect, and you and two, three competitors, and the customer throws up their hands at the end and just says, yeah, we’re not gonna go forward. To me that’s bad, right? Because then we’ve wasted a lot of time,. We wasted their time, wasted our time. And oftentimes what I see in those cases, when you do the review at the end of it, is we just never showed the customer the value that they were going to receive from having purchased and used our solution.
Bridget Gleason 10:44
And so in that example that you just gave, let’s say you’ve got three competitors in there and the customer makes no decision. So that means neither of the three companies executed well.
Andy Paul 11:03
Yes. And I think part of the structure that I encourage when I work with people to look at this and say, break down what the customer is doing into two phases. One is what I call the decision phase and the second phase is the choice phase. Now, they’re not completely sequential.
But the customer has to make a decision before they make a choice. The decision is are we doing this and the choice is who are you doing it with. And I think this is the way most businesses in the business space and I think even in our personal lives, this is fundamentally how people make decisions. We have to decide we’re gonna do this thing first, and then we choose who we want to do it with.
Bridget Gleason 11:49
Yeah, and I would almost add another is actually timing. Do we need to make a change? Who are we going to make the change with? And do we need to make the change now?
Andy Paul 12:00
Yeah, I like that. When we think about it, the first thing that we’re trying to do is– And I think that it’s really increasingly, the customers are more self sufficient in the decision phase than they have been in the past, right? No secret there. The value of the internet to them is they can go out, they can gather that information as much as they need, do their deep dives, all the research. How much do they really need the sales reps?
And that says, okay, well how are we engaging with them? We talked about that in previous episodes. So you have to think, gosh, these two things, right? Are we able to convince them that this is the right solution for them? And then two is are we the one that they’re gonna choose to do it with?
Bridget Gleason 12:56
Right, and so what do you– let’s say that we’ve ruled out qualification. Okay, so let’s say that we’ve mastered qualification.
Andy Paul 13:07
And we’ll come back, and we’ll do an episode on qualification.
Yeah, because that’s a super important one. Let’s say now we’re all around execution. And executing, like this question, how do we minimize the number of no decision, which is different than if they go to a competition. But in some ways, let me ask you, do you think that’s different, no decision versus I lost to a competitor? Is there a different skill set of closing that you see, the prospect just doesn’t make a decision versus they go with a competitor? Or is it the same skill set?
Andy Paul 13:57
I think one of the things that’s missing in the no decision decision oftentimes is this vision, right? That we haven’t given the buyer the vision of how great it’s going to be, right? How they’re going to achieve their objectives, their goals by using our system as opposed to staying with what they’re currently using. As you said, there’s a time imperative to proceed because of the value they’re going to receive.
There’s been a lot written about this idea of the importance of being able to paint the vision, the buying vision, for the prospects. And so I think that’s perhaps a skill that if you’re having a lot of no decision decisions that you need to work on. It’s a combination of things. It’s a combination of understanding the customer situation well, and the customer’s business, what their value chain is. It’s understanding the value that your solution can provide and how it relates to the objectives they’re trying to achieve.
So it’s understanding your product, your service, your offering, the customer’s requirements, the customer’s business, customer’s company, and being able to take them on that journey, right? Paint that vision for them. Because I think it was, I don’t know, Forrest or IDC, one of those that had done a study a few years ago where they found that serving business to business buyers, decision maker, the vendor that first paints the buying vision wins the deal about two thirds of the time.
Bridget Gleason 15:33
Yeah, I saw that.
Andy Paul 15:34
So that then becomes a fairly compelling skill that you need to develop. And it is a synthesis of the things I talked about, synthesis of understanding the customer really completely, understanding your offering very completely, and being able to bring these two together and synthesize a vision that they find compelling.
Bridget Gleason 15:57
I think the thing that salespeople often miss when they hear or read about painting this vision is that, again, it’s not a presentation. So painting the vision, it’s almost like you need to take them on a journey. And so, again, it’s not a presentation where it’s a one way, hey, look at how it’s gonna be.
But you take them along this journey of discovery where they are actually the ones that are seeing and in some ways also architecting parts of this vision that’s very unique to their company, their situation, but with your product in mind. And I think the real skill is if it’s your prospect that is painting the vision with you. Because you are going back and forth about your project and service, and what it can do, and their issues and challenges, and what needs to be solved.
It’s the coming together that creates this beautiful vision. It can’t be done one without the other. And I think that’s the real skill. It’s not presenting, hey, here’s a beautiful deck where this is where you can go with our product. But it’s how do we create this together that at the end the prospect is saying, that’s a beautiful vision. And that that’s the journey they want to embark on, and they want to embark upon it with you, whoever is providing the service or the product.
Andy Paul 17:46
Well, I think one of the metaphors to keep in mind if you’re listening to this show and you think, okay, how do I integrate that into what I do – one that I use for people – is to say think about it as either you or the prospect are standing at a whiteboard. And you’re diagramming what this is going to look like. And there’s sort of an excitement around that, right? Because both parties know you’re getting awfully close to what that vision is going to be.
And so, everybody’s kind of pumped up because we’re anxious to see how this is gonna turn out. So maybe even take turns if you envision a meeting. Yeah, let’s see, let’s do this, let’s do this. How about if we added this here? What if we could do this here? What if you did that there? And at the end, there’s this– we’ll call it a flowchart, if you will, or a diagram. That’s the vision, right? You’ve worked on it together. There’s this excitement. It’s collaborative. And I think that whiteboard, this concept of saying, we could just stand and map this out on a whiteboard, that would be ideal. And if you’ve ever done that with a prospect–
It’s very powerful.
It’s very powerful, and you never forget it. And at the end of it what you’ve done, and this is a phrase that I use all the time, you’ve won the sale. You haven’t won the order yet, but at that point in time, you’ve won the sale.
Bridget Gleason 19:03
Yeah, that’s right. You’ve got their mindshare.
Andy Paul 19:06
Yeah, you’ve got it. And at that point, it’s yours to lose. But you’ve got to go through that. And if you can get your customers, it doesn’t have to necessarily literally be at a whiteboard, but it’s a great thing to do. But there are other ways you can accomplish the same thing. There are other online tools, collaborative tools you could do. It could potentially just be done through a video call, a phone call. There’s ways to do it, but it certainly needs to be real time.
Because it’s a culmination, right? It’s not like you’re taking them on a journey from start to finish on that one interaction to your point earlier. This is part of the journey. This is the culmination of the journey. You’re taking all the bits and pieces that you’ve had and you’re stringing them together. And it creates this vision.
Bridget Gleason 19:54
Yeah, this vision and this journey where you’re walking together. And you can see, oh, this looks like a better place than where I am. And like you said, it’s fun. It’s what’s fun about being in sales is when you have this co-creative experience with a customer. That’s really fun. It’s this collaboration. I think that’s where the magic happens.
Andy Paul 20:22
Well, increasingly, too. We’re talking about, in sales, the value to the prospect of the customer experience of the buying experience itself. And this is high value customer experience. If you can go through that process with a customer, as you talked about, co-create this decision, that has a lot of value to them. The perception of you as a person, the company they want to do business with goes up astronomically. It really puts yourself into the driver’s seat.
Bridget Gleason 20:55
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.
Andy Paul 20:59
Okay, so If Tim was here, we’d ask Tim if that answers his questions. But that’s a good–
Bridget Gleason 21:06
Call in, write in. Say yes, it helped or it didn’t. If it didn’t, let us know and we’ll take another shot at it.
Andy Paul 21:13
Exactly. You can reach either Bridget or I at firstname.lastname@example.org. Obviously we’re in touch. We share the questions. SoTim, hopefully that does it for you. Bridget, any other additions that you want to make?
Bridget Gleason 21:29
Well, it just makes me excited as I think about it that people will– I’ve been in sales, as have you, Andy, for a long time. And why we’re in it, why we love it, and this collaboration and this co-creation, it’s one of the things that’s the most fun. Like I said, it’s where the magic happens.
And I think getting back to Tim’s question, learning how to do that effectively with a prospect, not for a prospect, I think is key in helping to shrink the number of no decisions that happen. If you can get into that dynamic, then you’re much more likely to have a decision made and much more likely to have a decision made in your favor.
Andy Paul 22:24
Right. And once you’ve done that, the feeling is gonna stick with you. And you’re going to replicate that feeling as often as you can with your prospects. And that’s with everything. Then it starts becoming, to use a word we talked about in the last episode, it becomes habitual, and you get better and better at it. You become more skillful at it and helping lead the prospect on that journey. And yeah, you want to replicate that feeling as often as you can. That’s success in sales.
Bridget Gleason 22:53
Absolutely. That’s what’s fun about it.
Andy Paul 22:56
Yeah. And we’re in it for fun if nothing else, right?
Bridget Gleason 22:59
Yes, you’ve got to love what you’re doing.
Andy Paul 23:03
It could be money for you. But I think that lure only lasts for so long and then it has to be fun. Well Bridget, as always, fantastic to talk with you and look forward to talking to you again next week. And for those of you who spent time with us today, really appreciate it.
Please do send us any other questions you might have about sales that we could answer. And you can run those to me at email@example.com. And thanks again. Look forward to talking to you next week. And Bridget, you as well.
Bridget Gleason 23:31
Have a great one. Good to talk to you.
Andy Paul 23:34