Think about the last time you put a lot of energy into something and then did nothing. How did that feel? For me, it feels like I totally wasted precious time for no good reason. There are some occasions where the effort leads you to believe that a change is not worth making, and that may be a good thing, but I’d position you want to get to that point quickly versus invest a tremendous amount of time and energy to decide to do nothing. It’s like chasing your tail.
In a recent survey that we did at Gartner, we askedB2B technology buyers for the biggest reasons for “No Decision” – times when they abort a buying process. The top 4 reasons were:
- Project and Solution Costs Exceeding Budget
- Concerns about the Level of Business or Technical Risk
- Concerns about ROI
- Lack of Budget
The first response that conveyed a lack of satisfaction with potential solutions (not worth a change) was ranked 5th. If it was ranked higher, I would not be so negative about no decisions. It might help future buying cycles or it might help you build confidence in what you are doing, which are great things. But the reasons cited above point in a different direction— a failure in buying and a failure in selling. These no decisions are costly for all parties involved. It certainly is one form of competition that sellers need to be wary of. When a buyer decides (I guess it is a form of decision) to do nothing, think of all the waste:
- For the buyer, all the time and energy of the buying team (often 3-5 people or more) is largely wasted.
- For sellers, their marketing and sales efforts are gone–time they could have spent with other buyers.
What could be done differently?
First, distinguish between what John Holland likes to call “looking cycles.” There is nothing wrong with looking. But that requires less energy for buyers–and sellers should correspondingly spend less energy–until they confirm that the looking cycle has changed to a buying cycle. This is about continuous qualification and prioritization.
Beyond that, once a buying cycle is occurring, remember the key reasons processes stop. Don’t grow the project beyond the budget, unless you can confirm that additional budget can easily be found and committed to the project. Increase your focus on conveying ways to reduce risk and achieve ROI. Build enough trust and rapport with the buyer to continually assess if both parties are on the right path to move to a decision. If things are moving off course, you either need to get it back on track or consider exiting.
Are “no decisions” a problem for you? If your not sure, here is an easy way to check. Go back through the sales efforts you’ve conducted in the last six months or so. Count the number that ended in no decision, then estimate the amount of time and energy you put into those. Now think about what might have been possible if you allocated 75% of that time to other efforts where a change decision was made. Would that have had a positive impact on your business?
Let’s face it, both buying and selling are business efforts. They exist for a reason. Start treating them like other business activities and try to minimize situations where you are wasting time.