Blog post

The Cost of No Decisions May Be Greater Than We Think

By Hank Barnes | July 30, 2019 | 2 Comments


Four years ago, I wrote a post about the idea that when a buying team decides to do nothing, everybody loses.  It still feels valid today.  But, as we continue to study technology buying efforts, the “cost” of a no decision may be even greater than we think.

As we continued to dive deeper and deeper into our latest technology buying study, we revel more interesting insights.  The newest one for me relates to the volume of no decisions.

To put it simply, for our respondents, the more times they cited a buying effort leading to a no decision (i.e. more no decisions), the less likely they were to have what we call a high quality deal for the biggest buying effort that they actually completed.

(Note: We define a high quality deal as a situation where the customer feels pretty strongly that the purchase is meeting expectations AND (they either did not settle for something less than they had hoped OR they purchased a premium solution from a tech vendor).   High quality deals can be thought of as good for everyone involved.)

Source: Gartner, Inc.

At first look, this surprised me.   Customers making the decision to do nothing implies that they may be making a smart choice–they aren’t confident they will succeed, so they put their energy elsewhere.

But we are seeing the opposite.  It appears that confidence is contagious.  As “failed” buying efforts multiple, confidence in other purchases that do happen seems to erode.    What is causing this?

We need to study it more, but my initial hypotheses center around a few ideas.

First, it seems that buying teams struggle with good decision practices.  They take for granted that everyone knows how to make a decision (after all, we all make decisions every day), and therefore experience surprises, frustrations, and breakdowns.

Second, it may be about mindsets.   We’ve all heard about the power of a growth mindset (it was a centerpiece of last year’s Symposium keynote), but no decisions feel counter to growth.  Yes we may be learning and it may be acceptable, but only if done with a growth mindset.  If that is not in place, no decisions “pile on the pain.”

As a vendor, it is important to empathize with our customers.  Discover the challenges they are facing (not just that your product addresses, but with the way they work) and help them overcome.

Can you help customers shift their mindsets and practices to drive more success for them–and you?


The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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  • Steven Weinberg says:

    I worked for a company that penalized people for taking risks. If the project did not work out people were usually publicly humiliated or terminated. So, when faced with decisions they usually stalemated. It was the safest career choice.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Unfortunately this is a reality all too often, even in companies that claim otherwise. It is pretty easy to imagine where these companies are likely to end up.