Wednesday, June 17, 2015

No Decision is No Excuse

By Dan Sixsmith and Tom Pisello
When Sirius Decisions stepped forward last month to announce that several commonly held beliefs about B2B buyers and sellers were not true, it got me thinking. What other falsehoods are out there?
Well, we might have found another one, but first let’s recap the myth busting by SiriusDecisions. As espoused by several analyst firms, B2B sales reps were proclaimed a dying breed, with buyers anywhere from 57% to 85% complete in their decision making process before contacting sales, helping drive 1 million B2B salespeople to look or other careers in the next 5 years.
But at SiriusDecisions Summit, research clearly pointed to both statements as pure bunk. First, the buyer’s journey today is so disjointed that it cannot be generalized. It's a highly personalized experience and unique to each company and stakeholder, involving sales and marketing at different stages throughout the process. Secondly, buyers are indeed doing more online research and they are more knowledgeable, but they indicated they still seek out / need sales reps. In fact the #1 piece of content requested by buyers today is still a sales presentation, according to their research. People buy from people.
So, here is another 'fact' on which we may want to call BS: 58% of deals end in ‘No Decision.’  

What is a No Decision I began to ponder? SiriusDecision puzzled this in their own take on the No Decision dilemma, so we were not alone in trying to shape and rethink this general belief.

The reality is that anything but a "Yes" to move forward is a "No". They are not buying your proposed solution, and chances are they didn’t get back to you to tell you the bad news, or they did, only to indicate that it’s going to go on the back burner for now, or there's no budget. You get the idea. 

It became apparent that although a big challenge (in fact one of the biggest for most Sales organizations), not all No Decisions are the same, and that far too many sales reps use No Decision as a crutch - a way to classify deals in a way that lets them off the hook for perhaps a subpar engagement process.

So if No Decision is being miscategorized, what's the approach to deal with those No Decision opportunities and get them to "Yes"?

1.   Cost of Do Nothing: At Alinean, , we begin work with many large organizations who immediately talk products/ services and  the solution's benefits right out of the gate. However, neuroscience tells us that buyers are more likely to move away from a pain than toward a gain. We counsel our clients to first help their prospects understand that there is an issue that needs to be solved and then to quantify the cost of doing nothing to elevate the severity and raise the priority. As a sales rep,  you have to illuminate and quantify the pain of not moving forward with your deal,, and this is more important than the solution and benefits. We create interactive sales tools that help guide sales reps through this exercise, helping to uncover hidden challenges and communicate / quantify do nothing costs. As a result, Alinean customers are growing revenue on average by 25% - Dramatic decreases in "No Decisions" and more wins.

2.   Early Diagnosis: Much like a medical patient, many buyers today do their own research, and diagnose their own ailments. And like those surfing the web to self-diagnose their ailments, many get it wrong. The top sellers are helping buyer’s assess and diagnose issues, especially making them aware as to new potential challenges and risks. The key to this approach is to engage early and provocatively, not waiting until the RFP and expect to win the deal. And if you engage later, not just responding to the RFP (like a doctor performing an operation based on a patient's research of the ailment online), but working to assure proper diagnosis and framing of the challenges and solution. Scott Santucci ex-Forrester analyst points out, 74% of deals go to the company that engages in this manner, helping establish the buying agenda, while a paltry 26% of wins go to the winner of the bake-off. 

3.   Consensus: With over 5.4 decision makers in every deal (and more than that the larger the deal / prospect gets), CEB emphasizes the importance of aggressively identifying all of the members of the decision committee, and then building consensus among them. In particular, they suggest arming a “mobilizer” within your prospect to help. This is easier said than done, and requires you to get the full buying picture, work with as many stakeholders as you can directly reach, and get the mobilizer armed with the right value communication and justification, so they can make the emotional and logical case to the buying committee members you can't reach. Since each stakeholders' challenges and perception of value are unique, you have to work as a sales rep to effectively illuminate the pain and communicate/ quantify the gain with as many decision makers as you can, and empower the mobilizer with the content and tools needed to do the same for you with all of those you cannot / will never meet.

The Bottom Line
In a world of a more empowered, skeptical and economic buyer (Frugalnomics), successfully getting to “Yes” requires a new vocabulary of value, an enhanced set of tools to better diagnose buyer challenges and communicate / quantify your unique value to drive engagement and consensus.
So let’s do away with the “No Decision" generalizations, and instead go back to rebuilding the priority of the problem and value of your solution with all stakeholders and getting them to "Yes".

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