• When a rep has lost a deal and closes an opportunity, he or she often needs to fill out a field entitled “reason”
  • “No choice” tends to be the most popular answers among B2B sales reps
  • But when we dig a bit deeper, that label of “No decision” does not tell a complete story of what really happened

“If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice” – from the song “Freewill” by Rush

When a rep has lost a deal and closes the opportunity in the SFA system, he or she often needs to fill out a field entitled “reason.” Typical options include price (always my favorite when I was selling), solution fit (or lack thereof), incumbent, or inability to demonstrate return on investment. And then there is the reason that seems to be most popular with today’s sellers:

No decision.

We take many inquiries within SiriusDecisions’ Sales Enablement Strategies service where clients say, “Too many of our deals end in no decision, and we need to fix that.” But when we dig a bit deeper, that label of “No decision” does not tell a complete story of what really happened. In most cases, decisions were made. When we examined those deals, we actually see five variants:

  • You lose to status quo. When buyers decide to stick with their current situation, they really have made a choice (“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice,” again, thanks Rush). More often than not, your reps will be competing with the status quo. And buyers will go through their decision process, seriously review alternatives – and decide that what they have works for them. This is not a “No decision” – this is “Lost to status quo.”
  • There was no buying process. In the movie Goodfellas, there is a classic scene where Joe Pesci’s character (Tommy DeVito, “I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown?”) thinks he’s going to be “made.” Instead, the door opens to an empty room and, well, that’s the last we see of him. This is how it can feel when you thought there was a legitimate opportunity, only to find out the buyer was not really buying at all. And that “champion” you had cultivated? They had no credibility or authority to steward a buying process. There was not only no decision, there was no budget, authority, need or timeframe. This was an opportunity in the mind of the seller only. These hurt.
  • The deal goes dormant. These decisions may look like they’re “on hold,” but in the mind of the buyer they are still active and real. It could be that a particular decision process takes precedence over the one your rep was working, or that you need to wait through a budget cycle or two. One of our clients, selling into higher education, shared that one of their biggest deals had a legitimate sales cycle of three years, as their buyer needed to keep waiting for next year’s budget cycle to get approval. Three times was the charm.
  • The buyer goes dark. These can be the most frustrating deals. A buyer who has been engaged – actively consuming content, in constant communications – suddenly and inexplicably “goes dark.” They simply stop returning phone calls or emails. More often than not, they have decided to go with another vendor (or stick with the status quo) and have not told your rep. It is human nature to not want to share bad news with someone (“It’s not you – it’s me”) and instead avoid that someone altogether. This is a no decision that is really a loss – your rep just doesn’t know it yet. And to all you B2B buyers out there: B2B salespeople are big boys and girls and would much rather be told “no” than nothing at all.
  • The decision was abandoned. This is the true “no decision.” A buying process that was underway is simply dropped for a variety of reasons: a merger or acquisition, change in personnel (either on the decision team or corporate leadership), shift in corporate strategy, a wholesale shift in requirements (i.e. what the buyer needs and is looking for has dramatically shifted), or even poor financial performance (budgets disappear).

Use these five variants in your “Reasons lost” field, including the different reasons for an abandoned deal (e.g. change in personnel, merger).