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Why a No-Decision is the Worst Sales Outcome

Clozd Team

Clozd sat down with two sales professionals, Andy Paul and Howard Brown, to get their take on no-decision outcomes and why they are the worst outcome of a closed deal. A no-decision means that you were talking to the wrong person (not your ideal buyer) or you couldn’t convince them of the value you bring. Either way, it leads to wasted time that you could have been focusing on the right audience, convincing them your product is the right one.

Andy said that if you lose to a competitor, at least you were competing on the deal. And if you were competing, that confirms the customer was at the very least qualified to make a purchasing decision or change. If it comes down to a no-decision, odds are the buyer never even got far enough to make the decision. Andy cautioned that if this happens, it’s important for the sales rep to remember that just because someone is talking to you doesn’t automatically qualify them.

“Every minute you spend on a no-decision deal is a minute less that you could be spending on a deal that would actually close.” - Howard Brown

Howard agreed. He talked about how sales sometimes can focus too much on win-rates but really need to focus on the losses because a loss means you gave the buyer a bad experience. It’s easy to focus on wins because the whole company can celebrate a win, but you can learn a lot from your losses. He doubled down and said sales should be looking at no-decisions with the same scope as wins and losses so they can truly understand why the buyer chose what they did. It’s critical to take that information and learn from it.

No-Decisions Can Happen Up to 40% of the Time

When you lose to a no-decision, you’re not losing to a competitor. You can’t just train up your reps to combat the competition’s selling points. You’re not losing because your product is bad or your price is too high. All of those can be fixed. When you lose to a no-decision, it’s a symptom of more significant problems—and it starts at the very beginning.

When you’re doing an initial screening call, are you qualifying them to fit your ICP? In initial calls, early objections that would normally disqualify a buyer are often pushed aside. Sellers are trained to push past objections, and oftentimes, that leads to opportunities getting further down the pipe than they ever should have gotten. And, unfortunately, this is happening more often than you’d think.

Your Biggest Competitor May Be a No-Decision

Many companies don’t realize their main competitor is a “no-decision” or “status quo” outcome rather than an actual industry competitor. This means the buyer doesn’t understand why they need your product (or even a product like yours). The underlying problem is that you’re losing deals to buyers ultimately not deciding to buy anything. So what can you do about that?

Howard’s advice is to ensure you have buyers in your pipeline, not just prospects. Then, from there, make sure you know who all the contributors are on the buying team and really understand why they are wanting to make a change. If you can understand each persona and what is motivating them, you’ll be able to weed out those that aren’t actual buyers because you’ll know who your buyers are.

“If you lose to competition, you’ve at least gotten to a point where a decision was made.” - Andy Paul

Andy agreed with Howard. He said it’s critical to understand every perspective of every buyer. If you can understand what the most important thing to the buyer is, you can deliver that. He goes on to talk about how a sales person is essentially “hired” by the buyer to get them the right product they need, to solve a problem they have. And it’s that sales person’s job to get them to the right spot. The easiest way to do that is to truly understand their needs.

“You’re not selling them something; they’re buying something.” - Howard Brown

Why No-Decisions Are Happening

Andy and Howard both agreed that discovery can be a big problem. Discovery isn’t just a “one and done” thing, but should be happening every time you talk to a buyer. The seller and buyer relationship is just that—a relationship, and you need to continue to get to know the buyer and their needs. If you don’t expand and explore who your buyers are, you’re going to miss out on what their problems are and where you can help solve them. Keep up with discovery.

Another reason a no-decision outcome may happen is that the buyer isn’t able to calculate an ROI. Sometimes this reason can come later in the process, well beyond discovery. If they can’t calculate the ROI, the buyer hasn’t proven their business case internally to make a decision. The best thing you can do in that situation is ensure you are enabling your buyer with the value your product can bring them. Make sure they can calculate their ROI so their internal business case to purchase is a no-brainer.

A lot of companies speculate as to why they lost a deal. If you’re doing the work to find out why you lost a deal to a competitor, you need to do the work to confront why you’re losing to a no-decision. A culture needs to be created that celebrates failure because that environment enables growth and learning.

If you’re looking for ways to help you figure out why you’re winning or losing deals, check out for many helpful resources.

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