When we don’t hit our bookings goals, we tend to blame the competition. But the reality is that “No Decisions” can do far more damage when not clarified in our sales pipeline definitions.
When we don’t define the “No Decision” category clearly, we end up wasting time on go-nowhere leads and overlooking valuable re-engagement opportunities.
As a former head of sales of a SaaS platform in the fintech space, I used the beginning of the year to take a fresh look at how we could achieve our annual bookings target. From last year’s data, we could look back and take some of the things we learned the previous year and try to apply them going forward. One of the key areas we focused on was the “No Decision” category, and the question we asked was: should we spend time trying to develop a new customer where there was not a customer to be developed?
Statistically speaking, initial sales calls overwhelmingly end in “No Decision” more often than outright sales wins or losses. And the point is not to eliminate or even reduce the number of leads in this category. But what kills your pipeline is burning calories late in a sales process where the prospect isn’t making a decision to buy anything, let alone your product.
So what should you look for in your sales pipeline definitions and data to know if the “No Decisions” are undermining your process?
(To take a step back and understand the core questions to ask about your overall pipeline, read 4 Sales Pipeline Metrics Growth-Oriented CEOs Must Know.)
Step 1: Define your terms
Without clear qualifying criteria for “No Decision” within a set of sales pipeline definitions, your team could be wasting time on unrewarding prospects or, conversely, ignoring great opportunities. Here are a few ideas for defining the “No Decision” category:
- If the prospect buys another product, this is clearly a “Loss”
- If the prospect tells you they are not buying anything or punting a decision until some undisclosed time, this is a “No Decision”
- If the prospect goes silent, after you have given your all to get a response, this is a “No Decision”
- If the prospect tells you they are not ready, but gives you a clear time to re-engage, then I would generally move them back to the Stage in your process where you would qualify if they have: Money, Urgency and Need – with an adjusted close date to accommodate the timing and a meeting on the calendar to re-engage.
Step 2: Analyze your process
If you have tracked “No Decisions” separate from “Losses” in your CRM, you are in good shape, but if not, you can go back and separate these leads after the fact. Go back at least as far as your average sales cycle length (the time it takes to convert a new customer) and see how many “No Decisions,” “Losses” and “Wins” you had in that time period.
- Take note the stages your leads were in immediately prior to being moved to “No Decision.”
- Count up each lead that went to “No Decision” and which stage it was in before it was sent there.
With this data in hand, you’ll be able to see whether your process is set up to funnel only true “No Decision” leads to this category. Imagine fast-forwarding a year. Perhaps you have been tracking this already in your CRM or you go through the process highlighted above, and you now have the data to analyze.
What you want to see that is the percentage of “No Decisions” goes down as the sales process progresses. Said another way, as we spend more time with the prospect, there should be a higher likelihood you will win or lose the customer rather than send them to “No Decision.” (On a side note, you hope you are winning the majority of prospects that make a decision.)
As an example, the data below shows what this looks like when you have healthy, functioning sales pipeline definitions and processes in place. On the left, you’ll see the sales stages, with the percentage likelihood that the deal will go to “No Decision,” “Win,” or “Loss” at each stage.
Ultimately, if we are seeing prospects in later stages such as “Position” or beyond move to “No Decision” at a high percentage, or if the percentage doesn’t gradually decline at each stage, then you have a sales process that is not asking the right questions up front or getting high enough in the organization to ensure the purchase is a real priority.
Step 3: Address the issues
Once you’ve reviewed the data and identified a potential problem, start pulling out the “No Decisions” and taking a closer look. Find out where and why you are winning vs. losing, and then focus your resources where you have a higher likelihood to win. Conversely, you want to identify areas where your sales team may be wasting their energies on leads that are unlikely or not ready to buy.
Step 4: Put it into practice
With a clear sales pipeline definitions for “No Decision” leads, you can put the new process into effect.
- Ensure sales execs or your sales ops team moves qualifying leads to a “No Decision” stage, instead of a “Lost” stage. Don’t count these as losses in your annual review, because if nurtured properly, these leads represent a future opportunity.
- When prospects come back and decide to take a look again, you should create a new opportunity in your CRM. This will start a new clock in the decision timeline and help you clearly understand the sales cycle.