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  • Writer's picture Jim Mcwhirter

Finding Hidden Opportunities in Your “No Decision Deals”.

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

There could be a small goldmine in your CRM – A reservoir of deals that were closed to “No Decision Outcomes” during 2020.

Clearly a major goal of every sales team is to reduce the number of no decision or status quo sales outcomes through better qualifying and better selling. However, with this noted, sometimes customers may fully intend (and evaluate) making a change but in the end would not pull the trigger. A tough reality that sales hunters always face is that it is easier for customers and prospects to do nothing then make a change.

2017 data from CSO showed 50-60% of all sales cycles end up in the “no decision” outcome category. When you factor in the circumstances of 2020, the number of no decision deals from last year could be even higher. We believe it is essential for sales teams not to overlook or write-off these opportunities from 2021. Instead, perhaps approach them as new opportunities to target within this year’s pipeline. Look to build tactical re-entry points that will position your solution so that this time the benefits of changing outweigh the easier default to keep the status quo.

Below are 5 of the best practices we highly recommend to respark momentum and help get these deals over the finish line in 2021.

1. Leave the Past Decision in the Past! – Rule # 1.

I know personally (especially with larger deal sizes, where our team had invested significant time and resources) the prospects decision to do nothing can sting more than losing to another comparable external solution provider. Thick skinned or not, you cannot help but sometimes feel like the duped victim of free consulting or benchmarking.

It is very important to put things in perspective and tell one’s self that their decision to “not buy” was a business decision, often fueled by resistance to change, and was not a personal decision against you.

It may take some effort, but you must mentally pivot and remind yourself that:

· No decision doesn’t necessarily mean that your services don’t offer value to them

· No decision doesn’t mean they don’t like you

· No decision doesn’t mean they never want to see or hear from you again – (unless you made it that way).

· No decision doesn’t mean you can never speak to anyone else in the account

These types of thoughts could bias you to miss future business. As you reengage the opportunity, approach it with a fresh start perspective that leaves the past decision in the past. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evaluate your last campaign to learn what you could have done better (see number 3 below), however, your voice or mood during outreach shouldn’t leave the customer anticipating “this could get awkward”.

Even if you still get shut down do it with a fresh and optimistic approach. The prospect will respect your enthusiasm and professionalism to not act defeated.

2. Don’t go Looking for an Easy Close - You are not “Just Following Up”

Your plan here is not to show up hoping that maybe things have changed, and they have seen the light; that the competition has dropped the ball or that some external event will now cause them to effortlessly move forward and take-action where they did not before.

When you have booked a new meeting, please don’t transition from small talk to something like:

“So, Joe, it’s been 6 months since we talked. I was just wondering if you can tell me why you didn’t move forward before and if anything has changed from your end that would have you move forward now?”

(you could finish this sentence with allowing me to get an easy sale now)

We know you want a deal and an explanation, but you cannot shortcut a new sales cycle. The above (which I have heard variations of many times) shows no intent at collaboration in the slightest. It adds no new value towards generating momentum and is simply a weak attempt at an easy close. In addition, this approach could cause your prospect to get defensive just digging in further to defend their past decision in support of the current vendor. I think I have made my point.

If it was as easy as just putting your hand out, chances are, they would have looked you up. In order to win you must go through a proper sales cycle. Be authentic and collaborative in helping them build a better case for change.

Think of it as a reset and not a follow-up!

It should be apparent to the prospect that you are approaching it that way and that you are not trying to take a short cut to a close. Don’t worry too much about repeating what you may have discussed in the past – that’s not a bad thing.

3. If You Had a “Do-Over” What Would You do Differently?

“Gee - I sure wish I could do that one over again”.

How many times have you wished for a do-over? Well you can!! Whether you got to a final proposal/evaluation stage or your deal got shut down earlier think of now as a chance at a do-over. Get excited but first do a debrief and ask yourself the tough questions about what you could have done differently the first time.

How can you leverage the information you obtained during your last campaign to get the right message to the right people in the right way!! What did you learn that could allow you to better position your ROI, increase you influence within the account or mitigate the perceived risk of change.

It takes effort and honesty to deep dive into your last sales cycle and ask yourself why you weren’t successful, but it is worth it. The questions you want to answer revolve around “what can we do differently or correct this time to create more motivation within the account to get our deal done”.

These could include:

· Were we talking to all the right people?

· Did they explicitly acknowledge their pain points and who has them?

· Did you share insights?

· Did we specifically discuss/acknowledge how your solution could help them?

· Did we get introduced to their team?

· Did we discuss or establish a clear return on investment?

· Did the prospect provide budget or current costs?

· Did you ever discuss the steps of making a change or an implementation process?

Remember to think of this opportunity as a new sales campaign. Last time the deal didn’t happen because something was missed or there just wasn’t a fit for your services. Be creative and assertive to create a better experience.

Based on your honest response to these types of questions, strategize a new winning campaign that helps the customer over their status quo hump. And if you can’t then move on – they may not be a fit.

4. Kickstart Momentum with New Stakeholders Within the Account

Please try to never say the following out loud in any deal or account again……

“We are not allowed to talk to anybody in the account accept Bob because he told me so and if we do, he might get pissed and never give us any more business”.

One of the great myths of selling and account management is the ridiculous fear held that if our company contacts somebody other than their “designated (main contact)” that this act is somehow a violation of the rules of engagement. Yet almost all medium to large B2B purchasing decisions get approved through some variation of a consensus process (formal or informal) made up of multiple stakeholders. There is a subset of people with skin-in-the-game, either operationally or financially, who may have different opinions, requirements and influence on the need for internal change. Therefore, do you see how driving your sales process and communication through a single individual creates a challenge to effective selling? If you failed to get access to multiple stakeholders in the decision-making process, it may have been what caused your deal to stall on the status quo of doing nothing.

Since decisions today are usually made through this collective voice approach, we should always be looking for ways to expand relationships and increase our position of influence. In your “do-over roadmap” ask yourself: “who else in the account would be impacted by a change to your services?” Did you ever speak with them directly to get their perspective or share insights that could benefit them directly? In your do-over these people could become your coach, executive sponsor or mobilizers, who support your solution and spearhead the voice of change within their organization.

One technique for establishing new relationships in the account is to leverage your team. Having your Sales Manager, VP Sales or someone else reach out to another stakeholder is a great catalyst to revisit and build the case for change. They can start a fresh business dialogue and gain critical information towards what important criteria could create a more compelling and powerful case for overcoming the status quo.

Having multiple people engaged on both your side and your deal will almost always increase win rates. If you didn’t maximize this the first time through your sales process, it’s a great place to focus and kick-start new momentum in the account.

5. Surprise them with new insights to change up the last narrative.

If your approaching a previous contact perhaps surprise them and change of your past narrative by focusing on a different business problem that your service or solution will solve.

Let’s generalize that your prospect defaulted to a “no decision outcome” because their perception was that the benefit of acquiring a new service or solution wasn’t big enough to make the change a priority or requirement.

This time around the prospect is probably expecting you to come back with the same story (narrative) and value proposition for why they should make a change. Instead get creative and think of a different but related problem that your solution solves that was not the focus of your last discussions.

Your solutions or service will usually solve more than one problem or business requirement. Therefore, focus on a different insight then before to help the customer see the problem of the status quo from a different perspective. This is a great technique and you are seen as someone who adds value and differentiates you from those sales’ person trying to hammer a deal.


Below is an example for sales training services and how we brought focus to a new pain point that was not center to earlier conversations.

Primary Benefit 2020: Constative sales training improves seller’s skill set resulting in closing more sales. However, in 2020 prospects’ budgets were frozen and they decided to stay with the status quo of “inhouse technical training” and postponed additional training investments.

When reengaging in 2021: we initiated our conversation on the benefits of lower turnover:

Providing your sales team with consultative sales training will result in higher performance. This will in turn result in reps making more commission and feeling better about themselves and their job. This will reduce the likelihood of turnover. Lower turnover results in more trained reps in field, which again, results in more sales.

We opened with a related conversation about the benefits of consultative sales training that solved a different but very challenging problem. In this case both lowering sales rep turnover and closing more sales will be exceeded through our consultative sales training.

This approach acts as a pattern interrupt, causing the prospect to stop and consider again the gaps in their current state.


We encourage everyone to revisit any qualified “ No Decision Outcomes” and not let these go into the icy cold abyss of the status quo.

Approach them as new sales campaigns. Put the past aside and start anew. Create a “do-over roadmap” and give your prospect a better a reason to change. We are not saying that you will change the outcome of every no decision deal. However, by following and executing these 5 best practices – We hope you will be able to mine some of the gold from your earlier efforts.

Keep the Momentum!


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