Two Playbooks to Close the Sale

challenger sale customer indecision Dec 07, 2023

By The DCMi Marketing Team

All customer decisions—whether pre-sale or post-sale—follow the same path, as depicted in the below graphic. But our research indicates high performers think about the sale in an entirely different way. This graphic shows a prototypical sales process or customer buying journey. 

Buyers individually and collectively first consider whether to move away from their current state to a new potential operating vision. Sellers begin by engaging customers in their status quo in an attempt to get them to agree on a vision—to state their intent to move away from their status quo and to move forward with that supplier as the preferred vendor. 

From that point, the seller needs to get the customer to buy something, as depicted on the far right side of the continuum. That concept on which the buyer now agrees on is then translated into a concrete proposal for taking action and many other steps must occur before any decision is finalized: terms have to be considered, conditions have to be weighed, and many departments may become involved. This sequence remains true whether the change under consideration is an initial potential sale or an expansion opportunity with an existing customer.

Preference for the status quo is driven by a set of human biases that, simply stated, lead customers to want things to remain as they are, even when faced with better alternatives. Perhaps the customer doesn’t fully appreciate the problem that the salesperson’s solution is designed to solve. Or maybe they don’t yet see enough daylight between their company’s solution and that of the competition. So, teams use certain skills to prove to the customer the many ways their solutions will help them win. Including, when all else fails, dialing up the “FUD” — or, fear, uncertainty, and doubt — to tap into the customer’s fear of missing out. They show the customer what they stand to lose by doing nothing, sticking with the status quo, and not making this purchase today.

But overcoming indecision requires a fundamentally different approach. Where overcoming the status quo is about dialing up the fear of not purchasing, overcoming indecision is about dialing down the fear of purchasing. Our research shows that the three biggest drivers of customer indecision are valuation problems (i.e., when customers struggle with what option, package, or configuration to choose), lack of information (i.e., when customers feel like they haven’t done enough homework) and outcome uncertainty (i.e., when customers fear they may not receive the benefits they expect from a purchase). And, as the number of options available to customers increases, as the amount of information available to research those options expands, and as the cost and risk of vendor solutions continues to rise, so too does the propensity for customers to become indecisive and, ultimately, do nothing.

As a consequence, today’s best sales organizations are separating themselves from competitors by running both playbooks in tandem. Raising buyer fear enough to initiate action but reducing fear when necessary to minimize the perceived probability the buyer will mess up the purchase. 

Since indifference and indecision can co-occur at all points of a decision, all sellers must decipher a buyer's mindset and adapt their approach accordingly. One crucial question sellers and managers should be asking throughout the buyer journey: "Is the buyer indifferent or indecisive?". And then treat the situation accordingly.

Beware, though, of assumptions that indecision doesn’t exist just because the buyer hasn’t explicitly mentioned they are struggling to make a decision. Why is this so dangerous? Because our research shows indecision can be detected as early as the first customer visit and exists in moderate or high levels on 87% of sales opportunities. It’s so prevalent that it often lingers after a sales win, at times even holding the potential to unwind an otherwise successful sale. As shown in The JOLT Effect, this phenomenon—when people re-evaluate their choice after the choice has been made—is what psychologists refer to as “post-decision dysfunction.” Beyond simply worrying about whether they made the right decision, customers will go the extra step to start checking their decision-making work.  This is when customers go back and do more research about options, after the decision has been made.  They start consulting more reviews, they look through other vendors’ websites and even consult subject matter experts and purchasing consultants—despite the fact that they’ve already signed an agreement to move forward with a company’s solution.

Watch the video to learn more about how to run these two critical playbooks.

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