What is Customer Indecision? Understanding and Overcoming Buyer Hesitation

customer indecision indecision jolt effect skills May 30, 2024
40-60 percent of deals lost to no decision pie chart

By The JOLT Effect Team


Customer indecision is the moment when sales teams (like yours!) lose a sale not to a competitor—but to the dreaded “no decision.” 

No matter how big or small your business is—or how simple or complex your product or service is—you’re undoubtedly already familiar with the concept of customer indecision. Everyone in sales knows those moments when buyers get cold feet—when you can feel the deal start to slip…they start to hem and haw or backtrack before inevitably going completely dark on you, leaving you to pick up the pieces of your broken forecast.

It’s a frustrating moment, to say the least. 

Today, we’ll unpack why these moments of customer indecision matter, what causes them, and what we can do about them. 

Why is it Important to Understand Customer Indecision? 

Our study of 2.5 million sales calls, featured in  our book, The JOLT Effect: How High Performers Overcome Customer Indecision, between 40% and 60% of deals today are lost due to customer indecision. That’s a massive percentage of sales lost due to what, on the surface, feels like no fault of your sales team—the customer just wasn’t ready to make a decision. Unfortunately, customers who just appear to be “not ready” still consume a large chunk of your team’s time, effort, and resources. 

Today, 40% and 60% of deals are lost due to customer indecision.

This makes customer indecision a very important (i.e., expensive!) problem to understand and overcome. 

Unpacking the Psychology Behind Customer Indecision

This leads us to the question every salesperson has asked themselves at one time or another: Why do customers choose to do nothing? It feels like a very logical question to ask of potential customers who may have made it all the way through weeks, perhaps months of meetings, demonstrations, and even a free trial. 

We found that the reasons for this indecision can take many forms. 

Experienced sales professionals are familiar with the challenge of beating the status quo. But our research indicated that decisions end in no decision for a second reason: indecision due to fear of failure. In fact, across 2.5 million sales calls, 87% of customers demonstrated moderate or high indecision levels. That’s a lot of indecision present in the sales process!  

Want to learn how to measure customer indecision on your next win/loss survey or interview? Check out this free tool.

Signs and Symptoms of Indecision

Now that we know what customer indecision is and why prospects might experience it, let’s examine some signs of customer indecision that a talented salesperson might look for to identify a potentially risky sale. 

Three Ways to Evaluate Potential Moments of Indecision
  • Get to know your customer as a person. Do they display tendencies that indicate an inability to make decisions? Are they the key decision-makers in the sale? Do they have a track record of decisive behaviors? Understanding your customer’s personality, needs, likes, and dislikes here will help you spot indecisive moments ahead of time.  
  • Identify customer concerns. What is your customer most concerned about when it comes to this purchase? Are they concerned about what to choose? Do they wonder whether they’ve done enough homework or whether this purchase will really benefit them? Understanding their concerns ahead of time will help you head off any potential trouble areas ahead of time and turn those moments into selling opportunities. 
  • Understand the environment. What other factors might impact the customer’s decision-making process? Is the economic environment uncertain? Are there internal company dynamics at play? Understanding all the stressors that could impact the sale will go a long way toward helping you prepare for moments of uncertainty and indecision and prepare to meet them head-on. 

Moments of customer indecision are critical for the skilled salesperson to intervene and guide the customer toward the right decision. These are opportunities, not roadblocks!

Why Does Indecision Matter? Impact of Indecision on Your Business

Now, you might be wondering—why does any of this matter? Especially if you already have a successful sales team, customer indecision might be the furthest thing from your mind. But that’s leaving money on the table. Learning to address customer indecision is a way of thinking about the sales process that layers on top of your existing sales playbook

“Where overcoming the status quo is about dialing up the fear of not purchasing, overcoming indecision is about dialing down the fear of purchasing.” – Matthew Dixon, Ted McKenna in Stop Losing Sales to Customer Indecision

And why layer it? Well, because when high-performing salespeople utilize techniques to address and overcome customer indecision—rather than ignoring it in favor of a more familiar playbook—they can convert up to 57% of deals. For sales teams, tackling indecision head-on can make a massive difference in your bottom line. 

Strategies to Overcome Customer Indecision

Great, you might think. You’ve sold me on combating customer indecision. Now, how can I do that? 

Here’s a crash course on the method we’ve determined high performers use to combat customer indecision—which we call the JOLT method. 

  • Judge the indecision: As mentioned above, the first step in addressing customer indecision is looking for the customer’s ability to make decisions. This is a big part of qualifying the opportunity. You need to know if your prospect is able to decide! 
  • Offer your recommendation: The second step high performers take is to offer a recommendation. Indecisive customers need a helping hand, not more options to choose between. Tell the customer what they should do in a difficult purchase situation—they’re actually looking for that guidance. 
  • Limit the exploration: Third, high performers actually limit the information they share with customers. Needing more and more resources is often a sign of indecision, and high performers stay one step ahead by providing enough information—but not too much—and keeping customers on the path to the sale. 
  • Take risk off the table: Finally, high performers focus on solutions that limit risk when faced with uncertain customers. These can include opt-outs, refund and change clauses, or other ways to decrease the risk for the indecisive customer.

Want to learn more about our methodology for overcoming indecision? We unpack all our research in our book, The JOLT Effect: How High Performers Overcome Customer Indecision.

What is Customer Indecision? 

In this blog, we’ve learned that customer indecision is the moment of hesitation when a customer’s fear of purchasing a product or service outweighs the benefits of making that purchase. For high performers, the art of the sale lies in listening to understand the customer’s fears and boldly addressing those fears. The bold sales rep’s role is to defeat indecision with firm guidance and help the customer feel confident signing on the dotted line. 

Ready to start your team’s journey to overcoming customer indecision? Book a consultation with our team to discover how our methodology can transform your sales processes.

Join Our Mailing List

Get notified when new content is posted.