How To Stop Losing Sales Due to Customer Indecision

By Aimee Meester
January 12, 2023

When it comes to sales, conventional industry wisdom says that most leads are lost due to a customer’s fear of diverting from their status quo. Traditional sales methods focus on the idea that customers are married to their existing circumstances, so they are hesitant to enact change by buying a product or service. The goal of a salesperson, therefore, is to convince the customer to make a purchase by explaining how buying a product or service will ultimately help them change their situation for the better.

As market trends have changed and customer values and demographics have shifted, however, traditional sales approaches are beginning to appear somewhat obsolete. In today’s market, a customer’s decision to make a purchase is impacted by a million things: their mood, what they saw on social media, what their friends say, and their own values. The fear of leaving behind what’s comfortable may certainly be a motivating factor in a customer’s decision to avoid a purchase – but in today’s market, there exists an even bigger threat to sales: customer indecision.

Customer Indecision: A Credible Threat

According to a study by Matthew Dixon and Ted McKenna, anywhere from 40% to 60% of sales in today’s market are lost due to customers who say they want to make a purchase, but who ultimately shy away from making the decision to buy. These customers are different from the status-quo customers, who are disinterested in making a purchase in the first place. Today’s indecisive buyers often progress through the entire sales process, taking up valuable time and resources, only to pull back at the last second because they can’t seem to make a decision. This type of sales loss occurs frequently, with over 85% of sales opportunities containing medium to high levels of customer indecision. In other words, the majority of today’s sales are lost due to customer indecision, rather than a customer’s commitment to the status-quo.

Identifying and Counteracting Indecision: The JOLT Framework

Customer indecision poses a substantial threat to sales in today’s market – it’s both pervasive and lethal. Moreover, because it’s driven by personal fears and a set of unique psychological and environmental variables, customer indecision can be rather difficult to identify and counteract. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), there are three main drivers of customer indecision:

  1. Struggling with which options to choose (Valuation Options)
  2. Not doing enough research (Lack of Information)
  3. Not being sure that the purchase will actually be beneficial (Outcome Uncertainty)

In order to account for these variables, the Dixon and McKenna propose a new sales framework (JOLT) that helps companies combat customer indecision through four simple steps:

  1. Judge the level of indecision – In addition to evaluating a customer’s ability to buy, salespeople should also judge a customer’s ability to make a sales decision. From the very beginning of a customer interaction, sales reps should actively probe and identify signs of indecision that can potentially undermine a successful deal. Customers that appear more ready to make a sales decision should be targeted first.
  2. Offer a recommendation – Rather than asking indecisive customers what they want to buy, salespeople should offer them a recommendation on what they should purchase. Choices may be helpful early on in the sales process, but having too many choices can be overwhelming for an indecisive customer, which can lead to a dead deal. Offering a personal recommendation is a helpful way to maneuver around these decision dilemmas, which can promote a successful sale.
  3. Limit the exploration – To combat customer indecision, sales reps should provide product information, while also demonstrating their own expertise and credibility. Rather than bringing in outside experts, they should look for ways to overcome a customer’s belief that they are being oversold. Building trust and establishing credibility early on is crucial, because it helps limit excessive requests for additional information, thereby streamlining the focus on the product and the sale.
  4. Take risk off the table – Companies should look for ways to eliminate the perceived risk of a purchase by offering creative safety net options to customers. These options– including opt-out clauses, free trials, and tailored contracts– help customers build confidence in their purchase decision, because they minimize the perceived risk. When the risk is off the table, the deal is placed at the center, creating a more likely win.

By using the JOLT framework, companies can effectively identify and combat customer indecision, enabling them to increase their sales win rates, bolster their revenue, and expand their market share.

Closing the Gap and Winning the Sale:

In a new, dynamic, and highly nuanced market, companies must be both creative and responsive when it comes to converting sales leads. Customer indecision is one of the most salient threats to successful deals, which means that rather than focusing on persuading a customer to depart from their status quo, companies must focus on convincing a customer to feel confident in deciding to purchase– and in following through on that decision. They must enact strategies that help close the gap between customer interest and decision, if they want to continue to improve their win rates and increase their revenue.

For more ideas on how to improve sales effectiveness, let’s begin a conversation.