“No Decision Made,” is increasingly what we are hearing on deals in which we’ve invested time and effort. In extreme cases, we are seeing as much as 35% of the qualified deals people pursue ending in “no decision.” This outcome is, perhaps, more frustrating than an outright loss. We don’t know what to do–will they make a decision at some point? Should we keep selling? Is it dead or just “parked?”

Sometimes, this is a result of mis- or bad qualification by the sales person. But we are seeing something very different occurring, as well. Organizations are changing how they make decisions. More decisions are being pushed upward in the organization and more are being made through consensus across a broader group of executives. So finding the decision maker(s) is getting tougher..

It’s new for us, as sales professionals, more importantly it’s new for our customers. That’s right–it’s new for our customers! The rules have changed for them as well, and probably no one has published the ”rule book” for their organization. Many of them are struggling with “how do we get decisions and funding for those projects that are important to us?” Few of us are equipped with dealing with this–both sales people and customers alike.

Years ago, sales people working with functional executives, division or department heads, could put together a great business case on a deal. The executive would make a decisions, “Yes, let’s go forward—I’ll find the money to fund this.” It seemed if you had a compelling solution and created a great business case, executives could always find the funding to support the purchase and implementation of the solution.

Those days are in the past—it’s a shock to both us and our customers. Regardless how powerful the business case, customers aren’t finding the funding! What’s happened is companies are viciously focused on a small number of strategic initiatives. They are investing in solutions that contribute to those strategic initiatives and not in others. So if the solution you and your customer want to get funded and approved is part of the strategic initiative—then you have a strong possibility of getting the project approved. If it’s not part of the strategic initiative, it’s a long tough haul for you and your customer to get it approved.

So that’s the first key thing we have to do: Make sure the project you are selling is tied to at least one of the top strategic initiatives of the company!

The second big thing is tied to this. Remember, a department or functional head used to be able to “find the funding.” In large organizations, it was pretty easy. Put together a compelling business case, go to your boss, perhaps your boss’s boss, and they’d find the money to do it.

Now, our customers are having to SELL within their own organizations! Not only do they have to put together a great business case, not only do they have to make sure the project is aligned with the strategic initiatives, but they have to deal with an amorphous group of decision makers and sell the project! They’ve never had to do this before and they are probably terrible at it!

This is where we sales professionals can really help our customers! Yeah, I know we are supposed to offer to go with our customers to the decision-making committee and “co-present, co-sell.” In theory, that’s nice. In practice, sales people always offer, but customers rarely accept. So what does this mean? We need to get the customer to recognize how decision making in their organization has changed. We have to get them to understand that to get approval, they need to SELL the project. For many, this is very uncomfortable. They’ve probably never had to do it before. They probably don’t know how to do it. They may not have the “aptitude” to do it. Finally, they probably feel some level of personal risk in going into senior management and “selling” them on a project.

But if we can’t help our customers understand how to get things done, how to sell within the organization; they won’t achieve what they want, and neither will we.

Navigating decision making processes within our customers’ organizations has never been more difficult. The same old approaches aren’t effective. We need to change and we need to teach our customers how to change.

Absent this, the outcome is pretty clear: No Decision.