Why aren’t you winning?

Between 40 and 60% of lost deals are victims of quiet indecision. It’s a consistent problem exacerbated by tough macroeconomic conditions. But it isn’t inescapable.

In fact, the process of moving through this roadblock can serve as a great opportunity to meaningfully connect with your client.

Ted McKenna, founding partner at DCM Insights and co-author of The JOLT Effect, joined the Winning The Challenger Sale podcast to discuss why indecision occurs, what amplifies indecision, and how reps can steer around it for a strong close.

Listen to “#102: From Stalled to Sealed: Winning Sales Strategies For Today” on Spreaker.

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Today’s environment of indecision

Ted and co-author Matt Dixon published The JOLT Effect in September of 2022 using research performed during the pandemic. While their research hinted that the problem of indecision would naturally grow over time, the last 18 months accelerated that trend.

“The macroeconomic environment has only exacerbated some of these trends,” Ted says.

The problems of indecision have particularly worsened in technology and SaaS circles. As venture capital dries up and investors look to tighten the purse strings, buyers want to avoid risk. The easiest thing to do is nothing at all.

Yet, Ted says, buyers remain curious. They still want visits and demos, meaning the pipeline stays full — of clients who are stalling in later stages of the cycle.

“It feels like everyone is vibing, then they go cold. You’re left scratching your head wondering as to why that might be,” Ted says.

Navigating omission bias

Omission bias, according to the National Library of Medicine, is “people’s tendency to evaluate harm done through omission as less morally wrong and less blameworthy than commission when there is harm.”

Omission bias is rampant in B2B sales, Ted says.

“We see so many situations happen where it felt like the buyer was excited to move forward. They had stated their intent to purchase. They even selected the vendor. The seller was doing all the things you would have expected and hoped. Still, the deal stalled,” Ted says.

In The JOLT Effect, Ted and his co-author write that sellers can lose to omission in two ways.

Loss of the error of omission is when someone chooses not to do something and, as a result, they miss out. For example, if all of your friends invested in cryptocurrency and you chose not to do so, loss of the error of omission would sit in when you see all of your friends have hit it rich.

The error of commission happens when someone chooses to do something and it ends horribly wrong — and this one weighs heavily on buyers.

When thinking of past purchase regrets, buyers become more and more hesitant to sign on the dotted line. They worry not only about the product but also about their company’s ability to reach desirable outcomes.

Leveraging healthy amounts of fear

Can this level of client fear be leveraged to make a difference in sales?

The answer is yes, but only if done so tactfully in a way that is designed to build trust.

The kicker is that clients do not lay out their personality, fears, and weaknesses on a silver platter for the sales team. Truthfully, they may not even be able to pinpoint these specific attributes themselves, much less feel comfortable and confident to openly share them with others.

“It becomes almost an obstacle on an emotional level to a purchase, even though rationally they’re excited about the concept,” Ted says.

Even in B2B sales, this is a rare area of opportunity for sellers to rely on personal experiences to self-identify what a buyer is going through at the moment, as the seller has likely experienced the factors leading to and resulting from indecision as well.

So, what skills can a salesperson utilize to navigate indecision in their clients?

“We came up with what we call pings and echoes. The seller uses their ability to ping the buyer and understand what’s going on under the surface of the water, to understand the size, depth, and breadth of that indecision,” Ted says. “Then, using that to inform them of the quality of the opportunity and the type of indecision they have. Knowing more can help the seller treat the indecision in a more precise way.”

The truly impressive aspect of the pings and echo concept is that, even if the pings are off, the system can still work.

When clients put forth an honest, transparent conversation, clients will likely notice the seller’s dedication (and active listening skills) — leading to a sense of relief for the buyer.

Apart from active listening and relying on personal experiences, Ted believes that high-quality, realistic expectation-setting is crucial for avoiding decision paralysis and keeping your pipeline flowing smoothly.


Want to learn more about how to navigate indecision and continue to close deals? Listen to the full episode of Winning the Challenger Sale where Ted reveals more of the necessary skills to build trust with clients, how to effectively build and maintain safety nets, and more.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Winning The Challenger Sale podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for it in your favorite podcast player.

Andee Harris

Andee Harris is CEO of Challenger. Andee brings more than two decades of experience growing and scaling service and technology businesses. She has previously led multiple companies, both as CEO and Senior Vice President, through periods of rapid revenue growth, critical fundraising, and successful acquisition. These companies include Highground (acquired by Vista Equity Partners), TMBC (acquired by ADP), Syndio and Emerging Solutions (acquired by Emtec).