How to JOLT buyers out of indecision
Matt Dixon: Beating the status quo is all about dialing up the fear of not purchasing. What we're trying to do in sales is help the customer realize the cost of their inaction.
Danny Wasserman: This is Reveal, the Revenue Intelligence Podcast here to help go- to- market leaders do one thing, stop guessing. If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential, then this show is for you. I'm Danny Wasserman coming to you from the Gong Studios. What's your number one enemy when trying to get a deal over the finish line indecision? And I'm not just saying that. It's backed by some fascinating behavioral and psychological research done by this episode's guest. In fact, you're probably familiar with his work. Matt Dixon is the co- author of numerous bestselling books, including the insanely popular, The Challenger Sale. Matt is also the founding partner at DCM Insights and he's here at Reveal to talk about his brand new book that drops this week. In our episode, Matt shares his team's brand new incredible hard- hitting research around customer indecision and how his team has developed a method to ensure your deals stop getting stuck. Let's dive in. Matt, wow, what a treat to have you on Reveal.
Matt Dixon: Thank you for having me.
Danny Wasserman: It is an exciting time to chat with you because obviously, everyone is feeling what is been described as a macroeconomic downturn, and the timing of when you came out with Challenger was also very much centered around some of the headwinds today. And I certainly want to hear more about the impetus for coming out with your latest book JOLT. So, really excited to I think start there. Could we hear a little bit more about this exciting new book release coming out? When can we get our hands on it? And maybe tell us a little bit more about that.
Matt Dixon: So, if we take ourselves back to maybe a time that most of us would rather forget, but it was March of 2020, and it was right around the time where we were all learning to bake sourdough bread, we were watching Tiger King, all that good stuff. But because I'm a research geek, myself and my partner in crime, Ted McKenna, who's a co- author of the new book, The JOLT Effect, realized that this was maybe a once- in- a- lifetime opportunity to study sales in the way it had never been studied before. Because as you remember, sales, which I think was on a slow march to becoming more and more virtual like more of the sale was happening on Zoom or Reams or WebEx. More of those conversations were being captured and analyzed. Suddenly, we went from slow increase to boom overnight, everything was happening virtually. And it was not just the mundane calls, but it was the really critical calls, the negotiations, the consensus- building calls, the really tough calls with senior decision- makers. Those were all happening on these platforms. So, we decided to actually at that time, partner with several dozen companies who over the course of a year plus sent us about 2. 5 million recorded sales conversations, which we use a conversation intelligence platform. I was working at a company called Tether at the time, and we use them, and actually, many of those customers, partners of ours, or participants in the research, Gong customers as well. So, sending us their Gong transcripts and we're using that platform to do the analysis. You guys are in the space, and this can be a little bit like boiling the ocean when trying to find insight. And we went after a question, said, " Hey, this is a golden opportunity, but what should we study? What's the big question?" Challenger was about the problem of customers learning on their own. How do we engage a customer who knows it all, who's decided they already know what they're looking for? Here's who we are, here's how we fit into their value chain. Like here's how we compare to their competitors, et cetera, or our competitors, and they box us out. So, that was the story of Challenger. The punchline there was, in a world where customers can learn on their own, what they're looking for is the thing they couldn't learn on their own. They're looking for a salesperson to bring unique insight. So, don't come in and ask me what's keeping me up at night, which is what we taught salespeople to do for 30, 40 years. Show me what should be keeping me up at night. And that was the core message of Challenger. So, this time around we actually took a look at what we think is a problem of the day. And this is the problem of losses to no decision. And this is something we've been tracking now over the past few years, and it's been on a slow march upward. In fact, in our analysis, we found anywhere between 40% and 60% of all deals are lost to no decision. So, it's a massive deadweight loss for the salesperson. It's a huge loss for the sales team and it's a massive productivity sync for the CRO, the CSO, and their organization. So, we decide to look at that question. I think that problem's going to get worse over the next few years and it's on a secular trend to get worse if we don't do anything about it in sales. But we took all this data in this powerful conversation intelligence methodology and went out, turned those calls into unstructured texts, used machine learning to analyze them all trying to understand what would motivate a customer to do nothing, especially after going through an entire sales process. And then, more importantly, what do the best salespeople do to avoid that happening to them? Is there something they figured out? Because we found in the data they don't lose to no decision at the same rate that average performers do. And so, that became the core of the story. And what we found was pretty surprising.
Danny Wasserman: Thinking where we started, which is beginning an agnostic sales approach, counterintuitively using unconventional wisdom to say, " Hey, we need to overcome the inertia of wanting to change." And then, in Challenger, getting people even to a place where they can see they want to change. And now, in your latest book, the JOLT Effect, actually overcoming that inertia and then thinking about indecision as perhaps yet another gain- changing seminal moment in our understanding and even more microscopic or surgical level. Talk to me a little bit about that continuum from even just, I don't want to I want to, most recently I can decide.
Matt Dixon: And again, this is what this technology enables us. So, we find things that we had no idea, when the results are coming out of the model, we're like, " What is this? This doesn't make any sense," given that we're coming out of decades of conventional wisdom and sales that have always told us the opposite. So, we have the total head- scratcher moment. If you imagine, basically a basic buying journey, you've articulated it before, but we engage our customers in their status quo. It's a way they do things today. Maybe they use a competitor's product, maybe they use a homegrown solution, maybe they've seen no need for conversation intelligence, for example, for Gong. I never knew I needed that. So, you've got to convince the customer that they've got to stop doing things the way they're doing them now and start doing them a different way. The second step, of course, is they go from their status quo to agreeing on a vision. I'm there, I agree my status quo is suboptimal, I want to work with your company. Let's talk turkey. And then, the last step, of course, is we get them to buy something. It's all great to get intent, but we want them to take action and actually purchase. What salespeople know is things almost always go sideways, somewhere between when the customer says they're ready to move forward and when they actually do. And that's the moment where customers start talking themselves out of the things that they seemed like they were convinced of before. What seemed like a sure thing is suddenly slipping from your fingers. They start to hem and haw, they waffle, they waver, they get cold feet, they straddle the fence, they start to ghost us. They don't reply in a timely fashion the way they once did. They don't show up for our demos and our calls and things just feel like they're slipping away from us. And the conventional wisdom in sales has always been that there is only one reason that it happens to you as a salesperson. And that is that you failed to beat the customer status quo. You didn't put it to bed. You either didn't prove to the customer that what they do today is good enough because they believe that what they do, say is good enough. You haven't convinced them that there's a burning platform. It's leading to lost revenue growth opportunity. It's leading to lost market share, team disengagement, whatever the outcome is we focus on. But there's some burning platform they've got to abandon. So, you fail to convince them of that. Or maybe they do believe the status quo is suboptimal, but they don't really believe that your solution is the better path forward. It's not a compelling enough alternative. Or it could be yes, status quo stinks, your solution's great, but getting from A to B, like the juice is not worth the squeeze, we don't have the time, the energy, the resources, so forget it. We have other priorities. It has to be one of those things. Salespeople now for decades and decades have been taught. And by the way, to be fair, we wrote about this in the Challenger Sale too. The Challengers are really good at showing the customer that the pain of same is worse than the pain of change. And so, that is fundamentally a story about breaking the death grip that the status quo has on our customers. And so, what happens in those moments? What we found our analysis is that when those customers show signs of cold feet, 75% of the time, sellers go back and they hammer the status quo because that's what they've been taught to do. And they've been taught that's the only reason the customer's getting cold feet. It's the biggest enemy in sales and you got to go after it. And so, it comes across in a couple of different ways, but the first attempt is usually, Danny, you must not have missed that. Did you see that all the zeros on that ROI project? You must miss that. Let me talk you through the ROI. Did I mention this customer who loves us in your industry? Let me talk to you again about the case study, the success story. Maybe you missed that feed or speed or feature or benefit and you don't fully appreciate how awesome this is. So, I try to paint that rosy picture, dangle the carrot in front of the customer. When they don't respond to that, we put away the carrot and we break out the stick. And so, we start dialing up the FUD, fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And we're trying to do is scare the customer into action. Danny, these problems are not going to solve themselves. And remember you told me you feel like you're losing ground to competitors. By the way, we work with all your competitors and we can assure you are losing ground to them. And you got to do something about this. Again, create that burning platform. So, this wasn't surprising to us to find that as the standard approach when customers show signs of wobbling and getting cold feet. What did surprise us is that it backfires way more often than it works out. So, there's an 84% probability that when they try to re- convince the customer of the rosy ROI projection and the great features, benefits or break out the FUD techniques, they actually make things worse, not better. In other words, they make it more likely the customer will do nothing. That was a total head- scratcher to us because again, it flew in the face of everything we've been taught in sales because if the status quo are only enemy, we're finding is that going back and hammering the status quo actually blows up in the salesperson's face more often than it works out. Why is that? And so, we had to take a step back and ask a slightly different question, which is not what are the new techniques for being the status quo, but rather what would possess a customer to do nothing? What motivates somebody to end up in no decision? And here's what we found. When we went back to the data and we did the analysis, we found is there are actually two reasons a customer will do nothing, not one. We've always been taught that the primary reason, if not the only reason is that they prefer their status quo. What I do today is good enough, I don't see need for your platform or getting from A to B is not really worth it for me or my organization. But what we realize when we did the research is that, that's one of two reasons. The second reasons was not preference for the status quo, it's indecision about changing it. Now, a listener, that sounds identical, right? Those things sound almost like indecipherable from one another. So, let me peel it back one more layer. When we look at indecision about changing the status quo, we found there are three drivers of customer indecision. The first one, I call evaluation problem, which is we put a lot of options in front of our customer, all different ways to configure our platforms, different partner integrations, different bells and whistles, premium versions, basic versions, standard versions, long contracts, short contracts, enterprise- wide deployments, narrow deployments. And the customer's looking at all these options and they're saying, " It all looks good to me, and I don't know what to pick. And I'm afraid that if I pick the wrong thing, it might be an irreversible decision and I might realize later I picked the wrong configuration or I picked the wrong version of the proposal or the contract." So, again, that's evaluation problem. The second one, we call lack of information. So, this is the customer, despite all of the information that they're swimming in, feeling like they don't yet know enough about this technology, about this solution, about this market, about this decision we're asking them to make. And so, they feel like they've got to consume more content. I'm going to wait till next quarter when the Gartner Magic Quadrant comes out, or I'm going to talk to this analyst, or I'm going to ping my LinkedIn network, or I'm going to read more white papers. I'm going to wait till that Gong webinar next quarter comes out because it's the next white paper I consume that will answer all of my questions. So, they consume endlessly. And then, the third source of indecision is what we call outcome uncertainty. So, this is where the customer feels like they may agree with your ROI projections. They may give you credit for a great proof of concept or pilot. They might say, " Hey, these reference calls are great, love the case studies, love the proof points, but what if this doesn't work out for us?" I'm building a business case and going to my CFO and it's predicated on these projections you've made. And if those things don't come to pass, I'll have egg on my face, best case. Worst case, I could get fired. And that by the way is going to be even more amped up as there's more budget scrutiny in the next couple of years. Now here's the thing, if you look at those three things, I don't know what to pick. I haven't done enough homework or we might be left holding the bag in the same might go sideways on me. The status quo does not make an appearance in any of those root causes. And so, it could easily be that you have a customer who is 100% convinced that the status quo stinks and they want to work with you and they want to buy your solution, but they don't know what version of the solution and how to configure it. They don't feel like they've done enough homework or they don't feel like you've given them enough assurance of success. There's no safety net here. There's no guarantee of performance in return. And so, for one of those reasons, they may not choose to move forward. Hopefully, it becomes clear then why, when we treat every indecisive customer like a nail, and what we've got is our status quo hammer. And you go back and you start beating on these customers who are convinced to lead their status quo but instead are wrestling with one of these other sources of indecision. Again, best case, it rings hollow, worst case, it just gives them more to be worried about and they end up doing nothing. Here's the thing is that when we look at losses to no decision, most of them are actually a function of customer indecision, one of those three things we talked about, fewer of them are actually because they prefer their status quo. And so, technically, it was 44% of those no decision losses were because are attributable to customer's preference for the status quo, 56% of them were because they're struggling with one of those other things. The key message for salespeople is, look, at the end of the day, you've got to beat the customer status quo. Your customer's not going to buy anything from you if you don't convince them that there's a better way to do things and that the status quo is suboptimal. You will not pass go, you will not collect$ 200. It all starts there. And so, whether your approach is Challenger, whether it's Sandler or Richardson, MEDDIC, you may take your pick, right? But those are all approaches built around this idea, beating the customer status quo, showing them the cost of inaction game to move forward. But once we convince the customer that what starts to occupy their mind is the fear or failure, it's not that they're going to miss out, it's that they're going to mess up. And it turns out that customers are way more concerned with messing up than they are with missing out. Nobody ever got fired for maintaining the status quo, but lots of people get fired for trying to change it and it doesn't work out. So, we need a second playbook. And that's all about overcoming customer indecision.
Danny Wasserman: Is there still a place in sales for Challenger tendencies or in fact if we even go back to Challenger in the five different personas that you talk about, do we still find in this new era of, dare I even say heightened paranoia, or is there a target on my back? I believe you talked about, is there yoke on my face, blood in my hands? With that more pronounced roadblock or hurdle that we as salespeople have to overcome, does that invalidate Challenger place in a successful model? Or does Challenger coexist but in a sequence with this new persona that demystifies all the information that helps elucidate the yellow brick road to help you overcome the indecision? Do we think about almost becoming more multifaceted in our approaches?
Matt Dixon: So, I think multifaceted is actually the way to picture it. So, what I don't think this does is, say, that all of these techniques and these approaches that we've learned over the years, whether Challenger or otherwise, to beat the customer status quo, that those are no longer relevant. Because again, 44% of our losses to no decision are because we didn't beat the customer status quo. And by the way, those are only the deals that end up in no decision. Think about all the deals we lose where the customer says, you didn't beat the status quo. I think what we do today's fine. I don't think you're the best vendor on the market. I don't think it's worth the journey. So, these are the deals that end up in no decision. And so, beating the status quo is absolutely critical. It all starts there in sales. And so, the last thing I would tell any salesperson is forget it, it's no longer a concern. A millennia of human nature is actually now over, like we're all okay with moving away from the status quo. That is not true. We are engineered to be lazy and avoid change even when better options are presented. And so, beating the status quo is job one for the salesperson. Again, I happen to think Challengers are state of the art approach for doing that. But what we also learned in this new research is that even those great salespeople, those Challengers, they run a second playbook. So, they got their beat the status quo playbook, but in parallel, they're running an overcoming in decision playbook. And the way I'd visualize this is, again, when you engage your customer in their status quo, you get them to agree on a vision, express their intent to move forward and then get them to buy. At some point in that journey, you need to switch gears from hammering the status quo to now thinking about helping the customer overcome their fear of failure, helping overcome customer indecision. The difference between those two playbooks is this, beating the status quo is all about dialing up the fear of not purchasing. What we're trying to do in sales is help the customer realize the cost of their inaction. If you do nothing, here's what happens. That's absolutely critical. That's how we get the customer to say, " Okay, I'm ready to move forward. Let's talk about doing business together." But as I said, once you put the status quo to bed, what then fills the void is all this fear of failure. Did I pick the right thing? Have I done enough homework? Has this vendor given me enough assurance of success? And so, we've got to then overcome indecision. So, if beating the status quo is about dialing up the fear of not purchasing, overcoming indecisions about dialing down the fear of purchasing, right? It's about, again, instilling, I wouldn't even say the confidence, but the self- efficacy that the customer feels like I'm making a great choice here. I can take things out of my basket. I can forget these other options. This salesperson has guided me to a perfect decision, a perfect choice. I've done plenty of homework on my own. And by the way, I'm working with a true subject matter expert who knows way more about this than I ever will. And this person has my best interest in mind. They're not trying to oversell me, they're not trying to hide the ball on me. I trust them to guide me to a great outcome. And then, lastly, they're not asking me to take a, if you will, a blind leap of faith, but actually jump over a cliff with a safety net, right? I'm taking a leap. It's a big move forward, but they've got my back and they're here to guarantee my success. They've seen how things go wrong. They've done this a million times before and I feel confident that we're going to get those outcomes that we discussed during the sales process. So, again, we need those two playbooks. And so, I think the answer for salespeople, unfortunately, it's a little bit like an old boss of mine used to say, " I'll talk about the tyranny of the or, " because I'd be like, " Oh, do you want me to do this or that?" And he said, " There is no or." You got to do both. And I think in sales, unfortunately, in today's buying environment, we do have to do both. Think about those three drivers of indecision and ask yourself this. How many listeners out there work for companies that are offering fewer options and fewer partner integrations? There're no roadmap items, there's no bells and whistles, no different configurations. The answer is like, none of us. All of us are increasing the number of options we put in front of our customers that increases evaluation problems. For how many of us are we in a market where there are fewer things being written about, fewer analyst reports, fewer opinions out there about us and our competitors? Again, the answer's zero. The amount of information about any of our markets, any of our technologies, any of our industries today is way more than it was last year. In next year, it's going to be way more than it is today. It's just that amount of information is growing exponentially. And then, ask yourself, how many of us are trying to offer cheaper, less sticky packages and solutions to our customers? Again, the answer is none of us. We're all trying to move up the value chain. We're all trying to sell enterprise- wide solutions, really sticky solutions that are hard to dislodge. And as we creep up the value chain, ie as our stuff gets more expensive, more disruptive and riskier for the customer, that outcome uncertainty gets worse. So, these are genies that we can't put back in the bottle. All of these things are going to get worse. And then, if you layer on top of that, the downturn, this stuff gets amped up to a very high level. And so, I think again, 40% to 60% of deals lost to no decisions a huge problem. I think that problem's going to get a lot worse despite the downturn. And I think in the next couple of years it's going to become the problem in sales that we need to be focused on.
Danny Wasserman: We know that indecision is affecting our team's ability to close new business. So, as a group of sales leaders, how does this affect us, and how we build out our own teams? According to Matt's research in the JOLT Effect, your team's performance capabilities really come into play when dealing with the indecision epidemic we've talked about. Take this. If your customers purchase moderately indecisive, high performers can still break through that indecision 57% of the time compared to their counterparts who are average performers only winning at a clip of 26%. And that's just moderately indecisive customers. When we ratchet things up to highly indecisive customers, let's look at how those A player top performers convert. According to Matt's research, we're talking about high performers converting at 31% of the time while core and average performers struggle bringing in just 6% of these challenging indecisive opportunities. So, what's the takeaway? Train your sales teams is the best line of defense against these unsure and uncertain customers. Now, let's get on to the really good stuff. Here's Matt's exact playbook for how to jolt your customers out of indecision. Did you and Ted examine what feels very paradoxical that we just talked about at the beginning of this episode, the efficiencies that through technology we have gained? So, what we're able to accomplish in business far surpasses historically within the last few decades, what anyone could have imagined. And conversely, there seems to be what you've described in whether it's the omission bias or the paranoia, an increasingly inefficient psychology. And as salespeople, those are at odds with one another. And did any conclusion come from that or were you able to decipher, again, I'll use the word paradox.
Matt Dixon: Yeah, no, it's a really interesting question and hypothesis. The other question we tend to get is what's the deal? Why are customers … again, paradoxically, those customers who are like, " Status quo stinks, I'm ready to move forward. You have beaten my status quo. Let's talk turkey and go through an entire sales process." Think about all of their own time that's consumed. Talk about a paradox or just an irony. The amount of time our customers sink into evaluating our solution, to talking to our reference customers, talking to our engineering team, our customer success team, our product managers, our executive sponsors. And all of the team's time on their side, their legal team, their procurement team, all the technical users, you name it, they are sinking tons of their own time into it only to do nothing. And so, I think still people look at this and say, why? It doesn't make any sense that somebody would spend all of that energy and resource only to do nothing. And it does come down to this idea of the omission bias. Look, all salespeople are very familiar with the concept of loss aversion. We all know that human beings, our customers, they seek to avoid loss more than they seek to maximize gain. That's why we use FUD techniques. That's why we try to show the customer what they're going to miss out on if they do nothing, if they don't act, if they don't make this purchase. That's why we try to show the customer the pain of same is worse than the pain of change as we talk about in the Challenger Sale. But I think there's a wrinkle to this whole idea of loss aversion. And that's this, is that there's two loss. The first loss is a loss of inaction that's called an error of omission. So, when you don't do anything and something bad happens, but there's a second type of loss and that's called an error of commission. This is a loss that is directly attributable to an action you took. And between those two options, even if the loss is exactly the same in decades of human psychology, behavioral economics research has validated that human beings, if given those two options, you're going to lose this amount by doing nothing and you're going to lose the same amount. But it's going to be attributable to an action you took. We will all choose to do nothing, every day of the week and twice on Sunday. In other words, we're totally cool with missing out. We are not okay with messing up. And this is just a human dilemma. I think what's interesting with technology, with product- led growth, we are accelerating in many respects our ability to beat the status quo. But we are running right into a brick wall of human behavior, which is driven by the customer's fear of messing up. And the reality is no salesperson out there has ever been taught by anybody. There's never been any book written about it, never any research done on it about this idea of overcoming indecision. And so, again, the message here is that first part of the sale, we got to beat the status quo, but then we got to shift gears and we got to think about how do I get you from convincing you to move forward to now convincing you that the way you're moving forward, the choice you made, the amount of research you did, the assurances you got, were really well thought out, you made great decisions, we've got your back. We're going to make you look, not like a fool, but like a hero here. And so, it's a lot about risk mitigation, just getting our customer comfortable with their fear of failure. And here's the wrinkle about it, Danny, I would say that indecision is not something customers talk about. They talk about how they think their status quo is fine. I think our legacy solution's fine. I think the competitor's product that you're trying to dislodge is fine. I don't believe your solution is that much better or this is not a priority for us. Like customers talk about that stuff very openly. But no customer ever raises their hand and says, " Hey, I just want to let you know I struggle to make decisions." They all think they're very decisive, but they're really not. Again, we talked about earlier, 87% of the deals we studied had customers with moderate or high levels of indecision. Now you asked another question about the sources of that indecision. You asked that earlier. The reality is that will change over the course of the sale. So, early on, the customer might be worried about, have I done enough homework? Am I smart enough here? Do I trust the salesperson to lead me to a great outcome and a great decision? Or do I need to be just as much of an expert as they are? Later on, they might worry about, " Okay, I think we're ready, but this all looks good, and should I pick configuration A, B, or C?" And then, towards the end, they might get really concerned about, this a lot of money. I've got a bullseye in my back. If this doesn't work out, I'm in a lot of trouble. Or I'm just going to look like a fool. And so, do I have any guarantee of success? Does this vendor really know what's at stake here? And are they going to help me deliver the goods or is this thing going to go sideways and I'm going to get fired? So, it will change over the course of the sale and you will find customers who are concerned with multiple of those things. And so, it's actually hard to pinpoint like this one's the big one, that one, because for one customer, it could be this in the beginning, this in the middle, this at the end, or some combination thereof over the course of the sale.
Danny Wasserman: When I think back to the many takeaways from Challenger Sale, it was twofold. You could say more. But for me, just to oversimplify my experience with the book, it gave me tactics to both pressure test status quo bias, and the inertia of not wanting to change whatsoever. And by extension, very specific plays I could run back to the word tactical to dismantle that resistance to change. And thinking about your new book, the JOLT Effect, is the same true, where you not only illuminate ways to diagnose and triage, these are symptoms of indecision. But then, after you've deduced, I have indecision on my hands, here's how I cure it or here's how I treat it.
Matt Dixon: So, JOLT is actually, I think the big question, I was like, " Okay, I get it two playbooks, but what's in the playbook? What do I do differently?" It's all well and good to tell me I'm hosed, but I would prefer if I wasn't, I could do something about it. So, JOLT is actually an acronym and it stands for four behaviors we found in the data that high performers have developed on their own because they're high performers. It's this lead steer effect, right? They figure out where the obstacles are and which way to go in light of changes in customer buying behavior, and they adapt their sales approach. Nobody ever taught them to do it. They never got any coaching on it. They never wrote a book about it, but they figured it out on their own. So, we distilled from this mountain of data that there were four things they did, and these are the four letters in JOLT. So, the first thing they do is they judge the level of indecision. We talked about this a little bit, but it all starts there. In a world where, if you will, we know 87% of our customers are moderately, are highly indecisive, but nobody ever talks about it. These are personal fears. Customers are not comfortable talking about this stuff. So, as salespeople, we really attuned both in an active listening approach, but also by doing what we talk about, sending out pings, and listening for echoes back from our customer that are designed to surface that indecision, get it on the table and start a conversation about it in a professional, respectful, in very empathetic way. High performers will qualify and disqualify opportunities. They'll forecast and they'll decide on their play when selling, not just on a customer's ability to buy. So, what the opportunity looks like on paper, is it a good industry for us? Is it a good use case alignment? Do they have budget? Is the company on the upswing or the downswing? All that important stuff. Have I done the Challenger thing? Have I taught them to value something only we can do? They'll qualify, not just an ability to buy, but also an ability to decide. So, they're trying to ascertain even from the very first sales interaction, is there a source of customer indecision. Are they concerned about something? And can I distill that and ascertain that? What is this person's personal level of indecisiveness? They may be surrounded by, people make decisions, but what about this individual? What about the others on the buying committee? And are there things that are amplifying the indecision like a downturn where cash is king, where there's a lot of budget scrutiny, where there's a lot of focus. Or maybe their last big purchase blew up in their face and they've got bad memories of that and they're about to head down this path again with another vendor. So, they're bringing that baggage to the table. Or it might just be they've got to spend money this quarter and there's a lot of time pressure, which would amplify normally latent levels of indecision. So, that's a J, judge the level of indecision that tells us, is this a garbage truck we should stop chasing? If it is something we want to engage, a customer want to engage, how do we forecast them? And it also tells us what the rest of the playbook looks like. How do we overcome that indecision? The O in JOLT is offering you a recommendation. We all know that it's awesome to let a thousand flowers bloom, especially in marketing in those early sales interactions. We love painting the art of the possible with our customers like, oh, yes, we can do anything. We can integrate with that. We can integrate with this. Our platform does this, it does that. Check out our roadmap. There's these cool things coming. Let a thousand flowers bloom, baby. But at some point, we know from the paradox of choice research, Barry Schwartz's work, that amount of choice, which is early on, a good thing will actually start to work against us, especially when the customer can't choose between those options that they all look good, then they're looking at potentially making the wrong choice or doing nothing. And it turns out doing nothing often wins out because they're not afraid of missing out. They're afraid of messing up. So, they'll choose the path of no decision. So, we have got to guide them to the right way to go from a thousand flowers down to a choice set for our customer, defined by us and by what we know other customers have positive experiences with, customers like them. And then, we've got to put our personal seal of approval on it. Here's what I would do if I were you. And this was so interesting to go back to the audio tape, to go back to the conversations and hear the way that these gifted salespeople position their recommendation. Danny, I work with a lot of companies like you. I know you're weighing all these options. I've shown you a lot here, but I got to tell you based on just what I know about you and your organization having spent some time with you, based on what other companies just like you get a lot of value out of, here's the configuration I would pick and I wouldn't even look in the rearview mirror. Let's just go. And what it does is allows the customer to narrow up that choice that make an actual decision. By the way, when you're putting the options in front of the customer, doing nothing is not one of those options. So, yes is the default, and that's what we're trying to steer our customer to, but it instills that confidence and it also allows the customer to place a little blame on us. You told me to order the fish or you told me to order the pasta. And so, if I don't like it, it's on you too. The L is limiting the exploration. So again, our customers are going to struggle with, have I done enough homework? Left her own devices, they will want it to consume content endlessly. But the average performers in our study will indulge every single request. Even those superfluous requests, long after the customer has done enough research and they know enough to make a decision, they will say yes to more demos. They will say yes to more reference calls. They will say yes to more iterations of the proposal. You want to wait till the next Gartner Magic Quadrant comes out. No problem, go ahead. And what's dangerous for sales managers is your average performers are ticking boxes in the CRM system because it's activity, right? Oh, they want another demo. Oh, they want another reference call. Oh, they're going to join our webinar next month, yes, we're moving this thing forward. But all we're doing is inducing their analysis paralysis and they get wrapped around the axle. They have too much information. And then, again, they choose to do nothing because what they're worried about is maybe it's the white paper I didn't read that has all the answers. Now, how do we overcome that as salespeople? It's a bit of an overused term, I think in sales, but we've got to position ourselves as a trusted advisor. We've got to instill the trust that we're not trying to hide anything from, we're not trying to oversell them. That happens. We saw this all through these sales calls. High performers will proactively point out things that the customers shouldn't buy, things that they shouldn't consider even from their own companies. They would actually even suggest places where their competitors are better than they are at X, Y, or Z capability or use case and say, " Hey, I know you're interested in that." That's not where we've chosen to invest our product resources and dollars, but I know people over there, be happy to put you in touch with that company. Sounds like you might be a better fit for those guys. They unashamedly instill the confidence in the customer that, I'm not trying to oversell you and I'm not trying to hide the ball from you. I can be trusted. Then secondly, they want to position themselves as a subject matter expert. So, it's one thing to be trusted, but it's another thing to be seen as an expert. And this is where we saw an interesting cleave in the data. Average performers are far less likely to do their own demos. They're far more likely to bring the clown car of experts to the call. The solutions engineers, the subject matter experts, the product folks, the CS folks, executive sponsors, you name it. But what high performers know is that if your only value to the customer is that you're a glorified admin and you can really just get the people who know the answers to their questions on the phone, and I'm working with you as a customer, then I'm going to continue to do my own research because you don't know much more than I do about this decision and I won't feel confident until I do my own research. So, we've got to, again, build that trust, but we've also got to establish our subject matter expertise and show the customer we know more than they do. The metaphor I would use here is, if you went to go visit a country you've never been to before and you didn't know where to go, you didn't know how to get there, you didn't know what cities to visit, you didn't know where to stay, where to eat, what to do. Finding that travel agent who's been there before multiple times, who's arranged multiple trips for you, who gets to know you, is not trying to put one over on you, not trying to oversell you and their only objective is get you to an awesome decision. You're not reading any more trip advisor reviews. You're not reading all of the blog posts out there. You're saying, " You tell me what to do, I'm in good hands." That's what we're trying to achieve here. That's how we get people to stop doing endless research. And then, the last thing is T, taking risk off the table. So, remember in that final moment in the 11th hour where the customer's just about to, their pen is hovering over the contract or their fingers about to click the electronic signature on the DocuSign, the space between the tip of their finger hitting the automatic signature and the DocuSign, the button is filled with outcome uncertainty. Am I going to get what I'm paying for, what we expect? Because if we don't, I'm going to look like a fool or I might get fired. And so, we looked at all the ways, both informal and informal, that best salespeople de- risk the purchase for their customer. Things like opt- out clauses, prorated refund offers, things like adding professional services to an implementation. I know you want to do this yourself, but what I'd really like to do is reserve some money for a slug of professional services hours. In the off chance this doesn't go swimmingly, we've got the A team lined up to help get you back on track. I'm not getting away for free, you're going to pay for it. But it's a safety net, creative contract structuring, suggesting to our customer, " You know what? You probably shouldn't roll this out, enterprise- wide. Why don't we start with 100- seat licenses, prove it out, get some runs on the board, and then go big from there?" Because what that high performer knows is you're talking about enterprise- wide, but that's going to take me forever to sell that deal. And when you buy it, there's going to be a ton of pressure on you as a customer to deliver outsized ROI immediately. I'd much rather start small in land and expand. So, all these different techniques that high performers use to de- risk the purchase. So, you put it together, it's a playbook. I think the acronym is memorable for people, but it says what it does. We're trying to jolt our customer out of their stuck indecisive state and get them moving towards action.
Danny Wasserman: One final question that we ask on Reveal, Matt, if you could describe sales in only one word, what word would that be?
Matt Dixon: I love the idea of insight. I mean, obviously, I'm biased coming from the Challenger world, but I do really think that this concept actually ties all the way through to the new work as well. And the Challenger customer, that book we wrote after the Challenger Sale. So, in a world where customers can learn on their own, what they really want is the thing they couldn't learn on their own. And for salespeople, boy, what a privileged place that we're in to have our customers looking to us to bring new ideas to the table.
Danny Wasserman: Matt, I cannot think of a better way how to wrap what has been an anthology of wisdom and insights that you've shared with us. You heard it first from the authority on all things, behavioral economics, buyer psychology, and sales, Matt Dixon. Sellers and leaders out there, we carry the burden of expectation to present and deliver insightful comments, remarks, and illuminating points of view to our customers should we hope to be successful. Matt, thank you a million times over for joining Reveal. It's been absolute treat.
Matt Dixon: Yeah, Danny, thank you. It's been a blast.
Danny Wasserman: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Reveal. If you want more resources on how Revenue Intelligence can help you create high- performance sales teams, head on over to gong. io. And to grab a copy of Matt's latest book, The JOLT Effect, there's a link in the show notes. If you like what you heard, give us a five- star review on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
Your number one competitor? Indecision. Best-selling author of The Challenger Sale, Matt Dixon, shares his groundbreaking recent research on the indecision epidemic that’s sweeping the world and impacting your bottom line.
You’ll get a research-backed play-by-play on how your teams can JOLT your customer out of their indecisive state, so you can close more business and create more trust.
Sign up for the Edge newsletter: https://www.gong.io/the-edge/