In 2001 Matt Dixon and Brent Adamson authored the best-selling book, “The Challenger Sale”.

This time Matt has teamed up with Ted McKenna to publish the remarkable book “The Jolt Effect.”

We are all in sales! From single entrepreneurs to multi-nationals. Closing deals is an ever-challenging event. Through comprehensive research this book masterfully highlights a problem and a solution behind the death knell of most deals – I’d like to think it over.

The insights garnered were discovered through a remarkable set of circumstances. Because Covid effectively forced almost all sales conversations online, this represented an incredible opportunity to study the transcripts to discover what is working out there. Specifically, why deals are disappearing despite apparent certainty in the pipeline narrative!

Partnering with several dozen companies the research team collected millions of sales conversations on platforms like Zoom, Teams, Webex etc. Using speech recognition software this unstructured data was converted to unstructured text. Then using Tethr, a machine learning platform, the data was transformed into structured data, tagging 8300 unique factors within these calls. These factors were then examined to discover the ones that were driving sales performance.

Executive Summary Takeaways

Here are my key takeaways that will surprise you.

  1. One of the biggest challenges facing sales professionals is the prospect hanging onto the status quo. Traditionally, we mentor those sales teams to show the prospect that “the pain of same is worse than the pain of change.”
  2. However, the book starts with the revelation that despite successfully showing the validity of point one, the deals are still not closing. That is even though the prospect recognizes the pain equation, the buyer is still resisting.
  3. Traditionally at this point sales teams have been taught to deploy the FUD principal. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt. They elevate the pain of the status quo. They double down on ROIs, case studies, demos etc. But it’s not working.
  4. What this latest research is telling us is quite revealing. Even if sales professionals get past the status quo barrier, they are hitting a potentially invisible second barrier – the customer’s own inability to make a decision.
  5. Customers, it turns out are much less worried about missing out than they are about messing up!
  6. This indecision by customers was observed in 87% of sales opportunities and sometimes at elevated levels. What’s driving the growth in this indecision? Number of product options are increasing, amount of information available is increasing, and the perceived risk of getting it wrong goes up.
  7. The solution involves a counterintuitive move – you need to dial down the fear of purchasing and not dial up the fear of not purchasing! Traditionally sales teams have doubled down on the fear and consequences of not buying. If we believe this new research, increasing customer’s fear does not help their indecision. It makes it worse.
  8. The solution involves a new chapter of your playbook. The authors call it “The Jolt Effect.” Here’s the beauty of this added tool. It can be added to an existing Diagnostic Sales Process (which I’ve embedded many times). It’s a new chapter that attacks the buyer’s indecision symptom.
  9. So, to be precise. Instead of assuming that the customer has entered the “I’m happy with the status quo” mindset, the research is saying that only around 44% of those cases are actually status quo cases. The 56% majority of so called status quo cases are misread because they are actually buyer indecision cases. That’s a different problem requiring a different solution called the JOLT approach.
  10. JOLT stands for: Judge the indecision, offer your recommendation, limit the exploration of alternatives, take risk off the table.
  11. Let’s break that down a little. Judging indecision is all about what great sales professionals have been doing throughout their careers. They value their precious time. In this case they are assessing whether the prospect can make a decision ever! There’s just a huge danger that the deal will never close because of the high level of indecision. Perhaps there is a weak mandate in place. Perhaps the budget has been under resourced. Perhaps the perceived risks of a bad move are just too great at this moment. Top sales folk put these leads on the back burner. However, if the indecision is manageable, the next stage of JOLT kicks in.
  12. The indecisive buyer is struggling to assess the relative value of the competitive offers in front of her. Despite a deep diagnostic approach the high performing sales professional recognizes that choice is paralyzing his prospect. The next move is to offer a recommendation but of course the hard work of trust building must have been established. This moves some buyers to a state of decision making.
  13. If indecision still exists it could be because the buyer is tempted to continue to research alternatives. Top sales performers have already established domain expertise in the mind of the buyer. So, the next move reviews the information gathered between both parties and because trust and expertise have been established, the buyer can be persuaded that the limit has been reached on research.
  14. Finally, if a final push is needed, the evidence suggests that taking risk off the table in some way might close the deal. Examples could include shorter initial contracts, retro credits, or limiting the scope until adoption is above a threshold. This move talks to the earlier comment – Customers, it turns out are much less worried about missing out than they are about messing up!
  15. The book dives into the JOLT technique in detail demonstrating methodologies and scorecards to assess customers and deploy the most appropriate playbook. The accompanying website is also packed with insightful tools.
  16. The overall conclusion I took away was that sales leaders need to assess their pipelines using this new indecision toolkit. The JOLT approach can be blended to existing world-class sales processes. Sales teams need to be exposed to this approach and to be trained on this vital revelation that could be killing their close rates.

Good luck. Link to book.