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Anatomy of Stalled Deals

16 Min

Stalled Deals are the unavoidable bane of any sales organization, ask your counterparts in any industry.

During the deal review meeting, you would have definitely come across some leads held by the trap in few or all of your sales executives pipelines. While this scenario often leaves the sales team perplexed, it does need attention and concern. What is your advice to your sales team when some deals appear to be stalled? Is pressuring the prospect to the point where they get overwhelmed the right way forward? How do you diagnose and treat these stalled deals?

Deals get stalled because of any of these factors:
– When it hasn’t reached the right stakeholders on the buying side
– When there are more than a few stakeholders to decide
– When the prospect is evaluating your product against that of competitors’
– When the prospect’s organization is going through some internal transformations

Here we have divided the anatomy of stalled deals into two parts: identifying and recovering.

Identify the Stalled Deals

As a Sales Leader, you have to ask appropriate questions to help your salespeople identify and face the stalled deals in their pipeline:
1) Is the deal moving forward?
2) What is the next step with a particular deal?
3) Have you managed to contact and engage with the right decision makers?
4) Have they made any warm commitments?
5) Have you identified their problem and mapped them to the right product features?

The remedy for the Stalled Deals

After identification is the treatment. Unless you treat the stalled deals you and your team would be living in a false belief. Either the deal in the pipeline should be moved from the point of deadlock to the next level or should be dismissed and put in the database.

Here is how you get your team to move the stuck deals:

1) Review Your Sales Model

There are many popular sales model commonly used by sales teams such as BANT and MEDDIC, to name a few. BANT is a popular method to identify plus qualify the prospects based on these factors: Budget, Authority, Need and Timing. MEDDIC is another methodology chosen especially by sales organizations with the highly complex sales process. It stands for Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Identify Pain and Champion. However, the SPIN model described by Neil Rackham in his seminal book SPIN Selling provides a good framework to think about “Stalled Deals”.

Most of us in the B2B selling landscape are aware of SPIN, which is mostly about asking important questions before giving solutions to the client. SPIN stands for asking- (S)ituation questions, (P)roblem questions, (I)mplication questions and (N)eeds Payoff.

As a sales leader in the B2B environment, your focus should be to get your team to adopt the SPIN questioning model. This would allow them to get to the crux of their prospects’ problems before diving into their sales pitch. Through this structured technique, effective salespeople can gauge the problems and map them to your product’s features. They steadily guide the prospect towards the solutions that your product/services can offer. It’s the moment of revelation for the prospect!

As a side note, it’s important to standardize on some sort of selling model and ensure that most sales reps are following a consistent model. This makes it easy to implement any changes once you diagnose the issue with “Stalled Deals”. You can also use software to diagnose stalled deals immediately.

2) Sales Continuation Versus Advances

SPIN question model is not the be-all and end-all solution to handle the stalled deals. Your next and most important step is to help your team differentiate between sales continuation and advances.

According to Neil Rackham, “I’m often asked by sales managers for advice on how they should coach their people to close more successfully in major sales. The simplest and most effective advice I can offer is this: Teach your people the difference between Continuations and Advances, and help them become dissatisfied with setting call objectives that result only in a Continuation.” (Page 45, SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham)

Sales Advances is “Where an event takes place, either in the call or after it, that moves the sale forward toward a decision.” This could be getting some kind of substantial commitment from the prospect. For example, getting them to sign up for the test or blocking the calendar for a demo or getting the appointment with the next level of decision makers.

Continuations are “Where the sale will continue but where no specific action has been agreed upon by the customer to move it forward.” Continuations are equivalent to stalled deals. The prospect doesn’t say “no” and doesn’t agree to move to the next step either. You can say that prospect is using delaying tactics by putting the sales rep off and concluding the meeting without giving a clear goal. No decision gets taken and sales rep walks away without a purpose. In this case, the puzzled sales rep hears things like “until we meet again”, “mail the details and we will have a look at it” or “let’s meet again”.

3) Data Driven Approach to Reduce Stalled Deals

This is the age and time to make use of the data in hand, at the right time. In the sales review meeting, how would you know which deals are stalled or which stalled deals are likely to close.

First and foremost, you can start with using a software to identify stalled deals on regular basis. Deals with no movement for 30 days and/or no activity for 30 days is a good start. This is where you can dive in and use pipeline management tools to identify the latent factors which are affecting the deals in a negative way. These factors can be sales reps, industry or region.

Sales executives have the tendency to waste resources on deals that are less likely to close. Use sales forecasting software to score deals and skip those which have no possibility of closing. Instead, steer the team to persuade and focus on opportunities that have some likelihood to convert.

Next, integrate social media analytics tool into your lead score model to get insight into your prospects’ activities on the social web. This will enable you to reach out to them when they might be ready. Listen to your prospects’ conversations on social media to discover if they are talking about anything related to your product. Is there any mention of the event or conference that your company is sponsoring? Pass on this bit of information to your sales reps so that they could prioritize the deals. Social media space, where the interest takes shape or dwindles, has become a significant game changer even in case of the B2B landscape.

Last but not the least follow up, follow up and follow up!

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