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Unsticking Your Stuck Deals

TomSearcy_150This guest blog post is by Tom Searcy, Founder & CEO of Hunt Big Sales. He has helped clients transform the way they do business and close deals they would have never thought possible.


Ever had a deal get stuck? Of course you have. We all have. And what's our first reaction to recognizing that a deal we've been working on might be stuck and then lost? DENIAL.

At first you make excuses and nurture false hope, but it doesn't take long for you to realize that the deal is stuck and you are on your way out.

For professional salespeople, the signs of a deal going south include the following:

  • The Deadly D's – Delays, deferring to other decision makers, denying access
  • Newbies – New faces in the process, new requirements, new caveats
  • Access restriction – No connection or response from contacts

So the question becomes, how do you get back on track?

Here is a quick summary of the steps you can take to unstick a stuck deal:

1) Declare – You can't take any steps until you recognize that waiting won't work. Declare that you are stuck and bring your team together to work through the process and subsequent strategy.

2) Determine – Why are you stuck? There are four categories that we use in understanding why we are stuck and then setting a strategy:

  • Acts of God – Tsunami, earthquake, strike, budget freeze, or corporate regime change: these all represent conditions out of your control.
  • Lies/Dreams/Governance – There never was a deal. The prospects were going through the motions for the purposes of market scan, free consulting, and because they were following governance requirements.
  • Problem Is Wrong – Your solution is a bad fit for the prospects' problem, and they are chasing what is considered to be a better answer and have not told you yet.
  • Bad Chemistry – They believe that your answer can deliver on the promise, but not your people, resources, or processes.

Based on your determination of why you are stuck, you can set and execute a strategy. This strategy may very well include walking away with speed and purpose. No one likes to be used as cannon fodder in a bidding process that’s run by procurement, and you can't save a plant that's been shut down because of tornadoes. There are times when walking away is the best strategy.

3) Define – What steps are you going to take? If you are solving the wrong problem, or you possibly have bad chemistry, here are some strategies to consider:

  • Get a Bigger Buyer's Table – You need to recruit more people from the prospect's side to add energy and support to your approach.
  • Reframe the Problem – Did you accurately define the problem up front? Reconsider the problem and stakeholders.
  • Change the Timeline – Consider how you might more closely align your schedule with the prospects'. If you're proposing too much change, you'll scare them, but if you propose too little impact, you may not get their support.  
  • Resubmit a More Complete Business Case – If the ROI from the business case is not compelling, go back to the drawing board and re-examine.
  • Change Out Some People – Trade out some of the people on your team. It is possible that there isn't a connection, and that can mean death in a sales process.

4) Deploy – Here are a few simple guidelines for executing an Unstick Stuck Deals strategy:

  • Focus on 3-Day Cycles – Make certain that your execution windows for contacting, introducing new information, introducing new people, and following up are tight.
  • Be Prepared for Tactical Retreats – When executing a strategy like this, you risk irritating key players. Be prepared to back up if that happens. Forgiveness over permission, right?
  • Work as a Team – Plan, execute, update.
  • Finally…Win forcefully or exit gracefully.

To watch the complete Webinar "Unsticking Stuck Deals," click on this link.

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Jonathan London

In almost every instance, preventive measures can help, but not totally prevent these situations. For example:
- if you qualify well up front, you probably will chase less bad business
- if you prospect well and often, you won't have to chase bad business
- if you can get firm commitments on next steps, with specific dates and times, you will know sooner than later if you are in trouble
- if you proactively review bigger deals vs, only when you are in trouble, you will be better off
- put a date and time restriction on any proposal so you can recall it as a way of measuring a prospect's real interest
- find out if there is a compelling event with a time frame and what the ramifications are if it is not met.

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