Why Do Opportunities Stall & What Do I Do?

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Within the normal sales cycle there are so many different areas where a sales person can stumble. For some, simply keeping their pipeline full & getting their ‘foot in the door’ can be a challenge, while for others, their pipeline is always healthy & hopeful but they too often watch great opportunities hit a wall.

What Does It Mean To Have A Sales Opportunity “Stall”?

The definition of a stalled opportunity is any opportunity that is no longer moving either forward or backward regardless of speed or time-frame.

If an opportunity has slowed down or been delayed, it has not stalled as long as the sales rep & the customer are still communicating (however, of course the timeline and expected close date has changed).  That can also be said for an opportunity that is lost – it too has not stalled.

If your communication with your customer has completely stopped & you have no knowledge of where in the sales cycle you are, your opportunity has stalled.

Why Do Opportunities  Stall?

There are many reasons why opportunities stall but here are a few:

1.You have not built enough trust & rapport with your customer: Without trust & rapport there is little reason or incentive for your customer to communicate where things are at in their buying cycle. This is often the case when your customer stops returning your calls or emails.

2.They did not have an immediate pain: Ask yourself, out of 10, how important is solving this pain to your customer? Is it an 8 or a 3? Those with a real need are more inclined to freely communicate with you re: their timeline, decisions making & any hurdles! However, if there is no real urgency, your customer has no significant motivation to get back you. As a result, you – as the sales rep – now play “chase”.

3.You Let them “Off the Hook”: If you are emailing over quotes &/or chasing people for next actions/follow ups, you have likely given away control and lost momentum. As each day of chasing turns into weeks, you are further and further away.

4.They Don’t Like to Say “NO”: As mentioned in the Effective Selling Starts with Understanding Human Nature module, often people don’t like tell someone “no” as it’s uncomfortable for them. So, they keep saying things like…”We are still discussing it further”; “We still need to formally sit down to review your plan again”; & “Management still has not gotten back to me”. If they have been telling you this for many months, ask yourself this … “If it were really important to them, would they be able to wait?” Unfortunately, because they didn’t say “no”, we as sales people rationalize that it still might be a “yes” which gives us a false sense of reality.

5.Their protocol requires 3 quotes & you are the 3rd:  How will you know this?  You may sense this is the case if they won’t invest the time to share with you their needs, budget, timing, decision-making, etc… and just tell you they “need the quote now”. Since they have likely already made their purchase decision and just need your quote for protocol purposes, there is little incentive for them to get back to you.

6.Your customer is not really the decision maker:  Is it because the customer never told us or is it because we never asked? In this situation, your contact may feel embarrassed to tell you the truth or be concerned that you will go over their heads. This may cause their lack of responsiveness.

The customer is waiting on a change or event within their business: They may be waiting on financing, a new budget, a purchase, a sale or a new product in order to trigger their need for your solution. The question is … Did they tell you this or not?  If you know what change or event they are waiting for, then it has not stalled. Just adjust your timing & expectations accordingly. It’s when they don’t tell you that you feel left in the dark, going around in circles.

So What Should I Do To Minimize Opportunity Stalling?

1.Ensure, right from day 1, you have built trust & rapport with your customer. This way, they have respect to communicate with you openly.

2.Don’t just throw quotes out there. Just because someone is prepared to receive your quote does not mean they have a need to buy.

3.Do not allow your customer’s enthusiasm to give you a false sense of reality. At the end of the day, the deal will get done if there is a need.  Ask yourself – is it a “need” or “want”?

4.Make sure you ask the tough questions early and often. Questions like … What are the steps in the decision making process? Who is involved in those steps? How long should each step take? What hurdles are there that we need to consider? What other options do they have? Typically only those who do not have a real pain will find those questions pushy or too aggressive.

5.Use the Permission Approach (see module) to help ease your fear & ensure a higher quality answer from  your customer. Statements like … next time we talk I’d like to discuss your company’s decision-making & budgeting process … go a long way in separating the real opportunities from the fluff.

Is There Anything I Can Do Once An Opportunity Has Stalled To “Un-stall it”?

It is never too late to implement the suggested 5 steps above in order to try revitalize your opportunity but I would suggest that the probability of success is far lower than if you avoided it stalling in the first place.

As they say, it’s harder to dig yourself out of a hole so avoid putting yourself in one in the first place.

What Are The Benefits To Recognizing Stalled Opportunities?

Sounds like a bit of a stupid question but let’s put down the answers anyway.

1.You will be able to call a spade, a spade: You, as well as your management, will have a more realistic view of your pipeline. It is all too often that sales reps keep on hoping a stalled opportunity is not stalled and will miraculously move forward. This creates a false sense of security and hope.

2.Try to revitalize the Opportunity: You can try, as discussed above, to revitalize this opportunity by implementing the 5 strategies noted above (although I would suggest you give yourself a time limit on doing so as to avoid wasting too much time).

3.Put your attention elsewhere: For those opportunities you have recognized have stalled and will not likely be revitalized, you can confidently divest your time away from these opportunities and re-invest that energy on more fruitful ones.

4.It’s an opportunity to learn for the future.

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