How to Manage Stuck Deals

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

There are opportunities in your pipeline that aren’t moving. These opportunities are stalled or stuck. There are a number of reasons an opportunity might not be moving. Here is a list of some of the reasons that opportunities stall and some thoughts about how you might get them moving.

No Compelling Need to Change

Your pipeline may have opportunities that are stuck because there is no real, measurable, compelling reason to move forward.

These opportunities are both the easiest and the most difficult opportunities to move. If they are stalled because you haven’t done a great job of build a compelling value proposition, then doing so can get them back on track pretty quickly. But if they are stalled because your solution doesn’t create enough value to make it worth pursuing, they can be much more difficult to move forward. It’s possible to have prospects on both ends of this spectrum.

If you can restate and tighten up your value proposition, then do so and create a compelling case. If there really isn’t enough value being created, then your only way forward may be to work with your client to build a more meaningful opportunity.

Changed Priorities

In a business environment where change comes faster and is more disruptive, it isn’t uncommon for your clients to change their priorities. Sometimes deals can slip because your client has changed priorities. In a slight derivation of changed priorities, your clients can simply run out of bandwidth for all but the most urgent priorities.

You can get the opportunity back on track if you can attach the value you create to their new priorities. This is sometimes easier said than done. And sometimes you have to create a new solution that better meets your clients changed priorities.

The Status Quo

No one has killed more deals than the status quo.

The status quo has your dream client company wired. It has consensus throughout the organization, and its defenders are legion. The status quo isn’t defeated easily, and often not without a life or death struggle.

In order to move an opportunity that has been captured by the status quo, you have to work deep within the organization to build consensus. You have to create value for stakeholders at all levels, and you have to build a surrogate sales force to do battle with the forces of the status quo. This can help you regain the momentum and get your opportunity moving.


Sometimes there is a single, albeit powerful, defender of the status quo. Your opportunity could be on life support because an obstacle opposes the idea, the change, or your solution.

Before you decide to destroy any possibility of a relationship with this obstacle, you should first meet with them and directly discuss their concerns. Their concerns may be legitimate. You may be able to make adjustments to meet their needs. You may be able to gain their support by giving them access to something that they need. Or, you might have someone with more authority call on them to let them know you respect their authority and their position.

You can move these obstacles more often than you believe possible, but it isn’t always easy. Doing so will get your opportunity back on track.

Risk Avoidance

Late in the buying cycle, buyers get worried. They worry about whether or not they are making the right decision. They worry about whether you will produce the results you promised. And they worry about whether or not they are selecting the right partner. Buyers need to avoid risk.

You can help to get your stalled opportunity moving by helping your client resolving their concerns. You do that by providing proof that helps create confidence in your clients.

Deal don’t unstick themselves. Do some analysis, discover why your deal is stalled, and take action to get it back on track.


Do you have opportunities that are stuck or stalled in your pipeline?

What is your guess as to why they are stalled?

What actions can you take to move the opportunity forward?

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Filed under: Sales

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