How to Fix Stalled Opportunities in Your Sales Pipeline

Sales Training | Managing the Pipeline

Pipeline management is an ongoing challenge for sales managers. While it may seem that a pipeline with more opportunities is better, this isn’t the case if a large percentage of opportunities are stuck. These stalled opportunities lead to a bloated pipeline and create significant challenges for sales managers such as the following:

  • Overly optimistic sales forecasts that not only result in revenue shortfalls, but also to lost credibility.
  • Sales meetings that are filled with “storytelling” as opposed to advancement strategies.
  • Overemphasis on existing opportunities as opposed to creating new opportunities.

Unfortunately, opportunities can get stalled for a variety of reasons and in some cases may no longer represent viable business potential. As a starting point, it is important to identify the stalled opportunities. This isn’t that hard if your pipeline has clear stages, criteria for advancement, and reasonable expectations for days in stage. If this isn’t the case, you probably need to start here.

Once you’ve identified the stalled opportunities, the next step is to diagnose the underlying issues. In a typical “one-on-one” meeting with a sales rep, this can result in storytelling that doesn’t accurately reflect the root cause(s) of why the opportunity isn’t moving forward.

A better approach is to put the onus on the sales rep in advance of your one-on-one meeting to requalify stalled opportunities and identify gaps by answering the following questions.

Stalled Opportunities

Business Need

  • What is the business need and why is it important for the customer to address this need?
  • Has the customer clearly stated they want to address that need?

Solution Fit

  • Does our solution address a compelling business need?
  • Is our solution differentiated, and better, than our competition?

Relationship Strength

  • Have we identified the decision-maker and the key influencers?
  • Do we have a strong relationship with the decision-maker?

Budget

  • Is there a budget in place to fund the initiative?
  • If not, what is the budget/approval process?

Timing

  • Does the customer want to implement our solution in the near future?
  • If not, can we reach an agreement on an implementation schedule?

By taking the time to requalify opportunities and identify gaps, we can determine the overall viability of the opportunity (i.e., it may not be worth pursuing if there are too many gaps) and develop strategies to shore up gaps for the remaining opportunities.

As an example, if relationship strength is a gap, we can develop executive access strategies to reach the key executive. These could include providing insights, securing referrals, or inviting the decision-maker to executive briefings focused on similar business challenges.

By addressing the underlying cause(s) of stalled opportunities, sales managers can proactively work with their sales teams to advance stalled opportunities and increase win rates.

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.