Here’s How to Un-Stall a Deal

Stalled opportunities plague salespeople. They clog pipelines, ruin forecasts, and cause untold frustration.

From CEO to sales reps, everyone scrambles for ways to close deals at the bottom of the sales funnel and shorten the sales cycle. After all, you have spent months with this prospect and forecasted this revenue to close this quarter.

I sit on the board of a certain company where the CEO asked me to work with the sales team to understand why deals were not closing within the projected time frame.

So I asked one sales rep: “As I look at this one big opportunity sitting in your pipeline, what is the next step with this prospect?”  He looked surprised and said, “I’m calling them back next week.”

“What day and time are you calling them back?”, I asked.  The sales rep replied, “She just said to call her back, she didn’t specify when.”

I continued to probe to pinpoint where the sales rep and prospect were in the buying process. “So what was the reason she said to call her back?”  The sales rep replied, “She seemed to have interest in getting a proposal from us with the pricing of our products and services.”

I looked at four other deals in this rep’s care. All were projected to close in the next 90 days. All bore the same problems. In his mind, he had qualified prospects ready to buy, but he didn’t have full commitment from them. Most of his prospects had been stalled for months.

The rep called and called, just to check in.

When I am called in to help free up pipelines, I find two most common issues hold organizations back:

  1. Poor quality prospecting (not getting enough well-qualified opportunities in the pipeline)
  2. Pipeline congestion (not closing the deals that seem to be qualified)

Generally, the root cause is almost always the same: salespeople fail to consistently ask and get a commitment from the prospect on the next step.

Crossing the Chasm

When sales organizations experience longer sales cycles and more opportunities fall to no-decision, I become fixated on finding the breakpoint.

From my experience, the break down happens early in the sales process in what I call the moment of “fix or not fix.”  At this stage in the buying cycle, you assist the prospect to become aware of a business issue that needs to be fixed. The prospect moves into cognition thinking where he wants to understand his situation and analyze his current position. During this stage, he shapes a vision for what the solution should look like, and then the core moment arrives. Is he committed to fix or not fix his situation?

Too many salespeople cross this mental chasm without getting the commitment needed from the buyer. Instead, they dive right into the possible solutions for fixing the problem.

In my opinion and experience, this premature leap causes most of the no-decisions we see today. The salesperson assumes the prospect sees the need and wants to fix it now.

And why not? If the rep shows the prospect how to save 30 percent on utility expenses, why wouldn’t she want to lower that cost and look at alternatives?  The truth is, there was never a deal to begin with, but the salesperson continues to pursue this prospect as if she is in the buying mode, blinded by ambition.

Get an Action Commitment

Another important reason sales opportunities die—the sales rep’s failure to ask and get a next step from the prospect. Getting more micro-commitments along the way not only tests engagement but keeps your deal moving steadily forward.

You should never end any prospect interaction without securing a specific kind of promise of action to move the sales process forward. By committing to some action, and only by committing to such action, your prospect demonstrates her interest in moving the buying process forward. That commitment signals to you that you are not alone and working in collaboration with your prospect.

This step is logical, once you spell it out. But it is amazing how rarely getting-an-action-commitment is put into practice.

I urge you to take all your current prospects and write down an action commitment to end your next sales conversation.

This effort does not come naturally to most salespeople. I see sales reps end meetings by promising to send more information or complete some work for the prospect. Let’s face it, if you asked a prospect, “Can I send you a couple examples of where our product has helped others save money?”

What do you think the prospect would say?

What commitment have they made to continue the sales process?

The commitment cannot be vague. It must be specific.

A prospect that says “I promise to review your proposal” is not committing much.

You need to define who will do what by when. The prospect’s commitment must be measurable, help move the process forward, and be realistic to precisely where he exists in the sales process.

Consider these simple examples:

  • Based on our meeting today, you mentioned two others who participate in the decision-making process. Can we set up a time next Tuesday afternoon so I can spend some time with then? Can you arrange that?
  • Based on where we are, can we set up a time next Wednesday for you and your team to visit our plant to learn firsthand how the process works? How does 1:00 p.m. Wednesday work for you?
  • “Based on our discussion, it sounds like our next step is for me to review your documents. Can you forward them to me by next Tuesday?”

Nothing mysterious about getting an action commitment. You are doing your due diligence. However, don’t shortchange this technique. It will save your peace of mind moving forward.

Develop your ability to see, hear, sense signals from the prospect. Refine your sense of timing. Also, cultivate some creativity so you have ready a selection of various action steps to apply on demand in any given situation. And make it sincere and authentic. Manipulation is transparent and a put-off.

To help you truly master the art of un-stalling deals, I invite you to learn as much as possible about landing prospect commitments. Take a few minutes to review this targeted video at


Your time will be well spent.

Even better, it will lead directly to solving your prospect’s issue, our ultimate purpose as salespeople.


See you on the upside,


For more information, go to
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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