3 Reasons Deals Get Stuck

Don’t overthink it. They are either wet, hungry or tired.

It’s been a few years since I’ve taken care of a baby. I’ve raised three of my own, but they are 17, 15 and 10 now. However, the other day I used this analogy of “new parents and a crying baby” with some colleagues who are newer to the world of sales. As my email made its way around the company, some thought it was pretty good and worth sharing.

Why do deals get stuck? This was the issue we were wresting with the other day. I was on a pipeline review with one of our new teams. The team and I deliberated and debated—deal after deal.

Right now hundreds of thousands of business teams are huddled around a table or on a conference call having the same conversation—the good-old weekly pipeline review. This happens to be one of the most dreaded meetings for a sales person, by the way. Week after week when a deal still hasn’t moved forward, teams invariably over-diagnosis the situation.

“We’ve done everything right,” they claim. “There are some extraordinary circumstances on this one.” It’s natural to let your mind go there, but I’ve found that it’s rarely helpful. When a leader lets the conversation make that turn, sales people usually walk out of the meeting with a list of action items (sometimes as long as their arm!). The leader feels better—“We’ve got a plan.” But the sales team will most likely spin their wheels wasting precious time, focusing on the wrong problem, asking the wrong questions—only to find themselves in the same place on the pipeline call the following week.

Watching new sales teams and leaders is akin to watching new parents with a crying baby. We’ve all witnessed this scene. Baby’s crying! Oh no! Something’s wrong! New parents spring into action. But the crying doesn’t stop. The louder the cry and longer it goes on, the more stress sets in—and the more creative the diagnosis becomes. Does she have a fever? Where’s the digital thermometer? She’s crying inconsolably, I don’t even think she getting a breath—is she breathing? What did she eat? This could be serious. Call the doctor!

I’ve been there. I remember my first time with a crying baby—and I remember the wise words my mom said to me. Most of the time babies cry for three simple reasons—they’re wet, they’re tired or they’re hungry. Nothing more, nothing less. Change ‘em, feed ‘em or put ‘em sleep.

In my 20+ years of driving deals, managing sales organizations and leading pipeline calls, most of the time deals get stuck for three reasons—wrong buyer, wrong time or wrong solution. It’s almost never more complicated than that. When they sit week after week—as the crying amps up and stress builds—we often look for signs of something else. Something more serious.

Set yourself free on the next pipeline call. Ask yourself three very simple, sequential questions and don’t jump ahead unless you can honestly answer “yes.”

  1. Are you talking with the right person?
  2. Are they ready to buy?
  3. Are you solving the right problem and putting the right solution on the table?

If you answered “no” to anyone of these questions—stop. You’ll know what to do and what questions to ask your customer. If your actions can’t get you to a “yes,” have the good sense to move on and move the deal out of your pipeline.

Keep it simple and keep moving those deals forward.

At one point in my life I was a single dad of three little ones and I learned a lot of valuable lessons. One thing I learned is that babies cry a lot less when you’re calm. It’s as if they sense and feel comfort when you know what you’re doing. Do you see the similarity with clients?