Part II: The Many Reasons Deals Get “Stuck” (Sometimes it’s our fault!)

My last post dealt with the “Problem” problems that cause deals to get stuck. There were quite a few.

As I promised in that post, there are other reasons that deals get stuck besides “Problem” problems. I call them “Us” problems.

These “Us” problems include:

    1. No Solution. There are times when we believe that a prospect’s aggravation with the current provider is so acute that they will switch to us at almost any price. But their frustration is really only enough to get us in the door and in contention for consideration. Research has shown that the usual threshold for changing out a major supplier, vendor, or partner is the potential for an 8-14% improvement, or there will not be a deal. This improvement is the aggregate of improvements in price, cost, friction and value.


    1. No Credibility. There is another side to the world of big claims: the TOO BIG CLAIM. When we claim that our solutions offer more than a 14% improvement, our credibility goes through the floor. The expectation of an 8-14% improvement comes from a Harvard Business School study, and I have found it to be in line with real world expectations. Though there are differences between industries, anything too far beyond a promise of a 14% improvement is likely to be seen by prospects as BS.


    1. No Chemistry. The prospect has to be able to see their people company working with your people. When they can’t, or worse, when they can but they hate the idea, you have a chemistry problem. I have been on the inside of buying groups. Time and again personalities and chemistry have been major factors when value propositions are similar. It has even been the driving decision factor in multi-million dollar deals.


    1. No Precision. Using generic answers that focus on what we can do, instead of on tailored, real-world solutions to their problems, issues and time frames create the sense of risk. Our one-size-fits-all approach creates the risk that we will miss something that will limit or eliminate the benefits that they prospect was seeking.


    1. Solution Creates More Problems. Every solution holds the potential for greater damage during implementation. For some companies, the problems may be more political than they are financial or operational, but they hold a sense of great risk nonetheless.


With these “Us” problems, we are overwhelmingly dealing with what our solution means to our prospect…

Remember, “Us” problems create a stall as the prospect wrestles with the fundamental question, “Is it worth the risk?”

To unstick deals that have stalled out because of one or more of these issues, you have to look at your solution from your prospect’s perspective. A short list of questions to ask yourself:

    • What threshold has been set by each member of the Buyer’s Table to justify making a change?
      There is an expectation of improvement in the mind of each member of the prospect’s team. The deal stalls out when there are doubts as to whether or not your solution will meet each person’s threshold. These doubts show up in the form of questions and challenges around the “how” of your implementation, the case studies of other clients who have implemented your solution and the outright statements of doubt.


    • Have we proven or just asserted our improvement value to every member of the Buyer’s Table’s satisfaction? When you are selling larger deals, it is not enough to assert that you are going to deliver value or that a company will receive same or similar results as one of your other clients. Your deals will get stuck waiting for proof. If you provide the proof up front, you will have much less friction on the deal. If you leave the proof until later in the process and wait until challenged to provide it, the cycle for consideration will be much longer.


    • Have we created a map for the implementation of the solution that shows the safety points for all of the members of the prospect’s team?

Large accounts have a huge fear of work and mistakes. With a map, you can demonstrate safety points or milestones that must be met before moving forward. These milestones give your prospect an out if you fail to perform.


What can you do to unstick a deal that is stuck because of “Us” problems?

  • Recalibrate the performance expectations. Get a clear idea on the stakeholders’ threshold for making a change. Make certain to factor in the “too big” concern.


  • Build a better business case. If the prospect looks at your numbers and sees holes, you may not get a response at all. Get back on the radar with more questions that declare your intentions to build a more refined and specific business case around this solution.


  • More milestones in your plan. Prospects like to have steps built into the process that give them a sense of control over the implementation of a significant new change. By adding milestones to your plan, you increase the sense of control and decrease the sense of the size of initial commitments.


  • Change out people. New faces are a good strategy. As I discussed in my last blog, you need to get the chemistry correct if you are going to keep traction. If a deal is stalling, it probably has at least a little bit to do with chemistry. Since you do not have a high level of control over the prospect’s team, you need to consider changing what you can control.

The only thing you know for sure when you end up with a stuck deal is that something you are doing is not working. You have to make changes—significant changes—if you want to unstick the deal. You can’t control their inaction, but you can control your approach.