When deals/projects stagnate, how to get things moving

17th May 2022

Last week, I had two phone calls within half an hour of each other.

The first was a salesperson saying that a promising deal had stagnated. The customer had seemed interested, but had then gone silent.

The second was a team leader whose project had stagnated. Everything had been going well, but now things were getting complicated and uncertain – which had led to disappointment and inaction.

We all experience things like this – complicated things not going as well or quickly as we’d like.

The technique I always use – and it helped both of them – is as follows. Might it help you with something you’re working on, which is stagnating?


Identify the next action you want to happen. In other words, WHO do you want to DO what?

(For example, the salesperson wanted (WHO) the customer to (DO) agree to a Teams call, for them to identify priorities and actions)

#2 First step

Once you know Step #1’s WHO-DO, identify what their very first step is – the immediate action.

(Example: for the salesperson, the very first step would be for the customer to accept the calendar invite for the Teams meeting. That’s it! Now we know this, the problem already seems easier – we only need this to happen!)

#3 Find 3+ options

Find at least three things you can do, to ensure they take Step #2’s first step.

(Example: since the salesperson only wanted the customer to accept his Teams invite, options included:

  1. Send a calendar invite, inviting the customer to the meeting
  2. Contact the customer’s Assistant, and ask them to accept the invite
  3. Find a mutual connection, and ask them to ask the customer to accept it
  4. Escalate it – ask their boss to speak to the customer’s boss, who could encourage them to accept it
  5. Contact the customer, saying the salesperson had some new ideas, and wanted to share them with the customer. So, using the word “new” to reignite their interest, ‘I’ll send a calendar invite. Please accept it, and then we can chat’
  6. Etc

#4 Choose the best option(s)

Look down all Step #3’s solutions, and choose the best one(s). And then do it.

From start to end, this exercise took under five minutes with both of them.

More importantly, within 30 minutes of them doing it, they’d both achieved their desired outcome.

Which means…

Action Point

…If you are in the middle of something which is stagnating, spend the next five minutes doing Steps #1 – #4 above.

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