Sales Strategies That Can Help You Manage a Stalled Pipeline

Phil Stern By: Phil Stern   Jackie FriedmanJackie Friedman

While some companies have seen an increase in demand since the pandemic started, the majority of software businesses have witnessed one of two scenarios: A) Your pipeline evaporated. Buyers cut all new purchases or trimmed budgets and indicated they cannot move forward with your product or B) Your pipeline stalled. Buyers are saying they’re still interested but need to circle back at a later date.

In speaking with companies whose pipelines have stalled, we are hearing three common themes:

  1. My buyer lost their budget but think purchasing will open back up in the second half of the year.
  2. It’s been trickier to navigate procurement than it was in the past.
  3. This isn’t a priority for my prospect right now.

With those themes in mind, we want to share some practical tips for how sales teams can modify their selling strategies to not only continue to advance deals, but to also help their prospects gain access to budget for software that will help them succeed.

Responses to Theme #1: My buyer lost their budget

  • Tell a stronger ROI story. Send them a proven ROI calculator or case study they can take to their company’s leadership. If you don’t already have one of these available, we recommend working with your CFO or finance lead to build one.
  • Adjust your value props. Ask if there have been changes to key initiatives at the company and reassess your value props accordingly. Develop narratives that demonstrate how your product can help them deliver on their new initiatives. This is all about framing.
  • Help your buyer access products or services for free. For buyers using public cloud services (AWS or Azure), ask them if they have hit their committed spend with their cloud provider. If they have not, your buyer likely can access the budget set aside for cloud spending to purchase through cloud marketplaces (if you’re listed). They may even be able to skip procurement because the budget is already allocated.

Responses to Theme #2: It’s been trickier to navigate procurement

  • Ask your buyer what has changed internally. Make sure you, and they, know how buying has changed in their business including new internal processes and different stakeholders. For instance, one trend we are seeing at larger organizations is that procurement is being centralized to help organizations better manage costs.
  • Encourage them to bring procurement in earlier. Try to avoid late-stage surprises and stuck deals. By bringing procurement in earlier, you can engage all of the right people at your prospect’s business to get a deal done smoothly.
  • Don’t neglect discovery with procurement. Do more discovery on the process to truly understand the outcome procurement is looking to drive. What might seem like a need to simply reduce cost or delay payments could actually be solved in other ways (with longer contract lengths or free add-on services). You won’t know if you don’t ask.
  • Arm your buyer with data to make the decision smooth. Offer benchmarking insights into how your product can help them compete in the market, what competitors may be using, and why your product is the right choice.
  • Lay out a meticulous sales process. In partnership with your champion, create a detailed process so you—and they—know how to move the process forward. Do they know how to measure their contribution? They need to be able to identify what the milestones look like at each stage so that they can guide the process internally.

Responses to Theme #3: This isn’t a priority for my prospect right now

  • It might not be. Empathy is important here and the best way to show empathy is to ask questions. If your prospect’s priorities have changed—why? What has become their top priority? What is keeping them up at night? Yes, that question might seem like it has an obvious answer right now, but you might learn some surprising things and hopefully uncover ways you can help.
  • Make sure you have made a compelling enough case. When asking probing questions about their priorities, part of what you are looking to do is verify that prioritization is the real reason they can’t move forward with your product. If the reason is not understanding your value prop, find ways to reframe it.

Stalled, but not canceled

Stalled pipelines are, unfortunately, a reality that nearly all software sales teams are addressing right now. But just because a prospect can’t convert today, doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to move the conversation forward. Re-verify your ROI; establish a deeper understanding of the procurement process; and look for avenues to create an empathetic connection.

By keeping your sales conversations energetic through these slower months, you will be able to activate quickly when companies’ budget becomes available again.


Phil Stern
Phil is a Vice President at Mainsail. He leads the firm’s Center of Excellence for Sales and is responsible for helping Mainsail’s portfolio companies optimize their growth strategies and deploy sales practices.
More by Phil Stern
Jackie Friedman
Jackie is an Associate at Mainsail. She is responsible for sourcing, executing, and supporting new portfolio investments for the firm.
More by Jackie Friedman
This content piece has been prepared solely for informational purposes. The content piece does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security. The information in this content piece is not presented with a view to providing investment advice with respect to any security, or making any claim as to the past, current or future performance thereof, and Mainsail Management Company, LLC (“Mainsail” or “Mainsail Partners”) expressly disclaims the use of this content piece for such purposes.

The information herein is based on the author’s opinions and views and there can be no assurance other third-party analyses would reach the same conclusions as those provided herein. The information herein is not and may not be relied on in any manner as, legal, tax, business or investment advice.

Third-party images, logos, and references included herein are provided for illustrative purposes only. Inclusion of such images, logos, and references does not imply affiliation with or endorsement by such firms or businesses.

Certain information contained in this content piece has been obtained from published and non‐published sources prepared by other parties, which in certain cases have not been updated through the date hereof. While such information is believed to be reliable for the purposes of this content piece, neither Mainsail nor the author assume any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of such information and such information has not been independently verified by either of them. The content piece will not be updated or otherwise revised to reflect information that subsequently becomes available, or circumstances existing or changes occurring after the date hereof, or for any other reason.

Certain information contained herein constitutes “forward-looking statements,” which can be identified by the use of terms such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “could,” “would,” “predicts,” “potential,” “continue,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “projects,” “future,” “targets,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimates” (or the negatives thereof) or other variations thereon or comparable terminology. Forward looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, which are beyond the control of Mainsail. Actual results, performance, prospects or opportunities could differ materially from those expressed in or implied by the forward-looking statements. Additional risks of which Mainsail is not currently aware also could cause actual results to differ. In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, you should not place undue reliance on any forward-looking statements. The forward-looking events discussed in this content piece may not occur. Mainsail undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

No representation, warranty or undertaking, express or implied, is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information or opinions contained in the enclosed materials by Mainsail and no liability is accepted by such persons for the accuracy or completeness of any such information or opinions. For additional important disclosures, please click here.