I was reviewing my pipeline with the Salesforce EVP International Sales sometime in 2008 and she noticed something interesting. Several large closed opportunities with a loss reason ‘Dead – No opportunity’. It was another ‘teaching moment’ for me.

EVP: “What happened here?

Me: “The reps went hard after those deals, but in the end, there wasn’t an opportunity.”

EVP: “I see. What about these ones? [Points to deals with loss reason: ‘Stopped responding’]

Me: “We ended up with radio silence, death valley, no signal…. Emails/calls not returned.”

I can’t recall if she sighed in exasperation or not, but 15 years later I am grateful for the time she took to explain this to me:

‘Dead – No opportunity’ = ‘Poorly qualified deal and should never have been pursued. You put it in your pipeline to make it look like you had coverage so that your leadership would stay off your back.’ [But I guess that is hard to fit into a CRM picklist]


‘Dead – Stopped responding’ = ‘I wasn’t relevant, either in my communication, or because I was speaking with the wrong person. Either way, I am not going to take accountability.’ [Again, a bit long for a pickl-list]

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This takes a culture of vulnerability and a growth mindset

The fix for ‘No Opportunity’

Here is a big reason for ‘Dead – No opportunity’: BDRs are paid on sales accepted opportunities. At the end of the month the BDR begs their AE friend to accept the opportunity so that they can hit their number. The AE knows it is a weak fit, but there is no penalty to an AE if they close ‘Lost’ a deal in stage 2. In fact, they are often rewarded for killing it early.

The way to fix this is to pay BDRs 70% of their variable for SAOs and then 30% of it when it reaches a meaningful stage (For many, this is ‘Proposal’ or similar). You DON’T pay them on closed $$ because then they are being paid for something they can’t control (IE Whether the rep can close business). If they serve up a decent opportunity, then even the worst rep will get it to a proposal (Sometimes when they shouldn’t, to be fair).

The fix for ‘Stopped responding’

It would be a very long article to address all the variables, so here is a tactical one that has been so very effective for my teams that I have to share.

If someone stops responding, find ANY contact in the organization that might be loosely connected to them and ring/call them and say, “I am hoping you can help me. I am working on an initiative with [main contact] and I am worried that something has happened to them as they seem to have disappeared mid-discussion. Can you tell me if [main contact] is still with Acme, or if perhaps they have taken a leave of absence?”

In my experience you will find a few things:

They are out: People get sick/vacation and forget the auto-responder

They are in and don’t care: If you are told they are still around, then you can be more direct in your messaging – “[Main contact], I was concerned that something had happened and spoke to [name] to ensure you are ok. Sounds like all is well and that priorities have given our discussion a back seat. Let me know if that is not the case, otherwise I will assume we should connect in the future.” [Or something like that]

As a sales leader, the worst thing is not knowing – AEs should do their best to get a ‘No’, but finding out someone has left 3 weeks ago is unacceptable (And happens all the time).

Good luck, and get those pick-lists changed.