Is “Change the Status Quo!” the Right Fight?


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In statu quo res erant ante bellum. Latin which means, “the state in which things were before the war.”

One thousand years before Twitter, prescient content developers—marketers, maybe—shortened the original phrase to the less-bellicose, 10-character status quo, meaning present state.

Lately, salespeople are battling to change the status quo for prospects, and have pounced on the opportunity like it was red meat. Make it smell rancid, gain a customer. “I’m curious. If you don’t take immediate action, could your ravenous, technology-savvy competitors obliterate your business?”

“You either inspire [prospects] to break away from the status quo, or you won’t,” Babette Ten Haken wrote in a recent blog, Taking the ‘Sales’ out of Sales Conversations. “Raising the risk profile of a buyer, and making the ‘do nothing’ option more risky than something new and different, takes a direct and, at times, aggressive approach,” Tibor Shanto wrote in another blog, Salespeople Who Provoke ‘in the Right Way’ Will Outperform.

Both ideas have merit, but they are binary, and leave scant room for nuance. For prospects, maintaining the status quo is almost always an option, and it is the salesperson’s responsibility to explore its viability—early and often in the buying process. Easier said, than done.

By making the tactical choice to upend the status quo, many salespeople miss the opportunity to differentiate themselves. “All their sales team wanted to do was push upgrades on us!” I hear this regularly, along with a fluttering noise in the background—trust, flying out the window. Could salespeople be more effective with customers by adopting an objective viewpoint—one committed to ensuring that customers make the best choice, rather than persistently goading them to change the status quo?

For a blog that I wrote in 2010, ROI Hype: Finance for Fools?, University of Virginia accounting professor Bob Kemp explained how CFO’s look at the problem: “The overarching objective of an organization is to create value, and organizations favor transactions in which value received is greater than value given up . . . the key question [for business decision makers] to answer is, ‘what is the value to the total organization if I approve a given initiative, versus what is the value if I do nothing?’ That requires comparing marginal benefit to marginal cost.”

Compare marginal benefit to marginal cost? Some technology sales professionals might find it hard to swallow Kemp’s succinct distillation of financial decision-making. “Hey! Our product is state-of-the-art, full featured, and incredibly sophisticated!” But as Eli Goldratt, originator of the Theory of Constraints described, many businesses have developed adequate workarounds for limitations, and the internal bonds can be hard to break. “In project management, good enough is often enough.”

Gold Plating. Scope creep. Second-system effect. Project management professionals are keenly aware of the abundant pathways for wasting money, for which they maintain this colorful vernacular. How refreshing would it be to them to work with salespeople who have empathy for the conundrums decision makers face when comparing value received versus value given up?

For salespeople, changing the status quo shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion. That myopia puts blinders on salespeople, inhibiting their ability to recognize the risks, opportunities, and tradeoffs buyers must consider when vetting new project initiatives.

The best salespeople are skilled at ensuring customers make the best choices, which can often be a decision to change. Sure, present facts that support your case. Provide numbers and share outcomes your other customers have achieved. Describe the capabilities your company provides in a positive, but realistic light.

The right fight is how to ensure prospects make the best decisions. Guide your prospects in comparing value received and value given up. Understand their capacity for accepting risk, and above all, learn how they perceive your offering in that context. Recognize that a customer’s interpretation of all this information might not yield a decision to buy right now. And trust that given the facts, that could be the best decision.

Nothing lasts forever. Remember, at some point, maintaining the status quo won’t be the best choice, and you’ll want to be one to get the call.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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