Do you ever feel like your deals are heading down the track toward success, but then somehow end up not closing? What is happening between point A and point B that is causing your deals to fall apart? In this article, we are going to look at the most common issue causing deals to miss the mark: Status Quo Wins.
Who is the biggest competitor in your sales cycles? If you are like most sellers, the answer is undoubtedly not who, but what: Status Quo — AKA “No Decision”. Why do organizations, and their leaders, stick with the current state — no matter how bad that may be — rather than embrace the opportunity to enhance their success? The answer lies more in how those organizations are sold to than in how they buy.
“Delays transform into lost opportunities, and adhering to the status quo is frequently unjustified given advantageous alternatives. Still, individuals persist in seeking default no-action, no-change options.” (“The Psychology of Doing Nothing” by Christopher Anderson)
In a quota-driven, “what have you done for me lately” sales culture, it is easy to lose perspective of the true PURPOSE of selling — to solve a problem/pain. The outcome of a sale is 1) a problem resolved for the buyer and 2) revenue for the seller. That is the value equation in its simplest form, yet it is easy for sales professionals to be overwhelmed by the pressures around them, like securing a contract signature for the week/month/quarter. When a seller falls into this trap, the tendency is to rush the sales cycle and race into solution pitches before helping the buyer understand there is a problem that needs to be solved. When the value equation starts with “no problem/pain”, the end result is inevitably “no solution/gain”, and thus no contract.
Sales professionals are often missing the mark in the discovery phase of the sales cycle— this is the phase where the buyer is trying to understand why they should make any changes, and why they should make them now.
Most B2B sales professionals approach the discovery phase laser-focused on gathering information about their prospect. This is an absolutely critical component of discovery, and something you should do to the point of exhaustion before meeting with the prospect. But, if we consider the buying journey, the buyer’s goal at this point in their process is to gain a better understanding of their need(s), and in many cases, determine if they even have a true problem that needs to be addressed. They are asking themselves questions like: “Do I have a need?”, “How is that need impacting my organization/my team/me personally?” and “Who is impacted by NOT addressing that need?”
Knowing these are the questions a buyer is considering while interacting with you, the seller, it is critical you take this opportunity to help them gain a better understanding of their need(s), and the consequences that need is having on their organization, their team and them personally.
We can crystalize the objectives for the discovery phase of a sales cycle to three steps:
- Identify the critical issues the prospect is facing.
- Surface and intensify awareness of the pains associated with those issues.
- Help your buyer internalize the pain.
If you take these three steps, you will help your buyers realize Status Quo is an unacceptable option for them to consider. And although you may not help them choose your solution over another tangible competitor, you will undeniably establish and deepen your trust and credibility with the buyers as you help them discover a path toward success.
There is also a physiological element to Status Quo winning that needs to be considered. In his book Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, Neurologist Antonio Damasio says: “Scientific research is clear: without emotions, humans are incapable not only of rational thought, but are rendered unable to pull the trigger on even the simplest of decisions.”
In other words, HOW you sell (you behavior) is just as important as what you sell. Arguably the most significant driving force for every buyer is selfishness. Through dialogue, if you help the buyer garner insight into their real needs – not just the symptoms they are too often experiencing daily – they win, and thus you win. In fact, you are likely positioned to win the pursuit without even getting into the solution.
The best way to bring insight to your buyers is to help them gain a more accurate reality into the pains their underlying need is causing. There are three categories of pains that sellers need to activate within the buyers:
- Business pains are typically associated with symbols, such as % and #. They are measurements including: declining customer satisfaction levels, deteriorating department reputation, lost market share and higher employee attrition.
- Financial pains are typically associated with currency symbols such as $, €, £ and ¥. They often are directly correlated to the business pains, and include performance metrics like higher operating costs, lower revenues and increased customer acquisition/retention costs.
- Personal pains are typically associated with the symbols 🙁 , 🙂 and !, and this is ALWAYS the pain that matters most to a buyer. Examples include: reduced compensation/bonus/equity payouts, increased threats to job security and reduced personal time/quality of life.
Targeting buyers with characteristics and attributes that are battling the underlying challenges and issues your solution addresses is foundational. But, as sales professionals, it is equally, and maybe even more fundamental that you embrace the opportunity to help the buyers recognize they even have a problem in the first place. It is difficult for your buyer to choose you as a solution when they do not believe they even need a solution. All the signs may be pointing to it, but unless you enable them to internalize the true pain of their current state, Status Quo will continue to win.