Do you know what movie this picture is from?
It’s from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A classic parody movie packed with humor and one-liners.
In this specific scene, King Arthur had just witnessed the Black Knight defeat the Green Knight in a duel. King Arthur then approaches the Black Knight to congratulate him and offer him a seat at Arthur’s court on the Round Table, but the Black Knight only stands still, holding his sword, and makes no response until Arthur moves to cross the bridge. The Black Knight refuses to stand aside. Reluctantly, Arthur fights the Black Knight and, after a relatively short exchange of sabers, the Knight’s left arm is severed.
Even at this, the Knight refuses to let King Arthur pass, insisting his arm wound “‘Tis but a scratch”. Later the knight insists he has “had worse”, and fights on while holding his sword with his remaining arm. Soon the Black Knight’s right arm is cut off by King Arthur, but again, the Knight does not concede even though he has literally been disarmed. When Arthur points out the Black Knight’s injuries, the Knight insists “It’s just a flesh wound!” Then Arthur chops off the Black Knight’s right leg. After more banter, the Black Knight replies by saying, “I’m invincible!” Arthur finally cuts off the Knight’s left leg and sheathes his sword. Now reduced to a mere stump of a man, the Black Night says, “All right, we’ll call it a draw”. Sounds like “STATUS QUO” won in that battle of mortals.
Have you experienced something similar with your clients? While you, like King Arthur, may see the major issues clients are facing – outdated solutions/no arms to fight back – your clients continue to reply “‘Tis but a scratch” or “we are fine and will work through it.”
The problem with “Status Quo” is that it is rooted in a belief that the problem is not as severe as it really is. Choosing “Status Quo” is perceived as comfortable, and requires little risk and little effort. But oh, what a fallacy that is, and sadly the failure often lies at the feet of the seller.
The purpose in selling is to help solve client’s problems – their pains – but that must begin with clients acknowledging that their problem is indeed painful…that it is more than just a scratch. For sellers, objective number one is to help clients understand the risk in not making a change is higher than stepping-out and trying something new, and that is predicated on bringing them insight into the pains their underlying situation is causing.
Pains come in three flavors: Business, Financial and Personal.
- 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 are often directly correlated to the business pains, and include performance metrics like higher operating costs, lower revenues and increased customer acquisition/retention costs.
- Personal pains typically associate with the symbols L, J and !, and are ALWAYS the pains 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.
The most effective action sellers can employ to activate buyers’ pains is asking insightful, relevant questions – something many B2B sales professionals are not equipped with the skills to do. Asking engaging questions helps the customer discover which pains/needs are truly critical to achieve their objectives – identifying their issues. By magnifying those pains, sellers motivate buyers to take action on their own behalf and for their own success – intensifying the pain. Finally, it is important to help customers understand how the solution will help them succeed personally – internalizing the pain.
As an example, a sales professional meeting with a CFO might follow a line of questioning such as:
- As your company rolls out the CEO’s new business strategy, how does your financial model evolve over the next 6 months/12 months/24 months/36 months with that strategy?
- What concerns do you have about the financial model to support that strategy (e.g. too aggressive revenue targets, unachievable operating expenses)?
- What is the impact on your company if those concerns materialize?
- What is the impact on your finance team if those concerns materialize?
- What is the impact on you personally if those concerns materialize?
This line of questioning empowers the buyer to answer (both logically and emotionally) the questions “Why do something?” and “Why do something now?” Even when customers are able to see the value of a purchase, they often still fail to act because the risk of the purchase is so great. It is important to continue to remind the customer of the current pain, and how the solution can be the cure if they embrace the opportunity to change.
As sales professionals, it is fundamental we embrace the opportunity to help the buyers recognize they have a problem. Like King Arthur, you may see the severe catastrophe and bleeding right in front of you, but unless you enable your client to internalize the true pain of their current state, and find ways to make them see it too, “Status Quo” will continue to win, and your clients will never reach their true potential.