Derailing the deal, part 3: Status quo wins

Do you ever feel like your deals are heading down the track toward success, but then somehow end up not closing and falling apart? What is happening between point A and point B? What is derailing your deals? In part three of this mini-series, we are going to look at another common issue that causes deals to miss the mark:

  1. Wrong Buyer Profile
  2. Unqualified Buyer
  3. Status Quo Wins
  4. Me-Too Positioning & Messaging
  5. No Value Proposition

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.

In a quota-driven, “what have you done for me lately” sales culture, so prevalent in organizations today, it is easy to lose perspective on 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 ever helping the buyer understand the problem that can be solved. When the value equation starts with “no problem/pain”, the end result is inevitably “no solution/gain”, and thus no contract.

Where in the sales cycle are sales professionals missing the mark? It is in discovery, where the buyer is trying understand why they should do something at all and why they should do something now. Most B2B sales professionals approach the discovery stage of their sales cycles laser-focused on gathering information about their prospect. This is absolutely a critical component of discovery, and something you should do to the point of exhaustion before meeting with the prospect. Although you want to gain key nuggets from the prospect while you are with them, there is a much more important objective to accomplish when you are one-on-one with your buyers. If we consider the buying journey, what is the buyer’s goal at this point in their process? The buyer wants 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. As a result, 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/them personally.

We can crystalize the objectives of 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 you over another tangible competitor, you will undeniably establish and deepen your trust/credibility with the buyers, as you are helping 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.”

Proactively engaging buyers using positive conditioning can sway the involuntary responses humans have in our favor as a seller. HOW we sell (our behaviors) are as important as what we are selling. What does this mean for us? Arguably the most significant driving force for every buyer is selfishness. As a buyer, I am selfish. As a buyer, you are selfish. Through a dialogue, if we can help the buyer garner insight into their real needs – not just the symptoms they are too often experiencing daily – they win, and thus we win. In fact, we 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 typically associate 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.

When status quo wins, a seller has too often failed to tap into the real driver for the buyers, their “personal” pain threshold. As we discussed earlier in this series (Wrong Buyer Profile), we first need to engage in marketing and prospecting activities with organizations that have a problem big and bad enough to address. Targeting buyers with characteristics and attributes that would likely be battling the underlying challenges and issues your solution addresses is foundational. But, as sales professionals, it is equally — and maybe even more — fundamental that we embrace the opportunity to help the buyers recognize they even have a problem. All the signs may be pointing to it, but unless we enable them to internalize the true pain of their current state, “status quo” will be continue to prevail.