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Long Live The Status Quo

Status Quo has been a central theme and concept in B2B sales since it has evolved as a craft. Over the last 20 plus years, people have taken camps on different sides of the Status Quo. For some it is the “competition”, encouraging sellers to focus on the buyer’s circumstance and market view rather than product. For others, the Status Quo has come to represent a segment of the market that is not ready to buy, and therefore can/should be overlooked in favour of those potential buyers who have declared their intent. This has become much more the case since the introduction of the marketing term Sales 2.0. Even more than before the words Status Quo have become synonymous with a complete lack of opportunity for sales people. They suggest that sales people focus on being “found” rather than spending time and resources on the Status Quo.

Some in the “Hey let’s wait” camp, will tell you there is zero chance of closing a deal with a buyer labelled Status Quo, and wait for an event to change the buyer’s mode, then make your move. Sort of like saying “Hey, there is an event on the next corner, I won’t have to wait long till it gets here and I can act.”

Ultimately how you chose to sell or not sell to Status Quo buyers is dictated by your outlook and attitude. Much like the glass scenario, if you see it as half full you will act differently than those who see it as half empty. In many ways it come down to the 80/20 rule, where 80% of sales people are reactive and will wait for things to be just so, or to come to them. While 20% will be proactive and cause things to happen regardless of the buyer’s current perceived state, they will adjust their actions to meet realities, rather than wait for reality to change and suit their actions.

In the end, it all stems from the way one views and defines Status Quo. The problem with the those who avoid the Status Quo, and would encourage their disciples to do the same, that is their view and definition is wrong and out dated. They Describe the Status Quo as: Status Quo is when a buyer perceives the product or service they are currently using meets, or exceeds their needs and sees no reason to change suppliers. Nothing can be further from the truth, and nothing has damaged the success of sellers and by extension, the fate of their employers. The above outdated view of the Status Quo is defended by passive reactive sellers and sales experts who are either unable or afraid of selling to this group. Oddly part of the fear, the misconception, is as a result of their erroneous and outdated view and understanding of buyers they would classify as being in the Status Quo.

The reason this is a concern, is due to the fact that a vast majority of buyers are in the Status Quo, some put it as high as 80% of buyers, I believe it is closer to 70%-75%. The other groups being those who are actively looking 15%, and the group between the two, those described as being in the Window Of Dissatisfaction in the book I coauthored, 15%. Problem with the latter, is it’s again, negative outlook, people buy for reason other than being dissatisfied, some see opportunity and want to seize it; the same reactive negativity that blinds them to the real state of buyers in the Status Quo. In effect if you buy into the reactive and mistaken view of the Status Quo, you effectively abdicate 70% plus of the market to those of us willing to be proactive, roll up our sleeves and go for it. And while it may not always pay off immediately, remember, prospects are created, not found. It is in that creating that Sales 2.0 tools come in handy. However, if you can engage and end up selling just 10% of this overlooked group, and still get your share of the remaining two buyer groups, you could end up way ahead.

First thing though is change your view of Status Quo, and the opportunities it presents, to reflect facts, not to defend an outdated way of selling, and the residuals riding on it.

Let’s start by accurately presenting the view of those in the Status Quo:

Status Quo is NOT buyers who are perceived to be happy with their current solution and see no reason to change, but rather as buyers who have yet to be presented with a solution they perceive will improve or change their current circumstance, and as such see no reason to change. Given the solution, a reason to change, they will change.

If you start by looking at the Status Quo as an area of real opportunity rather than no opportunity you could leverage the above quit profitably. To do that you have to have two things, first a real solution or product, and the ability to engage and create a response, create demand. The latter is not always easy when you venture into the Status Quo, you not only have to know the real challenges and opportunities potential buyers are facing, but develop a powerful means of raising them to the surface.

Remember, at the start of the process the buyer does not believe there is an alternative to their current situation, which is why they choose to tolerate the devil they know. This is why they rebuff the advances of sales people; especially buyers who have been through the ringer with sales people who over promise and under deliver. In order to break through the defensive barriers, the sales person needs to show the buyer that they understand the challenge, and have successfully addressed it in the past. Now some will have you believe that a Status Quo buyer will not act until they experience an event that sparks their dissatisfaction. OK, consider this: ”

Half of SAP users ‘dissatisfied’ with system performance”.

This was the headline in a piece from Leo King, Computerworld UK, 22 March 11. It went on to say:

“Businesses running SAP often use the system as the backbone of their operations, and expressed serious concerns over the potential financial risks of SAP technical issues.

Nearly all businesses – 96 percent – warned that they faced financial risks if their SAP systems experienced performance problems. Over half said there was a “high risk” of such an event causing damage.”

While that headline, excerpt and article, are certainly problematic for the software giant, it also presents serious problem for the wait and see crowd. Are these poor SAP customers not the “poster children” for dissatisfaction? Yet they are sticking with the Status Quo, because they Do Not Perceive A Better Solution, not because they are happy with the way things are.

It is also why some clients who have an optimal situation continue to search for ways to improve, and they buy not because they are dissatisfied, but because they have a strategy and know what they have to do to execute. A sales person, who is willing and knows how to engage with the above, will see the Status Quo, as a child would a candy store. The others who refuse to change their view of the Status Quo will continue to fight for scraps once the buyer declares his/her readiness. (No, that’s not order taking; they still had to outsell the other waiter)

Change in itself is not the hard part, but the work that goes into understanding what the buyer’s agenda is, why they don’t believe better alternatives exist, and how to initiate the right reactions in the buyer. Instigating the same response from the buyer the waiters are waiting for, but earlier, without the crowd. (See Building The Better Question) The change has to occur in sellers not the buyers, because once the buyer becomes dissatisfied, and decides it is time for a change, it is too late, the only function you serve is to cut the price and take the order.

As mentioned above, change is hard for people, and that includes sales people. But not for everyone; back to the 80/20, there is that small minority that continues to challenge itself to improve, innovate, and take their game to the next level. The ability to look past dogma, the in view or royalties, and continue to look for a better way, even if it means abandoning outdated concepts or methodologies. This may be hard, but not impossible, consider the following.

On May 17 of this year the results of a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health researchers, found that coffee can reduce the risk of certain cancers among men. The same institute that in 1981 found a links between drinking coffee and cancer. They could have opted for the Status Quo, but instead continued to challenge themselves to explore, evolve, grow and move on. Can you?

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