By Jeff Shore
At some point in your sales training you were probably shown a spreadsheet or marketing brochure that demonstrated your significant value advantage over your closest competitor. My guess is that the document contained a point-by-point value contrast that showed how you are the clear winner.
Only one problem: you’re looking at the wrong competitor.
Your strongest competitor is actually a mental construct in your prospect’s mind. Psychologists call it the “status quo bias” – which is the allure of doing nothing at all.
The prospect’s status quo bias represents a natural tendency towards loss aversion. People stay put, even in an undesirable situation, because fear of loss is greater than hope for gain.
The catch with your prospect’s status quo bias is that it seems so innocuous. It doesn’t appear there’s a great deal of cost associated with doing nothing.
That needs to change.
#1. Understand the Cost of “Nothing”
The problem with your prospect’s status quo bias is that it suggests doing nothing is better than doing something different. It’s best to simply stay put, grin and bear it.
This situation is exacerbated by a separate psychological malady called the endowment effect. This is where people tend to ascribe more value to the things they already own.
In his book Why We Buy, Paco Underhill suggests, “We esteem things more highly after we buy them.” This is the endowment effect in action.
Putting these things together leads to a powerful recipe for inactivity
- “My current situation is valuable to me.”
- “I don’t want to risk a bad outcome in my next decision.”
- “What’s the danger in staying put?”
#2. Assign a Cost to “Nothing”
If you want to overcome your prospect’s status quo bias, you must counteract their strongly ingrained urge to stick with the proverbial “bird in the hand.”
To do that, it’s helpful to connect to the very core of a customer’s mission. Understand these two critical principles of motivation:
- People buy to improve their lives.
- The sooner they buy, the sooner their lives improve.
Therefore, the cost of inactivity is summed up in two words: lost time. The longer I wait to move toward a better situation, the longer I live with my dissatisfaction.
I’ve heard from so many people who were constantly tired and aggravated from poor sleep. But they choose to put off seeing a specialist for fear of having to wear a CPAP machine while they sleep.
Eventually, the life discomfort became so severe that they’re ready to try anything. They began to use a CPAP and quickly found that they were sleeping soundly; that they woke up feeling refreshed; and that their general health improved.
In this example, there is a common epilogue to the story: “I wish I had done this a long time ago.”
#3. Amplify the Cost of Lost Time
Think of a prospect you’ve been working with recently – someone who is sitting on the sidelines. Now ask the question, how would your prospect’s life improve if they made a move today?
When you understand that, you’re in a position to powerfully influence your prospect.
“You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time and one thing I’ve learned is that the sooner people make a move to improve their lives, the sooner they experience fulfillment. That means every day you decide to stay where you’re at is another day you’ll experience dissatisfaction.”
Your task as a sales professional is to help your prospects overcome these psychological barriers – to see them for themselves. Do this well, and you can change their world.