How You Should Use the If vs. When Question in Sales

By Jeff Shore

Sometimes we come across customers trapped in their own mental dilemma. They like what you have to offer, but they are hesitant to make a change.

What you are dealing with is what psychologists refer to as the “Status Quo Bias.”

In short, people make decisions from a baseline; that baseline is their current situation. As they consider moving away from the baseline, they face the discomfort of the unknown.

Why does this happen? Because the present represents something concrete, while the future is only seen in the abstract. Today is known; tomorrow is unknown.

People fear change more than they fear the downside of staying the same. That is the Status Quo Bias in a nutshell.

But there is a technique that might help you reframe this discussion.

I call it the “If-vs-When” question. It goes like this:

“Is it safe to say that you’ll be making this purchase at some point, and you’re just trying to decide whether now is the right time?”

What am I trying to accomplish with this question? Strategically, I’m trying to shift the customer’s mental framework. I’m trying to move away from the question of motivation and instead make it the question of timing.

Go back and re-read the question again. Suppose the customer agrees with you that this is the case. When that happens, did you not reframe the entire conversation? Now it’s not a matter of IF the customer will purchase but rather WHEN the customer will purchase.

I don’t know about you but I would rather fight the battle of timing vs. the battle of motivation any day of the week.

Write it in your own words. Then practice it repeatedly. Then use it with a customer. Then get them un-stuck. Then go change their world.

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About the Author: Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore
Jeff Shore is a highly sought-after sales expert, speaker, author and consultant whose innovative and real-world selling strategies help you to change your mindset and change your world. His latest book, "The Keys to Unstoppable Sales Success: 8 Mindsets of Elite High-Achievement Salespeople" is now available. Learn more at and follow Jeff on Facebook and LinkedIn.