How to Break the Status Quo: Address These Four Obstacles to Move Customers Away From Uncertainty

“Here’s to . . . the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward.”

“Think Different,” Apple’s marketing campaign represented by the video above, is recognized as one of the most effective campaigns in recent history. It praises a mindset that breaks free from the status quo in order to “think different.”

Departing from status quo isn’t just a marketing message—it’s a reality that sellers and marketers confront every day. Our customers often prefer the status quo, believing that their current situation is better than an alternative. We’ve been studying status quo bias by analyzing our own research, customer conversations, books, and a recent Corporate Visions webinar. We know that it’s critical to make value clear when customers are in the status quo. The following are four specific ways to address the status quo by making value clear:

How to Confront the Status Quo

1. Preference stability

Preference stability involves looking at a prior decision and choosing to stay in the status quo, because of the work it required to complete the implementation of the last decision. By looking at the work involved in a previous decision, the customer prefers to stay with the status quo to avoid repeating the experience. Sellers and marketers can defeat preference stability by helping customers consider unmet challenges and explore new areas of growth.

For example, consider if you are selling a disruptive technology or an otherwise nontraditional and innovative solution. To a customer, your solution may seem high risk versus its status quo. To address this, you should look for new areas of value that the customer did not initially consider, such as increased customers’ satisfaction, efficiency, or employee retention because the solution is easier to use. Finding new areas of value allows the customer to consider unique business benefits.

2. Cost of Action

Sometimes the customer is upholding the status quo because it seems less expensive than purchasing a new solution. They have already purchased the existing solution and it seems that any alternative options would be more expensive.

When the customer sees the cost of action as too high, sellers can uncover the value that the new solution would provide. What is the cost of missing that value? In many cases, it’s more expensive to stay with the current solution and miss out on potential value, than to purchase and implement the new solution.

Note about prospect theory: In scenarios like the one above, prospect theory comes into play. Prospect theory says that we are two to three times more inclined to avoid a loss than we are to acquire a gain. By showing customers what they lose by staying in their current situation, customers are more likely to move to a new solution quickly.

One way to address prospect theory is by showing “cost of delay” or the “cost of inaction.” You may discuss a scenario in which the customer chooses to wait before purchasing the solution, and, for every quarter of inaction, the customer is forfeiting value that they would earn immediately if they implemented the solution earlier. You could also compare the cost of doing nothing with the cost of the solution, and show that, over time, the solution will more than pay for itself. By representing the cost of delay or inaction visually, customers can see the value they lose with each delayed decision.

3. Selection Difficulty

Mary Shea, Principal Analyst in B2B Marketing at Forrester, discussed today’s buyer in her interview with Ecosystems. She noted that buyers are inundated with information, especially now with the prevalence of online content. The overwhelming amount of information causes “selection difficulty,” making all options seem relatively the same.

One way that you can make the customer’s selection easier is by developing a decision matrix. The matrix helps the customer visualize the relevant decision factors, determine the importance of each factor, and then select the best solution based on the analysis.

4. Anticipated Regret

Anticipated regret is when the customer considers the personal and/or professional risks of purchasing and implementing a solution, and attempts to avoid those risks.

To overcome anticipated regret, work with the decision maker to create a before-and-after scenario that shows how he/she will benefit from the decision. These personal benefits are often referred to as “qualitative” or “personal areas of value.” They may be demonstrated through the use of infographics, case studies, and other visuals outside of the more traditional financial value. Qualitative value can include the decision maker’s earned respect within the organization, getting a promotion, and personal fulfillment by addressing the organization’s unmet challenges.

By addressing these four obstacles to the status quo, you can move customers from a place of uncertainty to a logically-sound and confident decision. Looking to make a change in your sales organization? Contact Ecosystems today to learn more: