Overcoming the dreaded “no decision” in B2B sales
Status quo is by far the number one competitor when selling B2B technology.
Deals "lost on price" are often the customer just deciding to stay with the status quo.
Displacing an incumbent vendor is challenging. Not always because the customer likes their current supplier. They just don’t want to go through the pain of change.
Buyers and decision makers have a strong bias towards status quo.
To win a sale, the status quo bias of customers must be “disrupted”. This is how innovation happens. If we always stayed with the status quo we would still be riding around in horse-drawn carriages today.
Let’s explore a little bit further what status quo bias is, why it is so prevalent today and how to overcome it;
3 types of ‘status quo’ outcomes in B2B Sales
These are the 3 types of ‘status quo’ outcomes that exist in B2B Sales;
1. “No decision” to adopt innovation
The customer comes to a “no decision” after 18 months of meetings, demos, business case creation and customer references. Frustrating and painful – I know because this exact scenario has happened to me before.
There are status quo variants such as delayed decision, canceled project, budget reallocation, and projects reprioritized. The net effect is that the customer is not going to be buying your product or service. They are not going to buying the competitors’ product either. “No decision” is a misnomer. A decision has been made. It is to make-do with the current situation. From the vendor’s perspective, this is a failure to compel a change in status quo.
2. Staying with an incumbent supplier
Displacing an incumbent supplier is tough. No matter how bad they are. Even if you have a better product or service. There is a bias to stick with “the devil you know” and also avoid the pain, risk, and cost of changing out an existing product.
3. Limiting the growth and expansion of an existing product
Deploying a new technology is typically done in a limited manner such as a pilot or proof of concept. The technology vendor will then struggle to expand. This will be the status quo they will need to overcome. I have written about this problem in detail over here.
Why are ‘status quo’ outcomes so prevalent in B2B Sales
Companies who sell innovative B2B products and services must overcome status quo bias. The examples provided will be enterprise software / SaaS solution centric. But the lessons learned have broad applicability.
This is the buyer of your enterprise software / SaaS solution;
1. Disengagement at work. According to Gallup the number of disengaged workers in North America is approx. 69%!
2. Overworked. Check out some of the stats in the Staples Workplace Index. 70% of employees in North America work more than 40 hours a week and are suffering from burnout.
3. They have a negative perception of software projects. Take a look at the average Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for the software industry as a whole. It’s bad. Everyone has heard of or lived through a software project that went "off the rails". Over budget, delivered late, and missing expected functionality.
4. They have limited authority and buying power. The decision to buy enterprise software / SaaS is usually done by committee. Even if you find an internal champion they can’t work alone. They need to co-opt others in order for a project to get approved and succeed.
To the buyer of your enterprise software or SaaS solution who is struggling with the above-mentioned challenges,
Status quo is like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. It feels safe and comfortable.
How to overcome ‘status quo’
When you sell enterprise software / SaaS you are first and foremost selling change. Change involves risk. Change is a pain for the buyer, decision makers, and their colleagues. They are already overworked, underpaid and just barely making it through each day. So, go ahead and tell them again about how your application is all cloud-based, fully redundant and can be deployed in a matter of mere minutes. Is that really going to move someone to act who is dealing with the above-mentioned issues?
When selling enterprise software / SaaS you need a champion to push through the project and help you overcome all the internal obstacles. You need someone who will go to bat for you. They are taking on more work. Getting the project approved, creating a project plan, change management and coordinating with different departments. More work when they are already overworked and stressed out! Your champion needs to have a specific type of personality. They will be an innovator and early adopter. They like change. They want to shake things up. The status quo is repugnant to them. They want your help to disrupt the status quo and bring about something new. Find this person inside your customer. You chances of sales success increase when you have an internal champion.
If there is only one thing you remember from this post, let it be this…
Before a customer will buy your innovative product or service, they first need to buy into the need for change
If you understand this, then there are some obvious steps to follow in your B2B Sales and Marketing process;STOP
· Talking about your product
· Talking about features and benefits
· Talking about the competition
· Giving demos of your products
· Quantify the cost for the customer to keep the status quo. Such as lost sales, higher costs, ongoing maintenance costs, etc.
· Arm your champion with the materials, information, and data they need to make the case for change. NOT the business case to buy your product (yet), just the case to change the status quo.
· Show your customer the results that other customers achieved after using your product
You have to try different approaches. Focus on getting your customers to accept that they need to change the status quo first. Before convincing them to buy your solution. Stop pushing product. You are just adding to your prospects’ stress and that’s not good for anyone.
About the Author: Bryan Socransky is the Principal Consultant of Disruptive Consulting Group. Bryan's experience spans over 25 years in some of the most competitive B2B sectors including enterprise software and SaaS. Now he is applying this experience to help B2B technology companies sell more, sell faster. http://disruptiveconsultinggroup.com/