We spend a lot of time thinking about how to compete against our toughest rivals. We spend less time thinking about how we compete against the most dangerous threat to our opportunity: the status quo.
The status quo always has a huge constituency. There are almost always more defenders of the status quo than there are proponents of change. This makes the status quo difficult to beat, and it’s one of the reasons you end up with a “no decision” at the end of the sales cycle. It’s also one of the reasons you opportunity gets pushed into the next quarter.
Here are some of the reasons the status quo is so powerful and what you can do to loosen its grip on your opportunity.
Turn and Face the Strange
Change isn’t easy for most people or most organizations. The status quo is comfortable, even if it comes with some dissatisfaction. You know what to expect, and you have either learned to work around the problems, or you have grown used to them.
The idea of changing means you have a face the unknown. It requires you to leave the comfort and security of the status quo. Changing partners for whatever it is that you sell would likely require that your dream client change the way they do things. This makes people uncomfortable, and it can be scary.
The status quo is known. No change required.
For many of your dream clients, the status quo is accompanied by long-term relationships. Some of these relationships are deep friendships. It’s not easy to abandon those relationships. We sometimes underestimate how difficult it is to fire our competitors, especially when they have worked with your dream client for a long time.
Old relationships and friendships can make the status quo tough to overcome.
It Has Always Been This Way
We humans are creatures of habit. We like predictability. We like certainty. We like routines.
If we have done something one way for a long time, it’s difficult to imagine doing something different. This is especially true when the way we have done things has contributed to our success. Even when change is necessary, this legacy thinking is tough to overcome. If it was good enough in the past, we believe that it will work again—even when it won’t.
The status quo looks like a sure bet.
A Game of Risk
The status quo is safe. Change means risk.
Your dream client wonders, “What if I choose them and they fail? What if they can’t get me the results they promised? What if someone else would really be better? What if this decisions reflects poorly on me?”
The status quo is so powerful because it answers these questions with a powerful and compelling answer: “Play it safe. Do nothing.”
So what are you supposed to do to overcome such a formidable opponent as the status quo? Here are five ideas.
Make a compelling case for change: To overcome the status quo, there has to be a future that’s compelling enough to make it worth the pain of changing. You have to provide your dream client with a compelling value proposition. You also need to provide the vision of how they move from their current state to their better future state. They will face dragons in getting there.
The status quo will prevent your client from fighting, unless you provide them with a reason to fight and the belief that they can win.
Build relationships: If you are going to overcome the status quo, you are going to need to be known and trusted. Strong relationships make it easier to commit to change. Your dream client knows who their friends are, and they need to know that you will be in the foxhole beside them when the bullets start flying.
That status quo will win unless your dream client knows that you care.
Build consensus: If there is one area where we fall right into the status quo’s trap it is in failing to build consensus. We march in. We find or we create dissatisfaction. We present our solution. And we gain the support of a few stakeholders who like our ideas and who also like us.
Then things get crooked. By failing to build consensus throughout the organization, the status quo rallies its troops and they revolt against the idea. They have every right to be offended by our failure to consider their needs, and they return the favor by sowing dissension and doubt.
The status quo will rally its troops unless you rally them first.
Teach them how to think about what’s new: Because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it will work in the future. We all get trapped in legacy thinking, including your clients. Your clients count on you to keep them from becoming complacent.
The status quo won’t be overcome without an understanding of what is needed to move into the future and why they need to get there.
Shift the risk to not changing: The status quo will make the case that change is too risky. You have to make the case that not changing is even riskier. You have to provide your dream client with the other side of the argument: complacency is even more dangerous.
The status quo wants to focus on risk. You focus on an even greater risk.
The status quo is a dangerous foe. This is how you defeat him.
How many of your opportunities end in a no decision?
How many of your opportunities are presently stalled or stuck?
Why is the status quo such a tough competitor to beat?
How do you loosen the status quo’s grip on your opportunity?
Subscribe to my weekly podcast In the Arena.