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What to do when the competition is “do nothing”

Three powerful ways to sell against the status quo


Your presentation goes well, your business audience is receptive, they seem impressed with your capabilities, and then . . . nothing.  The deal stalls. You’ve just met your biggest competitor today:  the “Do Nothing” option.

As organizations become more risk adverse, solutions more complex and decisions impact a variety of areas, taking no action – or choosing to stick with the status quo -- is a choice more and more prospects are making. Salespeople who don’t recognize the powerful draw of doing nothing and develop a plan for addressing it are often caught off guard and fail miserably against this formidable foe.

Change is difficult for many people. In fact, there are 205,000 books on change. Number one? Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.  Change can bring up fear, risk, uncertainty, effort, time, money. It’s enough to make you want to close your eyes and think of something else.  Which is what many prospects do.

As a salesperson, if you’re not proactively addressing what’s really keeping your prospect from making a change, you too have your eyes closed. Pointing out your solution’s superiority and parading out all your fantastic features won’t make a bit of difference unless you address the elephant in the room: fear of change.  

Three Powerful Ways to Sell Against the Status Quo

Identify the fear behind change

Digging in to what may be keeping your prospect from changing is critical to prepare for this challenge. The root cause may be a fear of the additional effort that change requires, the investment in time, money or resources, the consequences of an unsuccessful implementation, or even a belief that the current solution is “not really that bad.” Identifying what the true underlying fear is through discovery with your prospect is a necessary first step to avoid building your presentation or demo on a faulty foundation that wastes everyone’s time – including yours.

Address the impact of doing nothing

The cost of doing nothing is rarely “nothing.” Maintenance and repair, time and opportunity costs, additional personnel and expensive work arounds are just a few of the ways the status quo can quickly add up to significant costs for an organization.  Find someone in your prospect’s organization to help you identify and put some numbers around these costs. Quantifying costs in your presentation can be a very effective means of demonstrating the true cost of staying the course.

Engage the emotional center of the brain

If someone has a fear of heights, showing them graph after graph of the low percentage rate of height-related accidents is likely to have little impact on their behavior. That’s because fears are ruled by the emotional center of the brain, not the logical.One of the most powerful tools you can use in your presentation to appeal to emotions is telling a good story. Not just any story, but a story that highlights the pain of postponement or the benefits of taking action. You can use a case study, an analogy, or even a personal story.For example, no one wants to think they are the next Kodak or Blockbuster, but they are two powerful examples of companies who failed to change. The right story is often more effective at shifting someone’s perspective than a fact driven argument.

Don’t show up unprepared to meet your biggest competitor: the status quo. Meet your competition with confidence by applying these three steps before your next presentation or demo.

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Julie Hansen

Julie Hansen, author of Sales Presentations for Dummies, helps sales and business executives craft and deliver winning presentations and demos by applying today’s best practices from business, acting, improv, and storytelling. Julie’s techniques for leveraging proven performance skills in presentations have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM and Oracle, as well as local Colorado companies. Learn more about sales workshops and keynotes at  PerformanceSalesandTraining.com, start a sales conversation at Julie@actingforsales.com  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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