Think outside the Status Quo

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I got into sales because I love to help people – I genuinely care about my clients and their business goals. As a consultant you are not simply selling a platform – but are working as a trusted partner who has a vested interest in your client’s success.

I speak a lot about’value selling’ and ‘counselor selling’ on this blog, and it can be easy to slip into the mindset that being a ‘counselor’ or ‘partner’ in the selling process means you have to agree with everything the client proposes. While you always want to be respectful of your clients goals and desired future state – your role as a counselor salesperson demands that you are effective at the scenario from the unique perspective of vested partner and diagnositician.

While there are times sales is very transactional (self-service grocery check out would be an example), in software sales we need to have the perspective to look beyond the transaction. Yes we want the sale, but the best sales professionals are keyed into the client’s holistic needs. They are like a good physician able to diagnose what is working and what needs to change to ensure the longterm health of the business.

Clients often come to us with a problem, but the biggest objection we face isn’t a named competitor – it is the status quo. Humans crave, but hate change. We like the idea of change, but commiting to that change is often the biggest threat to business growth and longterm success.

Status quo in many ways is the hardest objection to overcome because it is an intrinsic view that is tightly held – tied to logic and emotions. It is hard to untangle the status quo.

In untangling the status quo sales professionals often make two critical mistakes:

  1. They over reach – an example of this is when you are working with a legacy client who is completely paper based and relies on faxing and doesn’t even have secure email (if they have email at all). You know that this is costing them time and money, but instead of digging into the logical and emotional reasons behind their current ‘why’ (what drives the status quo) – the sales rep is forceful with change: “You are living in the 1900s – this isn’t 1970 – we’re in a modern era and you are running this business like a crapshoot.” I paraphrase, but you know the rep (may it was me or you 🙂 who is so appalled by the set-up that they try to force change by essentially bashing the business.
    1. While there may be truth to this (I’ve heard some horror stories when it comes to ancient filing systems) – you must put yourself in your client’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Someone at the organization set things up this way and they have felt comfortable with the system for varying reasons. You have the perspective to understand the inefficiency, but they need to be moved to that realization with logic and gracious emotion – not condemnation or a ‘fire sale’ approach.

2. The sales rep is too careful in questioning the status quo – they don’t want to risk offending the client or perhaps they simply need a quick win for the end of the quarter so why waste time trying to ‘argue’ for a overhaul when you can sell an inefficient software fix to keep the status quo engine running. (Think ink for the printer – versus getting them encrypted email and online secure file storage).

Both of these tactics hurt your client and their business! I am not a confrontational person – but because I care about my client’s success, I am not afraid to hold them accountable to enact meaningful change.

I give the example of a doctor…

I’ve battled Celiac Disease for years – imagine if I went to my doctor and he tested me for Celiac and said not to eat gluten, but I told him ‘I’ve always eaten gluten so I think why not keep eating it – at least until my body gives out.” Any medical doctor with a grain of sense would not hesitate to argue that objection – not to demean or belittle but because they see that if you keep up unhealthy practices it will lead to failure and frustration.

Even if the status quo doesn’t kill a business – it can prevent meaningful growth and impact. Most business owners and employees want to be working towards something better – to improve the lives of people they serve and to reach their business goals.

As a counselor salesperson don’t be afraid to hold your clients accountable – Gently but firmly remind them of what is at stake (Why Change NOW) and demonstrate how the cost of doing nothing far outweighs the cost of change.

So how do we get our clients to think outside of the status quo?

First, we as sales professionals need to be willing to listen and understand what is actually working with the status quo. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel just because you are driving on a new road. There are times when the status quo has extreme value and you need to have the discernment to recognize the strengths, gaps and weaknesses of their current setup.

Second: See things from the customer perspective – empathy in action. How does this process feel like for an employee day to day. What bottlenecks are they running into. What frustrations does each department face? How does this impact the ground zero employees to the top executives.

Often executives will dismiss the champion’s recommendations for change, because the C-Suite is not in the trenches dealing with frustations like lag time in processing due to a paper trail or content switching. They might be empathetic but their view of what is important to the business daily operations is probably more revenue focused than perfecting efficiency.

A medical office admin wants to ensure patients are taken care of in a timely manner and the nurses aren’t swamped in paperwork.

A doctor might care more about not having to deal with any paperwork and just seeing clients

The CEO of the Hospital is thinking about revenue and cost of operations.

To break the status quo you need to understand the POV of each member of the organization – what is driving them and be able to build value that aligns those segments goals with your solution.

Yes the hospital may need HIPAA compliant email, but the CEO doesn’t worry about compliance as much as the CTO; they both need this email in place but you have to align your language to the goals to the DM while ensuring the overall workforce benefits in the solution.

A good way to do this is by quantifying time and the cost of doing nothing.

Many medical practices I worked with were spending hours each week on processing paper into their EMR or filing documents manually and faxing documentation to other practices. They’d then have to pay for file storage (additional square footage) and also pay for ink and shredding costs. In one assessment it was over $20,000 a week! Our solution was only $2500.00 for the year. That savings demonstrated the value to the CEO while also making the nurses, admin and doctors much happier with the set-up.

To follow that – speak to what their customers care about.

How do they make money? How is this affecting the customer side of business? Are they losing revenue share because they refuse to change. We saw this happen a lot post COVID (and prior with digitization of retail).

We’ll continue to dive into this topic more, but remember:

  • Status quo isn’t fatal, but can be improved
  • As a consultant you need to hold your clients accountable to meaningful business change and chart a path for success so the change positively adds value to the business.

Love your thoughts here!

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