In any sale, your toughest competitor isn’t necessarily the biggest seller in the industry, or the one with the lowest price. Your toughest competitor is the status quo.

The truth is, any sale involves a change in the status quo. And the status quo will fight back. That might be the vendor who’s had a lock on the account for 30 years. Or it might be more subtle. Your solution could threaten someone’s job, budget, status or just their sense of the way things oughta be. Maybe that’s why they seem less than ecstatic about your newer-faster-better-cheaper solution.

The obvious way to counter the status quo, of course, is to offer more, more, more — to show all the ways your solution is better. But research published in the Harvard Business Review suggests that such an approach can backfire. Every “benefit” that requires the buyer to change can be a liability. The more you ask the buyer to change, the more they’ll dig in their heels.

The solution?

  1. Emphasize how similar your offering is to whatever they’re doing now: “You won’t have to learn any new access codes if you switch to our phone system. We can set it up to work exactly like the one you have now…”
  2. Then zero in on just one or two key benefits that the status quo can’t deliver: “…The only difference is that your phone bill will be 25% less.”

Here’s the message you want to deliver when you’re trying to upset the status quo: “We’re just the same as what you’ve got — only better.”

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