How Not to Commit Sales Suicide


Blog141_BreakStatusQuo_1-1In my work with sales leaders and their teams, I hear one constant refrain:

“We uncovered the problem or issue, but our biggest challenge is to get the prospect to take action.” 

Imagine these scenarios:

A life insurance agent discovers that the individual life policy of his high-net-worth prospect will lapse in nine years, based on the contract design. The agent’s solution could easily move the prospect’s coverage to age 100. But the prospect won’t take action. 

A healthcare advisor determines that making certain changes to a company’s healthcare plan will save it $6 million over the next four years. But the vice president of human resources won’t move forward. 

In reviewing a client’s portfolio, an investment advisor notices that the portfolio has not met benchmark returns for five years, but the client won’t make a decision to go ahead with new asset allocation recommendations. 

An energy company’s solution will reduce utility cost by $600,000 per year, but the client won’t act to realize the savings. 

Here’s the problem. In each one of these situations, to accomplish success, the salesperson must move beyond simply showing his new solution and its superior benefits.

He needs to show how the status quo is dangerous. 

Fear Status Quo?

The status quo forms when people get too comfortable with their current situation.

There may be a few things about their current situation that they don’t particularly like.

They might not like the fact that they are spending $600,000 more in energy cost.

They’re sick of low investment returns.

But just because they want change, and a better solution doesn’t mean they care enough to do anything about it.

Just because they don’t like some things, doesn’t mean they’d have it any different, especially if it means creating more work for themselves to change it─especially in B2B sales, when the $600,000 of energy savings isn’t their money.

Sales Benchmark Index indicates that nearly 60 percent of all qualified sales pipeline opportunities end up in “no decision.” In other words, a major portion of your salespeople’s working pipeline won’t lead to anything different at the end of the process.

Reasons for No Decision

When you boil it down to a no decision, only two reasons emerge why prospects don’t buy.

  1. They do not believe their problem is significant enough to take action, if they recognize any problem at all, or 
  2. They do not believe the solution you are proposing will work. 

Guess which one occurs most frequently? 

You’re right. Reason No. 1.

Sales Suicide. Don’t Do It

Presenting a solution to someone who doesn’t believe they have a problem is sales suicide.

So, as we have discussed in many blog posts, you need first to focus on the prospect’s vision or concept of the solution and then tie your product and service to it.

In our $600,000 example of cost savings above, the prospect heard these claims before and doesn’t believe the salesperson’s claims. He doesn’t want to invest valuable time and energy on this issue.

For the building manager, who doesn’t personally benefit from the savings, he doesn’t see this as an issue worth spending the time on. In this case, the salesperson needs to find the buying influence where this matters most.

It’s the Sales Experience

Assuming that you open up and connect to the real issue the buyer sees as a problem; then you can focus on creating the positive sales experience.

There are some drivers that contribute to prospect purchasing behavior, however, as it turns out the sales experience─how the salesperson conveys value─carries the tipping point.

According to CEB, 53 percent of buyers say it is the sales experience that creates customer loyalty, not the product or price to value. 

Think about this a moment. How do you convey value? 

Most value propositions, for example, focus solely on the features and benefits of the offering and the organization which, in total, drive less than half of the ultimate purchasing decision.

So in our energy example, the salesperson needs to get to the property owner or a senior person running the organization who is trying to find ways to drive profitability. They can’t lead the conversation with their solution─they must lead the buyer to their solution.

Blind to the Need

You cannot possibly sell something to a prospect that has no need for your solution.

At least, not ethically.

That’s why salespeople do their homework and spend time pre-qualifying the prospect before the initial meeting. Even after a scrutinized scrubbing pf prospect leads, salespeople will still end up with prospects that cite the “no need” objection. How is that possible? 

Because they haven’t directly connected to prospect’s need, explored all available needs, addressed the right need, or the need behind the need

Scour the prospect’s business, market, and competition.

Identify the need by looking for triggering events to purchase.

As an example, if you provide evidence to your prospect that he is lagging behind his competition, you will be in a higher position to demonstrate the value of your offering.

Sometimes prospects are unaware of their own needs, mostly because they are unaware. 

So if you can expose the hidden needs and opportunities your solution can capitalize on, you can overcome this objection.

The Unsafe Zone

Even if the buyer sees a need and is dissatisfied with her current situation, sometimes it just feels comfortable to stay safe in the status quo. No hassles. Nothing to do. Simple.

There may be problems with the current situation, but the buyer and her company seem to tolerate it. It’s not perfect, but there’s always bigger issues to deal with or other priorities.

In many cases, the buyer may even tell the salesperson that she wants to make these changes, but when it comes right down to it, that final decision to change, she and the company stay in the status quo. At least 60 percent of those buyers won’t change even after considerable time spent with you and your competitors. 

Arguably, the majority of the prospects you encounter are still trying to decide whether they are willing to make a change, not whether they prefer you or a competitor.

When it comes down to it, many of them will postpone their decision or decide that something else more urgently needs fixing. Even if you think this prospect is totally aware of the need, you have to reinforce it by understanding his concept or vision for the solution.

Again, the way to overcome this vacuum is to show your prospect that the status quo is unsafe.

The current situation is unsustainable and unacceptable.

Your prospect has to see that. As they say in Maine, “they can’t get there from here” when it comes to solving the issue or sticking to the status quo.

At this stage, it’s not about your product or solution, it’s about the danger and challenges the prospect will face with the status quo.

Prove It

Okay. You’ve established the prospect’s vision of a solution.

You’ve used trigger events to get at the need behind the need.

Next, you’ve broken status quo by showing it as unsafe and unsustainable.

Now you’ve got to prove it.

As I mentioned above, many times the prospect doesn’t believe your solution will work.

He’s heard plenty of past claims that haven’t come true.

You need to prove out the solution strengths that will meet his key needs.
Be honest with your prospect about what to expect and how to prepare.

Be honest about areas of your solution that might be a bit clunky or rough.

Then get busy. And get the prospect’s hands on your tool.
Make the picture you have painted a reality.
Make sure they hold your competition to the same standards.

Buyers today are more involved than ever in analyzing possible alternatives.

Rather than give them the numbers from your ROI analysis, give them an interactive spreadsheet that allows them to change assumptions and prove out you returns.
And give them all the time they need to do it.

Finally, the smartest way to prove your solution is to invite buyers to talk and interact with your satisfied customers.

Customer references, especially where customers face the same challenges that you solve, is the one proven path out of the unsafe zone.

There’s no need for you to ever commit sales suicide. Get into your prospect’s head, create the unsafe zone, then show beyond a doubt that your solution provides his protective shield.

See you on the upside,


For more information, go to
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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