Before you read any further in this article, I'd like you to take a moment and write down who your biggest competition is.
OK, got it?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that no matter what company you wrote down, you're wrong. Here's what I'll tell you; no matter what industry you're in, no matter how long you've been selling, biggest competition you face in selling is status quo. The Status Quo; whatever it is your prospect is doing now – that's key challenge you have to overcome in selling. Recognize this universal truth and you can become much more effective in your selling efforts.
To really understand why Status Quo is such a formidable competitor it helps to explore a bit about psychology of decision-making. According to psychologist and author Robert Cialdini “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.”
Let's look at how this applies in selling. Getting a prospect to change what they are currently doing – even if you have a genuinely better solution - is difficult. Our natural reaction is to try to show how we what can offer is better, how we can save them money, how we can save them time, and so on. Yet, oftentimes more we try to back up our presentation with facts and evidence, more strongly our prospect will seek to justify and rationalize what they're already doing. Admitting that they made a bad (or less than optimal) choice, would create some real internal dissonance.
The louder that dissonance greater search for rationalization and consistency becomes. This is particularly true if decision made is a public one; more people that know about decision, more person who made it will seek consistency and resist changing.
For example, suppose you are selling a software solution that has been proven to save companies time and money – and you can document it. You call on head of IT at a key prospect. He tells you that he has developed his own solution, which, according to him “does same thing that your product does.” As you show him proprietary features of your program, he even admits that yes, it can do things his can't, and yes, it would save time and money, and yes, CEO would really like access to information it would provide. Yet, he won't proceed with sale. Why? Well, what you may not know is that everyone in company knows that IT Director (your prospect) has been championing how great his own system is, and that his line throughout company is “Why buy when we can create this system ourselves.”