Many marketers and salespeople believe they are in a selling war against their direct competition. However, a less anticipated and more dangerous enemy exists, called “no decision” — otherwise known as “the status quo.” You need to get your customer out of the “No decision” zone. According to sales consulting firm The Sales Benchmark Index, nearly 60% of qualified leads fall victim to the status quo.
Here’s the root cause of the problem: most marketing and sales efforts focus on the wrong messaging and therefore do not stimulate the correct part of a prospect’s brain. This idea is supported by Forrester Research, which found that 65% of high-level decision makers give their business to the company that creates the “buying vision,” versus 35% who acknowledge putting candidates through a fair-and-square “bake-off.” In fact, as executives told us in our research for “Conversations That Win the Complex Sale,” they want companies to come in and tell them something they don’t already know about a problem or missed opportunity — but instead, most only talk about themselves.
The status quo problem is actually a sales messaging problem.
Breaking through the status quo is like breaking a habit. Your brain goes on auto-pilot when a habit is formed. To disrupt the status quo, you need to appeal to the part of the brain where decisions are actually made. That’s where brain science research comes in.
Context Creates Urgency
Your product or service differentiators aren’t the reason your prospects will change. It’s a clear, compelling sense that they won’t be able to hit their objectives by staying where they are that will prick the old brain’s survival instincts and cause it to start looking for an alternative to the status quo.
Contrast Creates Value
Once you’ve created context for the urgency to change, you must convince your prospects they can’t get what they need from where their status quo currently places them. That status quo is a formidable foe, and prospects will still seek the comfort of trying to “duct tape” their existing approach to overcome the threats you’ve exposed.
Your messaging needs to feed the old brain the thing it craves most to make a decision — contrast. This part of the brain relies exclusively on visual and emotional contrast to decide between what’s unsafe and safe. For your prospects, this means they need to see a clear distinction between what they’re already doing and what you’re proposing.
Contrast is best created in two ways: By using “before” and “after” stories, and by using visual tools.
Before and After Stories: Telling stories about your other customers in the same market who successfully overcame a similar challenge will help your prospects realize that they, too, need to change.
Visual Tools: Contrast can be best depicted in pictures — not big photos or metaphorical imagery, but images that make complex and abstract ideas more simple and concrete. A study cited in Dr. John Medina’s book “Brain Rules” found that people could remember only about 10% of information delivered via the spoken word 72 hours after hearing it — but that retention skyrocketed to 65% if a picture was added.
You must literally illustrate the current status quo as a messy situation fraught with peril, side-by-side with an alternative approach that addresses all of the issues and cleans up the mess. Therefore, visual storytelling that shows clear contrast is an essential messaging tool for waking the old brain and breaking the status quo.
Battling the status quo is a constant struggle for marketers and salespeople alike — but it doesn’t have to end in defeat. By applying the right, customer-focused messaging and appealing to the old brain through the techniques described above, it is possible to overcome the status quo barrier to help fuel your company’s success.
Adapted from an article by Tim Riesterer

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