I was working with the CEO, Business Development Director and Marketing Manager of a highly innovative process control technology business yesterday. Of their team of 17, 7 have a Phd. The products they have developed are set to take the market by storm.
When we talked around the issues of their competitive landscape and I posed the question about their major competitors, rather than starting with a stock list of rivals names, the first word that came out was “inertia”. We talked in depth about how our very particular style of sales approach worked to beat “inertia”
We are selling against “inertia” on most of our accounts everyday. The vast majority of people we call on behalf of our clients “already have one”. So, if we are talking to a Merchandising and Assortment Planning Director at a major retail chain they will already have some mechanism to work out what products, to put where, in which stores across the country. If we are talking to the Financial Director of an NHS Primary Care Trust about assessing and managing cost reductions, they will already have plans in place. If we are talking to production directors and process control managers in multi national petrochemical companies about how they can secure the software assets across the production process you can be pretty damn sure they will believe they have their assets covered.
So what’s the point here? Ask many marketers and salespeople who they believe their competition is and they will tell you that they believe they are in a selling war against their direct competition. However we would moot that a less anticipated and more dangerous enemy exists, called “no decision” — otherwise known as “inertia” or “the status quo.”
According to Atlanta based sales consulting firm The Sales Benchmark Index, nearly 60% of qualified leads fall victim to the status quo or inertia. So that’s 60% of your hard won, fully qualified, sales leads (wherever you are getting them from) falling foul of “inertia”.
So what does 30 years of direct B2B sales experience tell us. Well here’s something to consider. A root cause of the problem could be that 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 head to head test.
If you have read well researched texts like “Conversations That Win the Complex Sale” their research clearly shows that executives want companies to come in and tell them something they don’t already know about a problem or missed opportunity. What do they get instead? Most people only talk about themselves.
The “inertia” problem is actually a sales messaging problem.
Breaking through “inertia” is like breaking a habit. The prospects brain goes on auto-pilot when a habit is formed. To break through this “inertia”, you need to appeal to the part of the brain where decisions are actually made. That’s where brain science research comes in.
Writers like Riesterer and Godin point out that the brain is divided into three parts. The neocortex is the brain’s analytical computer, which processes data. The limbic system is where all emotions reside. The brain stem and other brain structures are responsible for your survival. This part of the brain is also described by American psychologist Robert Ornstein as the “old brain”
The old brain quickly assesses situations to determine if you are at risk or in danger. If it senses your well-being is in jeopardy, it forces you to react and move away from the potential threat. To break the “inertia”, you literally have to wake your prospects’ old brain by showing them how their current status quo is untenable, unsustainable, and even unsafe.
Providing context creates urgency and starts to erode “inertia”.
“Why change?” and “why now?” messaging starts with grabbing the prospects’ attention and creating a sense of urgency around their solution to stimulate a decision. When we work with our clients we spend a good deal of time building “hot button statements” that open the call and add context for the conversation to come.
By creating the right context for the following conversation you create an environment for the prospect to think outside their current position.
We also work with clients to thrash out the features of their products and turning them into advantages, and consequently, into benefits. However we always keen to stress that their product or service differentiators aren’t the reason their prospects will change, or how they will beat “inertia”. It’s more likely that 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, and value is what people buy
Once we’ve created context for the urgency to change, we work to convince prospects they can’t get what they need from where their status quo currently places them. “Inertia” is a formidable foe, and prospects will still seek to post rationalise their existing approach to overcome the threats that have been exposed.
But we need to give them permission to think outside the box. If there’s inertia in a situation – remove the situation. Using smart questioning we take the prospect to the hypothetical – “So if you didn’t have x, what would be your criteria for selecting one?”
The sales 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 prospects, this means they need to see a clear distinction between what they’re already doing and what’s being proposed.
Battling inertia 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 it is possible to overcome inertia to maximise sales opportunities.
Talk to us about how we do this and we’ll talk you through the theory in more detail and you can listen to some calls where it’s put into action. It’s telemarketing but not as you know it