The key to situational fluency is recognizing which decision your customer needs to make so you can use the right conversation for that moment. Take the example of a new customer at the beginning of the customer’s life cycle—let’s call the customer Acme Corporation. At one time, it was an acquisition target. But luckily for everyone, your marketing and sales teams read Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, and now Acme is a customer. Congratulations! Now you’re the status quo.
Or are you?
This is actually a time of great peril for your relationship. Your customer is coming from some other status quo. There are likely skeptics in the organization, including some who were involved in the decision to choose you. They could be waiting for your first misstep to find a reason to revert to the old supplier.
Even if everything is going swimmingly, the implementation will likely take time, which means Acme will incur costs upfront while value trails. The solution might even need to coexist with the previous solution for some period of time, which increases your risk.
Not only that, but Acme is still two or three years away from a renewal conversation. And since Acme is just getting started with your current solution, there’s nothing to evolve the customer to yet. Even your expected company-wide price increase won’t be hitting for another year—and because your implementation is going well, there’s nothing to apologize for just yet.
It’s tempting to conclude from all this that none of the four must-win commercial moments apply, and it’s safe to take a deep breath, congratulate yourself on the big win, and move on to the next prospect. In fact, now is the ideal time to build your Incumbent Advantage and cement your solution as Acme’s status quo.
You can do that by applying elements of the Why Stay framework:
• Document results. Start communicating results early and often. This sounds obvious, but remember the psychology behind it. Acme just decided to change, so early on there is a tension between the anxiety about whether the executives who made the decision made a bad choice (Anticipated Regret and Blame) and the desire to believe that they made the right one (Preference Stability). By sharing early results, you are showing that they did in fact make the right choice, and they can move past their anxiety. If your solutions are complex and take time to show real strategic results, work with what you have. Even early, tactical results can show that you’re on track to deliver the larger, long-term goals.
• Review the prior decision process. Early on, the actual decision process will still be fresh in the minds of the executives at Acme, so you don’t have to rehash everything. But especially if it’s too early to show strategic results, you want to reinforce that they made the right decision. Remind the Acme folks how your implementation plan connects to the big goals they wanted to achieve. For example, “Integrating this system will take some work, but it will eliminate the manual steps and potential failure point that was important during your evaluation.
The other steps—“Mention the risk of change,” Highlight the cost of change,” and “Detail competitive advances”—are less relevant early on. They’ll become important later, but for now, focus on making sure that the company has fully transitioned to you as its status quo. So much of this early-stage cementing of the status quo falls on the shoulders of your customer success team; yet there is plenty of room for marketing and sales to pitch in. Too many companies admit to poor handoffs between presale and post-sale organizations. Involving sales in these early customer success interactions can enable the delivery of the very Why Change proposition that won the initial deal.
Marketing can shift its messaging from disrupting to reinforcing, catching those second- and third-tier contacts at Acme that may not be directly involved in implementation or adoption, but may drive broader sentiment and advocacy across Acme’s organization. A unified front can accelerate your solution as the new status quo—making that Status Quo Bias work for you much faster than your legacy competitor can possibly hold on.