The beginning of a new year is one of those rare times when people are more open to change. Hence the resolve to finally make that change – work out regularly, learn an instrument, eat at home more often – it’s a blank slate and the possibilities seem endless.
But pretty soon (12 days per the research) reality hits. Changing behavior turns out to be harder than we imagine. One reason is what behaviorists call the Status Quo Bias.
Loosely defined, this bias is our innate desire to leave things the way they are. If it ain’t broke, why fix it – kind of a mindset. In fact even if it’s ‘broke’, we feel more comfortable with it broken rather than fixing it.
One reason for this bias is that our brain constantly looks for ways to reduce the cognitive load on it. By reducing the number of decisions the brain has to make, we’re able to navigate through the day with relatively less effort. Keeping things in status quo means we don’t have to rethink new ways of working – it’s less effortful.
This works well until the status quo is unproductive or actually detrimental to progress. In such cases sticking to the status quo may be less effortful but shuts the door on new opportunities.
Status Quo Bias in Sales Teams
The status quo bias is no stranger to sales reps. In fact, sales reps frequently encounter this bias in their conversations with prospects.
Customers are used to using certain products or certain business models. They resist change (a new product or service), preferring to keep things the way they are. A good sales rep learns how to break through this bias and make the sale.
But sales reps themselves may be prone to the status quo bias when it comes to their own working style. They may prefer what they are used to and find it hard to adopt new ways of selling, even when they are more effective. Like a tendency to sell products that require less effort than to sell the right product mix. Or the tendency to speed up sales in the last week of each month instead of consistently selling through the entire sales cycle.
Sales managers, too, can be stuck to old ways of managing, like relying on month-end reviews. Even though data shows that frequent feedback (twice a week) makes teams more productive. productivity.
It’s imperative for sales leadership to consider how to move teams past this bias and adopt more productive ways of selling / managing sellers.
How sales teams can overcome the status quo bias
Recognize: The first step is always recognition. Take time to reflect on which aspects of your sales process (for reps and for managers) are no longer impactful. Are reps or managers stuck in a rut – doing the same things and expecting different results? What new behaviors do they need to adapt to their market realities and business objectives? Do their KPIs reflect these priorities?
Routinize: Create a plan to help your reps/managers make new routines around these behaviors/KPIs. You can set triggers and reminders that bring these behaviors to the forefront of their minds. Creating a calendar can help teams remember to practice these new behaviors on a daily basis. A specific plan of action is crucial to build new behaviors.
Reward: These don’t need to be monetary. Recognition of progress, however small, spurs teams towards more progress. Like creating a system where managers can regularly appreciate team efforts through the month, rather than just focus on the outcomes at the end. Rewards help the brain create positive associations with new behaviors and consequently motivate teams to practice these new behaviors consistently.
Reduce: The most important aspect of the status quo bias is why it happens. An average person makes 35,000 decisions in a day. Sales teams are already overwhelmed with data and processes. Expecting them to adopt new behaviors is adding to that cognitive load and won’t be effective.
AI tools now offer leaders a way to reduce that cognitive load. For instance, worxogo Nudge Coach helps sales teams adopt new behaviors like a digital coach – from creating routines & reminders, to rewards & recognition.
Sales teams at leading biopharma, auto and finserv companies use behavioral science to help their teams adopt new behaviors. They have seen benefits like a 17% increase in HCP wallet share, 10% increase in premium product sales, customer connects by 31%.
Understanding how teams think and act and building a framework around is the most effective way to unlock productivity. Call us for a demo.