Make Breaking Up Hard to Do

Written by: Jeb Blount

Leveraging the Status Quo Bias

The good news is that you have both physics and psychology on your side.

First, physics

Change is problematic because it takes energy and effort to move a stationary object. To change, your customer must start from a standstill, expending time, resources, emotions, and energy to begin a search, unwind their relationship with you, and potentially disrupt their business.

So, even though their emotions may compel them to seek an alternative when presented with your price increase, their emotional momentum often stops at the brutal reality of a cost-benefit analysis.

The Psychology Factor

Humans don’t like change. We live by the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We actively work to avoid it. We stick to our routines and favorites. When someone suggests that we will do well to implement a change, we become anxious, cynical, and rebellious—even if that change is in our favor. 

The natural bias toward keeping things status quo gives you a distinct advantage as the incumbent vendor. The status quo bias acts like a shield around your accounts that keeps competitors at bay.

Humans live with an underlying fear that change will make things worse. We strive to avoid making irreversible decisions. When faced with options, we gravitate to the one that is perceived to carry the least risk.

When considering changing to your competitor, your customer’s brain is more focused on what could go wrong than what could go right. They worry that your competitors won’t live up to their glowing promises. Worse, change will disrupt their business; or your competitor’s salespeople might be lying and attempting to manipulate them.

Your customers have had previous bad experiences and disappointments with salespeople. They may even remember the pain they went through the last time they went on a vendor search.

This emotional baggage is always there, tugging at them to avoid change. And because humans remember adverse events far more vividly than positive ones, your customers believe that past negative events will be more likely to happen in the future.

Playing the Status Quo Card

The number one reason customers stay with an incumbent vendor, even when presented with a significantly better deal from a competitor, is the fear of future negative consequences.

The status quo bias is the most powerful card you can play when buyers threaten to go to a competitor. The following measures contribute to client loyalty:

  • Actively manage your accounts
  • Invest in building relationships
  • Earn the trust of the account stakeholders 

Reasonably use your effort to raise concerns about your competitor and create doubt and uncertainty about the validity of their promises. Diplomatically cause your customer to think twice about change.

Be the Safest Choice

Customers tend to be attracted to safe choices. Therefore, to amplify your customers’ status quo bias and build a wall around your accounts that keeps competitors out, make yourself and your company the safest option.

For example, Jessica is a digital advertising sales rep. Many companies sell digital advertising, and Jessica’s offering is nothing special or unique. She and all her competitors are similar, except that we love working with her.

Since we pay by automatic monthly credit card billing, it would be easy for Jessica to forget about our account. Several of her competitors did just that in the past, which is how we ended up working with Jessica in the first place. 

Jessica checks in with us at least once a month in these varying regards: 

  • How are you doing?
  • How can I help you?
  • I noticed this campaign isn’t delivering. Let’s try something different.
  • One of my other customers is having success with ________.
  • Let’s switch up your keywords.
  • What initiatives are you focused on next quarter?

There is nothing extraordinary about what she does. It’s what most people would expect their account manager to do. She looks out for us, solves problems, and helps us win. Her regular engagement makes us feel like our business matters and is appreciated.

Earlier this year, she scheduled a meeting to walk me through a pending price increase. I wasn’t happy, and I briefly considered shopping our ad spend to her competition. In the end, though, we were pleased, and looking elsewhere wasn’t worth the effort. Jessica gave us so much value that she’d more than earned the price increase.

Just Manage Your Accounts

Here’s the deal: The most effective way to get price increases without losing customers is to manage your accounts professionally. Getting price increases AND keeping your customers is easy when you EARN IT by just doing your job.

Your job is to invest in the relationships diligently, take care of your customers, and proactively focus on solving problems. Problem solvers are the champions of the business world.

Customers view you as a necessary resource when you actively and consistently solve problems. They will even pull you into planning and strategy meetings to get your opinions, giving you even more influence over their future buying decisions.

The good news is that your customers have problems, and the more problems you solve, the more they’ll love you. Solving problems is about helping your customers get what they want. When you help your customers get what they want, they will be more willing to accept the price increases you want.

When you actively and systematically manage your accounts, your competitors won’t stand a chance because breaking up with you will be very hard to do.

Related: Do You Strive to Deliver What Clients Seek?

Jeb Blount provides today’s guest blog, ‘Make Breaking Up Hard to Do.’ Jeb is the author of 14 definitive sales and sales leadership books, including his latest, Selling the Price Increase. He is among the world’s most respected thought leaders on sales, leadership, and customer experience. Through his global training organization, Sales Gravy, Jeb and his team train and advise a who’s who of the world’s most prestigious organizations. His flagship website,, is the most visited sales-specific website on the planet.