Building the Business Case: The Cost of Status Quo


A Zen Koan is a riddle that Buddhist monks use to open their minds.

Here’s a sales Koan: The B in BANT does not matter.

Most sales processes qualify based on the buyer’s budget. After all, we do not want to put tons of time into an opportunity only to find out there’s no money, honey.

What’s wrong with asking about the buyer’s budget?

There are two trapdoors in this traditional approach:

  1. Want to Trash Rapport?
    In every sales training, I was taught to ask for the buyer’s budget. Thirty years of reviewing sales call recordings proves it is a rapport-destroying question that rarely reveals the answer. If you had developed trust up to that point, this question sets you back several steps. Asking for the buyer’s budget is like asking a fellow poker player to see their hand – just for a quick second.
  2. Budget Does Not Matter: The buyer’s willingness to make the investment is all that matters.
  • A buyer that has the budget and is not willing, will not buy.
  • A buyer that doesn’t have the budget, but is willing, will find the money.

A buyer’s willingness is driven by the cost of the status quo.

How financial buyers decide

Business leaders are taught to make decisions by reducing all considerations to one common unit, dollars.

Cost of status quo has three components:

  1. Current cost that can be removed.
  2. Future cost that can be avoided.
  3. Opportunity cost; future income that can be generated, but is not today.

While most sellers focus on the size of the buyer’s budget versus their price, the buyer’s willingness to invest is driven by the other side of the see saw. On the left side is the perceived cost of the status quo. Price and budget are both on the right side of the see saw.

The larger cost of the status quo, the larger the budget or price that is justified in the buyer’s mind.

So, what do you do?

Sellers add value by co-building the business case, not by asking silly sales questions like, “Sir, do you have a budget set aside for this?”

If the cost of the status quo ain’t a lot bigger than the price, you gotta tell them that and work with them to make it bigger.

Otherwise, the CFO will just say NO.