What Is Status Quo Bias? How to Overcome It in Sales


What Is Status Quo Bias? How to Overcome It in Sales
The status quo bias causes consumers to resist change and make decisions based on a preference to keep things the way they currently are. The status quo bias significantly affects purchasing decisions. Overcoming the status quo bias can sway consumers to purchase a new product or service with you or remain loyal to your brand as one they are familiar with. 

What Is Status Quo Bias?

The status quo bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to resist change. When someone has a status quo bias, they prefer that things stay the same, and this can affect their behaviors and decisions. An individual with a status quo bias prefers that things stay the way they currently are, and they often perceive changes as detriments or losses.

A status quo bias minimizes potential risks that could come with change, but it also minimizes potential benefits that could outweigh the risks. People with a status quo bias tend to view change as unsafe and costly, but when they make decisions with this mindset, they can miss out on potential benefits and growth. They often remain on their current path without taking action toward change.

Researchers Richard Zeckhauser and William Samuelson first introduced the term “status quo bias” in 1988. Zeckhauser and Samuelson performed controlled experiments and found that people often disproportionately prefer choices that maintain the status quo. They asked individuals to act as decision-makers and make choices in situations that managers, government officials and individuals often face.

Zeckhauser and Samuelson’s study results showed that most participants chose options that maintained current circumstances rather than options that would bring about change or progress. The status quo bias may stem from these cognitive biases:


  • Loss aversion bias: People with a loss aversion bias will focus more on what they could risk losing rather than how they could potentially benefit.
  • Exposure: Exposure is the tendency to prefer things that are familiar.

How Status Quo Bias Affects Sales

The status quo bias in sales affects your customers’ and clients’ purchasing decisions, which means you can use it to sway their decision-making in your favor. It’s important to understand how your target audience frames decisions related to change versus remaining with their status quo. When you do, you have a better chance of persuading them to embrace change, choose your products or services and continue choosing your brand over competitors.

You will need to consider how you approach your clients’ and customers’ status quo bias based on different situations. If you are trying to acquire new customers or clients, you will need to disrupt and overpower your target audience’s status quo to persuade them to choose you. However, if you are trying to expand your services or convince customers to renew services, you will need to reinforce your relationship with customers and maintain your position as their status quo.

Research psychologist Christopher Anderson believes that the status quo bias stems from the following cognitive biases in sales:

Anticipated Regret or Blame

People often fear regret, which causes them to avoid potential regret by choosing the status quo. Customers typically minimize feelings of foreseeable regret by remaining with familiar products or services. It helps them avoid potential risks and prevent being blamed for the possible repercussions.

Preference Stability

People avoid changing their minds when they form a preference or opinion about something. They often filter and discount information that contradicts their opinions. You’ll increase a customer’s willingness to change by destabilizing their preferences.

Cost of Action and Change

Taking action to change the status quo often involves a cost. It could be a transactional cost to change or a resource cost when transitioning to something new. When change seems costly or risky, customers will often choose the status quo because it feels neutral or beneficial in the face of uncertainty.

Selection Difficulty

Choice overload occurs when clients and potential customers feel overwhelmed by too many options. This can increase their likelihood of viewing change as costly and risky. They may struggle to make decisions when various choices don’t have more value or a higher return on investment (ROI) than others.

When you are trying to acquire new customers, use your sales and marketing messages to present enough value and ROI to disrupt and overpower these four causes of your potential customers’ status quo bias. If you’re trying to retain your current customer base, you will need to defend your position as their status quo.

How to Overcome Status Quo Bias in the Sales Process

Overcoming the status quo bias requires you to show potential customers how your products or services can meet any unconsidered needs they may have. Show potential customers how their current situation is unsustainable and that they will have a greater chance of reaching their goals if they embrace change. Then, highlight your strengths and show them how your product or service will meet their unconsidered needs and resolve their risks. 

With status quo bias for current customers, it’s important to reinforce their bias. If you are trying to persuade current customers to renew or expand with you, you need to reinforce the emotional aspects of their relationship with your services and make change seem safe as long as it’s with you.

To overcome the status quo bias in your sales process, consider the following tips:

Use Concise Messaging

Use Concise Messaging

Keep your messaging clear and short to ensure it sticks in customers’ minds. Technology allows for more communication channels, which often overwhelm consumers. Make your positioning concise so consumers will easily understand and remember it in the sea of advertisements they view each day. Concise messaging is a great way to drive clients to action and build brand awareness.

Frame Potential Costs Positively

Since consumers often fear the costs and risks that come with change, it’s important to frame potential costs positively. Individuals often make purchasing decisions based on how companies present drawbacks and benefits. Frame the costs of your product or service as a cost that will achieve a benefit rather than an uncompensated loss. Emphasize your solution’s value and ROI in the context of the consumers’ challenges.

Balance Emotion and Logic

Consumers rely on logic to make decisions, but emotions also drive consumers. Emotions play a large part in decision-making, so it’s important to address both logic and feelings in your messaging. Consider your target audience’s hopes and fears as well as what excites them. Excitement and the promise that you can solve their current issues will persuade customers to choose you.

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