April 16, 2021

Title of Book: The Expansion Sale: Four Must Win Conversations To Keep and Grow Your Customers

Author of Book: Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer

Year Published: 2020

What Is Unique 

Let’s get the elephant out of the corner of the room and talk about it right away. This book is meant for a business audience. Specifically for businesses that want to use their existing customer base to grow their business. The strategies used to acquire customers is different than the strategies needed to expand what they purchase from you. This is all fine and good, I bet you are thinking right now, but what does it have to do with school leadership? That’s a great question, my friend!

Here Is How I Look At It

When you work to make a change toward a learner-centered environment, you are expanding what is possible in your staff. Your staff are the ones that you must convince to expand how they think about learning. The same psychological factors that a business person must consider are the same ones you must consider when implementing change. This book summary is not a full “book report.” There are things that I left out because I did not feel they were relevant for a school leader audience. However, you can be the final judge on whether I missed anything useful. I encourage you to read and/or listen to the book and learn everything the author has to say. So, with that, here I go.

The Status Quo Bias

When trying to convince someone to do something they may not know they want to do, you must consider the status quo bias. Status quo bias is just what its name suggests…a bias toward staying the same and not changing. There are four causes of status quo bias:

  • Preference stability
  • Perceived cost of change
  • Selection difficulty
  • Anticipated regret and blame

To make any change, you will have to address these causes of status quo bias in your staff.

What Is Helpful For Learner-Centered-Leaders 

Okay, you now know the causes of status quo bias which may prevent people from wanting to make the changes in your school that are necessary for learners to have a great experience. You know that you must address the four causes of status quo bias. Here is how you do it.

  • Destabilize current preferences. Your staff only knows what they know. They “know” that the way schools have been operated for over 100 years is “the way it is”. What you have to do, dear learner-centered leader, is educate them on how the current system of schooling is not all that great for most kids. If you recall from the book review of The Catalyst, you can’t just go out and lecture your staff about how great your plan is and how what they are currently doing is horrible. That is a recipe for failure. What you can do is start a conversation about learning, schooling and education. Start with a book study or a discussion after a video. I suggest Sir Ken Robinson’s video entitled “Changing the Education Paradigm.” However you choose to start the conversation, it is important to start. I have a course that will help you kickstart your learner-centered journey and begin the conversations.
  • Show the cost of staying the same. Showing the cost of staying the same is a powerful tool. It is important that the “cost” of staying the same has context with what you want to accomplish as a learner-centered leader. I suggest that you do not start with this strategy until you have laid a lot of groundwork around the schools “why”, your “why”, and each staff’s “why” for learning and schooling. You can’t just beat someone over the head with facts and figures without grounding it in their context and you will not know their context until you have done the hard work of discovering it. Connecting the change you wish to make with the larger vision of the school and the personal why of the staff will help ease people into the conversation of change.
  • Show a clear contrasting alternative. The decision-making process in the brain loves contrasts. Your job is to create a narrative where people see how they are struggling to reach their true goals for learners in the current system of school and how easier (and better) it will be for them in the new change you are proposing. I personally lean on a strict focus on the learners. Any staff member will have frustrations within the current system of schooling because there are learners that fall through the cracks. Not allowing any child to fall between the cracks of schooling is a powerful reason why to change.
  • Demonstrate before and after proof. I think this is the easiest one for school leaders to undertake. Find a school that is further along in their learner-centered journey and go visit them. Allow your staff, parents, Board members to witness that other schools and people are making the changes that you are thinking about. Taking these trips actually addresses all four of these strategies: you destabilize the status quo by showing them something different, they will clearly see the cost of not changing, there will be a clear contrasting alternative, and they will see proof that change is possible. Voila! You have addressed all of the strategies to combat the status quo bias.

What Is Interesting 

The authors did extensive research about how to frame a messaging model to help evolve a customer. Now, again, we are not in a traditional business, but the research on how to frame conversations around change are important for learner-centered leaders.

Once you have a few brave souls conducting the change you desire, you must be strategic in building momentum to keep the change going. Do not allow people to get stuck in doing a small change when you meant for that small change to lead to bigger changes. So, here is the why evolve change model.

  • Document results (Celebrate the good things that the staff has done while implementing the change)
  • Highlight evolving pressures (This is your chance to share some pain points that are on the horizon, but you are not asking them to change again so soon)
  • Share hard truths (While you have celebrated the successes in step #1, you now have to talk about the drawbacks of the current change in the context of the phrase, “we are not where we want to be…yet!)
  • Emphasize risk of no change (In education oftentimes when a change is not working our perfectly, we not just stop the change, we go back to where we were before the change. The delicate dance in this step is to share what will happen if you do not continue to evolve the change without scaring people so much they go back to the status quo.)
  • Describe upside opportunity. (Constantly reminding all of your stakeholders of the ultimate vision and what it will look like in your school if they continue with the changes keeps them motivated.)


A learner-centered leader must mange the change process. They can do this by keeping two things in mind: vision and tactics. First, building and creating a vision is beyond the scope of this book, but you can see where it is important for the strategies laid out in the book to work. In a lot of ways it is fundamental to the success of the change process to have a school and personal vision. Second, a learner-centered leader must have the tactics and strategies to implement change over the course of multiple years. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

About the author 

Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.

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