By Sharon Drew Morgen

I’ve read that there are leaders and project managers who prefer not to collaborate, when engaging in an initiative, because of needs for control. And decision makers who start their information gathering before fully involving those who will implement. What sort of success is possible when one source is driving change and

  • may potentially sabotage a project because of their own biases,
  • restricts outcomes and creativity to a specific set of possibilities,
  • potentially gathers biased or insufficient data from a restricted set of sources,
  • risks alienating those involved with the ultimate fulfillment because there’s insufficient buy-in?

Without:
* real collaboration * gathering data from the best set of sources * consensus and buy-in procedures in place
* understanding the full impact from a proposed decision * front-loading for change management (to avoid failed implementations) we risk falling far short of excellence in our decision making and subsequent execution.

WHY COLLABORATION IS NECESSARY

To ensure the best data is available to make decisions with, to ensure all risk issues managed, to ensure consensus throughout the process, we must have these questions in mind:

  • How will we share, collect, and decide on the most appropriate ideas, choices, and alternatives? How will we know we are working with the most relevant data set?
  • How can a leader avoid prejudicing the process with her own biases?
  • How are collaborators chosen to ensure maximum representation? Are some stakeholders either absent or silent? How can we increase participation?
  • How can we recognize if we’re on the path to either a successful outcome, or the route that sabotages excellence? What markers should we be looking for along the way?

Let me define a few terms (albeit with my own bias):

  1. Collaboration: when all parties who will be involved in a final solution have a say in an outcome:
    a. to offer and share ideas and concerns to discover creative solutions agreeable to all;
    b. to identify and discern the most appropriate data to enable the best outcome.
  2. Decision making:
    a. weighting, choosing, and choosing from, the most appropriate range of possibilities whose parameters are agreed to by those involved;
    b. understanding and agreeing to a set of variables or decision values.

I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on “understanding needs or managing an implementation”) and ‘low collaboration’ (defined as “putting time or control before people and possibility”, and leading from the top with prepared rules and plans). Since I don’t believe in any sort of top-down initiative (i.e. ‘low collaboration’) except when keeping a child safe, and believe there are systems issues that must be taken into consideration, here’s my rule of thumb: Collaboration is necessary early in the process to achieve accurate data identification and consensus for any sort of implementation, decision, project, purchase, or plan that requests people to take actions not currently employed.

THE STEPS OF COLLABORATION

Here are the steps to excellence in collaborative decision making as I see them:

  1. Assemble all representative stakeholders to begin discussions. Invite all folks who will be affected by the proposed change, not just those you see as obvious. To avoid resistance, have the largest canvas from which to gather data and inform thinking, and enhance the probability of a successful implementation, the right people must be part of the project from the beginning. An international team of Decision Scientists at a global oil company recently told me that while their weighted decisions are ‘accurate,’ the Implementation Team has a success rate of 3%. “It’s not our job. We hand them over good data. But we’re not part of the implementation team. We hear about their failures later.”
  2. Get buy-in for the goal. Without buy-in we lose possibility, creativity, time, and ideas that only those on the ground would understand. Consensus is vital for all who will touch the solution (even if a representative of a larger group lends their voice) or some who seem on board may end up disaffected and unconsciously sabotage the process later.
  3. Establish all system specifics: What will change? Who will manage it? What levels of participation, disruption, job alterations, etc. will occur and how it be handled? What are the risks? And how will you know the best decision factors to manage all this? It’s vital to meld this knowledge into the decision making process right up front.
  4. Specify stages to monitor process and problems. By now you’ll have a good idea of the pluses and minuses. Make a plan that specifies the outcomes and probable fallout from each stage and publish it for feedback. Otherwise, you won’t know if or where you’ve gone wrong until too late.
  5. Announce the issues publicly. Publish the high-level goal, the possible change issues and what would be effected, and the potential outcomes/fallout. Make sure it’s transparent, and you’re managing expectations well in advance. This will uncover folks you might have missed (for information gathering and buy-in), new ideas you hadn’t considered, and resisters.
  6. Time: Give everyone time to discuss, think, consider personal options, and speak with colleagues and bosses. Create an idea collection process – maybe an online community board where voices are expressed – that gets reports back to the stakeholder team.
  7. Stakeholder’s planning meeting. By now you’ll know who and what must be included. Make sure to include resisters – they bring interesting ideas and thinking that others haven’t considered. It’s been proven that even resisters are more compliant when they feel heard.
  8. Meet to vote on final plans. Include steps for each stage of change, and agree on handling opposition and disruption.
  9. Decision team to begin gathering data. Now that the full set of decision issues and people/ideas/outcomes are recognized and agreed to, the Decision Making team is good to go. They’ll end up with a solid data set that will address the optimal solution that will be implemented without resistance.
  10. Have meetings at each specified stage during implementations. Include folks on the ground to weigh in.

These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’ if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have preferred to spend more time following the steps above.Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not collaborating. And then do the math.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen teaches decision making, change facilitation, and collaboration for sellers/buyers, leaders/followers, change agents/groups to corporations such as Kaiser, KPMG, IBM, Wachovia, etc. She is the author of the NY Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Her most recent book What? breaks down the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She’s written 7 books on her unique model Buying Facilitation® which teaches sellers how to facilitate change and consensus for buyers.
www.sharondrewmorgen.com.
sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

September 21st, 2020

Posted In: Communication

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appointments

Do you want to make a sale, or an appointment? Does an appointment create a ‘relationship‘ that will close the deal? Give you a higher probability of closing a sale? And how’s that working for you? Are you closing all the sales you deserve to close?

By seeking appointments with prospects with a ‘need’ who could buy your solution (a prospect is someone who WILL buy, not merely someone who COULD buy), you severely limit your ‘intro meetings’ to either those already seeking your solution (and competitors), or those you’re guessing might (might) be buyers. Indeed, what you determine a ‘sales qualified opportunity’ might be nothing more than a biased interpretation of a biased conversation that affords the opportunity to try to convince someone to buy; the odds are very high you’re wasting your time.

Maybe you’re not finding the right prospects. Maybe a qualified opportunity isn’t qualified. But the real problem is that by sorting for prospects with both a ‘need’ and a willingness to take an appointment, you’re severely restricting the playing field and most likely closing well under 5% of qualified leads. So something is awry. But by shifting your criteria, by seeking candidates who CAN buy, it’s possible to make appointments with buyers ABLE to buy.

APPOINTMENT SETTING IS COSTING YOU SALES

Right now you’re spending a lot of resource for a very low return, with a substandard ratio between seeking, and connecting with, initial conversations to the actual closing of a sale:

200 cold calls = 10 conversations = 1 meeting (.5%) Lots of meetings = unknown closes

I have a colleague who charges $5,000 per “C” level appointment; it takes his team 1500 cold calls to get an appointment, and again, he has no concrete numbers on how many sales are actually closed. (Sales Development groups consider themselves finished when they book appointments, and have no attachment to whether or not the sale closes.)

I believe that the way you’re going about seeking appointments is costing you sales.

Ask yourself this: Would you rather sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. When you start off with a goal to make an appointment, you’re

  • greatly narrowing your prospect field by those who seem to have a ‘need’ and ignoring those who are ‘able’ – those who should buy instead of those who will buy;
  • potentially setting up appointments before the buyers have assembled the full Buying Decision Team (often unknown at the beginning, and certainly not all obvious) and haven’t yet fully defined their needs or gotten consensus (i.e. no way of knowing if they’re really buyers, hence the huge gap between appointments and closes);
  • assuming that your bright shiny face and sterling personality is necessary to close a sale.

What makes ‘need’ the criteria anyway? What if your criteria were to discover those who CAN buy? By using your first interaction to facilitate a buyer’s ability to buy, by facilitating Buyer Readiness, you can find real buyers and get an appointment with all of the appropriate influencers and decision makers present on your first call.

WHY APPOINTMENTS SUCK

Have you ever even asked yourself why you believe it’s necessary to make an appointment as part of your sales process? Here’s why: because in 1937, in How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggested sellers needed to make appointments. That’s right, 1937. In 1937, without the internet, computers, good phone lines or travel, sellers probably didn’t go too far from their homes to sell.

What else are you doing from 1937? There’s now a completely different set of global, technology, capability givens: buyers have all the data they need at their fingertips; sellers needn’t be physically present to actually demonstrate a solution; it’s easy to sit at a desk and communicate anywhere in the world.

You can actually facilitate a buying decision with prospects who will buy, once they’ve got their ducks in a row, in less time than it takes to make an appointment. Here are the problems sellers face when their goal is to make an appointment with those with a ‘need’, and why you’re closing such a paltry percentage:

  1. Meet prospects who won’t ever buy (99+ %): The only prospects who can offer an accurate description of needs have already assembled their complete Buying Decision Team, have completed their Pre-Sales (systems-based, not need-based) steps toward determining the range of best possible fixes for an agreed-upon problem, and understand the challenges they face when bringing in a new solution. Those not ready/able to buy may meet with you to gather data to present options to their teammates, learn about something interesting that they won’t ever buy, or compare against their current vendor, or or or.
  2. Need is not the right criteria: Just because it seems someone has a need doesn’t make them ready or able to buy. They might end up with their old vendor, or not fixing the problem now, or facing too much internal conflict to make a change. But 80% of these folks will buy within 2 years. You can teach them how to buy now in the time it takes to make an appointment.
  3. Double sale: By seeking an appointment, your first ‘sale’ is the appointment. In other words, you’re expunging real, potential buyers who might need your solution but didn’t want, or aren’t ready for, an appointment (but could easily be made ready).
  4. Wasting resource:  1. Who (Yes: who?) would use their valuable time to learn something they can learn online? 2. You can use the exact same syllables, and less time/resource/effort to focus on the buying side and offer a service within an interaction that creates a real reason to meet. 3. You’re throwing away numbers of potential buyers because they say ‘NO’ to an appointment.
  5. You’re one of many: You’re most likely not the only meeting they’re having, so you’re already in a (price) competition by the time you arrive. The odds are against you that you’re the only game in town.
  6. Person meeting you is an unknown: You have no idea who, or what, the person who takes the meeting represents in re Buyer Readiness, regardless of their title. Is he using your data to get buy-in from his team to push his own agenda? Will she use your data to send to their current vendor? If there are only 1 or 2 people at the meeting, these folks are merely conduits, regardless of what they tell you. Not only are the odds good that the ‘needs’ you’re gathering aren’t accurate, the content you’re pitching may not be the most relevant data for their buying situation. Again, do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Admit it: you have no understanding of the real reason this person has agreed to an appointment.
  7. Buying Decision Team may not yet have defined the full scope of need: Has the full complement of Buying Decision Team members been assembled? Has everyone’s voice been considered and integrated, and the person you’re meeting with carry the full complement of problems/needs/change issues? If not, there is no defined, consensual ‘need’.
  8. Person may not deliver your message appropriately: You are dependent upon this person to represent you to the Buying Decision Team, at the right time, in the right way. Will he explain your content accurately, at the most advantageous time? What will she unwittingly omit? Will he use your data to compare with your competition? Just because you managed to wangle an appointment doesn’t mean you know how to deliver the message appropriately for that person’s situation, or that person will know how to appropriately share your great content. Hint: you can never, ever know what’s going on behind closed doors.
  9. Your message might not be heard: Without an accurate set of data culled from the fully assembled Buying Decision Team, you have no idea what this person is listening for in your meeting.
  10. Your message might be inadequate: Are you discussing your solution according to your need to sell or their ability to bring in a new solution? Are you positioning your message to help them get consensus for a purchase they may not be set up to buy?
  11. Information gathering/’understanding needs’ dubious: You have no idea what percentage of their Pre-Sales (change management) issues have been handled before the meeting, and cannot know their state of Buyer Readiness. The completeness of the Buying Decision Team, the state of change, and consensus, determine when/if a buyer buys; ‘need’ is irrelevant. When you’re only gathering data based on your assumptions/your need to sell, the data you gather will be flawed or incomplete. And your questions and listening will be biased by your own expectations and needs, missing important data. If you were doing a better job at this, your closing rates would be higher.
  12. Neglecting opportunity to facilitate those not ready but able: By merely seeking an appointment, you’re ignoring buyers with real needs who merely need to complete their Pre-Sales change management work. Buyers cannot buy if a purchase will cause disruption that costs more than fixing the original problem.

It’s possible to use your lists and phone time to first facilitate Buyer Readiness– on the first call – before asking for an appointment. Then, with your expert help, buyers assemble the appropriate Buying Decision Team, quickly determine necessary change/purchase issues, and know how to handle the fallout a purchase would entail. You can do this on the phone less time than it takes you to get an appointment.

 CASE STUDY

Here’s a situation that happened to me years before Sales Development Consulting to find ‘sales qualified opportunities’ was a thing. It’s a funny example of how little we know when we make an appointment, and how costly our assumptions of ‘need’ can be.

When I lived in Taos, NM, I hired a sales professional in Albuquerque. While it was only 147 miles door to door, that trip was treacherous going up and down the Sangre de Christos Mountains in the winter and I hated the drive. One day my new hire Anna called to tell me she made an appointment for us to meet with senior folks in a local bank. Working with me she knew she wasn’t supposed to make appointments. “But they asked to see us!” she said, excitedly. “And they need sales training. They’re very excited to meet with you.” I bet her a lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant in Albuquerque that she’d realize she shouldn’t have made an appointment, that I would do the best I could, but she’d surely owe me a lunch.

We entered a boardroom, with 2 seats for me and Anna on one side, and 3 men sitting on the other. According to their business cards, it was the Branch Manager, Assistant Branch Manager and the Training Director. At the start of the meeting, the men’s chairs were pretty much equidistant.

We shared a few pleasantries as I watched Miguel, the Training Director on the far left, move his seat, bit by bit, away from his colleagues. Within about 5 minutes, he was at least 2 feet away from his nearest seatmate. After the pleasantries, I asked:

SDM: How’s your current sales training working?

PAT: (Branch Manager): It’s fine.

SDM: Sooo how did you decide to see me today?

PAT: Well, Anna called and told me all about you (Again, something she is not supposed to do.) and I found it interesting. I thought it might be fun to just sit and talk about sales training.

SDM: So your sales training is merely fine, and you didn’t seek anyone out to find out how to make it better?

PAT: Well, it’s working well enough. [NOTE: Obviously, this wasn’t a buyer; he’s got nothing to buy.]

SDM: And what is it about sales training that you would hear from me that you’d find interesting? It’s sort of confusing me since you seem to be fine as you are.

PAT: (silence for about 3 very long minutes.) Oh, I don’t know, maybe we can talk about the sort of results banks might get from sales training?

SDM: Pat, I’m not sure why I’m here. Sounds like you’ve got training that’s working for you and you haven’t been seeking anything new. I’m confused. How ‘bout you call me if you decide you want to do something different and we can talk on the phone.

The visit lasted 10 minutes. Anna and I walked out, wordlessly got in the car, and she drove me to my Japanese restaurant. Cost: SDM – 6 hours of driving time. Anna – 3 hours of lost calling time to facilitate real buyers, plus $100 for lunch.

The next day, Pat called me.

PAT: I’d like to apologize for yesterday. That wasn’t fair to you. What you didn’t know was that Miguel, on the end, was the nephew of the owner of the bank. He designed all the sales training we’ve used for the last 10 years. It’s awful and our results are terrible. But politically, I couldn’t be the one to say we needed you. I hoped with you being there he’d be willing to discuss the problems and maybe seek a new solution. I kept giving him opportunities to say something. He never did.

A coda: I ran into Pat in Taos about 4 years later. Seemed they were still using the same sales training, getting the same bad results. Note: I could have spoken to Pat on the phone and avoided this meeting. They were never buyers, although they certainly had a ‘need’ I could fulfill.

I suggest you shift the focus to facilitate buying, and use appointments to sell once there is a real buying opportunity. The problem has never been in your solution, has it?

ENTER FIRST AS A FACILITATOR

We can use our early moments on an initial call to immediately begin facilitating Buyer Readiness. Here’s a story I often share. Sorry if you’ve read this from me before now, but the example bears repeating. When I trained a group of small business bankers at a large bank, their initial cold calls sought an appointment:

Banker: Hi. I’m John Smith and a small business banker at W bank. I’m going to be in your neighborhood next week to introduce folks to our new solutions for small businesses. Would you have time for me to come by Tuesday or Thursday afternoon? I’d come by to show you resources that would help your business grow.

The bankers got 10% agreement to make an appointment, and closed 2 in 11 months. 2% close.

During my training with these folks, we designed a Facilitative Question (a skill in Buying Facilitation®) that helped the prospects determine how they could achieve excellence and solve a problem from the first question in our interaction:

Banker: Hi. I’m John Smith and a small business banker at W bank and this is a sales call. How are you currently adding new resources to use with the bank you’re currently using, for those times your bank can’t give you all that you need?

The bankers got 37% agreement to make an appointment. The question caused those with a need realize their current bank wouldn’t be able to give them large loans, and they actually requested the appointments with their whole Buying Decision Team present. The bankers closed 29 for a 29% close in 3 months.

By starting with facilitating excellence, we highlighted an area we knew to be a problem, took into account our understanding of the small business owner’s historic relationships with their bankers, and quickly taught prospects how to ‘think forward’ to develop a plan to add resources without threatening their long-standing relationships. And we immediately, on our first question, taught almost 4x the number of prospects HOW to buy from us, and found truly qualified prospects who invited us to an appointment – with everyone present. It saved us from seeking out only those prospects who didn’t have banking relationships and expanded the field.

By beginning your interactions seeking to make an appointment with prospects with a ‘need’, you’re short-changing your sales. Change your criteria. Begin your sales calls by seeking how you can facilitate excellence. Using the model I designed for this process (Buying Facilitation®) my clients have been able to close 30% more than the folks using the same list in the control group, in half the time with ¼ the resources, and without going through the call/conversation/meeting process. And it’s certainly possible to develop scripts and email campaigns to accomplish this.

Design your own facilitation system. Just shift your goals and expectations for what a successful appointment would need to look like (i.e. those who can buy, and who invite the full Buying Decision Team to meet you) and enter each call to facilitate buying. You’ll not only stop wasting time and resource, but you’ll close a helluva lot more sales. Teach your prospects how to know what they need and how to get consensus – and close quickly. And in addition, you’ll be a servant leader Make money and make nice.

___________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

September 14th, 2020

Posted In: News

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conversation1 (1)Our brains make it difficult, if not impossible, to fully or accurately comprehend what our Communication Partners wish to convey. We hear their words, of course, but we often end up interpreting them well outside the intent of the Speaker. I spent 3 years researching and writing on this topic for a book, (What?) and came away in awe of the magnitude of this issue and how deeply our unconscious choices prejudice our conversations.

THE PROBLEM WITH GOAL-CENTERED LISTENING

As a coach to coaches, sellers, and managers, I’m painfully aware of how sellers often listen only to ‘recognize a need’, or coaches listen for a problem they’ve had success resolving before, or managers listen for a difficulty they know how to regulate.

By listening for something specific, we end up taking away a myth as meaning. With mischaracterized and potentially inaccurate data (compounded over the length of the conversation), we then have no accurate data with which to base follow-on decisions, not to mention that everyone potentially walks away from the conversation with mistaken beliefs, feelings, and expectations. And then we blame the Other for any failure. Sadly, because our brains don’t tell us they have misunderstood or biased what was meant (we actually believe we’ve ‘heard’ accurately), we’re rarely aware that we have missed the meaning or the possibility, until it’s too late.

TIPS TO LISTEN ACCURATELY

Here are some tips to create a discipline to help minimize any biases and assumptions that ambush your understanding of what others are saying:

  1. Prepare and De-stress. Before each conversation, clear your mind of any expectations or hopes, or feelings from past conversations. Otherwise your brain will unconsciously seek confirmation (Confirmation Bias) for that very thing while ignoring or misconstruing possibilities (minimizing your chances of success or creativity).
  2. Humility and humor. Unless you have written a script that everyone speaking has signed off on, you have no way of knowing what your Communication Partner will say, mean, need, or feel. I often hear people attempt to push their own agenda and don’t recognize what the Other has conveyed. Since there is no such thing as win/lose, this tends to create lose/lose, although the offended Communication Partner might not mention it during the conversation.
  3. Flexibility. All conversations demand flexibility to be present to the messages within the dialogue that actually occurs. The larger the bias or expectation going in, the harder it is to achieve, the greater the gap in understanding and expectation, and the greater the fallout from unrealized possibility.
  4. Trust. I know it’s hard to walk away without getting exactly what you want, or to hear things that don’t match your needs or expectations, but somewhere in the conversation there is a creative win for everyone. It may not look or act like your dream, but it will be something that everyone can accept. Besides, if you’re not trusting the dialogue actually occurring, you’re merely pushing your own agenda. And then you can’t even trust the outcome you’ve devised.

Unless both sides of a conversation fully understand what the Other intends to convey, there is no reality to work with and everyone risks unnecessary failure or limited possibility: it might have been possible to achieve success in a different way, or maintain a relationship over time for future possibilities. In almost every in-person coaching session I have had, my client has missed real possibilities (even of getting exactly what they want) in pursuit of hearing what they believe they should hear.

Here are some questions to think about as you consider adding some discipline to your listening skills:

  • How adept are you at entering conversations with no needs, no expectations, no biases?
  • How capable are you of showing up in a conversation with the ability to have a We Space – not two “I’s” which lead nowhere except self-serving exchanges, but a genuine melding of the people involved to find the win for all?
  • What do you need to believe differently to recognize that when you enter conversations with personal biases, assumptions, and triggers, that you will only succeed those times when the Other has the exact same biases, assumptions, and triggers – and all those who could truly benefit from your expertise and heart will not be able to hear you either (regardless of how well-meaning or accurate you are)?
  • How willing are you to learn to show up with an open mind, recognize when you have biases or expectations and quiet them before starting the exchange?
  • How can you react to something you’re not prepared for in a way that encourages collaborative dialogue?

You can continue doing what you’ve been doing, of course. But for those times you seek excellence in your conversations, a bit of preparation is in order.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author most recently of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?, as well as self-learning tools and an on-line team learning program – designed to both assess listening impediments and encourage the appropriate skills to accurately hear what others convey.

Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller ‘Selling with Integrity’ and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help Others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 articles that help sellers help buyers buy.
Sharon Drew can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

September 8th, 2020

Posted In: Listening

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With untold millions of sales professionals in the world, sellers play a role in any economy. While our jobs are nominally to place solutions, we are uniquely positioned to make a difference: as the intermediary between clients and providers, we can make sales a spiritual practice and become true facilitators and Servant Leaders (and close more sales).

WHAT’S WRONG WITH SALES?

The current sales model is a time-waster, restricts success, and is horribly inefficient. We close 5% of our sales and waste 95% of our time (approximately 130 hours a month per seller); our product data is well-represented online so pitches based on product details may be irrelevant; we connect with only those who are ready to buy, and ignore the possibility of facilitating and serving people en route to becoming buyers.

Until people have tried, and failed, to fix their problem themselves, and then figured out how to manage any disruption that a new solution might cause their environment,  they aren’t buyers. It’s only when:

  • they know exactly how to manage and recognize any change that bringing in something new creates,
  • they’ve calculated that the cost of bringing in something new is lower than the cost of maintaining the status quo,

will they seek help through a purchase. Indeed, buying is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.

People don’t want to buy anything, they merely seek excellence and will buy something only if that’s the only way to achieve it, and they are absolutely certain they cannot fit it themselves. And the sales model, using eyeballs, content, price, and needs assessments seeks to place solutions, ensuring that the only people they find are the low hanging fruit – those who have already gone through their process of determining they need an outside solution.

Because sales focuses on only the final steps of a buying decision, and overlooks the change process necessary to get to that point, it’s only possible to attract interest from those who have ended up there. Others who may need us eventually won’t even heed our messages, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. As a result, we end up closing 5% and wasting a helluva lot of time being ignored and rejected.

It’s not what we’re selling that’s the problem – our solutions are just fine. It’s the process of pushing solutions rather than first helping those who will become buyers facilitate their necessary change process that’s misplaced, mistimed, and misguided, leading to the win-lose quality of sales: sales becomes a product/solution push into a closed, resistive, private system, rather than an expansive, collaborative experience between seller and buyer wherein both attain a win-win.

And we end up seeking and closing only those ready to buy at the point of contact – unwittingly ignoring others who aren’t ready even though they may need our solutions, and just need to get their ducks in a row before they’re prepared to make a decision.

Imagine having a product-needs discussion about moving an iceberg and discussing only the tip. That’s sales; it doesn’t facilitate the entire range of hidden, unique change issues buyers must consider – having nothing to do with our solutions – before they could buy anything. Failure is built in.

But when we begin our conversation at the point where people are considering change in the area our product resolves, and lead them through their change management before selling, we are in a position to truly facilitate them through all of the issues they must resolve (even those that aren’t obvious), have all stakeholders in the loop from the start, and help them figure out how to address the disruption of bringing in a new solution. Then we are true servant leaders.

IS SELLING PREDATORY?

Seller’s restricted focus on placing solutions, the listening for needs rather than for ability to serve, all but insures that kindness, respect, and true facilitation are unwittingly overlooked as we focus on selling instead of facilitating buying. A major factor is our one-sided communication:

  1. Prospecting/cold calling – driven by sellers to gather needs/information and offer solution details (all biased by the need to place solutions). It ignores the full unique fact pattern of the buyer’s environment and change issues and enlists only buyers seeking THAT solution at THAT time at THAT period of readiness, omitting those who could buy if ready or knew how to include the solution congruently into their current plans.
  2. Content marketing – driven by the seller to push the ‘right’ data into the ‘right’ hands at the ‘right’ time according to their biased interpretations of ‘right’, but really only a push into the unknown and a hope for action. Wholly seller-centric.
  3. Deals, cold-call pushes, negotiation, objection-handling, closing techniques, getting to ‘the’ decision maker, price-reductions – all assuming buyers would buy if they understood their need/the solution/their problem, all overlooking the real connection and service capability of addressing the person’s most pressing change issues. Wholly seller-centric.
  4. Real communication involves each communication partner, in this case a buyer and a seller, being equally served; sellers can facilitate buyers through their private change management issues first as they travel towards a purchase (rather than try to extract a purchase from those who have gotten to the point of buying), thereby facilitating Buyer Readiness, AND developing a win/win connection, AND closing more sales. Win-win.

I’ve been a seller, trainer, consultant, and sales coach since the 1970s, been a buyer as founder of a tech start up 1983-1988, and have personally worked with dozens of global corporations and untold thousands of sellers. I see sales as a near-predatory job: sellers spend their time seeking and following, pitching and positioning, networking and calling to find those few set up to buy something, and ignoring a large population of potential buyers who merely aren’t ready, but could be with true facilitation.

The model is fraught with guesswork and hope, manipulation and persuasion, white lies and exaggerations – not to mention highly ineffective when the time spent vs sales closed ratio is examined. Not only are we wasting time pushing/chasing folks we’ve deemed prospects (A real prospect is one who WILL buy, not someone who SHOULD buy; the current sales model doesn’t know the difference.), but the global nature of staffing patterns and decision makers in our client’s environments causes closing to take 30% longer. And the very nature of the web makes most pitches and presentations moot. In fact, buyers often know more than sellers.

Sales unwittingly ignores the real problem: it’s in the buying, not the selling. The sales model’s focus on placing solutions keeps us from using our positions as knowledge experts and Leaders to facilitate buyers down their own path to excellence.

Truth is, as outsiders we can never know all the elements that have created and maintained their status quo, or what needs to happen internally for them to be ready to make a purchase. We might ‘know’ how our solution would make a difference, but we can never know how they will buy. And here is where we can truly serve.

SALES IS SHORT-SIGHTED

Indeed, the job of ‘sales’ as merely a solution-placement vehicle is short-sighted.

  1. Buyers can find our products online. They don’t need us chasing them.
  2. Our solution isn’t the problem – it’s the buyer’s behind-the-scenes timing and change management process that gums up the works.
  3. 80% of prospects will buy our solutions (but not necessarily from us) within two years of our connection.
  4. The lion’s share of the buying decision (9 out of the 13 step decision path) involves buyers traversing internal change with no thoughts of buying anything until there’s consensus.

But we can truly serve clients AND close more sales, by adding a Change Facilitation capability that expands our entry points into the buy cycle, makes the buying decision process much more efficient and makes sales a spiritual practice (that closes dramatically more sales in a fraction of the time). Here’s my definition of ‘spiritual’:

  • the whole is greater than the parts;
  • we’re all here to serve each other;
  • everyone has their own unique excellence;
  • no one has an answer for someone else.

Different from sales, which

  • purpose to be win/win but often is ‘win-lose’,
  • believes the parts might be greater than the whole,
  • causes buyers to feel pushed with content and contacts,
  • considers their solution the ‘right’ answer,
  • only addresses the tail end of a larger (and unknowable to outsiders) system of rules, internal politics, relationships, and status quo.

To elaborate:

Aspiring to a win-win

Win-win means both sides get what they need in equal measure. Sellers believe that placing product or resolving a problem offers an automatic win-win but that’s not wholly accurate.

Buying isn’t as simple as choosing a solution; buyers first must resolve the entire system that created and maintains their problem (problems never occur uniquely). The very last thing they want is to buy anything, regardless of their apparent need. As outsiders we can’t know the tangles of people and policies that hold their problem/need in place. The time it takes them to design a congruent solution that includes buy-in and change management is the length of their sales cycle. Buyers need to do this anyway; it’s the length of the sales cycle. They will do this with us or without us, so it might as well be with us.

If we enter first as Change Facilitators and help buyers efficiently traverse their internal struggles (that we can never be a part of per se), we can help them get to the ‘need/purchase’ decision more quickly and be part of the solution – win-win.

We’re wasting a valuable opportunity to share this process with them by only wanting to sell – and then wait and hope, while competitively chasing after those who show up after they’ve completed their internal work without us.

If we enter earlier, work with them as Change Facilitators (with wholly different skills and goals) to help them facilitate their change, we can spend our time capturing and serving more real prospects, and spend less time seeking out the low hanging fruit. We can use our time more profitably to develop real buyers and simultaneously serve them, rather than fighting to find those who are ready. Let’s shift gears and enter earlier with a different hat on.

Believe it or not it becomes a very efficient process and great time saver: no more chasing those who will never close; no more turning off those who will eventually seek our solution; no more gathering incomplete data from one person with partial answers. We can enable those who can/should buy to buy in half the time and sell more product – and very quickly know the difference between them and those who can never buy. Win-win. [All the change issues buyers must address are in my book Dirty Little Secrets].

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

There are several pieces to the puzzle here.

  • The buyer and the system the buyer lives in, including people, policies, job titles, egos, relationships, politics, layers of management, rules, etc. that no one on the outside will ever understand and are focused on excellence, not on buying anything. It’s never as simple as just changing out the problem for a new product; their focus is to have the best situation possible and will buy a solution only when they’re certain they can’t fix their own problem.
  • Resolving the problem needs full internal buy-in from the system before being willing to change (i.e. buy) regardless of the efficacy of the fix. A purchase is not necessarily their best solution even if it looks like a fit to a seller.
  • The ability of the buyer to manage the disruption that a new purchase would incur on the system, people, and policies. A fix, or purchase, might be worse than the problem.
  • The seller and the seller’s product may/may not fit in the buyer’s environment due to idiosyncratic, political, or rules-based issues, regardless of the need.
  • The purchase and implementation and follow up that includes buy-in from all who will experience a potentially disruptive change if a new solution enters and shifts their job routines.
  • The sum of these parts is the whole; seller and buyer can work together to facilitate systemic change first. Surprisingly, this is a very quick process, uncovering real prospects almost immediately. Win-win for all.

We are all here to serve each other

Sellers understand enough about the systems in our areas of expertise to help buyers traverse their change route that could lead to a sale. With an entry point of systems excellence rather than solution placement, buyers immediately recognize the benefits from a collaboration with the seller and are happy to invite sellers onto their decision team and not seek other competitors. Win-win. The Facilitative Question I developed for Wachovia’s Small Business Banker’s cold calls helped prospects immediately realize a problem they had to resolve rather than say ‘No’ to an appointment request:

“How are you currently adding banking resources to the bank you’re currently using for those times you seek additional support?”

With no disrespect, no push, no information gathering or asking for an appointment, this Facilitative Question above (as one of several asked in a specific sequence, using specific words) merely pointed to the problem they might have to resolve over time. [Note: I invented Facilitative Questions to lead brains through to change, rather than conventional questions that elicit biased data.] The results were astounding: against 100 prospecting calls and a control group: 10% appointments vs 27%; 2 closes in 11 months vs 19 closes in 3 months; we facilitated discovery immediately and served: we actually helped folks figure out their own configuration for change. And we only visited those who could close.

One more note: people are happy to buy in a short time frame once they know, and figure out how to manage, the full set of change issues they’ll have to deal with (Fire a team? Retrain users? Get rid of software they’ve used for years?). As I’ve said above, they must do this before they can buy. And we’re not helping them. But we could. And truly serve them in the process.

There is no right answer

Sellers often believe that buyers are idiots for not making speedy decisions, or for not buying an ‘obvious’ solution. But sales offers no skills or motive to enter earlier where buyers are not at the point of even knowing if – let alone what – they might buy. We must expand the definition of a buying decision as the route down the 13-step path from the status quo through to congruent change. Includes the people, policies, relationships, and history – the systems issues that insure Systems Congruence – that maintain the status quo and must be addressed before they consider buying anything.

Once buyers figure out their congruent route to change, they won’t have objections, will close themselves, and there’s no competition: buyers are the ones with the ‘right answer’; sellers facilitate change management first and then sell once everything is in place. No call backs and follow up and ignored calls. Win-win.

No one has anyone else’s answer

By adding decision facilitation, everyone focuses on uncovering the right questions. Collaborative decisions get made that will serve everyone.

Let’s change the focus: instead relegating sales to a product/solution placement endeavor, let’s add the job of facilitation to first find people en route to becoming buyers, then lead them through to their own type of ‘excellence’ through their internal change process first, and then using the sales model when they’ve become buyers. Then buyers make better, quicker, more congruent decisions – with more/quicker sales, less tire-kickers, better differentiation, and no competition, and sales close in half the time.

THE NEW WAY

As a seller and an entrepreneur (I founded a tech company in London, Hamburg, and Stuttgart in 1983), I realized that sales ignored the buying decision problem and developed Buying Facilitation® to add to sales as a generic change management to be used as a Pre-Sales tool.

Buyers get to their answers eventually; the time this takes is the length of the sales cycle, and selling doesn’t cause buying. Once I developed this model for my sellers to use, we made their process far more efficient with an 8x increase in sales – a number consistently reproduced against control groups with my global training clients over the following decades.

With Buying Facilitation® we can add a new capability and level of expertise and be a part of the decision process from the first call. Make money and make nice.

We no longer need to lose prospects because they’re not ready, or cognizant of their need. We can become intermediaries between our clients and our companies; use our positions to efficiently help buyers manage their internal change congruently, without manipulation; use our time to serve those who WILL buy – and know this on the first contact – and stop wasting time on those who will never buy. Let’s stop merely trying to place our solutions, and use our knowledge and care to serve our buyers and our companies in a win-win. Let’s make sales a spiritual practice.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.    

August 31st, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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Things are changing these days. Of course we’re always in flux, but during this pandemic we’re also in confusion. People either aren’t working, aren’t working in their normal business location, are having difficulty accomplishing normal tasks, or getting shuffled in reorgs; companies are reexamining their status quo and making shifts not considered just months ago. Norms and rules that worked are now suspect.

As we figure out what change means to us, I think there’s a central question businesses need to answer: How will we compete when our industry has new rules, new players, new outcomes and possibly new marketing and sales efforts to respond to, when we don’t know what will stick, what will arise, who our competitors are? Little, it seems, is as it was, and there’s literally no way of knowing what will be. Old standards don’t apply. Now what?

ARE YOU A GOOSE OR A DUCK?

Because there’s so much confusion, because the norms are shifting, there doesn’t seem to be a clear way forward. I have an idea on how to use this time of uncertainty to differentiate yourself.

If you’re like most companies or vendors, differentiating yourself is one of your longstanding challenges. Although your offering is obviously unique, you most likely show up as more similar to your competitors than you’d like: the language, words, phrases, you use to describe your solution and market yourself might be considered industry standard; your website might use fonts, themes, phrases and syntax similar to others in your industry. You might use a more tactical approach that unwittingly sounds like everyone else, making it more difficult to differentiate. After all, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s hard to explain that you’re really a goose.

I suggest you use this time to differentiate yourself as a Servant Leader-focused vendor practicing win-win and integrity. In other words, as Authentic. Showing up as genuine, reliable, and trustworthy, with care, concern, and respect, would be a good place to start to become the new you, and certainly a great way to differentiate.

CASE STUDY: WORST SERVICE EVER – BEST BUY GEEK SQUAD

Here’s a case study where the company told me exactly who they were by their disrespectful actions – certainly in contrast to what they say on their site or in their marketing materials. Remember that companies, like people, are always telling you exactly who they are by their actions. And this company told me they had no integrity. They certainly don’t care about customers.

In the past week I spent upwards of 45 hours being abused by the absolutely dreadful Best Buy’s Geek Squad that I pay to provide me with tech support. Phones didn’t pick up; kept on hold for hours and then told by voice message to ‘call back at a later time’; 39 hours worth of holding, waiting, holding; 14 reps, 7 wrong transfers; hang ups. One time, after I’d been on hold for 45 minutes after 22 hours of frustration trying to get a simple problem fixed, the man who answered asked how I was doing and I burst out crying. And he hung up on me.

For 2 days I begged, yelled, screamed, waited, waited, waited, listening to that blasted audio telling me how much their customers matter to them, all the while unable to work because of the infuriating problem that remained unfixed.

Finally, at 5:36 in the morning, after waiting 13 hours after trying trying trying 26 previous hours, (to fix what turned out to be a four minute fix), the tech wrote in the little box that he’d tried to call (not true) but when no one answered (I was on the computer with phone next to me!) he was hanging up (even though he had all the details and passcodes!); I immediately tried talking/writing to him on the little screen but was ignored. Tears. Big tears of frustration. I called back one more time before throwing my computer into the river (I live on a floating home). A young tech answered, saw the problem and immediately fixed it. Four minutes.

I decided to complain, that just maybe someone cared like the audio messages told me they did when I was on hold. I placed many calls to the GM at my Best Buy store where I pay for service. She, Caitlin O’Something, refused to return the calls, but finally, finally, the next day I got a return call from the Tech Manager. Here was the conversation:

Man: I hear you have a complaint?

SD: I’m a client. I tried for 2 days – 45 hours – to get you folks to solve a 4 minute problem. I was treated very disrespectfully. Hung up on, kept on hold for hours and hours and hours. Lied to. Transferred over and over to the wrong people. Let waiting for service for 13 hours. Finally my initial problem was resolved but there are side problems still occurring. I want to speak with the GM.

Man: I’m a tech supervisor and work under her. I can try to see if I can get someone to help.

SD: Why don’t you start off with “I’m sorry.”

Man: Sure. Now let me see if I can get someone to help. I’ll try.

SD: Wait, what? No ‘sorry’?

Man: I understand your frustration.

SD: You do? You understand my frustration? How could you? I find that disrespectful. I bet you’ve never waited for 45 hours to get help from a service provider you paid for. Or been hung up on after waiting a full day? Or kept on hold for dozens of hours? Or been redirected over and over again. I’ve heard your hold recording and know it by heart by now. It tells me you care about me and care about my problems. It tells me my feedback is important to you. That you want to serve me. Right? So serve me. Telling me ‘you can TRY to SEE’ if you can help is not helping. You’re a senior manager, not an hourly worker. You’re representing the GM. Take ownership of the problem. You need to step up and take responsibility. Isn’t that your job? Stop telling me you understand what you cannot possibly understand, say “I’m sorry that happened, Ms Morgen. That shouldn’t have happened to a loyal client. I am a tech manager and will make sure you get the help you deserve. I will own the problem and make sure it gets fixed.”

Man: I’m sorry you feel that way.

And then he hung up on me.

That’s not customer service. That’s not integrity, or Servant Leadership. That’s just plain abuse.

HOW ARE YOU SHOWING UP?

The world is sort of shifting now, in favor of kindness, trust, integrity and authenticity. You can indeed make money by making nice. Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready to leave the tactical behind and be willing to differentiate yourself with your care:

  • What do you need to believe differently to be willing to truly serve your customers? What does that mean to you? What internal ‘rules’ and ‘norms’ need to be considered? What behaviors could you offer that would exhibit that level of care? What’s the difference between those rules in place now and what you’d need to change? Maybe having real people available for customers to speak with? Or enough folks for support to avoid anything longer than 10 minute wait times? Or human being to call customers within an hour?
  • Do you know how your current rules and norms actually affect your customers? I’m sure Best Buy didn’t understand what their sweet promises during hold time actually meant. They don’t care about customers. Does your company? How do you show your customers you really care?
  • Are you willing to differentiate yourself by being the best service provider in your industry? To offer such good service that no one would ever think of going to anyone else, that your brand would be equivalent to CARE, or GREAT SERVICE? Most customers would be HAPPY to pay for great service, certainly preferring you over the competition.

In these days, having a good product, a good solution, isn’t enough. What are you willing to do to show up authentically? By showing up as a trustworthy vendor, by having integrity and a great service mentality, by truly seeking to facilitate Excellence with them, you can not only differentiate yourself, but make a lot of money by being nice.

_________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

August 24th, 2020

Posted In: News

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What Makes A Decision Irrational?After spending 30 years deconstructing the inner processes of how people decide, and training a decision facilitation model I developed for use in sales, coaching, and leadership, (Buying Facilitation®), I’m always amused when I hear anyone deem a decision ‘irrational’.

Only outsiders wishing for, or assuming, a different outcome designate a decision as ‘irrational’. I doubt if the decision maker says to herself, “Gee! I think I’ll make an irrational decision!” I could understand her thinking it irrational after reaping surprising consequences. But not at the moment it’s being made.

We all make the best decisions we can at the moment we make them. It’s only when someone else compares the decision against their own subjective filters and standard, or using some academic/’accepted’ standard as ‘right’, or judging the decision against a conclusion they would have preferred, that they deem it ‘irrational’. I always ask, “Irrational according to who’s standards?” Outsiders don’t have the same data set, criteria and beliefs, or life experiences the decision maker uses to evaluate.

Indeed, there is no such thing as a decision maker making an irrational decision. The decision maker carefully – partially unconsciously – weighs an unknowable set of highly subjective factors including 1. Personal beliefs, values, historic criteria,assumptions, experience, future goals; 2. Possible future outcomes in relation to how they experience their current situation.

There is no way an outsider can understand what’s going on within the idiosyncratic world of the decision maker, regardless of academic or ‘rational’ standards, the needs of people judging, the outcome as viewed by others.

CASE STUDY OF AN ‘IRRATIONAL DECISION’

I recently made an agreement with a colleague to send me a draft of his article about me before he published it. Next thing I knew, the article was published. How did he decide to go against our agreement? Here was our ensuing dialogue:

BP: I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was only a brief article.

SDM: It was a big enough deal for me to ask to read it first. How did you decide to go against our agreement?

BP: You’re a writer! I didn’t have the time you were going to take to go through your editing process!

SDM: How do you know that’s why I wanted to read it first?

BP: Because you most likely would not like my writing style and want to change it. I just didn’t have time for that.

SDM: So you didn’t know why I wanted to read it and assumed I wanted to edit it?

BP: Oh. Right. So why did you want to read it?

SDM: My material is sometimes difficult to put into words, and it has taken me decades to learn to say it in ways readers will understand. I would have just sent you some new wording choices where I thought clarity was needed, and discussed it with you.

BP: Oh. I could have done that.

While a simple example, it’s the same in any type of personal decision (vs. those decisions that get weighted against specific academic or group criteria – such as coordinates to drill a well): each decision maker uses her own subjective reasoning regardless of baseline, academic, or conventional Truths.

In our situation, my partner wove an internal tale of subjective assumptions that led him to a decision that might have jeopardized our relationship. I thought it was irrational, but ‘irrational’ only against my subjective criteria as an outsider with my own specific assumptions and needs.

And, although I’m calling this a personal decision process, anyone involved in group decision making does the same: enter with personal, unique criteria that supersede the available academic or scientific information the group uses. This is why we end up with resistance or sabotage during implementations.

STOP JUDGING DECISIONS BASED ON OUR OWN NEEDS

What if we stopped assuming that our business partners, our spouses, our prospects were acting irrationally. What if we assume each decision is rational, and got curious: what has to be true for that decision to have been made? If we assume that the person was doing the best they could given their subjective criteria and not being irrational, we could:

  1. ask what criteria the person was using and discuss it against our own;
  2. communicate in a way that enabled win-win results;
  3. ensure all collaborators work with the same set of baseline assumptions and remove as much subjectivity as possible before a decision gets made.

Of course, we would have to switch our listening skills. We’d need to become aware of an in congruence we notice and be willing to communicate with the ‘irrational’ decision maker. My new book What? explains why/how we hear others with biased ears, only understanding some percentage of their intent. Because if we merely judge others according to our unique listening filters, many important, creative, and collaborative decisions might sound irrational.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

August 17th, 2020

Posted In: News

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buyer

I recently heard yet another excuse as to why a buyer didn’t buy. This one was a hoot – seller/buyer misalignment. Seriously? Because the seller didn’t close a sale (That was expected by the seller? In the mythical pipeline?) there was a relationship problem? Because the buyer didn’t buy (according to the expectation of the seller?) there was a bonding problem? No. The problem stems from sellers not understanding what a buyer is. In this case, there was no buyer to be ‘misaligned’ with.

FROM PERSON TO BUYER

A decision not to purchase has very little to do with the seller, the solution, the relationship, or the need. In fact, a purchase is the very last thing a buyer wants. Just because a situation seems like a perfect fit with your solution does not make it a buying/selling opportunity; just because someone really needs your solution does not mean they are ready, willing, or able to buy.

Let me begin by defining ‘Buyer’: a person (or group) who has

  • assembled all people, causes, and elements that created their problem AND
  • recognized they cannot fix the problem with familiar resources, usual vendors, or workarounds, AND
  • gotten buy-in from everyone/everything involved with the changes a fix would affect, AND
  • decided that the cost of a fix is lower than maintaining the status quo,

and decides that purchasing an external solution is their best option.

As the thought-leader behind how buyers buy (programs, books, modelsstepsterms, since 1985) I’d like to offer some thoughts:

1. A buyer isn’t a buyer unless they’ve bought something. Until then they are people with a problem who may, if all else fails and they can’t resolve the issue themselves, seek an external solution.

2. People first recognize a problem that keeps them from the Excellence they prefer. They may or may not choose to fix it, depending upon the ‘cost’ to the system. Solving a problem never begins as a decision to buy anything (unless a small personal item). In other words, people don’t want to buy anything; they merely want to resolve a problem in the most efficient way.

3. There are usually a range of familiar ‘fixes’ available for folks with problems. Workarounds are always the first option, a purchase the last.

4. All people (buyers, groups, individuals) live in a unique unconscious, human system (rules, relationships, beliefs, experience, goals, etc.) that created the problem and maintains it as part of their status quo. The system exists AS IS, with problems factored in. If an element is recognized as problematic, the system would need to agree on possible forward routes. Any change (i.e. purchase) would need to end up as an integrated part of the core system.

5. A purchase means the stakeholder group is ready for something new to replace what’s already there. It’s only when there’s agreement from all elements that created the problem that

  • it can’t be fixed with known resources or workarounds,
  • the cost in resources/change is lower than the cost of the fallout of bringing in something new,
  • a path forward is defined by everyone who will touch the final solution,

that the full scope of a bringing in a new solution (i.e. buy something) is understood. Until then ‘need’ isn’t fully defined. Here is where sellers often get caught thinking there’s a ‘need’ before the folks with the problem think there is one. Until they are convinced they cannot solve their own problem and change without much disruption, they are not buyers and won’t heed pitches or appointment attempts.

6. There is a defined series of 13 (generic) steps that determine if, when, why, how, what to make a change. Until the full set of stakeholders have agreed they can’t fix the problem with familiar resources AND have developed a plan for congruent change (step 10) that they all agree to, there is no willingness to seek an external solution. In other words, before people become buyers they’re merely people trying to fix a problem themselves.

7. While trying to figure out a fix, people do research to find a variety of ideas that could possibly help them fix their problem themselves. If they have gone onto a site, or contacted a solution provider during their research phase (and have not yet gotten group buy-in) they’re not buyers regardless of their apparent need and the efficacy of a seller’s solution.

8. Making a purchase is first a change management issue, last a solution choice problem. The first question people consider is how they can achieve Excellence with the least ‘cost’ to the system; the last question they consider is what solution they’d need from ‘outside’. Using the sales model, sellers seek to inspire agreement, admission of need, ‘relationship’ – all with an intent to sell something (i.e. steps 11-13); there is no element of the sales model that facilitates systemic change to enter earlier without a solution-placement bias. In other words, sales overlooks the largest portion of the buyer’s journey – how to manage the change a fix will cost to the system.

9. Until any disruption caused by a purchase (i.e. all purchases are ‘foreign’ to the system) is understood, planned for, and agreed to, no purchase will take place. The existing system is sacrosanct; keeping it running smoothly is more important to them than fixing a problem that’s already been baked into the system, especially if would cost ‘expensive’ and unwanted internal disruption.

10. Everyone and everything who created the current problem and would potentially touch a new solution must agree to any modification (purchase). Until then, they won’t, they can’t buy and they are not buyers. And this is why pitches, marketing, presentation will only be noticed by those who have completed their decision path.

11. The time it takes people/buyers to discover their own answers and know how to manage change in the least disruptive way, is the length of the sales cycle. It has nothing to do with selling, buying, need, relationship, content, or solutions until the route to congruent change is defined and agreed to. It’s change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue. And the sales model ignores this, causing 5% close rates instead of 40%.

12. The last thing people want is to buy something. With their criteria of ‘solution placement’, sellers often enter at the wrong time, ask the wrong questions, and offer the wrong data – and sell only to the low-hanging fruit (the 5% who have planned their route to change already).

13. Buyers buy using their own buying patterns, not a seller’s selling patterns. Using a specific type of sales effort further restricts the population of those who will buy. We don’t necessarily object to the products Robocalls promote. It’s the invasive selling patterns we object to.

14. There is a difference in goals, capability of changing, and level of buy-in between those who CAN/WILL buy vs those who sellers think SHOULD buy. By entering to facilitate change, they can enter using the person’s buying patterns and capture 40% of those set to become buyers.

15. The time it takes people to come up with their complete set of buy-in and change-based answers is the time it takes them to seek an external solution – i.e. become a buyer. Let me say this again: It has nothing whatsoever to do with their need, your solution, or your relationship. And THEN they are ready to discuss the full complement of needs, criteria for buying a solution, and seek a compatible relationship with a seller.

By only listening for clues that lead you to assume a ‘need’ for your solution, by entering into ‘relationships’ based on what you’re selling, by only asking questions to ‘prove’ a need/solution match (too often with only one or two members of the full Buying Decision Team [BDT]), you’re not only biasing the interaction, but limiting your sales to closing those who have gotten to the point when they’re ready, willing, able to change – the low hanging fruit; you’re missing the opportunity to enter earlier, develop a real relationship, and facilitate the path that people who CAN buy must take before they are buyers.

The sales model does not facilitate systemic change issues and merely seeks to place solutions based on what a seller determines sounds like a ‘need’. But as you can see, just because there’s a ‘need’ doesn’t mean they’re buyers. The current sales model ignores the possibility or becoming real relationship managers and true consultants and Servant Leaders.

HOW SALES RESTRICTS POSSIBILITY

Because we’ve restricted selling to placing solutions, people with problems that our solutions really could resolve are left to figure out their own path to change while we sit and wait for those who have completed their process (the low hanging fruit) to show up.

Prospective buyers, facing confusing choices, would be happy to have help navigating through their Pre-Sales systemic decision/change process and adding a true facilitator onto their BDT. Here we can differentiate ourselves and make customers for life. Here is where they really need us well before they need our solutions.

Right now, you’re seeking out those people you’ve determined SHOULD buy (and getting ignored, misaligned, dropped, etc.) and ignoring ways to facilitate those who CAN buy but haven’t yet become buyers. If you enter with a Change Facilitation focus and leave a consideration of ‘need’ until later, it’s possible to find those on the first call who CAN buy, and use your relationship and knowledge to facilitate them through the steps of the change management process first, and THEN be there as they determine the need for your solution.

By adding a Change Facilitation processes to your upfront tools (seller-, marketing-, or software-led) you can enter at any step along the Buying Decision Path and be part of the Buying Decision Team to help them get their ducks in a row. Then you’ve gotten ahead of the competition, reduce your sales cycle by half, only connect with those who WILL buy, close a helluva lot more sales (my clients close 5x more than the control groups using the same lists), and truly serve the people who need you. Trust me: potential buyers need your help figuring out how to figure it all out much more than they need a product pitch, or more biased questions, that attempt to uncover a ‘need’ they don’t yet know they have.

I’ve developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that uses wholly unique skills (Listening for Systems, Facilitative Questions, etc.) to facilitate a prospective buyer’s route to Excellence. A generic model used for coaching, management, leadership, healthcare, I’ve been quite successful teaching it to global corporations ( i.e. IBM, Kaiser, Wachovia, KPMG, etc.) to increase their sales.

Currently you’re now wasting 95% of your time running after those few who have finally arrived at step 10 – the low hanging fruit – ignoring the much larger pool of those who are on route, and fighting for a competitive advantage.

By adding new functionality to your sales model, you can enter earlier, be a Servant Leader, and facilitate congruent change and THEN be on board and accepted as a provider as they go through their buying decision process. It’s NOT sales; it’s NOT selling/purchase-based; it IS change-based. Right now you’re waiting while buyers do this anyway (or merely running after those you THINK have a need but end up fixing the problem in other ways). Why not add a skill set, stop wasting time/effort, and close more. Then you’ll never be ‘misaligned.’

_________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly.  www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

August 10th, 2020

Posted In: Communication

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When I begin an on-site training program I start by saying:

“Hi everyone. I’m going to begin with a warning: I hope you’re all comfortable-enough with confusion because I use it as a teaching tool. Confusion is merely your brain attempting to input new information and not finding circuits. Stuff you already know goes down familiar, well-worn circuits and you feel no confusion. So when you’re confused I know you’re learning and it makes SO happy!

“The participants laugh uncomfortably. But then it becomes a sort of gentle contest during the first day – who can be the MOST confused. Invariably someone says,

“Sharon Drew, you’ll be SO proud of me! I’m SOOOO confused!”

And everyone laughs together and claps in knowing agreement.

WHY IS CONFUSION DEEMED BAD?

I wonder why confusion is something to be avoided. Why do we all have to ‘know’ everything? Why can’t we delight in the mystery, the jumble, the dark moving spaces that bring that slight bit of discomfort, a touch of fear and dollop of curiosity?

When we think we ‘know’ something, it’s because we’re using circuits that already exist in our brains to signal our historic thoughts and responses, assuming they accurately represent us even if they end up being inaccurate or biased.

Old beliefs, previous knowledge, habits and assumptions become concretized, and any new ideas become suspect because there’s no precedent for them and our brains work overtime to reject them, even if the new ideas are more cogent. Our brains just love our status quo. Simple. Stable. Quick. Reality? No such thing.

I got a call recently from a Venture Capitalist who owns 15 healthcare apps:

DH: Hi Sharon Drew. I was given your name by X (very powerful, noted person in the healthcare field) who told me you’re a genius, that you develop change models that can help patients follow directions from docs and become actively involved in their own healing process. She says you could create a front end to our apps that would enhance the behavior modification elements we’re using.

SD: Sure, I can do that. I already have a model that might work. Question: why are you using behavior mod? You know it doesn’t work and you must have millions of people failing and getting sicker as they try to use it successfully.

DH: Hahahaha. Right. The whole field knows it doesn’t work. There’s not even any scientific proof that it works. But it’s the only thing we’ve got.

SD: Let’s fix the problem! Let’s test my stuff with your stuff. We’d only need 100 trial people to test it.

DH: Great. But I have one question: has your work ever been written up in a scientific journal?

And he hung up on me.

This was a good example of how science, neuroscience in particular, is so limited by biases that it rarely experiments with ideas the field doesn’t believe relevant (In my particular case, for decades neuroscientists have been researching how our brain circuitry is wired, totally overlooking the need to test how the circuits get triggered to begin with.).

How do new ideas get into the world when they’re contrary to existing myths and norms? Why isn’t ok to be confused and then curious to research, think, debate new ideas? 

As per my friend DH above, entire fields remain committed to researching within the confines of the status quo, even when they suspect, or know, it’s not working! How does something new enter if confusion, or the ‘unknown’, isn’t worth considering? Hint: remember flat earthers? What about radio waves? Or relativity? Did you know only one painting of Cezanne’s was purchased during his life? Or that it took 40 years after the invention of the telephone to begin broad use – using Morse Code instead? Are you aware that initially Bill Gates told his team that he wasn’t convinced the internet had value? Seriously.

WE COULD ALL USE A BIT OF CONFUSION

What we read or enjoy; the colors we see and the words we hear; the friends and jobs and neighborhoods we choose; are restricted to what we agree with and the worlds our brain circuits have created for us – obviously a carefully calibrated world view; obviously restricting a whole lotta world out there we don’t recognize or enjoy or share. We could all use a little confusion now and again.

To allow ourselves to be confused, we’d have to ignore, or at least hide from view, some of our biases. So rather than guess what you’re biases are, I’ll pose some questions of you, because I’m sure confused why you’d rather keep doing what you’re doing rather than face confusion and learn, change, and be enriched:

  • What would you need to believe differently to be willing to rid yourself from some of your biases? Do you know which ones you’d be willing to part with? How do you know your answer isn’t biased?
  • How would you know that any confusion is worth the cost of ‘not knowing’ and being uncomfortable?
  • What issues come up for you when you face the prospect of being confused in an area you’re expert in?
  • Are there any areas of your life or work knowledge that you protect, that you prefer not to feel confusion around because you believe you have all the knowledge you need – and it’s accurate? Would you be willing to examine these to see if there is anything new to learn? Any areas for you to rethink?
  • Think of a topic, an idea that runs counter to your beliefs and spend time with it. No, really. Spend enough time to understand it, and know precisely how it differs from your beliefs. See if you can find any fragment in there that confuses you that you’d be willing to think about for a day or two.

The reason we feel discomfort is because we’re accustomed to having an automatic answer, knowledge at the ready that has been vetted by our brains and accepted and comfortable. But you can create new circuits, and then have a whole new knowledge set. All you need is some curiosity and the willingness to be confused for a bit of time. You’re worth it, no?

__________________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

July 27th, 2020

Posted In: News

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Those of us in business (as well as just about everyone these days) are living in confusing times. Learning how to run our businesses and stay afloat, how to remain connected with staff and clients in a way that maintains relationships and endurance, how to work from home and still manage child care and at-home schooling, have no modern precedent. And I’m not convinced the confusion will end any time soon.

Whatever our new normal will end up being will most likely look nothing like the world we’ve become accustomed to. The systems from which we’ve made decisions for decades – the factors we’d made projections and budgets against, the expertise or industry recognition we were adjusted to, the skills we used to communicate, lead, and sell – will have far less value. And we don’t yet know what will take their place.

WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

Not only do we not know what our future will look like, we don’t even know how to think about it – there’s no ‘There, There’ yet. Our foundations have shifted; new norms don’t yet exist; old ones will fail us because they no longer fit.

With no way of knowing where we’re going or what our new status quo will look like, there’s no way of knowing what skills we’ll need later. Certainly there is no route to success using past norms. Everything has changed. Where folks work from, the jobs that need doing, the client needs and problems, budget and staffing issues…

As first next steps, companies will most likely attempt to work from the ‘old normal’ differently. But after trying and failing they’ll recognize the need for new norms. That’s already becoming obvious as new, creative concepts are making successful debuts in technology, the arts, education, and customer care, to fill gaps where none existed before.

While I personally assume the new norms will drift to the side of integrity, authenticity, respect, values, trust, and fairness, none of us really have any way of knowing. But think about it for a moment: without any conventional norms in place, the only way to assess decisions going forward will be from our guts – usually good indicators of integrity. But the one constant is change.

I contend that the companies who will flourish going forward are those with the skills to successfully facilitate change. Unfortunately, we can’t work from the same standards we used to work from ‘before’. How, then, do we create new standards?

CHANGE

There are many new issues to account for now: the personal for our staff (Do I want to return full time to my office? How can I incorporate time with my children into my workload?) and the professional for our clients and business (What if our clients don’t return? Will I need new marketing strategies? New forms of revenue to match the new temperament? How can I establish trust now?).

All of us must ask ourselves new questions: what must I consider to end up both successful and positioned for a future I can’t yet imagine? What might need to change? Business structure, staffing, organization, management structure, client outreach, branding/marketing/sales efforts, etc. all must go under the microscope.

The problem is we don’t know how to even think about these real issues. Current leadership models work from conventional biases and assumptions; current questioning models work from the curiosity of the leader in relation to existing norms; current sales models work by assuming they’ll find enough folks with ‘need’ to place their solutions – yet those with ‘need’ can’t make decisions now. New thinking must replace most of our long-held assumptions.

The overarching question we face is this: without the myths we’ve worked from, the norms we’ve operated from, the assumptions we’ve made to hire, fire, brand, sell, and organize around, what measures do we now use to compare ourselves against, or truths to think from?

Lots of decisions to make. There are no answers now, only questions. Whatever norms we will develop will become new norms going forward. But not yet. The only measurement we have going forward is our values.

To help address all this change, to help us work toward a future we cannot know, to operate from a blank slate that will inspire new thinking without carrying over the concepts we’ve worked from until now, I believe that Change Facilitation is an essential skill set.

There are just too many issues that represent unknowns to use any of the conventional thinking that has guided us before now: Buyers can’t buy until potentially new stakeholders determine if maintaining their status quo is their best option during their own confusing, risky circumstances; managers have increased responsibility to lead teams possibly working from different locations and time schedules, maybe while home-schooling children simultaneously; priorities of Boards and top leadership teams are not resolved yet, but need to be.

CHANGE IS SYSTEMIC

The issue at hand is how to manage change. Let’s use as the foundational reality that all change must be systemic. Changing one new behavior, one new rule at a time is not only senseless but inefficient. We must restructure our systems.

What are the new norms, rules, beliefs, and values that will take us into a new, unknowable future? How do we operationalize these, and who do we include as we design new possibilities?

There are specific elements necessary to accomplish congruent change. I will list them here but note: each component is filled with unknowns; unbiased guidance is needed to facilitate discovery:

  1. Where are we? And what’s missing? Until all stakeholders (unknowable at the start) are included, there’s no way to assess the needs, the damage to the historic norms and practices, the problem areas. All voices must be heard and collaborate to begin painting a picture of a new future. Without everyone’s voice, any missing bits will emerge later (possibly too late).
  2. What can we salvage? Again, without all stakeholder voices present, there’s no way to assess what might still work going forward.
  3. What rules, norms, outcomes, objectives, need to change now, and what do we change them to? With no baseline standards, it will be necessary to hear the needs, ideas, of everyone as new identities and priorities emerge. Buy-in is crucial; resistance is dangerous.
  4. What systems do we need in place? How can we make these flexible enough as we go through trial and error? Who will be responsible for these?
  5. Who will oversee this period of disorder? No. Seriously. Who? The answer may not initially be obvious.
  6. How will we know what’s right? Are there ways we can build-in trials, success or failure factors so we can change on a dime if need be?
  7. What is the timing on this? Will anything new be a permanent change? or roll out in stages?

With so many issues to manage, a Change Facilitator is needed. But it’s not as simple as using conventional leadership practices. It’s quite urgent now that there be no biases, no assumptions, predicated on past successes. Change Facilitators will need to listen differently than before, ask new questions, and have different goals.

FACILITATION REQUIRES DIFFERENT SKILLS

Current leadership models won’t work now:

  • The problem set, the outcome, the needed skills, the timing, are unknowns. So there are no clear goals or foundational assumptions to operate from;
  • The industry norms are no longer valid and new ones must be developed;
  • No one, no one, has answers or even the right questions to ask: a new set of questions and answers must be developed real time;
  • Conventional industry biases are no longer appropriate.

We must begin thinking in systems as the fundamental ingredient in any change consideration. No change can happen, no new beliefs or behaviors or decisions or actions, unless the status quo agrees to it.

Real change is the result of reprogramming our physiologic, chemical, automatic, neurological, and unconscious brain wiring. Unless fundamental changes to our beliefs and values, and new rules are developed, our systems are set up to continue doing what they’ve always done. It’s now necessary to enable new choices for new outcomes.

For the past 35 years I’ve been teaching Change Facilitation (named uniquely in each industry I teach in, i.e. Leadership Facilitation, Buying Facilitation®, Training Facilitation, Coaching Facilitation). Since it’s vital to avoid historic judgments to ensure all possibilities are on the table, leaders must approach change with a clean slate and without bias. In other words, leaders won’t have answers, or any assumptions based on past knowledge.

The only way to facilitate change is by enabling systemic change. Here are the topics I teach in my Change Facilitation programs:

  1. Systems thinking. Current industry biases are no longer operational. Using systems thinking, there’s a specific trajectory for all change that promotes buy-in, creativity, and collaboration according to the norms of the system – new norms that must be established from a blank slate.
  2. Listening. We all think we know how to listen. But as my book What? explains, conventional listening is biased by assumptions and historic brain circuits against which incoming information is translated. I’ve developed a wholly new way to listen that avoids bias. I call this Listening for Systems; it’s a vital skill set for this new era as biases will keep us doing what we’ve always done.
  3. Buy-in. Without stakeholders agreeing, no new norms, goals, practices, can be developed. Discovering the right stakeholders, btw, won’t be as obvious now as it once was.
  4. Collaboration. Stakeholders must figure out how they, and their teams and unique personal issues, will work together. Answers can only appear when everyone puts their heads together without preconceptions.
  5. Integrity. With no norms to work from yet, how do decisions get made? What interim rules must be put in place that will define and represent the group/company?
  6. Win-win. We’ve all learned how necessary it is to work from win-win. Companies that made money by creating marketing/sales/leadership practices that were less than integrous will no longer be successful. A route must be developed to ensure everyone wins. Customers are hungry for integrity today.
  7. Communication. With industry standards no longer certain, answers will be found in the collective (un)conscious. And make no mistake. This will be messy.
  8. Beyond behavior change. Our behaviors are the means we have to exhibit our values. We need new messaging that leads to new outcomes, and operationally translates values. This is key to our future success.
  9. Trust. Too often leaders and coaches focused on their own reasons, their own desire to engage (to sell, to change, to influence) and unwittingly caused resistance or sabotage. We don’t have the time to handle resistance right now. We must facilitate, not ‘lead’ choice and change.
  10. Enhance creativity and curiosity. Our status quo is just that: set, accepted norms from which we think and decide. To be more creative, to think ‘outside the box’ or beyond norms, to not be biased by what’s been successful up til now, we must expand our parameters.

Change is a systems problem, not an information problem, or a behavior change problem, or an influencing problem. It’s a problem of developing wholly new norms and values that all decision making flows from, operating without bias to enable all that’s possible, and making sure there’s buy-in and collaboration to create cohesion and follow-through.

Normal skills have grown and developed from long-held assumptions that no longer apply. It’s time for internal coaches and leaders to learn new skills that facilitate new decisions, new thinking, collaboration, and true win-win communication.

Please contact me to help your company, and your leaders, learn the tools to facilitate change. I look forward to teaching leaders the new skills.

____________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

July 20th, 2020

Posted In: News

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hand-944306_960_720For years I’ve written about how sales suffer because the sales model ignores the vast opportunity to close more sales by adding the function of facilitating Buyer Readiness (i.e. systemic change). This restricts sales to searching for those ready to buy, and causes objections en route:

You’re getting objections not because of your terrific solution, your professionalism, your lists, your competition, the buyer’s need, or your price (It’s never ever about price.). Nor because buyers are liars (David Sandler once told me he never meant the take-away that that expression has evolved into.), or stupid.

You’re getting objections because you’re using content sharing and various methods of information push as your main vehicle to selling, before people actually become buyers, before they know why, or when, or if to listen to your message.

You’re getting objections because you’re annoying those who aren’t (yet) buyers and don’t know how to make sense of your attempts to engage them.

You’re getting objections because you ignore potential buyer’s real frustrations and instead focus on your own needs.

Indeed, because the goal of the sales model is to place solutions, you seek a very restricted group you assume SHOULD buy, ignoring the vastly larger group who CAN buy but aren’t yet ready (and who won’t object once they get their ducks in a row). Sales is designed to

  • find those ready to buy: the low-hanging fruit – those who have already recognized that making a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem, have the buy-in to proceed, and know how to manage any change a new purchase would demand;
  • offer great product data in hopes of promoting interest in those who appear (to you) to have a need;
  • ignore those who haven’t yet decided on bringing in an external solution but will ultimately be buyers (Read my article on the 13 step Buying Decision Path.);
  • use accepted sales tools to ‘get in’ to:
    • gather needs (restricted by a seller’s biased questions and listening),
    • pitch (which annoys the hell out of folks not yet seeking new solutions),
    • seek appointments (restricted to those who end up using your presentation to learn to do internal workarounds)

and as a result you’re getting objections.

With a function limited to using your content as the route to placing solutions and searching for those who SHOULD buy – and getting objections from those who don’t find relevance (yet) in your offering – sales overlooks the possibility of facilitating the far larger group who CAN and WILL buy when they have their ducks in a row.

It’s only when they’re certain they can’t fix the problem themselves AND get buy-in from all stakeholders, do buyers consider going ‘external’ for a solution. And objections are merely a reaction to feeling pushed by your content and goal to place a solution before they’ve determined their change management issues – necessary for all folks before risking something new coming in and disrupting the status quo.

WHY YOU GET OBJECTIONS

I define ‘buyer’ as a person/group who has discovered they can’t fix a problem internally, traversed their change management issues, and has gotten agreement to seek an external solution. The very last thing buyers need is your solution – literally.

So here, in no particular order, is a list of reasons why you get objections, and why/how the limited solutions-push focus of the sales model merely handles a small fraction of a Buying Decision Path instead of actually enabling buying. And fyi: if you aim to help potential buyers traverse their systemic change management issues before trying to sell anything, you’ll get closed sales, not objections.

  • Selling doesn’t cause buying. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities and mind-sets.
  • Buying involves both systemic change AND (when there’s no other option) solution choice. Using solution data to make a sale restricts possibility, getting you objections from those who don’t know/aren’t yet ready how to hear it (Remember: we all listen through biased filters.)
  • Buyers buy according to their buying patterns, not your selling patterns.
  • Pushing solution data too early causes objections, regardless of need or the efficacy of your solution. Folks don’t know what to listen for and don’t think they need to hear it.
  • Until buyers recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to their status quo (i.e. when they have their ducks in a row), they aren’t buyers regardless of what you believe to be their ‘need’.
  • Until buyers are certain they can’t solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they can’t recognize, and don’t have the full data set to understand, what they might need to buy and will resist/object when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them.
  • Sales and marketing pitches use biased language to describe solutions, further restricting the buying audience. It’s possible to design unique pitches for each stage of their Pre-Sales Buying Decision Path.
  • By restricting the sales model to seeking those with a ‘need’, you’re only addressing those who have shown up during the last 30% (step 10) of the 13-step Buying Decision Path all people take before becoming buyers. In the first 9 steps (Pre-Sales) people aren’t even prospects yet, as they first must manage change, get buy in, and try to fix their own problems internally.
  • Sales ignores the possibility of influencing the path of (Pre-Sales) change that is driven by the buyer’s system of unique rules, people, history, etc. that protects itself at all costs (i.e. objects).
  • Your sales and marketing efforts seek those who you’ve determined will have a likelihood of buying (the low hanging fruit), and you’re competing for this small percentage, ultimately closing only 5% of a much broader set of possible buyers.
  • There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary to become part of, and facilitate, the Pre-Sales, systemic, Buying Decision Path that must, as per the laws of Systems Congruence, enable change congruently before any purchase is considered.
  • You’ll avoid objections when you first facilitate and expedite the change that those who CAN buy must handle, and THEN use your information-centric approach to sell to those you’ve helped be ready to buy. The time it takes buyers to get buy-in for congruent change is the length of the sales cycle, regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution.
  • Pitching, content marketing, presentations, cold calling, etc. get objections because they push solution data before there is systemic agreement to go external for a fix.
  • Judgments regarding the reasons buyers offer objections are subjective, biased interpretations contrived by sellers to make buyers ‘stupid’ when they aren’t getting the outcome they sought. Sellers rarely consider that they’re entering at the wrong time, in the wrong way, for a unique set of internal, systemic dysfunctions they really (really) have no understanding of, or that the buyer is in the early steps of change and hasn’t yet recognized a need to buy.
  • You can accelerate a buyer’s route to decision making by helping them traverse their route to congruent change, but not with a restriction that begins by using solution-based information, or needs-based (biased) questions to influence buying. It’s possible to close five times more than you’re currently closing.

You’re actually causing your own objections. You get no resistance when facilitating prospects through their own steps to congruent change and then continue on to placing your terrific solution content with those specific prospects who CAN buy. (Read my article on the Buyer’s Journey that lays out the entire Pre-Sales buying decision process.) But you’ll need to take a different – additional – path through a different lens. You’ll need to understand the change management issues within your industry. And no, you cannot use your current sales skill to accomplish this.

FOCUS ON FACILITATING BUYER READINESS FIRST

Here is the deal. People don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem with the least internal disruption. Actually, the cost of the fix must be less than the ‘cost’ (people, policies, time, money) of maintaining the status quo. The last thing people want is to buy anything, and then only when they have no choice and the cost is manageable.

Until now, you’ve waited while buyers do this internal change stuff: they must do this anyway (with you or without you). So you can continue pushing your content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach to connect with the right ones sooner: enter their decision path, get onto their Buying Decision Team, and facilitate the ones who CAN buy through to buying.

Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based and Buying Facilitation® is change-management based. And, using a change management goal as the reason to connect with a potential buyer enables you to find those who WILL buy on the first call.

I designed a new methodology to facilitate the front end of the decision path (Buying Facilitation®). It’s a change facilitation model that works with sales to help buyers congruently and

  1. Recognize all of the elements they must assemble to get appropriate input for problem solving and change;
  2. Figure out if they can/cannot fix it themselves (You can facilitate this on the first call so long as you avoid discussing need or solution.);
  3. Pull together all of the systemic elements that must be in place for any change (i.e. purchase) to happen to ensure a minimal disruption;
  4. Be ready to choose your solution.

Buying Facilitation® is a generic change facilitation skill set, with no content focus, no bias, and is systemic in nature. It involves helping potential clients facilitate change in the area you can help them resolve. It employs a new form of question (Facilitative Question) that enable systems to manage change congruently; a new form of listening that involves Listening for Systems; and Presumptive Summaries to enable people to move outside of their subjective experience and view the entire situation as an Observer/Coach. I’ve trained it to about 100,000 sales folks globally, in several industries and product price points, and generally get a close rate of 8x the control group.

Right now, you’re closing 5% and wasting a lot of resource to find them. You’re hiring too many people to close too few; ignoring real prospects on route to making an appointment – and then going to appointments with a fraction of the appropriate people present, to push content they don’t know how to listen to, and fighting with competitors for the same restricted group of buyers – when if you could enter differently, with a willingness to add a new skill set, you could find/close more buyers.

There are a lot more REAL buyers suffering from lengthy Buying Decisions as they fumble through change. They really could use your help. Read Dirty Little Secrets; why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and learn about the systems involved in buying (or any change), and add this to your sales initiatives. You’ll have more clients, shorter sales cycles, meaningful relationships built on trust, and no objections.

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Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

July 13th, 2020

Posted In: Communication

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