By Sharon Drew Morgen

Did you ever wonder what happens behind the scenes with prospects after you’ve made a connection, given a great pitch, or delivered an engaging presentation? Why they don’t return your calls or call with an order? The silence has nothing to do with your solution.

Indeed, after you’ve pitched, the prospects return to the team to share your ideas. Some might like it. But maybe some don’t like what they’re hearing (or the way your pitch has been interpreted), or argue about using your solution instead of a different one, or discuss a new workaround to try. Some might think it’s not time.

Without group consensus for what criteria a solution must include, they do nothing because the risk of disturbing what’s working is too great. It’s the difference between selling and buying: You’re using the sales process to place your solution; they’re using their (buying) decision process to figure out how to resolve their problem with the least disruption.

Selling and buying are two different things. The sales model too often introduces solutions before the prospect has gotten buy-in for change and they’re just not ready to buy.

Unfortunately for sellers, you’ve got no control over what buyers are doing because the change they must consider is idiosyncratic to their environment and beyond the purpose of sales. It’s possible to facilitate them through their change decisions, but not with the sales model as it is now.

THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

When sellers start off with a goal to sell a solution (and yes, ‘gathering information’ merely poses biased questions that give you a platform to pitch), it’s a solution looking for a problem. Obviously this narrows the buyer pool to only those who seek THAT solution at THAT moment, those who have already

  • understood exactly what something New should do that they can’t do for themselves;
  • assembled the full set of stakeholders who have already agreed and bought-into what something New should look and act like and their roles in managing implementation;
  • tried several workarounds that don’t work out and an external solution is the only option;
  • recognized the ‘cost’ of bringing in something New and know how to manage it;
  • have figured out how to manage the change with the least disruption.

Buying occurs only after a prospect has tried everything else and there is wide-spread agreement for change.

Since every environment is a system and includes the history, rules, goals, norms, relationships and Beliefs held within that culture, bringing in anything New must match or the system will be compromised. Nothing, nothing is ever purchased in isolation; a system will ignore, procrastinate, deny, defend, and resist if something is pushed in beforehand.

If you think you want a new car, getting a pitch about a Tesla will only be welcome if you’ve decided on an electric car in a specific price range. Rejecting a Tesla pitch isn’t a testament to the car, merely a commentary on the buying (or buy-in) decision criteria.

BUYERS BUY IF THE ‘COST’ OF CHANGE IS LESS THAN MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO

Let’s think more about the buy side. People don’t want to buy anything, merely solve a problem with the least ‘cost’ to their system. Sometimes they sound like they have a need but are merely in their research phase; sometimes they are seeking workarounds when they connect with you and are comparing alternatives; sometimes they take an appointment to learn more from you so they can develop their own solution; sometimes they want to bring back new ideas to the team.

When you’re speaking with someone who seems like a ‘prospect’, you may be right and they have a need. But until they understand and address the full set of internal issues involved with solving their problem, they can’t fully define the best route to a fix.

Until or unless the criteria for change is known and a plan in place to manage it effectively, people aren’t buyers; the ‘cost’ of any potential disruption is just too high and the status quo has been good-enough. One more thing. Before people are buyers, they must be absolutely certain they can’t fix the problem themselves.

All of these issues explain why you’re closing only 5% – the low hanging fruit actually ready, willing, and able to buy.

SELLING IS TACTICAL, BUYING IS STRATEGIC

A purchase is systemic and strategic – a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution. Sales is tactical, solution-placement driven, and doesn’t address the complexities and criteria of the hidden buying environment or their specific buying patterns.

I got a cold call once in which the salesman began by telling me he had a great way for me to save money on a phone provider.

A View from the Buy Side, by Sharon Drew Morgen

Did you ever wonder what happens behind the scenes with prospects after you’ve made a connection, given a great pitch, or delivered an engaging presentation? Why they don’t return your calls or call with an order? The silence has nothing to do with your solution.

Indeed, after you’ve pitched, the prospects return to the team to share your ideas. Some might like it. But maybe some don’t like what they’re hearing (or the way your pitch has been interpreted), or argue about using your solution instead of a different one, or discuss a new workaround to try. Some might think it’s not time.

Without group consensus for what criteria a solution must include, they do nothing because the risk of disturbing what’s working is too great. It’s the difference between selling and buying: You’re using the sales process to place your solution; they’re using their (buying) decision process to figure out how to resolve their problem with the least disruption.

Selling and buying are two different things. The sales model too often introduces solutions before the prospect has gotten buy-in for change and they’re just not ready to buy.

Unfortunately for sellers, you’ve got no control over what buyers are doing because the change they must consider is idiosyncratic to their environment and beyond the purpose of sales. It’s possible to facilitate them through their change decisions, but not with the sales model as it is now.

THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

When sellers start off with a goal to sell a solution (and yes, ‘gathering information’ merely poses biased questions that give you a platform to pitch), it’s a solution looking for a problem. Obviously this narrows the buyer pool to only those who seek THAT solution at THAT moment, those who have already

  • understood exactly what something New should do that they can’t do for themselves;
  • assembled the full set of stakeholders who have already agreed and bought-into what something New should look and act like and their roles in managing implementation;
  • tried several workarounds that don’t work out and an external solution is the only option;
  • recognized the ‘cost’ of bringing in something New and know how to manage it;
  • have figured out how to manage the change with the least disruption.

Buying occurs only after a prospect has tried everything else and there is wide-spread agreement for change.

Since every environment is a system and includes the history, rules, goals, norms, relationships and Beliefs held within that culture, bringing in anything New must match or the system will be compromised. Nothing, nothing is ever purchased in isolation; a system will ignore, procrastinate, deny, defend, and resist if something is pushed in beforehand.

If you think you want a new car, getting a pitch about a Tesla will only be welcome if you’ve decided on an electric car in a specific price range. Rejecting a Tesla pitch isn’t a testament to the car, merely a commentary on the buying (or buy-in) decision criteria.

BUYERS BUY IF THE ‘COST’ OF CHANGE IS LESS THAN MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO

Let’s think more about the buy side. People don’t want to buy anything, merely solve a problem with the least ‘cost’ to their system. Sometimes they sound like they have a need but are merely in their research phase; sometimes they are seeking workarounds when they connect with you and are comparing alternatives; sometimes they take an appointment to learn more from you so they can develop their own solution; sometimes they want to bring back new ideas to the team.

When you’re speaking with someone who seems like a ‘prospect’, you may be right and they have a need. But until they understand and address the full set of internal issues involved with solving their problem, they can’t fully define the best route to a fix.

Until or unless the criteria for change is known and a plan in place to manage it effectively, people aren’t buyers; the ‘cost’ of any potential disruption is just too high and the status quo has been good-enough. One more thing. Before people are buyers, they must be absolutely certain they can’t fix the problem themselves.

All of these issues explain why you’re closing only 5% – the low hanging fruit actually ready, willing, and able to buy.

SELLING IS TACTICAL, BUYING IS STRATEGIC

A purchase is systemic and strategic – a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution. Sales is tactical, solution-placement driven, and doesn’t address the complexities and criteria of the hidden buying environment or their specific buying patterns.

I got a cold call once in which the salesman began by telling me he had a great way for me to save money on a phone provider.

SD: But saving money isn’t one of my buying criteria!

Rep: Well, it should be. [Wait, he’s telling me I should buy using his selling criteria?]

SD: Great. Then you buy it.

Until people know the rules, roles, and relationships they must maintain, the specifics of your solution are moot. When you’re pitching before people have all their ducks in row, they can’t even hear the details you proudly offer. 

You’ve got nothing to sell if they have nothing to buy, regardless of the need or the efficacy of your solution. And unfortunately, because their internal considerations are so idiosyncratic, you can’t ever understand them. But you can know the areas they must handle so you can facilitate them through their uncertainty.

WHAT BUYERS MUST KNOW

Here is a list of what folks must figure out before they can buy anything, regardless of how well your solution matches or how great their need. And the time it takes them to do this is the length of the sales cycle. Indeed, they can’t define what they need until this is completed:

  • Stakeholders: Have all stakeholders who have been part of maintaining the status quo been assembled? Have those who will be part of the solution been included and driving the initiative? Have they reached agreement on the specific modifications needed? Do they know, and have agreed to, their roles within the processes of the New? Are they aware how their responsibilities will change? Is there supervision or leadership in place to facilitate them through change? Do they all – all – believe the New will maintain the team’s values and goals and offer more efficiency? Have the stakeholders had a say in any transition and had their voices and ideas added?
  • Workarounds: Have all possible workarounds been tried so it’s obvious to everyone something New is necessary?
  • Users: Have the users asked for this and have a say in the specifics they need? If not, how will management help them buy-in to using something they didn’t ask for or won’t do what they want it to do? Will they need training for the New? Will their habituated use behaviors need to change? How will the adoption of the New affect their workload or jobs? Have they agreed to a learning curve and to less-than-optimal output when they won’t be so efficient?
  • Old vs New: How will something New fit with the old? Must the old be removed or is a ‘both/and’ possible? Must the old be retrofitted to work with the New? How? Who will do this?How many of the old practices are needed to maintain work flow? What’s a plausible time frame on this?
  • Implementation: Does everyone understand the downsides – the labor, costs, time, output issues – of the New and how to mitigate them? Are all – all – on board with New procedures and willing to take on the new activities without resistance? Who is responsible for managing the overall implementation and downsides?
  • Creativity: Does the team have the opportunity to add ideas? Will they be able to add what they need so they’re part of the solution and won’t resist?
  • Brand: Will the New change the brand and require different kinds of marketing? Will the new potentially change the finances? The audience? Is it worth it? How will they know before they try?

Bringing in something New or different requires group buy-in, discussion, debating, questioning and idea-sharing. Imagine coming home for dinner and announcing to your family that you just purchased a new house and moving next week! The fact that last night your spouse mentioned s/he’d love an extra room is not the point.

No one buys anything unless workarounds have been tried, research has been done, possibilities are discussed, options are considered, and stakeholders have bought into, and added to, the process of change.

Because sales focuses on ‘need’ and placing solutions, it only closes those at the tail end of their change management process and expends far too much resource trying to drive a decision with folks who aren’t yet real buyers.

Why not begin selling by seeking those going through the change process at that moment and help them facilitate the change first then leading them through their systemic decisions and selling to those who are ready? It will take far less time, and if you’re like the large numbers of sales reps I’ve trained globally, you’ll close 40% instead of 5%.

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

Selling and buying are two different activities. Start on the buy side, discover those who WILL be buyers and then facilitate buying. Then you can sell because they’re ready to buy. By then you’re on the Buying Decision Team, can target your pitches and presentations, be a real trusted advisor, and your price discussions will be minimal. You will also have saved a lot of time, closed a lot more sales, and have real relationships.

For those of you wanting to learn how to do this, I invented a model called Buying Facilitation® that uses the 13 steps all people go through on route to buying. It involves a wholly different facilitation skill set: Facilitative Questions, Presumptive Summaries, and Systems Listening. I suggest you visit www.sharondrewmorgen.com and read the articles I put up on change, buying, and decision making. And if you’re committed to helping buyers buy, read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Or just contact me and we can chat. www.sharondrewmorgen.com

_________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.

March 1st, 2021

Posted In: News

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I’ve read that some leaders and project managers prefer not to collaborate when engaging in a new initiative because they fear losing control. I know decision makers who start their information gathering before involving the full complement of those who will implement.

What sort of success is possible when one source is driving change without the express buy-in from the group? I believe that until there is true collaboration and buy-in, and everyone understands the implications of any change, the group

  • may potentially sabotage a project because of their own biases, causing
  • outcomes and creativity restricted to a specific set of possibilities that may not meet the full group’s criteria,
  • work from biased or insufficient data from a restricted set of sources, and
  • risks alienating those involved.

WHY COLLABORATION IS NECESSARY

To ensure the best data is available to make decisions with, to ensure all risk issues get 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 and knowing how these will effect the ongoing functioning of the system.

I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on facilitating an agreeable route to the most congruent solution) and ‘low collaboration’ (leading from the top with rules and plans that match the needs of some).

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 among all involved in order to identify accurate data gathering 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 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.

February 22nd, 2021

Posted In: Communication

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training

Did you ever wonder why training fails so often? When important material, meant to improve or educate, is not learned or acted upon? Why perfectly smart people keep doing the same things that didn’t work the first time?

The problem is the training model. Current training models are designed to offer and present data, not help folks learn. Let me explain.

Using conventional training models, only those who are predisposed, only those who have beliefs aligned with the new material will learn. Others may endeavor to learn during their classroom study but may not permanently adopt it. The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner: It’s a problem with both the training model itself and the way learners learn. It’s Learning is a systems/change problem.

HOW WE LEARN

We all live our lives, stabilized and congruent because of our unique, internal systems, ruled by our mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits.

Indeed, our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility. Obviously, without shifting my beliefs, I would resist information about guns.

Because anything new is a threat to our unconscious, habitual and carefully organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter.

I have spent decades unpacking change and the learning change entails. I’ve realized that learning doesn’t start from outside, from knowledge or information. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted – not because it’s wrong or bad, but because there is no ‘system’ in place in our brains to make sense of it.

And here is where current training models fail to engage learning. Our brains are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new regardless of the efficacy or importance of the new material. Much like a sales pitch, training offers good data – and learners, like buyers, may not be able to congruently make the brain change the new information requires.

But there is another way to go about training that incorporates real, systemic change. Let’s begin by examining the training model itself.

HOW WE TRAIN

The current training model assumes that if new material

  • is recognized as important, rational, and useful,
  • is offered in a logical, informative, interesting way,
  • allows time for experience and practice,
  • offers enough experiential learning,

it will become accepted and habituated. But these assumptions are faulty. At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign into a closed system (our status quo) that is perfectly happy as it is: it might be adopted briefly, but if it opposes our habituated norm, it will show up as a threat and be resisted. This is the same problem faced when sellers attempt to place a new solution, or doctors attempt to change the habits of ill patients.

Until or unless the unconscious system that holds our beliefs and values and habits in place is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material, any change will not be permanent and learners will resist. Effective training must change beliefs first.

LEARNING FACILITATION

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. buy-in from the belief/system status;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change

before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. To accomplish this, I developed a learning model to begin the process of changing core, unconscious, beliefs.

My training design is called Learning Facilitation. I’ve used this model successfully for decades. (See my paper in The 2003 Annual: Volume 1 Training [Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer]: “Designing Curricula for Learning Environments Using a Facilitative Teaching Approach to Empower Learners” pp 263-272). Here’s how I design courses:

  • Day 1 helps learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying areas where new skills would be necessary for greater excellence. Once they recognize exactly what is missing among their current skill sets, and they determine what, specifically, they need to add to achieve excellence, then they are ready to learn. I do not begin by offering the new information; I begin with facilitating brain change. After all, if learners don’t have a place, don’t have neural pathways and circuits to adopt anything new, they won’t learn new information.
  • Day 2 enables learners to create a route in their brains – a new neural pathway – to congruently supplement their current skills, then tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then does new knowledge get introduced and practiced.

Course material is designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, and no lectures and focuses on brain acceptance. I teach learners how to enlist their unconscious to facilitate unconscious buy-in for new material.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.

February 15th, 2021

Posted In: Listening, News

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We all know the importance of listening, of connecting with others by deeply hearing them share thoughts, ideas, and feelings, by being present and authentic. We work hard at listening without judgment, carefully, with our full attention. But are we hearing others without bias? I contend we’re not.

WHAT IS LISTENING?

From the work I’ve done unpacking the routes of incoming messages in brains, I believe that listening is far more than hearing words and understanding another’s shared thoughts and feelings. Listening is actually a brain thing that has little do to with meaning. It’s about puffs of air.

There are several problems with us accurately hearing what someone says, regardless of our intent to show up as empathetic listeners. Generally speaking, our brains determine what we hear. And they weren’t designed to be objective. There are two primary reasons:

  1. Words are meant to be semantic transmissions of meaning, yet they emerge from our mouths smooshed together in a singular gush with no spaces between them. Our brains then have the herculean task of deciphering individual sounds, individual word breaks, unique definitions, to understand their meaning. No one speaks with spaces between words. Otherwise. It. Would. Sound. Like. This. Hearing impaired people face this problem with new cochlear implants: it takes about a year for them to learn to decipher individual words, where one word ends and the next begins.
  2. When others speak, their words enter our ears as puffs of air without denotation – sound vibrations that have no meaning at all. None.

This second note is confounding: our ears hear what they’re set up to hear, not necessarily what a speaker intends to share.

Just as we perceive color when light receptors in our eyes send messages to our brain to translate the incoming light waves (the world has no color), meaning is a translation of sound vibrations that have traversed a very specific brain pathway after we hear them.

As such, I define listening as our brain’s progression of making meaning from incoming sound vibrations.

HOW BRAINS LISTEN

I didn’t start off with that definition. Like most people, I had thought that if I gave my undivided attention and listened ‘without judgment’, I’d be able to hear what a Speaker intended. But I was wrong.

When writing my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I was quite dismayed to learn that what a Speaker says and what a Listener hears are often two different things.

It’s not for want of trying; Listeners work hard at empathetic listening, of caring about the Speaker and the conversation, of responding collaboratively and caringly. But the way our brains are organized make it difficult to hear others without bias.

Seems everything we perceive (all incoming sensory) is translated (and restricted) by the circuits already set up in our brains. If you’ve ever heard a conversation and had a wholly different takeaway than others in the room, or understood something differently from the intent of the Speaker, it’s because listening isn’t based on words or intended meaning; it’s because our brains have a purely mechanistic approach to translating signals. Here’s what our brains do:

Input (vibrations from words, thoughts, sound, feeling, sight)

CUE (turns incoming vibrations into electro-chemical signals)

CEN (Central Executive Network finds existing ‘similar-enough’ circuits to interpret into meaning)

Output (meaning)

Here’s a simplified version of what happens when someone speaks:

– the sound of their words enter our ears as mere vibrations (puffs of air with no meaning),

– get turned into electro-chemical signals (also without meaning) that

– get sent to existing circuits

– that have a ‘close-enough’ match (but may not match fully)

– previously used for other translations,

– and then discards the overage – whatever doesn’t match

– causing us to ‘hear’ the messages translated through circuits we already have on file!

It’s mechanical.

The worst part is that when our brain discards the ‘overage’ signals, it doesn’t tell us! So if you say “ABC” and the closest circuit match in my brain is “ABL” my brain discards D, E, F, G, etc. and fails to tell me what it threw away!

That’s why we believe what we ‘think’ we’ve heard is accurate. Our brain actually tells us that’s what was said, regardless of how near or far that interpretation is from the truth.

In other words, we ‘hear’ only what our brains translate based on our historic circuits – or, our biased, subjective experience.

With the best will in the world, with the best empathetic listening, by being as non-judgmental as we know how to be, as careful to show up with undivided attention, we can only hear what our brain allows us to hear. Being unwittingly restricted by our past, just about everything we hear is naturally biased.

IT’S POSSIBLE TO GET IT ‘RIGHTER’

The problem is our automatic, mechanistic brain. Since we can’t easily change the process itself (I’ve been developing brain change models for decades; it’s possible to add new circuits.), it’s possible to interfere with the process.

I’ve come up with two ways to listen with more accuracy:

  1. When listening to someone speak, stand up and walk around, or lean far back in a chair. It’s a physiologic fix, offering an Observer/witness viewpoint that goes ‘beyond the brain’ and disconnects from normal brain circuitry. I get permission to do this even while I’m consulting at Board meetings with Fortune 100 companies. When I ask, “Do you mind if I walk around while listening so I can hear more accurately?” I’ve never been told no. They are happy to let me pace, and sometimes even do it themselves once they see me do it. I’m not sure why this works or how. But it does.
  2. To make sure you take away an accurate message of what’s said say this:

To make sure I understood what you said accurately, I’m going to tell you what I think you said. Can you please tell me what I misunderstood or missed? I don’t mind getting it wrong, but I want to make sure we’re on the same page.

Listening is a fundamental communication tool. It enables us to connect, collaborate, care, and relate with everyone. By going beyond Active Listening, by adding Brain Listening to empathetic listening, we can now make sure what we hear is actually what was intended.

______________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.    

February 8th, 2021

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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Have you ever wondered why people don’t buy, even when it seems your solution is perfect for their needs? Have you considered that maybe your Selling Patterns don’t match their Buying Patterns? Or that they don’t have the ‘need’ you think they do?

With a focus on finding people with a need that is resolved by your solution, sellers overlook two very important factors in the buy/sell equation:

    1. people don’t become buyers until they’ve determined they cannot resolve a problem themselves and
    2. the ‘cost’ of a purchase must be equal to, or less than, the ‘cost’ of staying the same.

A purchase is a change management problem well before it’s a solution choice issue. And ‘need’ may have little to do with a purchase.

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

As they seek to resolve a problem, people go through an internal, systemic process of managing change that determines whether or not they can buy anything. Sales doesn’t address this to their detriment, connecting with people only once they’ve determined they’re buyers.

By overlooking the possibility of facilitating folks to first manage their change, we not only omit the possibility of connecting with the people who WILL buy when they are ready, but restrict our pool of prospects to those who show up. The problem is until they’ve addressed their change they aren’t yet buyers and can’t hear or heed your message, even if they need it.

Think about this: instead of trying to motivate a sale by pushing content, or lowering the price; or wondering why your prospect isn’t returning calls or in the pipeline for so long; or thinking they’re in pain; help them do the Pre-Sales work they must do before they become a buyer. You’re waiting (and calling, and calling) anyway. Might as well use a different skill set and help them where they most need help.

Here’s the takeaway idea: Enter as a change facilitator, help the folks who will be buyers (easy to spot with a change hat on rather than a sales hat) manage their change, and then you’re part of their team once they’ve become buyers.

Helping people who may become buyers is a very quick process, far quicker than trying to sell those few who are ready and wasting time pushing out content to the rest.

In this article I will introduce you to the steps, the Buying Patterns, people go through en route to buying anything, regardless of need or the efficacy/size/price of the solution.

I’ve spent years unpacking these buying decision steps after I personally went from a seller to a buyer. There is a sequence of 13 steps people take between discovering a problem and choosing/buying a solution. But first let me explain why the sales model doesn’t facilitate buying.

WHY PAIN & NEED ARE IRRELEVANT

There are two approaches sellers operate from that actually limit success: seeking folks with a ‘need’, and believing they have pain.

Let’s take a look at the fallacy of a ‘need’ criteria. Do you need to lose, say, 10 pounds? You have a need, yet you haven’t resolved it. What about getting more organized? Or exercise more?

People don’t buy based on need. They may have a need they’re not ready to resolve, or circumstances make it difficult, or colleagues that have different ideas or or.

If adding an external/new solution causes too much disruption they will not buy regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. They must weigh all the issues involved – most of which are historic and unique – and get buy-in from the stakeholders before any action is taken or not. And using the sales model, there’s no way to get inside the mind of a would-be buyer to help them.

Now let’s look at pain.

I don’t understand why ‘pain’ is so often paired with why/how buyers make buying decisions. Indeed, the ‘pain’ issue has been invented by sellers who assume potential/targeted buyers would function better if they bought the seller’s solution, and by not buying they’re obviously in pain. This is bogus.

As outsiders we have absolutely no idea what’s going on in someone’s environment. It might not be pain at all, but a very cogent decision that works for them and we’ll never understand.

David Sandler called me in 1993 to buy me out before he died. He said he’d made an error stating that ‘buyers are liars’ and saying ‘buyers are in pain’. Once he understood my thinking he realized that the problem was in the tenacious focus of placing solutions and the ommission of facilitating the necessary buying decision/change management process.

“I thought I had gone outside the box with Sandler Sales; I realize now I was still considering sales from a solution placement perspective. I didn’t understand how far outside the box I needed to go to include the buying decision process. Good job, Sharon Drew.”

CASE STUDY

Here’s a simple story to explain what’s going on behind the scenes, and how little it’s got to do with what a seller is selling, need, or pain.

In 1995 I was running a Buying Facilitation® training at IBM. One day my client asked me to help enlist a new Beta site for one of their new systems. There was a small ‘Mom & Pop’ shop (i.e. family run business) located nearby, and from their records they knew this company was using a system far too small for the growth they’d incurred over the past years, causing very slow response times.

Letting them have a free new system in exchange for IBM having them close by to test would be a win/win. But even after two sales folks had visited them with the promise of a new, free, system that would substantially speed up their response times, the company had no interest. Could I get them to become a beta site? Here was our conversation:

SDM: Hi there. I’m a trainee calling from IBM and have a question for someone who is using your computers.

SON: Hi. I’m Joe. I’m one of the owners. Maybe I can help.

SDM: Thanks. I wonder how your current system is running?

SON: It’s ok.

SDM: I know our folks were out there offering you a faster system to beta and you weren’t interested. I’m curious now what’s stopping you from upgrading your current system to be better than OK?

SON: Dad.

SDM: DAD? I don’t understand.

SON: I know our system is very very slow. But my father is in charge of the technology here, and he’s 75 years old. He’ll be retiring in a year or so, and I don’t want to overwhelm him with learning anything new. So I’ll make whatever changes necessary after he leaves.

SDM: Ah. So what I hear you saying is that your main criteria is not to overwhelm Dad and don’t mind how slow the system is in the meantime.

SON: Right.

SDM: You already know we want to give you an upgrade in exchange for being a beta site for us. From what I know about it, they’ve made it very simple to use and easy to learn. Maybe you and Dad could visit another beta site here in Rye to see if Dad likes it and finds it easy to use? I’d be happy to pick you up and take you there. And if Dad is happy, then maybe you’d be comfortable accepting it to beta test for us?

SON: Oh. I wasn’t aware we could do that. Your colleagues were trying to sell me on the features of the new capabilities, and that wasn’t my main problem. Sure, Dad and I would be willing to go to the beta site. Thanks. Having a quicker response time would be great for us if we could make that happen and Dad is comfortable with it.

The sellers used ‘features, functions, and benefits’ as their Selling Pattern; there was no way an outsider could guess that Dad was the problem that had to be solved. Offering a needed product or cheap price (free) details were moot. And so long as the seller focused on the sale, on the need, on the pain, there was no buy.

A BUYING DECISION IS SYSTEMIC AND STRATEGIC

A buying decision is a change management problem well before it is a solution choice issue. People don’t want to buy anything; they want to resolve a problem in the least disruptive way.

Indeed people only become buyers when they’re certain they cannot resolve the problem using familiar resources, and explore every avenue to fixing the problem themselves first. Buying anything is the very last thing people do.

Think about it. Before you buy a new CRM system, for example, you don’t begin by buying a new system: you begin by meeting with the managers and users to determine why the current system is problematic; trying to get the current one fixed; finding workarounds to try to resolve the problem easily; and making sure that there’s a process in place to manage any user, technology, training, time disruption that might come with bringing in new technology.

Again, buying anything is the very last thing that happens. By overlooking Buying Patterns, sellers automatically restrict their full set of prospective buyers.

Obviously when it’s time to buy, buyers take very specific actions as they choose one solution over another, choices based on price, reputation/brand of the solution, decision makers, etc. This is when the conventional sales model kicks in. But selling doesn’t cause buying.

STAGES OF BUYING PATTERNS

Here are the Pre-Sales stages folks go through as they become buyers:

What’s the status quo? Whats’ missing: until or unless every element of the status quo is understood, buyers cannot identify exactly what’s missing. In the Dad example, what was missing was not the computer issue, but the ability to have Dad learn how to support a new one; a delay in purchasing new software is most likely not a technology issue, but might be a recent reorganization, or a merger, or a change in leadership. And an outsider can never, ever understand because they’re, well, outsiders. This stage includes meetings, research, identifying stakeholders.

RULE: a seller can facilitate someone through the process of recognizing the full fact pattern of givens within their status quo, including the people, culture, and rules, to help them learn what is keeping them from having an optimal environment. Guesswork is detrimental because it’s such an idiosyncratic process. Using these steps, sellers can get out of the guessing game and merely facilitate the change.

Gather the full set of stakeholders: until or unless everyone involved with creating the problem and touching a new solution is brought in the full problem set cannot be understood. Everyone’s voice must be included – Dad, and Joe in accounting. This stage includes meetings to determine who will touch the final solution and agreement as to how to involve them.

RULE: a seller can facilitate a prospective buyer through a discovery. Until all folks who will touch the final solution are included, there is no way for them to understand their needs. Speaking with anyone about needs before this is a waste of time (i.e. all those names on your call back list and pipeline].

Try to fix the problem with workarounds: until it’s fully understood that the problem cannot be resolved with anything that’s already been accepted by the culture – other departments or items, familiar vendors or products – and all workarounds have been tried, they will never consider buying anything as it will be disruptive to the culture. This stage includes internal research, and delegating folks to outreach for familiar resources: can our old vendors fix this? Can the other department help? Until a workaround is dismissed, there will be no initiative to make a purchase.

RULE: people always begin by trying to fix the problem themselves. Sellers can help here: What’s stopping you from using the vendors you used last year? Have you tried getting help from other departments? Either you help them through this, or sit helplessly while they do it themselves as you continue to think they’re prospects and put them in your pipeline. In reality, this is the simplest stage.

Managing change to avoid disruption: once folks agree

  1. They have a problem that all stakeholders have fully defined;
  2. They cannot fix it themselves;
  3. The ‘cost’ of a purchase is manageable;

then it’s necessary to go ‘outside’ for a solution.

The cost of the new must be calculated against maintaining the status quo. When they figure this element out, they’re ready to choose a solution. This stage includes lots of research within the group/company/family to ferret out problems that change would incur, and figuring out the human, time, money, strategic, costs.

RULE: facilitate people to recognize what might be in jeopardy if something new is brought in. Until they weight the risk between the status quo vs a fix, and can calculate that bringing something new is has a lower cost than maintaining the status quo, they cannot buy anything as the risk is too high.

Choose a vendor/solution: This is the last stage – where sales now enters! Once it’s calculated that it will cost less to bring in a new solution than maintaining their status quo, AND there is buy-in from the stakeholders, AND they know how to integrate the new with minimal disruption, they become buyers. This is the low hanging fruit. These folks are ready for a pitch! This stage involves sellers pitching, content marketing, website design, etc.

SALES VS FACILITATING BUYING PATTERNS

I always ask sellers: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. Buying has nothing to do with pain, or the marketing efforts, or the pitch deck, or the product. You’re products are great.

The problem is you’re only focusing on those who already show up as buyers and ignore managing the full set of Buying Patterns of the far larger group of real prospects. My clients close 40% against the control group that closes 5% selling the same solution. But not by starting with the sales model.

As a frustrated sales person, I developed a new model called Buying Facilitation® to identify and facilitate steps of change, choice, and buy-in as a servant leader. Following these steps it’s possible for sellers to assist people in navigating the journey first with no bias, before trying to sell anything.

This sequence – Buying Facilitation® first, sales second – ensures you’ll find (and quickly close) a much larger number of people who WILL buy (rather than those who SHOULD buy) and keep you from wasting time on those who will never buy (but you think they ‘should’ because you think they’re ‘in pain’). My clients who use Buying Facilitation® close, on average, 40% selling the same product as the control group that closes 5%.

People who will become buyers must go through this process anyway, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. But they do this without us, as we wait, hope, push, and pitch, and lose an opportunity to both serve and differentiate ourselves.

Instead of the time and resource we use pushing content, why not use a different skill set (i.e. Buying Facilitation®, or some form of facilitation model that manages change) first to help them become buyers.

_____________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.

February 1st, 2021

Posted In: News

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I recently got a call from a noted venture capitalist of healthcare apps.

DH: I heard you have a model that facilitates permanent behavior change. I wonder if it would work with any of the 15 healthcare apps I’ve invested in.

SD: I do have a model that does that. And it certainly could be used as a front end to conventional behavior change apps to enable users to develop permanent habits. What are you using now to help folks change behaviors permanently?

DH. Behavior Modification, but it doesn’t work. There’s no scientific evidence that it works and our analysis concurs. But there’s nothing else to use. Can you help?

It’s a known fact that Behavior Modification has a 3% success rate over time. Sure, people initially lose weight with a behavior-based plan to eat differently. Certainly people stop smoking or get to the gym for a few weeks. But because these new behaviors haven’t been accepted by, or made permanent in, the brain, they cannot succeed over time. And repeating the new in hopes that THIS time it will stick obviously doesn’t work.

Permanent change is a very achievable goal. But not the way we’re going about it; we’re approaching the problem from the wrong angle. In this essay I will explain what a behavior is, what change is, how our brains govern them both, and introduce the steps needed to form habits. Believe it or not, it’s mechanical.

THE PROBLEM WITH BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION

Lately I’ve heard several Behavioral Scientists on the radio, all offering Behavior Modification techniques to habituate new behaviors by, well, habituating new behaviors. They ‘remove barriers’, suggest ‘momentum’, offer ‘promoting forces/restraining forces’, and propose ‘behavioral interventions’ such as keeping weights at your desk so you can ‘lift’ during Zoom calls. All meant to motivate behavior change – through behavior change. I suspect Einstein might have something to say about that.

The problem is the premise. Behavior Mod’s core assumptions are actually contrary to brain science. It assumes that by merely repeating a behavior over and over (and over and over), permanent brain change will result that can be maintained over time. But it doesn’t. And it can’t.

Certainly we’ve all tried. Gone on a ‘different’ diet that we’d get ‘serious’ about this time. Or promised ourselves we’d always write up a schedule for the next day before ending work so we’d be up and running in the morning. But we’ve failed.

We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t lose weight permanently by trying to lose weight. Or stop smoking by trying to stop smoking. Somehow we forget that we have to remember to keep doing it, so we promise ourselves we’ll be disciplined ‘this time’. But we don’t. And we don’t know what else to do.

DIFFERENT THINKING REQUIRED

The reason it’s not possible is pretty simple once you understand what a behavior is and how our brains generate them. The problem isn’t our lack of discipline. We’re ignoring the brain chemistry and neural pathways that prompt behaviors to begin with.

I’ll start with an analogy. Let’s say you purchase a forward-moving robot, use it for a while, then decide you want it to move backward. You tell it why a ‘backwards’ functionality would enhance it, show it slides and presentations of other robots that move backwards, and attempt to push, cajole, and offer rewards for days on end. Nope. It won’t move backward. But if you program it differently, it will.

What about changing a chair into a table. You put red plastic into a machine that is programmed to spit out a red plastic chair. Once the chair is produced, you can’t make it a table. But you can create a table if you program the machine appropriately at the start.

Changing habits by trying to change habits is merely attempting to change the outcome, what’s already occurred – the output, the habit, the behavior – but failing to reprogram the brain with different instructions.

Sounds obvious. But that’s not what behaviorists are trying to do: Behavior Mod tries to get the robot to move backward by pushing it (and pushing it and pushing it) on a regular basis assuming the repetition will cause permanent change. It’s just not possible to maintain over time without changing the core input instructions to the brain.

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

To understand the full scope of the problem it’s helpful to understand what, exactly, a behavior is. They don’t just arise haphazardly, like coincidences that seem to occur by chance, or stand-alone features.

Behaviors are merely the activity, the output – the forward-moving robot – of our brain’s signaling system, the response to input instructions that travel down a fixed neural pathway and hook up with a set of circuits that generate a behavior.

Where do behaviors originate? Behaviors are Beliefs in action, tangible representations of our core identity factors. Our politics represent our Beliefs. The way we dress, talk; the professions we choose; where we travel and who we marry. Everything we do represents who we are. As the foundational factor, Beliefs determine our actions and must be factored in when considering change or forming a new habit. Current Behavior Mod approaches try to circumvent Beliefs and therein lie the problem.

There is actual science on how behaviors get generated and why we automatically repeat behaviors even when we don’t want to. Here’s a quote from noted Harvard neuroscientist Richard Masland in We Know It When We See It to set the stage:

Our brain has trillions of cell assemblies that fire together automatically. When anything incoming bears even some of the characteristics [of operational circuits], the brain automatically fires the same set of synapses. (pg 143)

I’ll now offer a simplified version of the specifics of how to convince the brain to make the changes that lead to new habits: the science, the neurology, of how messages travel through the brain to become a behavior. It’s only slightly wonky, so hang with me. Once you ‘get it’ you’ll understand how behaviors occur and where change comes from.

NEUROLOGICAL PATHWAY FROM INPUT TO OUTPUT

Generally, each behavior starts off as an input – an idea or command, thought or story – that enters our brains as a meaningless puff of air, an electrochemical vibration (a ‘message’). To keep us congruent, the input gets evaluated against our Mental Models and Beliefs before going further. Is this input a risk? Is it congruent with values?

If the idea goes against who we are, it gets rejected or resisted and does not end up becoming a permanent pathway. Did you ever try to convince someone of a different political persuasion, regardless of the strength of your argument? Nope. We’re not talking rational here, we’re talking electrochemical neurology.

If the vibration is accepted, it gets turned into signals that then seek out similar-enough circuits that translate them into action or output – a behavior. So:

  1. Receive input vibrations (from conversations, thoughts, reading, ideas) and
  2. Compare/test against foundational Beliefs, norms, and history
  3. Get turned into signals that get
  4. Matched with the closest, habituated brain circuits
  5. That translate them into output/action/behavior.

In more scientific language, it looks like this in our brains:

Data/Input -> Risk/Congruence check -> CUE creates signals -> CEN (Central Executive Network) generates/chooses circuits -> Output/behavior.

Or simply stated: Input -> Relevance check -> Programming -> Output

The time it takes a message to go from an input to an output takes 5 one-hundredths of a second. It’s pretty automatic.

THE NEED FOR VALUES-BASED CONGRUENCY

The next important piece is why repetition won’t cause new (permanent) habits. To understand this, it’s important to understand the strength and responsibility of the neural pathway between the input and the output.

All outputs, behaviors, are initiated by signals that trigger them in the first place. Since input messages become signals only AFTER a relevance check and found to be risk free, any potential new habits must go through the same safeguards. There’s a reason why.

One of our brain’s guiding principles is Systems Congruence, or the need to be stable. This need for stability creates our habits that enable us to brush our teeth when we get up in the morning, and take a left turn without major thought. For this reason, our brains seek well-traveled pathways – doing what we’ve always done – regardless of their current efficacy, because they matched our Beliefs at some point and are now habituated and unconscious.

If our Beliefs change and new outputs are required, our system just needs to go back to the drawing board with new inputs, new relevancy check, new signals and new circuits. Otherwise there is no reason for our brains to consider changing. Remember that we’re dealing with brain activity, vibrations, that offer no good/bad judgment on their own. If it was ‘good to go’ at one point, and the brain has no reason to reconsider this, it just keeps on keepin’ on.

Sadly – and the reason new activity fails when Behavior Mod is attempted – if anything tries to change the status quo without being checked for relevance, our brain discards the new input because it may carry risk! The new isn’t sustainable. Ultimately, trying to create new habits without sending wholly new belief-based input instructions – i.e. new programming – cannot cause permanent change because there are no new circuits to administer it!

The good news is that the brain is always willing to create new circuits for new behaviors. It’s called Neurogenesis.

CREATING NEW PROGRAMMING, NEW SIGNALS, NEW BEHAVIORS

To change behaviors permanently, start with new, Belief-based input messages that result in wholly new circuits and outputs:

  • create a new belief-based input/message that
  • generates new signals which
  • create or discover a different arrangement of (existing) circuits
  • leading to new/different behaviors.

Let me tell you a story. A friend said, “I’ve been telling myself I’m a Fat Cow recently. That means it’s time for me to go on another diet.” Obviously this input would lead her to the same circuits (and results) that it used for past diets that she failed at. But if she changed her input signal and told herself instead:

‘I am a healthy person who will research best nutrition choices for my body type and lifestyle and have the discipline to eat the best foods for the rest of my life.’

she would end up with a different set of circuits and different output/behaviors.

Our outputs, our behaviors, are merely responses to inputs that our brain has checked out as congruent with who we are. So change the incoming messaging to one that is Belief-based and takes into account all the elements (Mental Models, history, norms, experience) that might cause risk to the system. Once it’s approved, it will automatically generate new circuits and new, habituated, behaviors.

THE HOW OF CHANGE

I’ve been studying, unpacking, and writing about Choice and Change for over 50 years. It’s been exciting and frustrating: exciting because I continue to learn as new discoveries in brain science emerge, frustrating because science largely studies outputs without curiosity re where, how, or why a signal gets created or chosen to begin with. The concept of Beliefs, or Systems Congruence, is omitted. And yet science now says it understands change comes from Beliefs – but doesn’t know how to get there. I do. It just takes different thinking.

In 2019, I spent a full year unpacking the science of neural pathways and adding some of my understanding about change and congruence into the mix. From this, I developed a 5-hour program program to guide folks through the step-by-step activity of consciously designing permanent habit formation. I’ve trained it to a few hundred people who have had great results. Here you can watch me deliver the first, introductory, hour of the How of Change™ program.

I am passionately interested in enabling people to consciously design new signaling instructions for their brains to output any new habits they seek. My wish is to work with healthcare providers and apps for exercise, healthy eating, meditation and decision making to aid folks seeking to achieve greater health and success. It’s quite possible to add the How of Change capabilities to the front end of Behavior Mod apps so users first change their brains to be ready for permanent change.

If you want to collaborate, or have questions, contact me to discuss ways we can engage those seeking permanent change. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

_______________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.

January 25th, 2021

Posted In: News

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Being Right

While researching my book What? I discovered that when listening to others, we naturally assume we understand what’s meant and don’t question that assumption. But due to the way sound vibrations enter our ears, we actually only accurately hear some unknowable percentage of what is being said.

Here’s what happens that makes accurate understanding so difficult:

  1. We only retain words we hear for approximately 3 seconds, and since spoken words have no spaces between them, our brains must also listen for breaks in breath, tone, and rhythm to differentiate words and meaning.
  2. Throughout our lives, the neural pathways we use when hearing others speak become habituated and normalized, limiting and biasing what we hear as per our comfort and beliefs.
  3. When listening, our brain automatically and haphazardly deletes incoming ideas that are foreign to our beliefs.
  4. After deleting the vibrations that don’t match our historic circuits, our brains fail to tell us what’s been deleted.
  5. Whatever is left after deletions is what we adamantly assume we have heard.

A simple example of this just happened today when I was introduced to someone:

Joe: Hey V. I’d like you to meet my friend Sharon Drew.

V: Hi Sharon.

SDM: Actually, my first name is Sharon Drew.

V: Oh. I don’t know anyone who calls themselves by their first name AND last name.

SDM: Neither do I.

V: But you just told me that’s how you refer to yourself!

Because a double first name was foreign to her, her brain used a habituated pathway for ‘name’, deleting both how Joe introduced us and my correction. She exacerbated the problem by then assuming – as per her habituated knowledge about names – I offered first and last name, again ignoring my explanation. She went on to further assume she was right and I was wrong when I corrected her. Curiosity wasn’t an option. She believed what her brain told her, and acted on the assumption that she was ‘right’.

ASSUMPTIONS RESTRICT AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION

We all do this. Using conventional listening practices, using our normalized subjectivity that we’ve finely honed during our lifetimes, it’s pretty difficult to accurately hear what’s meant without making assumptions; although we prefer to hear accurately, our brains are just set up to routinize and habituate most of what we do and hear – it makes the flow of our daily activities and relationships easy.

But there is a downside: we end up restricting, harming, or diminishing authentic communication, and proceed to self-righteously huff and puff when we believe we’ve heard accurately deeming any correction ‘wrong’.

So: our brain tells us what it wants us to hear and doesn’t tell us what it left out or altered, potentially getting the context, the outcome, the description, or the communication, wrong.

Sometimes we assume the speaker meant something they didn’t mean at all and then act on flawed information. In business it gets costly when, for example, implementations don’t get done accurately, or people are deemed prospects’ and put into the sales pipeline when it could be discovered on the first call that they were never prospects at all.

Assumptions cost us greatly, harming relationships, business success, and health:

  • Sellers assume prospects are buyers when they ‘hear’ a ‘need’ that matches their solution and end up wasting a huge amount of time chasing prospects who will never buy;
  • Consultants assume they know what a client needs from discussions with a few top decision makers while potentially overlooking some unknown influencers or influences, causing resistance to change when they try to push their outcomes into a system that doesn’t yet know how to change;
  • Decision scientists assume they gather accurate data from the people that hired them and discount important data held by employees lower down the management chain, inadvertently skewering the results and making implementation difficult;
  • Doctors, lawyers, dentists assume problems that may not be accurate merely because some of the symptoms are familiar, potentially causing harm – especially when these assumptions keep them from finding out the real problems; they also offer important advice that clients/patients don’t heed when the patients themselves assume their own ability to take care of themselves;
  • Coaches assume clients mean something they are not really saying or skewering the focus of the conversation, ending up biasing the outcome with inappropriate questions that lead the client away from the real issues that never get resolved;
  • Influencers and leaders assume they are ‘heard’ when offering reasons or rational behind behavior change activities, and blame the Other for resisting, ignoring, or sabotaging, when if approached from a Change Facilitation format first, people will be happy to behave in their best interests.

Using normal listening habits we can’t avoid making assumptions. The belief that sharing, pushing, presenting, offering ‘good’ (rational, necessary, tested) information will cause behavior change has proven faulty time and time again, across industries.

LISTEN IN OBSERVER/COACH TO AVOID ASSUMPTIONS

It’s possible to avoid the pitfalls of assumptions and hear what’s being meant by taking the Observer/Coach role (listening dissociatively from the ‘ceiling’ for the metamessage, not the story). From this witness position, it’s actually possible to notice the reality of a situation without most of the biases.

It’s the difference between being in front of a tree and noticing veins on the leaves (listening for content) while failing to notice a fire 2 acres away, vs being on a nearby mountaintop (listening dissociatively for the metamessage) noticing a fire in the forest, but not seeing the veins on the leaves. Both content and metamessage listening are necessary, of course, but at different times in a communication.

I contend we listen first in a dissociative way when new information, a new relationship, collaborative dialogues, or fine data gathering is necessary. Doing so makes it possible to listen in a part of the brain that doesn’t have the habituated neural pathways and filters that our normal listening involves. In other words, we won’t need to make assumptions.

In my book What? there are chapters devoted to explaining how we make the assumptions we make, and how to resolve the problem. It’s an important skill set that we all could use. I don’t know about you, but I personally get so annoyed with myself when I make an assumption that proves wrong, and I lose the possibility of what might have been.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.

January 18th, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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Seems just about all of our activity is being followed and our data collected, put into a predictive model, and sold. Indeed, our personal data – our searches and clicks, our emotions and micro expressions, our intimate conversations – is being collected from friends and family, Alexa, Siri, Google, and even our watches, and then sold to those seeking to profit from it.

Yes, Surveillance Capitalism now owns the internet and puts our every move up for sale.

There is no communication we have, even in our bedrooms, that isn’t potentially captured by some form of technology, ending up in the hands of the Human Futures Market that then sells it to marketers who push content out to us the moment they think we ‘need’ it. George Orwell lives.

With so much knowledge available and for sale about each of us, many, many new companies have emerged to grab our information, ultimately to influence our thoughts or actions in politics, healthcare, entertainment, etc. The list goes on.

We have each become targets, ‘marks’ to be invaded. It’s creepy. Really, really creepy. And I believe it’s unethical.

DOES IT WORK?

I have a practical question. Is this surveillance, invasion and extreme push technology even successful? With all the information collected, are more sales per person being closed? I’m sure on aggregate there are more purchases, just by sheer numbers. But per person, even for those who had been considering a purchase, I’m not so sure it works. After all, having this data doesn’t guarantee the person is seeking to buy THIS or buy it NOW or in the form suggested.

The predictive/push technology is merely a shot in the dark with a hope of hitting pay-dirt often enough to pay for itself. Are any of us truly swayed to buy when we get an email sent by SEE BETTER OPTICALS ten minutes after telling a friend on the phone that we need new glasses? This isn’t conjecture, btw. It just happened to my sister. ‘How did they know I was just talking about buying glasses?’ she asked. Her Apple watch was listening in.

I find these practices to be counter to any ethical sales approach for at least two reasons:

  1. Assumed readiness: when Siri knows you’re in a bad mood, or your watch ‘notices’ you’re having a bad day, (Send her the ad for that new sweater she’s been eyeing!) does that mean you’ll buy NOW? Or that you’re eager to receive a text message? Certainly some percentage will buy given the vast numbers of people being targeted. That doesn’t make it ethical.
  2. Ethics: is it really ethical for strangers to surreptitiously steal our personal data so companies can get their needs met, so they can bother us, inundate us with ads and texts and emails and and and? The assumption is that we’ve ‘given our permission’ to share our data. But have we? My God, these creepy capabilities even know how fast we walk (and assume if we slow down we’re noticing something that can be sold to us). Does this match a company’s brand values? Are they selling their souls? Well, yes. And that’s their business model.

The new business model seems to be to sell at all costs. And by ‘sell’ they mean shove an ad in front of you at your most vulnerable moment. But is that selling? I contend it’s not.

I suppose it can be said that advertisers sold their souls long ago. But we understood ads on sites or TV to be pitches for products that we could watch/listen to or ignore and flip past, there when we needed that particular item. Now they collect ALL of our data and send us personalized ads, not by market research but by, well, stealing.

THE SELLER AS GRIFTER

Until now, market research has been a fair model to collect prospective buyer data and interest. It’s always been assumed that with a good solution, a great presentation or well-placed content, a prospective buyer would notice and consider buying. That’s fair.

But I contend that the overarching goal of selling everything to everyone any time some sort of trigger is set off – according to the sales needs of the group that purchased your data – is not only creepy but out of integrity.

People don’t consider themselves buyers until they’ve already determined they can’t fix something themselves and understand the ‘cost’ of doing something different. Until then they are merely seeking the most effective, efficient route to fixing a problem themselves.

AN EXAMPLE OF GOOD MARKETING

I pulled my last book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? from the publisher when they wanted me to make changes I wasn’t willing to make. I was quite happy with that decision, but I then had to find readers. Since my natural audience was in sales and change management, I didn’t have a natural audience of folks seeking to learn how to listen without bias. What to do? I had to find an audience.

Knowing people don’t have interest in information unless they are specifically seeking to add something new to their knowledge base, I figured folks wouldn’t naturally have interest in the book because everyone (wrongly) believes they know how to ‘listen’. So I thought about who my natural reading audience might be: business folks seeking ethical approaches.

To this end, I wrote an article called Meetings: the purpose, the pain, the possibility that merely offered great tips on how to run very efficient meetings (no mention at all about listening), with links in the footer to the new book. I got emails from companies around the world thanking me for the article and saying they were passing it on to all their employees. The article had a 54% conversion rate – straight to my book! No need to capture eyeballs or pitch how terrific my book was. I just needed to offer helpful information they found useful.

In my opinion, this new Surveillance Marketing model is making grifters of sellers. Is this really what we are now – predators who seek any chance, any opening, to make a sale, regardless of the ethics? Regardless of how our intrusions are affecting people? Is this the only way we can close or find new business? Is this our new competitive advantage?

Really? Has it come to this? Is this the only way we can make money or sell our solutions? If it is, shame on us.

___________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.

January 11th, 2021

Posted In: Sales

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Servent Leadership

I became enamored of the concept Servant Leadership in the 1980s. Developed by Robert Greenleaf, it’s defined thus: a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. Greenleaf says, “The servantleader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.”

Such an important concept, yet the skills to practice it elude us. I’d like to help change that.

THE BIAS PROBLEM

As a Buddhist, I deeply believe that serving one another is a necessary aspect of our lives. But the communication skill sets inherent in our culture don’t make it easy for influencers to truly serve:

  • Conventional questions are little more than interrogations based on the needs/biases of the Asker, thereby restricting the full set of possible responses. Obviously this causes flawed data gathering, missed opportunities, resistance, loss of success, and damaged relationships.
  • With our subjective listening filters, biases, assumptions, triggers, and habituated neural pathways, normal listening restricts us to hearing mainly what our brains want us to hear. Obviously, our range of understanding is restricted accordingly.
  • Information – regardless of its accuracy, importance, or presentation – cannot be accepted or accurately interpreted when it flies in the face of the Other’s Beliefs. It’s just not possible for information gathering or sharing to elicit permanent change, regardless of its efficacy.
  • Influencers tend to focus on Behavior Change, forgetting that Behaviors are merely translations of our Beliefs – Beliefs in action if you will. Once we enable Others to change their own unconscious Beliefs, their Behavior will automatically change. And we will have served them.
  • Too many influencers (coaches, parents, sellers, leaders, etc.) seek methods to push their agendas using convincing, manipulating, explaining, advising, etc. strategies meant to influence, manipulate, modify, correct, what we think Others should do, causing resistance in all but a few.

With our current skill sets, we end up pushing our own agendas (in the name of the Other, of course), according to our subjective needs, beliefs, and goals (using our ‘professionalism’ and ‘intuition’ to tell ourselves we’re ‘right’) and restrict the full set of possibilities, ignoring the Other’s unique choices.

We assume that we have the moral high ground, that because our intention is honorable, the only missing piece is ‘how best’ to get Others to do what we think they should do.

I once ran a Buying Facilitation® training for The Covey Leadership Center. They staunchly believed that because they were teaching The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, they had the right to push and manipulate.

We forget that by assuming we have Another’s answers we end up taking their power away, assuredly biasing the direction of their growth journey, and not serving them at all. And this actually causes the resistance we receive, and then we blame them – prospects seem ‘stupid’, patients ‘don’t care’ about their health, students ‘don’t want’ to learn, and clients ‘won’t listen’ to us – for resisting.

WHY WE CAN’T CHANGE OTHERS EVEN WITH GOOD MOTIVES

We know someone needs to stop smoking, or eat differently. We are certain the environment is in trouble. But we don’t seem to have the ability to get Others to change. We provide all the scientific evidence, relate a story of someone who has died, or offer different approaches to stop. We know that a company or group really, really needs our solution. And yet they persist with failing results rather than change.

What is going on? Why would anyone prefer to maintain failure rather than change? Seems that way, but it’s not entirely accurate. Everyone would prefer Excellence, but conventional practices do not effectively manage the unconscious that would need to buy-in to, and accommodate for, any change.

Let’s start with our attempts to have Another change a behavior. Our failures are due to the ways our brains have created and maintained our status quo:

  1. Threatening the system: Our status quo – our Mental Models, our unique ‘system’ of rules, Beliefs, values, experiences, culture, etc. – has become habituated and normalized over time. This system that has developed the Behaviors we think need to be changed but which actually enable us to show up as who we are. We wake up daily, and maintain whoever we were yesterday, without judgement. Our system just IS, good or bad, right or wrong. And it will fight to the death to maintain itself. Literally.
  2. Change Behaviors: Behaviors are merely Beliefs in action. When we try to change nothing but the Behavior, we push against the entire system. Regardless of the efficacy of a different solution or a dire need, unless the change comes from the within the system (i.e. not an outsider’s brilliant suggestions) and the system is reorganized around the ‘new’, it will be resisted.
  3. Information doesn’t get heard: Our brains/ears hear subjectively, filtering out and misconstruing what’s not comfortable, failing to tell us that what we think we hear is most likely some fraction off of what the Speaker intended.
  4. Ignore the steps to change: As outsiders, we too often use our intuition and professed knowledge to push the change we want. But for any change to occur, for the Other’s Beliefs to shift in a way that causes Behaviors to change, the system must take specific, albeit unconscious steps: to include the change into normal operating procedures, end up with minimal disruption, and achieve buy-in for any new behavior change.

Our current approach leads to a high degree of bias, resistance, and failure as we promote changes that challenge Another’s status quo. We don’t realize that anything ‘new’ must fit with the status quo or it gets rejected. We don’t realize we’re actually causing the resistance we receive.

And resist they do – not because our data or goals aren’t worthy or necessary, and not because they don’t want to change per se, but because our good will, shared information, and ‘push’ tactics conflict with the Other’s unconscious system that protects itself from unknowable disruption.

Indeed, any modifications to the status quo would have to be performed in a way would leave the system congruent. The system would rather be as it is, than not exist. And the time it takes for the system to accept and make room for the ‘new’ is the length of time it takes for adoption. With the best will in the world our suggestions challenge their Systems Congruence.

And unfortunately, as doctors and sellers, trainers and consultants, parents and coaches – as influencers – we don’t have the skills to do more than attempt to cause the change WE think is needed, rather than elicit it. We don’t naturally possess the skills of Servant Leadership.

GIVE UP INDIVIDUAL NEEDS

True Servant Leadership enables others to elicit their own congruent change. We need new skills that facilitate Others, and a switch in perspective to enabling Others to discover their own answers by facilitating Another’s change, offering real leadership.

I’ve spent my life coding and training the unconscious route through to choice and change. Although I’ve used it in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), it’s actually a generic Change Facilitation model that offers the tools to enable Others to discover their own Excellence, an Excellence that complies with their own Beliefs, an Excellence that can be eagerly, joyously adopted because it operates from within their status quo.

Servant Leadership assumes:

  1. Others have their own answers and are the only ones who can effect their own change. An outsider (regardless of intent, need, or efficacy of message) can never, ever, fully understand the inner workings of Another’s unconscious system. Our responsibility is to lead them through the pathway to change themselves.
  2. We only have questions for Another, not answers. And since conventional questions are biased interrogations (biased by the wording, the intent, and the goal of the Asker) that may miss important, hidden, elements necessary for the Other to elicit their change criteria, I’ve designed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that lead Others through their own trajectory of change to discover their own answers, in a way that causes new understanding and decision making.
  3. There is no way for an outsider to have THE ANSWERS for Another. They have no knowledge of the systemic elements that created and maintain the problem and that must buy-in to any change.
  4. To listen without bias or misunderstanding, we must practice Dissociative Listening to avoid the filters, bias, assumptions, and triggers that are part of our normal listening. [Note: for those interested in learning Dissociative Listening, read Chapter 6 in What?.]

Decades ago, I mapped the sequential steps of systemic choice, change, and decision making enabling people to discover their own best choices that match the rules and values of their internal system. These steps traverse a pathway from the unconscious through to buy-in and Systems Congruence so change is comfortably adopted.

I have taught these skill sets to influencers in business, coaching, leadership, and healthcare to assist in facilitating permanent, congruent change: to help buyers buy, to help coaches, leaders, and doctors elicit congruent, permanent change, to help learners learn permanently – eliciting the core of the unconscious HOW to facilitate Another’s excellence their own way – to find their own answers.

So what would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to begin interactions as a Servant Leader rather than a coach, parent, seller, leader? How can you know, given the skill sets and foundations are so different, that it’s worth taking the time to add new skill sets to the ones you already use? Imagine having the skills that truly enable Others to find their own Excellence. Imagine being a true Servant Leader.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.

January 4th, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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Ever since the serpent convinced Eve to eat the apple there’s been someone trying to sell something. The original idea was fairly simple: find folks with a problem, then create and sell a product that will fix it.

For centuries, companies worked hard to understand customer needs then create good products to fill those needs. With limited reach and communication tools, early sellers went around to neighbor’s homes and showed their wares; those with money advertised in the most prestigious magazines (TIME, LOOK, LIFE). Sellers closed 25 – 40% back in the day.

Forward a few decades to Silicon Valley that began creating products because they could, with little concern for need, assuming ‘if they build it they will come.’ Using technology to covertly track and gather huge swaths of data, sellers used their new marketing metrics, human behavior predictors, and an ‘understanding’ of sales demographics to reach high-probability buyers.

Theoretically it became possible to cheaply find those who might need a solution after it was already created, and sell by sending ‘possible buyers’ some ‘targeted messages’ and play the percentages. Given the low cost per touchpoint, sellers only needed a small percentage to take the bait for the investment to pay for itself.

INSANITY

So did it work? Did more sales close? During this new era of using technology, of creating solutions first and then finding potential buyers, sales fell. Here are the actual numbers: according to numbers averaged out from my own clients (Fortune 1000 companies), email marketing closes 0.0059%; sales professionals close less than 5%.

But those numbers don’t seem to matter to the field as it continues to use the same thinking that caused the numbers to begin with. Sales just pushes harder, always assuming they only have to find buyers. Build it and they will come indeed.

To me, those numbers matter. They tell me the industry is failing: A 5% close rate means a 95% failure rate! There is no other industry that finds a 95% failure rate acceptable. No one would even go to a hairdresser with a 95% failure rate. Imagine getting on a plane with a 95% failure rate!

Yet this hasn’t caused a re-think; it’s merely caused sellers to seek more targeted prospects, use more technology, gather more private data, all with the assumption that with better data, sellers can pitch better and close more. And yet, with all the expenditure and brilliant minds working on the problem, the numbers continue to go down as the field continues to attempt to place solutions.

At no point has the sales industry wondered why their sophisticated technology doesn’t close more sales. Well, there’s been a bit of movement: When I began writing about internal buying decisions and decision makers (starting with my first book Sales on the Line in 1992 on facilitating buying decisions) the sales industry fought back (“I know how my buyers decide!!”). Eventually the field took decision makers into consideration (“Yup. A great way in! Let’s include them because they’re smart enough to buy when they hear the facts and how they need us.”), but only as a way to prompt sales.

At no point has the industry realized there might be something going on within a prospect’s environment that causes and maintains the problem the sellers want to fix. At no point has the system, the environment, that prospective buyers live in been a real consideration.

And so it continues. The thinking has remained steadfast: It’s all about the sale. Just find the eyeballs, predict and influence the behavior, and you’ll sell whatever.

SALES USES INCOMPLETE THINKING

Take a moment and think with me, given I suspect that if ‘need’ were the criteria for a purchase, more folks would be buying. And they’re not. Why? Maybe the problem isn’t about what you’re selling.

The industry recognizes that over 40% of a buying decision is based on internal change criteria (i.e. nothing to do with buying anything) and occurs before sales gets involved. So why aren’t sellers doing anything about this? Trying to ‘understand’ to get in and sell misses the point.

Let’s look at the facts. You’ve hired good professional folks, successful, with good instincts. Your marketing materials are great. You’ve learned how to pitch and present your material perfectly. And yet you’re closing less sales than occurred decades ago, when you didn’t have all the technology.

Obviously the problem is not your product or solution. The problem is on the buying decision end and more complicated than the sales model has tools for. There seems to be a gap between the moment people consider themselves buyers and seek solutions, and what and how sellers are selling; the push for eyeballs and understanding don’t address the Pre-Sales, non-buying portion of a buyer’s journey that is focused on change.

But you’re doing nothing about it. With a continued focus on placing solutions, it’s a different mind-set to think about change facilitation as a first step in finding a home for your products.

That’s where the bulk of real buyers are. And you’re ignoring them. They don’t heed your solution data, don’t want appointments, don’t read your marketing materials. They’re just not ready. But they will be. And they can be.

Think with me about the changes in decision making and leadership. Businesses have become sophisticated, as employees and customers and partners are global; leadership is no longer top-down and more inclusive and collaborative.

Given the complexity of environments and their increasingly multifaceted dynamics, and the issues that come up when a problem arises that needs resolving, it’s just not possible for anyone to purchase a new solution on their own. There are just too many consequences with relationships and job functions, chains of command and responsibility to other business practices and partners.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT FUNCTION

To address the complexity, a buying decision has become a change management function before reaching the stage of a solution choice problem.

And the sales industry hasn’t kept up. Instead of helping facilitate the change issues first, it’s still trying to sell, to place solutions, to find buyers, almost at any cost (hacking, spam, false advertising…), insuring they only close the 5% who have already completed their change process on their own.

But the answer is so much cheaper and simpler (and has integrity and far greater success): It’s possible to find those who will seek change in the area your solution can help by putting on a change facilitator’s hat and leading them through the changes they must address before seeing their way clear to buying. And then selling.

By then you’ll both agree to the need, and the sale will be based on values and a real relationship.

Walk with me now through the history of buying decisions.

LET’S LOOK AT BUYING

Originally if there was a need, whoever was in charge would just make a purchase. Now, there are complex decisions to be made even for simple purchases: the days of a single-person purchasing decision are gone; everyone must be involved to fix problems or find workarounds or manage change before any purchase can be considered.

Indeed, all purchases involve some sort of change. It’s a systems problem. You can’t just wake up one day and decide to buy something and ignore everyone else who has a stake in maintaining the status quo.

  • If you’re a member of a family and considering moving to a larger house when the kids get older, you don’t begin by calling a realtor. You begin by discussing everyone’s problems and needs, first figuring out if it’s possible fix your house to avoid the disruption of a move. It’s only when the full fact patterns emerge from everyone – needs, fears, current responsibilities, future plans – does the group come up with a solution. It’s not about the house.
  • What about buying a CRM app? I bet you don’t read about a new one on Monday, buy it on Tuesday, then tell everyone it’s arriving to be implemented on Wednesday. Why not? Because whoever uses the CRM needs to be consulted; tech folks need to give a heads up; and then users would have to buy-in to any changes. You’d probably first try to fix what you’ve been using to avoid the downtime or cost. It’s got nothing to do with the new CRM app.

People who need to fix a problem must not only rearrange some of the status quo, but also must have the buy-in and implementation procedures in place before they buy anything. It’s imperative: they must do this anyway, with you or without you. Might as well be with you. You wait (and push, and lower price) while they do so.

But you’ll need to begin with a different thinking and skill set. Rather than pushing pushing pushing product data at someone you guess might have a need, just learn to recognize someone who WILL buy once they’ve managed their change and facilitate them through the steps of change that lead to a purchase.

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

Why continue to build your strategies on selling solutions when the sticking point is in the buying? People don’t really want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the lowest cost to the system. And change is the key at this early stage. Regardless of need or the brilliance of a product or the efficacy of a new solution, nothing will be bought, no solution will be purchased, if the new disrupts the system.

A buying decision is a change management problem well before it’s a solution choice issue. Making a purchase is the last – the last – thing anyone does. Indeed, among the 13 stages of a buy cycle buying is stages 10-13 and the decision/change process stages 1-9 (See my book on these stages.).

This is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of new buyers. And they really, really need help, as figuring out all the stakeholders and the downsides of the change takes them quite a long time… it’s the length of the sales cycle.

Why has the sales industry overlooked this? It’s where the real decisions get made. Nothing, nothing, nothing, to do with your solution and the reason folks still in their change stages don’t heed your marketing or pitches or don’t return calls.

When they’re considering their change issues, they are not yet buyers. Maintaining a working system is their highest criteria: they people will not buy if the ‘cost’ of the fix is greater than the cost of the status quo.

Here are a few bullets to think about:

  1. Without the ‘buying’ the ‘selling’ doesn’t have a role. Yet sales continues to think of ‘buying’ through the lens of ‘selling’. It’s wrong. The ‘buying’ should be looked at through the lens of ‘change management’ first.
  2. Sellers can’t understand buyers. They’ll never know the weight of influence of ‘Joe in Accounting’, or the history of two feuding teams who have to share budget to buy a new solution, or the relationship shared between their old vendor they’d need to get rid of to buy your solution. People who might become buyers must manage all this before looking for outside solutions. It has nothing to do with sales, solutions, needs or selling.
  3. Sellers can never know what that that a prospective buyer’s change configuration is as outsiders can’t know or assess the variables that capture the ‘cost.’ The current state has been good-enough for now; it can continue if the cost of change is too high.
  4. Just because someone has a need doesn’t mean they’re a buyer.
  5. The time it takes all stakeholders to
    1. know they must seek an external solution because their workaround doesn’t help,
    2. change with the least disruption,
    3. manage the implementation with the least fallout,
    4. get buy-in from all who will be effected by bringing in something new,

6. By focusing only on finding folks with ‘need’, sales reduces the number of potential buyers down to the low hanging fruit (i.e. a 5% close), those who show up after having completed their change.
7. By entering with a change management hat on and focusing first on facilitating change it’s possible to find 8x more prospects – those in the process of becoming buyers but haven’t yet completed their change management – and facilitate them down their decision path. My clients using my Buying Facilitation®method close 40% against the control groups that close 5.2%.
8. It’s possible to find those who will become buyers on the first call – but not with a sales hat on.

It has nothing to do with need, seller, or solution. I can’t say this enough.

It’s time for sales to begin the sales process by facilitating buying decisions as an add-on to their approach. I am not taking away selling from the equation, just adding new thinking to help people buy. After all, without buyers, what are you doing anyway?

________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). 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.

December 21st, 2020

Posted In: News

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