By Sharon Drew Morgen

Like most folks in the world right now, I’m homebound. Not homebound, exactly; the new term is ‘shelter in place’ or ‘home stay.’ But I’m not entirely in the house. Each day I take a 2 mile walk. I go out to buy groceries. Plus I live in a houseboat, and spend time daily sitting on my deck on the Columbia River, watching the ducks, sea lions and cormorants go by. Not to mention taking a daily paddle up the river. So I’m not staring at the walls all day.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My clients have shifted to phone work and WebEx meetings, but I still have work and I’ve always disliked flying anyway. Most of my days are spent writing – my weekly blog article and my new book that I finally have time to write – so I have a creative focus.

And frankly, I don’t mind too much. As an Aspie, I don’t seek out social connections anyway. I don’t go to bars, and eat out only occasionally with friends who are equally happy to share food in our homes.

But as someone who believes in the greater good, I believe if one of us is hurting we’re all hurting. And so many of us are now, or soon will be, hurting. Hourly workers won’t have money to pay rent; small business are closing and putting employees out of work; people who are ill can’t get the tests or medical attention they need; children can’t go to school causing a multitude of family problems. So many people. So much suffering. And this will go on for god-knows how long.

So I was thinking. For those of us lucky enough to be receiving regular paychecks regardless of whether or not we can get to an office; for those of us with spare time to serve; for those of us with enough money in the bank to make it through for the long haul, I believe we must serve those in need. I propose the following:

  1. Find a person, family, or group to donate to. It doesn’t have to be a large sum. Maybe help one family with the rent or a week of groceries. When there’s no money coming in, every bit helps relieve the stress and fear.
  2. Volunteer your time to babysit or ‘homeschool’ kids for a day or a week, so parents who are able to work on site can do so.
  3. Find ways to use the internet to support clients in a new way, or reach out to remain connected with friends so you’re not so isolated. Obviously this is a no brainer. But do it.
  4. Start a blog; share your thoughts, fears, experiences with friends, family, and neighbors. By communicating mutual concerns, by sharing your deep thoughts and worries, you’ll feel a bit less alone and the group consciousness may take over. Who knows, you might have a good idea for someone, or you might have an extra blanket, or a roll of toilet paper for a neighbor.

If we’re lucky enough to support our own ‘stay cation’ we must share whatever it is we’ve got with those who don’t. We’re all on the same ship. We’re all vulnerable in one way or another. Each one of us is dealing with the same issues, albeit differently. While some of us are bored, or missing the repartee amongst colleagues; while some of us feel confined by the ‘four walls’ we don’t quite notice in the few hours we’re usually home; while some of us (I’ve read) are eating too much junk food; we’re still alive and well and truly, we can’t complain.

Let’s share what we’ve got. I believe in a world where people care about each other and do what we can to minimize harm. There’s just no way to get around the fact that at this juncture, we can’t afford to be selfish. We’re a global family. We all have hopes and dreams, families and lives to be fulfilled. In these difficult times, let’s remember we’re all in it together. Let’s take care of each other please.

__________________________

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

March 23rd, 2020

Posted In: News

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What are decisions?While the perceived wisdom defines decision making as the process used to select new actions among several possibilities, I see decisions as more complex: I believe they represent change management problems, and current decision making often overlooks the full set of actions necessary to achieve optimal results. After all, unless a new decision can be implemented without resistance, and stands the test of time, it can be seen as a flawed judgment.

Because we forget that decisions don’t reside in a vacuum, we often restrict ourselves to weighting facts and uncertainty, or gathering information, and overlook the need to use unbiased thinking, facilitate buy-in from the relevant stakeholders (or synapses) and figure out how a new decision would effect the status quo.

Decision making based on comparative choice between ‘best’ or ‘rational’ or ‘good data’ is incomplete. Unless a new choice is adopted, accepted, and recognized as a fit to the beliefs and rules of the status quo, it won’t be adopted, regardless of its relevance. And no new action – to adopt an idea, buy something, agree to negotiation terms, change a habit – will occur otherwise.

GOOD DATA IS NOT ENOUGH

With the most accurate data, the most efficient solution, or the very best idea or moral righteousness, until or unless there’s agreement and a path in place for integration and adoption, a path that includes buy in and excludes resistance nothing will change. We can be right, smart, efficient, and moral – and buy-in can elude us regardless of how ‘right’ or ‘rational’ or necessary the new decision would be. Any new decision, any new choice, requires compliance with the norms of the entity making the change.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky originally said that people make ‘casino decisions’: they gather probabilistic possibilities and calculate the best route between them. But after years of trial and error they found the focus on helping people make ‘good’, ‘rational’ decisions to be of “limited success”. According to Michael Lewis’s new book The Undoing Project, Kahneman said it was necessary to evaluate a decision “not by its outcomes – whether it turned out to be right or wrong – but by the process that led to it.”

If rational action were all we needed, there’d be a lot less failure. We each have plenty of data showing us  that even with right on our side, even with the best data, the most necessary outcome, we can end up making ‘bad’ decisions.

To make sure a decision will be successful, it’s necessary to plan a route to stakeholder buy in and change management before even considering weighted criteria, data, or ‘rational facts’ (all restricted by our unconscious biases that limit our search and curiosity).

HOW SUBJECTIVE BIAS SABOTAGES US

Our current decision making process limits the full range of possible outcomes. We must learn to question our intuition and assumptions, and begin by managing our systemic, unconscious, subjective biases.

Let me explain my shift in focus. As humans, we make hundreds of small and large decisions a day. Most of them are quick, simple, and vary on a continuum between conscious and unconscious: which jacket to wear, where to go on vacation, whether or not to say something or keep quiet. When we think something is missing or incomplete and seek a different outcome, we weight and consider facts or givens against our personal criteria (beliefs, values, history, knowledge, assumptions).

When considering choices, a lot is happening unconsciously. And this is where we need to add conscious choice because we’re always comparing the new consideration against the status quo. Without factoring in our internal assessments to ensure anything new will match our hierarchies of beliefs and values (usually unconscious), a decision to do anything different runs the risk of resistance and non compliance.

Indeed, it’s only when we’re convinced that our status quo seems lacking and the new choices feel either more accurate or comfortable, are we willing to adopt anything new. In other words, even if it would behoove us to make a new decision, if we’re comfortable with our status quo we won’t seek change.

This is particularly costly when teams seeking new choices restrict the range of possibilities: facts get researched and weighted according to the goals of a limited group of leaders and the most acceptable sources; assessments get made against accepted industry norms; and value structure of the status quo seems to be the authority on what’s acceptable.

Indeed, long before we determine possible options for choices we give ourselves over to our unconscious beliefs and subjective biases. If we don’t believe climate change has a human component, for example, we won’t feel the need to decide on which recycle bin to purchase, and will find ‘rational’ reasons not to believe a scientific argument filled with proven facts, regardless of its efficacy.

WHAT’S OUTSIDE OUR CONSCIOUS CHOICE

Without first uncovering our unconscious drivers during a decision making process, we end up biasing our outcomes before we barely begin:

  • we only consider as relevant, or sanctioned, a tiny portion of available data that makes sense to us, thereby restricting our data gathering and baseline metrics severely;
  • we dismiss, ignore, restrict, and resist any incoming data that runs counter to our values, beliefs, biases, and internal status quo, regardless of its relevancy;
  • we define ‘rational’ according to our own beliefs, thereby biasing results;
  • our unconscious biases take in, or leave out, potentially important data when our subjective filters interpret information.

As humans living in our personal, idiosyncractic worlds, we work hard to maintain our mental models and our synapses, synaptic connections, and neural pathways that keep them in place. Sadly, we seek to maintain our status quo regardless of the facts, the need, the relevance, or the weighted averages or the ‘rational’ choice.

Make no mistake: regardless of what we decide, our unconscious is always making what it believes to be its best choice for us. I don’t believe there is such a thing as an irrational decision; it’s always rational to our unconscious.

Think about this: Have you ever said to yourself “I think I’ll make an irrational decision”? ‘Irrational’ is a subjective term used by outsiders judging our output against their own beliefs and standards. I always ask, “Irrational according to who?” After all, science is merely a story in time, and ‘facts’ change (Remember when eggs were bad? Or when making an online purchase was a risk?), and there are oh-so-many to choose from!

Using a new type of question I developed (Facilitative Questions) to enable discovery, I once helped a friend decide on what to do with her attic. For years she fought herself on different types of wood and floor plan/design and couldn’t form a decision to take action because of her confusion. When we got to her unconscious she realized she hated her house, but hadn’t wanted to admit that to herself because moving would uproot her family. She had unconsciously delayed her decision, consciously focusing on entirely different issues to avoid dealing with a much larger problem. She was stuck considering the ‘wrong’ decision criteria for 3 years.

When we ignore our unconscious, we either delay a decision because it doesn’t feel right, gather data from insufficient sources, use partial data and miss the full picture or possibilities, or face a lack of buy-in, sabotage, or resistance. To get a good decision, we need to expand our scope of possibility. We can never get it ‘right’, but we can get it ‘righter.’

IS IMPLEMENTATION NECESSARY?

One of my beliefs is that without achieving a congruent output that’s acceptable to all and fits with the norms and values of the status quo, a decision will fail regardless of the accuracy of the facts. This is quite prevalent in among the Decision Scientist community. After keynoting to 200 Decision Scientists on Facilitating Decision Making a few years ago, I sat with them afterword and listened to them loudly bemoan the 97% implementation failure rate (Sadly, a common problem in the field.) they face. Here was part of our Q&A.

SDM: How do you prepare for a smooth implementation, or encourage buy-in?

We provide the best options as per our research. It’s their problem if they can’t implement. Our job is to find the right solutions and hand them over.

SDM: How do you acquire accurate criteria to design your research?

    We speak with folks who want the decision.

SDM: If you’re only speaking to a subset (influencers, superiors, clients) of users, how can buy-in be achieved – even with good data and rational choices – if the full set of facts are possibly not being considered? Aren’t you limiting your fact-gathering to a predisposed subset? Aren’t you moving forward without consideration of those who may be involved at some point, have unique goals and data, and resist implementing decisions well outside their value structure?

     Not our problem.

SDM: How can say you’re offering a ‘good decision’ if some of those who need to use the decision aren’t ready, willing, or able to adopt it because their reality was excluded from the initial data gathering?

We gather criteria from the folks who hire us, from recognized sources, and weight the probabilities. We give them good data. Feelings have nothing to do with it. Rational data is rational data.

They wouldn’t even consider that by doing initial fact-gathering from as large a set of people involved as possible, they’d not only acquire a larger set of identified goals, understand the foundational beliefs and values necessary to uphold the status quo, they’d set the stage for follow-on buy-in.

When we restrict the possibilities and people needed to define the criteria for a decision,

  • we can’t gather the full data set decide with,
  • alienate those would benefit from the outcome of the decision,
  • cede control to our very subjective, and biased, unconscious.

How can we take action if it goes against our unconscious drivers, regardless of the efficacy of the available information? How can we know where to gather data from if we only pursue a biased segment of what’s available? How can we know if our decisions will be optimal if we’re being unconsciously restricted by our subjective biases and do not gather data from, recognize, or realize that we are restricting the full set of possibilities?

WHAT DOES OUR UNCONSCIOUS WANT?

In order to make our best decisions we (even teams and families) must integrate our conscious with our unconscious and find a route that expands scope and possibility without provoking resistance.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

What are my gut thoughts about what a new result would look like, act like, achieve? Am I comfortable with a change? Am I willing to contain/expand the parameters of the status quo? What would cause me to resist?

How far outside of my own beliefs am I willing to go to make sure I have as expansive a range of possible data as possible? Or must I maintain my current parameters (beliefs, or external mandates) regardless of the restrictions this poses on the outcome?

Should I add to what I already know? Or am I willing to explore what’s outside of my knowledge base that may make me uncomfortable? Where would I find acceptable resources to explore – and what would I find unacceptable?

What do I need to believe to be willing to consider data that I don’t ordinarily trust…and what, exactly constitutes trust?

Is there an inclusive idea that’s a ‘chunk up’ from my starting place that might encourage expansive consideration? I.e. if resistance is apparent, is there an idea, an outcome, which encapsulates the proposed change that doesn’t cause resistance? If everyone is fighting over house ownership in a divorce, maybe everyone can agree that a house is necessary for everyone’s well-being and move forward from there.

STEPS TO BETTER DECISION MAKING

There is a point when gathering data is necessary. But when? Here are steps to knowing when it’s time:

  1. Make sure all stakeholders, influencers, and unconscious drivers are involved in the initial problem description, data gathering and outcome-setting.
  2. Get internal (personal or team) agreement for the beliefs, norms, and values that a final solution should/shouldn’t entail.
  3. Make sure all stakeholders understand the upsides and downsides to all potential outcomes.
  4. Elicit concerns, fears, beliefs that any change would bring.
  5. Elicit hopes and viewpoints as to best outcomes, goals, and options.
  6. Everyone involved do research on data sources, studies, comparative projects, possible problems (or personally, research all brainstormed possibilities) using agreed-upon resources for data gathering, testing, parameters for results.
  7. Make sure a plan is in place to manage any disruption that the New will bring,
  8. Reach consensus, then begin a typical decision analysis/weighting.

With this approach, your testing and data gathering will have the possibility of being more reliable and complete, will reach the broadest parameters of choice, possibility, agreement, and will encourage buy-in for action. You’ll also be in place for implementing without resistance. Again, the final decision may not be ‘right’ because no decisions ever are, but it will certainly be ’righter.’

*For those wishing an expanded discussion/explanation of how to generate unbiased choice, read Chapter 6 of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. I’ve also coded the sequential steps the brain travels en route to choice, and developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that facilitates decision making and congruent change, for use in sales, coaching, negotiating, and leadership.

_________________________

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.

March 16th, 2020

Posted In: Change Management

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How many times have you tried to sell an idea to a colleague, only to have it be misunderstood or ignored? Or offered important knowledge in a marketing piece or sales pitch meant to encourage or educate a prospect to buy, only to have it overlooked? Why don’t patients follow new healthcare regimens prescribed by doctors they trust, to heal an illness they know they have?

I began thinking about this recently when I heard a noted leader in healthcare say: “There is a persistent consensus that insufficient evidence exists that behavior can be modified.” Hmmm. And yet the industry is throwing hundreds of millions of dollars researching Behavior Modification (without a parallel model to test it against! So much for the scientific method.). This is similar to my own aphorism, after decades of facilitating prospect buy-in in the sales industry: “Selling doesn’t cause buying.” Both recognize that the outside-in push method for causing compliance isn’t an effective way to elicit permanent change. Indeed: as outsiders, we’re trying to cause behavior change, rather than elicit it.

WHO’S INSANE?

The common thread behind both is the enduring belief (even with a 5% success rate in sales, and a only  fraction of patients complying with necessary health-based regimens) that with the ‘right’ idea and the ‘best’ data, offered by someone who is ‘trustworthy’ and ‘credible’, written, offered, or spoken in a way that ‘inspires’ action, that people will act as they ‘should’ and make the ‘right’ choices we’re ‘certain’ they need to make.

But they’re not. And instead of recognizing that maybe we’ve got it wrong, that maybe we’re looking at the problem from the wrong angle while doing the same thing over and over hoping to get the results we want, we’re calling THEM irrational?? Seems to me we’re the very definition of insanity.

Is it any wonder people aren’t compliant? Pushing OUR ideas, OUR beliefs, OUR biases, OUR assumptions, onto another, in the format WE’VE chosen, assuming because we’re right, or smarter, or caring, or ‘scientific’ or or or, that they’ll do what WE want them to do! And then we’re surprised at the paucity of compliance?

We know this doesn’t work. For decades, if not centuries, sellers, coaches, leaders, and now healthcare providers, have bemoaned the lack of success we’ve achieved (even building failure into our expected results) with our push methods. And yet we continue, hoping that we’ll say it right this time, or offer impeccable research data, or use terrific apps, or pitches, or marketing that will instigate permanent change or decisions in our favor. Has it never occurred that just maybe outside-in push doesn’t work? Or is it just that we don’t know what else to do?

THE FAILURE OF PUSH

Selling doesn’t cause buying. Good content creation doesn’t cause action. Behavior Modification doesn’t cause behavior change. Do you see a pattern here? As reflected in our failed attempts across industries and time, an external push – regardless of how trustworthy, or researched, or ‘rational’, or necessary as it may be – cannot cause another person to change permanently.

As outsiders, we forget: change is an inside job. Yet our activity – all sales models and healthcare apps, coaching models and leadership trends – focuses on attempting to cause change from the outside. With our reports and regimens, proof and advice, stories and examples, we try to convince others to change before teaching them how to, and then complaining they’re not listening to us.  Let me offer the reasons it’s not possible for people to change merely because we offer them terrific reasons why they should.

1. Subjective Listening: This is the main hurdle with information push: people don’t hear the intent of a message, when it falls outside of their conditioned, subjective listening filters and habituated neural pathways, regardless of the efficacy of the information offered. When our clients, or children, or patients, ‘mis-hear’ us, it’s not their fault; their brains actually tell them something different from what was intended.

We all listen unconsciously, through our biases, assumptions, triggers, habits, and normalized neural pathways. I’ve written a book about the gap between what’s said and what’s heard (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) and it’s formidable: our brains ‘kindly’ keep us comfortable and safe by hearing what they want, discarding bits of meaning and intent at will, without letting us know that what we end up ‘hearing’ is highly subjective and some unknowable percentage removed from what the speaker (or article, or app) intended. Try as we might – the best wording, or clever text/apps – whatever we say will be interpreted uniquely and not necessarily as we wish it to be interpreted; we’ll be heard more accurately only by those who already think exactly as we do.

So: information-in will probably not be heard as intended and translated according to some unconscious filtering that we outsiders cannot control. And this is compounded by our assumption that because we believe we’ve said something clearly it should be understood, i.e. ‘they’re not listening’. They are. To the very best of their unconscious ability. And it’s a good reason to not rely on sharing information as the way to influence change.

2. Status Quo: Every day we wake up being who we were yesterday. We live our lives and make decisions according to our unique Identity, our personal system of rules, experience, hopes, goals, culture, education, etc. developed over a lifetime, that cause us to operate in the world uniquely. This is how we wake up knowing how to brush our teeth and drive our cars, vote the way we prefer, and love who makes us happy – all regardless of the way others would like us to be.

When any change is required of us our entire habituated, unconscious system/status quo faces disruption: to be willing and able to change, we must find a way for our personal system to buy-in to the new, get rid of the old, and find a way to maintain the habits and beliefs that keep us stable. Indeed, when we ask someone to change, regardless of the need, benefits, or the efficacy of the solution, we are asking people to unravel their status quo and do something different before they know if change would threaten who they know themselves to be. Their system, their status quo, is sacrosanct, and we are asking them to risk who they are.

3. Trust: When we assume we have answers for another, we are basically telling them we know more than they do, that we’re ‘right’ and they’re wrong, that we don’t trust them to find their own best route to excellence. So with the best will in the world, we push against their personal, habituated, normalized system (and yes, it’s the same system that caused the problem in the first place), and get… wait for it… resistance. And then we call them ‘stupid buyers’ or ‘non-compliant patients’. By not trusting our clients, by not enabling them to traverse their OWN route to congruent change, by assuming we have their answers and working at getting them to comply, we’re causing the very resistance we blame them for.

4. Beliefs: For some reason, outsiders attempt to change someone’s behaviors without realizing that behaviors are merely the transactions of our beliefs. It’s like trying to get an app to do something it’s not meant to do without changing the underlying programming. This is why Behavior Modification largely fails: it seeks to cause behavior change; only belief change, and systems buy-in, can elicit behavior change.

5. Bias: Even when accurately assessing another’s needs and have solutions that could resolve problems, our own needs for specific results bias our interactions. We’re outside the Other’s system, using our own preferred languaging, our own biased choices of stories and examples, our own approaches, posing biased questions meant to pull the data we want to understand (often regardless of how the Other uses or hears language i.e. biased) and assuming we’ll be heard and heeded! By choosing the words and story line we adhere to, by choosing activities or making requests according to our own need to get our suggestions recognized, we’re unintentionally biasing our interactions and restricting success to those who think, act, assume like we do.

So with the best will in the world, with solutions that can actually save lives and fix problems, we’re inhibiting success. We must stop pushing the change WE want to have happen, and begin facilitating others through their own behavior change, from within. We must elicit change rather than attempt to cause change. We must trust that everyone has their own answers and lead them through, and design, their own route to discovery and change, within their own norms and identity, so they remain congruent.

ELICIT CHANGE

We’ve not been given the tools to facilitate permanent change, depending instead on many ways to push information/change in. Yet information – heard through subjective filters, chosen, offered and presented in formats designed by biased do-gooders – doesn’t teach someone HOW to change congruently, from the inside. Inside-out. Pushing data in merely causes resistance. Here are the skills necessary to facilitate others through permanent, congruent change from the inside.

1. The Steps of Change: There is a specific set of sequential steps that human systems follow unconsciously en route to change, starting with enabling Others to rise above the weeds, into an Observer position, so they can get into an unbiased and disassociated state to begin dispassionately noticing, assembling and assessing the elements that caused the systemic problem to begin with. [Note: information-in, and push models, cause people to dig in and defend.] I’ve coded the steps of change that every human system – i.e. every person, group, etc. – must traverse sequentially to remain congruent through change. Change will not occur until a person recognizes

  • all of the elements of how they got where they’re at and the systems that hold them in place;
  • they know without a shadow of a doubt that they cannot fix the problem with their known resources;
  • that any proposed change could be factored into the existing system without fallout – i.e. the status quo would buy-in to change and be willing to do something different because it recognizes it won’t be harmed.

It’s possible to lead people down their own steps of change to make their unconscious beliefs conscious and enable them to consider if it’s time to change. No one, no one, from outside can ever, ever understand what’s going on in other’s personal system.

 

2. The Direction of Change: People think in habituated patterns; to find the elements that maintain their status quo they must go beyond their habituated thinking to seek out bits of their unconscious that aren’t necessarily obvious. How to do this? By being Neutral Navigators, Change Facilitators, that guide the brain to its own answers. I’ve been thinking about this problem since 1980, understanding that conventional questions are biased by the Asker, and responded to accordingly. Repeat: any time we ask a question of another, it’s biased by our own need to know and word choices, and will be heard with biased ears.

 

To overcome bias, to help people find their own answers, and knowing that conventional questions are biased by the Asker, I’ve developed Facilitative Questions that actually direct the brain sequentially, through its own givens, to discover best answers (often unconscious) and avoids the bias of influencers who net/net seek answers/pull information THEY think relevant. (Definition: Facilitative Question – a systemic, action-based, directive question, (not information-pull) that uses specific words, in a specific order, to lead people through sequential steps of discovery and buy-in without bias.)

 

These questions can be used in surveys, questionnaires, and research to elicit ‘good’ information, without bias. I know this is a bit outside of mainstream thinking, but I’ve been successfully teaching the formulation of these questions for decades, in sales with Buying Facilitation®, coaching, and leadership – any place congruent change is required. Sometimes new ideas are needed, right?

 

3. The Who of Change: By taking on the mantel of Change Agents, Facilitators, Influencers regardless of field (i.e. in apps, in sales, in coaching), we must begin by trusting Others to discover and design their own change, not attempt to cause change with wizzy content, Behavior Mod approaches, pricing ‘deals’ or any other outside-in push techniques. They don’t work – hence a 95% failure rate in sales, and patients regularly not completing regimens that would help them heal. Once people recognize how to change themselves in a way that’s congruent with their personal system, they will then need outsiders to supply relevant information. First facilitate change for Others; then supply necessary data according to THEIR needs.

4. Testing for Change: By only doing research on Behavior Mod or other behavior change approaches, we’re ignoring the real problem and not helping people make permanent change. Let’s begin doing research on Change Facilitation practices in side-by-side experiments with behavior change approaches. Then we’ll have real answers.

 

SUMMARY

For those who want to think about the inherent problems of pushing change from the outside, below I’ve summarized the baseline beliefs in this article so you can begin thinking of why an inside-out approach is the only way to elicit successful change (Note: I’ve designed a generic Change Facilitation approach often used in sales as Buying Facilitation® to handle this; design your own, or call me to discuss.):

  1. We can never have answers for others, regardless of their need or the efficacy of their solution. Think about how you can enable others to address their internal beliefs to come up with their own answers that will normalize and habituate a new, more beneficial, habit pattern.
  2. People (or groups, etc.) won’t change until they can go beyond their habituated patterns, recognize that their current unconscious system is flawed and they cannot resolve a problem themselves; bringing in a ‘foreign’ solution is initially avoided as it would disrupt the status quo.
  3. Systems (i.e. people’s status quo) won’t change if the cost of the change is higher than the fallout from continuing the problems in the status quo. The system must discover this itself; telling only gets resistance.
  4. If offered information or activities run counter to the existent beliefs and entrenched, normalized habits within the system, they will be resisted, regardless of efficacy.
  5. Information is unnecessary, not understood, ignored, not accepted, until or unless the system has recognized it’s ready, willing, and able to change and knows exactly what it needs to assist it – and can hear the intended message without bias or resistance. That’s why we have success only with the low hanging fruit – those who have already gone through their own internal change process. So information last, Change Facilitation first. By asking them biased questions based on our need for information, by offering them our regimens, pitches, stories, reasons, proof, etc., we restrict success to those who need that specific piece of information at that moment, and ignore those who may need to change but otherwise resist.
  6. There is a sequence of change that all systems go through unconsciously to open a place for congruent change that avoids resistance. It is not information based, but belief-change. Focus first on leading patients and prospects through discovery before offering data.

It’s possible to develop healthcare apps that first enable Others to be ready for change prior to offering Behavior Mod. It’s possible for sellers to first facilitate prospect buy-in, notice those who WILL buy and are ready for change on the first call. It’s possible to facilitate coaching clients through permanent change. And I know that influencers like to be the pivot point, the arbiter of change. But if an outside-in line of questioning or directing is used, only people who have done their own change work first will be compliant. Let’s elicit change; let’s stop pushing.

I’m happy to discuss the above with anyone, and seek situations to test, use, offer my stuff to enhance excellence. Sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

________________

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

March 9th, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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Sales folks make a few incorrect assumptions about who a buyer is, including: 1. the name on the marketing automation or prospecting system is the name of the buyer; and 2. a receptionist or secretary isn’t a buyer. Not only is there rarely only one ‘buyer’, but whoever responds – yes, even secretaries and receptionists – might actually be on the Buying Decision Team (BDT). Indeed, if you ever attempt to ‘get through’ a receptionist or secretary, you’ll know for sure this person is a major decision maker.

OUR FIRST JOB IS TO FACILITATE CHANGE

Before anyone buys, they need buy-in from the full set of stakeholders – the BDT – who include those playing a role in managing any change a new solution generates. Each decision team member will face different hurdles: one team member might need to reorganize their team; one might need to fire someone or facilitate user compliance.

As outsiders we cannot know any of this, especially if we’re entering with a focus on placing a solution. But make no mistake: anything new brought into an environment causes some sort of irritation, and someone is responsible for resolving it; these issues need a plan for resolution before a purchasing decision is made.  And as outsiders we can’t know what’s involved or who on the BDT is handling it.

NEED ISN’T THE ISSUE

Entering to find someone with a ‘need’, or someone specific to sell to, limits sellers to seeking/finding those who are ready to buy at the moment the seller connects – the low hanging fruit. It ignores all those in the process of becoming buyers and those still figuring out how to manage the change who can be facilitated through to Buyer Readiness.

We can expand the group of possible buyers by a factor of 8 if we enter as change facilitators first and help them do whatever they must. Indeed, this large group doesn’t respond to the conventional sales tools and goals we employ: they can’t yet know the full complement of their need, and aren’t yet interested in any of our content.

By starting off with the goal of finding those still on their buying decision journey and not yet buyers, and lead them through the steps necessary to manage the change, it’s possible to recognize who will be a buyer on the first call. Indeed, by helping them traverse their route, they will become buyers quickly. Your pipeline will actually include real prospects, not suspects. But the definition of who is a buyer will need to change.

For knowledge on this subject, I’ve written articles on the model I developed to facilitate the elements of the buying decision path that differ from sales: Buying Facilitation®, the real buyer’s journey, and help buyers shift their status quo. In this article, I offer three case studies on how to sell by going beyond what the sales process considers ‘buyers’. One shows how I sold more than anticipated by not assuming the listed name was THE buyer; one tells how a receptionist got me business; one shows how I instigated a prospect to enlist the Buying Decision Team and become a buyer.

CASE STUDY: DON’T RESTRICT YOUR CONTACT

Years ago, I was training Buying Facilitation® to a sales group within a call center selling three of IBM’s software packages. In those days, sellers prospected using the names on coupons sent from folks requesting information (old school!). During the training, I suggested that participants not ask for the folks whose names were on the coupons, as there was no way of knowing who was actually on the BDT or who filled out the coupon.

During my one-on-one coaching session with John Megatz (one of the participants…. I’ll never forget him!) he called a small construction company to sell an accounting package, assuming they’d need one. He asked the woman who answered for Louis, the name listed on the coupon. “Not in” she said. “Please call back Monday.” I then called the number back. Here was the call.

SD: Hi. My name is Sharon Drew Morgen, and I’m calling from IBM in response to a coupon. Can you tell me how you’re currently handling your accounting, and if you’re seeking any additional tools to help? [Note: I always assume everyone is part of the BDT. I do this on all cold calls.]

Kathy: I’m doing the accounting. Me. It’s me. All me. Since May. Me. I was the one who filled out that coupon. I’m trying to convince my husband to buy an accounting package within the next week, or I’ll not only quit, but I’ll divorce him. We’re a Mom & Pop shop here, and I took over the accounting when our accountant left last May (it was December). It takes up too much of my time and I hate doing it. Louis promised me I’d only have to do it for a month. So if I can buy a package now, it would save my marriage.

Kathy: Oh. Louis just walked in. Hey Louis! Pick up the phone, will you? It’s IBM with a solution to save our marriage.

Louis: Hi. This is IBM? Do you have an accounting package we can buy? I need to buy one today or she’ll divorce me.

SD: Hi Louis. Yup. We’ve got one. We need to check if our package fits your needs. But before I discuss it, I’m wondering if you also could use a Project Management package. It’s pretty cool. The project managers on client sites could log hours and create client invoices from the field. Or a Payroll package that would automatically write checks electronically. I see you’re a small construction business and can’t tell if anything we’ve got is anything you need.

Louis. Wow. I need all three! Can you tell me about them?

SD: Since I’m just a trainee, can we wait until Monday when the product managers for each package would be available to discuss the packages with you? I’m only the one with the mouth; they’ve got the brains. [Note: I really said this. I had no idea how to pitch any of the products.]

Louis: No. Is there any way we could do it today? [Note: It was 5:00 Friday afternoon.]

SD: Give me fifteen minutes. I’ll call you back.

John and I ran up two flights of stairs. Ran (and somehow I lost a very expensive Tiffany pen during the trot). We got to the sales group as they were walking out the door for the weekend. John grabbed the two sellers from the Project Management and the Payroll packages, and we ran back downstairs and called Louis back. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about the products.

Turned out, they bought all three packages. Right there and then. But they might not have if John had waited until Monday for Louis, or hadn’t assumed the woman answering was a secretary instead of co-owner. And John was set to restrict his sales effort to the accounting package.

CASE STUDY:  ASSUME EVERYONE IS A BUYER

I once made a cold call to an engineering firm. The receptionist answered. I used my Buying Facilitation® model on her as I do with every person who answers a phone; I can never know who is part of the BDT, how their buying decisions get made, or even if they’re in the process of seeking new skills. You’d be shocked to know how much information these front line people have and how helpful they’re willing to be when respected:

SD: Hi. My name is Sharon Drew Morgen, and this is a sales call. I wonder: how are you folks adding new skills to the ones your sales folks currently use, for those times you want to shorten the sales cycle?

Susan: Wow. Cool question. Could you teach our folks to do that?

SD: Sure. That’s what I do. And I know you’re at the front desk and it’s probably busy. But I’m happy to see if what I offer and what might enhance your business would be a fit. Is this a good time?

Susan: No. It’s mayhem around here always. Would you mind sending me some sort of a packet and I’ll get it to the sales director? I promise I’ll do it. I like what’s going on in this conversation.

So I sent her a packet. She called me a week later.

Susan: Hi Sharon Drew. Thanks for the packet. I put it on our Sales Director Joe’s desk. But he was fired an hour later. I went into his office after he’d gone and he’d cleared everything out, including your packet. Sorry to ask you this, but would you send me another one?

I sent her a new packet. A week later I got a call from Gary.

Gary: Hi Sharon Drew. I’m sitting here with Susan who says I have to call you because whatever it is you’re doing sounds like we should be teaching our sales folks. This is my first day as Sales Director, and Susan has made sure this is my first act at my new desk. In fact, she’s standing here right now. You must have made quite an impression on her. Is this a good time for us to discuss?

I ended up training their company, not only in Buying Facilitation®, but in change facilitation. And even though she wasn’t an obvious stakeholder, Susan was on the Buying Decision Team and brought in other team members without me having to look for them.

CASE STUDY: THE IDENTIFIED PROSPECT NEEDS THEIR STAKEHOLDER GROUP.

I once got a call from the Director of Training at KPMG. He had just read one of my books, and said he intuitively believed his team needed Buying Facilitation®. With a 3 year sales cycle and only 1000 possible companies large enough to spend $50,000,000 to buy their tax minimization service, he wanted to stop blowing through his limited number of prospects and shorten the sales cycle.

“What has stopped you from figuring this out on your own until now?” said I.

Steve didn’t have an answer, but said he’d think about it and call back. Next time he called, he had 2 others on the phone. I posed another question about how they could resolve the problem internally and get the buy in that any change would require. We’ll think about it and call back, Steve said. This process continued for two months; each time Steve called back he had more people on the phone and more answers, until one snowy day at 7:00 a.m. while I was on a client site in Rochester NY (in winter!), he had 15 people on the phone from 4 countries.

We did our normal thing of me asking a question that no one had an answer to. During the silence of ‘no answer’ one of the participants started this conversation:

Man: Hey Steve. What’s she selling?

Steve: I have no idea. Hey, Sharon Drew, you haven’t pitched me anything yet. Why not?

SD: I had nothing to sell if you had nothing to buy. Now there’s a larger percentage of your stakeholder buying team present; you have more knowledge of what’s stopping you from having a more effective selling process; you understand the issues that will come up when you add my facilitation system; and who needs to buy in moving forward. Now you’re ready to hear my content.

Then, for the first time mentioning what I was selling, I pitched to the group who was ready to buy. They brought me in, and I trained the global team for 2 years. With my help, they reduced their sales cycle to 4 months.

Remember: until or unless the entire BDT is present (which might be more complex than obvious); until they know if they can/cannot fix any problems themselves or how to manage the change an external solution will bring with it; they’re not buyers.

Trying to sell to one person who you THINK might be a buyer because they were in the right demographic, or because they responded in a way to your manipulative questions that caused you to assume they had a need, or because you attempted to be their ‘best friend’ or ‘relationship manager’ won’t get you more than your 5% close – the low hanging fruit. Not to mention wasting 95% of your time hoping and waiting, asking the wrong questions, to find those who SHOULD buy, and don’t.

DON’T TRY TO GET TO THE TOP

For those of you who spend hours/days/months attempting to get to the person at the top, stop. That person has probably delegated the responsibility to the appropriate team, and more importantly, even if s/he is one of the decision makers, there are several on the BDT. During the time you spend trying to get to THE person, you could have been speaking with one or more folks on the BDT who will then bring the rest of the team into your discussion, so long as you use your time with them to help them facilitate their change to excellence and not try to pitch or pose manipulative questions.

It’s time for us to stop assuming that there is only one person who is THE person we need to speak with. You’re losing business, wasting time trying to find that ‘one’ person, and (when trying to get around or through a receptionist or secretary) not realizing the number of people who must be involved in making a buying decision. Remember: a buying decision is a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, so there are many folks who must be included. That will expand your audience of potential buyers by a factor of 8.

____________________________________

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

March 2nd, 2020

Posted In: News, Sales

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I hate unrequested ‘feedback’. Personally, when I want to better myself I seek feedback from folks I trust. Here is a conversation I recently had after sharing annoyance with a group. I was quite surprised no one responded to my wrath, but I did get one comment afterwards from a friend who was in the group:

“If the time comes you ever want to learn how to get the group’s attention in a way that they can hear and respond, I’d be happy to offer suggestions. I’ve been a member of the group for a long time and they have a certain pattern to their sharing. I’m here if you need me.”

To me, that’s great feedback. Gives me information and choice, not to mention a great resource to learn from; no blame, no insult, no assumptions, no bias. And he trusted me to discover my own timing for learning. Win/Win/Win.

SOMEONE IS MADE WRONG

These days it seems acceptable for one person (the Giver) to tell another (the Receiver) how to improve when acting in a manner deemed ‘unacceptable’ to the Giver. Indeed, books on feedback explain how to ‘overcome’ the Receiver’s issues such as fear, distress, distrust, and ‘lack of perspective’. For me, this is quite insulting. It assumes

  • the Giver is right (and the Receiver wrong),
  • the Giver has the moral entitlement to judge the Receiver,
  • the Giver’s viewpoint is accurate (and the Receiver should heed it),
  • the Giver has THE answer (based on his/her idiosyncratic beliefs),
  • the Giver uses the best verbiage to be understood accurately, without resistance,
  • there is no bias involved,
  • the Receiver doesn’t have the tools, skills, or understanding to do what’s ‘right’ on their own.

Everyone has the right to speak their mind of course. But I don’t know anyone who welcomes what might be spurious comments based on another person’s biases. The idea of someone telling Another that they have a problem and the Giver has THE answer, assumes it’s ok for the Giver to use their own biases to try to convince the Receiver to change. And that is well outside of my personal, moral beliefs.

I’m aware that often a boss needs to help an employee make adjustments, or a parent needs to modify a teenager’s unsuccessful choices. But the baseline remains the same: No one has the right to proclaim a moral high ground, to expect anyone else to change because of personal feelings, biases, and assumptions, to assume the Receiver has no say, no unique judgment, no relevant thought process that could become part of an agreeable solution. And there are no conditions under which one person should tell another what to do without their agreement and cooperation.

TWO MINDS BETTER THAN ONE

Of course, because we’re not perfect (although we each think we are), we sometimes need a reality check. For those times, there’s a way Givers can create feedback that will enable win/win conversations and excellence. Here are several issues that must be overcome:

BIAS: The assumption that feedback is needed is often based on a Giver wanting a Receiver to change as per the Giver’s unique beliefs and values. Sure, if there is a danger involved, a Receiver must ultimately choose new behaviors. But in general, when a Giver assumes the ‘right’ road without identifying a path to partnership, or recognizing there might be a specific reason the Receiver made their choices, any discussion becomes win/lose.

WRONG ASSUMPTIONS: Too often a Giver’s feedback assumes the Receiver is wrong, or doesn’t possess the skills or tools to do it better, and goes forth pushing their own agendas. With these assumptions, any feedback will most likely be ignored, especially if it offends, insults, or in some way harms the Receiver. This certainly doesn’t set in motion a path to positive behavior modification.

RIGHT VS WRONG: What makes one person right and one person wrong? Just asking. While it might be clear in the Giver’s mind, it’s often up for interpretation.

WRONG LANGUAGING: How does the Giver know for certain that their approach to instigate change is the best approach? My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? discusses how brains misunderstand, mistranslate, and misinterpret incoming information based on the listener’s mental models and brain synapses – nothing whatsoever to do with the facts or content coming in. Unfortunately, we all assume our speech is ‘easily understandable’ and others should hear what we mean. Nope.

ME VS YOU: Why should I listen to you, or make changes in my normal behavior patterns, when I don’t agree with you and you make no sense to me?

WHO’S OUTCOME IS IT? Sometimes the Giver is working from different, hidden, or unconscious outcomes. Why would the ‘offender’ heed the feedback if s/he is meeting her own outcomes? And how can a Giver understand differences between them with a goal or bias that restricts the ability to listen or be flexible enough to go through discovery together?

Are you getting the point here? Feedback is biased; people are all doing the best they can do at any given moment; the only people who will be compliant are those who are already on the same page (and those folks don’t usually need feedback) or those fearful of consequences. And fear is a poor motivator.

WHAT TO DO

Before you offer feedback, consider the distance between what someone is doing/saying vs what you believe should be done/said. Is it merely an opinion they should do something different, or will it actually resolve a problem? Is there a way to mutually discover a solution to accomplish this without causing fear, distrust, and annoyance?

When a problem occurs that needs to be fixed, a collaborative discussion will enable the Receiver to discover their own route to change.

  1. Enter the conversation with curiosity:

I noticed X was occurring and find it problematic (for the job, for our relationship, for the outcome). Would you be willing to discuss it with me to figure out if there is actually a problem or there’s another way to look at the situation?

  1. Be prepared to drop biases, expectations, needs, and opinions and clearly state intentions. There’s no place in a collaborative communication for any offense:

I find I’m having reactions to what happened, but come with an openness to finding the best route to excellence. If you feel like I’m being biased or disrespectful, I’d like to hear your thoughts so we end up on the same page with the same goal. It’s not my intent to disparage you in any way. I just want to find the best way to both feel comfortable going forward.

  1. Tell your side of what you feel about the incident, without further commentary, and clearly state your need for the conversation:

When X happened, it seemed to me your reaction caused [a bigger problem/unexpected fallout, etc.] and it scared me. I wonder if we could discuss both our needs and assumptions and see if there is a path to end up with something we can both live with and neither of us considered.

  1. Listen without bias. Make sure you repeat what you think you heard as it’s quite possible your brain might have misinterpreted what was said:

Let me see if I heard you accurately. I heard you say X. Did I get that right? Or am I misunderstanding something? Please correct my interpretation. I want us to be on the same page.

  1. Discuss your needs in relation to what you heard, and begin creating a plan:

Sounds like you and I have similar outcomes but different ways of expressing it. That’s what I had the problem with, but now see your choices were just different from mine. What do you think about doing X as a middle path? I think that might meet the goals. What do you think? Do you have any other ideas to suggest?

  1. Put it all together:

I think we’ve reached a route that we’ll both benefit from. Is there anything you need from me going forward to make sure we collaborate through to excellence?

I recognize there are times when the Giver is a boss, a parent, a leader needing specific results. But if there’s no collaboration, if there’s bias about right and wrong, if there’s no way to hear each other, neither Giver or Receiver can be the driver toward excellence. Use feedback as a route to excellence.

__________________________

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 24th, 2020

Posted In: News

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

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

You’re getting objections because you’re using content push and various methods of information sharing as your main vehicle to selling, before buyers are ready or able to buy, before they know why, or when, or if to hear your message. As a result, you’re getting objections because you seek a very restricted group you assume SHOULD buy, ignoring the vastly larger group who CAN buy but haven’t yet gotten ready (and who won’t object once they get their ducks in a row).

You’re getting objections because you’re annoying those who don’t aren’t (yet) buyers, regardless of their demographic.

Sales is designed to

  • find those ready to buy: the low-hanging fruit – those who have already recognized that making a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem, have the buy-in to proceed, and know how to manage any change a new purchase would demand;
  • seek those who are ready, willing, and able to listen to/hear you;
  • ignore those who haven’t yet decided on bringing in an external solution but will ultimately be buyers (Read my article on the 13 step Buying Decision Path.);
  • make information/content the preferred focus and use accepted sales tools to ‘get in’ to:
    • gather needs (restricted by listening for anything that sounds like it might be a need regardless of reality),
    •  understand (and gather specious data as per your biased questions),
    • pitch (which often overlooks their real internal challenges and annoys the hell out of folks not seeking new solutions),
    • seek appointments (based on who’s willing to spend time with you)

and as a result you’re getting objections.

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

It’s only when they’re certain they can’t fix the problem themselves AND get buy-in from all stakeholders, do buyers consider going ‘external’ for a solution. And objections are merely a reaction to feeling pushed by your content and goal to place a solution.

WHY YOU GET OBJECTIONS

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

So here, in no particular order, is a list of reasons why you get objections, and why/how the limited solutions-push focus of the sales model merely handles a small fraction of a Buying Decision Path instead of actually enabling buying. And fyi: by putting the functionality to help potential buyers traverse their systemic change management issues before trying to sell anything, you’ll never get objections.

  • Selling doesn’t cause buying. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities and mind-sets.
  • Buying involves both systemic change AND (when there’s no other option) solution choice. Using solution data as the main skill to make a sale restricts possibility, getting you objections from those who don’t know how to hear it (Remember: we all listen through biased filters.)
  • Buyers buy according to their buying patterns, not your selling patterns.
  • Pushing solution data too early causes objections, regardless of need or the efficacy of your solution.
  • Until buyers recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to their status quo (i.e. when they have their ducks in a row), they aren’t buyers regardless of what you believe to be their ‘need’.
  • Until buyers are certain they can’t solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they can’t recognize, and don’t have the full data set to understand, what they might need to buy and will resist/object when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them.
  • Sales and marketing pitches use biased language to describe solutions, further restricting the buying audience. Until buyers can handle their change, and know the full extent of internal givens (i.e. personal, systemic) they have to deal with when bringing something new in, they don’t know how to listen to your content details effectively, and object when pushed. It’s possible to design unique pitches for each stage of their non-solution-based, Pre-Sales Buying Decision Path.
  • By restricting the sales model to finding interest using the solution data, you’re only handing the last 30% (steps 1-9) of the 13-step Buying Decision Path. The first 9 steps (Pre-Sales) are a change management exercise, focused on fixing their problem in a way that minimizes disruption and maximizes buy-in, recognizing a need for an external solution only at step 10. When sellers try to place solutions before they’ve gotten to step 10, buyers object.
  • Sales ignores the possibility of influencing the path of (Pre-Sales) change that is driven by the buyer’s system of unique rules, people, history, etc. that protects itself at all costs (i.e. objects).
  • Your sales and marketing efforts seek those who you’ve determined will have a likelihood of buying (the low hanging fruit), and you’re competing for this small percentage, ultimately closing only 5% of a much broader set of possible buyers.
  • There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary to become part of, and facilitate, the Pre-Sales, systemic, Buying Decision Path that must, as per the laws of Systems Congruence, enable change congruently before any purchase is considered.
  • You’ll avoid objections when you first facilitate and expedite the change that those who CAN buy must handle, and THEN use your information-centric approach to sell to those you’ve helped be ready to buy. The time it takes buyers to get buy-in for congruent change is the length of the sales cycle, regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution.
  • Pitching, content marketing, presentations, cold calling, etc. get objections because they push solution data before there is systemic agreement to go external for a fix.
  • Judgments regarding the reasons buyers offer objections are subjective, biased interpretations contrived by sellers to make buyers ‘stupid’ when they aren’t getting the outcome they sought. Sellers rarely consider that they’re entering at the wrong time, in the wrong way, for a unique set of internal, systemic dysfunctions they really (really) have no understanding of, or that the buyer is in the early steps of change and hasn’t yet recognized a need to buy.
  • You can accelerate a buyer’s route to decision making by helping them traverse their route to congruent change, but not with a restriction that begins by using solution-based information as the vehicle to influence buying. It’s possible to close five times more than you’re currently closing.

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

FOCUS ON FACILITATING BUYER READINESS FIRST

Here is the deal. Until now, you’ve waited while buyers do this internal change stuff: they must do this anyway (with you or without you). So you can continue pushing your content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach to connect with the right ones sooner: enter their decision path, get onto their Buying Decision Team, and facilitate the ones who CAN buy through to buying. Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based. And, using a change management goal as the reason to connect with a potential buyer enables you to find those who WILL buy on the first call.

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

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

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

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

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

____________

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

February 17th, 2020

Posted In: Communication

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What if most of our viewpoints, interpretations and assumptions are so unconsciously biased that we unwittingly restrict our ability to accurately understand, or act on, incoming information? And what’s accuracy anyway?

Usually, we don’t question what our brains tell us, what seems to be reasonable or wrong. Responding from our personal norms and beliefs, we instinctively assume our perceptions, actions, interpretations, are based on reality. But what if we’re actually restricting ourselves to what’s comfortable and acceptable, and not accounting for our deep seated biases?

Our subjectivity maintains us. At all costs.

SUBJECTIVITY VS OBJECTIVITY

Subjectivity is based on personal, unique, and idiosyncratic beliefs, assumptions, and norms. We’d think we’re making good choices when we choose or consider one thing vs another, when we easily reject something because it makes no sense or annoys us. Or worse, when it’s ‘obvious’ to us that one thing should be valued differently than another.

We like to think we’re able to be objective. I’m here to tell you, we’re not.

The Wikipedia definition of objectivity is “… the elimination of subjective perspectives and … purely based on hard facts.” And “a lack of bias, judgment, or prejudice.” But is this possible? What are ‘hard facts’ when our brain rejects them as faulty? I suggest that objectivity is only slightly less biased than subjectivity. It’s our brain’s fault.

Indeed, it’s pretty impossible to experience or interpret most anything without bias. We act, make decisions and choices, communicate with others, raise children and have friends, all from a small range of favored, habitual mental models that we’ve spent a lifetime culling and assume are accurate.

  • We hear and understand through our brain’s existent neural pathways, causing incoming information (incoming via electrical and chemical signals devoid of meaning) to flow down historic brain routes developed through a lifetime of beliefs, norms, experiences. Regardless of how ‘factual’ it is, when incoming data doesn’t jive with our existing beliefs, our brains ‘do us a favor’ and resist and re-interpret whatever falls outside of what we ‘know’ to be true. Obviously, anything new has a good chance of not being understood accurately. Bias is just cooked in; we don’t even think twice about trusting our intuition or natural reasoning.
  • Whether we’re in a conversation, listening to media, or even reading, we listen through biased filters, and hear what our brains tell us was said – likely to be X% different from the intended message. Unless we develop new neural pathways for the new incoming data, we will only hear what our brains are already comfortable with.

Indeed, our worlds are very tightly controlled by our unconscious and habituated biases, making it quite difficult to objectively hear or understand new idea-based incoming information that is different. It takes quite a bit of work to act beyond our perceptions.

WHY CAN’T WE BE OBJECTIVE?

Each of us interpret incoming messages uniquely. Have you ever spoken with folks who believe that ‘9/11’, or the moon landing, was a hoax or conspiracy? What about people who smoke, and interpret the health data uniquely, believing that because their grandfather smoked until he died at 95 that it’s not going to happen to them? Objectivity is not, well, objective. Here’s what happens: Sometimes

  • the way the new info comes in to us – the words used, the setting, the history between the communication partners, the distance between what’s being said and our current beliefs – cause us to unconsciously misinterpret bits of data;
  • we have no natural way of recognizing an incongruity between the incoming information and our unconscious thoughts;
  • our brain deletes some of the signals from incoming messages when they are discordant with what’s already there, without giving us the deletions to let us know what we missed (My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?explains and corrects this problem.);
  • our beliefs are so strong we react automatically without having enough detachment to notice;
  • what we think is objective is often merely a habitual choice.

We each live in worlds of our own making. We choose friends and neighborhoods according to our beliefs and how our ears interpret ‘facts’, choose professions according to our likes and predispositions, raise our kids with the same norms and beliefs that we hold. In other words, we’ve created rather stable – certainly comfortable – worlds for ourselves that we fight to maintain regardless of how our biases may distort.

When communicating with others, ‘objective facts’ might get lost in subjectivity. In business we connect with different viewpoints and attempt to convince other’s of our ‘rightness’, and either they don’t believe us or they feel we’ve made them ‘wrong’. Our children learn stuff in school that we might find objectionable regardless of its veracity, or we might disagree with teachers who have different interpretations of our child’s behavior. What about the ‘fake news’ claims these days? What, exactly is true? I contend the difference between ‘fake news’ and factual reporting is in our perceptions. Either can be objective or subjective given our underlying biases, and separate from the ‘reality’ of facts.

And of course, most scientific facts we deem ‘objective truth’ may just be opinions. Folks like Curie, Einstein, Hawking, and Tesla were considered to be cranks because their ideas flew in the face of objective science that turned out to be nothing more than decades and centuries of perceived wisdom/opinions.

The problem shows up in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes there’s no way to separate out objective fact from subjective belief, regardless of the veracity.

I remember when my teenage son came home with blue hair one day. Thinking of what his teachers would say (This was in 1985!) or his friend’s parents, I wanted to scream. Instead I requested that next time he wanted to do something like that to please discuss it with me first, and then told him it looked great (It actually was a terrific color!). But his father went nuts when he came to pick him up, screaming at both of us (“What kind of a mother lets her son dye his hair blue!!!”), and taking him directly to the barber to shave his head. For me, it was merely hair. Objective reality.

CASE STUDY IN OBJECTIVITY VS SUBJECTIVITY

I once visited a friend in the hospital where I began a light conversations with the elderly orderly helping her sit up and eat. During our chat, the orderly asked me if I could mentor him. Um… Well, I was busy. Please! he begged. Not knowing what I could add to his life and having a bias that folks who asked me to mentor them just wanted me to give them money, I reluctantly, doubtfully, said ok.

He emailed me and invited me to dinner. Um… well, ok. I’d donate one night. He lived in a tiny room in a senior living center, on the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. It was very clean and neat, and he had gone out of his way to prepare the best healthy dinner he knew how to offer. Shrimp cocktail. Nice salad. Hamburger and beans. Ice cream. During dinner he played some lovely music. Just lovely. I was transfixed. Who is that playing, I asked.

“It’s me. I wrote that piece, and I’m playing all the instruments. I have several CDs of music I’ve composed and self-produced. Can you help me find someone who might want to hear it and do something with it? I’ve never met anyone who could help me.” I helped him find folks who helped him professionally record at least two of his compositions.

By any ‘objective’ measure, using my own subjective biases and ignoring the objective truth that we’re all equal and everyone is capable of having talent, I didn’t initially consider that someone ‘like that’ (old, black, poor, uneducated) had the enormous talent this man possessed, regardless of my advocacy of non-bias and gender/race equality.

Unwittingly, we seriously restrict our worlds by the way we process incoming data. We live subjective lives that restrict us. And as a result, we end up having arguments, misunderstandings, failed initiatives; we end up having a smaller pool of ideas to think with and don’t see a need for further research or checking; we make faulty assumptions about people and ideas that could bring benefits to our lives. I personally believe it’s necessary for us to remove as many restrictions as possible to our pool of knowledge and beliefs.

HOW TO COMPENSATE

To recognize bias and have a new choice, we must first recognize the necessity of noticing when something we believe may not be true, regardless of how strong our conviction otherwise. It’s quite difficult to do using the same biases that caused us to unconsciously bias in the first place.

Here’s a tip to help expand your normalized perception and notice a much broader range of givens, or ‘reality,’ to view an expanded array of options from a Witness or Coach or Observer position on the ceiling:

  1. Sit quietly. Think of a situation that ended with you misinterpreting something and the outcome wasn’t pretty. Replay it through your mind’s eye. Pay particular attention to your feelings as you relive each aspect of the situation. Replay it again.
  2. Notice where your body has pain, discomfort, or annoyance points.
  3. As soon as you notice, intensify the feeling at the site of the discomfort. Then impart a color on it. Make the color throb.
  4. Mentally move that color inside your body to the outer edges of your eyeballs and make the color vibrate in your eyes.
  5. When you mentally notice the color vibration, make sure you sit back in your chair or stand up. Then move your awareness up to the ceiling (i.e. in Witness or Observer position) and look down at yourself. From above you’ll notice an expanded range of data points and options outside your standard ones, causing you to physiologically evade your subjective choices.

Since the difference between subjectivity and objectivity is one of perception, and in general our brains make our determinations unconsciously, we must go to the place in our brains that cause us to perceive, and make it conscious. Only then can we have any objective choice. And next time we think we’re being objective, maybe rethink the situation to consider whether new choices are needed.

___________________________

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

February 10th, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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

WHAT’S WRONG WITH SALES?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IS SELLING PREDATORY?

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

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

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

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

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

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

SALES IS SHORT-SIGHTED

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

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

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

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

Different from sales, which

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

To elaborate:

Aspiring to a win-win

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

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

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

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

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

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

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

There are several pieces to the puzzle here.

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

We are all here to serve each other

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

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

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

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

There is no right answer

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

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

No one has anyone else’s answer

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

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

THE NEW WAY

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

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

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

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

____________

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

February 3rd, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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There’s been an age-old argument in the communication field: who’s at fault if a misunderstanding occurs – the Speaker communicating badly, or the Listener misunderstanding? Let’s look at some facts:

1. Speaking is an act of translation: putting into words what’s going on internally (the unspoken feelings, needs, thoughts) to enable others to understand our intent – choosing the most appropriate words for that particular listener in that particular situation to best convey what we wish to share. But the act of choosing the communication vehicles that will convey our intent is largely unconscious and may not render an accurate representation to our listener.

2. Listeners translate what they hear through a series of unconscious filters (biases, assumptions, triggers, habits, imperfect memory) formed over their lives by their:

  • world view,
  • beliefs,
  • similar situations,
  • historic exchanges with the same speaker,
  • biases on entering the conversation (like sellers listening exclusively for need).

To make things worse, sound enters our ears as electrical and chemical signals without meaning. These signals are matched for commonality with existing synapses that carry similar signals already residing in our brain. There are two problems with this: 1. the matched synapses most likely don’t have the exact same meaning as the incoming message; 2. our brains don’t account for any differential between the intended meaning and the matched message.

Indeed, the brain discards the differential between the two without telling us. So we might hear ABL when our communication partner said ABC! And because our brain only conveys ABL, we have no way of knowing it has discarded D, E, F, etc.! No wonder we think others aren’t hearing us, or are misunderstanding us purposefully!

Because our brain fails to tell us what it has misinterpreted, we’re left with no option but to believe that what we thought we heard is accurate.

What a listener “hears” is fraught with so much unconscious filtering that their ability to accurately hear what’s meant is untrustworthy, except, possibly, when speaking with someone known over time.

3. According to David Bellos in his excellent book Is That a Fish In Your Ear?, no sentence contains all of the information we need to translate it.

Think about all the impediments to hearing others accurately: even when we want to, even when we’re employing Active Listening, or taking notes, between words, language, synapses, signals, the odds are bad that we will accurately understand what someone is trying to tell us. So as a listener, I may not be accurately understanding what my communication partner intends to tell me and hear a message I’ve unintentionally misinterpreted.

As a speaker, I may not be using the best languaging patterns for my communication partner, and assume that because I believe my word choices best convey my message, that I should be understood.

WHY WE CAN’T UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER

Since communication involves a bewildering set of conscious and unconscious choices, accuracy becomes dependent upon each communication partner mitigating bias and disengaging from assumptions.

My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? focuses on listening and accurately hearing what others intend to convey, starting with how we mishear, misunderstand, and otherwise misinterpret, where and how the gap between what’s said and what’s heard occurs and how to avoid misunderstanding. I also share a way to supercede old biases.

While researching and writing the book I realized that the responsibility for effective communication seems to be weighted in the court of the speaker. But if listeners don’t catch or prevent their biases or unhook from all subjective filters, the speaker’s words and intent are moot; they may be misconstrued regardless of their accuracy.

It’s an interesting problem: since they believe what they think they hear is accurate, the listener has no idea what the speaker intends to convey, there’s no way they can know if what they’re hearing – through the fog of synapses, neural pathways, misunderstandings and misinterpretations – is accurate. So the speaker is the one who must notice that the listener has misunderstood, and choose a different way to convey their intent.

So the answer is: the responsibility for an effective communication lie with the speaker.

That means, during any communication, a speaker must notice, through the words and verbalization of the listener’s response, as well as body language where possible, if the response is appropriate within the realm of their intent.

If it seems the listener might not have understood fully, the speaker can then just say, “Can you please tell me what you heard so I can say it better in case there’s a misinterpretation? It seems to me you might have misunderstood and I want our communication to be accurate.” That way you can keep a conversation on track and not assume the person just isn’t listening.

And, if as a listener you seek clarity for hearing and responding accurately, to make sure you heard and responded accurately, ask: “I’d like to make sure I heard you accurately. Do you mind telling me exactly what you just heard me say so I can make sure we’re on the same page going forward?”

Using either of these tactics, there’s a good chance all communication partners will go forward from the same understanding.

Here is our question: As listeners, are we translating accurately? Is it possible to avoid bias? As speakers, are we using our best language choices? As you can see above, the odds of communication partners accurately understanding the full extent of intended meaning in conversation is unlikely. The best we can do is figure out together how to manage the communication.

__________________________________________

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.

January 27th, 2020

Posted In: Listening, News

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People don’t really want to buy anything. We’d much rather maintain our status quo if possible: it’s worked; it’s comfortable; it’s normalized; we’re set up to keep on keepin’ on. Indeed, the goal of a buyer is to solve a problem with the least ‘cost’, using the least resources (money, time, human power, culture, etc.) and causing the least disruption. And a purchasing decision is far, far more than good information, collaboration, or good decision making practices.

Adding, choosing, buying anything new means change to the status quo, always fraught with risks that are unknowable before a purchase is made. Indeed, a buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue. And the ‘cost’ of bringing in something new must not exceed the ‘cost’ of maintaining the status quo. How can you know this before making a purchase?

CASE STUDY

Years ago, I was a consultant at KPMG training a team of Senior Partners in my Buying Facilitation® model. My contact, Dave, called to say he’d not returned my call because they’d received their first RFP from Boeing (who’d always used Arthur Anderson as their consulting partner) and a group of them were madly trying to compose an impressive proposal.

“What’s stopping them from using AA again this time?” I asked. Dave didn’t have an answer and said he’d find out. He called back to say Boeing was indeed going to use AA again, but had sent them the RFP because they needed a second bid. (Note: do YOU know how often that happens?)

With my assistance, they stopped writing the proposal and instead sent a letter saying since Boeing would be using AA, we wouldn’t be submitting a proposal. Instead we offered them a couple of pages of my Facilitative Questions (a new form of question I invented that works with brain function to discover criteria) which led them to discover how to avoid resistance and disruption during the large-scale, global change they were seeking.  This included how to

  • avoid disruption and resistance during implementation,
  • recognize and involve the complete set of stakeholders from the beginning to ensure the entire fact pattern was collected and the success criteria designed to elicit buy-in,
  • notice, manage, and avoid the project/change risks,
  • maintain the change over time.

KPMG knew it was risky to approach the RFP as we did, but since they weren’t getting the job anyway, they decided it was a good risk to take as the questions exhibited their ability to lead. And it was indeed a good risk: Boeing called after a couple of months to give them the job (without a proposal or price discussion, I might add).

“When we saw your questions, we realized we never even considered those sorts of issues and just assumed our vendors would handle that stuff. And we consistently had problems in those areas you mentioned but never knew it was possible to avoid them. We just didn’t know what we didn’t know, and didn’t know how to include those elements in our RFP. When AA came in to start the project, they had no plans to manage anything but the exact end-result specs we asked for. From your questions, we know now that a few extra steps can be taken at the start of a project to ensure buy in and trouble-free adoption. We certainly didn’t know it was possible to set up the right components from the beginning to avoid the problems later on. Realizing the size of this project and the numbers of people and teams involved, we don’t have tolerance for any dysfunction, so we fired AA. Can you come in and start from the beginning and factor in all of the items you mentioned in your letter?

Whether an individual or part of a Buying Team, somehow buying choices get narrowed down to one. How do you do that? And is there anything you could have included in your decision process to assure your selection comes with minimum disruption and maximum buy in for after you’ve made your selection?

WHY WE BUY ANYTHING

Outside of small personal items, the only time we consider buying anything is when we’re absolutely certain we can’t fix a problem any other way AND we have comprehensive buy-in. The risk of the new causing imbalance is just too high. ‘Need’, price, features and benefits are important, of course, but secondary; purchasing something new must maintain the status quo as well – problematic since anything new faces the possibility of disrupting the equilibrium. It’s a systems thing.

Every person, group, family, company, is a systemTo maintain themselves, systems need balance (homeostasis) and work hard to ensure its norms and values are carried forth through actions. (For those unfamiliar, this is called Systems Congruence). The last thing a system wants to do, the challenge we all face when we recognize something needs to change, is how to bring in an unfamiliar element (certainly a risk) and maintain our status quo. And the time it takes for all the elements that will touch the final solution to agree to something new and know how to integrate it, is the time it takes to choose.

It’s not about price or features until it is; it’s about the dynamics of change. And without taking these steps, the risk of resistance is high as it puts the system out of balance.

One thing is certain: before any decision to buy anything occurs, a set of ‘soft’ criteria – rules, norms, beliefs of the underlying system, if you will – must be met that go beyond the tactical – factual – specifics of the requirements. We get so focused on ‘hard’ criteria we put every buying decision at risk, including:

  • environment not able to integrate or use the new adequately and causes disruption;
  • environment not ready to accommodate change congruently causing relationship and output problems;
  • goal that initiated the purchase in jeopardy;
  • resistance when implementation causes change that hasn’t been accounted for.

Regardless of the need or the efficacy of a new solution, if the risk of disruption to the system is higher than the need for change, no purchase can be made. But as you’ll see, it’s possible to change without resistance or disruption.

WHAT WE LEAVE OUT WHEN IT’S TIME TO BUY

In the Boeing story, the Buying Team’s RFP focused on the facts, the outcomes, of what they thought would solve their problem, but overlooked the ‘soft’ issues – the systemic issues. It’s the same problem with individual purchasers: Have you ever thought about how you decide to buy THIS one instead of THAT one? Have you specified your criteria to ensure the new will fit with the old – and a way to notice when there is an integration issue? Have you captured the specific steps you’ll need to do something different than your normalized habits?

An online search for ‘buying process’ explains the conventional approach: recognize a need, research and evaluate the choices (price, features, etc.), and buy. Seems so simple. But it’s not simple at all.

For smaller decisions, weighting and evaluating features and choices works just fine. But sometimes, especially when Buying Teams must choose a new item or vendor, or something wholly different that shifts the intent of the status quo, is required, we don’t always address the unconscious elements that cause us to accept or reject choices. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. But sometimes it does.

For those times there’s less leeway for error, for when implementation can be fragile (i.e. there’s resistance to change before any decisions have been made), or when numbers of people will be involved, it’s possible to manage those unconscious elements upfront. Sure, facts, needs, features and outcomes are necessary. But the non-obvious data points may lurk without recognition until they come back to bite us or harm performance. Here are the challenges: We:

  • compare the purchase of a new solution against what’s already there, but might forget to add in how to manage what happens when the new criteria changes our outcomes, actions, job descriptions, management needs, downtime, learning curve;
  • seek to find something equal-ish to what’s being replaced without considering how the new will alter our status quo over time or how it will change performance in unexpected ways; 
  • gather initial data only from obvious stakeholders without expanding the group to those who will ultimately touch the final solution, and face resistance;
  • have feelings about a choice if our jobs or ego-needs will be affected, causing unspoken resistance that comes out through sabotage or interference;
  • sometimes acquiesce to a group’s choice and hold hidden biases that will rear their heads later or cause an ineffective decision making;
  • resist a purchase due to an ‘intuitive’ feeling (fear of change, dislike of implementation practices being discussed, distrust of vendor being selected, etc.) that makes the status quo feel safer, and procrastinate making a decision.

There are actually specific steps to all buying decisions that take into account the full panoply of criteria – hard and soft – to make congruent buying decisions. Along with the practical and factual details, these steps make conscious the unconscious elements that ensure a successful conclusion, regardless of the size or price of the purchase or the complexity of the implementation.

STEPS TO BUYING

Note that if everything were working perfectly there would be no need to buy anything. In fact, people only buy when they cannot fix a problem with a known solution. Making a purchase is the last thing anyone wants to do. But when it’s necessary, the outcome must include the maintenance of Systems Congruence, or the cost of failure is too high.

I’ve put together steps below to address systems functionality, more factors than merely need, price, or vendor selection. [Note: for those interested, I’ve written a book on this: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell] By including all steps, you’ll discover the unconscious factors, the risk factors, the change management factors, so they can be addressed, either individually or with the Buying Team, as part of the actual purchasing decision. Take a look.

  • Specified Outcome: What is the status quo you’re trying to change? While this might seem simple, and come to you defined by a user, this is far from simple. It requires:

a. The entire stakeholder team be included so they can discuss all of the elements that caused the problem, and understand why it hasn’t been fixed until now. The love of the existing processes? The habits incurred by many? The attitude of being ‘good-enough’? Whatever is in here is the reason a new solution is needed now. If this is an unknown, a solution might be purchased that doesn’t address the baseline problem. (i.e. If there is a ‘rules’ problem and it hasn’t been resolved, the same problem will occur with the new solution.)

Often the same factors that have kept the problem in place will cause implementation or acceptance and use issues: the entire group of folks who will use the purchase must understand all possible problems and outcomes. Of course this will bias the ultimate choice to purchase.

b. If any stakeholders are left out from the early stages, it will be harder and more disruptive later on when they join. When I urged British Airways to include their HR manager in a large software rollout, they said “OH! We always forget her, and then need to play catch up when she needs things changed.” Precisely.

  • Status Quo: It’s rare that a problem exists, or a new enhancement needed, without there being something in the status quo that has, or must be, changed and will resist when it’s threatened. The only way to discover the precise factors is by leading the stakeholder team through a thorough examination of how they got where they are.
  • Criteria: What criteria need to be met for the problem to be resolved? Again, all stakeholders must work together to figure the criteria out and reach agreement as to how to manage it before going forward to list the criteria for a purchase. Here are some criteria that my clients manage before putting out an RFP or moving forward with a project:

a. Minimal disruption: How will the new replace the old to ensure minimum disruption? What needs to be in place, or accepted, or shifted?

b. Buy In: Who needs to be involved to implement efficiently? Who needs to buy-in?

c. Resource cost: Who will analyze the resource cost of the new to make sure anything new will cost less than maintaining the status quo? And how will this be gauged when weighting choices?

d. Disruption management: What disruption will take place when the new is brought in? No, really. The stakeholders MUST know this: What EXACTLY will be the disruption and how will it be mitigated? By whom? How will you prepare the people, groups, situations that will be effected? What does that look like? This must be handled specifically, point by point, by all stakeholders or you face resistance or non use.

  • Workarounds: Until everything known is tried and failed, it is irresponsible to consider bringing something New in as the risk is too high for disruption. Of course all new purchases create disruption. But the New must match the norms and carry the rules of the system.

When considering fixing the problem, what options have been tried already from within the existing structure of choices? What stopped these workarounds from working well-enough to not need something from outside? What would a new option need to do differently than the workarounds that have been tried? Did the trials and choices of the workarounds come from the entire stakeholder team?

  • Problem Recognition: It’s not until all of the above have been addressed is there a clear understanding of what needs to be purchased. Sometimes Buying Teams are given a fact sheet, or send out an RFP, blithely assuming it’s accurate, only to have the end result fail when one or two stakeholders scream because they were never contacted, or didn’t understand the consequences for them. This is a huge problem in Buying Teams. Sometimes folks do research, make calls, meet with vendors, without having handled steps 1-3 and can’t figure out why they’re getting such resistance.
  • Research: When the entire fact pattern is understood, when all stakeholders are aware of the consequences to them when the new is purchased, when there is agreement they can’t fix the problem themselves, it’s time to do initial research. Delegate out different research modalities among the different stakeholders. We know that different people get different searches as per their past history, so assign several folks to the same topic. But also research other departments, friends, reliable vendors.
  • Evaluation: The entire stakeholder team must buy in to the new. Until there is agreement that the new matches the values and norms of the underlying system, and the cost of bringing it in is known and addressed, there will be no purchase.

Purchasing a service or an item is relatively easy. The difficult part is making sure the new fits into the status quo with minimal disruption and cost. Add the systems element to your buying decisions to ensure an easy integration and use. Otherwise, you might end up failing when you don’t need to.

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

January 20th, 2020

Posted In: News

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