By Sharon Drew Morgen

communicate

As a Buddhist, I don’t understand why anyone would want to take another’s life or how it’s even an option. Yet so many in our country are feeling disempowered and ignored, targeted and disenfranchised and we haven’t yet created a dialogue to heal. In fact, we don’t even know how to hear each other. During this time of racial, class, political, gender, and education divide, of distrust and blame and victimhood, of killing and guns and violence, our inability to deeply hear each other is heartbreaking and costly.

I’m not going into the moral issues of Right/Wrong here. But I can offer my bit to make it possible to find solutions.

THE PROBLEM: HOW OUR BRAINS LISTEN

During the 3 years researching and writing a book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I learned how ubiquitous our challenge is: the distance between our subjective experiences and cultures makes it almost impossible to accurately hear others outside of our own ingrained biases, assumptions, and triggers. Indeed, words can’t be correctly translated when the intended meaning gets lost in another’s unfamiliar mind-set, culture, and history; the possibility of finding collaboration and reconciliation gets lost in our communication.

Heartfelt intent and tears aside, we’ve not been taught how to listen without bias. From the individual spots we each stand in, with our restricting viewpoints and hot-buttons, we pose biased questions and make faulty assumptions, overlooking the possibility that our Communication Partner (CP) may have similar foundational beliefs that we just don’t know how to recognize.

Unfortunately, our brain causes the problem. It translates what’s been said into what’s comfortable or inflammatory or habitual or or… and doesn’t realize it has misunderstood, or mistranslated the Speaker’s intent. So we actually hear ABL when our CP said ABC and we have no reason to think what we we’ve ‘heard’ is faulty. I lost a partnership this way. During a conversation, John got annoyed at something he thought I said. I tried to correct him:

“That’s not what I said.” I told him.

“I know what I heard! Don’t try to get away with anything here!

“But I didn’t say that at all!

“John, I was sitting right here. She’s right. She never said that,” said his wife.

“You’re both lying!!! I’m outta here!!” And he stomped out of the room, ending our partnership.

It’s pernicious: our brains select a translation for us, reducing whole conversations and categories of people to caricature and subjective assumption. But to distinguish what’s meant from what we think we hear, to experience what others want to convey when it’s out of our experience, we must recognize when it’s time to make a new choice.

HOW TO DO HOW

We need a way forward to choose behaviors that maintain our Beliefs, Values, and Identity AND find common ground to listen to each other and come to consensus with action steps to help us all heal. I’m going to offer some steps for us to dialogue and reach win/win consensus. But first I’ll a few foundational truths:

  • Everyone’s experience and history is valid, unique, and guides their choices.
  • Others cannot see or feel what you see or feel.
  • Everyone has a right to the same basics: health, a living wage, good work, safety for our families, education.
  • All change, including adopting new ideas, is threatening to the status quo and will cause resistance unless there is buy-in at the level of beliefs.

We must

  • recognize common beliefs and values we can buy-in to without impairing our individual values,
  • feel safe in conversations when it feels like we’re speaking with enemies,
  • override our resistance and biases to find common intentions, compassion and outcomes,
  • be able to hear another’s intended message without overlaying our biases, assumptions, and habits.

I’ve put together a few action steps to begin to dialogue with those we’ve historically sat in opposition to. I also recommend that our conversations must work toward win/win. I call this a We Space.

Get agreement for a dialogue: It’s likely that you and your CP have different goals and life experiences. Begin by agreeing to have a conversation to do nothing more than find common ground.

  • “I’d like to have a dialogue that might lead to us to an agreeable route forward that meets both of our goals. If you agree, do you have thoughts on where you’d like to begin?”
  • “I wonder if we can find common goals so we might possibly find some agreement to work from. I’m happy to share my goals with you; I’d like to hear yours as well. ”

Set the frame for common values: We all have similar foundational values, hopes and fears – they’re just different. Start by ‘chunking up’ to find agreement.

  • “I’d like to find a way to communicate that might help us find a common values so we can begin determining if there are places we can agree. Any thoughts on how you’d like to proceed?”
  • “It seems we’re in opposite mind-sets. What might be a comfortable way forward for us to discover if there is any agreement at all we can start from?”

Enter without bias: With limiting beliefs or hidden agendas, there’s no way to find commonality. Replace emotions and blame with a new bias, just for this conversation: the ‘bias’ of collaboration.

  • ‘I’m willing to find common ground and put aside my normal reactions for this hour but it will be a challenge since I’m so angry. Do you want to share your difficulty in this area, or are you ok with it and can help me? How do we move forward without bias?’

Get into Observer: In case you have difficulty overcoming your biases and filters, here’s a physiological ‘How-To’ that comes straight from NLP: in your mind’s eye, see yourself up on the ceiling, looking down on yourself and your CP. It will virtually remove you from the fray, and offer an unbiased view of your interaction – one step removed as it were. One way to do this is to walk around during the conversation, or sit way, way back in a chair. Sitting forward keeps you in your biases. (Chapter 6 inWhat? teaches how to do this.)

Notice body language/words: Your CP is speaking/listening from beliefs, values, history, feelings, exhibited in their body language and eye contact. From your ceiling perch, notice how their physical stance matches their words, the level of passion, feelings, and emotion. Now look down and notice how you look and sound in relation to your CP. Just notice. Read Carol Goman’s excellent book on the subject.

Notice triggers: The words emphasized by your CP hold their beliefs and biases. They usually appear at the very beginning or end of a sentence. You may also hear absolutes: Always, Never; lots of You’s may be the vocabulary of blame. Silence, folded arms, a stick-straight torso may show distrust. Just notice where/when it happens and don’t take it personally – it’s not personal. Don’t forget to notice your own triggers, or blame/victim words of your own. If their words trigger you into your own subjective viewpoints, get yourself back into Observer; you’ll have choice from the ceiling. But just in case:

  • “I’m going to try very hard to speak/listen without my historic biases. If you find me getting heated, or feel blame, I apologize as that’s not my intent. If this should happen, please tell me you’re not feeling heard and I’ll do my best to work from a place of compassion and empathy.”

Summarize regularly: Because the odds are bad that you’ll actually hear what your CP means to convey, it’s necessary to summarize what you hear after every exchange:

  • “Sounds to me like you said, “XX”. Is that correct? What would you like me to understand that I didn’t understand or that I misheard?”

‘I’ statements: Stay away from ‘You’ if possible. Try to work from the understanding that you’re standing in different shoes and there is no way either of you can see the other’s landscape.

  • “When I hear you say X it sounds to me like you are telling me that YY. Is that true?”
  • “When I hear you mention Y, I feel like Z and it makes me want to get up from the table as I feel you really aren’t willing to hear me. How can we handle this so we can move forward together?”

Get buy-in each step of the way: Keep checking in, even if it seems obvious that you’re on the same page. It’s really easy to mistranslate what’s been said when the listening filters are different.

  • “Seems to me like we’re on the same page here. I think we’re both saying X. Is that true? What am I missing?”
  • “What should I add to my thinking that I’m avoiding or not understanding the same way you are? Is there a way you want me to experience what it looks like from your shoes that I don’t currently know how to experience? Can you help me understand?”

Check your gut: Notice when/if your stomach gets tight, or your throat hurts. These are sure signs that your beliefs are being stepped on. If that happens, make sure you get back up to the ceiling, and then tell your CP:

  • “I’m experience some annoyance/anger/fear/blame. That means something we’re discussing is going against one of my beliefs or values. Can we stop a moment and check in with each other so we don’t go off the rails?”

Get agreement on the topics in the conversation: One step at a time; make sure you both agree to each item, and skip the ones (for now) where there’s no agreement. Put them in a Parking Lot for your next conversation.

Get agreement on action items: Simple steps for forward actions should become obvious; make sure you both work on action items together.

Get a time on the calendar for the next meeting: Make sure you discuss who else needs to be brought into the conversation, end up with goals you can all agree on and walk away with an accurate understanding of what’s been said and what’s expected.

Until or unless we all hold the belief that none of us matter if some of us don’t; until or unless we’re all willing to take the responsibility of each needless death or killing; until or unless we’re each willing to put aside our very real grievances to seek a higher good, we’ll never heal. It’s not easy. But by learning how to hear each other with compassion and empathy, our conversations can begin. We must be willing to start sharing our Truth and our hearts. It’s the only real start we can make.

___________

Sharon Drew Morgen has been coding and teaching change and choice in sales, coaching, and leadership for over 30 years. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic decision facilitation model used in sales, and is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity. Sharon Drew’s book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? has been called a ‘game changer’ in the communication field, and is the first book that explains, and solves, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her assessments and learning tools that accompany the book have been used by individuals and teams to learn to enter conversations able to hear without filters. Sharon Drew is the author of one of the top 10 global sales blogs with 1700+ articles on facilitating buying decisions through enabling buyers to manage their status quo effectively.

She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com or 512 771 1117.

December 9th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

Leave a Comment

Super QuestionAlexa, Siri, Google, and all programs that answer questions, have mechanisms that determine the answers. If you’re like me, you largely assume they are accurate, without us knowing the reference material or checking further. We actually do this in our daily lives – pose questions to friends, colleagues, and clients, about stuff we’re curious about, and receive responses we don’t check for accuracy or congruence.

Have you ever wondered what a question actually is? Conventionally, questions are posed to elicit a response, to gather data from a Responder, like “How many children do you have?” or “Why are you doing that?” Parents and spouses sometimes use questions to point out insufficiencies or annoyances, as in “Didn’t you notice the dishes haven’t been done?” Sometimes we use them rhetorically to demand fairness in the world, like in “Why is this happening to me??” Sometimes questions are deemed ‘closed’, like in, “What time is dinner?” Sometimes they’re ‘open’, like in, “What do you want to eat?” But there is a unifying feature to all conventional questions: questions are biased by the needs of the Asker to elicit data from the Responder, with the assumption that our questions will extract the information we intend.

Of course, most of the time, conventional questions work just fine. How else could we find out how many acres there are at Machu Picchu, or which movie our spouse wants to see?

But I believe we are underutilizing questions. I believe it’s possible for questions to serve a higher purpose – to collect accurate data, of course, but also to help others discover their own answers and path to decision making and change. What if it were possible to use questions to actually lead people through their unconscious discovery process to uncover their own best answers – without any bias from the Asker?

WHAT QUESTIONS DO

There is a reason questions don’t necessarily unearth accurate data. Using uniquely chosen words and an outcome biased by the curiosity, needs, and assumptions of Askers, influencers extract a restricted subset of data from Responders, all answers being some degree removed from the complete set of available responses. Indeed, questions impose limits that often have some percentage probability of missing the mark, being misunderstood or interpreted badly. There are several reasons for this.

  1. Information: because information is elicited by the needs or curiosity – the bias – of the Asker, real answers may not be captured. The wording, the request, the topic, the intent, and/or the vocabulary may offend or annoy, given differences between the Responder’s and Asker’s beliefs, communication skills, and lifestyles.
  2. Listening: words and meaning are merely our brain’s interpretations of sound waves that enter our ears through our unique neural pathways, guaranteeing we understand what’s been said as per our unconscious biases. Obviously, we often misunderstand or misinterpret the intended message and potentially miss the intent of the question entirely. I wrote an entire book on this (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. Given these natural biases, it’s likely that what we think we’ve heard is some degree off of what was intended. Read my article on this: We don’t know how to hear each other.
  3. Biased question formulation: Askers use words that will hopefully elicit good data for a specific goal and outcome, and may not elicit the best responses. Sadly, it’s possible that more accurate answers could have been retrieved with a different wording or intent.
  4. Restriction: questions restrict answers to the boundaries of the question. You cannot uncover data you never asked for, even if it’s available. You cannot elicit accurate data if the question is heard differently than intended. If I ask you what type of summer shoes you wear, you’re not going to explain the foot surgeries you’ve had.

Are you getting the point here? Questions are biased by the Asker in several ways, with so much bias built in it’s a miracle people communicate at all. And the Responder? Well, a Responder is at the mercy of the question.

This is especially disturbing in coaching, healthcare, and leadership situations. Well-meaning professionals believe they’ll instigate a truth from a Responder, exposed by the ‘right’ question; or that the Other will discover the ‘right’ answer if they search their brains in ‘this direction’. Every coach and leader I’ve met deeply believes in their own knack – ‘intuition’ – for posing the ‘right’ question because they have a history of similar situations and ‘know’ where another’s answer most probably lie.

Yet we all have examples where these assumptions have proven false. Sometimes the influencer has control issues and doesn’t trust the Other to have the ‘right’ opinions or ideas and believes they know more; sometimes they pose biased questions that elicit incorrect data, or worded in a way that unwittingly creates resistance to the assumptions built into them. And sadly, when they’re certain their questions are the right ones, blame Responders who don’t comply, or respond with ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘deceptive’ answers. And worse, patients end up keeping bad habits, clients end up not making needed changes, buyers end up not getting what they need.

A NEW FORM OF QUESTION

As someone who has thought deeply, and written, about the physiology of change and decision making for decades, I began pondering this conundrum in the 1980s. I wondered if questions could be used for something other than eliciting information and instead could direct Responders through their brain toward taking congruent action. What if the intent of the Asker was to facilitate Others in discovering their own route to change with no bias, no ego, no personal needs from the Asker for a particular solution – only the trust that Others had their own answers and merely had to discover them?

What if healthcare professionals asked questions that triggered patients to positive, immediate habit change, or coaches knew the exact questions that enabled new habit formation and behavior generation? What if scientists and consultants could elicit the most accurate information? And imagine if it were possible for questions to help advertisers actually inspire action and sellers to generate Buyer Readiness.

What if a question could be worded in a specific way to act as a GPS to lead a Responder through a sequence in their brain to unearth the accurate data? To make it possible to discover the full set of criteria to make a decision from?

I’m going to get a bit wonky here, so hang with me because what I discovered is not obvious. I began studying neuroscience to learn how to sequence the elements involved in personal, systemic change. I recognized that before anyone would make a change, they’d need to make sure it was congruent with their beliefs. One way to get there is to traverse – or be lead – through to the appropriate memory channels or value or data set they needed to consider, and use their own memories, their own beliefs, their own goals, in their own words, to be able to make a change congruent with who they were. It would be necessary for Askers to change their criteria from having answers to being facilitators.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

I eventually came up with a new form of question that I labeled a Facilitative Question. It uses specific words, in a specific order to go to the most appropriate memory channel in the right order to enable discovery without resistance; it includes time; it’s’ neutral; it limits the scope of response so it avoids elements that might spark defense or feelings; it has no bias, and the Asker cannot know the answer; there is no challenge to the underlying status quo. They’re quite different from conventional questions, and I’m happy to discuss more fully should anyone wish to speak with me about them.

With these questions, prospective buyers can be led through change and buying stages; coaching clients can discover their own path to resistance-free change; doctors can elicit behavior change in patients rather than push to try to cause change; and advertisers can trigger interactive responses to normally one-sided push messages. They

  • unlock the means to help Responders discover their own excellence;
  • are non-manipulative and non-biased;
  • offer change agents a new skill to elicit real change without resistance;
  • eschew information exchange and adopt real servant leadership;
  • enable Responders to solve their own problems and be ready to change.

Here is a simple example:

  • How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?

This Facilitative Question (FQ) begins by expanding the viewing range to the full set of possibilities (i.e. ‘how would you know’), does not challenge the status quo (i.e ‘if it were time’), enables the consideration of possible change without demanding it or threatening the system (i.e. ‘reconsider’), and limits the area of analysis to a bite sized chunk so the brain isn’t overwhelmed (i.e. ‘hairstyle’). And used in the sequence of how decisions get made (my book Dirty Little Secrets discusses the 13 sequenced steps that all change decisions must traverse), this type of question leads the Responders brain to action. In fact, each FQ demands some form of action when responded to.

A conventional question posed to cover the same area might be:

  • Why do you wear your hair like that?

This conventional question challenges the Responder and attempts to elicit data for the Asker’s use, causing a defensive response (a reply would start with ‘Because’) and keeping the person in a very small, idiosyncratic, and personal response range which may end up not being about hair at all, but might send the person back to a fight with their mother 30 years prior, or a defense against their boss, or whatever. And while the Asker is most likely attempting to elicit a response they can ‘sell’ into, they are out of control. FQs actually define the parameters and give Askers real control.

One of the skills needed to formulate FQs is listening for systems, listening without bias. When we listen with biased ears, we will only hear what we want to hear, or what our brains are set up to hear neurologically. When we can listen without bias (read my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? on this topic) we can hear where the person is along their change cycle and where exactly to pose the next question (again, the 13 steps to change and decision making applies here). A new skill set, a new set of outcomes, and the real belief that everyone has their own answers.

A bit of caution: sometimes people use my examples of FQs and change words, change the sequence, and change the intent. In other words, use a bit of what I suggest to, again, formulate a question to get what they want to get. In other words, it won’t be a FQ. FQs truly demand the Asker give up the need to be the change agent, have or seek ‘the answers’, or be in control.  The goal of the FQs is merely to serve others in finding their own best answers.

USES

FQs direct people to the exact spots within their brain – the most appropriate synapses and memory channels – where their accurate answers reside, in the proper order the brain can use them to consider making a change that’s congruent with their lifestyle, while creating an interactive situation. Here’s a few examples that could benefit from FQs.

  1. Healthcare: Intake forms that create an interactive doc/patient experience from the start:What would you need to see from us to know we’re on your team and ready to serve you? [This FQ automatically creates a WE space between patient and provider.]
  2. Advertising, for an ad for a Porsche, for example: How would you know when it was time to buy yourself a luxury car? [This FQ makes the ad interactive and gives a reader time to reflect on personal change.]
  3. Sales:What has stopped you until now from resolving your issue using your own resources? [This FQ enables potential buyers to look at how they’ve gone about solving a problem on their own – necessary before realizing they can’t fix the problem themselves and might need to buy something.]
  4. Coaching:What would you need to see or believe differently to be willing to consider new choices in the places where your habitual choices are more limited? [This FQ gives clients an observer viewpoint, thus circumventing blame, to notice old habits/patterns, and limits viewing to the exact historic behaviors that may not be effective.]

The examples above are merely of single FQs which have limited use: on their own they are not part of the process of enabling change. For most change it’s necessary to formulate a sequenced set of FQs that lead a Responder from their initial discovery of change criteria through their own unique, sequenced, steps of congruent change. These can be used in advertising and marketing campaigns; healthcare apps that sit on top of Behavior Mod apps and facilitate new habit formation; AI where apps or robots need to understand the route to change and decision making. I’ve been teaching it in sales with my Buying Facilitation® model for 40 years and companies such as DuPont take it into the field for their farmers to use, Senior Partners at KPMG use it with client consulting, Safelight Auto Glass uses it to compete against other distributers, and Kaiser Permanente uses it to engage seniors needed supplemental insurance, to name a few.

If anyone would like to learn the HOW of formulating Facilitative Questions, I developed a primer in a FQ learning accelerator. Or I can teach you the full skill set. Or we can work together to develop or test a new initiative. Given how broadly my own clients have used these questions, I’m eager to work with folks who seek to truly serve their client base.

By enabling Others to discover their own unconscious path we not only help them find their own best answers but act as Servant Leaders to decision making. What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to add a new questioning technique to your already superb questioning skills? How would you know that adding a new skill set would be worth the time/effort/cost to make you – and your clients – even more successful? Should you wish to add the ability to truly serve others, let me know.

______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  She is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® which she’s trained to sales people and coaches worldwide since 1985. Sharon Drew is an original thinker, thought leader, keynote speaker, coach, and consultant.

For those interested in learning more about Buying Facilitation® or Facilitative Questions, Sharon Drew wrote about this extensively in Dirty Little Secrets. For those wishing to learn how to use this material, visit her store at www.sharondrewmorgen.com and look up the Guided Study material. Or contact her directly: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

December 2nd, 2019

Posted In: Communication

Leave a Comment

A coach’s job is to facilitate potential change, usually done by asking questions to identify the components of the problem, choosing between solutions to discuss, and offering ways to make, and keep, any changes while maintaining a trusting relationship.

To achieve the excellence that all coaches seek, it’s vital they avoid the ear’s natural, unconscious listening filters that could prejudice an interaction, such as:

Bias. By listening specifically for issues – problems, hopes, missing skills or motivation – a coach will merely hear what s/he recognizes as missing. This causes a problem for a client: if there are unspoken or omitted bits, if there are meta patterns that should be noticed, if there are unstated historic – or subconscious – reasons behind the current situation that aren’t obvious, the coach may not find them in a timely way, causing the coach to begin in the wrong place, with the wrong timing and assumptions, leading to suggestions that may be inappropriate, potentially creating mistrust (best case) or harm (worst case).

Assumptions. If a coach has had somewhat similar discussions with other clients, or historic, unconscious, beliefs are touched that bring to mind specific questions or solutions, coaches too often offer clients flawed or inadequate suggestions.

Habits. If a coach has a client base in one area – say, real estate, or leadership – s/he may unconsciously enter the conversation with many prepared ways of handling similar situations and may miss the unique issues, patterns, and unspoken foundation that may hold the key to success.

And it’s all unconscious. None of us, especially coaches who truly care about their clients, ever mean to harm anyone. As I write in my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? the problem lie in our brains. Once we listen carefully for ‘something’, consciously or un-, we restrict all else that’s possible to hear as our brains interpret the words spoken according to our bias (led by the electrical/chemical signals sent to our historic neural pathways), often missing the client’s real intent, nuance, patterns, and comprehensive contextual framework and implications.

To have choice as to when, whether, or how to avoid filtering out possibility, we must disassociate – go up on the ceiling and look down – and remove ourselves from any personal biases, assumptions, triggers or habits, enabling us to hear all that is meant (spoken or not).

In What? I explain how to trigger ourselves the moment there is a potential incongruence. For those unfamiliar with disassociation, try this: during a phone chat, put your legs up on the desk and push your body back against the chair, or stand up. For in-person discussions, stand up and/or walk around. [I have walked around rooms during Board meetings while consulting for Fortune 100 companies. They wanted excellence regardless of my physical comportment.] Both of those physical perspectives offer the physiology of choice and the ability to move outside of our instincts. Try it.

For companies wanting a one-day program on listening to ensure teammates hear each other accurately, to help customer-facing staff to hear clients better, let me know. For those individuals seeking to listen without bias, read What? and take the guided learning that leads you through exercises in each chapter, to teach you how to notice, and get rid of, your listening bias.

_______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling With Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy including Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512-771-1117 www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

November 25th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, News

Leave a Comment

Why does it seem so hard to change a habit or a behavior? Why do we drag our feet when buying a replacement appliance or car? Why do our teams go through disruption when going through a merger? Why do we resist changing our diets or adding exercise to our day when we know it’s good for us?

The oft-repeated myth claims people hate change, that change is hard. But that’s not true. People like the results of change; they just fear the process, the disruption and disorientation that change seems to cause. But the problem isn’t the change; it’s the way we’re approaching it.

The very skills we use to instigate change cause the resistance, struggle, failure to change, and conflict that occur when we initiate doing anything outside of our habituated norm. With a different skill set we can not only avoid resistance altogether, but change in a way that’s pain free, creative and expansive. In fact, change can be a pleasure.

In this article I’ll briefly discuss the topics necessary to consider painless change, and link to five 30-minute podcasts I taped a while ago with Nathan Ives of Strategy Driven Magazine. Since I recorded these podcasts, I’ve since developed a How of Change program that actually teaches how to isolate the exact elements in the brain to consciously generate new neural pathways to stimulate easy change. As always, I’m here to discuss.

WHAT IS CHANGE?

Change means doing/thinking something different than our status quo – our internal system that has been accepted, habituated, standardized, and normalized through time – potentially replacing it with something unknown, untried, and therefore risky.

And therein lie the problem: because our change methods don’t take systems into account, anything we do to effect change potentially causes a destabilizing effect and puts our system at risk. This fact alone causes disruption, pain and confusion. We’re trying to push an as-yet unaccepted element into a fully/long-functioning stable system that hasn’t agreed to alter itself, and it’s defending itself.

To do anything different, we need approval and a route forward from our unconscious system; to change congruently, we must consciously facilitate our normalized, unconscious internal structure to design new and acceptable rules for any additions.

Once the ‘new’ is acceptable, seen to be nonthreatening, recognized as having the same rules, norms, values as the status quo, it will be easily adopted. Note: regardless of the efficacy of the new, or the problems inherent in the status quo, change is not acceptable until the status quo, the system, the group of norms and beliefs that have been good-enough, recognizes a way to normalize itself with the new included.

#1 What is Change? and Why is Change so Hard?

WE IGNORE THE SYSTEM: HOW BIAS AND INFORMATION PUSH CAUSE RESISTANCE

Historically, we have approached change through information sharing, traditional problem-solving methods, personal discipline and behavior modification, and strong leadership, assuming by pushing new information – new activities, new ideas, new rationale, requests for different behaviors – into the status quo it will be sufficient. But it’s not. We’re ignoring the system, causing it to resist to maintain itself.

Why are systems so important? Systems are our glue. Our lives are run by systems – families, teams, companies, relationships. Each of us individually is a system. Systems are made up of rules and norms that everything/everyone buys in to and that maintain the beliefs and values, history and experience, that make each system unique and against which everything is judged against.

And each system holds tightly to its uniqueness as the organizing force behind the activities, goals, and output of our behaviors. Change any of the elements and we change the system; try to push something new into the system, and it will defend itself. We learned in 6th grade that systems seek homeostasis (balance), making it unlikely we can pull one thing out of a system and shove something else back in without the system resisting.

Currently, our attempts at change (sellers, coaches, negotiators, or diets, exercise programs, etc.) are little more than pushing a new agenda in from the outside and assuming compliance will follow because the new is ‘better’ or ‘rational’. But because the new most likely doesn’t match the unique, internal norms already in residence, we get implementation problems in teams, closing delays in sales, resistance to changing eating and exercise habits, modification problems in healthcare and coaching. Indeed, all implementations, all buying decisions, all negotiations, all new behavior generation, are change management problems.

It’s possible to introduce change in a way that does not cause resistance – from the inside out, by teaching the system how to reorganize along different lines, in accordance with its own rules and values.

For lasting change, it’s necessary to enlist buy-in from the system. Any reasoning or validation for needed change will be resisted because the system fears disruption. Hear how systems are the organizing principle around change – and what to do about it.

#2 What are Systems and How Do They Influence Change

WHAT IS RESISTANCE?

The universally held concept is that resistance is ubiquitous, that any change, any new idea, will engender resistance. University programs teach it how to manage resistance; Harvard professors such as Chris Argyris and Howard Gardner have made their reputations and written books on it; consultants make their livings managing it. Yet there is absolutely no reason for resistance: we actually create the resistance we get, by the very models we use to implement change.

The underlying problem is, again, systems. As per homeostasis, a system will fight to continue functioning as it has always functioned, regardless of how impractical or non-efficient it is or how compelling the new change might be. And by attempting change without an agreement from the system, without designing any implementation of the new around the inherent beliefs, values, and norms of the status quo, we’re causing imbalance.

Systems just are. They wake up every day maintaining the same elements, behaviors, beliefs, they had yesterday, and the day before. They don’t notice anything as a problem – the problems are built in and, well, part of the givens. When anything new attempts to enter a system and the system has not reorganized itself to maintain systems congruence, it is threatened (Indeed, we are threatening the status quo!) and will defend itself by resisting. Hence, we always define and create our own resistance.

It’s possible to avoid resistance by beginning a change process by first facilitating the system to re-think, re-organize, re-consider its rules, relationships, and expectations, and garner buy-in from all of the elements that will touch the final solution, while matching the introduction of the new accordingly. Believe it or not, it’s not difficult. But we do need a new skill set to accomplish this.

#3 If Decisions Are Always Rational, Why Are Changes Resisting?

WHY BUY-IN IS NECESSARY AND HOW TO ACHIEVE IT

As sellers, change agents, coaches, doctors, parents, and managers, we seek to motivate change. Whether it involves a purchase, a new idea, a different set of behaviors, or a team project, all successful change requires

  • matching the new with the values and norms of the status quo,
  • shifting the status quo to adapt to something new,
  • facilitating buy-in from everyone who will touch the new addition,
  • working from inside out by aligning with the core values and norms of the system.
[Note: I teach this change process as Buying Facilitation® to sellers to facilitate Pre-Sales buying decisions, and coaches as a tool to generate permanent change.] Until this is accomplished, resistance will result as the system attempts to defend itself.

#4 Why is Buy-in Necessary and How to Achieve It

HOW TO AVOID RESISTANCE, DISRUPTION, AND FAILURE

Until now, we have approached change by starting with a specific goal and implementation plan and seeking buy-in to move forward successfully. While we take meticulous steps to bring aboard the right people, have numerous meetings to discuss and manage any change or disruption possibilities, our efforts are basically top-down and outside-in and end up causing resistance and disruption.

Starting from the inside begins with an explicit goal that everyone agrees to, but leaving the specifics – the Hows – up to the people working with the new initiative, an inside-out, bottom-up/top-down collaboration. While the result may not end up exactly like imagined, it will certainly meet the objectives sought, and include far more creativity and buy-in, promote leadership, continue through time, and avoid resistance and disruption – and potential failure.

#5 A Radical Approach to Change Management, Real Leadership

Change need not be difficult if we approach it as a systems problem. I’ve developed models for sales, leadership, coaching, and healthcare that facilitate systemic, congruent, values-based change. I’m happy to help you think this through or implement it. To learn more about systemic models for decision making, change, and sales, go to http://sharondrewmorgen.com/ or contact Sharon Drew at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

Here’s a link if you wish to have copies of the entire series Making Change Work.

_______________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, author, and the inventor of the Buying Facilitation® model, a decision facilitation and change management model often used in sales to help sellers facilitate the change issues buyers must address before they can make a buying decision. She’s written 7 books on the topic including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew has trained many Fortune 500 hundred companies to help people become buyers, to help staff change and be motivated, to give leaders the tools to lead effectively without resistance.

Sharon Drew also tackles listening, and closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her book on how to hear others without bias, What? Did you really say what I think I heard?, is used by several organizations to enable them to hear each other, and clients, accurately.. See www.sharondrewmorgen.com for a range of articles on change, buying decisions, and hearing others. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

November 18th, 2019

Posted In: News

Leave a Comment

Training Your Team, Training In BusinessDid you ever wonder why training fails more often than not? When important material, meant to improve or educate, is not learned or acted upon? Why perfectly smart people keep doing the same things that didn’t work the first time? The problem is the training model.

Current training models are designed to offer and present data, not help folks learn. Let me explain.

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

HOW WE LEARN

We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility

Because anything new is a threat to our habitual and carefully (unconsciously) organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted.

The design of most training programs poses problems for learners, such as when

– learners are happy with their habitual behaviors and don’t seek anything new,
– fear they might lose their historic competency,
– the new material unconsciously opposes long-held beliefs
– the new material may butt heads with a learner’s long-held beliefs, ego, or knowledge base.

Our brains are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new regardless of the efficacy of the required change. Much like a sales pitch, training offers good data – and learners, like buyers, may not know they need it or be able to congruently make the change the new information requires. But there is another way to go about training that incorporates change. Let’s begin by examining the beliefs inherent in the training model itself.

HOW WE TRAIN

The current training model assumes that if new material

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

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

Until or unless the unconscious system that holds our beliefs and values and habits in place is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material, any change will not be permanent and learners will resist. Effective training must change beliefs first. And beliefs can only be changed by the learner making internal shifts, separate from the new information provided.

LEARNING FACILITATION

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. buy-in from the unconscious system of beliefs, habits, rules and history;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change

before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. Learners would have to first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones.

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

  • Day 1 helps learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Once they learn exactly what is missing among their current skill sets, and they determine what, specifically, they need to add to achieve excellence, then they are ready to learn.
  • Day 2 enables learners to create a route to supplement their current skills then tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then do new behaviors get introduced and practiced.

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

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

 __________

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

Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller ‘Selling with Integrity’ and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help Others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 articles that help sellers help buyers buy. Sharon Drew has recently developed 3 new programs for start ups.
She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com  512-771-1117

November 11th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, News

Tags:

Leave a Comment

For some reason, it’s an accepted norm that presenting details of an idea or solution will prompt action. It goes something like this: you want someone to buy or do something, or fund you; you want a team to organize in a certain way, or a teenager to change behaviors. In other words, you want someone to do something they’re currently not doing. You decide on a story, a pitch, a tactic, a presentation, that will influence them to change their current behaviors to do what you want them to do. So you

  • formulate the ‘right’ message, in the right way – according to their demographics or personal characteristics – that (you assume) represents their ‘needs’ and will motivate action;
  • develop the ‘right’ supplemental materials or stories;
  • pitch, present, tell a story, offer indisputable research and superlative references that prove your value.
  • You then assume your ‘relationship’ with the listener – your status, brand, assumed expertise, history – offers you authority to be granted what you ask for. And then you wait. And then…nothing.

In case you’re wondering why you’re not getting the results you deserve, it’s because it’s all based on you.

WHAT – PITCHES CAN’T BE HEARD

Just because you may be ‘right’, have the essential information and capability to fix a problem, your message won’t be heard unless the listener recognizes they want to change, that they cannot resolve their own problem using familiar resources, and they’re ready to seek an external fix.

Indeed, until they know precisely when, why, what, and how to change their current thinking and behaviors, until they recognize that the ‘cost’ of adopting a solution from outside the status quo is lower than the cost of maintaining the problem, there’s a case to be made that your suggestions will be ignored or resisted.

Here’s the problem. Your pitches and stories:

  1. try to persuade others according to your needs and goals (As a listener, if don’t think I have a need, why should I listen?);
  2. are misunderstood and mistranslated as per unconscious listening biases (As a listener, if I misinterpret what you’re talking about, what is my takeaway? And how will I know what I think I hear isn’t what you’re saying?);
  3. provide an answer according to what you believe is needed (As a listener, I’m offended when you think you know more than me about what I need.);
  4. use biased verbal and graphic forms to represent the message you think will be effective (As a listener, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t think that way.);
  5. reflect your need for them to take action NOW (As a listener, I haven’t figured out if I need to change anything. So why are you pushing me to take action?);
  6. probably don’t resolve the potentially broken internal rules and historic choices that created and maintain the problem (As a listener, I know I need to resolve this, but it’s always been this way and so many things are dependent upon it. What will break if I try to do something different?).

Notice it’s you and your biases determining:

  • the information you’re sharing – which may not be the best set of facts for that listener;
  • the particular words, graphics, presentation used – which may not be the best for the listener’s understanding;
  • the assumption that the problem needs to be fixed – and fixed the way YOU think it should be fixed;
  • that YOU are the one (an outsider with no true knowledge of the full data set of what’s going on internally) who has THE content to fix them – and aren’t recognizing any possible avenues for them to fix themselves;
  • the intended outcome YOU believe needs to be met – which may not be the same outcome or agenda the listener condones.

In other words, with no accurate idea of how your information is being received OR the actual underlying fact pattern that has both created and maintained the status quo, with no ability to understand the historic, systemic issues that keep the status quo functioning well-enough to not have considered change, you’re trying to tell folks to do what you want them to do using your own criteria for them to change.

You certainly have no control. You have no way of knowing the rules, relationships, background, of what you can only see parts of from outside the system. You have no idea how you’re being heard, or if your chosen languaging and presentation is what the Other will respond to. Indeed, you have no way of knowing that your message is ‘right’ for that person at that time.

I contend that by entering a conversation fraught with your own biases, goals, needs, and limited understanding, you’ll only succeed with those who already believe the way you do, are seeking change, and are looking for exactly what you’re presenting. And those who really might need your message will ignore it if it’s mistimed, runs counter to the current operating rules or agreements, or uses the wrong languaging.

This can be amended. You can prepare listeners to accurately hear and be motivated to act on what you want to share; you can language your information according to the best chances to be heard, at a time when the listener is ready, willing, and able to hear. But you need to add a new mindset.

WHY – CAN’T YOUR PITCH/STORY BE HEARD?

Right now it seems your listeners are ignoring you, or resisting; that they misinterpret or forget on purpose. But that’s not the case. They just cannot respond to what you are telling them. The way they hear you is a big part of the problem.

Simplistically, brains take in spoken words through your ears as chemical and electrical signals devoid of meaning. These signals

  • travel down neural pathways
  • seeking similar-enough signals
  • that match with the incoming signals
  • to an unknowable (greater or lesser) degree,
  • and may have a different meaning
  • that’s some degree ‘off’ the incoming message,
  • but matches historic decisions and beliefs
  • that have been built in to current choices, status quo, and accepted norms.

In other words, there’s a high probability your intended message will be misheard, misunderstood, or mistranslated as per the meaning attached to the neurons and synapses a listener’s brain automatically chooses to match with your words; you have no idea what others hear when you speak, your clarity, personality, and messaging aside.

Those with no interest at all, and regardless of your attempts to inspire attention, may notice only a fraction of what you offer and certainly won’t care if they’re getting it wrong. For those who are trying to listen, they don’t know what parts of your message they’re missing or misinterpreting. Their brains won’t tell them they’ve got it wrong.

In fact, people can’t know that they DON’T accurately hear what you’re saying. As per above, their brains don’t tell them which words or concepts were omitted or mistranslated during their normal brain/listening process. So if I say ABC, you might actually hear ABL and your brain won’t tell you it haphazardly discarded E, F, G, etc. during its signal matching process. I actually wrote a book on this called WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard?.

In other words, even if people try to hear you, even if you’re messaging is terrific, all listening is unconsciously biased by your listener’s brains regardless of what you say. And using normal conversation, or pitching/storytelling, you have no control. When you merely pitch

  • what you want them to hear
  • AND your listener has not heard what you intended them to hear
  • AND your listener is not in agreement or doesn’t know how what they think they heard relates to their situation,

there’s a good likelihood you’re unwittingly fostering resistance and resentment.

But when listeners have agreed they want new knowledge, when they know how to manage any disruption that would result from bringing in something new, their brain will connect with the correct neural pathways to listen through and accurately hear what you’ve got to say.

Your first job is to get them ready to hear you. I can’t say this enough: regardless of how much Others need to hear what you’ve got to say, no matter what problem it will resolve, no matter how urgently they need the information you have, they cannot, cannot hear you accurately unless they unconsciously match what you’re saying with their unconscious listening biases.

WHEN – SHOULD YOU SHARE INFORMATION?

Begin by getting on the same page as your listener. That means your normal pitch, your normal presentation materials or deck, may need to be amended to include factors on THEIR side of the table. Do research with current clients. Come at this from the standpoint of the listener, the buyer, the funder:

  1. recognize it’s your responsibility to help the listener hear you accurately; their brains won’t know what’s accurate.
  2. create the path to ensure listener buy-in before mentioning your idea.
  3. assume you will be resisted if what they hear doesn’t match their current beliefs and historic rules about the subject.

I continue to be shocked that I rarely meet a marketer OR a seller who knows exactly how their buyers buy: the types of internal change issues they must manage before they can do anything different; the possibilities they have of fixing their own problems; the relationship and power and buy-in issues going on amongst stakeholders that influence (in)action. Or folks seeking funding: what criteria will funders use to choose you over the competition? It won’t be based on your pitch – they’ve heard it before. Or influencers: what historic actions or cultural norms are fixed in the status quo that would need to shift for them to buy-in to change?

Until you know this, there’s no way for you to be certain the proper technique to use to pitch, and you’ll only be successful with the low hanging fruit. I wrote a book on this that will teach you all of the stuff going on behind the scenes: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. But make sure you do research. Or let me know and I can help you gather the right data and give you a report.

Once you understand the ‘lay of the land’ behind the scenes, your conversation must begin by engendering trust so they’ll begin to turn off their guarded ear and open up a bit. And the only way you’ll engender trust is to really care about them. They will have no need to care about you unless you do. Something like this:

For some reason, it’s an accepted norm that presenting details of an idea or solution will prompt action. It goes something like this: you want someone to buy or do something, or fund you; you want a team to organize in a certain way, or a teenager to change behaviors. In other words, you want someone to do something they’re currently not doing. You decide on a story, a pitch, a tactic, a presentation, that will influence them to change their current behaviors to do what you want them to do. So you

  • formulate the ‘right’ message, in the right way – according to their demographics or personal characteristics – that (you assume) represents their ‘needs’ and will motivate action;
  • develop the ‘right’ supplemental materials or stories;
  • pitch, present, tell a story, offer indisputable research and superlative references that prove your value.

You then assume your ‘relationship’ with the listener – your status, brand, assumed expertise, history – offers you authority to be granted what you ask for. And then you wait. And then…nothing.

In case you’re wondering why you’re not getting the results you deserve, it’s because it’s all based on you.

WHAT – PITCHES CAN’T BE HEARD

Just because you may be ‘right’, have the essential information and capability to fix a problem, your message won’t be heard unless the listener recognizes they want to change, that they cannot resolve their own problem using familiar resources, and they’re ready to seek an external fix. 

Indeed, until they know precisely when, why, what, and how to change their current thinking and behaviors, until they recognize that the ‘cost’ of adopting a solution from outside the status quo is lower than the cost of maintaining the problem, there’s a case to be made that your suggestions will be ignored or resisted.

Here’s the problem. Your pitches and stories:

  1. try to persuade others according to your needs and goals (As a listener, if don’t think I have a need, why should I listen?);
  2. are misunderstood and mistranslated as per unconscious listening biases (As a listener, if I misinterpret what you’re talking about, what is my takeaway? And how will I know what I think I hear isn’t what you’re saying?);
  3. provide an answer according to what you believe is needed (As a listener, I’m offended when you think you know more than me about what I need.);
  4. use biased verbal and graphic forms to represent the message you think will be effective (As a listener, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t think that way.);
  5. reflect your need for them to take action NOW (As a listener, I haven’t figured out if I need to change anything. So why are you pushing me to take action?);
  6. probably don’t resolve the potentially broken internal rules and historic choices that created and maintain the problem (As a listener, I know I need to resolve this, but it’s always been this way and so many things are dependent upon it. What will break if I try to do something different?).

Notice it’s you and your biases determining:

  • the information you’re sharing – which may not be the best set of facts for that listener;
  • the particular words, graphics, presentation used – which may not be the best for the listener’s understanding;
  • the assumption that the problem needs to be fixed – and fixed the way YOU think it should be fixed;
  • that YOU are the one (an outsider with no true knowledge of the full data set of what’s going on internally) who has THE content to fix them – and aren’t recognizing any possible avenues for them to fix themselves;
  • the intended outcome YOU believe needs to be met – which may not be the same outcome or agenda the listener condones.

In other words, with no accurate idea of how your information is being received OR the actual underlying fact pattern that has both created and maintained the status quo, with no ability to understand the historic, systemic issues that keep the status quo functioning well-enough to not have considered change, you’re trying to tell folks to do what you want them to do using your own criteria for them to change.

You certainly have no control. You have no way of knowing the rules, relationships, background, of what you can only see parts of from outside the system. You have no idea how you’re being heard, or if your chosen languaging and presentation is what the Other will respond to. Indeed, you have no way of knowing that your message is ‘right’ for that person at that time.

I contend that by entering a conversation fraught with your own biases, goals, needs, and limited understanding, you’ll only succeed with those who already believe the way you do, are seeking change, and are looking for exactly what you’re presenting. And those who really might need your message will ignore it if it’s mistimed, runs counter to the current operating rules or agreements, or uses the wrong languaging.

This can be amended. You can prepare listeners to accurately hear and be motivated to act on what you want to share; you can language your information according to the best chances to be heard, at a time when the listener is ready, willing, and able to hear. But you need to add a new mindset.

WHY – CAN’T YOUR PITCH/STORY BE HEARD?

Right now it seems your listeners are ignoring you, or resisting; that they misinterpret or forget on purpose. But that’s not the case. They just cannot respond to what you are telling them. The way they hear you is a big part of the problem.

Simplistically, brains take in spoken words through your ears as chemical and electrical signals devoid of meaning. These signals

  • travel down neural pathways
  • seeking similar-enough signals
  • that match with the incoming signals
  • to an unknowable (greater or lesser) degree,
  • and may have a different meaning
  • that’s some degree ‘off’ the incoming message,
  • but matches historic decisions and beliefs
  • that have been built in to current choices, status quo, and accepted norms.

In other words, there’s a high probability your intended message will be misheard, misunderstood, or mistranslated as per the meaning attached to the neurons and synapses a listener’s brain automatically chooses to match with your words; you have no idea what others hear when you speak, your clarity, personality, and messaging aside.

Those with no interest at all, and regardless of your attempts to inspire attention, may notice only a fraction of what you offer and certainly won’t care if they’re getting it wrong. For those who are trying to listen, they don’t know what parts of your message they’re missing or misinterpreting. Their brains won’t tell them they’ve got it wrong.

In fact, people can’t know that they DON’T accurately hear what you’re saying. As per above, their brains don’t tell them which words or concepts were omitted or mistranslated during their normal brain/listening process. So if I say ABC, you might actually hear ABL and your brain won’t tell you it haphazardly discarded E, F, G, etc. during its signal matching process. I actually wrote a book on this called WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard?.

In other words, even if people try to hear you, even if you’re messaging is terrific, all listening is unconsciously biased by your listener’s brains regardless of what you say. And using normal conversation, or pitching/storytelling, you have no control. When you merely pitch

  • what you want them to hear
  • AND your listener has not heard what you intended them to hear
  • AND your listener is not in agreement or
  • doesn’t know how what they think they heard relates to their situation,

there’s a good likelihood you’re unwittingly fostering resistance and resentment.

But when listeners have agreed they want new knowledge, when they know how to manage any disruption that would result from bringing in something new, their brain will connect with the correct neural pathways to listen through and accurately hear what you’ve got to say.

Your first job is to get them ready to hear you. I can’t say this enough: regardless of how much Others need to hear what you’ve got to say, no matter what problem it will resolve, no matter how urgently they need the information you have, they cannot, cannot hear you accurately unless they unconsciously match what you’re saying with their unconscious listening biases.

WHEN – SHOULD YOU SHARE INFORMATION?

Begin by getting on the same page as your listener. That means your normal pitch, your normal presentation materials or deck, may need to be amended to include factors on THEIR side of the table. Do research with current clients. Come at this from the standpoint of the listener, the buyer, the funder:

  1. recognize it’s your responsibility to help the listener hear you accurately; their brains won’t know what’s accurate.
  2. create the path to ensure listener buy-in before mentioning your idea.
  3. assume you will be resisted if what they hear doesn’t match their current beliefs and historic rules about the subject.

I continue to be shocked that I rarely meet a marketer OR a seller who knows exactly how their buyers buy: the types of internal change issues they must manage before they can do anything different; the possibilities they have of fixing their own problems; the relationship and power and buy-in issues going on amongst stakeholders that influence (in)action. Or folks seeking funding: what criteria will funders use to choose you over the competition? It won’t be based on your pitch – they’ve heard it before. Or influencers: what historic actions or cultural norms are fixed in the status quo that would need to shift for them to buy-in to change?

Until you know this, there’s no way for you to be certain the proper technique to use to pitch, and you’ll only be successful with the low hanging fruit. I wrote a book on this that will teach you all of the stuff going on behind the scenes: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. But make sure you do research. Or let me know and I can help you gather the right data and give you a report.

Once you understand the ‘lay of the land’ behind the scenes, your conversation must begin by engendering trust so they’ll begin to turn off their guarded ear and open up a bit. And the only way you’ll engender trust is to really care about them. They will have no need to care about you unless you do. Something like this:

I have something I’d like to share. But I’m not sure if you need to hear it. How are you currently thinking about X right now?

This lets the listener know they have their own valid viewpoint and you won’t foist your beliefs on them; pushing your data too soon encourages resistance and resentment. Continue with some of these:

I hear you currently believe X? Did I hear correctly?

If there is a time when you consider change, how would you plan on handling X?

I notice that you didn’t mention X. Do you have any thoughts on how you might incorporate any needed new choices? I have a solution/idea that would offer new thoughts on this subject should you want to consider new choices.

The hard part is to keep yourself from talking if their responses seem to naturally lead to them adopting your solution: until they have agreed to add something new or consider change, until they realize they might be missing a piece, you’ve got nothing to say.

How many times have you walked through booths at conferences and heard folks wasting their breath pitching pitching pitching, hoping hoping hoping their message will be heard by someone?!?! Well, there’s a good chance you’re doing the same thing. Stop wasting your breath; save it for those who want to hear it and then language it according to their listening patterns.

Wait until you’re certain your listener wants to learn/do something different before pitching. Even for you folks seeking funding: before you pitch, help them determine the criteria they’ll use to choose someone to fund and then match that criteria. For parents seeking to change a teen’s habits: what’s stopping them from implementing what they promised? For sellers: what do they need to do internally to get the buy-in for any proposed change? How will they determine if an outside fix is less costly than maintaining the status quo? What can they do to fix the problem themselves first?

Until people know if they’re ready/able to do anything different, that the ‘cost’ of change is manageable, they aren’t available to listen to what you have to say. When you begin with a pitch, you’re restricting your audience to those who have already decided to change – the low hanging fruit. Until people know how to listen without bias you can’t be heard accurately. Sorry.

HOW – SHOULD YOU PITCH?

Of course it’s necessary to share specific details when needed:

  • to take action (The space for the desk is 8 feet long.);
  • to recognize a fit between items (We will be serving fish, so bring white wine.);
  • to explain penalties (If you come home after midnight, you’ll be grounded.);
  • when someone seeks you out to answer their curiosity (How do you cook that?)
  • to know what to do when an action has been agreed upon (Our first action will be to…);
  • to know content details (I now recognize I cannot solve a problem myself, know how to manage the fallout from bringing in something new, and have the buy-in to learn, buy, think, add something new).

It’s necessary to language your pitch so you’re understood when information is needed. Once the listener has shared what they already believe to be true about the topic you’re discussing, use their words, their beliefs, and what they think is missing, to populate your pitch. Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re selling email organization software.

You: How are you currently organizing your email?
Prospect: I use my folders in my email software.
You: I assume that’s working fine for you or you would have added new capability before now.
Prospect: I know I should do it, but I can’t get my head around adding any new software than I already have. I’m overwhelmed.
You: I know. All of us are. I sell an email organizing product that’s simple to install and seamlessly works with most existing software. If you want, we can discuss it if your stakeholders would consider adding the organizing capability to what you’ve got now.

Notice when it was time to speak I focused my pitch to only the comments my listener mentions. If I used my entire pitch, I’d be breaking trust.

I’ve spent decades training sales folks, another decade as a life/business coach, and more recently as the developer of a unique change model that enables folks to generate congruent behavior change. I developed an entire generic change management model (Buying Facilitation®) that teaches sellers how to facilitate any buying decision, coaches to facilitate congruent change, and helps leaders and parents expedite requests and promises. And I also developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions (above) that help others discover their own answers with no bias from the questioner other than a facilitated direction for brains to find answers.

I understand how difficult it is instigate change in others. Remember that when you’re pitching, or sharing a story to initiate another to take action, you’re asking them to change. Please consider the problem from a different angle. Help your listeners change by helping them change their brains. Stop thinking your brilliant content will be enough; serve them by helping them figure out how to use what you’ve got to say to become better.

_______________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation® and Facilitative Questions, trainer, coach, and consultant. She is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business bestseller Selling with Integrity. Sharon Drew can help you develop, perfect, and present your message for optimal success.

November 4th, 2019

Posted In: News

Leave a Comment

Why systms work for businessAs a Change Facilitator, I often get asked about the nature of decision making, change and buy-in. Since my responses seem surprising in their laser focus on systems, I thought it might be an interesting conversation to start among influencers: what role do systems play in change? I contend that unless we understand systems we can’t hear others without bias, can’t pose pitches or try to influence others, can’t effectively design or implement projects and project teams, and can’t effectively maintain relationships.

To that end, I’ve jotted down a few of my favorite ‘laws’ of systems that might help explain my intense respect for them, and provide you with baseline truths of how our status quo rules our behaviors, how our beliefs and decisions are tied together, and why it’s so difficult to change anyone’s mind.

Here are my thoughts on how and why systems are not only central to change, but the glue that makes the status quo so substantial and change so difficult; at the end, I offer an approach to enable congruent, inside-out, permanent change.

  • A system is a conglomeration of elements that represent the status quo and have agreed to the same rules and beliefs which are then expressed through behaviors. All behaviors represent and express the beliefs and rules inherent in the system.
  • A system has created its status quo, with a set identity and Hierarchy of Beliefs that govern it. It’s largely unconscious and historic, designed to maintain itself as is, perpetuated by the historic rules that recreate it daily, and defends itself at all costs. It can be said that all systems are complex in their own way.
  • A system always makes choices that enable it to maintain itself with minimal disruption. Regardless of how others interpret the decisions or choices made by the system, our take-aways as Outsiders are always subjective.
  • A system just IS. Systems always act upon the givens, rules, beliefs, etc. that define it, and are congruent onto itself.
  • No one from outside the system can ever understand why it does what it does (i.e. behaviors) due to its idiosyncratic nature. While it may appear to Outsiders to be ineffective, unstable, etc, (all judgments seen through an Outsider’s subjective filters) a system has developed operational behaviors, created the rules and elements of the status quo that maintains itself daily, and will not allow itself to be disrupted.
  • When Outsiders attempt to push their own agendas through advice, information, ideas, content (i.e. sales, coaching, healthcare, marketing, trainingleadership, management) they are pushing against a closed, fixed system that must resist external influence in order to maintain Systems Congruence.
  • No change can occur unless a system makes room for the new (systemic reorientation) in a way that maintains the rules of the system (Systems Congruence). The system is sacrosanct, regardless of its downsides.
  • All elements within a system that would be touched by a proposed change must agree to changing its rules, and buy-in to all of the elements that will change. This is the only way to ensure Systems Congruence. Otherwise there will be rejection, sabotage, lost relationships, misunderstanding, failed implementations, delayed sales cycles, etc. In other words, attempting to create or influence change (aimed at the behavioral level) will fail unless the system has already reoriented itself to seek and adopt change because it is convinced it cannot fix a problem itself, and has a specific path forward that is congruent and avoids disruption.
  • All decisions are change management problems. Decisions are prompted by changes in the Hierarchy of Beliefs, and get made only when there is internal alignment to ensure continued congruency.
  • To influence change, decision making, and buy-in, influencers should focus on the origination points (in beliefs) that designed the behaviors to begin with.
  • Successful change can occur only when the system has assembled, and gotten buy-in from, all of the elements in the status quo that would be modified as a result.
  • Before change can happen, there must be a systemic understanding within the system of the downside of change, and it must be compensated for congruently or there will be fallout as it fights to maintain stability. 
  • Before change can happen, the system must know with certainty that it cannot fix a problem on its own. The last thing a system wants is to accept an external fix, or change. 
  • Information does not teach a system why, when, if, or how to change. Information is necessary at the end, once there is buy-in for change, and only to fill in the necessary gaps when the system gets to the point when it recognizes it cannot fix itself, has gotten the go-ahead (buy-in) from each of the affected elements and knows how to remain congruent while doing something differently.
  • Before change can happen, systems must figure out how to re-organize, re-prioritize, enhance, or devalue, the elements that define so it continually maintains Systems Congruence.
  • There are 13 steps included in all change decisions, regardless of whether it’s one person buying a toothbrush, or a global team deciding to implement new software. The steps may be iterative or unconscious, but they all must be addressed for congruent change to occur and for the components to design, buy-in to, and support, the change.
  • All change must be initiated, and adopted, at the belief level. When content or influencing procedures are used to drive change, it’s too often aimed at changing behaviors, causing systemic resistance. Note: behaviors are merely the expression, the transaction, of a belief and are not the cause of change, but the response to it.
  • Influencers can use their positions as Servant Leaders to enable people, teams (i.e. human systems) to traverse their own unconscious steps to change, so long as they avoid biased questions, biased listening, or content sharing, etc. and stick to facilitating the system through their own discovery and down their own steps to congruent change. Then it will be obvious the type of information required to enable change that’s non-disruptive.

WRAP UP

Systems are the core – the foundation, the status quo – of congruent human structures (people, teams, companies, families) and are based on every element within them agreeing to the same rules and beliefs that specify the operating rules for behaviors. (It’s obvious. Do you think IBM and Google and Uber all operate out of the same foundational rules and operational beliefs?).

This system gets up every day and replicates itself so it not only recreates the status quo, but maintains it. All systems resist, and potentially misinterpret, anything from outside that threatens it. Until or unless there is a systemic understanding that there will be no/minimal disruption – certainly no change without buy-in from the elements – change will not occur.

Each system (each family, each person) is unique and idiosyncratic, unknowable to an outsider due to its unconscious nature, history, patterns, and Hierarchy of Beliefs and rules.

For those of us in sales, coaching, healthcare, leadership, consulting, or any type of change management, we often use content/information (initiatives, information, Behavior Modification, education, pitches, marketing, advice, etc.) or our own intuition and needs for the Other as the means to invoke change, assuming that offering the right data, in the right format, will teach someone to do something differently.

Yet change doesn’t happen as a result of information, regardless of how critical it is, unless the system has already determined its willingness and ability to change congruently, with buy-in from all effected elements. Change only happens systemically, when the foundational beliefs are ready, willing, and able to change. Until or unless the system learns how to facilitate and incorporate new congruent choices, or reprioritize the existing Hierarchy, change cannot occur.

Conventional practices include posing conventional (biased) questions asked to elicit answers as per the Asker’s needs and curiosity, filtered through their biased listening, directed toward behavior change (rather than belief change) that they want to see occur and use biased content to convince/influence/rationalize the system to acquiesce. In other words, the approaches we’re now using won’t affect systemic change unless the system was already poised to do so.
Change only happens when the system has already agreed, and knows how to manage any change so there is no disruption (or there will be automatic resistance); change cannot happen when the system believes it will become unstable as a result.

A good rule of thumb: no one, and nothing from outside the system can change it so long as conventional questions and curiosity, biased content or convincer strategies, are used. Systems must change themselves from within. This is the reason why sales closes such a small percentage of prospects, why coaches have permanent success with so few clients, and why 97% of all implementations fail. I’ve written an article on why ‘push‘ doesn’t work. 

And this is why change appears to be so hard. It’s not. We’re just going about it ineffectively. By merely attempting to change behaviors, we actually cause the resistance we get, only capture those who are ‘ready’ (the low hanging fruit), and miss an opportunity to facilitate and enable those who CAN change.

CHANGE FACILITATION

I’ve developed a Change Facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) that manages congruent change through a unique skill set, including Listening for Systems and formulating Facilitative Questions (using specific words, in a specific order; directive and action inducing, not information driven or biased) that enable a system to discover its own route through to congruent change and its own brand of excellence. Different from conventional sales, coaching, etc. that run the risk of pushing change, facilitators enable the system to change itself, with no bias from the influencer, and results of greatly enhanced success.

Over the last 35 years, I’ve trained the model globally to corporations and teams in sales, healtcare, coaching, leadership, consulting, and communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?). It’s a generic model that can be used in any industry (clients include banking, consulting, insurance, tech, project implementations, wellness (doc/patient buy-in), real estate, research, travel, etc.) in any format (i.e. sales pitches, marketing articles, websites, questionnaires, customer service, team building, doctor/patient relationships, buy-in, etc.) and enables congruent buy-in and Change Readiness.

For those ready to add a new capability to their current influencing practices, I’ve designed several approaches, from self-guided study, to learning programs, to coaching. Let me know of interest.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and the developer of Change Facilitation. She has written 9 books, including the acclaimed NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® a change facilitation model that works with sales to facilitate Buyer Readiness to use with sales. She is a consultant, speaker, trainer, and coach. Visit her award winning blog: www.sharondrewmorgen.com. She can be reached at 512 771 1117 or sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

October 28th, 2019

Posted In: Change Management

Leave a Comment

A friend of mine delivers leadership training in police departments. On the first morning, he has the partners dance with each other, taking turns for an hour at a time as leader and follower. As most of them are men, they start off very uncomfortable as the ‘follower’, usually a woman’s role in dance. But follow they must; he tells them if they can’t follow, they can’t lead.

As leaders with specific goals we’re responsible for, we operate from the assumption we’re in charge. But what, exactly, are we in charge of? I believe our job is to set the tone, and enable our followers to create a path to a successful goal. As they say in Argentine Tango, if you notice the leader, he’s not doing his job.

WHAT IS OUR JOB

With unconscious blinkers, limited by our biases and assumptions, leaders often begin with a plan, an idea, a fantasy if you will, of how to achieve an outcome. We then work at creating and driving the path to execute it. But this strategy faces several unknowns:

  1. We really have no way of knowing beforehand if it could succeed.
  2. We don’t know the follower’s unspoken beliefs, creative capabilities, or dynamics, how their process factors in, or the range of ideas they might come up with if encouraged.

Even with an aim to be inclusive, we too often carry our plan into the initial sessions with the group and, maybe unconsciously, try to persuade them to adopt the path we imagine. This route might yield resistance at best; at worst, it restricts the full range of possible outcomes.

I recently heard Presidential Candidate and Senator Amy Klobuchar say: “I haven’t gone on TV for interviews much before now. But my team told me I needed the exposure. So here I am.” Was she the follower? Or the leader? While smart enough to be considered to be leader of the free world, she didn’t have the foresight of her team to expand her publicity. That makes her the leader AND the follower.

I contend that as leaders using our own assumptions, ideas, and expertise, it’s not possible to achieve an optimal result: until followers develop their own values, vision, and voices; until the group discovers a path through their own group dynamics; until the group works collaboratively to develop creative outcomes that they can all buy into; there’s no condition for success as the outcome will be restricted.

So here’s the question: do you want to facilitate a route through to the best result? Or drive the path to the result you’ve imagined? You can’t do both.

  • What would you need to believe differently to trust you can achieve the best outcome if it’s driven by the followers?
  • What is your role if the followers are in charge of the route to a successful outcome?

I believe that leading and following are two sides of the same coin. And I believe it must be an interdependent process.

CONTROL

I once trained a group of executive leaders at a company with a reputation of having values. They were the most manipulative group I’ve ever trained. Getting them to consider any form of leadership that didn’t involve them having total control was a herculean task. Seeing my frustration one of them said: “But our message is values-based. Of COURSE it’s our job to convince them to do it our way! It’s the RIGHT way.” Having a great outcome does not give license to push our agendas to get it done OUR way.

As leaders, we must give up our egos, our needs for control, our perceived value of being ‘right’, of being The One to exert power and influence. We obviously need to have some sort of control given we’ve got a job to do. But control over what?

There are two components to our job: reaching a goal, and getting there; we cannot control both unless we do it alone. To work with a group of followers, I suggest we manage the goal and supervision of the journey through change; the process of getting there, the details and actions along the route, must be managed by the followers. It’s an interdependent process. On a day-to-day basis that means the leader

  • controls the space that will enable all voices to be heard, giving rise to creativity, collaboration, and mutual responsibility for planning and delivery;
  • leads the group through forming, failure and resistance, discovery and confusion, trials and success;
  • guides the group through the route they designed and helps them maintain equilibrium.

Here I’m reminded of another great Argentine Tango expression: The leader opens the door; the follower dances through using her own unique steps; the leader follows.

STRUCTURE VS CONTENT; CONTEXT VS COMPONENTS

I contend that we must assure results, but hand over the control of the journey to the followers.

Let’s look at the two components, the goal and the route, from a systems perspective. Considering the result we seek to achieve from the viewpoint of the structure – the context, the boundaries that define the goal – the goal is clear and unadorned. The structure is the headline that identifies what’s within, so a headline that reads: Sandals are Worn in Summer, would have an article about shoes, not recipes for spaghetti.

I refer to the components within the structure as the content – the details, the story line, the items that fit within the parameters of that specific structure. Using the above headline, the content might include different types of sandals, shoes worn in summer vs those worn in winter.

Another simple example would be the structure defines the size and use of a room, while the content includes the size and type of furniture that will fit into it; so an 8’ by 10’ room to be used as a bedroom would not hold a 12’x12’ living room couch.

The structure strictly limits, controls, defines, and identifies the content. Any content is acceptable so long as it fits within the confines of the structure.

If leading a team through an initiative to enhance customer service, for example, the leader is responsible for ending up with happier customers and supervising the journey to get there, while the followers are responsible for

  • the route taken to get there,
  • the choice of the components of the new services,
  • what these services will do, the planning to get there, and the rules that will maintain them,
  • what each team member will do,
  • how it will be delivered.

Here’s the deal: we can only have real control over a single factor – the structure OR the content. Sadly, leaders too often try to control both. The real control and power is in controlling the structure:

  • By controlling the structure, any components that fit would be acceptable so long as they clearly meet the goal’s criteria. By controlling the structure, we’re a problem seeking a solution. If we have a 3 foot box, we can choose whatever we want to put into it – balls or bananas – so long as it fits. Improved customer service might mean more reps, better phone coverage, more focused email responses, year-end gifts, better website access. Humana offers televisits for patients who can’t get to a doctor’s offices. Whatever fits, whatever the group agrees to within the parameters of the structure, is up for discussion. The content will correspond with the structure.
  • By controlling the content, by focusing on the components, it’s necessary to find a structure that confines them. We become a solution looking for a problem – obviously limiting the field of possibilities. With 12 green 10” balls, we need a very specific-sized box. Using our example, we might train reps to answer phones by the third ring and lower prices; then must define a goal to match that. And of course the full range of options for improving customer service would be overlooked. Obviously, starting from the components, the content, is the less flexible, less creative route.

It’s by controlling the structure we can plant a stake in the ground with the rules and criteria for success that all else emanates from. Our job then becomes to maintain the tone and vision; how we get there is the job of the followers, tasked with creating the content.

When followers control the content, they create a collaboration amongst themselves, use their combined imaginations to develop a set of behaviors and outcomes that will fit within the rules and structure, and take ownership of the process and journey to success. Each follower is a leader who buys-in to the change and process, owns the solution, manages any resistance, and takes responsibility for implementation. The leader then maintains the space the followers created.

STARTING UP A COMPANY AS A LEADER/FOLLOWER

I’d like to share a story of my own journey as an entrepreneur of a tech start up in London. I began with no knowledge of business and even less of technology (Those were early days, remember?). I was smart enough to know my range of content knowledge – nil. So I wrote an outline of what I wanted to achieve (the structure):

  • a company that would take great care of the needs of customers in the area of 4th Generation Languages (Really early days!) with integrity, honesty, and win/win values;
  • be seen as a premier provider by charging high prices and great service expertise;
  • have my staff be as happy and cared for as my clients;
  • make money and have fun.

That was my structure. I had no idea what would be in the content. I did my best to research, speak with people, read a few books. Then I realized that it would be best if I hired good people who designed their own jobs. My hiring process included asking applicants to bring in a P&L that included their salary and the route, within the confines of their job and the structure I put forth, to getting their salary AND bringing in a profit for the company. We ended up providing programming, training, and consulting services to users and teams. But I didn’t know that when I started.

The applicant for the job of receptionist was quite creative. Ann Marie wanted a small salary and a percentage of the gross income. For this, she would make sure the company ran efficiently and staff and clients would be thoroughly taken care of to the point they wouldn’t want to go anywhere else and would have the time to do their best job. Wow. I hired her. And she did exactly what she said. She made us write these daily TOADs – I don’t remember what the acronym stood for…something like Take what you want And Destroy the rest… but it took us an extra hour each night to write them up (No computers in daily use in the early 80s, remember?). Each morning we found the full set of everyone’s TOADS on our desks when we arrived. They involved current initiatives, our frustrations, any good/bad issues with clients and prospects, any good/bad issues we had with each other.

As a result of us all knowing ‘everything’, on any given day, if a phone would ring and the person wasn’t there to answer, anyone could answer it and be able to help. As the receptionist, Ann Marie would take the time to make kind comments to whoever was calling, making every caller feel wanted and comfortable. Office squabbles and gossip didn’t have a way to fester as we knew who was mad at who and the argument dissipated. Team members helped each other by coming up with creative solutions, or sharing resource. We had the knowledge to introduce clients to each other for follow-on partnerships. Frankly, Ann Marie terrified me. Tall, officious, unsmiling, we all did what she told us to do (Talk about leaders!). And she walked away with pockets full of money as she helped the business double each year.

I hired John as a ‘Make Nice Guy’ to bridge the divide between technical and people skills. He wanted a $100,000 salary (in 1985!) to make sure techies, their code, and how our contractors maintained relationships with the teams they worked with, all ran smoothly. That was a no brainer. With John taking care of all outside stuff, I was left with no fires, no problems, no crashes, no personality issues, no client problems, and I could grow my business. He even found out when a client was buying new software that we could support well before it arrived on site; when the vendor came to install it, my folks were there waiting, well before the vendor tried to sell their services.

The team worked hard to get me to say “We’re doing WHAT??” I was once walking down the hall and ran into my Training Manager. When I asked where he’d been hiding since I hadn’t seen him in days, he told me he was busy scouting out extra office space for the new training programs being developed. “We’re doing WHAT??” And fill the seats he did, bringing in new clients and new programs. Including me as a trainer. “I’m doing WHAT??” Apparently, the team believed I supervised techies so well as a non techie that I should teach other non-techie managers how to supervise their techie staff. I would never have thought of that myself. So they got me to run monthly programs which were always packed.

As part of my commitment to creativity and growth, I told the management team to take risks but to let me know if a disaster was imminent at least three feet before they fell off the edge (If they waited until they were already off the cliff there wouldn’t be a thing I could do but wave). And they did. As a result they created unique programs, processes, and initiatives that I could never have dreamed of. And they mostly got it right.

By setting a tone of authenticity, I regularly discussed my failures and got input from the team as to how to make things better. This obviously opened the door for us all to discuss failures as part of our job. Also my maintaining control of the structure, by trusting the staff and enabling them to be leaders and innovators, I was able to double the company income every year. With no computers, no internet, no email, no websites, we had a $5,000,000 revenue (and 42% net profit) within four years. Everyone made money, loved coming to work, and grew individually. We controlled 11% of the market (the other 26 competitors shared the other 89%), had loads of fun, and we changed the landscape of what was possible.

TRUST

I could never, ever have been that successful if I hadn’t trusted my followers to create their jobs. I controlled the structure. They controlled the content. Win/win. Interdependent. Trust. Respect. Their joke was that they were the ones with the brains, and I was the one with the mouth. Cool beans. I opened the door, they danced through it, and I followed.

Leadership is an interdependent process with followers and leaders working together from the inside and outside simultaneously to inspire trust and reach the best possible outcome. Here are the givens:

  • The process is always transforming and dynamic, rendering pockets of success, confusion and failure, creativity;
  • There’s no way to know until the end what the trip will include so it’s necessary to build in trust, collaboration, and openness;
  • The result will be what everyone wants. The process will not be what the leader envisaged;
  • The process will proceed according to the values, creativity, and needs of the followers;
  • The leader will be respected so long as s/he uses her/his power to shepherd the process;
  • Failure is part of the process and can be used to inspire creativity;
  • Resistance will be visible and managed by group with no fallout;
  • The result will be the best amalgam of everyone involved bringing their values and hearts.

A real leader enables their followers to operate interdependently, using their own values, their own creativity, their own vision. As leaders we must stop trying to exert influence over the entire process, and begin trusting followers to lead us.

THE HOW

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know that I always include a ‘how’ so readers can use the ideas I espouse. In this case, my suggestions will be a bit challenging: the necessary skills to implement this style of leadership includes rethinking and enhancing two skills we all believe we’re good at and take great pride in – our listening and our questioning.

The reality is that no matter how professional, how fair, how honorable, how impartial we believe ourselves to be, when we use our conventional questioning and listening skills there’s a high probability we’ll be (unconsciously, unwittingly, automatically) biased by our words, ideas, needs, beliefs, and history. I’ve developed ways to listen and question that avert bias and indeed facilitate transformation and expanded possibility. I train these skills to leaders when I train in organization

1.    Listening. The biggest problem is that it’s just not possible to listen without bias no matter how hard we try to show up as good listeners, or how carefully we listen to every word. We just cannot separate our intent from our physiology.

Words, as sounds, come into our ears as electrical/chemical signals, devoid of meaning. Simplistically, these signals go down neural pathways in our brains to find the nearest synapses that carry similar signals – assumed, sometimes wrongly, to be a match, regardless of the accuracy of the underlying meaning. So our brains might find a match with ABL when the speaker actually said ABC. Listeners actually hear ABL with no recognition that there’s a misunderstanding; our brains don’t tell us it omitted D, E, F, G… Net net, we unwittingly listen with biased ears and ‘hear’ what our brains tell us has been said…often some degree ‘off’ of the speaker’s intended message.

There is a way to mitigate this. (My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? teaches how.) By listening in Observer/Coach, on “the ceiling” we supersede our normal neural pathways and enable our brains to find a more accurate match. Using normal listening, it’s only possible to hear what is most comfortable and habitual. For those who don’t get a chance to read the book and learn how to listen to whole conversations without bias, I suggest you at least take this shortcut and say: “I want to make sure I understand you accurately. I’m going to tell you what I think I heard; can you please tell me if I’ve got it right and correct me where I’m wrong?” That will keep the conversation on track.

2.    Questioning. Conventional questions elicit information as per the Asker’s curiosity. Of course given our unconscious biases, our curiosity is restricted by our beliefs and life histories, resulting in questions limited to what we think we need to know (certainly not the full universe of available information). It goes without saying that there’s no way an outsider can know what’s going on within someone else’s life experience. It’s even more difficult within a group setting. Hence, normal questions can only gather information that’s some fraction of what we need, and an unknown level of accuracy.

Of course often people need information to act from, and normal questions are necessary. But for those times change is part of the process, people/followers need to understand their own motivation, values, and beliefs to act from. For this I invented a new form of question called a Facilitative Question that makes it possible to enable Others to mentally (unconsciously) aggregate their own values and needs to make their own best decisions, define their own outcomes, recognize their own success criteria, and chart their own next steps, with no bias or influence from the leader.

So: Why do you wait for six rings before answering the phone? would be replaced with What would need to be willing/able to answer an incoming call by the third ring? Instead of gathering information, facilitate people through to their own actionable answer and non-resistant choice, using their own criteria. Used in a group setting this process enhances creativity and responsibility for action.

For those wishing to learn how to formulate these questions, read this article, and take a look at this learning module I developed. Formulating Facilitative Questions employs listening for systems, understanding word usage and word placement, and the sequence of decision making in the brain. A much different process than posing normal questions.

As leaders, our job is to facilitate a collaboration with our followers to interdependently create a successful goal. It demands that leaders enter with a different outcome, a different mindset, and a different tool kit. But it’s worth it. We’ll end up with the real power of spearheading harmony, integrity, creativity, and excellence. And have a greater success than we ever could have achieved alone.

____________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader, original thinker, consultant, trainer, and speaker. Sharon Drew trains leadership teams and sales forces. She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew’s award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com carries original articles on topics such as sales, leadership, decision making, questions, collaboration, and values.

Sharon Drew is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® the first new paradigm that gives sales people, healthcare professionals, leaders, and managers, the tools to enable others to generate real change based on their own internal beliefs, rules, systems, and vision. She has spent her life decoding how brains decide and how to generate real change at the core neurology of synapses and neural pathways. She has also designed innovative training models to facilitate learners in producing permanent change. Sharon Drew lives on a houseboat in Portland OR.

October 21st, 2019

Posted In: News

Leave a Comment

13 steps people take between discovering a problem and choosing/buying a solution as they seek to resolve a problem in a way that minimizes disruption to their culture.

A buying decision is a change management problem well before it is a solution choice issue. People don’t want to buy anything; they want to resolve a problem in the least disruptive way. Indeed people only become buyers when they’re certain they cannot resolve the problem using familiar resources, and explore every avenue to fixing the problem themselves first. Buying anything is the very last thing people do.

In case you’re one of those sales folks who try to motivate a sale by pushing your information, or lowering the price; or you’re wondering why your prospect isn’t returning calls or in the pipeline for so long; or thinking they’re in pain; this is what’s going on: they’re doing necessary work behind the scenes to find the most efficient route to resolving their problem in a way that ensures maximum buy-in and the least disruption.

I can’t say this enough: people buy only if they’ve determined they cannot fix a problem themselves with known resources AND a purchase will ‘cost’ less than the cost of the disruption they’re facing in their status quo.

This article lays out what people go through en route to buying anything, regardless of need or the efficacy/size/price of the solution, whether buying a new car, choosing an external trainer, buying software or a new phone, or deciding on family therapy. And because they’re recurrent and generic, I consider these steps to be a pattern.

BUYERS HAVE NO PAIN

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

A buying decision is a systems issue; it’s not a pain thing. If adding an external/new solution causes too many problems that the stakeholders believe will leave them worse off, they will not buy regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. They must weigh all the issues involved and get buy-in from the stakeholders before any action is taken or not. And the sales model doesn’t enter into this Pre-Sales, hidden, unknowable area as it’s not product/solution-related. But with a different hat on, it’s quite easy to be involved and facilitate the route to a purchase.

David Sandler called me in 1993 to buy me out before he died. He said he’d made an error stating that ‘buyers are liars’ and saying ‘buyers are in pain’, stating that after reading one of my books, and looking at the problem from the buying decision/change management side, he finally understood the focus should be on facilitating the buying steps. “I thought I had gone outside the box with Sandler Sales; I realize now I was still considering sales from a solution placement perspective. I didn’t understand how far outside the box I needed to go to include the buying decision process.”

Think about it. Before you buy a new car, you try to fix the one you have; make sure you’ve got the funding; try to sell the current one; make sure your spouse is in agreement, etc. You don’t start off with a purchase, regardless of the problems with your current car. Or in business, if you need a new CRM system, for example, you don’t begin by buying a new system: you begin by meeting with the managers and users to determine why the current system is problematic; trying to get the current one fixed; finding workarounds to try to resolve the problem easily; and making sure that there’s a process in place to manage any user, technology, training, time disruption that might come with bringing in new technology. Again, buying anything is the very last thing that happens.

SELLING VS BUYING

Choosing a new solution is a systems problem that involves careful orchestration, even when some of the process is unconscious. As a frustrated sales person, I developed a new model called Buying Facilitation® to make the journey through the steps of change, choice, and buy-in, conscious. I’ve identified each step and carefully defined what’s involved in each step to make it possible to intervene in any segment so sellers can assist people in navigating the journey first, before trying to sell anything. This sequence – Buying Facilitation® first, sales second – ensures you’ll find (and quickly close) a much larger number of people who WILL buy (rather than those who SHOULD buy) and keep you from wasting time on those who will never buy (but you think they ‘should’ because you think they’re ‘in pain’).

People who may become buyers must do this anyway, and due to the solution-placement focus of the sales model and avoidance of all things ‘change management’, do it by themselves as we sit and wait. But we can find the people who WILL buy on the first call, and help them traverse their journey. But we need a different hat on before we begin selling. Again, we wait while they do this anyway – why not add a new skill set before selling, and then just sell to the ones who will buy?

Here’s a simple story to explain what’s going on behind the scenes.

In 1995 I was running a Buying Facilitation® training at IBM. One day my client asked me to help enlist a new Beta site for one of their new systems. There was a small ‘Mom & Pop’ shop (i.e. family run business) located nearby, and from their records they knew this company was using a system far too small for the growth they’d incurred over the past years, causing very slow response times. Letting them have a free new system in exchange for IBM having them close by to test, would be a win/win. But even after two sales folks had visited them with the promise of a new, free, system that would substantially speed up their response times, the company had no interest. Could I try to get them to become a beta site?

Here was our conversation:

SDM: Hi there. I’m a trainee calling from IBM and have a question for someone who is using your computers.
SON: Hi. I’m Joe. I’m one of the owners. Maybe I can help.
SDM: Thanks. I wonder how your current system is running?
SON: It’s ok.
SDM: I know our folks were out there offering you a faster system to beta and you weren’t interested. I’m curious now what’s stopping your current system from being better than OK?
SON: Dad.
SDM: DAD? I don’t understand.
SON: I know our system is very very slow. But my father is in charge of the technology here, and he’s 75 years old. He’ll be retiring in a year or so, and I don’t want to overwhelm him with learning anything new. So I’ll make whatever changes necessary after he leaves.
SDM: Ah. So what I hear you saying is that your main criteria is not to overwhelm Dad and don’t mind how slow the system is in the meantime.
SON: Right.
SDM: You already know we want to give you an upgrade in exchange for being a beta site for us. From what I know about it, they’ve made it very simple to use and easy to learn. Maybe you and Dad could visit another beta site here in Rye to see if Dad likes it and finds it easy to use? I’d be happy to pick you up and take you there. And if Dad is happy, then maybe you’d be comfortable accepting it to beta test for us?
SON: Oh. I wasn’t aware we could do that. Your colleagues were trying to sell me on the features of the new capabilities, and that wasn’t my problem. Sure, Dad and I would be willing to go to the beta site. Thanks. Having a quicker response time would be great for us if we could make that happen and Dad is comfortable with it.

Focused on placing a solution through the strength of the product, through assumed needs and pain, the emphasis was ‘features, functions, and benefits’ instead of the real, unknowable criteria; there was no way an outsider could guess that Dad was the problem that had to be solved. Offering product or price (free) details were moot. The group’s Buying Patterns were systemic, focused on ensuring their culture remained operational. And every buying experience uses the same process, obviously in different scales of complexity.

By overlooking the full set of Buying Patterns to focus merely on placing solutions, sellers automatically restrict their full set of prospective buyers: people who will become buyers haven’t yet decided to go outside for a solution and have no reason (other than research into different ways they can fix the problem themselves) to heed your content/pitch. That’s why content marketing is spectacularly unsuccessful (close rate 0.00059%).

SELLING DOESN’T CAUSE BUYING

Please understand this: there is no way for outsiders to fully understand what’s going on behind the scenes in any person or group’s route to a decision. We don’t live in the prospective buyer’s environment; we cannot know the system, the relationships, givens, rules or priorities, of the people involved. Until they figure out how they need to resolve their problem, there is no way a seller can determine how, or why, your solution would benefit them; even they can’t know the full fact pattern until they’ve gone through their steps. And your pitching and biased questions, will only uncover the low hanging fruit who have managed the first 9 of their Buying Patterns and already become buyers.

Obviously when it’s time to buy, buyers take very specific actions as they choose one solution over another, choices based on price, reputation/brand of the solution, decision makers, etc. This is when the conventional sales tools of pushing information and content details, explaining features and functions, finding optimal demographics etc. are vital. Selling depends on information sharing. But selling doesn’t cause buying.

I’m aware that many sellers believe Buying Patterns are how buyers buy. But by focusing merely on the final stages when they actually choose a solution, you restrict your ability to facilitate those who will buy but haven’t completed their process and could use your help. Once you understand and recognize

  • the full range of steps people go through as they become buyers (Pre-Sales),
  • how the buying decision path begins much earlier than choosing the solution, with very specific stages that can be tracked,
  • the point at which the change issues have been factored in and it’s agreed to seek an external solution,

you can facilitate them through the process to become buyers. Then you can employ your sales strategy as well as your marketing and digital offerings to target each stage. By ignoring this, you’re severely restricting your market.

STAGES OF BUYING PATTERNS

Here are the Pre-Sales areas folks go through as they become buyers. And note: as outsiders we cannot be directly involved in their internal process, but we can use our knowledge of these steps to facilitate the progression so long as our first focus is to facilitate change:

WHAT’S THE STATUS QUO; WHAT’S MISSING: until or unless every element of the status quo is understood by the prospective buyer, they cannot identify exactly what’s missing. In the Dad example, what was missing was not the computer issue, but the ability to have Dad learn how to support a new one; a delay in purchasing new software is most likely not a technology issue, but might be a recent reorganization, or a merger, or a change in leadership. And an outsider can never, ever understand because they’re, well, outsiders. It’s like asking someone to know if any pieces are missing in a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle by looking at the picture on the closed box. Sure, an outsider can know what it will look like when completed, but cannot know if anything is missing until the puzzle is almost completed by the users. This stage includes meetings, research, identifying stakeholders.

RULE: a seller can facilitate someone through the process of recognizing the full fact pattern of givens within their status quo, including the people, culture, and rules, to help them learn what is keeping them from having an optimal environment. In other words, help people, in a way that does not bias their discovery, recognize if anything is missing from their status quo. Until or unless they can see this in an unbiased way, they will prefer to maintain their status quo. And posing questions biased by a seller’s need to place a solution cannot do this. The focus must be to facilitate change, first.

GATHER THE FULL SET OF STAKEHOLDERS: until or unless everyone involved with creating the problem and using any new solution is brought in, the full problem set cannot be understood. Too often only recognized leaders take the lead, or only one person recognizes a problem and fights with the status quo to be willing to change (This is often the one person we speak with, and we can’t really know if s/he’s speaking for the entire Buying Decision Team or just for him/herself, even if we ask.). Everyone’s voice must be included – Dad, and Joe in accounting. This stage includes meetings to determine who will touch the final solution and agreement as to how to involve them.

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

TRY TO FIX THE PROBLEM WITH KNOWN RESOURCES: until it’s fully understood that the problem cannot be resolved with anything that’s already been accepted by the culture – other departments or items, familiar vendors or products – and all workarounds have been tried, they will never consider bringing in anything brand new as it will be disruptive to the culture. It’s a systems thing: systems work hard at maintaining their status quo (homeostasis) as anything new runs the risk of creating problems by not fitting in. This stage includes internal research, and delegating folks to outreach for familiar resources: can our old vendors fix this? Do our colleagues know anyone they respect? Can the other department help? Until a workaround is sought and dismissed, there will be no initiative to make a purchase.

RULE: people never start off seeking an external solution but must try to fix the problem themselves. Sellers can help folks discover how to fix their own problem: What’s stopping you from using the vendors you used last year? Have you tried getting help from other departments? They are going to do this anyway as it’s part of their process. They’ll do it when you hang up, in fact. Either you help them through this, or are relegated to sitting helplessly while they do it themselves as you continue to think they’re prospects and put them in your pipeline. By helping them, you can provide further support and help them speed up their own process. In reality, this is the simplest stage, as if they could fix it, they would have done so already.

MANAGING CHANGE TO AVOID DISRUPTION.: once folks realize 1. They have a problem that all stakeholders have fully defined and agree is a problem; 2. They cannot fix it themselves, then it’s necessary to go ‘outside’ for a solution.

This is the most problematic step in the Buying Pattern because anything new will cause some sort of disruption: technology might not integrate; users must agree to use and get trained; familiar patterns of use will be scrapped for new routines; people fallout must be managed.

The cost of the new must be calculated against maintaining the status quo – if they are going to have to fire a whole department when bringing in new software, is it worth it just to speed up their output? When they figure this element out, they’re ready to choose a solution. This stage includes lots of research within the group/company/family to ferret out problems that change would incur, and figuring out the cost of each.

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

CHOOSE A VENDOR/SOLUTION: This is the last stage – where sales now enters! Once it’s calculated that it will cost less to bring in a new solution than maintaining their status quo, AND there is buy-in from the stakeholders, they become buyers. This is the low hanging fruit. These folks are ready for a pitch because they know how to manage the change and understand the costs of buying something. This stage involves sellers pitching, content marketing, website design, etc.

These elements comprise Buying Patterns. And to lead folks through these stages I my ‘new sales paradigm’ Buying Facilitation® uses a new form of question called a Facilitative Question that avoids any bias from the Asker and leads people through their Buying Patterns steps to design their own, unique, solution criteria that can then be easily matched by our products.

So one question for the Managing Change phase might be “How will you and your Buying Decision Team go about identifying the elements a new solution would need to include, to avoid disrupting your status quo?” instead of “Let me tell you how my product can help you fix that.”

First facilitate their journey through their Buying Patterns, facilitate Buyer Readiness – and THEN sell to those who are ready. You’ll avoid chasing people who will never buy, and speed up the buy cycle for those who will buy. And you’ll get results: my students using Buying Facilitation® close 40% against the control groups closing 5% using the same list and the same solution. By focusing on the tail end of the Buying Decision Path, sellers restrict their close rate by a factor of 8.

SALES VS FACILITATING BUYING PATTERNS

I always ask: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. People become buyers ONLY when there is no way to resolve their own problem AND they know the cost of bringing in something new. There will be NO purchase until the entire series is handled somehow, even on a small item purchase. It has nothing to do with pain, or the marketing efforts, or the pitch deck, or the product. You’re products are great. The problem is you’re only focusing on those who already show up as buyers and ignore managing the full set of Buying Patterns where a far larger group of real prospects reside.

Note: trying to understand these yourself is a frustrating exercise, as we can do little more than pose questions biased by our own curiosity and generally have no way to even consider the unique situations within each potential prospect’s environment, i.e. Dad.

I understand that the sales industry doesn’t consider these elements part of the sales process. Sales continues to assume a purchase is based on how we position our solutions, when in fact that relegates us to picking off the few who show up. Let’s help those who will/can buy, facilitate them through their Buying Patterns, and when it’s time, THEN pitch to those who are ready to buy it.

I know you’re all getting accustomed to the definition of Buying Patterns now circulating. But by forgetting the original intent of the term, you overlook the change management portion of Buying Patterns: by merely focusing on the low hanging fruit, you’re missing an opportunity to prove your value by facilitating them through the process. By focusing on this small group, you’re losing the opportunity to facilitate that percentage of people on your lists will become buyers once they get through their Pre Sales change issues. You can speed it up with them, help them get it right, and then be there when they are ready to buy.

Shift the focus from selling based on the value of the solution, to first managing change: It’s a wholly different initiative and strategy using different terms, different goals, different outcomes and a different set of skills (i.e. Listening for systems Facilitative Question, etc.) . Because net net, until people understand the entire range of internal issues that will be activated as a result of adding something new, nothing will be purchased. It’s not about your solution. And as long as you continue to merely focus on that final element, you’ll only close the 5% you’re currently closing.

People who will become buyers must go through this process anyway, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. But they do this without us, as we wait, hope, push, and pitch, and lose an opportunity to both serve and differentiate ourselves. We assume they’re in pain because they’re not responding to our efforts.

Instead of the time and resource we use pushing content, why not use a different skill set (i.e. Buying Facilitation®, or some form of facilitation model that’s manages change) first to help them become buyers. Using a change management focus at the beginning you’ll even be able to recognize who WILL become a buyer on the first call, reducing your prospecting time to one quarter the time you’re now using, and close 40% of the list you’re now closing at a 5% rate.

_____________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, trainer, coach, consultant, speaker, and author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? As the inventor of Buying Facilitation®, Sharon Drew has been changing the sales industry since 1987 when she first trained KLM in a program titled Helping Buyers Buy. Sharon Drew is also the thought leader behind the HOW of Change. She lives on a houseboat in Portland OR.

October 14th, 2019

Posted In: News

Leave a Comment

customer-service-1641724_960_720

A few years ago,  Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, was interviewed as he discussed their new Customer Focus initiative: prioritizing Customer Centricity over revenue by putting their customers first. He said something like, ‘The money will come. Let’s take care of the customer!’ I haven’t noticed many companies, including Bank of America, who’ve actually done the work of re-organizing around customers; to be Customer Centric means you must put rules, staff, tasks, websites and customer interfaces in place to, um, put People first.

DEFINITION CUSTOMER-CENTRIC

My long-held ideas and questions on what a true Customer Centric company would look like begins with an admonition: stop making it so hard on your customers. They purchased something from you. That automatically puts them in a relationship with you (And probably in a leadership position, since if customers don’t buy anything you’re not in business at all.). They paid the price you set and trusted your promises enough to believe they’d get what they paid for. If they have problems, questions or needs, their resolution and your kindness are a representation of your promise, must be a part of the relationship, and cannot be separated from the purchase.

You claim you want ‘relationship’ with customers, yet you create rules that disrespect, offend, ignore, insult, and frustrate them. Your customers have bought-into being on your team; don’t make it so hard on them. All that does is cause customers to complain to their 1000 closest friends, damage your reputation and give your competition the competitive edge. You forget that your customers are your competitive advantage.

‘Putting the customer at the center’ means having rules, procedures, hiring and training practices, and baseline values that use a People filter. It demands a customer lens through which to view every aspect of your company. It demands that your customer be the heart and soul of your company.

Corporate identity: Since behaviors and rules are translations – the daily actions – of your foundational identity and values, a Customer Centric company has the commensurate People values and ethics at its core. I always ask myself, after being hung up on, or ignored, or disrespected by a contact with a company whose solution I’ve purchased, what the foundational beliefs of that company must be: That I’ve made a purchase from the wrong provider – a company that doesn’t care about me. That my problems and needs are secondary to profit. That I’m not worthy of care once I’ve made my purchase.

It must begin with an identity of ethics and integrity. How you accomplish this will take the work of change – assembling and assessing the broken elements, getting buy-in for change from each of the broken parts, addressing disruption and confusing implementations. There are lots of decisions to be made that will ripple through the company.

Stakeholder alignment: All stakeholders, all company employees, all managers and Board Directors, must share, exemplify, and communicate the exact same beliefs and values. Your marketing and customer service must portray your kindness and respect; you’ll hire people with values that match. There used to be a legend that Nordstrom had a one line customer service rule: “Use your best judgment.” Imagine how hiring practices, management, and training shift if such rule is in place.
With a People orientation, everything and everyone has one goal: to keep a customer happy. Then, a lower level rep would feel free to make this sort of adjustment on her own:

So sorry this is happening. Please accept my apologies on behalf of X company. What would make this right for you? And I’ll be your Team Leader to make sure your problem gets handled, including speak to whoever I need to speak with on my side and get back to you with a resolution.

not this rule-based, disrespecting flip-off that we all suffer time and time again:

This is not something I can take care of. I’m transferring you (and transferring you, and transferring you, and…).

With a Customer Centric filter, each rep, each internal stakeholder, each person who touches a customer, owns the problem and resolution. This will change your rules.

One more thought here: your employees are your first customers. Don’t ever forget that.

Proximity to customer: With ‘Customer’ in the center, organization is based on the proximity to the customer, giving the most importance (and training) to help desk and sales groups who directly touch customers, and Senior Management, the Board and CEO at the far end with the job of coming up with the ideas and maintaining the foundation of values and vision.

ORGANIZING A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY FROM INSIDE OUT

In order of customer proximity, here are some thoughts on the organization of a truly Customer Centric company. Again, each customer touch point must have a criteria of putting the focus on People first, with Task, Rules and Profit Margin second.

First touch point:

  • Customer service (questions, needs, problems): Reps whose job is to give product service and support must be client advocates. They must have a very strong People filter and be passionate about ensuring each customer gets their needs met. That should be their only criteria and have the right tools and skills – listening skills are especially prone to biased filters –  at their disposal to do so.

I’ve been told by customer service reps that they’re only allotted a short time frame – minutes – to handle a problem and then get on to the next customer on the cue. One rep called me back on his own cell phone because he didn’t want to ‘get in trouble’ (his words) for taking too long with a customer. Seriously?! Of course this means you’d need to train your team differently. And yes, you’ll need to hire more reps to get them off ‘the clock’ and into ‘relationship.’ Keep thinking: People vs Task. Which will it be? Here are two conversations I had with different AT&T reps, 5 minutes apart, when I called to change my billing address. I bet you can tell which one has a People filter:

Rep #1: You don’t have your password? Sorry. I can’t help you. I know you only want to change your address. But call back when you find your password….. (And then she hung up on me).
Rep #2: You don’t have your password? Hm… Let’s use your social security number to start with. Then we can change your address, and then I’ll send you a link to reset your password so you have it for the next time you call.

Same company; but one rep was Task/Rules-bound with no criteria re taking care of me and just wanted to get me off the phone quickly; one was Customer Centric and got creative so I was cared for. Both had the same customer screen in front of them when I called but one had a People hat on. And btw, who the hell was supervising that first Rep? Why was that ok? Do companies even KNOW what their representatives are saying to customers?

I urge you to consider having whoever answers the phone ‘own’ the customer’s problem. This way customers don’t get hung up on, and don’t get shuffled between departments to explain their issue over and over again – only to be disconnected after 45 minutes and on maybe the 6th person! The initial rep must take the customer’s phone number, give them a case number, and a call-back number that connects directly TO THE PERSON THEY SPOKE WITH so there is a continued process. How much will that cost? Compare that with the amount of business and reputation you’re losing now from NOT doing it, from complaints against your company showing up on social media, from customers cancelling service because they can’t take it anymore.

Website: Your site is often the first (and sometimes only) connection with a customer and it can go a long way to making sure customers feel cared for. Here is where a lot of companies fail. Almost all sites are strictly Rules, Company, Profit, Product driven. There’s no way to talk to anyone, and lots of hoops to go through before it’s even a vague possibility.

Few sites have their phone number available. What’s the deal with that? How much business are you losing because a customer or prospect can’t ask a simple question, or get directed to their best resource? What is the cost? I buy only from companies whose sites offer a phone number so I know I’ll have fewer hoops to go through if there’s a problem.

And what’s the deal with ONLY having the sign-in boxes in the Contact area? You’re soliciting their data for your marketing lists and reducing their ability to make contact only according to YOUR terms? You want something precious from them and you’re not willing to offer something in return? What percentage of real buyers won’t fill out those things? I have never, ever filled out one of those damn things. I want my vendors to take care of ME, not me take care of THEM, especially when it might involve me receiving tons of unsolicited email.

And while I’m on a rant, how ‘bout including a real time Customer Tweet roll bar on your home page? Invite customers to Tweet their thoughts, questions, and feelings to make it a living dialogue. Too scary you say? Well, if you focus on a customer, and all your rules are similarly focused, you should hear nothing but good things, no? And where there’s a negative comment, it will exhibit how quickly and accurately you handle the situation. After all, these folks are going onto social media to complain about you anyway; you might as well hear it straight and deal with it immediately and show other customers your fallible, but trustworthy.

This is your first line of contact. You can use your site as a good representation of your brand’s promise. You’re blowing it.

  • One more idea. With a People focus, online communication tools like Live Chat/Bot must abandon their Rules/Task focus and use vocabulary that is helpful soothes disgruntled people, and finds ways to take responsibility for supportive dialogue. It’s beyond infuriating. I found myself recently having a fight with a Live Chat person (Well, 3 actually, because I kept asking to speak with a supervisor.) for 2 hours (with horrible NameCheap) and finally SCREAMED in frustration at this invisible ‘person’ who kept explaining ‘rules’ that didn’t correspond to my questions; I actually wrote I HATE YOU YOU’RE A TERRIBLE COMPANY AND YOU CHEAT PEOPLE AND I’M GOING TO TELL EVERYONE NOT TO EVER USE YOU YOU’RE CHEATS. I became a tantrumy teenager as I felt more and more disrespected, misunderstood, and thwarted by invisible rules that didn’t seem to match my issue. Turns out not ONE of these folks heard me or resolved my problem. Don’t do this to your customers. They deserve better.

Second touch point:

  • Sales – Sellers are the intermediaries between you and customers. Stop relegating them to a ‘content push’ orientation. Make them the arbiters of true customer focus. Instead of being focused on pushing/placing solutions, using a facilitation model such as Buying Facilitation® (a model I invented for sales and marketing that gives sellers tools to facilitate Buyer Readiness at each stage of their Pre-Sales Buying Journey) it’s possible to use your connection to become industry leaders and become true Servant Leaders. Stop pushing! They can find your solution data on your site! Use your sales team to build and enhance customer relationships based on THEIR needs for excellence, not YOUR needs for profit. This is a place you can truly differentiate yourself from your competition.

Customers don’t need you for the details of your solutions until they’ve decided they cannot fix the problem themselves, what sort of a solution everyone agrees to, and how to manage any change that will occur when they do buy. [A purchase is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue; a prospect is someone who CAN buy, not someone who SHOULD.] Your site might be one of their steps toward deciding on whether or not to buy anything. Help them. It will not only differentiate you, but you’ll have vast amounts of data to bring back to other groups in your organization to help them be more Customer Centric, including R&D, customer service, manufacturing, billing. All areas of your company will shift according to the voices of real customers and their needs and problems – so long as the focus is on serving, not selling. Remember: People filter, not Task. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities.

Third touch point:

  • Day-to-day Management: These folks are in leadership positions for employees nearest the customer. Instead of pushing pushing pushing staff to close a sale, or get off the phone, continually find ways to connect, to respond in ways that make, and keep, customers happy. That means you’ll not only need to hire a people-oriented management staff, but the employees will need new types of training, especially additional listening skills. Currently, each group listens through their own Task filters and agendas: sellers listen for signs of ‘need’, help desk reps listen for easy solutions so they can stick to their 2 minute (or whatever) time limit.

Have managers sit alongside of reps and coach them for hours during a week, to check their skills real time. You could even design a Customer Service Check List to hand out to managers for their phone coaching hours. Obviously you’ll have to employ new hiring practices to hire People oriented people rather than Task oriented people. Like the AT&T story above, we all know to keep calling back until we get a ‘good’ rep. How much does that cost you?

Question for you: how will you know that the front-line staff are congruently representing your values? What is it costing you to have reps who hang up on paying customers? Or transfer transfer transfer to the point of madness because no one owns the problem? Why are managers acceding to this practice? What is it costing you?

Fourth touch point:

  • Marketing: your current focus remains selling something; your marketing efforts push product data, with no visible sign of Customer Centricity regardless of your lofty terms. What if you used your marketing to enter along the customer’s decision path to help them manage each aspect of their route to choosing you? They can get solution details on your site so add elements of facilitating the decisions that will make site visitors into customers.

Add a People/Customer filter to your marketing: send out content marketing that helps them make sense of those decisions they need to make as they figure out if they even want to make a purchase. It’s possible to create staged marketing to address each of the 13 stages of a buying decision. Because people aren’t buyers until a purchase is their only viable option to solve a problem, you’re missing entering earlier in their decision cycle and only focusing on those relative few who have already decided to buy (at the end of the buyer’s journey). Make it easier for those who CAN/WILL buy.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself moving forward:

What is the soul of your company? How can you operationalize that? Hint: Make sure you’re not a ‘financial company that serves customers’, and be a ‘customer centric company that offers banking services’. People first; it changes everything.

What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to make People your priority? How would that change your staffing? Sales? Marketing? Leadership? Training? Management?

What is the cost? What is the cost if you don’t?

How would you know it would be worthwhile to use a People filter over a Task/Rules filter? Would you need to have a pilot group with specific tracking capability re customer retention, or surveys, or increased revenue, etc.? [Call me. I’ll help you set it up.] A new Mission Statement?

Where do Integrity and Ethics factor in to your customer touch points?  Or is that not part of your equation? Do you have defined values? Do the rules you’re currently using match your company values? Why not? And don’t tell me it’s time or money – rescale if you need to. Your success depends on this. Amazon.com has an impressive focus on the customer. Takes me one minute to get a problem resolved, including them giving me my refund BEFORE they even get the product back – and often they tell me just to throw it away, or keep the extra item. They make it easy for me and actually less time consuming for them. I always feel trusted and valued, and I’ll never go to any of their competitors.

How do your current rules restrict Customer Centricity? Evaluate your current rules. What new rules would need to be in place to be Customer Centric – and what does that mean for how you run your company?

How would Customer Centricity change your hiring practices? Training? HR? Management?

How will you know in advance that it will be worth the time/effort to tackle this? Because if you don’t, your competition will. Remember: your customer is your competitive advantage.

What skills training would need to occur? Listening, certainly.

What would need to change within your company culture? How people speak to each other? The symbols of success, expectations, agreements?

How are you currently communicating your values to customers? Take a look at your site, your rules, your reps. What you see IS a representation of your corporate values.

What promises are you making to customers who buy your solution? How does this differ from what a customer thinks you promised them?

How would your technology need to change to embrace a Customer Centric mentality? In 1996 (before Google), I designed a new search tool named Hobbes based on helping a site visitors get to the exact page they needed using 3 simple questions that highlight their choice criteria. I got an offer from the VC Heidi Roisen for funding if I could find one other funding source. I could not. And to this day, no one is using my search tool; seems tech folks never understood why sorting with human criteria is necessary.

I hope I’ve inspired you to begin thinking about this issue and started a conversation. I believe that becoming Customer Centric will be your competitive edge moving forward. But that also means change. What is it worth to you?

How would Customer Centricity change your hiring practices? Training? HR? Management?

How will you know in advance that it will be worth the time/effort to tackle this? Because if you don’t, your competition will. Remember: your customer is your competitive advantage.

What skills training would need to occur? Listening, certainly.

What would need to change within your company culture? How people speak to each other? The symbols of success, expectations, agreements?

How are you currently communicating your values to customers? Take a look at your site, your rules, your reps. What you see IS a representation of your corporate values.

What promises are you making to customers who buy your solution? How does this differ from what a customer thinks you promised them?

How would your technology need to change to embrace a Customer Centric mentality? In 1996 (before Google), I designed a new search tool named Hobbes based on helping a site visitors get to the exact page they needed using 3 simple questions that highlight their choice criteria. I got an offer from the VC Heidi Roisen for funding if I could find one other funding source. I could not. And to this day, no one is using my search tool; seems tech folks never understood why sorting with human criteria is necessary.

I hope I’ve inspired you to begin thinking about this issue and started a conversation. I believe that becoming Customer Centric will be your competitive edge moving forward. But that also means change. What is it worth to you?

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader in Change Facilitation, and developed of a collaborative facilitation model used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, and implementations. She began keynoting in the 1990s on topics such as Make Money by Making Nice, Spirituality and Sales, the Caring Company. Her books – NYTimes business bestseller Selling with Integrity; Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell; and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? – focus on the skills to facilitate collaboration, respect, communication, and integrity. Sharon Drew has trained her process to over 100,000 people globally. She currently consults, trains, coaches, and keynotes. Sharon Drew currently lives on a floating home on the Columbia River in Portland OR.

October 7th, 2019

Posted In: Change Management

Leave a Comment

Next Page »