Do you enter conversations to listen for what will confirm your assumptions? Do you assume the responses to your questions provide an accurate representation of the full fact pattern – ‘good’ data – on which to base your follow-on questions? Do you assume your history of similar topics gives you a more elevated understanding of what your Communication Partners (CPs) mean rather than what they’re actually saying?

If any of the above are true, you’re biasing your conversation.

  • By entering conversations with assumptions and personal goals,
  •  and listening according to historic, unconscious, self-referenced filters,
  • you unwittingly direct conversations
  • to your range of expectations and familiarity
  • and potentially miss a more optimal outcome.

In other words, listening biased by your unconscious needs and assumptions keeps you from truly understanding the message offered and obtaining optimal results. But it’s not your fault.


The most surprising takeaway from my year of research for my book (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard was learning how little of what we think we hear is unbiased, or even accurate. Indeed, it’s pretty rare for us to hear precisely what another intends us to hear: our brains don’t allow us to.

Employing assumptions, triggers, memory tricks, and habit our brains listen through our unconscious biases, causing us to unwittingly alter the meaning that was actually intended. In fact – and this is the scary part – our brains don’t even tell us what they misheard or misrepresented,  regardless of our desire to be neutral when listening, and regardless of how hard we try to listen carefully.

Sound actually enters our ears as meaningless sound vibrations that get filtered on entry according to our beliefs. The remaining vibrations then get made into electrochemical signals that seek the ‘closest’ match among our 100 trillion existing synapses that seem to be ‘similar-enough’. And – here’s the annoying part – the signals that don’t correspond exactly with the existing circuitry get deleted, without us knowing, leaving us assuming that what we’ve heard is accurate. Indeed there’s a good chance what we think we’ve heard is merely some fraction of accurate, certainly some version of what we’ve heard before.

So your CP might say ABC and your brain tells you they said ABL without even mentioning it omitted D, E, F, etc. and just presenting the misinterpreted message as fact. I once lost a business partner because he ‘heard’ me say X when three of us confirmed I said Y. “I was right here! Why are you all lying to me! I KNOW she said that!” And he walked out in a self-generated rage, never to speak to me again. This makes it tough for any communication where mutual understanding is so important.

Obviously as sellers, coaches, leaders, or influencers of any kind we cannot ever know our CPs innermost thinking. And given variances in our beliefs/values, background, mental models, etc., and entering conversations with our own goals and unconscious biases, there’s a chance we end up unintentionally restricting the full range of viable outcomes. In other words, our natural inability to hear others accurately causes us miscommunication and flawed understanding. Not to mention lost business and lost relationships.

Net net, we unwittingly base our conversation, goals, questions, intuitive responses and offerings on an assumption of what we think has been said. We have the best chance of success with those whose biases match our own, like an old friend or family member. Otherwise it’s necessary to check with your CP to make sure what you thought you heard is accurate. [Note: for those who want to manage this problem, I’ve developed a work-around in Chapter 6 of What?)


Now that we know our brains set us up to hear Others according to our own histories, let’s go back to the problems incurred by entering conversations with personal biases:

  1. by biasing the framework of the conversation to the goals we wish to achieve, we overlook alternative, congruent outcomes. Sellers, coaches, leaders, and managers often enter conversations with personal expectations and goals rather than collaboratively setting a viable frame and together discovering possibility.
  2. by listening only for what we’re (consciously or unconsciously) focused on hearing, we overlook a broader range of possible outcomes. Sellers, negotiators, leaders, help desk professionals, and coaches often listen for what they want to hear so they can say what they want/are trained to say, or pose biased questions, and possibly miss real opportunities to promote agreement.

Here are some ideas to help you create conversations that avoid restriction:

  1. Shift your goal as an influencer to facilitating the route to change. You’ll never have the full fact pattern, or the weight and implications of each element that has created and maintains the status quo. But you can lead a route to change using systems thinking and enabling your CP to engage their own change, congruently.
  2. Enter each conversation with a willingness to serve the greater good within the bounds of what you have to offer, rather than meet a specific outcome. Any expectations or goals limit outcomes. The Other’s outcome will become obvious to them.
  3. Enter with a blank brain, as a neutral navigator, servant leader, change facilitator.
  4. Trust that your CP has her own answers. Your job is to help her find them. This is particularly hard for coaches and leaders who believe they have answers, or must influence the outcome toward a goal, or use their expertise to help the person change the way the influencer believes they should. (And yes, all influencers, sellers, leaders, negotiators, and coaches are guilty of this.) I’ve written an article to specifically address this.
  5. Stay away from data gathering. Your biased questions will only extract biased answers. Use questions focused on enabling change because you’ll never gather the full fact pattern anyway. Neutral questions like “What has stopped you from making the change before now?” is an example of a question addressed to systemic change. [Note: I’ve developed Facilitative Questions that eschew information gathering and lead systemic change through unconscious thinking patterns.]
  6. Make ‘enabling Others to discover their route to Excellence’ your goal, not a specific behavior you might deem important.
  7. Get rid of your ego, your need to be right or smart or have the answers. Until your CP finds a way to recognize their own unconscious issues, and design congruent change that matches their idiosyncratic ‘givens’, you aren’t helpful regardless of how much you think you know.

By listening with an ear that hears avenues to serve, to understand what’s been said without unconscious bias, you can truly serve your Communication partner.


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

March 20th, 2023

Posted In: Listening


Remember when a person would answer a company phone? I found myself shocked recently when a live human answered. “Um, Hello?? Are you a real person?”

When we call a company these days we often get caught in one of those automated loops that lead us from one wrong person to another, from one long hold to another, ultimately landing us where we started, with no resolution, lots of frustration, and rage toward the company. Company websites aren’t any better: no way to connect except via links that either lead nowhere or never get responded to; chat bots that have no idea what you’re talking about and keep repeating perky phrases.

As a paying support customer, I once waited 13 hours for a promised ‘one-hour’ call-back from Best Buy to resolve an urgent technical problem. I went to sleep with the phone in my hand, waiting. When the call came at 3:00 A.M. (!) the tech started by asking me how I was. “I’m sleeping! It’s 3:00 in the morning and I’ve been waiting since 2:00 in the afternoon! And I still have my technical problem!” And he hung up on me. This was particularly egregious given I’d been forced to listen (for hours!) to Best Buy’s ‘hold’ jingle promoting fabulous customer service.

We’ve all learned to accept these indignities, to be ignored if we have a problem, to spend hours attempting to resolve a crisis caused by our purchase. And it’s getting worse.


We’ve grown to hate our providers, and they don’t seem to care. But they should. We provide the income for their profit and salaries, certainly enough to hire employees to answer phones or help solve problems. In so many ways, hiring a human would be cheaper than the cost of the automation.

Gone are the days when customer service mattered, when three rings was the maximum number before phones had to be answered to keep customers from being frustrated. That doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

Companies now use only two criteria to interact with customers: Time and Cost. And because these companies may be sole providers in regional sectors or global behemoths, users have no choice but to remain customers.

Sadly, there’s no regulation on this, no way to reduce our monthly payment by the number of hours we spend on hold, or the number of problems we can’t get resolved. Until we form a Citizen’s Council, or there’s some sort of regulation – neither of which are likely – we’ll just have to suck it up. Nobody cares, no one is responsible, and no one pays for the problem except us.

What happened? How did our companies go from touting stellar customer service as a competitive advantage to computerizing all human interactions? How did companies decide to stop respecting the very people who keep them successful? Why have they been so willing to cause their customers to distrust them?


We know what companies pay their ‘C’ level people, their profit margins and how much they pay (or not) in taxes. We know they can afford to hire customer support folks. But somewhere along the way customers became secondary. What’s going on? Is greed the only motivation these days? How did it become a ‘thing’ that customers don’t matter – except for their purchases?

Frankly, I have no way to think about this in an unbiased way. I’ve spent my life developing facilitation models that enable win/win and servant leadership, to respect each individual and engender trust. Making it difficult for the very folks you depend on to get the service they require goes against all my beliefs.

It might come from the momentum of ‘cheap’. Everything seems to require a low price tag, and money becomes the main criteria for choice. We don’t consider what happens when goods are reduced to a price tag, for doing ‘whatever it takes’ for price to be the sole choice criteria. We avert our eyes when we learn that companies use children as cheap labor or when they strip the environment to create cheap products.

We seem to want cheap even when price differentials convey value differentials. Someone once asked the price of my Buying Facilitation® training, a unique model I invented that uses mindbrain connections to help buyers generate their buying decisions. When I told him the price (thousands) he told me he could get ‘almost the same’ course at ATT for $49. I told him to take it 😊

Are we all implicated here? Is automated customer service the fallout from the search for cheap? How did we move away from scrupulous business practices, or good customer care as a competitive advantage? Why isn’t it a simple calculation that happy customers provide more revenue?

Somewhere in the past few years automation became the accepted corporate interface regardless of the toll on customers. And I can’t imagine that focus groups would chose automation and no-human-contact as a preference over being cared for by a human.


I have some ideas that might stop this nonsense. My favorite is that each call is answered by a representative who owns the problem to its conclusion. I suspect that when companies pay their own folks to sit on hold for hours only to get connected to the wrong department, they just might fix the problems. They don’t seem to respect a customer’s wasted time; maybe they might care when it’s their own time.

Here are my ideas:

  • Human beings will pick up customer service lines; site links will go to real support people who will respond within 12 hours.
  • The person who picks up the phone will own the problem.
  • Customer Care will be seen as a competitive advantage.
  • Companies will pay bonuses to reps who keep customers happy.
  • A vehicle – a YouTube Channel, for example – specifically for customers’ complaints. Their grievance gets calculated as a cost to the company, with a running tally of how much money the company owes its customers. At the end of a month the company gets sent a Grievance Bill with the proceeds going to charity.
  • An advertised day a month of “no shopping” in the companies who don’t serve customers adequately.

Sadly, the very people who sell us services have become adversaries. What do we need to do or say to have our needs met, our voices heard, our time respected? What do companies need to know, believe, or do differently to be willing to provide resources to handle incoming calls, or provide websites that offer support? What can any of us do to knock some sense into their heads?

Does anyone have better ideas that might help? God knows, I don’t.


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

March 13th, 2023

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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I recently heard a project manager in a software services company mention a ‘very important’ book on persuasion that she passed on to her team. I was curious why she liked it.

S: It’s vital we persuade our clients. My team must learn to use the right words to convince them they’re wrong, and get them to change their thinking so we can do what we need to do.

SD: You convince your clients they’re wrong and want to change their thinking so they’ll agree for you to do what you want, even if they don’t agree? And use persuasion strategies rather than maybe facilitate them through a collaborative decision making process and find ways to meld ideas and agree together?

S: They don’t want to agree and we don’t want them to collaborate. They start off wanting it their way. From years of working with these sorts of problems, we know what they need better than they do. That’s why we need to use the best persuasion techniques to change their minds.

I found the conversation unsettling. WHAT IS PERSUASION – AND WHY IS IT DISRESPECTFUL? When I looked up persuasion, seems Aristotle defined it with the terms Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Google defines it as an ‘act of convincing’ ‘to put his/her audience into a state of conflict’. The concept has been around a long time – probably since God persuaded the Serpent to eat the apple. Sales strategies employ persuasion to convince people to buy; doctors and healthcare professionals employ biased stories to encourage patients to act, or behave, in ways the docs consider beneficial; coaches use influencing strategies to persuade clients to make the changes the coach recommends. But these strategies are largely ineffective: Not only will people not do what the influencer wants them to do, but they’ll most likely distrust the influencer even if it turns out the influencer is accurate. By persuading another to do what you want them to do you’re taking away their agency, their personal power, and usurping it for your own need to be right. Not to mention preventing a more robust, and dare I say more creative, outcome to emerge. My definition is a bit different: persuasion is an influencer’s attempt to get another person to do what the influencer wants, regardless of its efficacy, regardless of the omission of a potentially more creative solution, and even when it goes against the person’s wishes. Persuaders assume they’re ‘right’. I once ran a Buying Facilitation® training program for the Covey Leadership Center. They were the most manipulative sales folks I’d ever met. Given that Covey espoused spiritual values, I was surprised. When I questioned their use of persuasion tactics I was told: “Of course we use persuasion tactics! It’s our responsibility to convince people to use the practices we espouse!” PERSUASION BREAKS SPIRITUAL LAWS For me, trying to convince another to do what you want them to do breaks a spiritual law: everyone has the right to their own opinions, beliefs, choices, and actions, and the right to behave according to their own self-interest and values. I believe it’s disrespectful and an act of hubris, even if I think – especially if I ‘know’! – I’m right. No one, no one, can be ‘right’ for another person. Not to mention being ‘right’ is subjective and not necessarily ‘right’. I looked up ‘persuasion strategies’ to learn what ‘experts’ suggest. They all include finely honed tactics and subliminal convincer strategies:

* Find common ground! * Use their names often! * Prepare for arguments! * Make it seem beneficial to them! * Be confident! * Flatter them and appeal to their emotions! *Motivate action!

Ploys to manipulate, to influence at all costs. But what’s the cost? A disgruntled, resentful buyer. A client or patient who won’t use your services again and becomes distrusting. The loss of collaboratively thinking together that can discover an outcome that’s win/win for both and potentially even more effective over time than the influencer’s suggestions. Regardless of the outcome, win/lose just doesn’t exist. It’s either win/win or lose/lose. If everyone doesn’t win, everyone loses. By using force instead of real power to enable the Other to discover her own route to excellence, you’re disrespecting them. Why, I ask, would anyone want to persuade another to go beyond their own beliefs, or choices, or intentions? Maybe because it’s the only way they can get what they want? Maybe because they believe the other is harming themselves? Maybe because of a political, or scientific, argument? Whatever the case, persuasion is not only disrespectful, but ineffective.

  1. An ‘I’m right so you should listen to me’ framework operates from win/lose, disrespect, and distrust (‘I obviously know better than you’).
  2. Persuasion uses judgmental language based on an ‘I know/you don’t’ framework, making the other person ‘stupid’ or ‘unaware’ – certainly ‘less-than’.
  3. Persuasion ignores another’s needs, feelings, and considerations, and offers no room for a more robust solution based on the knowledge the Other has of their own environment.
  4. Persuasion assumes only one person understands the full fact pattern of what’s going on, thereby ignoring the Other’s knowledge and reality that can never be fully understood by an outsider. Indeed, the only person who understands the full fact pattern is the Other.

Persuasion is one-sided and makes false assumptions when influencers believe their suggestions are the best options; that the internal relationships, politics, values, history, of the Other are not worthy of consideration; that the persuader ‘should’ be heeded because they’re ‘in authority’; or – worse of all – that the person isn’t capable of figuring out their own route forward. CASE STUDY My neighbor Maria came to my house crying one day. Her doctor had told her she was borderline diabetic and needed to eat differently. He gave her a printed list of foods to eat and foods to avoid and spent time persuading her to stop eating whatever she was eating because his list of foods was essential to her health. She told me she’d been trying for months, lost some weight, but finally gave up and went back to her normal eating habits and gained back the weight. But she was fearful of dying from diabetes like her mother did. She’d tried to listen to her doc, she didn’t want to be sick, but she just couldn’t do what the doc requested. She asked if I could help, and I told her I’d lead her through to finding her own answers. Here was our exchange.

SDM: I know your doc wants you to change your eating habits for health reasons. I’ll ask you some questions that might lead you to ways to help you figure out how to eat healthier. I’ll start at the very beginning. Who are you?

Maria: I’m a wife, mother and grandmother.

SDM: As a wife, mother and grandmother, what are your beliefs and values?

Maria: I believe I’m responsible for feeding my family in a way that makes them happy.

SDM: What is it you’re doing now that makes them happy?

Maria: My family all live nearby. Every morning I get up early and make 150 tortillas. When they go to work and school in the morning, they stop by and I hand them out to each for their breakfast and lunch. I always make enough for me and Joe to have for breakfast. The doctor says they’re bad for me with all the lard in them and that I must stop eating them. I’ve tried to stop, but they’re a big part of my diet. When the doctor said to stop eating them, I felt he doesn’t want me to love my family.

SDM: So I hear that tortillas are the way you keep your family happy. Is there any other way you can keep your family happy by feeding them without putting your own health at risk?

Maria: Hmmmm… I could make them enchiladas. They don’t have lard, and my family loves them. And my daughter Sonia makes tortillas almost as good as mine.

Then we figured out a terrific plan. Maria invited her entire family for dinner and presented Sonia with her tortilla pan outfitted with a big red bow. She told her family she couldn’t make tortillas any more due to health reasons, but Sonia, the new “Tortilla Tia,” would make them tortillas every day just like Maria did, and she’d make them enchiladas once a week instead. Maria then proceeded to lose 15 pounds, kept the weight off, and is no longer pre-diabetic. WHAT PERSUASION MISSES In this case study, the doctor attempted to persuade Maria to do what he thought best with a conventional one-size-fits-all food plan. Yet with the proper questions, an intent to facilitate collaboration and discovery, he could have led her to figure out for herself how to solve the problem her own way, using her own history and values. The diet the doc gave her went against her lifestyle, but he was so intent on doing what he thought ‘best’ he overlooked Maria’s own power to figure out her own solution. Ultimately, she didn’t need persuasion, she needed a facilitated conversation that enabled Maria to discover her own best choices. Imagine your job is to facilitate folks through their own route to Excellence. Persuasion tactics seek to meet the needs of the persuader, without accounting for the Other’s discovery through their personal beliefs and lifestyle realities:

  • the questions persuaders pose are biased by their own needs and omit/ignore large swathes of potentially applicable, and certainly private, data points that are important to the Other;
  • listeners interpret what they hear as per historic matches in their brain circuits (see my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) causing a limited and biased understanding, regardless of what influencers are trying to share;
  • persuaders work from subjective criteria and don’t take into account the values, beliefs, lifestyles, of the Others, unwittingly causing the Other conflict that the persuader cannot know, and overlooks more creative and workable options that they could discover together.

Regardless of how ‘right’ you or your solution might be, if the Other feels like you’re pushing, or forcing, or manipulating; if you’re asking biased questions based on YOUR need to know so you can use it against them; it’s pretty hard to persuade anyone without there being resentment. Not to mention can you truly believe that YOUR way is the BEST way for another person, and they have no agency to figure out their own route? COLLABORATIVE CONVERSATION Here are a few tips to guide an unbiased conversation that eventually leads the Other to discovering a path forward using their own values.

  1. Goal: your goal is to help the Other discover their own criteria and actions for change, NOT to get the Other to do what you want!
  2. Intent: your job is to facilitate another through to their own discovery by directing them down their own trajectory of change, not toward the result the influencer seeks.
  3. Understanding: you can never, ever, understand what’s going on for Another. Ever. But you can lead them to understand themselves through facilitated discovery.
  4. Questions: I invented a form of question called a Facilitative Question that walks Others down the trajectory of their own self-discovery with NO bias from you. They are based on the steps people go through when deciding to change and NOT based on your need-to-know, assumptions, or curiosity. Properly formulated, they have no bias but enable bias-free discovery in a way that the Other’s system will not reject.

Instead of trying to persuade, why not try collaborative conversation and facilitated questioning so you both can discover, together, a win/win that serves you both. Instead of it being either/or, why not both/and? And just maybe, use your connection to trust Others to discover their own answers.


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

March 6th, 2023

Posted In: News

inside-curiosityCuriosity is a good thing, right? But what is it? Wikipedia defines curiosity thus: a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in human and animal species.

What, exactly, does this mean? What’s ‘inquisitive thinking’? Does it matter that everyone’s inquisitiveness is subjective, unique, and limited by their biases? ‘Evident by observation’? Evident to whom? And by what/whose standards? And ‘observation’? Really?


We all see, hear, feel the world through our subjectivity, through our historic, existing neural circuitry that

  • filters, defines and translates
  • incoming signals into
  • an understanding that
  • aligns with what we already know and believe.

In other words, everything we think is nothing more than the output of the particular set of life filters that make us each unique. It’s all automatic, electrochemical, and mostly outside our control.

Here’s the problem: when we seek new data – i.e. when we’re curious – our brain has a high likelihood of misinterpreting the information we’ve discovered that might provide answers. Becasue of the way our brain filters incoming words, we end up (unwittingly) restricting what we hear according to our own beliefs and history, i.e. subjectively. In other words, we may not readily accept new ideas that are different from what we currently believe to be true.

Starting by seeking out a very specific set of criteria would make it easier to wrestle our brain into accepting new information. So what criteria can we use to recognize we’ve arrived at ‘the answer’ when we’re curious? What makes one piece of information the ‘correct’ answer? Or is it all subjective?


Let me provide more detail so you can understand how our brains restrict our curiosity. Incoming words and ideas are merely ‘puffs of air’, sound vibrations that have no meaning until they get translated into by circuits that carry our historic knowledge and beliefs. Oh. And along the way, our brains kindly (haphazardly, and without telling us) discard some of them.

Are you getting the point here? When we try to find answers when we’re curious, we’re sabotaged by

  • the nature of our historic, subjective viewpoint, biases, and intractable Status Quo which automatically and unconsciously restricts everything that doesn’t match our mental models,
  • our own conscious/unconscious existing beliefs, assumptions and knowledge about the subject,
  • the direction, word choice, hidden agenda and prejudice built into our queries.

Sure, we’re told to ‘be curious.’ But what makes us curious? Seems our curiosity is restricted by what we already know! How, then, can we know that the information we seek and retrieve is accurate, complete, or the most useful data available? Can we be certain that our data gathering was sufficiently broad? How do we know that a new piece of learning is important, even though it feels uncomfortable and we want to dismiss it? Can we supersede our biased judgments (or intuition, as some would call it) that become the standard against which we compare everything we hear? How can we know if we possess other circuits that would offer less restriction?

Hence, I pose the question: can we really ever be entirely curious?

Sadly, as per brain science, we can only be as curious as our neural circuits allow. And although we use a higher number of our 100 trillion synaptic connections when we’re being ‘intuitive’, we’re still confined to the content of the circuitry we already possess. In other words, try as we might, our subjectivity rules our lives.


Once during a conversation with a colleague, he complained that he had just gotten a cold, and that now he’d be ‘down’ for 2 weeks. How did he know it would be 2 weeks? As a doctor himself, he’d been to doctors over the years and followed protocol: lots of rest and liquids, and wait two weeks. The following conversation ensued:

SD: I hear your conclusions about a cold cure come from medical colleagues. What would you need to believe differently to be willing to expand your parameters to find a cure beyond your current comfort zone, in case there might be reliable cures you’re not aware of?

H: Hm… I’ve always used the medical model as my choice criteria. Well, I guess I’d need to believe that the source of the new data was trustworthy.

SD: I have useful data that has helped me and my family cure a cold in 2 days, but it’s very far outside the conventional model. And I’m not a medical professional. How would you know it would be worth trying, given it doesn’t fit within your criteria?

H: That’s sort of easy, but scary. I’ve known you a long time. I trust you. If you have a different cure, I’d love to hear it.

I offered him a simple vitamin-based remedy (large quantities of Vitamin C and simultaneous Zinc lozenges). He used it; he called 2 days later to tell me his cold was gone. And, btw: this man is a famous Harvard McArthur Genius. See? Even geniuses restrict their curiosity according to their biases.


There are several different reasons for curiosity:

  1. Need to know something we don’t know. Sometimes we need to know something we have no, or skimpy, knowledge about. How do we know the difference between the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong’ answer? How do we know the most effective resources? How do we pose our query to lead to the broadest range of answers? How do we know that what our brain translates for us is an accurate rendition of new content?
  2. Desire to expand current knowledge. We need more data than we possess. How will we recognize when the available, additional data is the appropriate data set? How do we pose an inquiry that offers the broadest range of relevant knowledge? How can we keep from resisting new data if it runs counter to our long-held beliefs (given that new data gets compared against our existing, unconscious judgments)? How can we be certain that we will accurately understand new content?
  3. Achieving a goal. We’re missing data to achieve a goal. How can we know the extent of what we’re missing, or know to accept new content if our existing data has been our go-to knowledge and it now might be incomplete?
  4. Interest in another person’s knowledge. We suspect someone has knowledge we need, but don’t know how to judge what might be accurate. How can we adopt/adapt new content so we can avoid internal resistance, so we ensure what we think we’ve heard is an accurate portrayal of what was said? How can we language our inquiry to avoid limiting any possibilities?
  5. Complete internal reference points. Influencers (coaches, leaders, consultants, sellers) seek to understand the Other’s Status Quo to formulate action points. How can we know if our ‘intuition’ (biased judgment) is broad enough to encompass all possibilities – and be able to go beyond it when necessary – to match the Other’s mental models and existing/historic brain circuits? How can we know for certain that what was said to them was understood accurately?
  6. Comparator. We want to know if our current knowledge is accurate, or we’re ‘right’. But we unconsciously compare our query and hear responses against our subjective experiences, running the risk of acquiring partial knowledge, misunderstanding what was said, or blocking important data.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty impossible to seek, find, or receive what we don’t know what we don’t know. When we hear content that doesn’t fit our existing circuitry – regardless of the efficacy of the information – we face:

  1. Resistance: By the time we’re adults, our subjective beliefs are pretty much built in and determine how we organize our worlds. When we hear something that goes against our beliefs – whether or not it’s accurate, conscious, or unconscious – we resist. That means new knowledge will be accepted in relation to what we already know and believe, potentially omitting important data and making real change difficult.
  2. Restricting data: What we’re curious about is automatically biased, mistranslated, and limited by our subjective experience, ego needs, history, and current data set. We have no way to know if we accurately understand what’s been said, or if we’re posing our search query in a way that will include the full range of possible answers.
  3. Restricting knowledge. Because our subjectivity limits the acceptance of new knowledge to what fits with our current knowledge (we’re only curious about stuff that is tangential to current knowledge), our brains automatically defend against anything that threatens what we know. So we unconsciously choose answers according to comfort or habit rather than according to accuracy or need.
  4. Intuitive ‘Red Flag’. When our egos and professional identity are curious about something we have assumptions and expectations about, we limit possibility by our unconscious biases. How do we know if there aren’t a broader range of solutions that we’re not noticing or eliciting?

If you’re interested in learning how to consciously generate wholly new circuits to permanently change habits and behaviors I’ve developed a How of Change™ program. Here’s a one-hour sample video:


A few years ago I had an incident that simply exemplifies some of the above. I’d begun attending life drawing classes as an exercise to broaden my observation skills. I took classes 30 years ago, so I have a very tiny range of skills that obviously need enhancing. In one session I had a horrific time trying to draw a model’s shoulder. I asked the man next to me – a real artist – for help. Here was our conversation:

SDM: Hey, Ron. Can you help me please? Can you tell me how to think about drawing his shoulder?

Ron: Sure. Let’s see…. So what is it about your current sketch that you like?

SDM: Nothing.

Ron: If I put a gun to your head, what part would you like?

SDM: Nothing.

Ron: You’ve done a great job here, on his lower leg. Good line. Good proportion. That means you know how to do a lot of what you need on the shoulder.

SDM: I do? I didn’t know what I was doing. So how can I duplicate what I did unconsciously? I’m having an eye-hand-translation problem.

Ron: Let’s figure out how you drew that leg. Then we’ll break that down to mini actions, and see what you can use from what you already know. And I’ll teach you whatever you’re missing.

Ron’s brand of curiosity enabled me to make some unconscious skills conscious, and add new expertise where I was missing it. His curiosity had different biases from mine. He:

  • entered our discussion assuming I already had all of the answers I needed;
  • only added information specifically where I was missing some;
  • helped me find my own answers and be available to add knowledge in the exact place I was missing it.

My own curiosity would have gotten me nowhere. Here was my internal dialogue:

How the hell do I draw a twisted shoulder? This sucks. Is this an eye/hand problem? Should I be looking differently? I need an anatomy class. Should I be holding my charcoal differently? Is it too big a piece? I can’t see a shadow near his shoulder. Should I put in a false shadow to help me get the proportions right?

Ron’s curiosity – based on me already possessing the skills I needed – opened a wide range of possibilities for me. I never, ever would have found that solution on my own because my biases would have limited my curiosity to little more than an extension of my current knowledge and beliefs.


In order to widen curiosity to the full range of knowledge and allow our unconscious to accept the full data set available, we must evolve beyond our biases. Here’s how to have a full range of choice:

  1. Frame the query: Create a generic series of questions to pose for yourself about your curiosity. Ask yourself:
    • how you’ll know your tolerance for non-expected, surprising answers,
    • what a full range of knowledge could include,
    • if your answers need to be within the range of what you already know or something wildly different,
    • if you’re willing/able to put aside your ‘intuition’, bias, and annoyance and seek and consider all possible answers regardless of comfort,
    • if you need to stay within a specific set of criteria and what the consequences are if you don’t.

2. Frame the parameters: Do some Google research. Before spending time accumulating data, recognize the parameters of possibility whether or not they match your comfortable criteria.

3. Recognize your foundational beliefs: Understand what you believe to be true, and consider how important it is for you to maintain that data set regardless of potentially conflicting, new information.

4. Be willing to change: Understand your willingness to adopt challenging data if it doesn’t fit within your current data set or beliefs.

5. Make your unconscious conscious: Put your conscious mind onto the ceiling and look down on yourself from the Observer/Witness/meta position. This provides neutral data, sams your biases and resistence.

6. Listen analytically: Listen to your self-talk. Compare it with the questions above. Note restrictions and decide if they can be overlooked. And recognizing your brain may play tricks on you, be sure to ask if what you think you heard and learned is accurate.

7. Analyze: Should you shift your parameters? Search options? What do you need to shift internally?

Curiosity effects every element of our lives. It can enhance, or restrict, growth, change, and professional skills. It limits and expands health, relationships, lifestyles and relationships. Without challenging our curiosity or intuition, we limit ourselves to maintaining our current assumptions.

What do you need to believe differently to be willing to forego comfort and ego-identity for the pursuit of the broadest range of possible answers? How will you know when, specifically, it would be important to have greater choice? We’ll never have all the answers, but we certainly can expand our choices.


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

February 27th, 2023

Posted In: Listening

Trust. The big kahuna. The sales industry seeks it; doctors assume it; couples demand it; change can’t occur without it. But what is it? Why isn’t it easier to achieve? And how can we engender it in relationships?

I define trust as the awareness of Another as being safe, similar, and sane enough to connect with, and occurs when they

  • have core beliefs that align and seem harmonious with mine,
  • feel heard, accepted, respected, and understood by me,
  • feel compatible or safe as a result of our interacting,
  • believe their status quo won’t be at risk when connected to me.

Unless these criteria are satisfied, trust can’t occur no matter how kind, professional, necessary, or well-intended another person or message is. It’s a Belief issue.


Every one of us has Beliefs unique to us. Our Beliefs are the norms and rules we live by, developed over our lifetimes to make decisions and act against. We gravitate to, and trust, folks with similar foundational Beliefs and world views that match well-enough with our own to proclaim “safety”.

Largely unconscious, illogical to others and hard to change, our Beliefs regulate us, define who we are and enable us to show up congruently in the world. We even listen through ears biased by our Beliefs.

Beliefs instigate our habits and assumptions, restricting our life choices such as our occupations, politics, values, mates – even our child rearing practices. And our Beliefs are the initiators of our behaviors – behaviors being Beliefs in action.

Sadly, because everyone’s Belief systems are unconscious and idiosyncratic, and because we each view the world through our own Beliefs and perceptions, it’s difficult to accurately perceive Another’s internal world view. It’s here, in our Beliefs, where our world views collide.

For those folks whose jobs are to influence, there’s an immediate problem. The content they share, or even their unique delivery style, may unwittingly offend the Belief system of the Communication Partner (CP). Bad news for sellers, coaches, managers, etc. who attempt to promote change or buy-in by pushing their ideas and instead cause resistance and distrust.


I’d like to offer thoughts on some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust, then provide some ideas of how to stimulate it.

Relationship Building: We’ve been led to believe that having a relationship encourages buy-in to new ideas. But it’s a conundrum: polite as an interaction appears or how necessary our message, we can’t easily build a relationship with folks with divergent Beliefs, or fight their automatic filters that react to us immediately. In other words, “pushing in” doesn’t work, even if our data and intent are accurate, and even if we think we have a relationship that entitles us to ‘share.’ We might have a superficial connection, but not a relationship; “making nice” does not constitute a relationship, or engender change or trust.

Information: As influencers we often attempt to “get in” with the information we assume our CPs need, without accounting for how it will be perceived. Sometimes the “right” data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). We fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, or how their listening filters translate it for them. With the best will in the world, even with good data to help folks who need what we’ve got to share, we aren’t heeded.

In fact, information is the last thing needed to facilitate change or buy-in since people unconsciously defend their status quo. It’s our brain’s fault! Because all incoming data is translated for us automatically by our historic neural circuits, new ideas aren’t always interpreted accurately and run the risk of causing resistance. (See my book on this topic.) So save the information sharing for when a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed.

Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, the “rational/ scientific” data you offer to “prove” climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of the medical model, you won’t use alternate therapies to manage an illness no matter how strong the data for changing your nutrition.

Clear Communication: We all think we communicate clearly, yet we’re not as effective speaking in ‘Other’s language’ given our CPs unconscious, biased listening filters that end up preventing our “risky” data from being heard accurately. Certainly we believe we’re choosing the “right” words and approach to convey our intent. Yet our message is heard accurately only by those with similar Beliefs and resisted by the very people who need our information the most.


Since our great ideas and eager strategies don’t engender trust in folks with different Beliefs, and without trust we can’t change minds, what should we do?

As coaches, sellers, and leaders, we must carefully initiate conversations based on them discovering their own answers, with a goal to match their Belief criteria before offering new ideas. In this way we can help our CPs open up new possibility that actually creates trust:

  1. Enter each conversation with the goal of assisting your CPs in discovering how their Beliefs instigated their behaviors. Entering with the goal to offer information, or get your question answered, or extract promises of action will automatically engender distrust and resistance.
  2. Ask the type of questions that facilitate and enable internal discovery; conventional questions merely pull data biased by the needs of the Asker. I designed Facilitative Questions (see below) that enable congruent change without bias by leading the CP through their unique route to discovery.
  3. There is a specific series of steps that change entails. I’ve spent decades coding the steps of change for decision making and new habit generation. These promote congruent change by leading Others down their own choice points. Learn the steps, and help your CP traverse the steps to match Beliefs and encourage acceptance prior to mentioning your idea.
  4. Trust that your CP has her own answers and that she’ll shift toward excellence as appropriate for her. It won’t show up exactly as you’d hoped; but there will be a new opening for collaboration without resistance.
  5. Understand that until or unless your CP can recognize his own incongruences, there is no way he’ll welcome comments from you that sound like you’re saying he’s wrong or insufficient.

In other words, create a Beliefs-based bond that will open the possibility of you offering information later, once they’ve discovered exactly where they need it and how to use it.


I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that teaches others to scan their own internal state. These questions are unbiased, systemic, formulated with specific wording, in a specific order, and based on systemic brain change, not information gathering. They also take our CPs into a Witness state, beyond their automatic responses, and from which they can have a neutral, unbiased look at their status quo to notice if it’s operating excellently, and consider change if there might be a more congruent path.

Take a look at a conventional question vs a Facilitative Question:

Conventional: Do you think it’s time for a haircut? or Why do you wear your hair that way?

Telling someone they need a haircut, or asking them if they noticed they need a haircut, or giving them an article on new types of hair styles – all based on your own need to convince your CP to change – will cause defensiveness and distrust.

Facilitative Question: How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?

This leads your CP

  • into a Witness state,
  • beyond their resistance and reaction,
  • outside of their normal unconscious reactions,
  • to notice the exact criteria they need to consider change and
  • to open the possibility for new choices that match their own Beliefs.

By using this type of question we offer a route for the CP to discover their own best answer that aligns with their Beliefs and engenders trust. No push, no need for a specific response. Serving another by helping them discover their own Excellence.

I designed these questions as part of my Buying Facilitation® model, a generic change facilitation model (often used in sales) that enables congruent change. Sounds a bit wonky, I know, and it’s certainly not conventional. But worth researching. I’ve trained large numbers of sales folks and coaches over the past 40 years against control groups and consistently have a 40% success rate. When we facilitate our CPs down their path to conscious choice, we

  • help them discover their incongruencies,
  • help them understand the areas at risk,
  • help them develop their own route to managing risk (i.e. change) and where they can’t do it themselves,
    enable buy-in from the elements that will be effected.

Until your audience is able to accomplish this in their own way, using their own Beliefs, they will hear you through biased ears, maintain their barriers, and engender trust only with those who they feel aligned with – omitting a large audience of those who may need you.

Stop using your own biases to engender trust: facilitate your CPs in changing themselves. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt excellence. And they’ll trust you because you helped them help themselves.


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

February 20th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

Have you ever wondered why people agree to an appointment from your prospecting calls? Obviously, it’s not because they need your solution or they wouldn’t incur an 80-90% fail rate (higher if you count from your first prospecting call). You’re charming, your solution great, your pitch deck is creative and your content informative. So it’s not you or your solution.

But ask yourself: if people agree to a meeting but are not likely to buy, why did they take the meeting? Choose one from below:

  • They needed information to help them resolve their problem internally.
  • One or two people from a team are gathering information to convince others of possible solutions for a need not yet fully established.
  • They’re comparing your information against your competitors.
  • One or two people are representing the team as they progress toward resolving a problem and they need ideas to discover their own workarounds.

With a goal to get an appointment, you’re wasting valuable time chasing after folks who aren’t ready to buy, or aren’t buyers at all. You’re:

  1. creating a double sale – the first being to get them to buy the appointment;
  2. calling people who haven’t (yet) self-identified as buyers, are in the middle of their discovery process, and don’t see a need for an appointment;
  3. placing hundreds of calls to get one appointment when you could use the same time/effort to actually find a real buyer and make a sale.

By seeking anyone who will take an appointment, you’re making it possible for folks to use you to glean information. But there’s a bigger downside: you’re not recognizing or serving people on route to becoming buyers – real prospects who WILL buy when they complete their change/decision process.


Have you ever wondered how many real prospects you discard on route to seeking an appointment? With a ‘need’ and ‘appointment’ focus, you’re missing real prospects on route to becoming buyers but haven’t completed their journey. And it’s costing you sales.

Instead you could be using your time finding folks who will be buyers and facilitating their necessary Pre-Sales change management journey through discovery and buy-in – what I consider the Buy Side. Until then, they won’t even look at marketing or sales content!

By seeking an appointment you’re missing an opportunity to find pre-prospects, facilitate them through their essential change work, then sell to them once they’re self-identified buyers. All buyers must go through this process anyway! Unfortunately, the sales model overlooks helping this entire group of highly viable prospects because they don’t yet recognize ‘need’. But when you facilitate their journey to discovery (and they’re easy to find – but not with a ‘need’ focus) they very quickly and easily buy.

The missing piece here is the difference between the two buying processes: the Sell Side and the Buy Side. To facilitate buying, to find people on route to becoming buyers but not yet ready to engage with you, you need to think from the Buy Side. And the Buy Side has very specific considerations currently overlooked by the Sell Side.


By contacting people with only a sales hat on, before they’ve

  • completed their stakeholder assembly,
  • recognized the full set of criteria that defines their problem,
  • tried familiar workarounds,
  • assessed their risk and found it manageable,

you’re discarding highly qualified prospects (40%) who won’t take a meeting but could use your help. By focusing on the Sell Side and overlooking the Buy Side decision process, you’re missing your sweet spot: helping people as they fumble through their factors to determine if their risk of going ‘outside’ (to buy something, to bring in a consultant, etc.) is worth the disruption that bringing in something new causes.

Turns out that risk is the deciding factor if someone buys, not need; defining and controlling for it constitutes 70% of their decision path! And this must occur before they can buy anything, regardless of need.


The sales model has no relevance in the Pre-Sales change management decisions all people take before self-identifying as buyers. Consequently, selling doesn’t cause buying as they are two wholly different concepts: A buying decision is relational – change management and risk driven; sales is tactical – solution placement driven.

When people have a problem they don’t BEGIN by considering or making a purchase (tactical), but by figuring out all the systemic stuff they need to figure out (relational) to end up with a change that aligns with internal norms. No one wants to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least risk to their culture/system.

By focusing on getting appointments, you’re not only overlooking and discarding these very viable prospects, you’re neglecting a perfect opportunity to get on their side of the table and provide value-add that would facilitate them through the steps they must take before they’re buyers. It’s only when their

  • change management work is complete
  • AND all (all!) stakeholders are involved
  • AND they’ve realized they cannot resolve the problem on their own
  • AND they have the buy-in to proceed
  • AND they understand the ‘cost’ (risk) of any change caused by a new solution,

that they’re buyers.

This is where they ‘go’ when you think they’re dragging their feet or having ‘indecision’. By helping them precisely where they need help, you’re collapsing the sales cycle by at least half and creating a competitive advantage. And most of my clients end up on the Buying Decision Team because they’ve been so helpful.

But this requires you begin with a different goal and new skills, seeking people on route to change in the area you can support. Because their Pre-Sales change work is based on people, policy, buy-in, change, and resource, you’d be meeting them on the Buy Side.

Remaining on the Sell Side and limiting your skills to trying to making appointments or place solutions ensures you’ll only find the low hanging fruit – people who are ready to buy – when it’s so easy to find folks on route to buying and facilitating their journey. Not finding or facilitating folks on route to becoming buyers is costing you sales; limiting your role to seeking appointments in search of closing sales is wasting your time.


In 1937, Dale Carnegie told you to make face-to-face sales calls. In those days, there was little choice: cars were rare and quite expensive, phones were party line, and advertising was the Sears Catalogue that came out once a year.

These days, the internet transmits your content making your pitch unnecessary. But it’s much bigger than that; buying decision teams are no longer in one venue; people have partners and old vendors willing to help them resolve problems; and the time it takes them to understand if the risk of change carries too much disruption is the length of the sales cycle.

Before anyone becomes a buyer they have internal change work to do. To truly facilitate this end of the buying decision path, it takes a new goal at the beginning (find folks IN their change process instead of trolling for ‘need’ or appointments) and wholly new skills.

I’ve invented a facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) that begins with a ‘change’ focus and finds and serves these folks on route to becoming buyers but can’t consider themselves buyers until they’ve managed all the change issues and understand their internal risk.

With a goal of finding people during their change/decision cycle, Buying Facilitation® closes 40% from first call by facilitating them down their essential change/decision steps and then selling: Once they’ve discovered ALL the stakeholders, understand the full fact pattern, gotten buy-in and establish risk tolerance, then they’re ready to buy. They might even ask you to visit them and will have 10 people present. Then you’re a true servant leader.

I’m suggesting you expand your skill set to add ‘facilitate the Pre-Sales buying decision path’ before you sell. You can use this on your cold calls and close 40% from first call. Otherwise, you’re wasting so much of your valuable time seeking appointments with people who aren’t buyers.


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

February 13th, 2023

Posted In: News

Years ago I visited a spa where 4 magnificent macaws stood on individual perches, each with a long, not necessarily heavy, chain around one of its legs. Yet the chains were not attached to anything: if the birds had known what they didn’t know, they could have easily flown away.

I was reminded of that recently when sitting with a close friend starting up a company. I suggested he write down 1. What he knew he knew; 2. What he knew he didn’t know; 3. What he didn’t know he didn’t know (This being impossible, but the column needed to be there as you’ll see.). A long-time friend, James was always up for my mischief. He promptly began writing a list of what he knew that he knew. As I looked on, knowing him as long as I did, I noticed two items I knew for certain he did NOT know.

I told him I had doubts about some of the items he thought he knew and that they belonged in the ‘don’t know that I don’t know’ column. I asked him how he’d know if thought he knew something but in fact was mistaken.

“Oh. I guess there’s no way to know unless I fail. Without knowing there’s any other option, I wouldn’t even know when I need help or the kind of help I needed.”

A similar situation came up recently when a colleague explained how his sales team ‘truly cared’, and ‘truly served’ prospects. When I asked him what skills he was using to care and serve, he rattled off the same skills he used when selling. And even though we’d known each other for some time and he’d read a couple of my books, it never occurred to him to contact me to learn additional skills he knew I’d developed specifically for what he was doing. Why? Because his results were ‘wildly successful’ – a close rate ‘higher than others’ (10% success vs 5% industry standard – but still a 90% failure). He never stopped to consider that he could have been much more successful with additional skills. He didn’t know what he didn’t know.


So how do we know when we don’t know what we don’t know? We don’t even know how to think or consider something outside our assumptions or beliefs, or something not already in our neural makeup. There’s just no way to know what outcomes, risks or rewards, skills, comparators, or thought processes are possible. So how do we attain the courage to do something different when we have no way to even think about it?

Let’s consider how we do anything at all. Our brain instigates our actions, thoughts, what we hear, how we decide and choose, how we behave. When we have an idea or goal, hear a lecture or are given a directive, our brain

  • receives and filters (some deletion involved) incoming vibrations – words being meaningless puffs of air until our brain translates them – and
  • turns them into electrochemical signals that
  • get sent down well-worn pathways (superhighways) that
  • lead to existing, ‘similar-enough’ circuits (some deletion involved) that
  • instigate habitual behaviors and outcomes.

In other words, whatever we think, hear or read enters our mind as sound vibrations that end up being (mis)translated through some conglomeration of synapses, pathways, circuits, etc. and we end up ‘hearing’ little more than something we have previously experienced, regardless of the facts. And our brain doesn’t tell us what havoc it’s played: we just assume what we think we heard is accurate.

I was once meeting with a couple who were licensing some of my material. I made a comment that John interpreted what I said as X when I actually said Y. I carefully explained, again, what I’d said. Here is what followed:

John: You didn’t say that! I heard you say X with my own ears!

SD: No, John. You misheard. I said Y.

Wife: John – she really said Y. I was standing right here. You heard her wrong.


And he stomped out of the room, and never spoke to me again.

Listening is a brain thing, causing us to interpret incoming sound vibrations according to where among our 100 trillion neural circuits the sound vibrations get sent. [See my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?] Indeed, we hear some rendition of what a Speaker means to say, and rarely ‘hear’ accurately. Let me explain.

The way our brain turns signals into behaviors, ideas, or thoughts, determines everything we hear, think, and do. Usually it’s a good thing. It’s how we know to get up in the morning, put our slippers on, and brush our teeth. It’s how we make our decisions, go on our diets, make our New Year’s resolution. But it’s restrictive. In fact, and I still get annoyed about this, our brains automatically pretty much keep us doing what we’ve always done and we have very little say in the matter.

Indeed, we live our lives restricted and directed by how our neural circuits translate for us. And certainly, that provides a lifetime’s worth of choices. But: our curiosity, our ideas, are restricted by what’s already there.

I’ve developed a model to make it possible to change habits and behaviors by consciously adjusting your unconscious hierarchies and neural pathways. It includes wholly new skills, tools, and thought process with a hands-on learning and Belief change process.

Can we know what we don’t know that we don’t know? Because when we can’t, we’re left with the results of fewer choices with no way to know what to look for if we need to add something new.


Don’t get me wrong. none of us ever intends to mishear, or misunderstand, or restrict ourselves. But we’re basically out of choice, never told what our brain has edited or deleted, or what other choices were possible if our brain chose different circuits to translate the incoming vibrations.

Let me share my thoughts on some of the reasons I think people have a hard time getting beyond what they know (or don’t know they don’t know):

  1. Ego. People have a hard time acknowledging they are ‘deficient’. I’m not sure why. My question is: “What would stop you from seeking assistance at those times you’re aware that you are missing knowledge? Those times you have a pattern of failing and have no additional options?”
  2. Assumptions. When we presume we know something, we have no reason to think differently. Unfortunately, when failure occurs we have a ‘blame’ response since we, obviously, can’t be wrong and the Other, obviously, must be the culprit. Entire fields are based on Others being wrong because they don’t heed the provider (healthcare, sales, coaching, etc.).
  3. Denial. Wrong? I’m not doing anything wrong. Better? I already know how to do that. I really don’t want to change. I know my stuff is better. Why should I want to know what I don’t know when I already know what’s best? Sometimes people prefer their own ideas and ignore incoming content that would lead them to greater success.
  4. Listening Bias. Sometimes we are so committed to a specific outcome and approach that we consider successful that we listen to others through very biased ears and allow our brain to tell us what we want to hear…without question. I try to avoid this by seeking answers from people from different industries, or countries. But when we enter a situation with the end in mind, whatever we hear, whatever we take away, will be biased by our history.
  5. Fixed Views. We become attached – both emotionally and neurologically – to what we know. With a habituated superhighway that leads us straight to oft-used answers and beliefs, we dislike going through the decoupling process to accept and adopt a new answer.

Net net, due to our lazy brain and idiosyncratic personalities, there’s no way to naturally recognize when we don’t know what we don’t know. This makes it quite difficult to learn anything new until we fail and it becomes obvious.


Here are a few ideas that might lead to more choice:

  1. When you face confusion, it’s because your brain’s dispatch unit (the Central Executive Network) can’t find an existing set of circuits to translate or interpret new ideas – a perfect time to recognize there’s something you don’t know.
  2. When you’ve had repeated failure, there’s something you’re missing. What needs to happen for you to get curious? Assume there are better answers somewhere?
  3. Ask others who know more than you do. Here is where a good friend or coach comes in. People who are outside your field will ask questions that you may not have answers to. And you need to find them!
  4. Research. When I’m developing a new model I do broad research – reading sample chapters or whole books on unfamiliar topics (Picking Up by Robert Nagle about the New York City garbage collection provided new ideas about systems), researching papers and articles on topics adjacent to my ideas – to find new concepts that I hadn’t heard before to stimulate further thinking. I’ll never forget how my world shook when I learned that no input (no ideas, words, sounds) could be interpreted outside the circuits I have in my brain already. That upset me for a week! And it absolutely shifted my thinking.

Entire fields are missing information and doing nothing to discover what they don’t know:

  • Healthcare professionals don’t know why patients ignore their directives. For instance, handing someone a new food plan without them knowing how to change habits and neural circuits congruently will instigate resistance. Instead of doctors blaming themselves for not knowing how to facilitate congruent change, they blame patients for not having motivation.
  • Coaches, managers, leaders, supervisors assume their mandates will be followed. Clients who don’t follow them are said to ‘not really want to change.’ At no point do they acknowledge that their approach may be the problem.
  • Sellers and marketers continue to push solutions, overlooking the way people actually buy and face lower and lower success rates (now 5% rate) that should alert them there’s something they don’t know. What other industry believes that a 95% failure rate is ‘success’?
  • The training model fails 80% of the time. Pushing new content into a brain that might not have circuits to translate it accurately causes confusion, resistance, and disregard causing trainers to assume learners are ‘unmotivated’. Learning how to design programs that generate wholly new circuits for the new knowledge is not anything instructional designers know they need to know.
  • Business Process Management uses a flow chart that invites front line workers into the process halfway through the flow! Obviously this leads to implementation problems, such as insufficient data collection and resistance when people are pushed to be compliant against their will. One of the leaders in BPM recently approached me about adding the Steps of Change (a model I invented that facilitates the flow of change and decision making) to help them, but he became agitated when I suggested he needed to begin at Step One by assembling everyone who touches the problem. He left our discussions, not realizing he was following the exact failed format he called me to change.
  • OD and Change management relies on standard questions which are biased and restricted by the thoughts of the asker – and ignore the foundational Beliefs and norms that shift in the Other’s brain for congruent change to occur. And they don’t question why they get resistance, time delays, lack of buy-in. They just blame the Other.

So I leave you with these questions:

–  How committed are you to having the full set of data you need for success?

–  How willing are you to forego your ego and Not Know?

–  What would you need to know or believe differently to recognize when you don’t possess the full data set you need?

Imagine how successful we could all be if we knew what we didn’t know and had the right attitude to find out.


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

February 6th, 2023

Posted In: News

When I asked a clerk at Walmart during the pandemic if I needed to wear a mask to enter, he responded: “Do whatever you want. Frankly, they don’t pay me enough to care.”

The implications of this statement sent my mind reeling and I had some questions:

The implications of this statement sent my mind reeling and I had some questions:

  • What if it mattered to a company that their employees cared about customers, that customers could potentially become ill because of an employee’s judgment?
  • Is Walmart (or any company, frankly) so cash-strapped that they can’t afford to pay employees enough to care? To build customer care into their job descriptions and only hire folks who comply? To teach new hires that customer-caring criteria are a big part of their jobs?
  • What sort of hiring and supervision practices make it possible to hire folks who won’t do their jobs – or does ‘customer care’ not show up on their job descriptions?
  • Do companies understand that customers are the secondary victims of bad hiring practices and inadequate pay?
  • What is the value of employee and/or customer happiness?

I strongly believe companies are one of the propagators of happiness for employees and customers. In this article I’ll examine people, pay, respect, and responsibility so we can begin to think about ways to make money AND make nice.

Given the size of the topic, in this article I’ll merely pose some questions to inspire interest and create a foundation for a fair equation. Ultimately, I’d like to think that companies are in business to serve.


  • How can we compensate employees to make sure they earn enough to take care of their families AND incorporate caring for clients as part of their job?
  • What is an operational equation between gross corporate revenue, fair profit margin, employee pay, product pricing, and vendor profit?
  • How do we choose new hires that are people-oriented, who understand their job is to serve both customers and each other, to understand that customers provide their income?
  • How do companies design an equation for employees and customers in which everyone walks away getting what they need? How do we factor in ‘people-respect/happiness’ and put it high on our criteria – for hiring, for job descriptors, for client care?


  • What is the fair equation between CEO pay and employee pay? Between profit margin and a living wage?
  • How does respect – for employee/colleague/customer treatment – get imbedded, compensated, supervised, tracked as part of a company culture?
  • What does pay represent? Is it job specific, outcome specific, paid as per responsibility/job description, ability to bring in income, degree of customer happiness, amount of customer churn?
  • How can customer facing jobs – sales, customer service, help desk support – be fairly/equally compensated given they hold the key to maintaining customers?
  • How can corporations reward all employees in a way that reflects minimizing customer churn? Maybe an annual bonus for all depending on what percent customers remain from last year? A bonus for customer-facing employees dependent on customer retention?
  • Why do some jobs – i.e. sales, ‘C’ level officers – receive such an inordinate amount of pay when other jobs that are client facing – outside field techs, customer support folks – and actually lessen customer churn get paid less?
  • Why is nabbing new clients more highly paid than keeping clients? It’s now built in that some jobs are more highly compensated but shouldn’t be if the churn rate is high and much business gets lost annually due to bad customer service bad customer service?
  • What if sellers got paid according to customer retention rather than new sales?


  • How does respect – for clients/customers, for employees – get compensated?
  • How do folks get hired and trained as per respect, and how is it built into their job description?
  • How do customer-facing folks get paid to respect clients? To have the time to provide what customers need to be happy and satisfied rather than paid per X number of minimal minutes per customer?


  • What is our responsibility as a company? To our employees? Teams? Vendors? Clients? The environment? How does this get built into the company culture?
  • Who are companies responsible for/to? How do we imbed this into daily work?
  • What does ‘responsibility’ look like on a daily basis – for our employees? clients?
  • What are sales folks responsible for? They currently waste 90% of their time pushing solutions and chasing those who will never buy rather than facilitating buying and closing actual sales? (Hint: it’s possible to close 8X more prospects by facilitating buying than pushing solutions – but not by using the sales model solely.)
  • What are managers responsible for? How can they be held accountable for facilitating teams who create outcomes that ultimately enable mental, physical, spiritual well-being within the company culture, or for clients? And how does this get compensated?
  • How can responsibility to the environment get factored in to company identities?
  • How can the corporate environment encourage learning opportunities with courses, peer coaching, rotating leadership roles?


Some say that companies are in business to create products to sell. What if our companies are vehicles to serve? What if it were our main priority to not only produce great solutions but to responsibly and ethically care for our employees and customers and the environment? To create reward traditions that are fair and equitable for all?

I believe we’re short-sighted by focusing on profits. This ends up making us greedy and numbers-driven rather than people- or serving-driven.

So I pose the question: what do we need to believe differently to run companies that have heart, that care about all involved – customers, employees, vendors, and the earth. With such a large canvas, I bet we can make a difference.


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

January 23rd, 2023

Posted In: Communication, Sales

When Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1937 he laid the foundation for sales thinking that continues today: find folks with a need, get into a relationship, and tell them about the features, functions, and benefits of your solution in a way that induces them to buy it. But it’s no longer relevant. The industry faces a less-then 5% close rate, a 55% turnover of sales professionals, and 75% of people prefer not to engage sales people at all.

What’s changed? Well for starters, it’s no longer 1937: When Carnegie was king there was no direct way to meaningfully connect with a prospect unless they lived nearby. Phones were party line; travel was with Model T Fords. And the main marketing vehicles were Look magazine and the Sears Catalogue. Your neighbors were your customers and you were a necessary element in their decision: people relied on sales professionals to understand features, functions and benefits of products that could help them.

Those days are gone, but the sales industry continues to apply the same story:

  • just find people (the new art of finding names is a billion-dollar industry)
  • with needs that match what we’re selling (seemingly evident from the biased questions we pose to ‘expose a need’) and
  • provide well-composed (another billion-dollar industry) content using our charming personalities
  • to push solutions (people can find online) onto those we’ve found and they’ll buy.

But they don’t. Yet the industry continues to seek out people with ‘needs that match what we’re selling.’ When they don’t buy we say they’re stupid, ill-informed, seeking a lower price, or….

We’re merely finding the people who were going to buy anyway, the low hanging fruit, at the end of their decision cycle. No one’s noticed the foundational premises we’ve used for close to a century, techniques designed for a different time, are no longer relevant:

  • Folks with a seeming ‘need’ are now dispersed teams, making it difficult for them to understand their full problem set, let alone agree to something they need;
  • Getting into ‘relationship’ with, or gathering information from ‘a prospect’ is moot as there is no longer ‘a prospect’;
  • The features, functions, and benefits of our solutions are posted online, well outside the need for a human to introduce them.

With fewer and fewer buyers, less and less income, and more and more frustration, sellers are leaving their jobs to play musical chairs for jobs with higher earning potential (and commission guarantees) that don’t procure them higher income beyond the guarantee. Because people aren’t buying.

Why aren’t alarm bells ringing? We continue doing what we’ve always done when all rational indicators tell us we’re doing something wrong. The sales industry is suffering from ‘Problem Blindness’: assuming our failures are just ‘the way it is’ as we build more and more tools to fix the very problems they create rather admit failure and change the system altogether.

In this article I will lay out the reasons sales as we’ve known it has become irrelevant, the current struggles of the Buying Decision Journey (a term I coined in 1985), and how sales can reposition itself to become a highly respected and relevant profession. Again.

PART ONE: Why our standard sales thinking no longer works


There are several stories here:

  1. Sellers are leaving jobs for similar ones in the hopes they’ll close more sales and earn more money. But without changing the core skills and premises of sales, fewer and fewer people need sellers and close rates will continue to fall. We need a new vision of sales.
  2. Sellers are no longer needed to place solutions; details can be found online. We need a new function that prospects need us for.
  3. Buying decisions involve complex environments and ever-changing norms to be managed. Problem solving is confusing and time-consuming. People need help making their change-related decisions that won’t reverberate back to leadership, job descriptions or the bottom line. These are change management issues that must be resolved before they can consider buying anything.
  4. We treat failure in the industry as if it were inevitable and aren’t attempting to fix it at the source, using the same thinking that cause the very problems they’ve created.

First we must acknowledge there’s a problem: we haven’t progressed beyond using sales as a needs/solution placement tool and face decreasing, and costly, results. Then we must redefine our jobs beyond finding and instigating people to buy and add new tools at the front end to facilitate people through their decision factors.

Right now we’re stuck in a cycle that perpetuates the problem.

Here’s an analogy: Let’s say you open a clothing store with the best cash registers available for efficient transactions, and you’ve overlooked installing fitting rooms, depriving customers of help where they really need help in making a choice. Hmmmmm. Sales keep decreasing! You decide to fix the situation by adding new capability to the cash registers: robots to make transactions even MORE efficient by finding folks in the aisles as they shop. But now, prospective customers feel pursued! Robbed of a way to make their best choice and pursued, they stop shopping in the store altogether. And it’s never occurred to you to bring in fitting rooms.

Sales continues to use the same baseline thinking used since 1937, but now prospects no longer live next door and don’t need anyone explaining features and functions. Yet we continue using what worked for Carnegie, but with sophisticated technology and more manipulation tools, doing the same things over and over again, hoping for different results. All assuming if we can find-em they’ll buy.

We continue thinking of sales tactically. But that’s not how people buy: they buy relationally, and they’re resolving their problems without us. And we’re not helping them where they need help.

I have a question: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? I assume most sellers would respond ‘Have someone buy’. But that doesn’t seem to be true: using any rational standard, what you’re doing now is failing. Your answer, it would seem, is you’d prefer to sell, regardless of whether or not anyone is buying – which is indeed what’s happening.

Indeed, we haven’t defined the real problem we face as sellers, making it impossible to resolve: instead of finding and providing real support for prospective buyers where they really need our help, we expect them to be where we are looking for them – and blaming them for not being there! Like the joke of the man looking for the lost lug nuts under the lights because he can see better, instead of searching where he lost them.

I have proven out-of-the-box ideas and models that I’ve been teaching in the sales industry for 35 years. They truly serve employees and prospects, find real buyers efficiently, and increase closing rates dramatically in far less time. But they’re not sales! And they don’t equate with anything you’re now doing, so could potentially be rejected. Yet they solve the problems you face. Are you willing to consider doing anything differently?

Before I even introduce you to my new information, the industry must first resolve the core issue: we must stop denying there’s a problem. And then we must stop using sales for prospecting. It was never meant for that.


When I ran my first Helping Buyers Buy program to KLM in 1987 close rates were 10%. They’re now less than 5% and dropping, an indication that the original thinking is no longer relevant. Yet we accept ‘failure’ as normal for the sales industry. “It’s just the way it is.” But failure is not inevitable. We’re just using the wrong tools for this time in history and bringing on the failure ourselves.

Failure (a 5% close rate is a 95% fail rate) has been accepted as a ‘given’ that’s been normalized and built into the cost of doing business. Sales directors understand this, hire more sellers to make up for the lower closing rates, and do some creative accounting that ignores the real cost of a sale. A sales director recently told me he closes 30%. Thirty percent of what? I asked. Of folks we meet with. What’s the percentage from first prospecting call? Less than 2%. It goes without saying that the prospecting group is listed as a cost center and closed sales are in the profit center.

Let’s get real: Would you go to a dentist with a 95% fail rate? Or get on a plane with a 5% chance of getting you to your destination? You wouldn’t even go to a hairdresser with a 95% fail rate.

Why do we condone and maintain the thinking that leads to a 95% fail rate? Why do we accept the cost of hiring 8x more sales folks who waste most of their work hours chasing people they can’t reach, putting invalid prospects into the pipeline who disappear and won’t take calls, or seeking appointments they can’t get or which don’t end in a sale? Why is it ok to have low close rates and high turnover rates? Why?

Why aren’t these factors a sign that something is wrong? What does the industry need to believe differently so failure is not a ‘given’ and can be rectified?

We are using the sales model for tasks it wasn’t designed to do. It’s a solution placement model, evolved by necessity to include prospecting and qualifying, seeking appointments, and sharing content details – all in the name of making a sale. And for a long time, it worked. But now, in the 21st Century, it’s relevant only in the final stages of a buying decision once people have self-identified as prospects.


All rational indicators broadcast that what you’ve been doing isn’t working. But until you admit your current practices don’t capture the clients, the revenue, the numbers you seek (i.e. until you admit failure), you will continue selling less, wasting more time, earning less money, having more turnover, and helping fewer people than you deserve.

All the new apps, the new companies that promise to help you close more by finding you names of ‘real’ prospects, are the only ones making money. I recently asked a noted Lead Gen group what the close rate was for the leads they handed over. “I have no idea. That’s not our job. We only send names and have nothing to do with what our clients do with them.”

It doesn’t need to be this way. The sales model as we’ve known it is no longer relevant as the sole tool to make sales. Designed for different times, the originating assumptions capture a tiny subset of people:

  • those who have figured out that making a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem and worth the risk of change;
  • those situations in which the full set of stakeholders are involved, bought in, and are ready NOW;
  • those who carry the cultural- and values-centric criteria of the full stakeholder team.

Even with a real need, a great solution, and a trusting relationship with a vendor, no purchase occurs until everyone buys into the risk of change; the cost of disruption is too high. And sales just keeps trying to push solutions and determine need before folks are actually buyers, before they’ve assembled the complete Buying Decision Team, before they’ve understood their risk of change.

Sales overlooks the change issues that must be addressed before people decide to bring in an external solution (i.e. buy). It’s here we can add a new tool kit and become relevant.

By breaking a buying decision into two segments – the Buy Side change management process AND the Sell Side solution placement process – we 1. begin by finding those on route to becoming buyers and facilitate their change management process as they morph into buyers extremely quickly, then 2. sell. By then they’re ready, willing, and able to buy, already know they need us and are in relationship with us. Right now we have one tool kit: we rely on our solutions as bait.

By recognizing the two legs of the Buying Decision Journey and save the sales element until the first leg is complete, it’s possible to find real prospects on the first call and reduce the sales cycle by at least half. But it gets better: it’s possible to make sellers a sought-after group who can provide real help during the decision process.

But as I’ve said, first you’d need to acknowledge what you’ve been doing is failing and look at the problem from a different angle.

PART TWO: How Buyers Buy


Let’s begin at the beginning: Buying is not the first thing anyone does. If your car doesn’t start you don’t go straight to a dealership and buy a new one. If your team isn’t communicating skillfully your first action is not to hire a consultant. No. Before you recognize you need to bring in an external solution you’ve got work to do, things to consider, people to assemble to understand the full scope of the problem and brainstorm with, workarounds to trial.

When people first notice a problem they’ve got internal issues to resolve that carry far-reaching consequences if not delicately handled. And while they might eventually require a purchase – eventually being the operative word – these early steps are not based on buying anything. Hence, the sales model doesn’t work here.

Sales overlooks what people must do anyway: the change management piece. In fact until everyone involved buys-in to any changes caused by fixing/reconfiguring the status quo, folks cannot make a purchase regardless of their need or the value of the solution.

Need and solution value are no longer buying motives: risk avoidance is. And because each prospective buyer lives in unique cultures, they face singular, often hidden, and hard-to-discern risks; the goals, apps, and thinking used for selling don’t apply! In fact, until the risks of change are addressed and managed, people aren’t in the market to buy anything and, again, don’t even self-identify as buyers.

Here is a Truth that must be the foundation of sales thinking:

People don’t want to buy anything, merely fix a problem with the least risk to their system. And the time it takes folks to figure all this out is the length of the sales cycle.

Making a purchase is the last – the last – thing people do, and only then when everyone has bought-in and the cost of disruption is manageable. This is what they’re doing when we sit and wait! And we’re not helping them:

  • figure out how to assemble the right stakeholders (not always obvious and always unique),
  • find the right workarounds that avoid disruption,
  • weigh the disruption/change a new solution will generate,
  • facilitate their journey as they figure out how to inspire buy-in within their culture.

Until these are resolved, folks don’t even self-identify as buyers and will not heed your well-considered content, your charming personality or your great solution.

By avoiding facilitating the journey people must handle on the Buy Side, we’re only finding/closing folks who have determined the cost of change is less than the cost of the status quo and have gotten buy-in for change. Until then they won’t notice, or heed, your efforts as they don’t consider themselves buyers.


A buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue. And this change management process is a conundrum, filled with confusion, false starts, and unfamiliar options – the reason the sales cycle is so long. Sellers sit and wait, push and lower the price, and refer to this as ‘no decision’. But it’s not ‘no decision’, it’s just ‘no purchase’.

The tasks people must complete are cultural, idiosyncratic, and unique to each group. Using the needs-based, solution-placement sales model, there’s no way to connect until they’ve completed their objectives. Until then what they need is different from what we’re offering. This is why they won’t take an appointment, call us back, or read our marketing materials. They’re not ready.

But it’s here that 40% more real prospects reside, people who WILL buy once they’ve completed their change management steps. And it’s here we can become relevant: we can first help them manage change as a precursor to selling.

But we need different assumptions, goals, and skills: we begin by seeking those on route to change and help them traverse the confusing bits that are risk- and change-oriented. Instead of pushing and hoping they’ll close, we can put on a ‘facilitation’ hat and help them do what they must do anyway.


I learned the differences between the Buy Side decision process and the Sell Side solution-placement process when I went from being a highly successful sales professional to starting up a tech company in London. As a new ‘buyer’ who had just left the sales profession, I now realized why many prospects hadn’t closed: I needed to consider my staff, my investors, the market, our strategies and goals, before we considered (together) the most effective routes to problem resolutions. As a seller I had thought because I could see a need that they were buyers. They weren’t.

As I worked at resolving our problems I took 13 very specific steps. I didn’t even fully understand the ‘need’ until step 7, or realize we needed to go ‘outside’ to buy anything until step 9 when I realized we couldn’t fix the problem inhouse and we all understood the risk, the cost, of change. We finally considered ourselves buyers at step 10 – where the sales model is needed to clearly define how the solution would fit our need. (I describe the steps in my book Dirty Little Secrets).

Here’s a summary of what my team (all teams!) considered on route to fixing our problems with the least risk:

  • All stakeholders must be assembled. This isn’t always easy. Sometimes HR needs to come aboard. Sometimes there’s a hidden influencer (Joe in accounting) who needs to join the decision team. But unless the full complement of folks are onboard, the full fact pattern of the problem cannot be understood. This fact alone takes quite a bit of time. And speaking with one person and assuming a need is just silly.
  • All possible workarounds must be tried: known vendors, other teams.
  • The ‘cost’, the risk, of doing something different must be fully understood as less than the ‘cost’ of the status quo. If the cost is too high – if they must fire people, reorganize, go against policy, etc. – they will continue doing what they’re doing.
  • Once the cost is understood – the new job descriptions and responsibilities, the habits they’d need to change, the new norms – everyone must buy-in.

It’s ONLY when everything plausible to fix a problem has been tried AND the ‘cost’ is manageable that people consider seeking an external solution. And the time it takes to complete this process is the length of the sales cycle. I’m sure you also noticed that none of these steps include a desire to buy anything.

Why not use different thinking and new tools to help? We’ve overlooked serving people where they really could use expert help. It’s here you’re needed now and would be welcomed, so long as you refrain from pushing your solution until they become buyers.

PART THREE: How Sales Can Be Relevant


We must modernize sales by adding new goals and tools to facilitate the Pre-Sales, non-solution-oriented journey people must traverse BEFORE self-identifying as buyers and find – and serve – people during their change management process and on route to buying instead of using our solutions as bait.

During my experience as a buyer, I developed a model that facilitates the change management portion of the Buying Decision Journey. I named it Buying Facilitation®. I trained it to my own staff and we tripled our sales in months. Then I trained it to my tech folks who used it to understand a client’s full problem set upfront and lead them through to their best decisions before they even began programming, and halved their time to complete. And then I trained it to 100,000 sales folks globally with 8x results over the control groups.

Buying Facilitation® finds those people on route to becoming buyers (the 40% actively trying to resolve a problem but haven’t yet self-identified as buyers), helps them assemble real decision makers and define their needs from many viewpoints, figure out the best workarounds to consider, and sanctions the risk. By then sellers are in real relationships with real buyers, with a real need, eager to buy. And as true servant leaders we will rise above the competition.

But it’s predicated on sellers beginning with a wholly different goal: find and serve folks actively involved in resolving a problem in the area your solution can provide support, then lead them through their change management steps to the point they’re ready – and asking! – for a pitch.

Yes, during your facilitation process a percentage of them will discover ways to fix their own problems; these weren’t prospects anyway and you’ll both realize this in ten minutes on your first call. And yes, because of the way you enter a call, with a goal to serve not sell, more people will take your calls.

Once you recognize your real buyer population you’ll sell faster, with no objections and no price issues. The KPMG Partners I trained went from a three year sales cycle to a four month sales cycle for a $50,000,000 solution; working with phone sales at IBM they began making one-call closes that originally took three months. Remember: people are happy to resolve their problems quickly; they just don’t know how.

Here’s one more thought: we must – and this might be difficult for sellers accustomed to having all the answers – trust that each client has their own unique, culturally-appropriate answers. While we are well-versed on product details for our solutions, we truly have no idea what people are going through in their own environments – a boss that won’t approve funds for training, a newly hired director who’s not up to speed.

Let’s help people use their knowledge of their own unique environments as they go through their problem resolution discovery. With our knowledge in our fields that gives us an understanding of the types of change required, we will be recognized as real assets and become a part of the Buying Decision Team. It’s a perfect way to serve, be competitive, and close more sales.

Btw I’m not overlooking the selling function. By the time the facilitation process is complete, the sales process is used for what it was originally intended to do: sell solutions to those who know exactly what they need and are already bought-in to buying. It’s SO much easier! And sales becomes a needed service and relevant again.


It’s possible to make sellers a sought-after group who can provide real help during the decision process. But given the new function and new prospect base, different thinking and assumptions are needed:

1.    Instead of seeking folks with ‘need’ seek out folks in the process of resolving a problem in the area you can potentially provide a solution. This is where folks really need help.

a. They don’t always know the right folks to involve, and until all relevant stakeholders are involved they can’t fully understand the problem to be fixed. Plus, with everyone on board they think, create, decide quicker.

b. They need to be assured they cannot fix the problem themselves and need help determining relevant workarounds.

c. Folks don’t self-identify as ‘buyers’ until they’ve recognized that they can manage the risk of disruption when something new enters (i.e. hypothetically, if they must fire 8 people to buy a new CRM system, the ‘cost’ may be too high.) Sometimes, the status quo is their best option.

2. Instead of assuming the person you’re speaking with has answers, assume they are part of a decision team in the middle of discovery and don’t represent the full fact pattern.

a. You can help this person assemble all the right people who must be on board to assist in decision making, information sharing, and buy in.

3.    Instead of listening to make a pitch, listen for where they need help determining their risk of change.

4.    Instead of trying to make an appointment, use your first call to discover who is actively seeking change, help them assemble the full Buying Decision Team, then lead them through their change issues. (Again, read Dirty Little Secrets where I lay out the decision/change steps.)

5.    Instead of a purchase being the goal, help people recognize the ‘cost’ – the risk to their culture – of bringing in something new.

6.    Instead of posing curiosity-based questions to discover a need, use Facilitative Questions to help them through their unique discovery.

7.    Instead of entering with a goal to place a solution, make your first goal to facilitate change.

This thinking will find people on route to buying – a much higher probability of buying than random names chosen with a mythical ‘needs’ criteria. The hard part will be to make sure you don’t try to slip in a pitch or biased question as you facilitate change. Because if you do, you won’t be trusted and prospects will feel manipulated.


Buying Facilitation® is a Pre-Sales skill set. It’s

  • NOT sales, although it works with sales;
  • NOT based on selling a product, although 8x more products will be sold;
  • NOT ‘needs’ based, although our solution has a high likelihood of handling needs;
  • NOT based on understanding a problem but based on facilitating folks through their change management problems that only they can understand as insiders.

Buying Facilitation® employs an entirely new form of decision-detection question (took me 10 years to invent Facilitative Questions), a new form of listening (not for need!) and facilitates people through their 13 steps of change. And there are different measurements of success:

  1. A much higher close rate – 40% of would-be buyers can be found on the first call using a relevant list.
  2. Minimal turnover as sellers make more commission and face less rejection and frustration.
  3. Uncovers people who are real prospects but haven’t yet self-identified as buyers.
  4. An accurate pipeline.
  5. Fewer price issues.
  6. Prospects request appointments; all stakeholders are present.
  7. Competition shifts to recognize sellers who best facilitate change.
  8. Maintain the client base.
  9. No time wasted following people who will never buy (and sellers know the difference).

Success will be measured by closed sales (I know companies that now pay sellers per visit, assuming if you get an appointment you can make a sale!); by brevity of the sales cycle; by accuracy of the pipeline; number of referrals; ratio of active prospects to closed sales. Even Lead Gen would bring in prospects with a 40% close rate and not merely uncover names of people who agree to hear a pitch.

To make sales relevant again, the sales profession needs to help people where they need help: add a front end to facilitate the Buying Decision Journey. Then prospective buyers will recognize sellers as professionals who can truly serve them and then everyone wins: clients get their problems resolved sooner, you get to close more sales, and everyone is happy. Win/Win. Worth a try, no?

For those wishing more information on Buying Facilitation®, go to: Read the section: Helping Buyers Buy. There are several articles linked, plus hundreds more in the blog section. Or contact me with questions:


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

January 9th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

I was once fired from a Speaker’s Bureau for posing this question to the audience:
Why aren’t you closing all the sales you deserve to close?

“You’re too provocative! No one wants to hear from a disruptor!” was the reason.

When speaking with a friend recently I referred to myself as a Breakthrough Disruptor. “Don’t call yourself a disruptor! No one wants disruption!” he said.

Can these folks be right? Haven’t all new ideas been disruptions? Certainly so much of what seems standard today was initially a breakthrough disruption: our phones and computers, plastics – even knives! Why would disruption be a bad thing? How else can change happen?


I believe there are several business practices sorely in need of disruption.

  • Beyond the bells and whistles of technology, the sales model is the same as it was – ‘needs’ and solution-placement driven – when Dale Carnegie told us to find a buyer and pitch a product – in 1937. Sales currently experiences a 95% fail rate, even when sellers attempt to be nice about it; it remains wholly biased by the needs of the seller.
  • Change management models use leader-based models that build in resistance and ignore the often hidden, values-based criteria of the stakeholders. Change management currently faces a 85-97% fail rate.
  • Training continues to employ information presentation and practice as the main tools, even though learners don’t permanently absorb the new content. Training experiences an 80% fail rate.
  • Healthcare continues to push Behavior Modification as a healing practice even though almost no patients comply, and the changes made during their behavior modification activities aren’t permanent. Behavior Mod fails 97% of the time.

It’s outrageous that we’ve not only condoned substantial failure rates but built them into our personal habit change activities, causing us to feel shame for not having the ‘discipline’ to succeed, and into our businesses, accepting minimal revenue, needs for additional resource (people, technology), as well as high turnover rates and hiring/training costs as standard practice.

Seems to me a bit of disruption wouldn’t hurt: you can’t change the status quo without disrupting the status quo.


Below I’ve posed a few questions using a breakthrough (disruptive!) model of questions I developed called Facilitative Questions that eschew curiosity and information gathering to traverse a direct route into a Responder’s brain to often-unconscious values-based answers stored in their brain circuitry.

  • What has stopped you until now from being willing or able to consider doing something differently when your routine practices haven’t been as effective as you’d like?
  • What would you need to see or understand differently to notice if your standard practices could be enhanced with out-of-the-ordinary skill sets? And how would you know that the risk of out-of-the-box tools is worth taking?
  • How would you know in advance (before you really consider doing anything different) that new tools would have a chance to resolve some of the failures you’ve experienced? That an outside disruptor could help AND maintain the values of the original activity?
  • In the areas you might need change – communication, sales, healthcare, leadership, OD, training – what would you need to consider to seek out a resolution beyond your normal routine and add new skills that cause change without resistance?
  • How would you go about bringing together the full set of stakeholders (users, leadership, technology) necessary to design the disruption in a way folks are bought-in from the beginning to make the process creative?

We’ve assumed that offering/knowing details of fixes would prompt success. But you know by now that doesn’t help. Offering new information doesn’t cause change:

– Because of the way our brains take in words/sound waves, people don’t hear new ideas accurately and the resultant distortion and misunderstanding makes resistance inevitable.

– Because of the way biases limit questions to the needs of the Asker, incomplete data is collected, wrong assumptions made, and necessary answers are overlooked.

– Because of the biased assumptions and persuasion/push tactics built into current change models, folks who really need change experience resistance before being willing to consider doing anything differently.

To make a change it’s necessary to know the full set of factors in the status quo that maintain the problem, and have a specific route to change that includes all stakeholders, buy-in, and risk management. Any change must be congruent with the values of the original.


Over the past 40 years, I’ve wrestled with the problems inherent in change and realized that since it’s our brains that instruct our actions, we must resolve the neural issues that cause the behavior problems. Hence I’ve developed unique models that discover and shift the neural circuitry that causes and maintains change, decision making, and choice. The breakthrough innovations I’ve developed

  1. employ mind -> brain, conscious -> unconscious tools
  2. using neuroscience to
  3. lead Others to specific brain circuitry to
  4. discover the source of an incongruence (where they might need change) and
  5. traverse the specific steps needed for congruent change.

Here they are. And note: these are flexible and can be used in coaching, sales, leadership, surveys/questionnaires, AI, healthcare. Take a look and see if any of them trigger some curiosity.

Buying Facilitation® – a change-based add-on to sales that finds folks who will become buyers and facilitates their discovery through the change management issues they must address to recognize if they can withstand the risk of bringing in something new. BF closes 8x more sales because it targets the change and buy-in issues (both largely unconscious) of stakeholders to lead them through their decisions as they self-identify as buyers and the sales model takes over;

Change Facilitation – a servant-leader model that traverses the 13 stages of change to lead folks through their (largely unconscious) beliefs and values; instigates buy-in; and discovers and incorporates possible risks to avoid resistance and garner maximum buy-in and creativity;

Learning Facilitation – a wholly original training model that gets directly into the necessary neural pathways so learners accept new actions, permanently;

How of Change™ – a mind -> brain, conscious -> unconscious model that creates new, permanent cell assemblies for new, permanent behaviors and habits.

Listening without bias – offering choice beyond the automatic, habitual routes sound vibrations take through the brain to instigate accurate interpretation of incoming words.

I understand that most folks prefer to remain within mainstream thinking and employ conventional workarounds for failures. But for those who are willing to go outside the box with tools that cause real change in Leadership, Coaching, Change Management, and Sales, call and let’s figure out a way to install new thinking in a way that’s least disruptive.


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

January 2nd, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

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