Using current negotiation models, people feel they are giving up more than they want in exchange for receiving less than they deserve. As part of standard practice, negotiation partners going into a negotiation calculate their bottom line – what they are willing to give up, and what they are willing to accept – and then fight, argue, cajole, or threaten when their parameters aren’t met. People have been killed for this. But there is another way.

In 1997, Bill Ury (author of Getting to Yes) and I had to read each other’s books (my book was Selling with Integrity) in preparation for working together for KPMG. A week before our introductory lunch meeting, I read his book where BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement – originated, marked the areas I disagreed with in red, and sent the marked book back to Bill.

There was a lot of red: his book teaches how to get what you want (potentially win-lose) rather than how everyone can walk away satisfied (win-win) and I was quite pointed in my annoyance with win-lose. The next day I realized what an ass I was and called him, telling him not to open my envelope and I’d explain all when we met. But he had already received, reviewed, and agreed with my corrections!

We had a long chat comparing our models, concluding with a very interesting discussion about the different outcomes between a win-win and a win-lose negotiation. And net net, he agreed with me and we worked with KPMG using a win-win model.



Win-lose is an incongruity. Using benchmarks for ethics and integrity, if one person loses, everyone loses – hence there is only win-win or lose-lose. Yet in the typical negotiation process it’s hard to find a win when the ‘things’ being bartered are not ‘things’ at all but representations of unconscious, subjective beliefs and personal values without either negotiation partner understanding the underlying values these items represent to the other: i.e. a house in the country might represent a lifetime goal to one person, and just a place to live to another; a $1,000,000 settlement might illustrate payback for a lost, hard-won reputation to one person, and extortion to another.

It’s possible to take a negotiation beyond the ‘things’ being bartered, away from the personal and chunk up to find mutually shared values agreeable to both – and then find ‘things’ that represent them. So it might be initially hard to agree who should get ‘the house’, but it might be possible to agree that it’s important everyone needs a safe place to live.


Try this:

  1. enter the negotiation with a list of somewhat generic high-level values that are of foundational importance, such as Being Safe; Fair Compensation;
  2. share lists and see where there is agreement. Where there is no agreement, continue chunking up higher until a set of mutually comfortable criteria are found. A chunk up from Fair Compensation might be ‘Compensation that Values Employees‘;
  3. list several possible equivalents that match each agreeable criterion. So once Compensation that Values Employees is agreed upon during a salary negotiation, each partner should offer several different ways it could be achieved, such as a higher salary, or extra holidays, or increased paid training days, or a highly sought-after office, or higher royalties;
  4. continue working backward – from agreement with high-level, foundational criteria, down to the details and choices that might fulfill that goal, with all parties in agreement. The more time you spend getting agreement on foundational criteria, the easier it will be to get into agreement.

Discussions over high level values are often more generic, and far less likely to set off tempers than arguments over ‘things’: if nothing else, it’s easier for negotiation partners to listen to each other without getting defensive. And once values are attended to and people feel heard they become more flexible in the ‘things’ they are willing to barter: once Compensation that Values Employees is agreed to, it’s possible to creatively design several choices for an employee to feel fairly valued without an employer stretching a tight budget.

Think about negotiations as a way to enhance relationships rather than a compromise situation or a way for someone to win. There is nothing to be won when someone loses.


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 her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision making, 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 26th, 2024

Posted In: Listening, News


What Makes A Decision Irrational? After spending 30 years deconstructing the mind-brain interface that enables choice and decision making, and training a decision facilitation model I developed for use in sales, coaching, and leadership, (Buying Facilitation®), I’m always amused when I hear anyone deem a decision ‘irrational’.

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



We all make the best decisions we can at the moment we make them. It’s only when someone else compares the decision against their own subjective filters and standards, or use some academic/’accepted’ standard as ‘right’, or judge the decision against a conclusion they would have preferred, that they deem it ‘irrational’. I always ask, “Irrational according to who’s standards?”

There are two components to making a decision. The brain; and the criteria against which the decision maker weights their options.

Brain: All of our actions arise from neurological, biological, physiological, electrochemical and automatic interactions in our brains. When we think, listen, hear, see, our brain goes through several processes before finding familiar neural connections to translate the incoming vibrations into decisions, behaviors, habits. Even when something brand new enters, we end up using existent – historic! – cell assemblies to translate it, restricting us to what we’ve done and thought before. Net net, our decisions emerge unconsciously, and sometimes don’t reflect the full fact pattern of all that is possible.

Data weighting: to ensure congruency, our brains compare incoming content against our mental models, an unknowable set of highly subjective factors including

Personal beliefs, values, historic criteria, assumptions, experience, future goals;
Possible future outcomes in relation to how they experience their current situation.
No one uses the same data set, or has the same criteria, beliefs, or life experiences the decision maker uses to evaluate their decision.

Each of us have unique brain systems; different mental models, connections, neural pathways, histories. There’s not a single person whose brain is organized as anyone else’s. In other words, we just can’t judge others according to our own standards.

Indeed, there is no such thing as an irrational decision.


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

SD: I’m quite upset. How did you decide to publish the article after agreeing to send it to me before publishing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BP: Oh. I could have done that.

While a simple example, it clearly describes how we judge situations according to our Beliefs, assuming everyone is operating with the same ones. But that’s not true: each decision maker uses her own subjective reasoning regardless of baseline, academic, or conventional Truths.

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

And everyone involved in group decision making does the same: enter with unique brain configurations and personal, unique criteria that supersede the available academic or scientific information the group uses. This is why we end up with resistance or sabotage during implementations.


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

ask what criteria the person used and discuss it against our own;
communicate in a way that discusses assumptions, differences, gets curious, enables win-win results;
agree at the start to work from the same set of baseline assumptions and remove as much subjectivity as possible before a decision gets made.
In other words, to make sure we understand where Others are coming from, we need to become aware of any incongruences and find common ground. Because if we merely judge others according to our unique listening filters, many important, creative, and collaborative decisions might sound irrational.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, 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 her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision makingthe 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 19th, 2024

Posted In: News


I’m writing to complain about vendors – more specifically, the way they’re engaging with customers these days. They seem to forget that we’re the ones paying their salaries; one of the ways to exhibit their commitment to us is by making themselves available. It’s part of what we pay for when we choose their product – a differentiator, if you will.

But now there’s little differentiation: most vendors have reduced us to faceless numbers, to a sort of currency: in exchange for us making a purchase, they take our time, our loyalty, our good will and fail to deliver any meaningful connection when we need support. Personally, I’m getting really annoyed.

Here are some situations I’ve faced lately:

After hours of research and thought, I decided to purchase a somewhat pricey, certainly unnecessary, personal item. I decided to buy it directly from the manufacturer and pay the extra bucks to get the service they offered. When attempting to purchase the item, I was immediately hit with a near-page-sized popup that wouldn’t go away unless I hit ‘allow’. I looked up ‘contact’ and was given two options: email or chat. OK. Maybe a bot could help me buy the damn thing. I asked chat how to get rid of the popup so I could buy the item and was told to just hit ‘Allow’ and then buy it! Nope. They obviously want my name more than my money. Next.

Yesterday, I went to Baskin Robbins to get my bi-monthly hot fudge sundae. I’ve gotten the exact same thing for years: hot fudge, jamoca-almond fudge ice cream (the regular scoops, not the smaller sundae scoops), and extra nuts. I laid out the $6 I’ve always paid and was told I owed $2.50. What?? The associate said it was for the larger scoops and the extra nuts. But I’ve never paid extra for those things and I’ve been coming here for 7 years! I knew the kids that worked there, and the owners Joe and Annette were terrific! “The original owner sold the store. I was trained by corporate. I’m charging you according to the rules.” But why wasn’t I told there might be different prices? I’ve always paid $6! “The prices are right there on the menu. You should have read them.” I see you’re putting rules before people, said I. “Yup. Just doing my job.” Precisely. I wonder how many customers came regularly because it was like family and who will now be seen as rule-followers.


Last week, I had to go through the rigamarole of returning an Amazon item. I waited 45 minutes in a long line at Whole Foods because the scanner was broken. I remembered when I could call Amazon directly and they’d send me a link to drop the package off at Mailboxes Etc. Thankfully I rarely send anything back (This was a defective item.), but I’ll certainly rethink my choice of vendor with an unknown item.

And don’t even start me on the lost, wasted time I’ve spent – hours and hours! – waiting for customer service reps to answer. Once, waiting to solve a huge tech problem with Best Buy (who I paid for tech support), I was put on hold for 13 hours! They finally called at 3:00 A.M.! The techie said to my sleeping, groggy self, ‘Hi. How are you?’ “Well, it’s 3:00 a.m. and I’ve been on hold for 13 hours, so not a particularly happy camper.” And he hung up on me!

What about the self-checkout at the grocery stores? I used to have lovely chats with the cashiers. One Wal-Mart cashier said she’d like to make my day by subtracting $1 from each purchase! I didn’t save much money, but it made me smile and revisit that particular store frequently. What about airline agents? They always found creative, cheaper routes with great travel tips. When I made hotel reservations I seemed to charm the clerks into giving me best rooms, or special rates.

What about customer service folks who used to be available in each company to answer questions? Gone! All switched to digital, to screens and confusing choices, with no way to pose questions except sending emails that won’t be returned or ‘talking ‘ to those stupid chatbots who always seem to have the wrong answer.

Now I’m left scrolling down some corporate site trying to figure out options, and getting more and more annoyed.

How did we end up so commodified that our value, our worth as customers, is merely a function of a company’s profit and greed? I wonder if companies have tested customer loyalty pre- and post-digital. Surely there must be a falloff. I wonder what it’s costing them.

Being able to complete tasks digitally doesn’t mean it should be the only choice. And certainly digital can’t be that much cheaper in the long run. I miss the old times when I could speak with someone human. Am I the only one unhappy? I sure hope it reverts, and vendors realize that caring for customers is part of their promise.


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 her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision makingthe 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 12th, 2024

Posted In: News

Do you know why you get resistance? No, really. Do you?

Let’s imagine you’re in the 6th grade and your Mom buys you a lunchbox to use instead of your backpack. Nope. Not going to happen. Nothing to do with the lunchbox or your wonderful Mom. You just don’t want to be a dork. So you refuse. When your mom persists or tries a reward to get you to use it, you either lose the lunchbox, leave it on the bus, or keep forgetting it at home.

What happened? You were being told to do something that went against your beliefs and your identity. You weren’t asked first if you’d use a lunchbox, or given a good reason to change – just given it and told to use it. So you resisted.


We resist when being told what to do without our agreement, without accounting for our personal (and usually unconscious but historic) risks, without having been part of the decision-making process that concluded with our needing to do something different. Will our daily routines be different? How high is the learning curve? Will we be seen differently by our colleagues? What’s the cost, the risk, to our identity and beliefs?

Leaders get problems fixed. Does that mean they’re the ones to generate the goals and do the planning? What if the best solution is larger than the leader’s vision?

Resistance occurs

  • when a small group of Leaders prepare, plan, set the scope and attempt to implement a change initiative without first getting input and agreement from those who will implement the change;
  • when folks are asked to change habituated, accepted activities without them being a part of the goal-setting, without addressing their unconscious beliefs, needs, ideas, or identity factors, without their buy-in at the start.

They never asked for a lunchbox, picked out the lunchbox, or agreed to use the lunchbox. It’s only natural they’ll resist.

I believe that the folks involved with the initiating problem must spearhead the change effort, with support and guidance from the Leader. I believe the job of a Leader is to enable Followers to discover Their own best excellence and help Them achieve it.


Indeed, Leaders can’t know the full set of problems that need fixing unless the voices of those who have been part of the problem, and those who will be part of the new solution, are heard and involved from the beginning.

When called by a Leader recently to help him lead his team beyond their resistance, I noticed their change management flow chart had ‘introduce to front-line workers’ (the folks to carry out the new) was Step 6. Why bring them in so late? “They’re not needed until the Leaders begin the planning process. Then we give them a say. We’re always surprised at how little input they offer or how much pushback we get.”

There’s no way a Leader can know the full data set involved without discussions with the front-line workers. After all, the problem has been around for a while and there’s a history of fixes that have been tried – what’s worked, what hasn’t.

Sometimes these folks have ideas for simple fixes that Leaders wouldn’t have considered or recognize problems the Leaders aren’t familiar with. They’re certainly great sounding boards, and help the process moves forward efficiently. By failing to do so, Leaders actually cause their own resistance problems, regardless of the efficacy of the new solution.



Here’s a true story that very simply exemplifies the problems involved and the ramifications of leaders assuming good employees will do as they’re told.

A colleague of mine called to get help with a client. Ed is a noted corporate coach (on the cover of INC. magazine as coach of the year!). His client Susan had hired him to help Lou, a long-standing responsible manager who was failing to perform the new work he was given. Before firing him, she thought Ed could help him get on board with the new changes. Ed had just spent 3 months with him and failed. He called to see if I could do anything different and save the man’s job.

I decided to do a role play with Ed as Lou, to see if Ed could recognize anything different in my approach from the client side. Since I knew I’d be asking questions that he might not have asked, I asked Ed to fabricate responses based on bits of what Lou had said. Here was our role play.

SD: Hi Lou. Thanks for taking my call. I’m a corporate coach and Ed asked me to speak with you in case my style is more comfortable for you.

ED/LOU: That’s fine. What are we doing here? Why are so many people involved without my knowing about it?

SD: You’re right. I didn’t know you weren’t told I was calling, and I’m sorry. I should have checked. I’m trying to help figure out what it is about the tasks you were given that seem so problematic.

ED/LOU: Why is everyone trying to get me to do X? I’m not avoiding the work, just not doing it to Susan’s expectations apparently. But I have no idea what success would look like. And if it’s upsetting her so much, why haven’t I been given what I need to succeed? And why haven’t my ideas been included?

SD: I hear that you were given work without knowing what was expected and had no part in the design of the action plan.

ED/LOU: Right. Susan just came to me and said there were going to be changes, and my new job would entail something new – things I never learned to do. I had no say in the matter, and suddenly I was meant to take on responsibilities I have little skill in, with no offer to have anyone teach me. Not to mention these new tasks still don’t fully solve the problems we’ve had. But I wasn’t asked for input, so how would the leaders know what I know? And how am I supposed to learn? They keep assuming I can just DO this, but I can’t do it well. After years of being really good at my job, why would I want to do something badly, with no training, and with no idea what my learning curve is?

SD: I assume you told Susan all this?

ED/LOU: I told her several times. She kept telling me it was easy, to just start doing it and she didn’t mind if I failed at first. But I mind. I’m a professional and aspire to getting my job done well. Besides, why would I want my colleagues and reports to see me fail? And the work is not helping solve the problems we’ve got. Why wasn’t I brought into the original brainstorming? I know simpler ways to solve our problem more efficiently. And they’re not even getting to the full problem set!

SD: Sounds like it would have made a difference if you’d been brought in at the beginning and given a voice. And it sounds like you’re not being given the respect you deserve as someone who has experienced the problem firsthand.

ED/LOU: Right. The work I do daily involves speaking with customers. Why would the leaders try to resolve a problem without listening to my knowledge? And now I’m being told to do something I don’t think will work, that I’ll fail at, and the company will not benefit from.

SD: Sounds like a failure all around. What happened when Ed coached you?

ED/LOU: He just gave me tasks to do on his own timeline, and never asked what I needed differently to achieve excellence. I’m happy to change, but I need some hands-on guidance. I tried to make everyone happy, but they all seemed to have some unspoken criteria for me and I failed to meet it. Am I really going to get fired because I can’t do what they want me to do when I know there are better ways to fix the problem?

At this point, ED stopped the role play.

“I’m surprised at how much unspoken data I had about Lou that I never used during our sessions. I had assumed my job was to get him to do what Susan wanted, but I hadn’t realized the price everyone was paying for not taking his ideas or needs for buy-in into account. He was certainly excluded from the goal setting and discovery elements of the change management planning. Obviously he never had a say in creating the new tasks, or in how the leaders defined their goals – and he might really have an effective solution that’s not been considered. On top of this, no one is providing real training. No wonder he’s resisting. And we’re not listening.”

This happens daily. Leaders proceed to implement new goals with inadequate buy-in. They also assume they have the knowledge to make decisions from without obtaining the full data set.


Without listening to the voices of the folks involved with the problem – those involved in the processes that caused the problem or will be responsible for achieving the new outcomes – there’s no path forward that doesn’t carry resistance.

I suggest there’s no need for anyone to resist if you bring them in at the very start to help us craft our change management path. Here are some questions for Leaders to ask themselves to prepare:

    • What would stop you from seeking out voices from folks who are involved with the problem to be solved? Obviously it’s a bit more complicated when dealing with a multi-level, multi-group problem. But with representatives of each team, and time for groups to meet individually to craft ideas at each of the 13 stages of change/decision making, it’s possible.
    • How will you know when/if you’ve assembled the full set of folks (including front line works, and ‘Joe in Accounting’) who will provide the complete, accurate data set to plan from?
    • What would you need to believe differently to be willing to give up ‘Control’ to give a voice in defining the new activities to those who will be doing them?
        • Note: With new voices, new choices will emerge, often far beyond the ideas and knowledge of the Leaders. Leaders must be willing to let go of their ‘vision’ and trust that the outcome will be reached, albeit differently, with passion and creativity (maybe even better than originally perceived!) and without resistance.
    • What skills do you need to assist you in being a facilitator rather than someone who controls a change management process?
    • What would you need to believe differently to be willing to achieve your goals differently than first conceived?

We get resistance when attempting to push our goals on to others without their buy-in. Facilitating consensus might take a bit more time upfront, but maintains loyalty, promotes creativity and a positive execution, and obtains a more robust outcome with no resistance.


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 her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision makingthe 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 29th, 2024

Posted In: News

Marketing is currently designed to inspire, identify, and engage potential buyers in a way that leads them to action. The baseline assumptions are that good content in the right hands, or engaged relationships that create connection, will provide the foundational components to cause buying. But do they?

Before people become buyers they have work to do that’s not buying related, outside the purview of both marketing and sales, and won’t be activated by conventional sales or marketing strategy.

I contend that marketing and sales could be so much more effective if they added the capability of finding, engaging and facilitating not-yet buyers through their Pre-Sales, change- and risk-management issues – the stuff that precludes them from identifying as buyers initially but who will be once they’re ready.



Currently sales and marketing spend money/resource finding names and inundating them with content, hoping to evoke a sale. But success has been elusive, and we must ask ourselves these questions:

  • Do our product details move people to action they wouldn’t take otherwise?
  • Are we convincing those who would NOT buy to choose us over our competitors? Cause them to buy NOW instead of later?
  • Does our information get read by folks who aren’t yet buyers but will be?
  • Are we capturing/engaging folks who WILL be buyers?

I think the answer is ‘no’ on all counts. It’s because we’re focused on the Sell Side and overlook the Buy Side. And they’re two entirely different things. Let me explain.

Before people consider themselves ‘buyers’, or have clarity on what, or even if, they’ll buy anything, they have Pre-Sales work to do. This is why they ignore what we send: it doesn’t seem relevant, regardless of a need or the efficacy of our solution. It’s like a realtor sending you details about a terrific house before you and your family have decided to move.

Until people figure out the bits and pieces they must handle, until they know they’re going to fix something rather than leave it as it is, until they understand the risk of change, they don’t seek to buy anything and will ignore outreach. Indeed, until the preliminary issues are addressed, they won’t even know what information they need!


A buying decision is a change management issue issue before it’s a solution choice issue. And there are far more people in the process of deciding – i.e. people on their Buying Decision Path – than there are those who show up as buyers. But as of now, neither marketing nor sales addresses this segment of a prospective buyer’s process.

It’s possible to facilitate buyer readiness with different thinking.

Right now our outreach is limited to folks who meet the demographics and search terms that imply to us they have a need.

But our ‘need’/solution-placement focus only attracts folks who self-identify as buyers, reducing our target audience to those relative few who have completed their change-, risk-management, and decision-making activity while ignoring a much larger group who have not yet identified as buyers (and will not read our marketing content) but will buy when they’re ready.

We’re not reaching them now because our selling criteria is disparate from their buying criteria: we need different outreach strategies to connect with them.

And yes, it needs new thinking and new types of content, but it will prove its worth in short order: since people must manage change and risk anyway before they become buyers, we can enter earlier, help them do what they need to do more efficiently (based on their unique change criteria, NOT based on the solution being sold), prove our worth as trusted advisors, and THEN sell.

In other words, facilitate the necessary change management issues first (with a different skill set and goal) so when it’s time to sell you’ll be speaking with folks who have already self-identified as buyers and are real prospects. Then you’ll spend less time pushing solutions and running after folks who won’t buy, and devote your time to closing those who are now eager to hear what you’ve got to say.


At the start, people don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to their system. They only become buyers once they

  • recognize a problem,
  • gather the entire complement of stakeholders to understand the full fact pattern that caused and maintains the problem,
  • try to fix the problem with workarounds/available resources,
  • get buy in from the stakeholders if workaround not possible,
  • understand the downside, risk, the ‘cost’, of making a change,
  • agree on the criteria that an external solution must meet,
  • choose a solution that will match their criteria and all agree on.

Regardless of how sophisticated our efforts at prospects, until people have completed their change- and risk- management work above, they are not buyers, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. They certainly won’t be lured by marketing that pushes content they haven’t yet recognized they want.

And this is why we fail to close more sales: we’re assuming our content will entice, when they’re not looking for enticement. With our current solution placement/’need’ lens, we’re merely hoping and guessing our missives will inspire buying when we could be engaging and leading real, but not-yet-ready, buyers through their Buying Decision Path.

Certainly we capture some eyeballs as folks do research on route to fixing their problem, but these folks aren’t engaged buyers and often ignore what they read or we’ve sent them: they’re not ready, and they’re not yet buyers. In other words, a high percentage of folks who may be our target market are not actively buyersYet.

I suggest it’s possible to generate a much larger group of in-market buyers by first facilitating folks who haven’t yet completed their change process and be their natural choice once they’re ready.


I figured out the ins and outs of buying decades ago. When I became a tech entrepreneur in the 1980s after being a sales professional for many years, the differences between the Sell Side and the Buy Side became obvious.

When I began hiring and managing, it hit me that a decision to buy anything – leadership training, software – was more complex than I had realized when I was a seller merely trying to place solutions. As a responsible leader, I had to first try to resolve the problem internally, understand the full problem set by hearing from all involved, and get everyone’s buy-in for any change.

Ultimately, until we all understood the ‘cost’ (risk) of the change to our job descriptions and policies, and were certain we couldn’t fix the problem ourselves, I would have been irresponsible to consider making a purchase.

That’s when I realized the problem I had as a seller: buying and selling are two wholly different mind-sets and activities! The Buy Side is change management-based; the Sell Side involves solution placement. And both sales and marketing overlook this discrepancy.

It’s possible to engage folks who are on route to becoming buyers by leading them – with no bias, pitch, or influencing from us – through the change and risk issues they must manage before self-identifying as buyers. And both sales and marketing can play a part here.

Marketing can begin to engage with folks who might be buyers by first offering targeted content that facilitates these change issues, such as helping them figure out who to include in proposed change, or how to trial workarounds.

The goal is to offer tips for each of the 13 stages folks must go through before being ready to buy. In other words, help them navigate their necessary Pre-Sales change path so they’re ready to buy. Once buyers have understood and addressed their unique internal challenges, sales takes over.

Right now, because this idiosyncratic process has nothing to do with our solutions, or what people ultimately buy, sales overlooks this activity. Note: until prospects understand that the risk of making a purchase is less than the risk of staying the same they cannot buy, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution.

And we’re left waiting for them to show up while they complete their internal action steps. (After training 100,000 sales professionals, I’ve never met one who absolutely knows who will finally buy.) And frankly, they don’t read our stuff or take our calls because they haven’t completed their steps and aren’t aware they need us (yet).

If we begin by first facilitating the necessary change issues, we can collapse the decision-making time, earn their trust, and be there to sell once they’ve finished. Until then they won’t buy anyway! And the time it takes them is the length of the sales cycle. Remember selling doesn’t cause buying.


Once I realized that change management preceded buying and that sales overlooked it, I developed a unique change facilitation process I named Buying Facilitation® for my own sales team. Instead of beginning by seeking folks with need, we sought folks seeking change in the area our solution could support, and facilitated them through the steps they had to take anyway as they approached problem resolution.

Once they completed their work with our help and the targeted articles we offered (How to Engage the Right Stakeholders, etc.), we were in line to be their chosen providers. I was happily surprised that we no longer needed proposals, and our pitches were greatly diminished as most of their decision making was already done by then.

We were seen as an active participant in their change and decision processes, a true trusted adviser, and there was no content push that risked annoying them. Not only did sales close in half the time, we stopped wasting time because we spent more time facilitating folks who were real buyers. My business doubled.

In case you want more data on the 13 steps all people and groups take as they manage their change issues, I suggest (and here’s a pitch!) you get my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. It lays out each of step in separate chapters with a very detailed case study at the end.

Obviously this is different than what we’re used to as the outreach is not based on placing a solution. Because of the different focus and goals, the new thinking brings up questions: are we willing to

  1. broaden our activities to include change management?
  2. use a different filter than need or solution placement?
  3. take non-solution-related action?
  4. seek out those on route to becoming buyers and facilitate them down their steps rather then directing efforts to those we guess might have need?
  5. avoid solution details and sales/marketing techniques?

Of course we use customary sales tools and Sales Enablement once these folks are ready to buy. By starting with a facilitation hat on you’ll

  • find and facilitate soon-to-be buyers through the steps of change rather than assuming searches constitute a need or a prospect;
  • find real prospects on the first call;
  • stop wasting time chasing those who will never buy;
  • close in half the time.

You’ll end up with a higher quality prospect, a higher closing probability, and a competitive edge as you truly serve folks by helping them get their ducks in a row.

Also, I suggest marketing (ABM, Demand Gen, Lead Gen, etc.) can target people through each of their change management steps; build real relationships; and provide the right story line to continue to advance people through to becoming buyers.

Ultimately you’ll end up with vetted buyers to hand over to sales – hence, more closed sales. And of course the process can be used to keep customers engaged during the customer life cycle.

The days of using marketing only to offer product details are behind us. We’ve got the technology and the knowledge to enter a Pre-Sales change management journey and hand over a great, actionable list, to sales.


For sellers doing in-person sales, my Buying Facilitation® model offers new skill sets (formulating Facilitative QuestionsListening for Systems, etc) that I’ve taught in many global corporations for over 35 years. (Clients: IBM, Kaiser, HP, Morgan Stanley, Wachovia, KPMG, Bose, DuPont, P&G, etc.) My clients consistently close 8x more than the control group. This could be your competitive edge. After all, the time it takes them to complete this is the length of the sales cycle.

I continue to pose the question I began posing in 1985: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. And now we can do both. But are you ready? And can I help? My site explains my change management and sales models.


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 22nd, 2024

Posted In: News

Are you seeking funding for a truly unique solution and it’s not getting the attention it deserves? Do you have a great solution you’ve created great content for and it’s still not closing as many sales as it deserves to?

You know your solution is terrific and your pitch (deck) is creative, professional, and represents exactly what you want to say. And yet. People aren’t buying; funders aren’t funding. What’s the problem?

The problem is that information – regardless how necessary, relevant, or inspirational – doesn’t necessarily convince or cause action. Let me explain.


As a culture, we tend to believe that content is a necessary part of decision making. This is true…but only marginally: people need content after they’ve already determined if, when, how, and why they would consider doing something different.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you need to purchase new software. Your team has already agreed to make a change, but you don’t yet understand the risks: the amount of resource you’ll need to maintain the new, or the ‘cost’ (downtime, familiarity of use, etc.) of integrating the old with the new. Ultimately, the cost of the new must be less than maintaining the status quo or it’s not worth changing. And until the risks and costs are known, it’s impossible to determine need. Until then, marketing information is irrelevant and the greatest pitch in the world won’t encourage buying.

What about pitch decks for funding startups and scaleups? You create a stunning pitch deck – representative, creative, educational, inspirational. But you’re not getting funded. Why? Do you know the largely unconscious criteria and biases of each funder? Do you know the underlying and personal beliefs that trigger each of their decisions? Or the criteria they use to compare one possible investment over another? What about how they each assess opportunity, management structure… The list goes on. And pitch decks can’t address the range of these given their idiosyncratic nature.

Unfortunately, startups/scaleups seek funding on how they perceive the strength of their content and overlook the entirely separate – and hidden – decision criteria of funders.



We spend large sums of money to generate content for marketing, ads, sites, pitch decks. But it only works when it works… and even then we don’t know how or when or why. A sales pitch closes 5%; Behavior Modification has a 3% success rate even though folks really want to change bad habits; doctors, coaches, leaders, and parents provide important details for change, and it falls on deaf ears.

The problem is information. As a one-way stimulus there’s no way to track, discover, expand, or connect with the unconscious decision-making criteria of the audience. Indeed, our great content gets heeded only after they’ve already determined their belief-based decision benchmarks.

I recently got a call from a Venture Capitalist who’d been referred to me by an internationally famous change agent. He said he invests in Behavior Modification apps for weight loss and habit change, admitting that they were only 3% successful and the folks who purchased his apps would probably fail. Could I develop a change facilitation model that would really work? I knew he wasn’t familiar with my innovative ideas, so before pitching I asked:

SD: How would you know that my brain-change models would offer value?
DH: If you’ve been published in “Science.”

And there’s the crux of the problem. Yes, I’m an original thinker who’s successfully trained my change facilitation models to 100,000 folks over 40 years; written 10 books and New York Times Business Bestsellers; appeared on countless TV shows. He was referred by the best. But I don’t have a PhD, causing science journals to reject my work. Our conversation was over. My great content, referrals, and accolades – even his own failure rate!… were useless because I failed to meet his criteria based on his idiosyncratic beliefs.


It’s only when

  • we recognize it’s time to make a change,
  • the status quo isn’t working,
  • there’s no familiar workaround to fix the problem,
  • our core beliefs are in agreement,
  • the risk of change is understood and planned for

that content is sought. While it seems logical our content would make it possible to better understand its relevance to them, unless they’ve first managed their change criteria or unless their unconscious beliefs are addressed, they can’t understand how it would fit. And several industries fail because of their over reliance on content:

The sales model assumes that content – pitching, marketing, advertising – causes sales. Although using the sales model alone (see my Buying Facilitation Pre-Sales change management model) merely closes 5% – a whopping 95% fail rate! – sales continues to push content as a purchase motivator, blaming the ‘stupid buyers’ for the problem.

Healthcare pushes habit change and fails 97% of the time. Trainers and coaches push new ideas and come up against resistance 80% of the time. Leaders push initiatives and fail 95%. All using content that, on the face of it, seem relevant, but not necessarily relevant to the Other.

Climate Tech startups and scaleups have been depending upon pitch decks to explain the value of their solutions, believing that a compelling story will raise funds. But given the range of new solutions entering the market, it’s necessary to address a funder’s possibly unconscious beliefs. By merely focusing on features and values, startups and scaleups may fail to attract funding.

You see, decision making depends on our brain:

  • Our brain may not decipher intended meaning. Because of the way sound vibrations enter ears and get dispatched for translation, we only translate incoming content according to the brain circuits we already possess (causing our biases). Our brain may not interpret new information properly and actually mistranslate or misunderstand, regardless of the relevance or presentation style of the data. I wrote a book on this (WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard?).
  • Everything we do is systemic. We’re each a unique system of rules and roles, history and hopes, values and beliefs. Decisions get made systemically and systems fight hard to maintain themselves. When one bit of the system is being asked to change without buy-in from the rest of the system, we get (you know this!) resistance and failure.
  • Everything we do and say arises from our brains. Without our neural circuits prompting action, no decisions occur. And unless the risk of change is known and each relevant element of the failed system is managed, the brain won’t know how to make use of content as it will be too busy defending its system.
  • Change, decisions, actions, arise from our baseline beliefs. Indeed, behaviors are beliefs in action. If any of the content elements you’re offering goes against the Other’s system or beliefs it will be rejected, mistranslated, or ignored, regardless of its intention or relevance.

Our devotion to content is costing us lost sales, shortened lifespans, and failed relationships.


I suggest we begin by helping Others figure out their own criteria and then offer the content that fits.

  • How does your audience know when it’s time to make a change? How do they recognize incongruences that are costing them failure and possibility? (Hint: unless an incongruence is noticed, the brain will fight change.)
  • How would they know that you would be a successful leader? A good steward for a start up in your industry?
  • What would investors need to consider to believe a new solution would be relevant and successful?

This tactic would not only begin a collaborative dialogue before you present your content, it would cause an interaction that would promote a real relationship. Plus, once you’ve brought the unconscious beliefs to the surface, you’ll have a pathway to discuss how they might be ameliorated if a problem emerges. My clients create pitches and pitch decks that match unique beliefs and considerations, showing only those that apply.

For those wishing to learn how to formulate your specific upfront questions, I’d be happy to discuss them. In the meantime, go to and do a search for ‘questions’ and read my articles on the specific topic.


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 her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision makingthe 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 15th, 2024

Posted In: News

I live on a floating home in the Columbia River in North Portland, OR. Daily life is just like living anywhere else, except occasionally my services are a bit wonky. For example, for the past months I’ve had issues with my cable/internet provider Comcast and thought maybe it was because my cable lines are under water.

Turns out that wasn’t the problem; it was a case of bad customer service. Seems me and my provider have two different definitions of what constitutes good customer service.


After 10 calls and tech visits in the last three months to get the same problem fixed, Comcast tech David Peters showed up. This time I was particularly annoyed because I had no cable, no internet, no tv, from Saturday til Monday. I love to read, walk, kayak. But geesh – Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic were playing and I missed them!

David was the last in a long line of young men (yes, all men) to show up. But this time there was a difference.

“I noticed how many people have been here to fix the problem. Seems they all did something different but each tried just one thing. But I’m going to fix it permanently. I’m going to think about your problem as a system. I’m going to change out the cabling from the source, give you all new switchers (Did he say routers??), and then check the frequencies to see where there are glitches. By the time I’m done the problem will be resolved.”

David was here for hours – apparently he defied the management calls he received telling him he’d exceeded his allotted customer interval (and most likely one reason my problem was never resolved to begin with, just sayin) – and was quite diligent.

He did it all: came into the house to check all internal lines, got a ladder and checked outside connections, went to his home office to get new cable, and actually got a special tool to remove the deck where the cable lines initiated under the water! And he fixed it! No more problems! Then he came and found me and asked me to check his work to make sure I was satisfied.

I told him he gave me great customer service and asked if Comcast ever requested ideas from him as to how to best serve customers, or on patterns he noticed in the field that the management could correct from their end.

“One would think they’d come to us, no? Hahahaha. But they don’t. Instead they send these bot calls to ask if you’d choose Comcast again because of the field tech’s work. That makes no sense! It’s an annoying, pointless question with no answer. Why not ask me? Why not ask me what they could do differently? Or ask what I need from them to give customers I’m visiting great service? I am not convinced they really want to resolve any problems.”

His response was spot on. But this makes me curious: how many companies really (really!) care about fixing problems from their end to make customers happy?



Best I can tell, companies don’t understand how, or even why, to put customers first. I recently read this sentence on a customer service site (Revechat): “With increasing evidence that customers are the backbone of businesses….” Do we really need evidence that customers are the backbone? Without customers we’re not in business.

The best service I ever received was in the health-food store Cyd’s in Taos, NM. He started each day with a staff meeting, asking “Who pays your salary?” and they yelled out in unison: “Our Customers!”

And who is a customer anyway? I believe our employees are our first customers. When I keep my team happy they keep clients happy. Remember the old myth that the Nordstrom customer service rule book was one line: Use your best judgment. Once you require employees to use best judgment, you must hire employees you can trust. And then you must trust them.


The biggest misunderstanding companies have is that it’s about them. To truly care about customers, they must actually put the customer at the very center and TRUST that their service, their reputation, and the desire to keep customers – and keep them happy – will pay off the resource expenditure.

Most companies are rule-bound and tech heavy to save money, time, and resource. I was once called back by a customer service rep on his own phone, during his break. He wanted to make sure I got my problem fully resolved because there wasn’t time within the 3 minutes he was allowed per call to take care of me. That’s just wrong. They hired the right guy but gave him the wrong rules.

Companies must regulate at the values level and stop trying to police staff and clients at the rules level. It harms everyone and you lose just as many good employees as you do good customers.

I was recently hired by a well-known multinational to find out why they had such high turnover. I spoke with 30 department heads and middle managers. 4 of them cried (literally!) when recounting feelings of being disrespected and ignored. They had even stopped complaining because they felt the management didn’t care.

The company was paying them well above industry standard, so they just collected paychecks and no longer offered ideas, creativity, or enthusiasm. Most of them admitted they were looking for other jobs. And from their comments, sounded like they weren’t taking such good care of their customers either.


Personally, I believe that most metrics in this area (CSAT, NPS, CES) are designed to gather specious, meaningless data. They certainly do not offer companies ideas with which to improve.

The NPS score merely highlights results following a single interaction, albeit in a distorted way. Indeed it’s spurious: if a customer has a good interaction they’ll provide a higher score, a bad interaction a bad score. How do I rate a poor call from a good company? Or… Useless. There’s no way to know what, exactly, worked or didn’t work, or what to do differently.

The CSAT score only tracks people who respond, obviously a biased sampling. It certainly misses any specificity of what a company can do to become better.

CES score is devious. While a customer might ignore a company they find difficult to work with, they won’t necessarily choose a company that’s easy. Not to mention ‘ease’ is not necessarily an indicator of good customer service. What, exactly, is being measured?

And save me from those chatbots! They don’t work, get people annoyed, and everyone I know figures out how to avoid them. A colossal waste of time, effort, and money. Maybe in 10 years when bots know how to have real conversation and show concern.


To have good data to improve your company, I’d create a wholly different type of scoring system based on surveys and questionnaires with questions like:

  1. What would you need to see from us to be willing to continue working with us?
  2. What has stopped you from getting the best experience from us – the type of experience you deserve?
  3. What would we be doing differently for you to continue, or return to, using us?
  4. What would you prefer we add to our outreach to keep you happy over time?
  5. What could we do better to help you decide to buy from us going forward?

The answers will provide companies specific ways and ideas to improve, and let customers know they are cared about and their ideas are respected. So much more specific than ‘happy’ or ‘easy’.

Current metrics don’t give companies the data they need to improve. But I’ve got some ideas. Since I believe that happy employees lead to happy customers, I’d take the company pulse first.

How much staff turnover are you experiencing?

A high turnover means unhappy employees and most likely unhappy clients. Then, I’d look at customer retention/customer churn. Happy customers don’t leave, even if there’s a better price elsewhere:

How many customers are leaving? Do you know why?

I’d also want to know how long it takes, and how many contacts, for a customer to get their needs met. I personally believe it should be a first-contact resolution. It not only saves a customer’s frustration, but saves time and money and effort with staff:

Whoever answers the phone owns the problem or takes responsibility. This person will ask the appropriate questions and do whatever is necessary to solve the problem and get back to the client. It saves a company so much time, saves on hiring and training the folks down the line who quit due to customer frustration (After speaking with 7 people, repeating their problem over and over, and being on hold for countless hours, customers are not happy communication partners). The customer does not get served, the staff don’t get treated well, it’s lose/lose.

To provide good customer service, respect and serve your customers! Make it easy for them. They bought your service along with their purchase. Take care of them!


As business owners, we are responsible for serving people – staff and customers. Our companies are the vehicles with which we serve. We must trust that by serving people we will profit and grow.

Here are my thoughts for improving loyalty and retention:

  • HAVE ENOUGH REPS Current customer service has been created for the ease and cost savings of the company. Long hold times? Hire more reps! It’s not the customer’s responsibility to be patient because you don’t hire enough support staff! Best Buy kept me on hold once for 13 hours! When the guy finally called it was 3:10 AM! When I answered he said, and I kid you not, “So how are you today?”. When I groggily said, “Not so happy to start my day at 3:00 in the morning with this phone call after waiting 13 hours” he hung up on me. 13 hours. That’s just wrong.
  • OWN THE PROBLEM The ‘not my job’ syndrome is endemic. Whoever answers the phone should own the problem! So many companies keep me on hold, then pass me along to many (many!) reps – each with long hold times – as part of the ‘not my job’ syndrome. It’s wrong. It IS your job.
  • NO MORE CONTACT FORMS Get rid of those damn contact forms on your websites. No one wants to fill them out because we know you’re merely capturing my name to send me spam. Give me an email address connected with someone who will take care of me and solve my problem.
  • STOP WASTING CUSTOMER TIME Most processes are set up to save companies money, not to take care of customers. We’ve all spent hours and hours trying to ‘get through’ to phone companies or tech companies or government groups. Why is my time less important than your time? To save you money? I’m the customer! I paid your salary for goodness sakes.
  • RETURN CONTACT WITHIN 24 HOURS How many days, on average, does it take to get a return call to solve a problem? I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out. Certainly more than three. Again, it’s just wrong. Makes me never buy from that company again.

Customer loyalty and retention are the same. When you put customers first they are loyal. And it’s never a price issue. Make customers feel cared for and they’re yours.


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 her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision makingthe 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 8th, 2024

Posted In: News

Most of us believe we accurately hear what’s been said. But given our historic brain circuits that translate incoming sound vibrations subjectively and out of our awareness, it’s difficult to be certain that what we think we heard is accurate. It is possible, however, to at least know what our tendencies are.

When I wrote my book WHAT? I discovered that words don’t enter brains as anything more than ‘puffs of air’ that go from sound vibrations into signals that get translated automatically by electro-chemical circuitry: what our brains tell us was said, what we think we hear, is merely our brain’s translation of these signals according to our historic circuits – what we’ve heard before.

Unwittingly, we end up interpreting meaning according to we’ve interpreted before and new incoming data often gets misunderstood or mistranslated because there aren’t appropriate circuits to translate it. Obviously, there’s a good chance we’re biasing a lot of what we hear.

To help you understand how, if and when you uniquely (and unwittingly) bias what you hear, I’ve developed an assessment tool. Once you have a baseline knowledge of your unconscious choices you’ll know what areas to pay specific attention to and if you need to add new skills.


PART 1: When do you take extra steps to ensure you accurately hear what your Communication Partner (CP) intends? Directions: Check off any that apply. Relationship-related

 _When I’m with my partner/spouse (i.e. all the time).

_When I’m having a disagreement with my partner/spouse.

_When I’m trying to clean up a problem/misunderstanding.

_Only when it’s someone I care about.

_I don’t take extra steps. I just assume I hear the message as intended.


_When something important is at stake in my life and I need to know the Other’s takeaway.

_When I’m aware I don’t understand someone.

_When I have a message I want to impart and want to make sure I’m being understood as I prefer.

_When communicating with someone of a different culture, background, and I’m not certain we’re mutually understanding each other. But I sometimes do nothing about it because I don’t know what to do differently.

Are there times it’s especially important to ensure you hear what your CP intends to convey?

_When the conversation is going badly.

_In all business-related, profit-related conversations, or where I’m getting paid.

_ In all/some conversations related to my spouse or family.

_No. I prefer to accurately understand what’s said in every conversation and am usually successful.

_I prefer to accurately understand all of my CPs but not sure that I do.

Take a moment to think about your responses in all of the above and answer the following questions, in writing, as a summary.

  •  Are there specific times you regularly take responsibility, take extra steps, to make sure you hear your CP accurately?
  •  Why are you more comfortable with your natural listening skills in some situations than in others? Are there patterns to when you have misunderstandings?
  •  Are you fully aware of the outcomes of all of your conversations, and generally assume that everyone understands each other accurately?
  • How do you know if you’ve accurately understood someone?

PART 2: Do you know your communication biases? Directions: assess your predispositions as a communicator on each of the following. Check off the ones that apply: When I enter into a conversation, I enter with

_An ‘ear’ that listens according to my history with that person.

_An unconscious/conscious agenda of what I want from the conversation.

_ A need to be perceived in a specific way or to impart the message I want.

_An ability to enter each conversation without bias, with a mental ‘blank slate’.

_The needs of the Other in mind at the expense of my own.

_My beliefs about what this person might need from me given his/her background.

_An understanding that my unconscious biases might keep me from fully understanding so I regularly check that me and my CP are on the same page.

_ No conscious thought. I just assume I’ll hear what’s intended and respond appropriately, regardless of how different my CP might be from my own cultural experience.

During a conversation I

_Might get annoyed by something said due to my own preconceptions and history.

_ Assume I have the skills to recognize when there’s a misunderstanding and make things right if there is a problem.

_Notice when my CP is responding differently than I intended and say something to get us on the same page.

_Notice when my CP is responding differently than I intended and I say nothing.

_Don’t notice if my CP is responding differently from the message I’m sending and don’t know if I’ve hurt/annoyed them.

_Work hard at maintaining a ‘blank slate’ in my brain to listen through.

_Just be me, because I know I’m not biased and I listen accurately.

_Am aware I may not be speaking, listening, or responding in ways that regard the differences of my CP but don’t do anything to speak, listen, or respond differently than normal.

_Would prefer I’m not saying anything disrespectful, or hearing with unconscious biases, but I’m not sure if I know how to do this.

_Would prefer I’m respecting my CP but have done nothing to learn new skills to be able to speak or listen to match another’s unconscious cultural assumptions.

PART 3: Do you have the choices you need for an unbiased communication? Directions: Please write down the answers to these: If you don’t consider how accurately you hear what others intend to say (as distinct from what you think you hear) during a conversation, what you would need to know or believe differently to make this part of each communication? To think specifically if responses are congruent, if communication lines are balanced, if both CPs speak about the same amount of time and follow the same topic? If you don’t know for certain if you’re hearing without bias, or if you’re listening with a ‘beginner’s mind’ to lessen your unconscious biases, what has stopped you until now from taking steps or learning new skills to listen without bias? If you don’t know for certain if something you think you heard is inaccurate, what do you do to check? What stops you from stopping the conversation and asking? How can you tell if your CP is understanding YOU accurately and without bias? Do you have the skills you need to monitor and manage this? PART 4: Whose responsibility is a shared understanding? Directions: Answer Yes or No for each of the following: Beliefs

_I believe it’s the Sender’s responsibility to send her message properly to match the needs of the Receiver.

_I believe there’s a shared responsibility between CPs to understand each other; both are equally at fault if there’s a misunderstanding.

_I believe it’s the Receiver’s responsibility to hear what the Sender is saying, and tell the Sender when there is confusion or misunderstanding.


_I formulate a reply as soon as I hear something that triggers a response in my head, regardless of whether or not the person has finished sharing their ideas.

_I know I’ve been heard when someone responds according to my expectation.

_I know I’m hearing another’s intended message accurately when I feel comfort between us.

_If I disagree with my CP’s dialogue, I interrupt or show my disagreement without asking for an explanation.

_If I disagree with my CP’s dialogue I allow her to complete her message before sharing my disagreement.

_I try to listen without my biases and respond to what has been said, but I’m aware I probably can’t understand because of our differences. But I’ve not taken steps to learn how to listen without biases.

_If I have an idea to share that’s different from my CP’s topic, I just change topics.

_When I don’t understand my CP’s response to what I said, I just keep going or try to say something better.

_My responses conform to what I think I heard and I don’t check.

_I respond to what I think was said and don’t consider I might have biased and misinterpreted what I heard.

Understanding the message

_When I don’t understand someone, I can tell immediately and ask for clarification.

_I rarely think it’s me when there is confusion during a conversation and take no action, assuming it will work itself out.

_I can tell I’ve misheard/misunderstood when I get a negative reaction or a confused look.

_I can tell I’ve misheard only when I hear my CP say ‘WHAT?’ or ‘I don’t understand’ after my response.

_I cannot tell if I’ve misunderstood or misheard, and respond according to what I think I heard.

_I don’t know how to listen differently to people who are different from me and just respond like I do in any conversation.

_I assume I understand Others who speak English, regardless of our differences.

Communication problems

_As soon as I realize I have misunderstood someone, I ask her to repeat what she said so I can understand her message.

_When I realize I’ve misunderstood, I assume they aren’t being clear.

_When my CP tells me I misunderstood him I know it’s not my issue because I know I hear accurately.

_When my CP tells me she thinks I misheard, I ask what I missed so I can get it right.

_I can’t tell if I’ve misunderstood someone, and aren’t aware if there are negative consequences to my repsonses.

_I use my normal communication skills in all conversations regardless of cultural differences.

When you’re done, please write a paragraph on what you discovered. Now, write a paragraph on this whole assessment experience. What did you take away? What do you need to do differently? Write down a plan to move forward in a way that will help you hear what others say with the least possible bias. How did you do? Are you willing to make changes where you need them? Do you know how to make changes? Did you find areas you’d like to have more choice? Were you able to notice your predispositions? It’s important to notice where you find yourself resisting change as those are the exact areas in which you might occasionally mishear or misunderstand. Determine if you want to continue your current patterns and don’t mind the cost of being wrong some of the time. For those of you seeking more understanding on how our brains hear, check out my book: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? or call me to train your group:


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 1st, 2024

Posted In: News

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

December 18th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

Think about the number of stars in the sky. Let’s say you’ve been told that 500 of them would provide elements of a good resolution to one of your problems, although some would be better than others. You’re offered a spaceship to bring you to just one of them. How would you know which star to choose given you can’t know where they’re located or what, specifically, they can provide?

Now, let’s parallel your brain with the stars, although there are more synapses, neurons, and circuits in your brain than there are stars in the sky! The problem above is the exact problem your brain faces whenever you want to do or decide something: you have a wish, an aspiration; you want to make a new decision; your team needs to figure out how to approach a new initiative.

To make your decision, your brain must send the ‘request’ to one grouping of your 1,000 trillion synapses, neural pathways, circuits (etc.) for translation into action. How does your brain choose which circuit to send it to? And how do you know it’s the best possible choice?

In this article I’d like to explain how your neural circuitry (abbreviated here as ‘circuits’) creates and biases everything you experience, and why you get resistance when pursuing change.


Your feelings, what you hear, see, do and decide, come from your mind-brain interaction. Few of us realize that everything we experience comes from instructions sent from our brains, chosen mechanically, without meaning, by some bewildering, mechanistic neurology, at a specific moment in time, and might not accurately represent a full fact pattern with which to solve a problem.

But never forget that brains are merely electro-chemical interpretation devices, devoid of thought or meaning. That’s right: you think with your mind, but the instruction to act comes from your brain.

When you make a decision, see a color or listen to a concert, you assume what you experience is an accurate representation of what’s happening. And sometimes it is.

But sometimes your lazy brain merely chooses the nearest superhighway (sequence of circuits) to translate the experience according to the last concert you attended, or the last time you went on a diet, and it’s only a good-enough choice among a thousand other possibilities. Since it’s the only option you were given, how would you know if better ones might be available?


Sadly, your brain can’t tell the difference between good or bad – it only sorts for matching signals to interpret an input: meaning, intent, importance are not accounted for.

But imagine if it were possible to consciously choose or create the exact circuits to interpret incoming data in order to end up with your best choices!


Your brain is merely a predictive machine, comprised of vast numbers of elements (synapses, neural pathways, axons, etc.) that hold your history. Everything you experience now is historic. Even words have no meaning until a brain circuit interprets them for you. (Note: My book WHAT? breaks down how brains do this.) In fact, many of the books I’ve read call words puffs of air!

Indeed, your mind has no way to hear or see, understand or act, unless your brain interprets it.

And sadly, you have no choice but to operate from the meaning your brain has provided: the conscious ‘you’ is largely out of control;  once the brain receives an input message and has sent the resultant signals to become outputs/actions, it’s too late to change their destination. The process is automatic, devoid of meaning, and unconscious.


Unfortunately, today’s standard practices for change management as well as standard Behavior Modification habit practices, ignore the brain change element and focus on attempting to modifying the behaviors, decisions, actions – the outputs – AFTER they’ve been generated and therefore difficult to alter. And when you attempt to make a change that hasn’t been accepted by your existing neural pathways? Your lazy, habituated brain resists, preferring the originating pathways.

Indeed, it’s not possible to try to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. This is the reason behavior-change models fail 97% of the time. Have you ever tried turning a chair into a table? You can’t, but it’s possible to reprogram the machine (input) to get a table (output)!

For change management it’s necessary to populate new neurology to get a new result. To do so includes bringing in the full set of stakeholders who have been part of the initial problem; capturing the values and criteria to be met; stating a goal agreeable to everyone, understanding the risks of change, then buying-in to the full set of criteria. This avoids resistance as the group develops suitable neural pathways that generate new responses.

For habit change, it’s necessary to create a new neural pathway with a belief change and a wholly new set of input instructions. Here’s one simple example that becomes a mind-hack.

“I’m a fat cow now! I need to go on a diet. I’ll start Monday.”


“I’m a healthy person who will do the necessary research to find the best foods and nutrition to help my body attain and maintain my best weight over time.”

So: change the instructions, generate a new pathway, receive a new translation and ability to make automatic behavior changes.

Note: I’ve invented several Change Facilitation models that can alter neural circuitry for change and decision making. Happy to discuss.


I’m not a scientist, but as someone with Asperger’s, figuring out how to get into my brain to have conscious choice has been my ‘topic’ since around 1957 when I realized I didn’t act or think like everyone else.

I’ve devoted my life and intense curiosity to reading, thinking, designing, unpacking, writing, and inventing new skills and programs to create conscious routes into the unconscious for making personal decisions, serving Others by enabling their personal discovery and change, and for change initiatives that ensure buy-in and collaboration without resistance.

I believe this is a Servant Leader route: how to enable Others to discover and design their own version of Excellence. Great for coaches and leaders; certainly devoid of an outsider’s natural biases.

Over the decades I’ve realized that change is a systems problem since everything you do must be congruent with who you are. And by judging incoming messages in relation to how they maintain your system, your brain is the arbiter of keeping you congruent.


Using systems as the foundation, here are what I consider to be the norms that all change follow as it relates to the brain:

  1. Every person (or group) is a unique, idiosyncratic system made up of norms, history, Beliefs and mental models that define it uniquely and must remain congruent to keep the system whole. Each action, thought, behavior, choice must match the norms, Beliefs, and mental models of the system. Turns out that behaviors are Beliefs in action. I call this the System of Me (SOM).
  2. Whatever you think see, hear, think, ‘know’, feel is what occurs after your brain has chosen interpretation circuits. Your world is restricted according to what you already know and believe; your understanding of unknown concepts is restricted accordingly. This makes curiosity, innovation, understanding new ideas, and accepting direction with new initiatives difficult.
  3. Before your brain changes what is historically built-in, anything new must match the SOM (For those scientists reading this, this is Systems Congruence.) or it will be rejected or resisted. This is true for both individuals and groups.
  4. All existing circuits (of which there are 1,000 trillion) predict the data it will accept. According to Jordi Cami and Luis M. Martinez in The Illusionist Brain

“When the brain perceives, it generates a prediction…by inferring and anticipating reality based on past experiences.” (pg 102) Over time we generate a codification system…. And through experience we learn to store only what is most relevant (to us) … and eliminate details that we do not process.” (page 182).

In other words, your choices, how you interpret what you hear someone say, what you want to do, is pretty restricted to what’s already ‘in there’. We’re all restricted and unwittingly biased. And yes, there is neurogenesis, and brains constantly evolve. But the evolution is based on the existing neurology, physiology, and biology. How, then, is it possible to cause change and maintain Systems Congruence?


When you attempt to make a change without discovering and reorienting those parts of the brain that represent the status quo – regardless of how necessary or effective the new might be – resistance results.

In We Know It When We See It, Richard Masland says neurons get fired together automatically in response to an input used frequently, causing the brain to see these elements together even if only a portion of the same signals are sent (page 137)! He goes on to say:

“Our brain has trillions of cell assemblies that fire together automatically. When anything incoming bears even some of the characteristics [of operational circuits], the brain automatically fires the same set of synapses…There are very few inputs in our world that are not redundant.” (pg 143)

When you attempt to make a change using similar input as you’ve used before (i.e. without involving new input, new circuitry), your brain – acting mechanically and automatically – will seek existing circuitry so long as even a portion of the same signals are sent. And this is how you end up with resistance.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way. I’ve developed models that make it possible to recognize the circuitry causing the activity and enable the brain to develop new circuits or change existing ones as needed.

Note: my models don’t use conventional thinking so you may not have the circuitry to translate my ideas completely. But if you’re interested in the topic, and don’t fully understand the article, get my book HOW? that explains and teaches it all. It’s my life’s work and I’m here to serve you.


Knowing that your brain is an unreliable servant, how, then, can you create a new output? Here is what must be included:

  1. We must create input messages that include the proper wording and word placement, the correct hierarchy of criteria, the full set of instructions that captures the outcome as well as the route to get there.
  2. By following the natural path the brain takes to make a new decision, it’s possible to create successful initiatives/outputs very efficiently, without resistance. I’ve unpacked the 13 steps to change/decisions that match the flow of systems.
  3. The criteria (often unconscious) that hold the current problem in place (and have been maintained) must be matched when anything new is generated. Resistance follows when this is omitted. I have developed a 5 hour program that makes it possible to unpack a current habit and design new circuits for permanent habit/behavior change.
  4. To know which circuits are involved I invented a new form of question that directs the brain to the exact circuits (i.e. they are NOT information gathering).
  5. It’s vital to capture the full set of norms in the status quo so the underlying Beliefs, mental models, and history remains intact through the change. Without this, there is resistance as the system faces incongruence.

For those of you interested in leading congruent change without resistance, posing questions that enable Others to discover their actual answers, changing habits permanently, please 1. Go to and read some of the 1000 articles (clearly labelled in categories) on these subjects; 2. Connect with me and we’ll chat:

For those seeking the tools to change habits and behaviors, I’ve developed a HOW of Change™ model. For those seeking to enable Others to generate change without resistance, I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation® model frequently used in sales to facilitate buying.

For those who would like to create their own systemic change models that enable the unconscious to generate effective outputs, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What criteria will you use to generate new messaging that incorporates the SOM for new behaviors and new decisions?
  • How can direct your conscious mind to the relevant access points in your unconscious without bias?
  • How can you influence the choice of circuits to best translate your input?
  • How will you know when there are more appropriate choices if your brain doesn’t offer them?
  • How will you generate the instructions and triggers that cause permanent behavior change that avoids resistance?
  • When creating a new initiative, how will you maintain Systems Congruence?

These are a few of the questions I’ve asked myself for decades and helped lead my thinking. I invite you to join me in discovering all the conscious routes into the unconscious for permanent, congruent, values-based change.


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 her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision makingthe 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

December 4th, 2023

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