I’m a dancer. When I studied the Argentine Tango there was a foundational rule that I believe is true for all leaders: The leader opens the door for the follower to pass through, and the leader then follows. If anyone notices the leader, he’s not doing his job. The goal is to showcase the follower.
Much of what is written about leadership falls into the category I call ‘trait-centered leadership’: someone deemed ‘at the top’ who uses his/her personality, influence, and charisma to inspire and give followers – possibly not ready for change – a convincing reason to follow an agenda set by the leader or the leader’s boss. Sounds to me like a mixture of Jack Welch, Moses, and Justin Bieber.
What if the leader’s goal overrides the mental models, beliefs or historic experiences of the followers, or the change is pushed against the follower’s values, and resistance ensues? What if the leader uses his/her personality as the reason a follower should change? Or has a great message and incongruent skills? Or charisma and no integrity? Adolf Hitler, after all, was the most charismatic leader in modern history.
IF YOU CAN’T FOLLOW, YOU CAN’T LEAD
Whether it’s for a group that needs to perform a new task, or someone seeking heightened outcomes, the role of leadership is to
1. facilitate congruent change and choice,
2. in accordance with the values, skills, and ability of the follower,
3. enabling them to shift their own unique (unconscious) patterns,
4. to discover and attain new behaviors congruently and without resistance,
5. within the parameters of the required change.
It demands humility and authenticity. It’s other-centered and devoid of ego, similar to a simple flashlight that merely lights the existent path, enabling followers to discover their own excellence within the context of the change sought. It’s an inside job.
Being inspirational, or a good influencer with presence and empathy, merely enlists those whose beliefs and unconscious mental models are already predisposed to the change, and omits, or gets resistance from, those who should be part of the change but whose mental models don’t align.
This form of leadership has pluses and minuses.
* Minuses: the final outcome may look different than originally envisaged because the followers set the route according to their values and mental models.
* Pluses: everyone will be enthusiastically, creatively involved in designing what will show up as their own mission, with a far superior proficiency. It will more than meet the vision of the leaders (although it might look different), and the followers will own it with no resistance.
Do you want to lead through influence, presence, charisma, or rationality? Or facilitate the unique path to congruent change? Do you want people to see you as a guide? Or teach them how to congruently move beyond their status quo and discover their own route to excellence – with you as a GPS system? Do you want to lead? Or enable real change? They are opposite constructs.
POWER VS. FORCE
Here are some differences in beliefs between trait-centered leadership and more facilitative leadership:
Trait-centered: Top down; behavior change and goal-driven; dependent on power, charisma, and persuasion skills of a leader and may not be congruent with foundational values of followers.
Facilitation-centered: Inclusive (everyone buys-in and agrees to goals, direction, change); core belief-change and excellence-driven; dependent on facilitating route between current state and excellence, leading to congruent systemic buy-in and adoption of new behaviors.
Real change happens at the belief level. Attempting to change behaviors without helping people change their beliefs first meets with resistance: the proposed change pushes against the status quo regardless of the efficacy of the change.
New skills are necessary for facilitation-centered leadership:
1. Listen for systems. This enables leaders to hear the elements that created and maintain the status quo and would need to transform from the inside before any lasting change occurs. Typical listening is biased and restricts possibility.
2. Facilitative Questions. Conventional questions are biased by the beliefs and needs of the Questioner, and restrict answers and possibility. Facilitative Questions enlist the unconscious systems and show them how to adopt change congruently.
3. Code the route to systemic change. When asking folks to buy-in, build consensus, and collaborate, they don’t know how to make the necessary changes without facing internal resistance, regardless of the efficacy of the requested changes. By helping people move from their conscious to their unconscious back to their conscious, and facilitating buy-in down the line, it’s very possible to avoid resistance.
If you seek to enable congruent change that captures the passion and creativity of followers, avoids resistance, and enables buy-in, open the door and follow your followers.
Sharon Drew Morgen has designed a servant leader-based Change Facilitation model, using the process in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching and leadership, and communication, all enabling others to congruently change themselves. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew helps the health industry achieve buy-in between providers and patients; helps coaches and leaders enable lasting change with clients; helps sales folks facilitate the entire buying decision path from Pre-Sales to close. Her award winning blog has hundreds of articles that support change (www.sharondrewmorgen.com). She can be reached at sharondrew@
Sharon Drew Morgen August 26th, 2019
I’ve read that there are leaders and project managers who prefer not to collaborate, when engaging in an initiative, because of needs for control. And decision makers who start their information gathering before fully involving those who will implement. What sort of success is possible when one source is driving change and
* real collaboration * gathering data from the best set of sources * consensus and buy-in procedures in place
* understanding the full impact from a proposed decision * front-loading for change management (to avoid failed implementations) we risk falling far short of excellence in our decision making and subsequent execution.
WHY COLLABORATION IS NECESSARY
To ensure the best data is available to make decisions with, to ensure all risk issues managed, to ensure consensus throughout the process, we must have these questions in mind:
Let me define a few terms (albeit with my own bias):
I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on “understanding needs or managing an implementation”) and ‘low collaboration’ (defined as “putting time or control before people and possibility”, and leading from the top with prepared rules and plans). Since I don’t believe in any sort of top-down initiative (i.e. ‘low collaboration’) except when keeping a child safe, and believe there are systems issues that must be taken into consideration, here’s my rule of thumb: Collaboration is necessary early in the process to achieve accurate data identification and consensus for any sort of implementation, decision, project, purchase, or plan that requests people to take actions not currently employed.
THE STEPS OF COLLABORATION
Here are the steps to excellence in collaborative decision making as I see them:
These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’ if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have preferred to spend more time following the steps above.Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not collaborating. And then do the math.
Sharon Drew Morgen teaches decision making, change facilitation, and collaboration for sellers/buyers, leaders/followers, change agents/groups to corporations such as Kaiser, KPMG, IBM, Wachovia, etc. She is the author of the NY Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Her most recent book What? breaks down the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She’s written 7 books on her unique model Buying Facilitation® which teaches sellers how to facilitate change and consensus for buyers.
Sharon Drew Morgen August 19th, 2019
Posted In: Communication
Your solution is great. You know the narrative of the type of buyers who buy. You’re writing appropriate content and getting it out to the right demographic. But you’re still closing less than 5% from first contact and spending a ton of resource finding different ways to touch the same people as your competition touches – in hopes that you’ll have the right message that catches them at the right time or just grind them down.
Why aren’t more buyers buying? Do you know why your well-executed sales outreach programs – salesperson, social media, digital media, marketing – don’t elicit more closed sales?
DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?
You’re not closing more because you’re messages target a restricted audience, those who have already
and then you and your competitors work tirelessly to grab from that small pool of ready buyers. Seeking those you believe are probable buyers (those who SHOULD buy) limits your spectrum of buyers to those at the end of their decision path (beginning at step 10 of 13 steps. See steps below.) and concluded they not only need to buy something but are prepared for any change a purchase will cause.
We forget that a buying decision is first a change management problem, before it’s a solution choice issue (Indeed, the last thing buyers want is to buy anything. Literally: the last thing.). By acting as if selling causes buying, we disregard the internal, private, idiosyncratic, systemic change management work buyers must do before they’ve got their ducks in a row and are ready; until then, they can’t buy regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. You don’t buy a house before organizing a whole bunch of stuff with your family and getting buy-in from all the stakeholders. It’s not about the house.
The sales model only handles the solution choice/buying portion of the complete Buying Decision Path targeting those you believe have a probable ‘need’ – the low hanging fruit – and have completed their journey to Buyer Readiness. But this is merely a fraction of those who will eventually buy.
Here are the problems you face when targeting probably buyers who don’t yet have all their ducks in a row:
Sure, you’re making great information available for those who know what to look for and are ready to engage. But by adding a new component, you could be entering earlier and facilitating the full range of steps along the buying decision process – those that are not accessible with the sales model. The problem has never been your terrific solution but in closing all the sales you deserve to close. It’s because sales are solution-placement driven, seeking optimal ways to get to probable buyers but ignores the much higher pool of real prospects who aren’t far enough down their buyer’s journey to commit or engage.
SELLING DOESN’T CAUSE BUYING
As a solution placement model, the sales model is great for when buyers have determined they cannot resolve their solution on their own and have gotten the appropriate buy-in for change. But for those buyers who SHOULD buy but haven’t yet determined if they CAN buy, sales don’t have the intent, skills, or focus on facilitating the Systems Congruence steps buyers must take first. Sales weren’t created to do that.
The ‘modern’ sales model was developed by Dale Carnegie, introduced in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937). He promoted relationships, face-to-face visits, finding folks with a need, and developing great pitches. Think about it: while there are certainly a helluva lot more bells and whistles in 2017, the basic skeleton of need/relationship/appointment/pitch, remains the same. It shouldn’t be. The buying environment has changed dramatically over the past 100 or so years, far more complex than merely choosing a vendor or solution; the sales model hasn’t. It’s time for new thinking. Let’s join buyers where they really have their real ‘pain’ and facilitate Buyer Readiness earlier in their buy-in/systemic change process.
If prospective buyers might need a new CRM system, for example, they cannot buy until their tech guys, users, time frames, vendor relationships, current software etc. are in agreement, recognize they can’t fix their problem themselves and have assembled everyone who will touch the final solution to integrate the ‘new’. It’s not merely about the need; making a purchase means change and until all ‘givens’ are known and handled, the cost of a purchase is too high and they’ll maintain their status quo. And the time it takes them to manage all this is the length of the sales cycle. Having some good conversations with your sales guy, reading some good articles, and liking/needing your solution are necessary later, once they’ve finished their Pre-Sales change work.
The early portion of the decision path is based on managing internal shifts in the status quo, existent rules, internal politics, and relationships, and is decidedly not concerned with buying anything; the sales model is not the appropriate tool for this. Buyers don’t want to buy anything. They just want to resolve a problem with the least disruption and the most efficient use of a resource.
All prospects/buyers must do this anyway, with you or without you. It might as well be with you. It’s what they’re doing (inefficiently, and in confusion) as you sit and wait and hope they’ll call and buy. Why not use your industry knowledge to help them figure out how to traverse their steps efficiently?
With a different hat on and a new skill set, you can facilitate them quickly through their process and be right there with them as they decide. You want to seek/find those exact ones who CAN/WILL buy. And it’s easy to do this by shifting your initial prism from seeking prospects with a ‘need’ to seeking people who are trying to resolve a problem and are willing to change, in the area your solution handles. Until all the ducks are in a row and stakeholders on board, until they recognize the implications to their environment of adding something new, they cannot even understand their full need.
STAGES IN THE BUYING DECISION PATH
To design messaging to find buyers earlier in their Buying Decision Path, recognize the steps buyers take to be ready and able to purchase:
1. Idea stage: Is there a problem?
*Does it need to be solved? When? How?
*What’s the fallout?
*Is the cost of a fix lower than the cost of the status quo?
*Who needs to be involved?
2. Brainstorming stage: Idea discussed with colleagues.
3. Initial discussion stage: Colleagues discuss the problem, posit who to include on Buying Decision Team, consider possible fixes and fallout. Action groups formed. Research begins. New team members invited.
4. Contemplation stage: Group discusses:
*Known workarounds and acceptable/fallout from each,
*People who would need to buy-in.
5. Organization stage: Group collects all internal issues that need consideration, including finding more folks to invite into process; research into the elements of the status quo; fallout to change. Begins to assess the entire scope of problem, resolution possibilities, cost of change/no change.
6. Change management stage: Group to determine:
*Types of research necessary (and who will do it),
*If appropriate people are involved (and who else to invite),
*A review of all elements of the problem and solution options,
*How much change management would be required,
*How much disruption is acceptable.
7. Coordination stage:
*Review needs, ideas, issues of new members invited,
*Incorporate change considerations,
*Delineate everyone’s thoughts re goals and change capacity,
*Appropriate research responsibilities.
8. Research stage: Specific research for each possible solution; seek answers to how fallout and change would need to be managed with each solution.
9. Consensus stage: Buying Decision Team meets to share research consider their givens: downsides per type of solution, possibilities, outcomes, problems, management considerations, changes in policy, job description changes, HR issues, etc. General decisions made. Buy-in and consensus necessary.
10. Action stage: Responsibilities apportioned to manage the specifics of Stage 9. Calls made to several vendors for interviews and data gathering.
11. Second brainstorming stage: Discussion on results of data gathering, calls with vendors and partners, and fallout/benefits of each. Favored vendors pitched by team members.
12. Choice stage: New solution agreed on. Change management issues delineated and put in place. Leadership initiatives prepared to avoid disruption.
13. Implementation stage: Vendor contacted. Purchase made. Everything put in place.
For those who want to explore these stages and all elements of how buyers buy, see my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.
A NEED ISN’T ENOUGH
Instead of only targeting probable buyers (the low hanging fruit) and ignoring the much larger pool of real buyers who are merely too early in their decision process to consider buying anything (but will, once they get to that point in their process), add a new target market and new messaging: spend time interviewing real buyers and learn the full set of issues they must address before they can seek an outside solution instead of trying to resolve the issue themselves, and use your new understanding of their change management issues to help the right ones get ready.
Note: you can’t use your current messaging to begin selling if you want to influence those who WILL buy and use the stages as the focus of leading them through their change management process; it’s the wrong tool because change management issues are not information, need, solution or sales driven. You need a new skill to facilitate change first. To manage this Pre-Sales work, and as an adjunct to the sales model, I’ve developed Buying Facilitation® to
Buying Facilitation® is a generic change management, decision facilitation model that can help buyers traverse that part of their journey that sales doesn’t handle. Using unique skill sets not involved in sales (Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, change sequencing) it was designed to optimize the change/decision process. By adding some new messaging and Buyer Persona targets, you can find those who aren’t touched by your sales messages but are in the process of becoming buyers.
By adding new messaging to target those who CAN/WILL buy rather than those you’ve determine might have a ‘need’ (probable buyers), by understanding the Pre-Sales (change management) steps all buyers take, by including messaging that teaches them how to address their internal resistance areas, disparate voices, and needs, you can facilitate the Pre-Sales decision path of those who CAN/WILL buy and enable them to ready themselves for a purchase – and your sales messaging. Here are two examples of success after learning Buying Facilitation®:
Kaiser Permanente initially made 110 visits and got 18 closed sales, wasting too much time traveling to those who COULDN’T/WOULDN’T buy. Adding Buying Facilitation® to their sales, they made 27 visits and got 25 closed sales. They still needed to sell – but only to those who were ready/able to buy. And saved a ton of time/money only traveling to those who were real buyers.
Working with Wachovia small business bankers, they went from 100 calls, 10 appointments, and 2 closed sales over 11 months, to 100 calls, 37 appointments, and 29 closed sales in 3 months. The sales folks’ opening Facilitative Question taught prospects how to do an immediate ‘sort’ for change, rather than need, and got invited to visit and meet all (all) the team members for their first appointment:
How are you adding new banking services to the bank you’re currently using for those times you need additional resource?
Know all – all – of the elements (most are hidden, personal and idiosyncratic) of your buyer’s Pre-Sales decision/change steps so you can design messaging to help them traverse their steps (Note: offering information about your solution here is irrelevant) to change and consensus – and THEN sell. We wait while they do this anyway and run after the ones who have completed this journey. Why not add a new criteria and skill set to what you’re already doing and expand your focus to find those who WILL buy.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader, the author of 1700 articles and 9 books including NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling With Integrity and two Amazon bestsellers: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and the game-changing What? Did you really say what I think I heard? that explains, and fixes, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew is the inventor of a Change Facilitation model that gives influencers a unique set of tools to facilitate congruent change for buyers in sales (Buying Facilitation®), leadership, coaching, and management. She is an inventor, speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach. Her award-winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com carries articles on communication, leadership, decision making, change, sales, and buying. She can be reached at email@example.com
Sharon Drew Morgen August 12th, 2019
Until relatively recently, the United States Post Office (USPO) was a universal communication hub. It delivered birthday greetings and Dear John letters (For you youngsters, those were break-up notes – like you use text these days, only nicer.). It transported legal letters, work agendas, and Christmas gifts. It was how we moved information and communication between people and places.
Now we use the internet and social media for most of our communication. And the USPO? It became a relic of a time never to return, used now to send commercial ads and fliers, inundating us, invading us, with the originator’s needs to push data, separate from our need to utilize it. Superfluous to our lives, we discard these, even if the products they’re introducing are respectable.
SALES NO LONGER NEEDED FOR BUYERS TO BUY
The sales model is drifting down the same route. Until relatively recently, sales was universally accepted as a support and service model, representing expertise buyers needed. Sellers used their skill and product knowledge to help resolve problems; prospects actually sought meetings to get help figuring out how to improve their environments. And certainly, sellers knew their competition well and positioned themselves accordingly.
Those standards no longer apply. People can now choose our solutions without any involvement from us: much of the information buyers need is immediately accessible online – our websites, content marketing, and outreach efforts thoroughly explain our offerings, making a seller’s product knowledge expendable. Outside agencies – Google, social media – rate us independently, without our input, enabling customers to share their experiences of our products, accuracy aside. Our global competitors are at our door, at the touch of a button and shipped in days, often with lower prices. Buying decisions get made amongst large groups of stakeholders, some residing in other countries, often with no direct involvement with day to day operations and certainly well outside our scrutiny or touch points.
The sales model as we’ve known it has gone the way of the USPO – largely irrelevant; buyers now have a more extensive buying decision path that defies our standard practices, guaranteeing much is out of a seller’s control. And yet we continue using the same prism to sell through, the same techniques we used in earlier times, even though our closing rates, now less than 5% for face-to-face and 0.0059% of tech-based sales, consistently decline. Our decades-long focus of placing solutions merely finds the low hanging fruit. Here are some sales techniques we use that are problematic to the buying experience:
Everything about the selling effort is skewered to finding ways to place our solutions. But we miss the bigger opportunity: we can use our time, our skill, to facilitate Buyer Readiness. That means, leading people through the confusing stages they must – must – manage before they are buyers, before they have needs, before they know if, when, what they’ll buy. We wait on the sidelines while they go through this process; the sales model is not set up to influence this.
I have watched, over the past 35 years, as sales has drifted closer to my beliefs as it attempts to take into account the buying decision and the buyer. But because sales continues to consider buyers ONLY in relation to placing solutions, sales only reaches the low hanging fruit: people in the process of considering how to manage disruption will not have interest (yet) in our content. We haven’t accounted for the entire fact pattern of what goes into a buying decision (i.e. need, problem resolution, and product choice are the final considerations) and overlook the largest portion of buyers: those who will buy but aren’t ready yet.
People really don’t want to buy anything, they merely want to resolve a problem. And the problem is so much bigger than purchasing something. It involves
People issues. User issues. Tech issues. Human issues. Culture issues. All unique. As outsiders we can never understand the totality of what’s going on. And yet until all internal factors are managed to assure the least disruption, they are not even buyers. It’s only when they are out of options AND get buy in AND manage potential fallout, do they become buyers. Making our solutions the focus relegates us to being noticed by those at the end of their change process – order takers – and robs us of our ability to enter at a stage that helps them become buyers.
Indeed, buying is the last thing people and groups do, and only then when there is agreement that an outside fix is their only option and have figured out how to manage fallout from bringing in something new in a way that avoids disruption. You can’t buy a house without family agreement, regardless of how wonderful the house or how big the need. You can’t bring in a new CRM system unless the users are on board and are willing to use it, unless the tech folks know how to incorporate it into what they’re already using, until they’ve tried to fix what they’ve got, until a user training is developed and scheduled. It’s not about the house. It’s not about the CRM system. It’s about the change process.
So long as we focus on solution placement, we will only find those who have figured it all out. We could be helping them by shifting our focus to first connect via managing their change. Instead, buyers do all this change stuff without us as we wait and call and hope and call and send and hope and wait.
The sales industry has finally figured out that success has at least as much to do with ‘buying’ as it does selling. But it continues to use the prism of placing solutions even here: it has not gone so far as using new skill sets that help buyers manage the change (which is a necessary precursor to buying and has nothing to do with our solutions, or needs, at all – i.e. no info gathering, no understanding of needs, no information pitch, presentation AND no attempt to influence or strategize the final elements (i.e. money) perceived as reasons for buying. We begin contact by facilitating the REAL buying decision factors.).
SALES HAS A VERY LIMITED SCOPE
For goodness sakes, it’s time to stop focusing first on placing solutions. Why not help those who WILL buy be ready! And believe it or not, once we take off our ‘selling’ blinders and use a prism of facilitating the steps to change, it’s quite easy to use a different skill set to recognize people who WILL buy on the first call. For this we enter with a different type of question (Facilitative Question) and a different goal: to recognize those who seek change in the area we can support them in.
Buying is a change management issue, not a solution choice issue – a process, part of systemic change, not an event. People become buyers only at Step 10 of a 13 step decision process that addresses the elements of recognizing and managing change. Until this is complete, buyers can’t buy and we are wasting a valuable opportunity to facilitate them, of entering earlier where we are now ignored. Let’s recognize that due to the complexity of change, selling doesn’t cause buying:
We have chosen to sit back and wait while they go through their non-solution/buying-related steps. But we can enable Buyer Readiness. The sales model as we’ve known it is insufficient as a stand-alone model. It’s a Tier 2 model. Think about this:
1. People don’t want to buy anything– they merely want to resolve a problem and the last thing they do is bring in something new. People live in environments – systems, if you will – and try to resolve their own problems. It is ONLY when they cannot, AND they have the buy-in from the full set of stakeholders AND can manage any change that a new solution would incur, that they are willing to make a purchase.
When sellers push solution information before people recognize the complexities of the environment they’re seeking to change – they waste an opportunity to facilitate change (which has nothing to do with buying anything). Again, think of that junk you now get in your mailbox.
Buyers don’t even notice our content it until they seek out a solution that will match the intricacies of their buying decision and environment – at the point they are ready to change/buy. It will NOT convince them to buy something they haven’t yet determined they cannot fix themselves. The last thing they do is seek information. In other words, it will be ignored by those you wish to reach, no matter how accurate your demographic data. It’s about the buying, not the selling.
2. Until or unless everyone who touches a new solution is on board with whatever change will occur with a new solution, there will be no purchase. Talking to that one person who claims she has a need does NOT give us the necessary information to know what’s going on. We cannot ever know the internal dynamics. Ever.
3. There is a very specific process that everyone (buyers) goes through before they do anything different (change, decide, buy). It involves the 13 steps to all change, a purchase is a change management decision. The sales model only enters at step 10 when it’s agreed by all that the status quo cannot resolve the problem and everyone is ready to change. Hence, we do nothing more than find the low hanging fruit – and then we all fight over the 5%.
The time it takes for everyone who will touch the new solution and processes that come from it is the length of the sales cycle.
4. People become buyers only if they have a route to manage change. The sales model overlooks the change management piece of the equation, although sellers blame buyers for being ‘stupid’ or ‘not understanding they have a need.’ It’s not about the solution or the information or the buying. It’s about change. So long as sellers focus their interactions on placing solutions, they will merely take orders when people are ready to call in and buy.
The folks who use my Buying Facilitation® model enter all new conversations seeking who is ready, willing, and able to change. The prism is CHANGE, not NEED. Until all the elements of change are managed, people don’t even know what their need entails.
5. Until everyone buys in to change, the environment will prefer the status quo; whatever is happening now is baked in to the norm. Need has nothing to do with who buys. The prime focus is to maintain the environment. Until they know how to do that, they won’t buy, regardless of need or solution relevance.
6. We assume that people will understand they need us if we ask the right questions and create the right content, and that folks will wake up and notice of their need as soon as they read it!
We restrict our potential buyers to those who seek that specific information, overlooking their need to integrate information with unique circumstances, their status quo and rules, making much information provided conjecture. Not to mention we could easily reposition the way we discuss the content to meet real needs.
The sales model was designed to place solutions. That’s it. By entering early with a different mindset and skills, we can be closing 40% more sales.
A WHOLLY DIFFERENT SKILL SET
I have written extensively, and trained large numbers of global sellers, around this issue. In Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell I introduce a new model (Buying Facilitation®) that explains the 13 steps all people and groups take (even for small individual purchases) on route to becoming buyers. Since the first 9 of them have nothing to do with buying anything but with managing change, it involves a different set of skills – facilitating the right people through their change to buy sooner. No longer do we begin trying to ‘understand’ buyers, or make appointments, push our solutions, we first find folks who will become buyers and lead them efficiently through their change, and then – only then – offer solution details.
We can’t know anything about the person we’re speaking to. By knowing each step of change, we can hear where they are along their decision path. Have they collected the full set of stakeholders or are they just beginning? Do they recognize the downside to their environment of a purchase? Are they still trying to fix the problem themselves? Change is complex. People don’t even understand themselves. Here is where we can help. We can facilitate people through the steps of change and convert more people into buyers now.
To shift the focus from selling to facilitating change and the buying decision process, Buying Facilitation® employs different skills: since our normal questions are biased by our needs, I developed Facilitative Questions to help Others figure out their own change process; Presumptive Summaries that help them recognize what they’re missing in their thinking; Listening for Systems as a way to truly hear what’s being said outside of our own biases; and the 13 steps of change, to lead them through each of the steps they must, must address en route to change. The entire process is laid out in Dirty Little Secrets.
It’s not a sales process, but works as the front end of selling to help people recognize the elements in their own process that precedes seeking an external solution. Because we seek out folks who CAN change rather than seek those who SHOULD buy, we enter their buying decision path and lead them through each step of change – helping them help themselves. It’s a Servant Leader model that facilitates change, not a sales model that influences solution placement. It’s a very different mindset. I often ask: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They’re two different activities. And sales ignores one of them.
THE COST OF NO CHANGE
The sales industry is like one of those buyers we disparage for not understanding they need us. Since 1987 when I ran my first Buying Facilitation® program at KLM (titled Helping Buyers Buy), I’ve trained about 100,000 sales folks, beginning with pilot programs that always ran alongside a control group selling the same product. Here’s a calculation of the typical results, regardless of industry or price:
Kaiser Permanente: went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits, 25 closed sales.
KPMG: selling a $50,000,000 solution, went from a 3 year sales cycle to a 4 month sales cycle.
Boston Scientific: had a 53% increase in close rates and a one call close rather than months of follow up.
IBM: I personally sold $6,400,000 worth of business as I spoke directly with existing clients during the coaching portion of my onsite Buying Facilitation® training.
Sales professionals have told me my results aren’t possible. And I agree: using the sales model, the beliefs and skills of selling, it’s not possible.
SALES CAN MAKE A BIG CONTRIBUTION – BUT NOT THE WAY IT’S BEING USED NOW
With the skills they possess, sellers and marketers can have a vital role in facilitating people through their steps of change to becoming buyers. First they must understand the differences between selling and buying. Here’s what buying entails:
A buyer is someone (or group) who has tried to resolve a problem using their own known resources (People never, ever, start out to buy something first!), has gotten buy in from everyone who will touch the solution, and knows and manages any fallout that the new will cause. A buying decision is a change management problem first, a solution choice issue second.
Instead of assuming a buying decision is a solution choice issue and continuing as it has for millennia to push content, instead of assuming our job is still persuade folks to take action on our content, or place solutions (It’s not. It’s to facilitate buying.), sellers can facilitate the folks who CAN/WILL buy through the steps of change they must manage – and that we sit and wait for them to accomplish. I have written extensively on this. Here are some articles to peruse.
Plus, get ahold of my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. It introduces each step of the buying decision process, along with how my Facilitative Questions lead prospective buyers, step by step, through to being actual buyers. It’s time to add the ability to facilitate the full buying decision journey into our sales efforts.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the inventor of Buying Facilitation®, a decision facilitation model that helps people traverse each step they must address on route to being willing to buy a solution while involving the steps necessary to go through congruent change. She is the author of many books, including the NYTimes business bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets, and most recently What? Did you really say what I think I heard that helps close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew’s latest work involves the HOW of Change – teaching folks to consciously generate new synapses and neural pathways for new behaviors and habits. She is a coach, trainer, original thinker, and inventor.
Sharon Drew Morgen August 5th, 2019
Posted In: News
Do you enter conversations with a goal, or set of expectations? Do you assume you’ll have solutions for your Communication Partners (CPs)? Do you listen carefully to pose the best questions to enable you to fulfill your expectations? Do you assume the responses to your questions provide an accurate representation of the full fact pattern – ‘good’ data – to base your follow-on questions on? Do you assume your history of similar topics provides a route to an optimal outcome?
If any of the above are true, you’re biasing your conversation.
In other words, your unconscious inhibits and biases optimal results. But it’s not your fault.
OUR BRAINS CAUSE A GAP BETWEEN WHAT’S SAID AND WHAT’S HEARD
The most surprising takeaway from my year of research for my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard was learning how little of what we think we hear is unbiased, or even accurate. Indeed, it’s pretty rare for us to hear precisely what another intends us to hear. Yet that doesn’t stop us from translating what’s said into what we want to hear.
Employing biases, assumptions, triggers, memory tricks, and habit (filters that act as information sieves) our brains take a habitual route when listening to others, alter and omit at will, and don’t even tell us what’s been transformed, regardless of our desire to be neutral. So the Other might say ABC and our brains actually tell us they said ABL. I once lost a business partner because he ‘heard’ me say X when three of us confirmed I said Y. “I was right here! Why are you all lying to me! I KNOW she said that!” And he walked out in a self-generated rage.
Indeed, as outsiders, we cannot ever know the full range of givens within our CPs innermost thinking. Every person, every situation, every conversation is unique. And given variances in our beliefs/values, background, identity, etc., our inability to accurately hear exactly what is intended causes us to unintentionally end up working with data of unknowable accuracy, causing a restricted, speculative route to understanding or success.
Net net, we unwittingly base our conversation, goals, questions, intuitive responses and offerings on an assumption of what we think has been said, and we fully succeed only with those whose biases match our own. [Note: for those who want to manage this problem, I’ve developed a work-around in Chapter 6 of What?)
ENTERING CONVERSATIONS WITHOUT BIAS
The problem is compounded when we enter and continue conversations with unconscious biases that further restrict possibility. Because of the potential constraints, we must take extra care to enter and guide conversations without bias. But our natural listening habits make that difficult:
Once we have expectations, success is restricted to the overlap between our needs and the CPs; the real problems and solutions lie outside. Here are some ideas to help you create conversations that avoid restriction:
Here are the steps everyone goes down to discover their own answers:
By assuming your client has his own answers hidden in his unconscious that just need to be found, by acting merely as a facilitator, by eschewing information gathering questions and pitches, you can help Others design their own fix, avoid bias, stop wasting time on those who will never buy-in, and truly serve another. You won’t have the type of control you’re used to, but thinking with a systems brain, you’ll have a much more powerful control: you’ll be facilitating real change.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an entrepreneur, original thinker, NYTimes bestselling author, speaker, trainer, and coach. She is the author of What? did you really say what I think I heard? that explains how our brains bias and restrict what’s heard and has designed learning materials to help those interested in discovering their biases. She also developed a sequenced facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) that’s often used in sales and coaching, to lead Others through their own unique decision making and change patterns. She is the author of the NYTimess Business Best Seller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and 7 other books on facilitating change. Sharon Drew has been globally training coaches and sellers for 35 years. She is happy to discuss with folks who are curious: firstname.lastname@example.org; 512 771 1117.
Sharon Drew Morgen July 29th, 2019
Posted In: Listening
Imagine being in a strange country where you don’t understand the mores – and aren’t aware you don’t understand them. Say, waiting for scrambled eggs to show up for breakfast in Tel Aviv (They eat salad for breakfast.), or saying a friendly “Hi” to young indigenous men in the jungles of Ecuador, wondering why they then followed you in a pack (Looking into a man’s eyes means a woman is ready for sex.).
The events can be interpreted by both cultures. But in the case of Aspies, we’re sort of stuck: you Neuro Typicals (NTs) make the rules. And they are crazy.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
As an Aspie, my internal rules, my assumptions, my responses, are different from a NTs. My perception of what’s going on is in a different universe. I hear metamessages primarily, content secondarily, and I respond according to what the Speaker intended rather than what my (biased) ears interpret. I think in systems and experience the world in wholes, in circles, in patterns so I experience entirety, not segments of sequences.
From my vantage point, NTs – largely thinking sequentially, in a horizontal world that compares everything against a biased norm – make rules that fit a standard I cannot fathom. Yet somehow, with the majority of humans on the NT scale, there’s agreement that those rules make sense. They don’t.
Why should I reply “Fine, thanks. How are you?” when someone asks how I am? It’s a real question, right? Does that mean they don’t want to know? If they don’t care, why did they ask in the first place? And how did it get agreed that a meaningless exchange is an authentic greeting? I’ll never understand.
Why am I labeled inappropriate when I respond to something differently than ‘expected’? Who says NTs are the ones who understand accurately? Maybe my references and responses are the correct way of seeing and NTs are just following herd thinking. Maybe my references and responses are a great ‘add’ to a conversation that expands the scope of the subject.
Why am I the one being too direct? Why aren’t you being more honest?
Why am I the one who’s deemed too intense? Why are you so superficial?
I recently watched my 7 year old friend throw a small toy across the room where his four younger sibs played on the floor. Stop throwing that, said Dad, afraid the little ones might get hurt. My friend again threw the toy. Stop, or I’ll take it away, said Dad. Again, the toy went across the room. Give me that. No more toy.
I said to my young friend, “Your dad was afraid the toy might hurt your brothers and sister. What were you hoping to accomplish by throwing that toy?”
“I wanted to understand how it was spinning.”
“So next time, tell Dad what you want to do and he’ll let you go outside to throw it.”
THINKING IN SYSTEMS LEADS TO MORE CREATIVITY
My Aspie brain perceives a wholly different culture from the world of NTs, with expectations, referents, assumptions, thinking systems, rules, and different interpretations. I personally have a wholly different understanding of what’s happening – a difference that enabled me to develop new models for conscious choice, so different from making unconscious decisions from long-held biases and assumptions. Indeed, I have devoted my life to unraveling, (de)coding, each step of unconscious systems to make them conscious so everyone can make congruent choices – and then making the new thinking understandable and usable by others in books and courses.
Thinking in systems has made my life rich with creativity. I have the ability to translate, and develop models to scale, how brains make decisions and how systemic change occurs. And while I’ve trained my models to sales folks and leaders in global corporations for decades with highly successful results, I continue to be judged negatively against the norms of the NT world. One noted neuroscientist said my thinking, my models are not possible, although he never asked what they’re comprised of. Somehow, ‘different’ goes with ‘aberrant’ or ‘eccentric.’
How, I wonder, does the world change unless the outliers like me instigate radical change? You can’t do that from the middle. And if more NTs were willing to be curious, look through a different lens, it wouldn’t take people like me decades to instill productive ideas.
RIGHT VS WRONG
So that brings me to my question: How do Aspies end up being the ones who are wrong or on the wrong side of normal? I’ve been shunned at invitation-only conferences of author-colleagues (when I was the only one with a New York Times bestseller), ignored at parties, thrown out of events (by very, very famous people), not invited to an event every other person at the table was invited to – and invited in front of me, while I was the one person obviously, meticulously, excluded.
Why? Because my ideas, my speaking patterns, are different? Because they challenge the norm? Why isn’t that exciting? Or fun? Or interesting?
Geesh – I show up in nice clothes, I’ve got a respected professional reputation, I speak well, wrote a bunch of books and train global corporations in my original models. So I guess I’m a bit smart. I don’t harm anyone, have a decent personality, am generous and supportive. I’m even funny.
And yet. And yet, I say ‘wrong’ stuff, and tell unseemly stories when my brain references something that others don’t reference. And instead of going ‘Cool Beans!’ ‘That was interesting!’ Or ‘That was weird, SD. Where did your brain go on that?’ My work gets overlooked, although it can make an important difference in several fields – sales, healthcare, coaching, management, leadership. What rules am I breaking that aren’t worthy of curiosity? Or kind acceptance? Or humor? Or excitement?
I heard a comic once ask why men were the ones in the wrong for leaving the toilet seat up. Why wasn’t the woman wrong for leaving it down? Same toilet seat. Up. Down. What makes one wrong?
The good news about Aspies is that we’re often pretty smart. Because we think in systems and can see all aspects of something (NTs think sequentially and miss whole swathes of real data – the reason Aspies often think NTs are dumb.), we often are the innovators, the visionaries, who notice, invent, code stuff decades before academics or scientists. Yet folks like Tesla, and Cezanne die without their work having relevance. I read that the only painting Cezanne ever sold was to Matisse who wanted to study the painting to learn how Cezanne did what he did. Why didn’t others recognize Cezanne was to be learned from rather than derided? Why is the easiest route the one that ignores, avoids, derides?
I was running programs for internal sales folks at Bethlehem Steel. After a year of working successfully with Dan at their Sparrows Point, MD group, I was being handed over to the Burns Harbor MI group. Dan invited the new manager to lunch to meet me as a hand over. We all spoke for a bit of time, and as I got up to go to the restroom, I heard the Burns Harbor manager say to Dan, “Is she always like this??” to which he replied, “Oh yes! And you’ll learn to love her.”
In these days of more openness and a real desire to accept minorities, to communicate and live without bias, maybe it’s time that Aspies are acknowledged as well. Maybe when NTs hear someone say something that’s a bit off the mark, or rattle on about a topic that’s interesting albeit a bit long winded (We get SO excited by our topics!), maybe they can just say, ‘Hm. Sounds like an Aspie. I wonder what I can learn here. I wonder if I can be curious about something new.’ Then we, too, can have a voice. And just maybe we can become a welcome addition, add our two cents, and maybe make the world a better place because of our differences. Just sayin’.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation®, Facilitative Questions, 13 steps of systemic change, and the HOW of change. Author of the award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com and 9 books including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew trains, coaches, speaks in several industries, including sales, healthcare, communication, change, Servant Leadership. She lives on a houseboat in Portland OR and can be reached at email@example.com
Sharon Drew Morgen July 15th, 2019
I became enamored of the concept Servant Leadership in the 1980s. Developed by Robert Greenleaf, it’s defined thus: a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. Greenleaf says, “The servant–leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.”
Such an important concept, yet the skills to practice it elude us. I’d like to help change that.
THE BIAS PROBLEM
As a Buddhist, I deeply believe that serving one another is a necessary aspect of our lives. But the communication skill sets inherent in our culture don’t make it easy for influencers to truly serve:
With our current skill sets, we end up pushing our own agendas (in the name of the Other, of course), according to our subjective needs, beliefs, and goals (using our ‘professionalism’ and ‘intuition’ to tell ourselves we’re ‘right’) and restrict the full set of possibilities – even potentially causing a rift in the relationship. We assume that because we have the moral high ground, that because our intention is honorable (or necessary, or dictated by above, or rational, etc.) the only missing piece is ‘how best’ to get Others to do what we think they should do. I once ran a Buying Facilitation® training for The Covey Leadership Center. They staunchly believed that because they were teaching The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, they were above manipulation and ‘healers’ who had the right to push and manipulate. And they absolutely believed that because they were ‘right’ they got to use any strategies they need to convince.
We forget that by assuming we have Another’s answers, and taking on the job of making sure the Other does what’s ‘right’, we end up taking their power away, assuredly biasing the direction of their growth journey, and not serving them at all. Not to mention it’s quite impossible to understand Another’s unconscious, that whatever they are doing has been part of their normal operating system and used habitually during the course of their lives.
Regardless of the efficacy of what we offer, our approach threatens the Other’s status quo. Our biased questions, the Other’s inability to hear us outside of their habituated listening filters (and our inability to hear them accurately), and the existing rules and Beliefs that have put the current (problematic) behaviors in place, will resist us. We are causing the resistance we receive and blaming them for their resistance – prospects who seem ‘stupid’, and patients who ‘don’t care’ about their health, students who ‘don’t want’ to learn, and clients who ‘won’t listen’ to us.
WHY WE CAN’T CHANGE OTHERS EVEN WITH GOOD MOTIVES
We know someone needs to stop smoking, or eat differently. We are certain the environment is in trouble. But we don’t seem to have the ability to get someone to change. We provide all the scientific evidence, relate a story of someone who has died, or offer different approaches to stop. And yet they persist. We know that a company or group really, really needs our solution, and yet they persist with failing results rather than buy.
What is going on? Why would anyone prefer to maintain failure rather than change? Seems that way, but it’s not entirely accurate. Everyone would prefer Excellence, but using conventional practices, change runs the risk of permanent disruption in our comfortable habits and status quo; outside-in push/behavior change approaches do not effectively manage the unconscious that would need to buy-in, and accomodate for, any change. Let’s start with our attempts to have Another change a behavior. The reasons we fail mount up:
So our entire approach leads to a high degree of bias, resistance, and failure as we promote the changes we think should occur in a way that challenges Another’s status quo. We don’t realize that whatever ‘new’ comes into an existing system must fit with the status quo or it gets rejected rather than be disrupted. We don’t realize we’re actually causing the resistance we receive.
And resist they do – not because our data or goals aren’t worthy or necessary, and not because they don’t want to change per se, but because our good will, shared information, and ‘push’ tactics conflict with the Other’s unconscious system that protects itself from unknowable disruption. Indeed, any modifications to the status quo would have to be performed in a way would leave the system congruent. The system would rather be fine, as it is, than not exist. And the time it takes for the system to accept and make room for the ‘new’ is the length of time it takes for adoption. With the best will in the world we challenge their Systems Congruence.
And unfortunately, as doctors and sellers, trainers and consultants, parents and coaches – as influencers – we don’t have the full set of skills to do more than attempt to cause change, rather than elicit it. We don’t naturally possess the skills of Servant Leadership.
GIVE UP INDIVIDUAL NEEDS
True Servant Leadership enables others to elicit their own congruent change. Since our current skill sets won’t get us there, we need new skills that facilitate Others, and a switch in perspective to enabling Others to discover their own answers. We must change the trajectory of our efforts. There is a route to facilitating Another’s change that is congruent, highly successful, and offers real leadership with no resistance.
I’ve spent my life coding the unconscious route through to choice and change. Although I’ve often written about, and trained it, in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), it’s actually a generic Change Facilitation model that offers the tools to enable Others to discover and own their own Excellence, an Excellence that complies with the rules and history of their own Beliefs, an Excellence that can be eagerly, joyously adopted because it operates from within their status quo.
Servant Leadership assumes:
Decades ago, I mapped the sequential steps of systemic choice, change, and decision making enabling people to discover their own best choices that match the rules and values of their internal system. These steps traverse a pathway from the unconscious, where their habituated behaviors and status quo originates through to buy-in and Systems Congruence so change is comfortably adopted, without disruption.
I have taught these skill sets to influencers in business, coaching, leadership, and healthcare to assist in facilitating permanent, congruent change: to help buyers buy, to help coaches, leaders, and doctors elicit congruent, permanent change, to help learners learn permanently – eliciting the core of the unconscious HOW to facilitate Another’s excellence their own way – to find their own answers.
So what would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to begin interactions as a Servant Leader rather than a coach, parent, seller, leader? How can you know, given the skill sets and foundations are so different, that it’s worth taking the time to add new skill sets to the ones you already use? Imagine having the skills that truly enable Others to find their own Excellence. Imagine being a true Servant Leader.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, and subject matter expert, as well as the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew speaks, trains, coaches, and consults in sales, healthcare, coaching, and leadership. She is the originator of Buying Facilitation®, a Change Facilitation model that offers influencers the tools to facilitate congruent change in Others via Servant Leadership. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Drew Morgen July 8th, 2019
Posted In: Listening
Would you consider a baseball player with a 95% failure rate Successful? Would you choose a surgeon with a 95% failure rate? Can you think of any field but sales, with an industry-standard close rate of 5%, that considers 95% failure ‘Success’? Using targets, commissions, hiring, and profits based on a 5% close rate, the field of sales colludes in perpetuating the lie that failure is Success. Why hasn’t anyone ever said, “Gee. Maybe a 5% close rate is 95% failure. Maybe it’s a sign something’s wrong? Maybe it’s not a solution-placement/content/pitch/buyer/marketing/technology problem.”
It’s possible to have much, much higher close rates. But that would demand the industry admit a problem. By colluding that a 5% close is industry standard – indeed, all that’s possible with the current Solution-Placement focus! – there’s no need to change.
THE MYTH OF SALES
When I began selling in 1979 the average close rate was 8%. Now, with our new electronic capability, sophisticated on-line marketing software, and ‘new new’ sales models, it’s down to 5%. Why? Because our current buying/selling environments are far more complex; consensus and change management are now necessary elements for buyer-readiness; and our Solution-Placement focus is designed to find only the 5% who are ready to buy.
By starting at the end of a buyer’s decision process, hoping beyond hope to convince buyers they need our great solution, sellers get push back from a buyer’s good-enough-functioning system not equipped for change, and finding only those who have completed their comprehensive decision making – the low hanging fruit (5%). That’s right: Sales pushes and pitches, presents and proposes, hopes and waits, using activity developed to find the 5% who are ready. Sales has never questioned its assumption that
It’s never recognized that prospects can’t even hear what we’ve got to say or know how it’s relevant before determining their readiness to change and buying anything; it’s never mentioned that with all the marketing, all the outreach, all the never-ending attempts to ‘get in’, nothing we’ve done for decades has significantly shifted our close rates. It’s because we’re pushing in from the back end and getting resistance, rather than entering at the beginning. More on this in a moment.
Look at this this way: we’ve got nothing to sell if they’ve got nothing to buy, and doing what we’ve been doing hasn’t produced appreciably different results – and we can’t use the problem to fix the problem [Remember Einstein?]. The issue demands new thinking, new biases, new goals, and new skill sets. Let me share what I did to fix the problem with my tech start up in London in the 80s.
Going from a sales person to an international entrepreneur, I recognized the low close rate problem as one of focus: sales focuses on placing solutions; buyers focus on solving (business) problems with minimal fallout. And since buyers can buy only when there is appropriate buy-in for change, management of fallout, and consensus among users (all steps necessary in some form regardless of the size or price of the solution), our efforts to find buyers or prospects is like seeking a needle in a haystack.
I figured out a solution to help my sales teams enter buyer interactions as change facilitators who nurture buyer-readiness first: I developed Buying Facilitation® as a facilitation/leadership tool to help buyers recognize and achieve their most efficient change processes without biasing them or being purchase/product focused. We ended up with a 35% close rate (up from 9%) from first call, regardless of the size of the sale (all buyers/prospects go through some form of this, even if unconsciously).
In 1987 I began teaching the model to clients, then left my business to teach the model full time to global corporate clients. Yet my results – all with control group studies – were largely ignored by the mainstream: I repeatedly came up against the collusion that perpetuates failure and the status quo, even in the face of obvious success. Here’s an overview of some of the resistance:
Working with Morgan Stanley in the 1990s, we achieved a 25% increase in one month over the control group. Follow on: the MD sent someone to Chicago to check on a man who purportedly had a similar buying-based model (turns out he didn’t). Why not just hire me to train everyone? Because I was a woman. He actually said that to the person he sent to Chicago.
A group at William Blair & Co. (brokerage house) went from a $400 million revenue to $1.3 billion in just under four years. Colleagues wondering how Jim achieved those spectacular numbers got a copy of my book Dirty Little Secrets from a carton he kept under his desk. Invariably they said the book was ‘Nuts’ and that Jim was just ‘lucky’. With a near-miraculous success happening before their eyes, this group preferred to devalue the results and continue failing rather than even trying to change.
Working with Boston Scientific, we achieved a 53% increase over the control group. During the ‘Thank You’ call from my client, I asked if we’d be training the entire team. “No, the model is “too controversial.”
Kaiser Permanente went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales (7% close rate) to 27 visits and 25 closed sales (600% increase). They fired my client, saying that training their 1500 sales folks in the new material would create a major disruption; they disbanded and re-assigned the folks I trained so the new skills would be subsumed.
Proctor and Gamble had a 15% increase in one month (huge in a behemoth company of this size). They said it would cost millions of dollars to change the systems that maintained their status quo – the manufacturing, delivery, billing, etc. all maintained a much slower sales cycle. They didn’t do further training.
I could go on and on. Crazy stuff. Incontrovertible proof that adding different skills and shifting the focus closed more sales and wasted a lot less time (in vastly shortened sales cycle, creating more ready buyers, and early dismissal of those who would never buy). They’d prefer to maintain failure? Build and compensate sales forces on 4-6% close rates? Lose market share, hire 9x more sales staff with high turnover, pay more in training and travel? Yet the sales industry is doing what all systems do: eschew greater success to maintain ‘good enough’ and the ‘known’. That’s right. Like the sales industry, my clients preferred lower revenues than change.
HERE’S THE REAL DEAL
Here are the underlying ‘givens’ that we ignore using the sales/Solution-Placement approach alone:
Believe it or not, there is only one issue causing the entire set of problems above. Only one. Sales pushes solution data at the wrong time, starting at the end of the Buying Decision Path, and finds only that group, that person, that shows up at that time, with everyone else ignoring or resisting. You would never buy a computer without doing research, talking to friends to help you gather and recognize all necessary criteria. Lots of personal decisions. As a team member in a company, you would never bring in training without the team’s input, or an attempt to try to fix the problem on your own first, or talking to current vendors, or getting referrals from colleagues. Lots of group decisions.
Research is showing the deterrent to sales success is our difficulty getting in to The Pre-Sales Process. While sales has attempted to resolve this issue by creating clever ways to get in from the outside (Buyer Personas being one) and is trying new tools to lead customers through to their buy cycle, it’s all taking place with a Solution-Placement bias. So long as the intent is to sell, an outsider will get resistance: there’s no way an outsider can ‘understand’ prospects during their change/decision/systems activities as they lie deep within the buyer’s culture. Before any purchase, buyers must figure out how to manage the resultant change and disruption congruently and until they do, theyre just not ready to attend to our needs to sell.
But as outsiders, we can still understand how systems change and serve by helping prospects discover their own steps to Excellence; if what you’re selling matches their buying criteria once they’re ready (much more quickly than if they do this on their own), you’ve made a very quick sale with little competition. Think about it. You don’t buy the way you sell. The sales model is a solution placement model never meant to facilitate consensus, buyer readiness, or systemic change.
It’s fixable once we stop colluding and perpetuating the myth of success; instead of redefining failure to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is optimal, let’s just concede that what we’re doing is Failure and do something different. Put together a strategy to add some sort of leadership/coaching/consulting practice based on facilitating change (not based on manipulating a sale). Do this consistently in marketing and content, cold calls, prospecting, telemarking, presentation meetings, and your large sales. The question is: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? We need both for success; they each demand a different skill set.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Buying Facilitation® that includes a unique form of systemic, non-biased question (Facilitative Questions), a new form of listening (Listening for Systems), and a coded change sequence that incorporates all levels of change. Morgen has trained this model to global corporations for solutions of all sizes. She is a NYTimes Business Bestselling author of 7 books on the topic of facilitating buying decisions, including Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets; she is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and trains collaborative communication and unbiased listening to sellers, coaches, and leaders. Morgen consults, coaches, speaks, and trains; her blog ranked one of the top 10 sales/marketing blogs.
Contact Sharon Drew with questions: email@example.com 512 771 1117
Sharon Drew Morgen July 1st, 2019
As professionals a big part of our jobs is to influence change. We assume we know the appropriate means to get where we want to be. Certainly we think we know the right questions to get the data we think we need.
But sometimes our questions miss the unconscious drivers, and the incomplete data we collect as a result skews our outcomes. Or we unwittingly cause resistance even when our solutions are important and well-conceived.
WHAT ARE QUESTIONS AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
The questions we use aren’t achieving what we want them to achieve. Here’s why:
Information-based questions are the standard, but because the focus of the Questioner may not address the full fact pattern or cirumstances of the Responder, they unnecessarily bias outcomes, activities, and data accuracy. What if it were possible to formulate a question that would:
Questions, posed with the goal of enabling Others to change themselves and discover their own answers, can be a vehicle for true leadership, change and discovery. But not the conventional information-based ‘pull’ questions (based on curiosity and needs of Asker) we are accustomed to.
Since I’ve been a teenager I’ve studied the brain for ways to impact our own unconscious choices, so difficult to influence because of the elusive nature of the unconscious and the problem with subjective bias that can skewer results. I was particularly curious if it were possible for an outside influencer to help us make good decisions that would maintain our integrity by helping uncover and re-weight our unconscious criteria.
In 1988 I read Roger Schank’s The Creative Attitude. The book discusses how the unconscious biases all decisions. I was most interested in his ideas about how our brains store data in memory indices. The idea that inspired me to action remains with me: the only way to get to these hidden bits of memory is through questions. Hhmmm. I found that interesting. Was it possible to use questions to unlock everything in the indices – including the unconscious drivers, the beliefs, the values, the emotions? How could they be used without causing resistance, given the biased nature of questions?
I began experimenting with new forms of questions that would uncover unconscious drivers and weight the hierarchies in each of us that create our status quo, in hopes it might be possible to help others change from the inside out. I finally came up with a model that enables an outsider to facilitate unconscious choices.[I’m going to walk you through an overview of how I came up with the solution I’ve been teaching in corporations for 25 years. It’s a bit different than you’re used to, so hang with me. And I’m always available to discuss it. At the end of the article I’ve linked to ways you can learn more. For this article, I’m introducing the concepts.]
I recognized two main factors that offer the foundation to thinking of questions and decision making differently: information and systems.
Information: because the focus of the Questioner may not address the full fact pattern or cirumstances of the Responder,
But information-gathering is a biased endeavor – biased by the beliefs/needs/goals of the Questioner – and avoids engaging core beliefs; without addressing the gooey, human stuff that makes up the foundational beliefs, system, status quo that has created, and maintains, the status quo and are in effect to ensure each person remains congruent onto themselves. Given the inherent bias in the Asker’s content-based questions, it’s not possible for conventional questions to discover the full array of possible data points, or encourage change.
Systems: To understand the difficulty of influencing unconscious choice – necessary for success in any sort of change (buying, change management, decision facilitation, etc.) – we must recognize it as a systems problem: since change involves some sort of insult to our internal and unconscious system/status quo, any change must include buy-in of everything within the system that will touch the final solution or the system will resist. It’s the principle of homeostasis – systems maintain equilibrium, and change without buy-in puts the system out of balance. We are all familiar with the repercussions of what happens when unconscious issues rear their ugly heads during implementations or group decisions. No change can happen until all of the systems elements that will touch a new solution knows how to continue functioning well despite the change. The system is sacrosanct.
Eventually I developed a new type of question: Facilitative Questions 1. assume that only the system (person, group) itself has knowledge of the accurate answers to their own questions, 2. are used as directional devices to parts of the unconscious that will clarify and capture the appropriate, most relevant decision criteria (sometimes unconscious) from a Responder’s memory indices and make their appropriate systemic drivers conscious. These questions enable people to illuminate their own criterial issues necessary to include in new choices for Systems Congruency. We are shifting the onus of responsibility from the Asker wanting the answers to the Responder being the only one that has the answers. In other words, outsiders – sellers, coaches, therapists, friends, clients – are facilitators who enable Others to discover their own Excellence.
Here’s a simple example of the differences between conventional questions and Facilitative Questions:
Information-based question (conventional question used by a questioner to extract information or gather data for the questioner’s purposes): Why do you wear your hair like that? This is a biased question which extracts historic data from the responder’s memory according to the needs of the questioner, and may cause her to defend past decisions as the query might bump against underlying beliefs. The responder might have no idea of the reasons behind the question but certainly already knows the answer from a previous decision made. The question might feel invasive and her response will be commensurately biased.
Facilitative Question (sequential navigational question used by a facilitator to help responders discover unconscious belief-based criteria): How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? This question neutrally brings together several indices that might make the responder curious without resistant, offers him the curiosity to examine choices and change possibilities, and compares current choices with past and future choices – all without manipulation, bias, or data gathering, and with no potential threat to the current system. The questioner as the facilitator becomes the change agent/servant leader.
In the example above, the question How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle the words ‘how’ ‘know’ ‘if’ ‘time’ ‘reconsider’ are all carefully placed and chosen to be resistance-avoidant, and directed to prior decisions while considering change and obligations. And most important, it doesn’t attack current or previous choices.
THE COMPLETE MODEL
Using Facilitative Questions, and incorporating my historic knowledge of systems, I then developed a decision facilitation model (called Buying Facilitation® as its initial use was in sales) that offers Influencers (sellers, coaches, leaders, management, marketing, doctors, etc.) the ability to help Others sequentially traverse their unconscious indices and design creative answers that discover their OWN answers and maintain Systems Congruence. Used and formulated most effectively, Facilitative Questions use specific words, posed in a specific order, and follow a specific sequence that makes change comfortable and resistance-free. In other words, buyers can recognize issues that would cause them to recognize the need to buy (or not); coaching clients can recognize their best path to change and eschew resistance; doctors can elicit behavioral change in patients rather than push to try to cause change, etc. By enabling Others to discover their own unconscious path we not only help them find their own best answers but act as Servant Leaders to permanent change and decision making.
Think of Buying Facilitation® as a GPS system that knows the (systems) coordinates and can navigate people to their exact destination without needing to know the type of function the car is headed. It’s a systems thinking model that initially ignores the information we are so accustomed to and believes that all change is systemic and must be driven by, and within, the system that would need to change. So a facilitator, seller, or coach would first be neutral navigators that unwrap the unconscious and achieves buy-in, then uses conventional questions to gather and introduce specific data points.
The skills necessary for Buying Facilitation® include those people don’t normally possess or deliberately use together:
Listening for systems: we naturally listen for content and information. To formulate Facilitative Questions, it’s necessary to listen neutrally for the underlying meta messages where the unconscious lie and eschewing content. Later in conversations, listening for content is imperative. I’ve written a book on this topic: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? is about the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, and teaches Disassociative Listening.
Presumptive summaries: people often don’t consciously recognize the import of what they are saying. By offering a type of summary statement that delineates the underlying meaning behind the words – what is meant vs what is said – the responder gets help unwraping unconscious drivers.
Decision sequencing: there are 3 stages to all decisions. Asking Facilitative Questions in the order of the stages enables people to face change without resistance and include the criteria necessary for congruency.
My clients have achieved great success with the model: buyers buy in half the time as they are led to immediately enlist the proper Buying Decision Teams and uncover their personal buy-in criteria; teams go through change implementations with collaboration and creativity and avoid resistance; leaders get buy-in and participation for initiatives easily; facilitators find the core of issues quickly. It’s a Servant Leader model: people are self-motivated to find their own best answers, and become learn exactly how and where in their unique system to make congruent changes in a very short time. Change with integrity: no external coercion, persuasion or advocacy.
The big idea here is the switch from seeking or pushing specific data to being a neutral navigator or Servant Leader to lead a responder through her own values and systems structure toward a potential willingness to change while maintaining Systems Congruence. After all, there really is no way for an outsider to ever know the full extent – the connections, history, values, complications, etc. – of how someone’s internal system is set up. The differences are important:
To use Facilitative Questions and Buying Facilitation® requires a different sort of thinking and a different level of control. It requires that your outcome be to truly serve the other, to help her initiate and manage change from within – not with any content or directive from you, but true buy-in from her. Obviously your intent will shift as will your success: your sales, initiatives, implementations, and projects will be easier, shorter, and less costly. You’ll just have a different type of control: from attempting to have the answers to being the true leader that elicits congruent answers.
What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to add a new questioning technique to your already superb questioning skills? How would you know that adding a new skill set would be worth the time/effort/cost to make you – and your clients – even more successful?
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® which she’s trained to sales people and coaches worldwide since 1985. Sharon Drew is an original thinker, thought leader, keynote speaker, coach, and consultant.
For those interested in learning more about Buying Facilitation® or Facilitative Questions, Sharon Drew wrote about this extensively in Dirty Little Secrets. For those wishing to learn how to use this material, visit her store at sharondrewmorgen.com and look up the Guided Study material. Or contact her directly: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen June 24th, 2019
Posted In: News
I moved to London in 1983 to start up a tech company after spending years as a successful sales person. After years of ‘understanding’ and ‘qualifying’ prospects, getting appointments and networking, presenting and following up, I thought I understood buyers well-enough to become one. But I was wrong. My new role taught me the differences between selling and buying: I hadn’t realized how the complexity of my Pre-Sales activity determined whether or not I’d buy:
As a sales professional my ultimate job was to place solutions; as a buyer, my main focus was to create and maintain Excellence.
As a sales professional I struggled to say/offer the right thing, at the right time, to the right prospects, in order to close; as an entrepreneur and potential buyer I had to continually manage change using the most efficient, integrous, and least disruptive route to success to maintain happy employees and clients, and a great product.
As a sales professional, I sought to influence those who needed my solution; as a buyer, I couldn’t fully define my needs, make adjustments, or resolve problems, until all voices and impediments to change were factored in.
Selling and buying were different: different goals, different behaviors, different communication and thinking patterns. And before becoming a buyer myself, I hadn’t fully appreciated how severely the sales model limits itself to seeking and finding only the low hanging fruit – those who have gone through their internal systems checks and realized they cannot fix their problem themselves and know, precisely, the sort of solution that would be acceptable and cost effective.
As a buyer, the very last thing I needed was to buy. But when I did buy, it was based on my ability to manage change without disruption, not on my need. Even though I had needs, my vendors didn’t close me until almost a year after they met me; if they had entered to first help me address my change I could have closed/bought months earlier.
THE JOB OF A BUYER
As a buyer, my problem was not having needs but in addressing any disruption I’d face in addressing the needs: before bringing in anything new in, I had to first enable congruent change along a murky path between the status quo, and Excellence and respect
The challenge was to be better without losing what worked successfully, to ensure
– everyone involved agreed to a common solution,
– I had consensus and a route through to congruent change,
– I was absolutely certain I couldn’t fix the problem with something convenient or familiar,
– I managed a range of idiosyncratic decision factors that involved my investors, my Board, my staff,
– I had all my ducks in a row and considered any needs in terms of systems congruence, and
– I made sure any change or purchase maintained our status quo or created a new one congruently.
Even though I was the Managing Director/Founder, it wasn’t totally up to me how, if, or when to resolve problems. I had a well-oiled machine to consider, one that had a few problems, but did a lot successfully; I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I had to discern how to reach Excellence in the most efficient way and create the least disruption to the employees, company and investors. And the last thing – the very last thing – I needed was to buy anything.
– Who did I need to get agreement from? And how would their combined voices shift the thoughts on the needs, the outcome, and the process? What was the fallout if I forgot some of the voices?
– What would be the inflection point between the risk of change and the reward of Excellence?
– How could we fix the problem ourselves? At what point would we realize we couldn’t?
– How could we be certain that the people, policies, rules, and goals we had in place would fit comfortably – would buy-in – with anything new we might do? And was it possible to know the downside?
Once I realized that my needs were not the driving factors, and the change issue was a problem of Systems Congruence (I had to maintain what worked and find a way to expand the status quo to adopt the new) I used my Asperger’s systems-thinking brain to code the 13 steps from problems to Excellence and design a change facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) so my sales staff could sell more:
The change process we all went through was idiosyncratic and iterative (My book Dirty Little Secrets describes the process.). No outsider would ever understand what was involved during our change process; even I didn’t understand what would be involved when I began. What surprised me most was that only the last 4 steps were involved with making a purchase. And my journey to a purchase was defined by my Buying Decision Path. Indeed, I coined this entire process the Buyer’s Journey.
A WALK THROUGH THE BUYER’S JOURNEY
Initially, like all buyers, I didn’t know what I didn’t know: I didn’t know WHO really needed to be involved (It wasn’t obvious due to the hidden influence from some of the folks peripherally involved.); I couldn’t know if we could FIX THE PROBLEM OURSELVES (Once we reached consensus as to the nature of the problem, we needed to attempt to use our most familiar resolutions.); I didn’t know IF I needed to buy anything (I merely wanted excellence. A purchase is disruptive and couldn’t be considered until all else was proven lacking.); and it wasn’t until there were no other options, did we consider seeking an outside solution.
In other words, even though we had needs, buying anything was not the objective nor the first thought. When I had an idea of something that needed improvement I needed to hear from the appropriate folks to flush out their issues before we’d have a complete fact pattern; we all had to agree to the goals, direction, outcomes, results, risks, and path to change – confusing because every voice and job title had different priorities, needs, and problems. It was a delicate process, and there was no clear path forward until we were almost at the end of the path. Every buyer goes through some form of this; they never begin at the end where sales enters.
This is where buyers go when they’re silent. They’re not dragging their heels or seeking lower prices; they need to traverse their entire Buying Journey to get to the point of even becoming a buyer. And the process of navigating through the people and policies within the status quo to garner consensus for a potentially disruptive change is a confusing process. It certainly can’t be driven by knowing about, or considering, an external solution.
As a seller I recommended my prospects include the ‘right’ people; I even attempted to help them make good decisions. But I was an outsider. And I was biased by my directive of wanting to sell, or understanding how my solution would fit; no one from outside the system could ever understand the internal politics and relationship issues to be managed. As an entrepreneur there was no one to guide me through this; not schooled in systems thinking, I had to figure out how to navigate this minefield on my own.
This is the Buyer’s Journey – the route from the problem recognition, to the assembling of the appropriate people (idiosyncratic; not obvious), to the research and trials and workarounds to fix the problem with known resources, to the change management issues, to the point of defining the type of solution that will resolve the problem with least disruption.
The act of selling, I realized, does not create buying. But with a different hat on, by entering first as Change Facilitators, sellers could enter the Buyer’s Journey at the beginning and efficiently help prospects navigate through the confusion first, to enable those who will buy, end contact immediately with those who cannot, and then gather data, pitch, and sell with very specific data and a familiar buyer.
NAVIGATING THROUGH THE ENTIRE JOURNEY: THE JOB OF BUYING FACILITATION®
My own sellers used Buying Facilitation® as their first tool even when prospects would call in to us, to guide buyers through their own 13 steps, and then sell to the ones who had all their ducks in a row (We had an eight-fold increase in sales). The time it takes buyers to navigate these steps is the length of the sales cycle. And buyers must do this anyway – so it might as well be with us. Sellers wait (and wait) while buyers do this and then hopefully be there to pick off the low-hanging-fruit. Might as well start at the beginning, be Servant Leaders, and find/close more buyers.
As part of Buying Facilitation® I coined the terms Buyer’s Journey, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Path, Buying Patterns, Buying Decision Team, and Helping Buyers Buy between 1985 and 1993:
Buying Decision Path represents the set of 13 steps from problem recognition and garnering consensus, through to recognizing and managing change in a way that enhances the status quo – all before getting to the stage of purchasing anything. It’s possible to facilitate and discover those who could buy and efficiently help them navigate the steps to purchase and get into the Buying Decision Team. A buying decision is a change management process.
Buy Cycle represents the time it takes from recognition to Excellence, from seeking internal solutions to making a purchase. It’s a change management process, not a solution choice process.
Buying Patterns explains the unique and idiosyncratic actions each buyer takes along their journey to Excellence.
Buyer’s Journey includes the full fact pattern and set of decision and change issues between discovery and decision to buy anything and manage change. This is not merely a journey to a purchase. It’s a journey to Excellence.
Buying Facilitation® is a generic change facilitation model for influencers (sellers, coaches, leaders, managers) that helps buyers traverse and uncover their hidden path to change with Systems Congruence and consensus. It includes a unique set of tools that includes Listening for Systems, a Choice Model, and Facilitative Questions. Buying Facilitation® demands a systems thinking brain and eschews trying to sell anything until or unless the buyer knows exactly what they need and how they need to buy – the first 9 steps of their Buying Journey. After all, you’ve got nothing to sell until they have something to buy. And all the information you share isn’t relevant until then.
All buyers – even individuals buying a toothbrush, as well as complex sales – go through some sort of internal change management before they’re set up to buy. It’s about the buying, not about the selling – two different activities. Do you want to sell? or have someone buy? By putting on a consulting/coaching/
BUYING FACILITATION® FACILITATES THE BUYER’S JOURNEY
Here’s what we don’t know as sellers when we first reach out to buyers to understand need or find a prospect:
The sales model does a great job placing solutions, but expends too much energy seeking those few who have completed their completed Buyer’s Journey and are at the point of being ready/able to buy. Sales believes a prospect is someone who SHOULD buy; Buying Facilitation® believes a prospect is someone who CAN buy and has the tools to invest in efficiently facilitating the Buyer’s Journey from the first moment of the first call, and THEN selling. to those who are indeed buyers.
For less time and resource, we can actually lead buyers down their own change route and recognize who will, or won’t, be a buyer. In one conversation we can help them discern who they need to include on their Buying Decision Team; if we wish an appointment, the entire Decision Team will be eagerly awaiting us. On the first call we can find buyers at different stages along their journey who need our solutions but aren’t yet ready to buy. We just can’t use the sales model until after it’s established who is actually a buyer.
The differentiating factor is that we start out not trying to sell, or qualify, or determine needs (You’re now only closing less than 5%, so obviously that approach isn’t so successful.) but as Change Facilitators, with the goal to help Buyers manage their OWN Buying Decision Path; we trust that our buyers have their own answers, and our solutions may be a part of their solution. We’re outsiders; we can never know the intricate politics and history of a buyer’s environment.
Let’s enter earlier with a change consultant hat on, to actually facilitate buyers to the point where they could be ready to buy – and THEN sell. We will find 8x more prospects, immediately recognize those who can never buy, and be true Servant Leaders. Otherwise we’re merely wasting over 95% of our time and resource seeking the low hanging fruit, and missing a vital opportunity to find, and close, those who WILL buy.And more will buy, and quicker.
I know that some of the recognized sales models (Challenger) talk about ‘buying’. But they are using ‘buyer-based’ terms in service to placing solutions, of finding ways to influence, persuade, or manipulate buying. But buyers don’t buy that way. They first need to navigate through their entire Buyer’s Journey. Help them. Then sell.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the the original thinker and visionary behind Buying Facilitation®. She has trained the model globally to over 100,000 people world-wide in sales, coaching, leadership, and change management. Sharon Drew is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller Dirty Little Secrets, and other books on how buyers buy. She is also the author of the game changer What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and teaches listening and communication to ensure we all hear each other accurately. Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, consultant, coach, and author. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Drew Morgen June 17th, 2019