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

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

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

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

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

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

PEOPLE

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

PAY

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

RESPECT

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

RESPONSIBILITY

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

WHO, EXACTLY, ARE WE?

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

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

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

_______________________________

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

January 23rd, 2023

Posted In: Communication, Sales

27 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PART ONE: Why our standard sales thinking no longer works


OUTDATED ASSUMPTIONS

There are several stories here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY IS A 5% SUCCESS RATE OK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

REASONS FOR FAILURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PART TWO: How Buyers Buy


WHY ISN’T SALES RELEVANT NOW?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROVIDE THE HELP FOLKS REALLY NEED

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

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

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

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

MY JOURNEY TO THINKING DIFFERENTLY

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

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

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

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

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

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


PART THREE: How Sales Can Be Relevant


FACILITATE CHANGE MANAGEMENT FIRST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIFFERENT THINKING; DIFFERENT GOAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW MEASUREMENTS OF SUCCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________________

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

January 9th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

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

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

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

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

DISRUPTION IS NECESSARY

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

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

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

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

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY DISRUPTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________

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

January 2nd, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

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

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

WHAT IS OUR JOB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONTROL

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

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

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

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

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

STRUCTURE VS CONTENT; CONTEXT VS COMPONENTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STARTING UP A COMPANY AS A LEADER/FOLLOWER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRUST

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

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

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

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

THE HOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________

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

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

December 12th, 2022

Posted In: News

Years ago I sat next to a lovely young man on a plane. Dressed for success, he exuded professionalism.

SD: You’re all dressed up to see a client, I bet. You look great.
YM: Thanks. I am. I’m going to offer my services free to a prospect for 2 weeks and hope he accepts.
SD: I bet you hope that you’ll prove you’re worth him paying for your services.
YM: I do! But I don’t know if any of it will pan out.
SD: What’s stopping you from facilitating him and his team through their pre-sales decision making so they all realize they need you and are willing to pay for you?
YM: You sound just like this book I just read on helping buyers buy. It was brilliant, and the author says prospects don’t have problems with our solutions, merely understanding their risk of change. And sellers should lead them through the change process before we push product details. I thought that was smart.
SD: (holding back a smile, as he was of course talking about my work): So what’s stopping you now from helping these folks first manage their change so they can identify as buyers before giving them free work?
YM: I told my boss I thought we should bring her in to train us all. I got him a copy of her (my!) book Dirty Little Secrets. He read half of it then told me it was crazy stuff, that that isn’t the way to sell, and to not do anything she suggests. So I’m sort of stuck.

His boss would rather risk the cost of his travel, his time, his opportunity cost and the prospect’s goodwill than add new sales skills and have a much greater chance of closing the sale.

WE’D RATHER BE STUPID THAN DIFFERENT

Groupthink. A form of structural stupidity. Going along with the status quo because…. because what? I don’t understand why the risk of change with a credible chance of success is greater than the cost of the known – and accepted! – failure.

Failure is such a known quantity in several industries that companies build it into their budgets. They hire 9x more sales folks due to the 95% failure rate that sales models achieve; waste time and resource on managing resistance during problematic change initiatives (85 – 95% fail rate); lose clients when problems aren’t alleviated by coaches (80%); waste money and time on training when conventional training has an 80% fail rate; and lose perfectly good employees when their moral and creativity quotients are low. And yet they keep doing what they’ve always done, getting the same results. Hello Einstein!

As an original thinker and developer of proven (and pioneering) models that correct for, and entirely avoid, these failures, I’ve been running into this blind spot for decades.

By generating values-based decisions via facilitating the mind-brain connection, I actually teach folks how to get into their brains to find best answers and congruent choices. I’ve taught the models to over 100,000 folks in many global corporations in most industries since my first course to KLM in1987 called Helping Buyers Buy.

PUSH BACK

But no matter how many books (9, including Selling with Integrity, the first sales book on the New York Times Business Bestseller’s list) and articles (1000+) I’ve written, how many people I’ve spoken to on radio, tv, podcasts, keynotes over forty years, or Fortune 500 clients I’ve successfully trained (many), I still get major pushback. And I absolutely cannot understand why folks prefer the status quo when their failures are notorious.

Here are some real comments following highly successful Buying Facilitation® pilots in which my course participants closed far more, in one quarter the time, than the control group:

(Proctor and Gamble): Given the speed of closing and increased sales we’d experience if everyone used Buying Facilitation®, we’d need to speed up manufacturing, hire more support folks, buy more trucks… It would cost $2,000,000,000 and take us 2 years to recoup. We’re not set up for that.

(Boston Scientific): We got a 53% increase in closed sales and the sales folks loved it. Thanks, Sharon-Drew. But the model is too controversial for easy adoption.

(Kaiser Permanente): We pay sellers for numbers of visits and we have no way to pay per closed sales. [Note: their sales went up 600%, from 110 visits/18 closed sales to 27 visits/25 closed sales.]

(WmBlair & Co): This is crazy stuff. This isn’t sales. You folks just got lucky (9x control group, and sales continued at that rate for the next three years I followed them.).

I could go on. Thankfully, early adopters have hired me to train sales and consulting departments in many global corporations over the years. But too often my innovative concepts get compared against the standard tools and folks either don’t believe me (client success studies aside) or can’t get buy-in from their teams to do anything differently.

STAYING THE SAME AT ALL COSTS

I can only assume the perceived risks of change are too high for most folks to seek out innovation. But I believe the risks of following Groupthink are even higher.

  • You always get what you always got – regardless of what else is possible.
  • You use resource (people, money, time) to build strategies and practices around what has a high likelihood of minimal success, low adoption, high cost.
  • You assume that the known fail rate – in sales, coaching, OD, change management, consulting, marketing, training – is what ‘is’ and build the failure into a project.

In my map of the world, when I see something failing after a fair trial period, I change the thinking behind the problem, not merely move around the chairs. But I seem to be atypical; I believe failure is nothing but a tap on the shoulder reminding me to consider doing something different. Here are my guesses as to why companies maintain models that demonstrably fail:

  • You don’t know what’s worth taking a risk on.
  • You build in or hide the fallout (Sales operations record real costs – outsourced lead gen, for example – in the cost center and closed sales in the profit center) so your success ratio appears larger than it really is.
  • You don’t know who or what to trust.
  • You’d rather go along with the known failure than a possible unknown failure.
  • You can’t imagine a better way.
  • You don’t know how to strategize using a different model.
  • You assume the failure is an accurate version of what’s possible.
  • You assume that since everyone else is failing, you’re safe.
  • You assume that since the model is the standard model used in your field, it must be the best option.

Yet resistance, non-compliance, failure to close, failure to learn, failure to not permanently adopt new behaviors, is failure that you’re maintaining.

NON-STANDARD MODELS THAT SUCCEED

As a thought leader and pioneer in systemic brain change models, I’ve been developing tools that make it possible to consciously get into the unconscious to cause real change and efficient decision making. Some of my models have taken me decades to develop. All have been tested. All of them comply with known (proven) science. Using them prompts a much, much higher success ratio in all initiatives where change and decision making are involved.

  • Buying Facilitation®: I teach sellers how to close 8x more sales by facilitating Buyer Readiness – leading folks through their change management and decision making as they self-identity as buyers. Currently sales seeks out ‘need’ using biased assumptions, wasting most of their time chasing folks who aren’t buyers and failing 95% of the time.
  • The How of Change™: I provide models for coaches and healthcare providers to enable clients/patients to make permanent changes by leading them to their unconscious, values-based answers within their brain circuitry. Now, coaching and behavior modification models fail 85% of the time because they push the change conceived by the leader and cause resistance rather than facilitate the person’s own answers through the mind-brain connection.
  • Change Facilitation: I offer the tools for change management initiatives, including a wholly new form of question – Facilitative Question– that took me 10 years to develop, to guide folks through the 13 Steps of Change to their core values and avoid resistance.
  • Learning Facilitation®: I’ve developed a wholly new form of training that starts with leading the brain to its own incongruences where it then seeks new knowledge.

I’ve trained these models successfully across five continents and most industries. And yet, because my ideas don’t follow conventional thinking, my work is too often ignored: nothing I do matches the perceived wisdom of Groupthink. But that’s the way of innovation. How many pioneers died in jail (Galileo) or penniless, in a garret (Nicholai Tesla)? How many pioneers were women? (??)

WHAT IS YOUR RISK?

Here are some questions to help you consider what you’d need to possibly go outside the box to prevent failure going forward:

  • What would you need to know to be willing to consider the prospect of doing something different(ly) even though your colleagues continue their current activity?
  • What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to consider your consistently low success rates ‘failure’ can be turned around by trialing something new?
  • How will you know when you haven’t found a fix for a problem (i.e. resistance, low close rates, low learning retention etc.) and the risk of an innovative solution is less than the risk of the status quo?
  • What colleagues would you need to include in thought discussions and noodling as you consider the risk of doing something new?
  • If you decide you’re willing to discover innovative approaches to consistent problems, how will you know who or what to trust? What would you need to know or understand to be assured that your trust is well placed?
  • How will you know that a possible solution is truly innovative? That you can trust the pitch or the hype?

Personally, I don’t consider failure an option. But without innovation, without the risk of disruption in the name of success, continued failure is the only option. If you’re willing to go beyond Groupthink, contact me.

___________________________

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

December 5th, 2022

Posted In: News

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

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

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

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

_________________

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

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

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

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

_Only when it’s someone I care about.

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

Circumstantial

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

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

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

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

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

_When the conversation is going badly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

During a conversation I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding the message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communication problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

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

November 21st, 2022

Posted In: News

Did you ever wonder why training fails more often than not? Why important material, meant to improve or educate, is not learned or acted upon? Why perfectly smart people keep doing the same things that didn’t work the first time when they have the opportunity to learn something better?

The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner but a problem with both the training model itself and the way brains learn. In this article, I’ll explain how to design training to facilitate learning.

BRAINS (MIS)TRANSLATE INCOMING MESSAGES

Learning is a systems/change problem, and our brain is in charge. While certainly a complex set of unconscious activities, I’ll break it down simplistically: our brain automatically translates and filters incoming messages as per our history of what we already know. This is how we make sense of and understand what we hear. It’s also how we restrict our worlds.

When new/unique content enters our awareness, our brain has no circuits to translate it and we end up mistranslating, misunderstanding, or resisting the new without realizing that what we think we heard might be inaccurate. It’s a brain thing, and we’re the unwitting victims of our lazy brains.

Our brain circuitry makes sense of our worlds for us based on our unique mental models (our personal norms, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems- our beliefs in action, if you will. Everything we do, hear, or notice comes from instructions our brain sends us from existing circuits that have already been programmed and accepted by our system to represent us. And herein lie the problem.

When new knowledge enters our brains, it’s likely we have no circuits to translate it into meaning. Nor has our system approved it, making it a potential threat to our previously programmed system of neural pathways, cell assemblies, and electrochemical activity, (regardless of the efficacy of the new knowledge).

The result makes learning something new challenging: With no choice but to consider something not approved a threat, we automatically (and unconsciously) resist, misinterpret, or ignore what we have no circuits to translate! In other words, with the best material, the best trainer, and motivated minds, new material will be resisted unless there is a neural set-up to interpret it.

BRAINS MAINTAIN OUR STATUS QUO

Because our brains automatically resist anything that hasn’t been approved, regardless of the efficacy, learners given information before they have new cell assemblies may not be able to make the required change the new material requires: information in and of itself does not create new circuitry.

The other problem is a pure brain thing. Because the new doesn’t enter with an existing infrastructure to receive it, our brains have no place to store it uniquely. Hence learners practice well during the experiential portions of a program, but they can’t continue their proficiency after they leave because they have no neural capabilities to make the new knowledge permanent.

But there’s a way to design training programs that incorporates change with new neural circuit development. Let’s begin by examining the standard training model itself.

HOW WE TRAIN

The design of most training is information-transfer based and potentially poses problems when

  • learner’s brains don’t recognize the need for anything new,
  • the new material may come up against long-held (sometimes unconscious) beliefs and put the learner’s system out of balance,
  • there are no existing circuits that accurately translate the incoming information.

The current training model assumes that if new material is important and useful, offered in a logical, informative, interesting way, and offers experiential learning, learners will accept it. But this assumption is faulty and largely responsible for the 80% failure rate of most training programs.

Standard training offers new content based on the trainer’s goals and knowledge, using their own verbiage and language structure, and assume that a learner’s brain will be similarly configured and know what to do with the content they’re offering! In other words, current training models attempt to push something foreign (i.e. new knowledge) into a closed system (the learner’s status quo) that is perfectly happy as it is and has no circuitry to translate it.

Effective training must first enable learners to design new circuitry that will accept, then translate the new information.

LEARNING FACILITATION

Training must enable

  1. buy-in from the belief/system and status quo;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change;
  3. the system to develop new circuitry to ‘translate’ and hold the new material so it will be available when called upon

before the new material is adopted and available for habitual use.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm, I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field.

Since change isn’t sought out until the system, the status quo, finds an incongruence, I eschewed offering lecture or new ideas and instead began by helping learners first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding new ones. For this I designed a series of exercises to help learners self-recognize where they had gaps in their automatic choices, then try to resolve the problem with their current skills. Where this failed, they were eager to seek out new learning as their best option. From there, I helped them create new, approved, neural circuits.

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

Here’s how I design courses:

  • Day 1 offers exercises and self-study questionnaires that help learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Once they learn exactly what is missing among their current skill sets, and they determine what, specifically, they need to add to achieve excellence, then they know exactly what they need to learn.
  • Day 2 enables learners to create a route in their brains that carry the core beliefs of the new content to be added and then tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then does new information and new behaviors get introduced and practiced.
  • Day 3 practices and integrates the new material. Learners leave with new circuitry for new, automatic, permanent behaviors.

Courses are designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change) and looks quite different from conventional training. For example because ‘information’ is the last thing offered, Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, no computers, no phones, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist and expand their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material, then when there are new circuits in place, offer the new information.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities. To enable learning, it’s necessary to first facilitate brain change before offering content. I’m happy to discuss my training model or help you develop training programs that enable learning. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

____________

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

November 14th, 2022

Posted In: Listening, News

Tags:

How to Listen to be successful

The problem with accurately hearing what others mean to convey is not that we don’t hear their words accurately. The problem is in the interpretation. During the listening process, our brains arbitrarily filter out, or reconfigure the uncomfortable, unknown, or confusing, to make what’s been said match something our brains are more familiar with. And, with different filters that delete some of the incoming sound as words enter our brains, it fails to inform us of its creative editing.

As a result, we’re left understanding some fraction of what our Communication Partner(CP) meant to convey. So if I say ABC and your brain tells you I’ve said ABL, you not only have no way of knowing that you’ve not understood my intended message, but you’re thoroughly convinced you heard what I ‘said’. Obviously, this interpretation process puts relationships and communication at risk.

CASE STUDY OF PARTNERSHIP LOST

While at a meeting with co-directors of a company to discuss possible partnering, there was some confusion on one of the minor topics:

John: No, SDM, you said X.

SDM: Actually I said Y and that’s quite a bit different.

John: You did NOT SAY Y. I heard you say X!!!

Margaret: I was sitting here, John. She actually did say Y. She said it clearly.

John: You’re BOTH crazy! I KNOW WHAT I HEARD! and he stomped out of the room. [End of partnership.]
As our brains haphazardly and unconsciously interpret for us, we naturally respond according to what we think we heard rather than what’s meant, restricting creativity, collaboration, and relationships.

How, then, do we have unrestricted conversations? Find ways to expand possibilities? Hear what others mean to say? Know how to take appropriate action, or negotiate creatively? I found the topic so interesting that I wrote a book on the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, the different ways our brains filter what’s been said (triggers, assumptionsbiases, etc.), and how to supersede our brain to hear accurately.

CASE STUDIES OF PROSPECTS LOST

One way our brains restrict our conversations happens when we enter with a preset agenda and unconsciously tell our brains to ignore whatever doesn’t fit. So when sellers listen only for ‘need’ they miss important clues that would exclude or enlist the CP as a prospect. A coaching client of mine had this conversation:

Seller: Hi. I’m Paul, from XXX. This is a sales call. I’m selling insurance.

Is this a good time to speak?

Buyer: No. it’s a horrible time. It’s end of year and I’m swamped.

Call back next week and I’ll have time.

Seller: ok.iwanttotellyouaboutourspecialsthatmightsuityourbusinessandmakeyou

morerevenue.

And the prospect hung up on him. Because the Seller used the traditional Buying Facilitation® opening for a cold call which welcomes prospects into a collaborative conversation, the prospect was willing to speak. But he lost interest when the Seller ignored his invitation and switched to taking care of his own needs with a pitch.

SDM: What happened? He told you he’d speak next week. And why did you speak so quickly?

Paul: He had enough time to answer the phone, so I figured I’d try to snag him into being interested. I spoke fast cuz I was trying to respect his time.

Obviously not a way to sell anything. Here is another example. Halfway into a sales call, my client got hooked on his own agenda:

Prospect: Well, we don’t have a CRM system that operates as efficiently as we would like, but our tech guys are scheduled 3 years out and our outsourcing group’s not available for another year. So we’ve created some workarounds for now.

Seller: I’d love to stop by and show you some of the features of our new CRM technology. I’m sure you’ll find it very efficient.

And that was the end of the conversation. He should have heard his prospect’s intent and replied:

Wow. Sounds like a difficult situation. We’ve got a pretty efficient technology that might work for you, but obviously now isn’t the time. How would you like to stay in touch so we can speak when it’s closer to the time? Or maybe take a look at adding a few bells and whistles now to help out a bit while we wait?

By hearing and respecting the prospect’s status quo the seller would have created a ‘We Space’ where they both shared the same goals, and kept them speaking over time, opening up a possibility where none existed before. Not to mention it would have been respectful. But the sellers, in both instances, only listened for what they wanted to hear, misinterpreted what was meant, and followed their own agenda at the cost of a real prospect.

We restrict possibilities when we enter calls with an agenda. We:

  • Misdefine what we hear so messages mean what we want them to mean;
  • Never achieve a true collaboration;
  • Speak and act as if something is ‘true’ when it isn’t and don’t recognize other choices or possibilities;
  • Limit our reactions and never achieve the full potential.

Here is a short list of ways to alleviate this problem (and take a look at What? for more situations and ideas):

  1. Enter each call as a mystery. Who is this person you’re calling? What’s preventing her from achieving excellence?
  2. Don’t respond immediately after someone has spoken. Wait a few seconds to take in the full dialogue and its meaning.
  3. Don’t go into a pitch, or make an assumption that a person has a need until they have determined they do – and that won’t be until much later in the conversation.
  4. Don’t enter a call with your own agenda. That leaves out the other person.

Prospects are those who will buy, not those who should buy. Enter each call to form a collaboration in which together you can hear each other and become creative. Stop trying to qualify in terms of what you sell. You’re missing opportunities and limiting what’s possible.

____________

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

November 7th, 2022

Posted In: Listening, News

stick-figure-light-bulb

We live our lives with continuous stimulation – on-demand access to movies, articles, social media, friends, TikTok, books, games and music. With all possible, all the time, how can we hear ourselves think long enough for new and creative ideas to emerge?

I don’t know about you, but my mental commotion from a week of stress causes interminable noise coming from where my ideas should be. And given I’m a thinker, writer and inventor, hearing myself think is fundamental.

I’ve tried freeing up an hour or two during a week to sit quietly in hopes of hearing my creative voice, but that wasn’t sufficient. I needed a broader time span free of the stimulations involved with daily living. And given my schedule, the only time I had available was weekends.

My solution: weekends of boredom. Let me explain.

I now spend at least two weekends a month alone and off-line – off-line, as in no phone, no (on-line) social activity, no computers, and no email. Hence, weekends of boredom. A friend said “I would be bored out of my mind!” Precisely.

Do I like being bored? Not particularly. It’s not necessarily fun: sometimes I’m jumping out of my skin and must force myself to not call a friend. But if I can wait it out, I’m on my way to something unimaginable.

HOW I CREATE BOREDOM AND LISTEN TO MYSELF

Here’s my Idea Generating Action Plan for a weekend: during the week before my empty weekend, I stimulate my mind with gobs of fresh ideas (reading voraciously, listening to interviews of interesting people and interesting programs on NPR, watching documentaries). Early on Saturday and Sunday mornings I walk 3 miles to stimulate my physical side; to recruit my spiritual, juicy, non-intellectual side, I listen to classical music and meditate.

This all sets the stage for my process: Saturdays I go through hell. My brain is jumping all around, remembering things I haven’t finished, people I’m annoyed with. My brain is clamoring for me to get to the computer and fix everything that shows up. But I can’t! It’s vital that I feel all my frustrations in order to let them go. Otherwise, there’s nowhere for new thinking to emerge. If it gets really bad I either listen to more music or go for another walk.

By Sunday morning I hear silence and am ready to do nothing. To sit quietly and be bored. I sit. And sit. And then, on Sunday afternoon, just before I am ready to exterminate myself, the magic happens. The ideas begin to flow.

New ideas. Surprising ideas. Interesting ideas. Stupid ideas. I don’t judge. I just write them all down. This past weekend I began sketching out an Advanced Coaching program (based on my new book What?) to offer meta tools so coaches and leaders could hear clients without biasassumptions, or triggers, and then know how to make the best interventions. First thing Monday I connected with two coaching schools who may have interest in collaborating. I’m not always this successful. But sometimes I am. That’s the thing: unless they appear, I got nothin’. So I don’t judge.

SPACES FOR IDEAS TO EMERGE

Boredom as a route to creativity is not for everyone. But I think many of us need something extreme to have the space to listen to ourselves, to have a block of time to clear our brain and silence our Internal Dialogue to enable our unique ideas to emerge. Some folks do this by going for a long run, or swim a mile or two. New ideas do emerge for me at the gym, but the inspirational ones – the hidden ones – come only after space and silence appear.

How do you listen to yourself? What are you listening for when you listen? Do you allow the time and space for an opening that enables emerging ideas? Ask yourself these questions, then ask the big one: What would you need to consider to be willing to take the time to hear yourself without barriers and literally brainstorm with yourself?

I now have many volumes of Idea Binders. Only about 20% of those ideas made it to completion although I do seek ways for each of them to develop. But if I hadn’t come up with them all, I would not have invented Buying Facilitation®, or invented a new form of question, or coded how we can hear each other without misinterpretation, or written 9 books or 1300 articles, or started up companies.

Try it. At least once – at least when an important meeting is coming up and you want to shine. Spend a weekend alone somewhere in the countryside, with no texting, no email, no telephone, no TV, no people. Nothin’. Then allow yourself to go a bit crazy. The silence of the first day might be a relief. By day two, when you’re jumping out of your skin, you might end up hearing a very creative voice inside. Maybe not. Maybe you will have wasted a weekend and will email me to tell me I’m nuts. But just maybe, you’ll hear yourself come up with the new, new thing. If you do, you can give me an attribution.

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

October 31st, 2022

Posted In: Listening

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

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

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

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

BELIEFS

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

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

FOCUS ON SHARED VALUES FIRST

Try this:

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

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

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

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

October 24th, 2022

Posted In: Listening, News

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