By Sharon Drew Morgen

buyer

I recently heard yet another excuse as to why a buyer didn’t buy. This one was a hoot – seller/buyer misalignment. Seriously? Because the seller didn’t close a sale (That was expected by the seller? In the mythical pipeline?) there was a relationship problem? Because the buyer didn’t buy (according to the expectation of the seller?) there was a bonding problem? No. The problem stems from sellers not understanding what a buyer is. In this case, there was no buyer to be ‘misaligned’ with.

FROM PERSON TO BUYER

A decision not to purchase has very little to do with the seller, the solution, the relationship, or the need. In fact, a purchase is the very last thing a buyer wants. Just because a situation seems like a perfect fit with your solution does not make it a buying/selling opportunity; just because someone really needs your solution does not mean they are ready, willing, or able to buy.

Let me begin by defining ‘Buyer’: a person (or group) who has

  • assembled all people, causes, and elements that created their problem AND
  • recognized they cannot fix the problem with familiar resources, usual vendors, or workarounds, AND
  • gotten buy-in from everyone/everything involved with the changes a fix would affect, AND
  • decided that the cost of a fix is lower than maintaining the status quo,

and decides that purchasing an external solution is their best option.

As the thought-leader behind how buyers buy (programs, books, modelsstepsterms, since 1985) I’d like to offer some thoughts:

1. A buyer isn’t a buyer unless they’ve bought something. Until then they are people with a problem who may, if all else fails and they can’t resolve the issue themselves, seek an external solution.

2. People first recognize a problem that keeps them from the Excellence they prefer. They may or may not choose to fix it, depending upon the ‘cost’ to the system. Solving a problem never begins as a decision to buy anything (unless a small personal item). In other words, people don’t want to buy anything; they merely want to resolve a problem in the most efficient way.

3. There are usually a range of familiar ‘fixes’ available for folks with problems. Workarounds are always the first option, a purchase the last.

4. All people (buyers, groups, individuals) live in a unique unconscious, human system (rules, relationships, beliefs, experience, goals, etc.) that created the problem and maintains it as part of their status quo. The system exists AS IS, with problems factored in. If an element is recognized as problematic, the system would need to agree on possible forward routes. Any change (i.e. purchase) would need to end up as an integrated part of the core system.

5. A purchase means the stakeholder group is ready for something new to replace what’s already there. It’s only when there’s agreement from all elements that created the problem that

  • it can’t be fixed with known resources or workarounds,
  • the cost in resources/change is lower than the cost of the fallout of bringing in something new,
  • a path forward is defined by everyone who will touch the final solution,

that the full scope of a bringing in a new solution (i.e. buy something) is understood. Until then ‘need’ isn’t fully defined. Here is where sellers often get caught thinking there’s a ‘need’ before the folks with the problem think there is one. Until they are convinced they cannot solve their own problem and change without much disruption, they are not buyers and won’t heed pitches or appointment attempts.

6. There is a defined series of 13 (generic) steps that determine if, when, why, how, what to make a change. Until the full set of stakeholders have agreed they can’t fix the problem with familiar resources AND have developed a plan for congruent change (step 10) that they all agree to, there is no willingness to seek an external solution. In other words, before people become buyers they’re merely people trying to fix a problem themselves.

7. While trying to figure out a fix, people do research to find a variety of ideas that could possibly help them fix their problem themselves. If they have gone onto a site, or contacted a solution provider during their research phase (and have not yet gotten group buy-in) they’re not buyers regardless of their apparent need and the efficacy of a seller’s solution.

8. Making a purchase is first a change management issue, last a solution choice problem. The first question people consider is how they can achieve Excellence with the least ‘cost’ to the system; the last question they consider is what solution they’d need from ‘outside’. Using the sales model, sellers seek to inspire agreement, admission of need, ‘relationship’ – all with an intent to sell something (i.e. steps 11-13); there is no element of the sales model that facilitates systemic change to enter earlier without a solution-placement bias. In other words, sales overlooks the largest portion of the buyer’s journey – how to manage the change a fix will cost to the system.

9. Until any disruption caused by a purchase (i.e. all purchases are ‘foreign’ to the system) is understood, planned for, and agreed to, no purchase will take place. The existing system is sacrosanct; keeping it running smoothly is more important to them than fixing a problem that’s already been baked into the system, especially if would cost ‘expensive’ and unwanted internal disruption.

10. Everyone and everything who created the current problem and would potentially touch a new solution must agree to any modification (purchase). Until then, they won’t, they can’t buy and they are not buyers. And this is why pitches, marketing, presentation will only be noticed by those who have completed their decision path.

11. The time it takes people/buyers to discover their own answers and know how to manage change in the least disruptive way, is the length of the sales cycle. It has nothing to do with selling, buying, need, relationship, content, or solutions until the route to congruent change is defined and agreed to. It’s change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue. And the sales model ignores this, causing 5% close rates instead of 40%.

12. The last thing people want is to buy something. With their criteria of ‘solution placement’, sellers often enter at the wrong time, ask the wrong questions, and offer the wrong data – and sell only to the low-hanging fruit (the 5% who have planned their route to change already).

13. Buyers buy using their own buying patterns, not a seller’s selling patterns. Using a specific type of sales effort further restricts the population of those who will buy. We don’t necessarily object to the products Robocalls promote. It’s the invasive selling patterns we object to.

14. There is a difference in goals, capability of changing, and level of buy-in between those who CAN/WILL buy vs those who sellers think SHOULD buy. By entering to facilitate change, they can enter using the person’s buying patterns and capture 40% of those set to become buyers.

15. The time it takes people to come up with their complete set of buy-in and change-based answers is the time it takes them to seek an external solution – i.e. become a buyer. Let me say this again: It has nothing whatsoever to do with their need, your solution, or your relationship. And THEN they are ready to discuss the full complement of needs, criteria for buying a solution, and seek a compatible relationship with a seller.

By only listening for clues that lead you to assume a ‘need’ for your solution, by entering into ‘relationships’ based on what you’re selling, by only asking questions to ‘prove’ a need/solution match (too often with only one or two members of the full Buying Decision Team [BDT]), you’re not only biasing the interaction, but limiting your sales to closing those who have gotten to the point when they’re ready, willing, able to change – the low hanging fruit; you’re missing the opportunity to enter earlier, develop a real relationship, and facilitate the path that people who CAN buy must take before they are buyers.

The sales model does not facilitate systemic change issues and merely seeks to place solutions based on what a seller determines sounds like a ‘need’. But as you can see, just because there’s a ‘need’ doesn’t mean they’re buyers. The current sales model ignores the possibility or becoming real relationship managers and true consultants and Servant Leaders.

HOW SALES RESTRICTS POSSIBILITY

Because we’ve restricted selling to placing solutions, people with problems that our solutions really could resolve are left to figure out their own path to change while we sit and wait for those who have completed their process (the low hanging fruit) to show up.

Prospective buyers, facing confusing choices, would be happy to have help navigating through their Pre-Sales systemic decision/change process and adding a true facilitator onto their BDT. Here we can differentiate ourselves and make customers for life. Here is where they really need us well before they need our solutions.

Right now, you’re seeking out those people you’ve determined SHOULD buy (and getting ignored, misaligned, dropped, etc.) and ignoring ways to facilitate those who CAN buy but haven’t yet become buyers. If you enter with a Change Facilitation focus and leave a consideration of ‘need’ until later, it’s possible to find those on the first call who CAN buy, and use your relationship and knowledge to facilitate them through the steps of the change management process first, and THEN be there as they determine the need for your solution.

By adding a Change Facilitation processes to your upfront tools (seller-, marketing-, or software-led) you can enter at any step along the Buying Decision Path and be part of the Buying Decision Team to help them get their ducks in a row. Then you’ve gotten ahead of the competition, reduce your sales cycle by half, only connect with those who WILL buy, close a helluva lot more sales (my clients close 5x more than the control groups using the same lists), and truly serve the people who need you. Trust me: potential buyers need your help figuring out how to figure it all out much more than they need a product pitch, or more biased questions, that attempt to uncover a ‘need’ they don’t yet know they have.

I’ve developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that uses wholly unique skills (Listening for Systems, Facilitative Questions, etc.) to facilitate a prospective buyer’s route to Excellence. A generic model used for coaching, management, leadership, healthcare, I’ve been quite successful teaching it to global corporations ( i.e. IBM, Kaiser, Wachovia, KPMG, etc.) to increase their sales.

Currently you’re now wasting 95% of your time running after those few who have finally arrived at step 10 – the low hanging fruit – ignoring the much larger pool of those who are on route, and fighting for a competitive advantage.

By adding new functionality to your sales model, you can enter earlier, be a Servant Leader, and facilitate congruent change and THEN be on board and accepted as a provider as they go through their buying decision process. It’s NOT sales; it’s NOT selling/purchase-based; it IS change-based. Right now you’re waiting while buyers do this anyway (or merely running after those you THINK have a need but end up fixing the problem in other ways). Why not add a skill set, stop wasting time/effort, and close more. Then you’ll never be ‘misaligned.’

_________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

August 10th, 2020

Posted In: Communication

Leave a Comment

When I begin an on-site training program I start by saying:

“Hi everyone. I’m going to begin with a warning: I hope you’re all comfortable-enough with confusion because I use it as a teaching tool. Confusion is merely your brain attempting to input new information and not finding circuits. Stuff you already know goes down familiar, well-worn circuits and you feel no confusion. So when you’re confused I know you’re learning and it makes SO happy!

“The participants laugh uncomfortably. But then it becomes a sort of gentle contest during the first day – who can be the MOST confused. Invariably someone says,

“Sharon Drew, you’ll be SO proud of me! I’m SOOOO confused!”

And everyone laughs together and claps in knowing agreement.

WHY IS CONFUSION DEEMED BAD?

I wonder why confusion is something to be avoided. Why do we all have to ‘know’ everything? Why can’t we delight in the mystery, the jumble, the dark moving spaces that bring that slight bit of discomfort, a touch of fear and dollop of curiosity?

When we think we ‘know’ something, it’s because we’re using circuits that already exist in our brains to signal our historic thoughts and responses, assuming they accurately represent us even if they end up being inaccurate or biased.

Old beliefs, previous knowledge, habits and assumptions become concretized, and any new ideas become suspect because there’s no precedent for them and our brains work overtime to reject them, even if the new ideas are more cogent. Our brains just love our status quo. Simple. Stable. Quick. Reality? No such thing.

I got a call recently from a Venture Capitalist who owns 15 healthcare apps:

DH: Hi Sharon Drew. I was given your name by X (very powerful, noted person in the healthcare field) who told me you’re a genius, that you develop change models that can help patients follow directions from docs and become actively involved in their own healing process. She says you could create a front end to our apps that would enhance the behavior modification elements we’re using.

SD: Sure, I can do that. I already have a model that might work. Question: why are you using behavior mod? You know it doesn’t work and you must have millions of people failing and getting sicker as they try to use it successfully.

DH: Hahahaha. Right. The whole field knows it doesn’t work. There’s not even any scientific proof that it works. But it’s the only thing we’ve got.

SD: Let’s fix the problem! Let’s test my stuff with your stuff. We’d only need 100 trial people to test it.

DH: Great. But I have one question: has your work ever been written up in a scientific journal?

And he hung up on me.

This was a good example of how science, neuroscience in particular, is so limited by biases that it rarely experiments with ideas the field doesn’t believe relevant (In my particular case, for decades neuroscientists have been researching how our brain circuitry is wired, totally overlooking the need to test how the circuits get triggered to begin with.).

How do new ideas get into the world when they’re contrary to existing myths and norms? Why isn’t ok to be confused and then curious to research, think, debate new ideas? 

As per my friend DH above, entire fields remain committed to researching within the confines of the status quo, even when they suspect, or know, it’s not working! How does something new enter if confusion, or the ‘unknown’, isn’t worth considering? Hint: remember flat earthers? What about radio waves? Or relativity? Did you know only one painting of Cezanne’s was purchased during his life? Or that it took 40 years after the invention of the telephone to begin broad use – using Morse Code instead? Are you aware that initially Bill Gates told his team that he wasn’t convinced the internet had value? Seriously.

WE COULD ALL USE A BIT OF CONFUSION

What we read or enjoy; the colors we see and the words we hear; the friends and jobs and neighborhoods we choose; are restricted to what we agree with and the worlds our brain circuits have created for us – obviously a carefully calibrated world view; obviously restricting a whole lotta world out there we don’t recognize or enjoy or share. We could all use a little confusion now and again.

To allow ourselves to be confused, we’d have to ignore, or at least hide from view, some of our biases. So rather than guess what you’re biases are, I’ll pose some questions of you, because I’m sure confused why you’d rather keep doing what you’re doing rather than face confusion and learn, change, and be enriched:

  • What would you need to believe differently to be willing to rid yourself from some of your biases? Do you know which ones you’d be willing to part with? How do you know your answer isn’t biased?
  • How would you know that any confusion is worth the cost of ‘not knowing’ and being uncomfortable?
  • What issues come up for you when you face the prospect of being confused in an area you’re expert in?
  • Are there any areas of your life or work knowledge that you protect, that you prefer not to feel confusion around because you believe you have all the knowledge you need – and it’s accurate? Would you be willing to examine these to see if there is anything new to learn? Any areas for you to rethink?
  • Think of a topic, an idea that runs counter to your beliefs and spend time with it. No, really. Spend enough time to understand it, and know precisely how it differs from your beliefs. See if you can find any fragment in there that confuses you that you’d be willing to think about for a day or two.

The reason we feel discomfort is because we’re accustomed to having an automatic answer, knowledge at the ready that has been vetted by our brains and accepted and comfortable. But you can create new circuits, and then have a whole new knowledge set. All you need is some curiosity and the willingness to be confused for a bit of time. You’re worth it, no?

__________________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

July 27th, 2020

Posted In: News

Leave a Comment

Those of us in business (as well as just about everyone these days) are living in confusing times. Learning how to run our businesses and stay afloat, how to remain connected with staff and clients in a way that maintains relationships and endurance, how to work from home and still manage child care and at-home schooling, have no modern precedent. And I’m not convinced the confusion will end any time soon.

Whatever our new normal will end up being will most likely look nothing like the world we’ve become accustomed to. The systems from which we’ve made decisions for decades – the factors we’d made projections and budgets against, the expertise or industry recognition we were adjusted to, the skills we used to communicate, lead, and sell – will have far less value. And we don’t yet know what will take their place.

WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

Not only do we not know what our future will look like, we don’t even know how to think about it – there’s no ‘There, There’ yet. Our foundations have shifted; new norms don’t yet exist; old ones will fail us because they no longer fit.

With no way of knowing where we’re going or what our new status quo will look like, there’s no way of knowing what skills we’ll need later. Certainly there is no route to success using past norms. Everything has changed. Where folks work from, the jobs that need doing, the client needs and problems, budget and staffing issues…

As first next steps, companies will most likely attempt to work from the ‘old normal’ differently. But after trying and failing they’ll recognize the need for new norms. That’s already becoming obvious as new, creative concepts are making successful debuts in technology, the arts, education, and customer care, to fill gaps where none existed before.

While I personally assume the new norms will drift to the side of integrity, authenticity, respect, values, trust, and fairness, none of us really have any way of knowing. But think about it for a moment: without any conventional norms in place, the only way to assess decisions going forward will be from our guts – usually good indicators of integrity. But the one constant is change.

I contend that the companies who will flourish going forward are those with the skills to successfully facilitate change. Unfortunately, we can’t work from the same standards we used to work from ‘before’. How, then, do we create new standards?

CHANGE

There are many new issues to account for now: the personal for our staff (Do I want to return full time to my office? How can I incorporate time with my children into my workload?) and the professional for our clients and business (What if our clients don’t return? Will I need new marketing strategies? New forms of revenue to match the new temperament? How can I establish trust now?).

All of us must ask ourselves new questions: what must I consider to end up both successful and positioned for a future I can’t yet imagine? What might need to change? Business structure, staffing, organization, management structure, client outreach, branding/marketing/sales efforts, etc. all must go under the microscope.

The problem is we don’t know how to even think about these real issues. Current leadership models work from conventional biases and assumptions; current questioning models work from the curiosity of the leader in relation to existing norms; current sales models work by assuming they’ll find enough folks with ‘need’ to place their solutions – yet those with ‘need’ can’t make decisions now. New thinking must replace most of our long-held assumptions.

The overarching question we face is this: without the myths we’ve worked from, the norms we’ve operated from, the assumptions we’ve made to hire, fire, brand, sell, and organize around, what measures do we now use to compare ourselves against, or truths to think from?

Lots of decisions to make. There are no answers now, only questions. Whatever norms we will develop will become new norms going forward. But not yet. The only measurement we have going forward is our values.

To help address all this change, to help us work toward a future we cannot know, to operate from a blank slate that will inspire new thinking without carrying over the concepts we’ve worked from until now, I believe that Change Facilitation is an essential skill set.

There are just too many issues that represent unknowns to use any of the conventional thinking that has guided us before now: Buyers can’t buy until potentially new stakeholders determine if maintaining their status quo is their best option during their own confusing, risky circumstances; managers have increased responsibility to lead teams possibly working from different locations and time schedules, maybe while home-schooling children simultaneously; priorities of Boards and top leadership teams are not resolved yet, but need to be.

CHANGE IS SYSTEMIC

The issue at hand is how to manage change. Let’s use as the foundational reality that all change must be systemic. Changing one new behavior, one new rule at a time is not only senseless but inefficient. We must restructure our systems.

What are the new norms, rules, beliefs, and values that will take us into a new, unknowable future? How do we operationalize these, and who do we include as we design new possibilities?

There are specific elements necessary to accomplish congruent change. I will list them here but note: each component is filled with unknowns; unbiased guidance is needed to facilitate discovery:

  1. Where are we? And what’s missing? Until all stakeholders (unknowable at the start) are included, there’s no way to assess the needs, the damage to the historic norms and practices, the problem areas. All voices must be heard and collaborate to begin painting a picture of a new future. Without everyone’s voice, any missing bits will emerge later (possibly too late).
  2. What can we salvage? Again, without all stakeholder voices present, there’s no way to assess what might still work going forward.
  3. What rules, norms, outcomes, objectives, need to change now, and what do we change them to? With no baseline standards, it will be necessary to hear the needs, ideas, of everyone as new identities and priorities emerge. Buy-in is crucial; resistance is dangerous.
  4. What systems do we need in place? How can we make these flexible enough as we go through trial and error? Who will be responsible for these?
  5. Who will oversee this period of disorder? No. Seriously. Who? The answer may not initially be obvious.
  6. How will we know what’s right? Are there ways we can build-in trials, success or failure factors so we can change on a dime if need be?
  7. What is the timing on this? Will anything new be a permanent change? or roll out in stages?

With so many issues to manage, a Change Facilitator is needed. But it’s not as simple as using conventional leadership practices. It’s quite urgent now that there be no biases, no assumptions, predicated on past successes. Change Facilitators will need to listen differently than before, ask new questions, and have different goals.

FACILITATION REQUIRES DIFFERENT SKILLS

Current leadership models won’t work now:

  • The problem set, the outcome, the needed skills, the timing, are unknowns. So there are no clear goals or foundational assumptions to operate from;
  • The industry norms are no longer valid and new ones must be developed;
  • No one, no one, has answers or even the right questions to ask: a new set of questions and answers must be developed real time;
  • Conventional industry biases are no longer appropriate.

We must begin thinking in systems as the fundamental ingredient in any change consideration. No change can happen, no new beliefs or behaviors or decisions or actions, unless the status quo agrees to it.

Real change is the result of reprogramming our physiologic, chemical, automatic, neurological, and unconscious brain wiring. Unless fundamental changes to our beliefs and values, and new rules are developed, our systems are set up to continue doing what they’ve always done. It’s now necessary to enable new choices for new outcomes.

For the past 35 years I’ve been teaching Change Facilitation (named uniquely in each industry I teach in, i.e. Leadership Facilitation, Buying Facilitation®, Training Facilitation, Coaching Facilitation). Since it’s vital to avoid historic judgments to ensure all possibilities are on the table, leaders must approach change with a clean slate and without bias. In other words, leaders won’t have answers, or any assumptions based on past knowledge.

The only way to facilitate change is by enabling systemic change. Here are the topics I teach in my Change Facilitation programs:

  1. Systems thinking. Current industry biases are no longer operational. Using systems thinking, there’s a specific trajectory for all change that promotes buy-in, creativity, and collaboration according to the norms of the system – new norms that must be established from a blank slate.
  2. Listening. We all think we know how to listen. But as my book What? explains, conventional listening is biased by assumptions and historic brain circuits against which incoming information is translated. I’ve developed a wholly new way to listen that avoids bias. I call this Listening for Systems; it’s a vital skill set for this new era as biases will keep us doing what we’ve always done.
  3. Buy-in. Without stakeholders agreeing, no new norms, goals, practices, can be developed. Discovering the right stakeholders, btw, won’t be as obvious now as it once was.
  4. Collaboration. Stakeholders must figure out how they, and their teams and unique personal issues, will work together. Answers can only appear when everyone puts their heads together without preconceptions.
  5. Integrity. With no norms to work from yet, how do decisions get made? What interim rules must be put in place that will define and represent the group/company?
  6. Win-win. We’ve all learned how necessary it is to work from win-win. Companies that made money by creating marketing/sales/leadership practices that were less than integrous will no longer be successful. A route must be developed to ensure everyone wins. Customers are hungry for integrity today.
  7. Communication. With industry standards no longer certain, answers will be found in the collective (un)conscious. And make no mistake. This will be messy.
  8. Beyond behavior change. Our behaviors are the means we have to exhibit our values. We need new messaging that leads to new outcomes, and operationally translates values. This is key to our future success.
  9. Trust. Too often leaders and coaches focused on their own reasons, their own desire to engage (to sell, to change, to influence) and unwittingly caused resistance or sabotage. We don’t have the time to handle resistance right now. We must facilitate, not ‘lead’ choice and change.
  10. Enhance creativity and curiosity. Our status quo is just that: set, accepted norms from which we think and decide. To be more creative, to think ‘outside the box’ or beyond norms, to not be biased by what’s been successful up til now, we must expand our parameters.

Change is a systems problem, not an information problem, or a behavior change problem, or an influencing problem. It’s a problem of developing wholly new norms and values that all decision making flows from, operating without bias to enable all that’s possible, and making sure there’s buy-in and collaboration to create cohesion and follow-through.

Normal skills have grown and developed from long-held assumptions that no longer apply. It’s time for internal coaches and leaders to learn new skills that facilitate new decisions, new thinking, collaboration, and true win-win communication.

Please contact me to help your company, and your leaders, learn the tools to facilitate change. I look forward to teaching leaders the new skills.

____________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

July 20th, 2020

Posted In: News

Leave a Comment

hand-944306_960_720For years I’ve written about how sales suffer because the sales model ignores the vast opportunity to close more sales by adding the function of facilitating Buyer Readiness (i.e. systemic change). This restricts sales to searching for those ready to buy, and causes objections en route:

You’re getting objections not because of your terrific solution, your professionalism, your lists, your competition, the buyer’s need, or your price (It’s never ever about price.). Nor because buyers are liars (David Sandler once told me he never meant the take-away that that expression has evolved into.), or stupid.

You’re getting objections because you’re using content sharing and various methods of information push as your main vehicle to selling, before people actually become buyers, before they know why, or when, or if to listen to your message.

You’re getting objections because you’re annoying those who aren’t (yet) buyers and don’t know how to make sense of your attempts to engage them.

You’re getting objections because you ignore potential buyer’s real frustrations and instead focus on your own needs.

Indeed, because the goal of the sales model is to place solutions, you seek a very restricted group you assume SHOULD buy, ignoring the vastly larger group who CAN buy but aren’t yet ready (and who won’t object once they get their ducks in a row). Sales is designed to

  • find those ready to buy: the low-hanging fruit – those who have already recognized that making a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem, have the buy-in to proceed, and know how to manage any change a new purchase would demand;
  • offer great product data in hopes of promoting interest in those who appear (to you) to have a need;
  • ignore those who haven’t yet decided on bringing in an external solution but will ultimately be buyers (Read my article on the 13 step Buying Decision Path.);
  • use accepted sales tools to ‘get in’ to:
    • gather needs (restricted by a seller’s biased questions and listening),
    • pitch (which annoys the hell out of folks not yet seeking new solutions),
    • seek appointments (restricted to those who end up using your presentation to learn to do internal workarounds)

and as a result you’re getting objections.

With a function limited to using your content as the route to placing solutions and searching for those who SHOULD buy – and getting objections from those who don’t find relevance (yet) in your offering – sales overlooks the possibility of facilitating the far larger group who CAN and WILL buy when they have their ducks in a row.

It’s only when they’re certain they can’t fix the problem themselves AND get buy-in from all stakeholders, do buyers consider going ‘external’ for a solution. And objections are merely a reaction to feeling pushed by your content and goal to place a solution before they’ve determined their change management issues – necessary for all folks before risking something new coming in and disrupting the status quo.

WHY YOU GET OBJECTIONS

I define ‘buyer’ as a person/group who has discovered they can’t fix a problem internally, traversed their change management issues, and has gotten agreement to seek an external solution. The very last thing buyers need is your solution – literally.

So here, in no particular order, is a list of reasons why you get objections, and why/how the limited solutions-push focus of the sales model merely handles a small fraction of a Buying Decision Path instead of actually enabling buying. And fyi: if you aim to help potential buyers traverse their systemic change management issues before trying to sell anything, you’ll get closed sales, not objections.

  • Selling doesn’t cause buying. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities and mind-sets.
  • Buying involves both systemic change AND (when there’s no other option) solution choice. Using solution data to make a sale restricts possibility, getting you objections from those who don’t know/aren’t yet ready how to hear it (Remember: we all listen through biased filters.)
  • Buyers buy according to their buying patterns, not your selling patterns.
  • Pushing solution data too early causes objections, regardless of need or the efficacy of your solution. Folks don’t know what to listen for and don’t think they need to hear it.
  • Until buyers recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to their status quo (i.e. when they have their ducks in a row), they aren’t buyers regardless of what you believe to be their ‘need’.
  • Until buyers are certain they can’t solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they can’t recognize, and don’t have the full data set to understand, what they might need to buy and will resist/object when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them.
  • Sales and marketing pitches use biased language to describe solutions, further restricting the buying audience. It’s possible to design unique pitches for each stage of their Pre-Sales Buying Decision Path.
  • By restricting the sales model to seeking those with a ‘need’, you’re only addressing those who have shown up during the last 30% (step 10) of the 13-step Buying Decision Path all people take before becoming buyers. In the first 9 steps (Pre-Sales) people aren’t even prospects yet, as they first must manage change, get buy in, and try to fix their own problems internally.
  • Sales ignores the possibility of influencing the path of (Pre-Sales) change that is driven by the buyer’s system of unique rules, people, history, etc. that protects itself at all costs (i.e. objects).
  • Your sales and marketing efforts seek those who you’ve determined will have a likelihood of buying (the low hanging fruit), and you’re competing for this small percentage, ultimately closing only 5% of a much broader set of possible buyers.
  • There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary to become part of, and facilitate, the Pre-Sales, systemic, Buying Decision Path that must, as per the laws of Systems Congruence, enable change congruently before any purchase is considered.
  • You’ll avoid objections when you first facilitate and expedite the change that those who CAN buy must handle, and THEN use your information-centric approach to sell to those you’ve helped be ready to buy. The time it takes buyers to get buy-in for congruent change is the length of the sales cycle, regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution.
  • Pitching, content marketing, presentations, cold calling, etc. get objections because they push solution data before there is systemic agreement to go external for a fix.
  • Judgments regarding the reasons buyers offer objections are subjective, biased interpretations contrived by sellers to make buyers ‘stupid’ when they aren’t getting the outcome they sought. Sellers rarely consider that they’re entering at the wrong time, in the wrong way, for a unique set of internal, systemic dysfunctions they really (really) have no understanding of, or that the buyer is in the early steps of change and hasn’t yet recognized a need to buy.
  • You can accelerate a buyer’s route to decision making by helping them traverse their route to congruent change, but not with a restriction that begins by using solution-based information, or needs-based (biased) questions to influence buying. It’s possible to close five times more than you’re currently closing.

You’re actually causing your own objections. You get no resistance when facilitating prospects through their own steps to congruent change and then continue on to placing your terrific solution content with those specific prospects who CAN buy. (Read my article on the Buyer’s Journey that lays out the entire Pre-Sales buying decision process.) But you’ll need to take a different – additional – path through a different lens. You’ll need to understand the change management issues within your industry. And no, you cannot use your current sales skill to accomplish this.

FOCUS ON FACILITATING BUYER READINESS FIRST

Here is the deal. People don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem with the least internal disruption. Actually, the cost of the fix must be less than the ‘cost’ (people, policies, time, money) of maintaining the status quo. The last thing people want is to buy anything, and then only when they have no choice and the cost is manageable.

Until now, you’ve waited while buyers do this internal change stuff: they must do this anyway (with you or without you). So you can continue pushing your content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach to connect with the right ones sooner: enter their decision path, get onto their Buying Decision Team, and facilitate the ones who CAN buy through to buying.

Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based and Buying Facilitation® is change-management based. And, using a change management goal as the reason to connect with a potential buyer enables you to find those who WILL buy on the first call.

I designed a new methodology to facilitate the front end of the decision path (Buying Facilitation®). It’s a change facilitation model that works with sales to help buyers congruently and

  1. Recognize all of the elements they must assemble to get appropriate input for problem solving and change;
  2. Figure out if they can/cannot fix it themselves (You can facilitate this on the first call so long as you avoid discussing need or solution.);
  3. Pull together all of the systemic elements that must be in place for any change (i.e. purchase) to happen to ensure a minimal disruption;
  4. Be ready to choose your solution.

Buying Facilitation® is a generic change facilitation skill set, with no content focus, no bias, and is systemic in nature. It involves helping potential clients facilitate change in the area you can help them resolve. It employs a new form of question (Facilitative Question) that enable systems to manage change congruently; a new form of listening that involves Listening for Systems; and Presumptive Summaries to enable people to move outside of their subjective experience and view the entire situation as an Observer/Coach. I’ve trained it to about 100,000 sales folks globally, in several industries and product price points, and generally get a close rate of 8x the control group.

Right now, you’re closing 5% and wasting a lot of resource to find them. You’re hiring too many people to close too few; ignoring real prospects on route to making an appointment – and then going to appointments with a fraction of the appropriate people present, to push content they don’t know how to listen to, and fighting with competitors for the same restricted group of buyers – when if you could enter differently, with a willingness to add a new skill set, you could find/close more buyers.

There are a lot more REAL buyers suffering from lengthy Buying Decisions as they fumble through change. They really could use your help. Read Dirty Little Secrets; why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and learn about the systems involved in buying (or any change), and add this to your sales initiatives. You’ll have more clients, shorter sales cycles, meaningful relationships built on trust, and no objections.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

July 13th, 2020

Posted In: Communication

Leave a Comment

Years ago I ran a Buying Facilitation® program for a group of Senior Partners at KPMG. Before working with this team, they were using 2-4 people, spending between $500,000 and $1,000,000, to create large, glorious presentations to woo and wow prospects as part of their proposal responses. They won 20% of the business. That means some highly paid professionals wasted 80% of their time.

At the time, my KPMG client Dave told me he and a few others were working ’round the clock on a proposal after receiving an RFP from a large airplane manufacturer who had historically used the now-defunct Arthur Anderson. I asked him why the prospect wasn’t going to use AA again for this job (a $50,000,000 job, btw). He had no answer, but he called them:

DAVE: Why aren’t you using AA for this job?
AIRPLANE COMPANY: We are. We just needed a second bid.

I asked Dave to send me the RFP to see if I could find any issues within it that would provide an opening for KPMG to get the business. I noticed that like most RFPs, it sought an outcome without recognizing the scope of the complex internal issues  involved. Without taking these issues into consideration, the project was en route to disaster. I figured if KPMG could help the potential client

  • understand how to get all relevant stakeholders to buy-in,
  • manage the complex collaboration and management issues the work required before, during, and after implementation,

they would not only be differentiated from the competition, but prove their value as real leaders and win the business.

We carefully went over the unresolved assumptions in the RFP and the areas it didn’t address at all. Knowing they weren’t giving us the business, we wrote a cover letter explaining we understood they were choosing Arthur Anderson. Instead of submitting a proposal we were offering some questions to help them think through what we considered to be problem areas.

I put together a list of Facilitative Questions that would help the client discover the underlying issues that had to be managed during the project.  As a change facilitator, my focus is to help folks leading projects discover and implement their own route to change through their people and policy issues, and then guide them through their own choices. Here are two of the many questions we submitted, asked in such a way to enable them to discover their own answers:

How will you know when you have the right stakeholders, and appropriate buy-in, before you begin? How would you know, before beginning a project of this magnitude (a global undertaking), that one of the vendors would know how to bring together the full stakeholder and management teams to work together once it’s time to implement?

Of course, AA still won the business. But 6 weeks in to the project, they fired AA and called KPMG to come and do the work. Why? Here’s what they told my clients:

When we saw your questions, we realized we had not considered the implications of bringing in this type of change. When AA was not addressing these issues we realized we would potentially have a disaster on our hands as many of our folks weren’t buying-in and we had not properly managed the change. We would like you to take over, and start with the change management issues before you move ahead with the work.

The client needed success more than loyalty to a vendor. When they put together the RFP they hadn’t considered the full fact pattern to insure success. By providing a lens into how KPMG could lead them to discover their own excellence, KPMG won the bid – without even submitting a proposal or discussing price.

And going forward, each time KPMG received an RFP they first submitted Facilitative Questions to ensure the client knew the full scope of the problem. And as a result, they got a lot of business without a proposal at all.

RFPS CAN PROVIDE CLARITY

Sales folks assume that buyers merely need info, competitive price, and a relevancy statement about a solution to respond to the parameters offered by an RFP. But the tables are actually reversed: the companies use the proposals they receive to more fully understand their next steps. After all, they don’t know what they don’t know before the project. But you do, and here is where you can differentiate yourself; you can help them have clarity.

Instead of just responding with your solution and explanation of how great you are, help them discover how to create the right conditions for success by explaining how to ensure appropriate buy-in, and change management and implementation capabilities as part of the proposal process.

In my history of helping clients write winning proposals, I’ve discovered it’s possible to not only offer a good solution, but help their clients define the people and steps necessary for successful change. It then becomes obvious to choose you over the competition.

One more thought: if a buyer knows exactly how to choose one vendor over another, or one vendor has helped them through their steps to buy-in and congruent change, AND has the solution they need, they might not need an RFP.

_________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

July 6th, 2020

Posted In: News

Leave a Comment

kindness-clipart-famille-32

I’ve recently heard people discussing ‘kindness’ as a business strategy. I’m so pleased.

Kindness – not a word historically associated with corporations, those bastions of male verve – is now being equated with the bottom line. How times have changed. In the 90s when I gave keynotes titled ‘Sales as a Spiritual Practice’ I would get asked: “Yes, but how would we make money?”

Imagine embracing the desire to be helpful and considerate, compassionate and generous as part of accepted business practice. We all know what happens when it’s ignored. We know how workplace issues grind people down, and how infrequently those below the top tier get asked their opinions. We know we lose more good employees to treatment issues than to pay issues. We know that 70% of buying decisions are made by women.

And yet we continue assuming the bottom line is about minimizing costs and maximizing profit and putting rules before people.

HOW KINDNESS CAN EFFECT OUR BOTTOM LINE

The costs of degrading and ignoring employees and making customers conform to our money-saving practices, the cost of treating customers merely as numbers that get crunched, cost us high turnover, a paucity of fresh ideas and new leaders, a loss of customers and reputation, a loss of revenue, and the need to hire more supervisory managers and do more ‘reputation management’ to handle the fallout.

I intimately know a company with a reputation for treating employees so punitively that only naïve out-of-towners apply for the many available jobs. Without kindness, everything suffers, and in this day and age, clients, customers, staff, have vehicles for their complaints.

Research has shown kindness actually increases our bottom line:

  • When employees are asked their opinions, treated respectfully, given jobs that enable them to exhibit excellence regardless of their pay scale, they are more creative, responsible, and loyal. They adopt leadership roles, put in longer hours, and have fewer sick days.
  • When we treat our clients kindly we keep them longer, hear about problems (rather than lose them to competitors), are offered new ideas to monetize, and have brand ambassadors to offer free marketing to connections who may become clients.
  • When we value people we make more money and have less turnover.

Here are a few of my personal experiences of monetizing kindness:

1. Kindness with customers:

a. In Portland, I couldn’t locate my correct bus stop. I called the Transit help line and a person answered! And he stayed on the line until I got to my destination! I also had an issue with the local gas company causing very minor damage to my countertop. They called, apologized, and immediately sent me a check for $500 for recompense (It might cost $100 to fix.).

  • Takeaway: the random acts of kindness I found throughout Portland have led me to move there.

b. After not receiving my NYTimes for four Sundays, I made two angry calls. The first woman said I would need to speak with a supervisor on Monday; the second woman not only called my local delivery folks, she called back to tell me when the paper would be delivered, called again to make sure I got it, and then left me her cell number in case the problem occurred again.

  • Takeaway: I won’t cancel my subscription.

2. Kindness with employees:

a. In the 80s I started up a tech support company in London with 48 tech folks and about a dozen management staff. It was my delight to create an infostructure that respected, and was kind to, my employees. For starters, I gave each of my managers $2000 annually to take a paid week off to attend any course they wanted (photography, cooking) to feel renewed. I also didn’t give them specific vacation days: I said: “You’re an adult. You’re tired? Take time off, so long as you cover your responsibilities and give the rest of us a heads up.” What happened was lovely: I actually had to fight with them to take time off! I also required my managers to take off one day a month to do volunteer work. And at least four times I year went to the field tech’s job sites (and they were not my direct reports), took them to lunch, and picked their brains on ways we could do better for them and for our clients. Their ideas were terrific. And monthly, I met with them all for a game of darts (which I always lost) in a local pub. I ran into competitors at conferences who said they tried to hire my folks away yet couldn’t pry them from my grip. “What are you doing to those folks?” I was just respecting them.

  • Takeaway: there was no turnover in 4 years; the tech folks called us from their sites whenever they heard rumors of new business and I was in place by the time the vendor delivered the product.

b. I hired a full time ‘make nice’ guy whose job it was to visit staff and clients on site to make sure the relationships and programming worked efficiently, nipping problems in the bud. With no fires to fight I had nothing to do but grow my company.

  • Takeaway: revenue doubled annually; I had a 42% net profit – in an environment with no computers, no websites, no email.

THE HOW OF KINDNESS: LISTENING SKILLS ENHANCE RELATIONSHIPS

I believe the process of listening is one of the skills that enable us to be kind. Not only do we need to set up client Listening Conferences and staff Listening Hours, we must hear what’s being said between the lines using a ‘kindness ear’. My new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? explains whatever we listen for is one of the determinants of what we hear.

Our biases, as I learned while researching the book, determine what our brains tell us was said, actually deleting anything outside of our own belief/value/need system. So rather than merely listen for problems, we must listen for the patterns in the problems: Lots of turnover? Complaints about small stuff? We’re ignoring something we don’t want to handle. Bottom line decreasing due to competition? Maybe we’re ignoring what’s really going on and just blaming competitors when we need a all-hands-on-deck brainstorming session. Are we hearing that clients aren’t happy or want additions to our solution? Maybe our solution isn’t robust enough and we need to get a group of clients in to talk to them and find out.

Through the years, with clients and staff, coaches and colleagues, I have found the biggest obstacle to authentic communication is how imperfectly we hear others. Far too often we enter conversations with biases, assumptions, triggers, and filters, all based on our own intent and beliefs,and miss what’s being conveyed that falls outside the range of expectation. Imagine if we approach our conversations with the bias of kindness:

  • An employee is perpetually late with work assignments: is there something going on in the department, with other employees, with her work load, that is causing the problem? What could we do to make it easier for her?
  • Customer service folks must recognize patterns in complaints and become leaders in resolving problems rather than maintaining the status quo. I recently heard a rep say: “I’ve had lots of complaints about this. But there are no plans to fix it.”

So many folks want to be leaders. Kindness and caring for employees and clients is a good way to start.

THE HEART OF KINDNESS

As individuals we all think we’re kind. Yet in our business lives, sometimes we put rules, expectations, and the bottom line before we put kindness forgetting that happy employees make profitable companies. We’re often kind to clients to keep/get their business, kind to employees over holidays. And the rest of the time, we fear that being kind – supporting real people with real lives and real problems – will diminish our bottom line.

Let me say that being kind – giving employees maternity/paternity enough time off, extending small loans with no interest, designing good working conditions and job titles that are creative and exciting, asking employees regularly what type of training programs they’d benefit from – always brings in more money.

Not to mention when employees are treated kindly they

  • treat our clients kindly, giving us a differentiator over competitors who don’t;
  • listen, commiserate, have compassion, and seek creative ways to help them;
  • are willing to take criticism from clients as part of their Servant Leadership, and to learn from;
  • put people/clients over rules and make sure each conversation is a win-win.

In other words, kindness will increase sales.

Let’s speak about this. I believe it’s a necessary conversation. Here’s the question: How can we monetize kindness with staff and clients? It’s possible to make money AND be kind.

________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

June 29th, 2020

Posted In: Listening

Tags:

Leave a Comment

questioning-questionsDecades ago I had an idea that questions could be vehicles to facilitate change in addition to eliciting answers. Convention went against me: the accepted use of questions (framing devices, biased by the Asker, that extract a defined range of answers) is built into our culture. But overlooked is their inability to extract good data or accurate answers due to the bias of the Asker; overlooked is their ability to facilitate congruent change.

WHAT IS A QUESTION?

Questions are biased by the expectations, assumptions, goals, unconscious beliefs and subjective experience of both the Responder and the Asker and limit responses accordingly. In other words, questions can’t extract ‘good’ data. They’re certainly not designed to lead Responders through to real change or accurate revelations. (What? Did you really say what I think I heard? offers a broad discussion of bias.) Here are the most prevalent ways we limit our Communication Partner’s responses:

Need to Know Askers pose questions to pull conscious data from the Responder because of their own ‘need to know’, data collection, or curiosity.  An example (Note: all following italicized questions are posed as a mythical hairdresser seeking business) might be: Why do you wear your hair like that?

These questions risk overlooking more relevant answers that are stored beyond the parameters of the question posed – often in the unconscious.

Pull Data Askers pose questions to pull a range of implicating data considered useful to ‘make a case’ in a ploy to obtain their desired results (i.e. sales, leadership, marcom, coaching). Don’t you think it might be time to get a haircut?

These questions run a high risk of missing the full range of, or accurate, responses. Certainly they offer no route to enabling choice, decisions, or collaboration/buy-in. They encourage resistance, partial/missed answers, and lies.

Manipulate agreement/response Questions that direct the Responder to find a specific set of responses to fit the needs and expectations of the Asker. Can you think of a time you’ve felt ‘cool’ when you’ve had short hair? Or Have you ever thought of having your hair look like Kanye/Ozzy/Justin? Or What would it feel like to have hair like Kanye/Ozzy/Justin? Wouldn’t you say your hairstyle makes you look X?

These questions restrict possibility, cause resistance, create distrust, and encourage lying.

Doubt Directive These questions, sometimes called ‘leading questions’ are designed to cause Responders to doubt their own effectiveness, in order to create an opening for the Asker. Do you think your hairstyle works for you?

These narrow the range of possible responses, often creating some form of resistance or defensive lies; they certainly cause defensiveness and distrust.

Questions restrict responses to the Asker’s parameters, regardless of their intent or the influencer’s level of professionalism and knowledge. Potentially important, accurate data – not to mention the real possibility of facilitating change – is left on the table and instead promote lost business, failure, distrust, bad data collection, and delayed success. Decision Scientists end up gathering incomplete data that creates implementation issues; leaders and coaches push clients toward the change they perceive is needed and often miss the real change needed and possible. The fields of sales and coaching are particularly egregious.

The cost of bias and restriction is unimaginable. Here’s an especially unfortunate example of a well-respected research company that delayed the discovery of important findings due to the biases informing their research questions. I got a call from one of the founders of Challenger Sales to discuss my Buying Facilitation® model. Their research had ‘recently’ discovered that sales are lost/delayed/hampered due to the buyer’s behind-the-scenes change issues that aren’t purchase-driven and sales doesn’t address – and yay for me for figuring this out 35 years ago.

Interesting. They figured this out now? Even David Sandler called me in 1992 before he died to tell me he appreciated how far out of the box I went to find the resolution to the sales problem (He also offered to buy me out, but that’s a different story.). The data was always there. I uncovered this in 1983. But the CEB missed it because their research surveys posed biased questions that elicited data matching their expectations. Indeed, even during our conversations, my Communication Partner never got rid of his solution-placement (sales) biases and we never were able to find a way to partner.

WHAT IS AN ANSWER?

Used to elicit or push data, the very formulation of conventional questions restricts answers. If I ask ‘What did you have for breakfast?’ you cannot reply ‘I went to the gym yesterday.’ Every answer is restricted by the biases within the question. I’m always disappointed when I hear sellers say “Buyers are liars” or coaches say “They didn’t really want to change.” Or therapists or managers or leaders say “They’re resisting”. Askers cause the answers they get.

  1. Because we enter conversations with an agenda, intuition, directive, etc., the answers we receive are partial at best, inaccurate at worst, and potentially cause resistance, sabotage, and disregard.
  2. There are unknown facts, feelings, historic data, goals, etc. that lie within the Responder’s unconscious that hold real answers and cannot be found using merely the curiosity of the Asker.
  3. By approaching situations with bias, Askers can only successfully connect with those whose conscious biases align with their own, leaving behind many who could change, or connect when their unconscious data is recognized. And conventional questions cannot get to the unconscious.
  4. Because influencers are unaware of how their particular bias restricts an answer, they have no concept if there are different answers possible, and often move forward with bad data.

So why does it matter if we’re biasing our questions? It matters because we are missing accurate results; it matters because our questions instill resistance; it matters because we’re missing opportunities to serve and support change.

When sellers ask leading questions to manipulate prospects, or coaches ask influencing questions to generate action, we’re coaxing our Communication Partner in a direction that, as we now recognize, is often biased. Imagine if we could reconfigure questions to elicit accurate data for researchers or marcom folks; or enable buyers to take quick action from ads, cold calls or large purchases; or help coaching clients change behaviors congruently and quickly; or encourage buy-in during software implementations. I’m suggesting questions can facilitate real change.

WHAT IS CHANGE?

Our brain stores data rather haphazardly in our unconscious, making it difficult to find what we need when we need it, and making resistance prevalent when it seems our Status Quo is being threatened. But over the last decades, I have mapped the sequence of systemic change. Following this route, I’ve designed a way to use questions as directional devices to pull relevant data in the proper sequence so we can lead Responders through their own internal, congruent, change process and avoid resistance. Not only does this broaden the range of successful results, but it enables quicker decisions and buy-in – not to mentiontruly offer a Servant Leader, win/win communication. Let’s look at what’s keeping us wedded to our Status Quo and how questions can enable change.

All of us are a ‘system’ of subjectivity collected during our lifetime: unique rules, values, habits, history, goals, experience, etc. that operates consensually to create and maintain our Status Quo; it resides in our unconscious and defines our Status Quo. Without it, we wouldn’t have criteria for any choices, or actions, or habits whatsoever. Our system is hard wired to keep us who we are (Systems Congruence).

To learn something new, to do something different or learn a new behavior, to buy something, to take vitamins or get a divorce or use new software or be willing to forgive a friend, the Status Quo must buy in to change from within – an inside job. Information pulled or pushed – regardless of the intent, or relationship, or efficacy – will be resisted.

For congruent change to occur – even a small one – appropriate elements within our Status Quo must buy into, and have prepared for, a possibly disruptive addition (idea, product, etc.). But since the process is internal, idiosyncratic, and unconscious, our biased questions cause the system to defend itself and we succeed only with those folks whose unconscious biases and beliefs mirror our own.

  1. People hear each other through their own biases. You ask biased questions, receive biased answers, and hit pay dirt only when your biases match. Everyone else will ignore, resist, misunderstand, mishear, act out, sabotage, forget, ignore, etc.
  2. Due to their biased and restricting nature, your questions will not facilitate those who are not ready, willing, or able to manage internal change congruently regardless of the wisdom of your comments or their efficacy.
  3. Without the Responder being ready, willing, and able to change, ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN CRITERIA AND SYSTEMS RULES, they cannot buy, accept, adopt, or change in any way.

To manage congruent change, align the Status Quo, and enable the steps to achieve buy-in – I’ve developed Facilitative Questions that work comfortably with conventional questions and lead Responders to

  • find their own answers hidden within their unconscious,
  • retrieve complete, relevant, accurate answers at the right time, in the right order to
  • traverse the sequenced steps to congruent, systemic change/excellence, while
  • avoiding restriction and resistance and
  • include their own values and subjective experience.

It’s possible to help folks make internal changes and find their own brand of excellence.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

Facilitative Questions (FQs) employ a new skill set that is built upon systems thinking: listening for systems (i.e. no bias) and Servant Leadership. Even on a cold call or in content marketing, sellers can enable buyers down their route to change and buy-in; coaches can lead clients through their own unique change without resistance; leaders can get buy-in immediately; change implementations won’t get resistance; advertisers and marketers can create action.

Using specific words, in a very specific sequence, it’s possible to pose questions that are free of bias, need or manipulation and guide congruent change.

Facilitative Question Not information gathering, pull, or manipulative, FQs are guiding/directional tools, like a GPS system. Like a GPS they don’t need the details of travel – what you’re wearing, what function you’re attending – to dictate two left turns. They lead Responders congruently, without any bias, from where they’re at to Excellence. How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?

This question is a guiding mechanism to efficiently enable a route through the Responder’s largely unconscious path to congruent change.

Here’s the big idea: using questions directed to help Others efficiently recognize their own route to Excellence, and change as appropriate vs. using questions to seek answers that benefit the Asker. This shift in focus alone creates an automatic trust.

An example is a question we designed for Wachovia to increase sales and appointments. Instead of seeking prospects for an appointment to pitch new products (i.e. using appointments as a sales tool), we designed questions to immediately facilitate discovery of need, taking into account most small businesses already have a banking relationship. After trialing a few different FQs, our opening question became: How would you know when it’s time to consider adding new banking partners, for those times your current bank can’t give you what you need? This question shifted the response to 100 prospecting calls from 10 appointments and 2 closes over 11 months, to 37 invites to meet from the prospect, and 29 closes over 3 months. Facilitative Questions helped the right prospects engage immediately.

When used with coaching clients, buyers, negotiation partners, advertisements, or even teenagers, these questions create action within the Responder, causing them to recognize internal incongruences and deficiencies, and be guided through their own options. (Because these questions aren’t natural to us, I’ve designed a tool and program to teach the ‘How’ of formulating them.).

The responses to FQs are quite different from conventional questions. So when answering How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?’ the Responder is directed by word use, word placement, and an understanding of systems, to think of time, history, people, ego, comparisons, family. Instead of pulling data, you’re directing to, guiding through, and opening the appropriate change ‘boxes’ within the Responder’s unconscious Status Quo. It’s possible Responders will ultimately get to their answers without Facilitative Questions, but using them, it’s possible to help Responders organize their change criteria very quickly accurately. Using Facilitative Questions, we must

  1. Enter with a blank brain, as a neutral navigator, servant leader, with a goal to facilitate change.
  2. Trust our Communication Partners have their own answers.
  3. Stay away from information gathering or data sharing/gathering until they are needed at the end.
  4. Focus on helping the Other define, recognize, and understand their system so they can discover where it’s broken.
  5. Put aside ego, intuition, assumptions, and ‘need to know.’ We’ll never understand another’s subjective experience; we can later add our knowledge.
  6. Listen for systems, not content.

FQs enable congruent, systemic, change. I recognize this is not the conventional use of questions, but we have a choice: we can either facilitate a Responder’s path down their own unique route and travel with them as Change Facilitators – ready with our ideas, solutions, directions as they discover a need we can support – or use conventional, biased questions that limit possibility. For change to occur, people must go through these change steps anyway; we’re just making it more efficient for them as we connect through our desire to truly Serve. We can assist, or wait to find those who have already completed the journey. They must do it anyway: it might as well be with us.

I welcome opportunities to put Facilitative Questions into the world. Formulating them requires a new skill set that avoids any bias (Listening for Systems, for example). But they add an extra dimension to helping us all serve each other.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

June 22nd, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening

Leave a Comment

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

I’m not going into the moral issues of Right/Wrong here, except to say that I’m vehemently opposed to violence and injustice. But I can offer my bit to make it possible to find solutions.

THE PROBLEM: HOW OUR BRAINS LISTEN

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

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

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

“That’s not what I said.” I told him.
“I know what I heard! Don’t try to get away with anything here!
“But I didn’t say that at all!
“John, I was sitting right here. She’s right. She never said that,” said his wife.
“You’re both lying!!! I’m outta here!!” And he stomped out of the room, ending our partnership.

It’s pernicious: our brains select a translation for us, reducing whole conversations and categories of people to caricature and subjective assumption. But to distinguish what’s meant from what we think we hear, to experience what others want to convey when it’s out of our experience, we must recognize when there’s a mismatch between our assumptions and another’s reality. We need to recognize when it’s time to make a new choice at the moment we need to make one.

HOW TO DO HOW

We need to find common ground from which to listen to each other and create action steps to help us all heal. I’m going to offer some steps for us to dialogue and reach win/win consensus. But first I’ll a few foundational truths:

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

We must

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • “When I hear you say X it sounds to me like you’re saying Y. Is that true?”
  • “When I hear you mention Y, I feel like Z and it makes me want to get up from the table because I don’t feel heard. How can we handle this so we can move forward together?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

June 15th, 2020

Posted In: Listening, Sales

Leave a Comment

Customer buying decision path

I moved to London in 1983 to start up a tech company after spending years as a successful sales person. After years of “understanding” and “qualifying” prospects, getting appointments and networking, presenting and following up, I thought I understood buyers well-enough to become one. But I was wrong.

SELLING VS BUYING

My new role taught me the differences between selling and buying: I hadn’t realized how the complexity of my Pre-Sales activity determined whether or not I’d become a buyer:

As a sales professional my ultimate job was to place solutions; as a buyer, my main focus was to create and maintain Excellence in a way that caused the least stress on my company and team and matched our internal norms.

As a sales professional I struggled to say/offer the right thing, at the right time, to the right prospects, in order to close; as an entrepreneur and potential buyer I had to continually manage any changes we needed while growing by using the most efficient, integrous, and least disruptive route to success to maintain happy employees and clients, and a great product.

As a sales professional, I sought to influence those who needed my solution; as a buyer, I couldn’t fully define my needs, make adjustments, or resolve problems, until all voices (stakeholders) and impediments to change were factored in and until we were absolutely sure we couldn’t resolve our problems internally.

Selling and buying are two different activities: different goals, different behaviors, different communication and thinking patterns. And before becoming a buyer myself, I hadn’t fully appreciated how severely the sales model limits itself to seeking only the low hanging fruit – those who have come to the realization that they cannot fix their problem themselves and know, precisely, the sort of solution that would be acceptable with the least ‘cost’ of resource. Buyers don’t start off wanting to buy anything; they merely want to resolve a problem at the lowest ‘cost’ and least disruption.

As a buyer, the very last thing I needed was to buy. Literally. But when I did buy, it was based on my ability to manage change without disruption, not on my need. Indeed: the ‘cost’ of a fix had to be lower than the ‘cost’ of maintaining the status quo, regardless of my need or the efficacy of a solution.

What I hadn’t realized was that a decision to buy anything was first a change management problem before it was a solution choice issue. And any needs I had were secondary to maintaining consistency and team agreements. After all, we were doing ‘just fine’ without bringing in anything new.

THE JOB OF A BUYER

As a seller, I hadn’t understood the importance of a buyer’s need to maintain their status quo. I never even thought of anything besides placing my solution and never realized how much I was restricting my success by limiting my search to folks with ‘needs’. I overlooked an 8x larger audience who were in the process of becoming buyers but not ready.

As a buyer, I had more to worry about than having a problem. I had to take into account

  • the rules and brand of the company,
  • the well-being of the employees and staff,
  • the integrity of the product or service provided,
  • the congruence and integrity of the status quo,
  • the needs of the customers.

My challenge was to be better without losing what worked successfully, to ensure

– everyone involved agreed to a common solution,

– I had consensus and a route through to congruent change,

– we were all absolutely certain we couldn’t fix the problem with something familiar,

– I managed a range of idiosyncratic decision factors that involved my investors, my Board, my staff, my clients, and

– I made sure any change or purchase maintained our status quo.

Even though I was the Managing Director/Founder, it wasn’t totally up to me how, if, or when to resolve problems. I had a well-oiled machine to consider – great staff, great clients, fantastic ROI – one that had a few problems, but did a lot successfully; I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Here’s what I needed to know before I began looking ‘outside’ for answers for any potential change or purchase:

– Who did I need to get agreement from? And how would their combined voices inform our needs or a resolution?

– What would the ‘cost’ be to us, the downside, of bringing in something external? Was the downside worth the upside and could we recover?

– How could we fix the problem ourselves? At what point would we realize we couldn’t?

– How could we be certain upfront that the people, policies, rules, and goals we had in place would fit comfortably with anything new we might do, any solution we might purchase? And was it possible to know the downside in advance?

Once I shifted gears from selling to actually making a buying decision and realized that my needs were not the driving factors, I realized that my first job was to consider how to change in a way that maintained us without destroying us; and if the only way we could fix our problems was to buy something, could we recover? I had to know the upsides and downsides of fixing our problem in order to know if maintaining my status quo was the best option vs. making a purchase. Certainly not so simple as having a need.

I noticed I was taking specific steps to figure this all out. It was certainly much more complex than merely picking up a phone to buy something. I decided to get it all on paper so I could make sure that going forward I could replicate my decision process.

I then mapped out 13 steps necessary to go from someone with a problem to a buyer seeking a solution. I took that knowledge and designed a change facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) as a path to facilitate buying decisions for sellers to use as a Pre-Sales process before trying to place their solutions.

One thing I’d never considered as a seller: as someone with a problem to solve, until I fully realized I couldn’t resolve my problems on my own, I wasn’t in the market to buy anything. I wasn’t even a buyer!

That meant as a seller, all of my pitching, my marketing materials and great content, weren’t even noticed by real people who would eventually be real prospects – because they weren’t yet buyers!

I realized that sales restricts its outreach to only those who had already become buyers (step 10 on the 13 step decision path) and overlooked those real prospects who were ON ROUTE to becoming buyers and weren’t yet seeking or noticing any marketing I sent out, or any connection at all. All those years I sold, and hadn’t realized that selling doesn’t cause buying!

Once I developed the model for myself, I taught it to my sales staff so they could begin all sales calls where people on route to becoming buyers needed help – along their Pre-Sales buying decision path.

  • Assemble all the right people – decision makers and influencers of all types – to get consensus for any change at all. It was quite a challenge to figure out every one of the folks whose voices had to be heard.;
  • Enable collaboration so all voices, all concerns, approved action by a consensus. This was a systems-change issue, not a solution-choice issue;
  • Find out if there was a cheap, easy, risk-free way to fix problems with groups, policies, technology we already had in place;
  • Discover the risks of change and how we’d handle them;
  • Realize the point where there was no route to Excellence without bringing in a new/different solution;
  • Manage the fallout of change when bringing something new in from outside, and determine how to congruently integrate a purchase into our status quo.

As a seller, I overlooked all this. But it cost me sales. I had thought that with the right solution, offered in the right way to the right people, they’d buy. Now, as a potential buyer, I realized that buying had to involve change management; and unless sellers could help me figure out how to change (the first 9 steps of my 13 step Buying Decision Path) separate from their need to sell, I didn’t need them! (My book Dirty Little Secrets describes the process.).

A WALK THROUGH THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

Take a look at this summary of my journey from a person with a problem to a buyer. Like all buyers, I didn’t know what I didn’t know: I didn’t know WHO really needed to be involved (It wasn’t obvious due to the hidden influence from some of the folks peripherally involved.); I couldn’t know if we could fix the problem ourselves; I didn’t know how disruptive a purchase would be and certainly couldn’t even consider bringing anything new in until there were no other options; I didn’t know what the ‘cost’ would be to bring in something from outside, and if the ‘cost’ was lower or higher than keeping the problem.

In other words, even though we had needs, buying anything was not the objective nor the first thought. When I had an idea of something that needed improvement I needed to hear from the appropriate folks to flush out their issues before we’d have a complete fact pattern; we all had to agree to the goals, direction, outcomes, results, risks, and path to change – confusing because every voice and job title had different priorities, needs, and problems.

It was a delicate process, and there was no clear path forward until we were almost at the end of the path. Every buyer goes through some form of this; they never begin at the end where sales enters. And make no mistake: by coming in at the end of the Buying Decision Path, sales restricts who buys to those who are ready, and overlooks the very real possibility of facilitating folks with real needs through to becoming buyers.

This is where buyers go when they’re silent. They’re not dragging their heels or seeking lower prices; they need to traverse their entire Buying Journey to get to the point of even becoming a buyer. And the process of navigating through the people and policies within the status quo to garner consensus for a potentially disruptive change is a confusing process. It certainly can’t be driven by knowing about, or considering, an external solution.

As a seller I recommended my prospects bring in the stakeholders, according to who I thought was a decision maker (but I sure could have been wrong!); I even attempted to help them make ‘good’ decisions. But I was an outsider. And I was biased by my directive of wanting to sell, or understanding how my solution would fit.

No one from outside could ever understand the internal politics and relationship issues people need to manage if they’re going to become buyers. As an entrepreneur there was no one to guide me through this; not schooled in systems thinking, I had to figure out how to navigate this minefield on my own. I sure could have used the help of an unbiased sales professional who knew far more than I did about the environment.

This is the Buyer’s Journey – the route from the problem recognition, to the assembling of the appropriate people (idiosyncratic; not obvious), to the research and trials and workarounds to fix the problem with known resources, to the change management issues, to the point of defining the type of solution that will resolve the problem with least disruption.

The act of selling, I realized, does not create buying. But with a different hat on, by entering first as Change Facilitators, sellers could first notice who WILL become a buyer, enter the Buyer’s Journey at the beginning and efficiently help people navigate through their initial change management decisions.

NAVIGATING THROUGH THE ENTIRE JOURNEY: THE JOB OF BUYING FACILITATION®

My own sellers used Buying Facilitation® as their first tool on cold calls, and even when prospects would call in to us, to begin by guiding people through their own 13 steps, and then sell to the ones who became buyers when they had all their ducks in a row (We had an eight-fold increase in sales and no longer wasted time following up those who would never buy as it was very obvious.).

The time it takes buyers to navigate these steps is the length of the sales cycle. And buyers must do this anyway – so it might as well be with us. Sellers wait (and wait) while buyers do this and then hopefully be there to pick off the low-hanging-fruit. Might as well start at the beginning, be Servant Leaders, and find/close more buyers.

As part of Buying Facilitation® I coined the terms Buyer’s Journey, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Path, Buying Patterns, Buying Decision Team, and Helping Buyers Buy between 1985 and 1993:

Buying Decision Path represents the set of 13 steps from problem recognition and garnering consensus, through to recognizing and managing change in a way that enhances the status quo –  all before getting to the stage of purchasing anything. It’s possible to facilitate and discover those who could buy and efficiently help them navigate the steps to purchase and get into the Buying Decision Team. A buying decision is a change management process.

Buy Cycle represents the time it takes from recognition to Excellence, from seeking internal solutions to making a purchase. It’s a change management process, not a solution choice process.

Buying Patterns explains the unique and idiosyncratic actions each buyer takes along their journey to Excellence.

Buyer’s Journey includes the full fact pattern and set of decision and change issues between discovery and decision to buy anything and manage change. This is not merely a journey to a purchase. It’s a journey to Excellence.

Buying Facilitation® is a generic change facilitation model for influencers (sellers, coaches, leaders, managers) that helps buyers (and clients, etc.) traverse and uncover their hidden path to change with Systems Congruence and consensus. It includes a unique set of tools that includes Listening for Systems, a Choice Model, and Facilitative Questions.

Buying Facilitation® demands a systems thinking brain and eschews trying to sell anything until or unless the buyer knows exactly how they need to buy – the first 9 steps of their Buying Journey. After all, you’ve got nothing to sell until they have something to buy. And all the information you share isn’t relevant until then.

All buyers – even individuals buying a toothbrush, as well as complex sales – go through some sort of internal change management before they’re ready to buy. It’s about the buying, not about the selling – two different activities. Do you want to sell? or have someone buy? By putting on a consulting/coaching/facilitation hat, it’s possible to discover and enable real buyers quickly.

BUYING FACILITATION® FACILITATES THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

Here’s what we don’t know as sellers when we first reach out to buyers to understand need or find a prospect:

  1. Where buyers are along their decision path.
  2. How many, or if, the requisite Buying Decision Team is in place, and ALL appropriate voices have been heard so a full evaluation of the upsides and downsides to change can be considered.
  3. Until ALL voices have been heard, there is no way to recognize or define ‘need.’ As outsiders we can NEVER know who belongs on the Buying Decision Team because it’s so unique to the situation.
  4. Who is a real buyer: only those who know how to manage change, and get consensus that they cannot fix the problem internally are buyers. Need doesn’t determine ability to buy.
  5. The fallout of the risk factors, and the ability for any group to withstand change.
  6. The types of change management issues that a new solution would entail.

The sales model does a great job placing solutions, but expends too much energy seeking those few who have completed their Buyer’s Journey and consider themselves buyers. Sales believes a prospect is someone who SHOULD buy; Buying Facilitation® believes a prospect is someone who CAN/WILL buy efficiently facilitates the Buyer’s Journey from the first moment of the first call, and THEN sells, to those who are indeed buyers.

For less time and resource, we can actually lead buyers down their own change route; and we can easily, quickly, recognize who will, or won’t, be a buyer. In one conversation we can help them discern who they need to include on their Buying Decision Team; if we wish an appointment, the entire Decision Team will be eagerly awaiting us. And with a Change Facilitator hat on, on the first call it’s possible to find buyers at early stages along their decision path who need our solutions but aren’t yet ready to buy. We just can’t use the sales model until after it’s established who is actually a buyer.

The differentiating factor is that we start out not trying to sell, or qualify, or determine needs since there’s no way for folks to actually know their needs until every stakeholder has had his/her voice heard and the determination of the ‘cost’ of change has been made. As Change Facilitators we trust that our buyers have their own answers, and our solutions may be a part of their solution. We’re outsiders; we can never know the intricate politics and history of a buyer’s environment.

Let’s enter earlier with a change consultant hat on, to actually facilitate buyers to the point where they could be ready to buy – and THEN sell. We will find 8x more prospects, immediately recognize those who can never buy, and be true Servant Leaders. Otherwise, with a 5% close rate, we’re merely wasting over 95% of our time and resource seeking the low hanging fruit, and missing a vital opportunity to find, and close, those who WILL buy. And more will buy, and quicker.

I know that some of the recognized sales models talk about ‘buying’. But they are using ‘buyer-based’ terms in service to placing solutions, of finding ways to influence, persuade, or manipulate buying. But buyers don’t buy that way. They first need to navigate through their entire Buyer’s Journey. Help them. Then sell.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

 

June 8th, 2020

Posted In: Listening, Sales

Leave a Comment

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

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

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

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

BELIEFS DEFINE US

We gravitate to, and trust, folks with similar foundational Beliefs and world-views that match well-enough with our own to proclaim “safety”. The problem is that when trying to connect with another, we’re at the effect of their unconscious filters that immediately signal “risk” when there is a perceived misalignment between our Beliefs.

Largely unconscious, illogical to others and hard to change, our Beliefs have been created during the course of our lives; they regulate us, define who we are and are the glue that enables us to show up congruently in the world. We even listen through ears biased by our Beliefs.

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

Sadly, because everyone’s Belief systems are unconscious and idiosyncratic, we can’t accurately perceive Another’s internal system of rules, values, history, habits, experiences etc.We choose our friends according to matching Beliefs; it gets problematic when we need a trusting relationship to accomplish our goals and we’re not clear how to achieve it.

For those folks whose jobs are to influence, there’s an immediate problem. The stories, content, data they seek to share, or their one-sided agenda, may offend the Belief system of the Communication Partner (CP). Bad news for sellers, coaches, managers, etc. who attempt to promote change or buy-in by pushing their ideas, expecting us to accept them, but instead unwittingly causing resistance and distrust.

DRIVERS FOR TRUST

Here are some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust.

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

Information: Our chosen vehicle to “get in” is often with information that we believe they need, without accounting for how it will be perceived. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, our brilliant attempt to share the “right” data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). When we try to motivate, push, share, persuade, etc. we fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, as well as how their listening filters translate it for them, regardless of its efficacy. So with the best will in the world, with folks who might really need what we’ve got to share, we aren’t heeded.

In fact, information is the last thing needed to facilitate change or buy-in, as everyone is pretty protective of their status quo and fears the new information carries the risk of disruption. So save the information sharing for when there’s a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed, and then offer the information in a format that matches Beliefs. Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, offering “rational/scientific” data that “prove” climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of doctors, you won’t use alternate therapies to manage an illness no matter how strong the data for changing your nutrition.

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

Since our great ideas and eager strategies don’t engender trust in folks with different Beliefs, and without trust we can’t change minds, what should we do? Instead of entering conversations wanting them to act according to our needs, why not facilitate them through their Beliefs to discover if they are in Excellence, and if not, what would they need to do to find it. In this way we can help our CPs open up new possibility in ways that don’t feel invasive but actually create trust. But they have to do it themselves.

BELIEFS RULE

Every one of us has Beliefs unique to us, and comprises our status quo. Our Beliefs are the norms and rules we live by, rules that we have developed over our lifetimes to make decisions and act against. Right or wrong, everyone’s Beliefs are normalized, unconscious, and unique, certainly unknowable to an outsider; as coaches, sellers, and leaders, we must carefully initiate relationships and conversations with a goal to match their Belief criteria before considering offering new ideas.

When we wish to engender trust with our CPs it’s possible to use languaging in a way that puts us on the same side of the table as our partners:

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

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

FACILITATING TRUST THROUGH QUESTIONS

I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that teaches others to scan their own internal state. These questions are unbiased, systemic, formulated with specific wording, in a specific order. They also take our CPs into a Witness state, beyond their automatic responses, and from which they can have a neutral, unbiased look at their status quo to notice if it’s operating excellently, and consider change if there might be a more congruent path.

Here’s a story. During a training program, a student showed everyone pictures of his 2-year-old twin daughters (adorable) and his beautiful wife. Once outside during the first break, he lit up a cigarette. It was hard to believe that he hadn’t heard that smoking wasn’t a healthy choice, but there was some Belief that kept him smoking and information hadn’t enabled him to quit. My job became helping him reprioritize his Hierarchy.

I went over and posed a Facilitative Question:

“What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to be alive and healthy by the time your daughters graduate university?”

He threw his cigarette, and the entire pack, away; he called me 6 years later to tell me he still wasn’t smoking. That one Facilitative Question brought him to his Witness place and enabled him to use his own criteria for discovery and change and put his children high up in his conscious thinking. By enabling him to observe himself to find his own unconscious drivers, I helped him make his own change. If I told him cigarettes were unhealthy, I’d be challenging his Identity about his choices and trying to shove information into an unknown Hierarchy, certainly to meet with resistance.

Once people discover their own incongruence they’re happy to change. But offering data doesn’t accomplish this. Take a look at a conventional question vs a Facilitative Question:

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

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

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

This leads your CP

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

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

But take care: these questions take a few weeks to learn to formulate. They use an entirely different belief system, different goals, different outcomes; they need specific words in a very specific order to capture specific parts of the CPs brain; they need a knowledge of memory channels. In other words, they are quite complex. Many folks have attempted to ‘borrow’ a few of my Facilitative Questions, rework them a bit, and try to use them in the same way actual Facilitative Questions are used. But it merely causes distrust; taken out of context, used out of sequence or employing words in the wrong order, they become highly manipulative and off-putting. For those wishing to learn to formulate them, here is a learning accelerator.

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

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

Until your audience is able to accomplish this, they will hear you through biased ears, maintain their barriers, and engender trust only with those who they feel aligned with – omitting a large audience of those who may need you. Stop using your own biases to engender trust: facilitate your CPs in changing themselves. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt Excellence. And they’ll trust you because you helped them help themselves.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. 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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

June 1st, 2020

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

Leave a Comment

Next Page »