By Sharon Drew Morgen


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

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

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

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


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

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

Sound actually enters our ears as chemical/electrical signals with no meaning; the signals seek the closest match among our synapses that’s similar-enough. And whatever doesn’t match exactly gets deleted. Unconsciously. Without us having any idea it’s occurring. We just assume that what our brains tell us is accurate. Indeed there’s a good chance it’s merely some unknown fraction of accurate.

So your CP might say ABC and your brain tells you they said ABL without even mentioning it omitted D, E, F, etc. and just presenting the misinterpreted message as fact. I once lost a business partner because he ‘heard’ me say X when three of us confirmed I said Y. “I was right here! Why are you all lying to me! I KNOW she said that!” And he walked out in a self-generated rage. His brain actually told him I said X, and three of us telling him he was mistaken didn’t make a difference. This makes it tough for any communication where mutual understanding is so important.

Indeed, as outsiders – as sellers, or leaders, or influencers of any kind – we cannot ever know our CPs innermost thinking. And given variances in our beliefs/values, background, identity, etc., and entering conversations with our own goals and unconscious biases, we can’t accurately hear what our CP intends to convey and end up unintentionally restricting the full range of viable outcomes. In other words, our natural inability to hear accurately causes us miscommunication and flawed understanding. Not to mention lost business and lost relationships.

Net net, we unwittingly base our conversation, goals, questions, intuitive responses and offerings on an assumption of what we think has been said, and succeed with clear communication only with those whose biases match our own. [Note: for those who want to manage this problem, I’ve developed a work-around in Chapter 6 of What?)


I want to go back to the problems incurred by entering conversations with personal biases as they certainly restrict success:

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

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

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

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


Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, 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. She can be reached at

May 25th, 2020

Posted In: Listening

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

What, exactly, does this mean? What’s ‘inquisitive thinking’? Does it matter that everyone’s inquisitiveness is subjective, unique, and limited by their biases? ‘Evident by observation’? Evident to whom? And by what/whose standards? And ‘observation’? Really? We all see, hear, feel the world through our subjectivity – so what standards, what criteria, are the observer using – or doesn’t it matter? And what makes one piece of information the correct answer – or a wrong answer?

The problem is that our natural curiosity restricts our ability to acquire a complete data set to little more than an extension of our current knowledge and beliefs: the way we seek, accept or dismiss incoming information may glean only a subset of the knowledge available due to

  • the nature of our subjective viewpoint, biases, and intractable Status Quo,

  • our own conscious/unconscious existing beliefs and existing knowledge about the subject,

  • the direction, word choice, hidden agenda and prejudice built into our queries.

Sure, we’re told to ‘be curious.’ But how do we know that the information we seek, find and retrieve is accurate, complete, or the most useful data available? How do we know that found learning is important, even though it ‘feels’ uncomfortable and we dismiss it? How do we know the best source to use to get answers? Who or what to believe? Can we supersede our biased judgments (or intuition, as some would call it) that restrict/influence the standard all is compared against?

The limits of our curiosity define our results: the broader the range of possible answers the higher the likelihood of an accurate outcome. And herein lie the problem: we unwittingly severely restrict the range of possible, acceptable answers because of our existing beliefs while continuing to believe we’re Intuitive, Investigative, and Clever. Hence, I pose the question: can we really ever be entirely curious?

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

    SD: I hear your conclusions about a cold cure come from parameters set by your medical colleagues and that you’re comfortable restricting the full set of possible treatments accordingly. What would you need to believe differently to be willing to expand your parameters to some that may be outside your current comfort zone, in case there might alternate, reliable cures you’re not aware of?

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

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

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

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


There are several different reasons for curiosity:

  1. Need to know something we don’t know. Sometimes we need to know something we have no, or skimpy, knowledge about. How do we know the difference between the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong’ answer? How do we know the most effective resources? How do we know that the way we position our query will lead to the broadest range of answers?

  2. Desire to expand current knowledge. We need more data than we possess. How will we recognize when the available, additional data is the appropriate data set? How do we pose an inquiry that offers the broadest range of relevant knowledge? How can we keep from resisting new data if it runs counter to our beliefs (given that any new data gets compared against our unconscious judgments)?

  3. Achieving a goal. Our brain is missing data to achieve a goal. How can we know the extent of what we’re missing if we can’t be certain of the full range of possibilities?

  4. Interest in another person’s knowledge. We suspect someone has knowledge we need, yet it’s not possible to find data we don’t know how to look for. How do we know it’s accurate data? Or how to adopt/adapt it so it doesn’t face internal resistance? How can we position our inquiry to avoid limiting any possibilities?

  5. Complete internal reference points. Influencers (coaches, leaders, consultants, sellers) seek to understand the Other’s Status Quo so the Influencer can formulate action points. How can we know if our ‘intuition’ (biased judgment) is broad enough to encompass all possibilities – and be able to go beyond it when necessary?

  6. Comparator. We want to know if our current knowledge is accurate, or we’re ‘right’. But we pit our query and accept responses against our subjective experiences, running the risk of acquiring partial data or blocking important data.

We just can’t seek, find, or receive what we don’t know how to consider:

  1. Resistance: By the time we’re adults, our subjective beliefs are pretty much built in and determine how we organize our worlds. When we hear something that goes against our beliefs – whether or not it’s accurate; whether it’s conscious or unconscious – we resist. That means whatever answers we find will be accepted in relation to what we already know and believe, potentially omitting important data.

  2. Restricting data: What we’re curious about is automatically biased and limited by our subjective experience, ego needs, history, and current data set. We have no way to know if we’re posing our search query in a way that will include the full range of possible answers.

  3. Restricting knowledge. Because our subjectivity limits the acceptance of new knowledge to what fits with our current knowledge and acceptable expectations (we’re only curious about stuff that is tangential to current knowledge), we automatically defend against anything that threatens what we know. So we choose answers according to comfort or habit rather than according to accuracy.

  4. Intuitive ‘Red Flag’. When our egos and professional identity causes us to ‘intuitively’ have curiosity about answers we assume or expect, we’re limiting possibility by our biases. How do we know if there aren’t a broader range of solutions that we’re not noticing or eliciting?


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

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

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

SDM: Nothing.

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

SDM: Nothing.

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

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

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

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

  • entered our discussion assuming I already had all of the answers I needed;

  • only added information specifically where I was missing some;

  • helped me find my own answers and be available to add knowledge in the exact place I was missing it.

My own curiosity would have gotten me nowhere. Here was my Internal Dialogue:

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

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


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

1. Frame the query: Create a generic series of questions to pose for yourself about your curiosity. Ask yourself how you’ll know

a. your tolerance for non-expected, surprising answers,
b. what a full range of knowledge could include,
c. if your answers need to be within the range of what you already know or something wildly different,
d. if you’re willing/able to put aside your ‘intuition’, bias, and annoyance and seek and consider all possible answers regardless of comfort,
e. if you need to stay within a specific set of criteria and what the consequences are.

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

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

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

5. Make your unconscious conscious: Put your conscious mind onto the ceiling and look down on yourself (and whoever is with you) from the Observer position.

6. Listen analytically: Listen to your self-talk. Compare it with the questions above. Note restrictions and decide if they can be overlooked.

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

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

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


Sharon Drew Morgen is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation® a generic change management/ decision facilitation model that gives Influencers the skills to enable Others to make their own best decisions. She trains and coaches teams and individuals on the ‘how’ of choice and decision making, building high functioning teams, and team/partner collaboration. Sharon Drew has developed a new communication models that do the “How” of Servant Leadership, Win/Win, Authenticity, and Collaboration.  She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity,Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew offers one-day programs on Hearing without Bias and smaller listening learning tools. She can be reached at and 512 771 1117.

May 18th, 2020

Posted In: Listening

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Did you ever wonder why all those folks who obviously need your solution don’t buy? No, really. Have you? Did you think it’s because they’re, um, stupid? or ill informed? How ‘bout your guess that when you get a chance to explain it better, or get in front of them, they’ll buy?Here’s a hint: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your solution. It’s great. And no, buyers aren’t stupid. And no, your information won’t help. Buyers buy exactly what they need, when they need it, and who they want to buy it from – your content is searchable and your site professional and data rich. Buyers are smart and your solution is great.


The way you’re using the sales model is the problem: everything you do is focused on selling. Indeed, selling doesn’t cause buying.

The very focus of the sales model restricts who will buy, leaving behind a vastly larger group of people who will buy once they’re ready. The sales model is great for after they’re ready – not for making them ready.

I suggest you employ sales at a later stage of the buying decision process, and first engage with the people who will become buyers but haven’t gotten there yet.

With a focus shift, you can find the people with a high propensity of becoming buyers early along their decision path, facilitate them through their Pre-Sales change management issues, and then sell when they’re ready. In other words, instead of waiting for them while they do this themselves (and the time it takes them to do this is the length of their sales cycle), put on a different hat and facilitate them through their necessary process. They’re going to do it with you or without you. And you’re wasting a valuable resource by ignoring it.

Don’t get me wrong. You’re a fine sales professional. You’ve just overlooked what goes on in the buying. And it has nothing to do with how you’re selling.

The sales model (the baseline being a tool to get solutions placed) is based on Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937): find the folks who need what you’re selling, get into a relationship so they trust you, explain as many ways necessary so they’ll recognize your solution will resolve their need, and keep following up to remind them that you’re still there and here’s why they should buy your solution.

It’s not changed much in the intervening years, and indeed has enhanced the very same themes:

The sales process must analyze demographics to uncover areas with a higher probability of prospect need; maximize content/information distribution to match those demographics using whatever technology is most effective to garner attention; maximize buyer touch points to develop brand and trust to minimize objections; price the solution competitively; connect with these buyers personally when possible to create trust and build relationship; and beat the competition.

Notice that everything is focused on a seller’s need to sell. Here’s the problem with that. Every penny spent on recognizing buyer personas, or demographics, or buyer personality types, or ensuring your messaging is appealing for the recipients, assumes that a seller can/should convert that name to gold. And yet it only occurs 5% of the time in face to face sales, and 0.0059% in digital marketing. That success rate (No other industry would call that success!) alone should be a hint that maybe something’s wrong. There is.

It’s time to forego the singular focus on placing your solution and first connect to facilitate buying. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They’re two different processes. One’s tactical, one’s strategic. And the tactical is moot until the strategic is completed. Starting with sales ensures you will only attract folks already buyers and ignore a much larger group (5x larger) of folks who are in the process of becoming buyers but haven’t gotten their ducks in a row yet.

Btw when I say ‘facilitate buying’, I don’t mean final purchasing considerations of price or vendor. I’m not even talking about learning more so you can ‘understand them’ better. Or leading them where YOU think they should go. I’m talking about the process they go through much earlier, before they’ve become buyers, when they’re people just discovering a problem, up through all the intricacies of making a decision to go ahead and bring in an external solution and includes stakeholder buy-in.

Believe it or not, it takes less time to facilitate (regardless of the size or price of a sale) the decision process that all people must go through before they’re buyers than deal with the consequences of competing for the low hanging fruit once they are.


I’d like you to consider that there are two elements to buyer’s buying. 1. traversing the stages of discovering whether a problem is worth resolving within their set of givens, and 2. the choice process if they can’t fix it themselves and need to make a purchase. First they’re just folks trying to resolve a problem with their familiar resources, and when all else fails they become buyers.

By limiting your outreach (marketing and sales) to #2 you’re restricting your success to the last few steps along the Buying Decision path and it’s costing you money, not to mention it’s a tremendous waste of resource.

Let’s go back to Carnegie. Even with all the cool technology and knowledge of demographics, the core sales thinking hasn’t changed. But the environment has. And so has the close rate (It’s going down.). Here are the limits of continuing to think only of placing solutions:

A.    Obviously, as per travel in 1937, most of Carnegie’s prospects didn’t live too far away. And he knew most of them personally

  • We don’t personally know our prospects. Oh, sure, we’ve got high tech methods to ‘find’ probable buyers. My research shows we’re ignoring 5x more real prospects using the sales model alone. Using the model I’ve developed to help buyers buy, Buying Facilitation® closes 40% of the same list selling the same solution, against the control group close rate of 5%. (In my client control groups, these same percentages have persisted for decades across all industries and product types.)
  • Our push to ‘create trust/relationships’ is silly. Everyone knows it’s not a real relationship, that it’s a ploy to sell, not to mention trust can’t occur when one person needs another person to act in a certain way. And frankly, just because someone likes you doesn’t mean they can convince their team to buy when half of them would be fired in the process.

B.    Carnegie stressed describing details of a new product/solution

  • There was no internet, no regular phone use, no content marketing, no search. Not to mention people looked forward to sitting down with sellers to learn to solve their problem. Now buyers search Google and don’t need sellers to explain anything. But once they’ve discovered what a solution must entail for them, you can then pitch or present using THEIR criteria for buying as opposed to YOUR criteria for selling – which might be very different.

C.    Buying decisions involved the seller, the problem, the product, and the buyer

  • It was simple then. Now there are layers of stakeholders and decision makers; buyers live in complicated systems of norms, rules, history, group/individual needs – all of which must be addressed before a buying decision takes place, even for small sales. Pushing solution content from the outside does nothing to facilitate group buy-in among prospective buyers (and trust me: no matter how many you think there are, there are double that number); it merely causes distrust with those not ready. Those seeking your solution can find what they need without you if your only job is to sell.

D.   A purchase was tactical

  • Now, unless it’s a small personal item, most purchases are strategic and involve a range of conscious and unconscious issues that must be managed first.

Here’s what we know that Carnegie didn’t know:

  • People don’t want to buy anything. They just want to resolve a problem at the lowest ‘cost’ to their status quo and will become buyers only when they recognize they cannot resolve the problem internally and everyone understands the ‘cost’ of bringing in something new.
  • Until people have determined they’re buyers, they have no inclination to read or hear a pitch because they haven’t yet determined the need or know if it can be resolved internally. They won’t read your information because they’re not aware they need it yet, regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. Not to mention, pitching too early creates objections.
  • Need doesn’t determine who buys. Just because there’s a real need doesn’t mean it’s the right time, there’s the proper buy in, and the calculation of cost to the system: the cost of bringing in a new solution must be less than the cost of maintaining the problem. Not to mention it’s quite difficult for sellers to recognize real ‘need’ when they pose biased questions to obtain cues that obviate a pitch or follow up.
  • There’s no way a seller can know the unique, idiosyncratic issues going on within a buyer’s environment that dictate how their decisions get met. And until whoever will touch the final solution buys in to something new, a purchase will not be made. Hint: assuming you have a prospect because you interpret what you hear as a need doesn’t make someone a prospect.
  • It’s possible to facilitate the Buying Decision Path and partner with someone who WILL become a buyer – but not with the sales model which offers a solution before the full problem set has been scoped out and before there is stakeholder buy in.
  • If we can first show up as Servant Leaders and facilitate the change management portion, we can expand our value and beat the competition when they become buyers.


The crucial pieces buyers are missing are systemic; quite confusing because what until they figure that all out for themselves (Remember: we’re outsiders with an agenda.) they cannot buy:

  1. Buying an external solution has a cost. It’s much cheaper for people to fix the problem with known resources if they can. Until they figure this out, they will not buy.

Rule #1: Prospects aren’t always prospects.

2. Buying is systemic. People won’t become buyers until they have: the full set of facts that caused the problem and maintain it (or they can’t know the extent of the problem); a fair exploration of workarounds or internal fixes so they can resolve the problem themselves; an understanding of the downside of bringing in something new that must be implemented, learned, accepted, used. Until then they’re just people with a problem they want to resolve. Themselves.

Rule #2: Need has little to do with who is a buyer.

3. People with a problem won’t be researching your information unless it’s to learn from as they attempt their own fix – not to buy. While they will certainly seek out information once they become buyers, you’ve got that market covered with your site and your marketing. That’s the low hanging fruit – your 5% close.

Rule #3: Your content, your marketing, your emails, your requests for appointments will only be noticed by folks ready to buy now and be ignored by the much larger segment of folks who are on route but could be made ready much more quickly with your knowledge (not of your solution, but of your industry or environment).

4. Until or unless the entire stakeholder group is on board and buys in to any change that will occur once they implement the new purchase, they will never buy.

Rule #4: Buying is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.

5. 40% of the folks you’re prospecting will buy your solution (maybe from a different provider) within about two years: the time it takes them to figure out how to figure it out is the length of the sales cycle.

Rule #5: Sales concentrates on placing solutions to the exclusion – to the exclusion – of facilitating change management portion of the buying decision process which is systems and change related, not product/purchase related.. This restricts sales to those ready now. The change process can be accelerated, but not with sales.

You can see now why you’re not closing more than you close. Seeking need isn’t working or you’d close more. Creating a trusting relationship isn’t working or you’d close more. Generating terrific content isn’t working or you’d close more. Finding the right demographic isn’t working or you’d close more. All of those tools will uncover those who are specifically seeking your solution now. That’s it. They will not expand your audience because people who aren’t yet buyers won’t pay attention.

So what parts of Carnegie are viable now? The solution placement part. Content management; pitching and presenting. Negotiating and closing.


It’s time to facilitate people through the change management end of the Buying Decision Path. I’ve been talking about this for decades and have successfully taught Buying Facilitation® to global corporations since 1987. It’s time to shift, to add a front end before you sell, and then sell only to those who are going to buy.

1.    Change the goal of your prospecting calls. Stop trying to find someone with a need or whom you can sell your product to. Stop trying to pitch, present, offer solution content until they are ready for it – after they’ve lined up their buying decision criteria.  Find folks considering change and problem solving in the area your solution handles –  easy to find if you stop trying to push your product or ask biased questions.

The time it takes them to figure this out is the length of the sales cycle. So help them figure it out. Then you’re already there when they become buyers.And THEN you can pitch to the full set of stakeholders who now know exactly what they need to buy.

2.    Facilitate potential buyers through the steps to change they they must go through (I’ve coded 13 steps involved in the Buying Decision Journey) before they become buyers. An overview of the steps they must traverse:

a. recognize the full extent of the problem, possible by assembling, and extract data from, the complete set of stakeholders (which you can never know);

b. attempt to fix the problem internally (which you can never do);

c. manage any disruption an outside fix would entail (which you can’t do for them).

I can’t say this enough times: a purchase is NOT about ‘need’; and no purchase will be made if the cost of the solution is higher than the cost of the problem/status quo regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. And an outsider, a seller, can never, never make any of those determinations – so long as the focus is on placing a solution.

3.    Stop posing biased questions. I invented Facilitative Questions which do NOT gather information, but point the client in the direction they need to consider on route to change.

Many folks in the sales field misuse my term Facilitative Questions (which I invented in 1993). Let me clear this up for you: If you haven’t studied with me, you’re using ‘susan’s questions’, or ‘joe’s questions’, not Facilitative Questions. Facilitative Questions take some training. They use brain function to lead people down their unconscious path to change and decision making. They do NOT attempt to gather information! They contain NO Bias. They are NOT a sales tool. And they use brain science: They contain very specific words in a very specific order, often with a time element involved, and always pulling data points in a very specific sequence from one memory channel to the next. The formulation of these took me 20 years to perfect. If you want to discuss, email me: If you want to learn, take a look at this learning accelerator.

The problem with using conventional questions, regardless of your intent, is that 1. They’re biased by your need to know and most likely overlook vast bits of knowledge; 2. They are restricted in scope by your outcome and languaging; 3. They cannot be heard as intended due to the bias that your communication partner listens through; 4. There’s a high probability that the real answer to what you want to know either doesn’t exist, or isn’t fully formed yet; 5. they’re used as sales ploys to extract just enough data to make a pitch ‘obvious’ and the Responder feels manipulated when answering.

So don’t use conventional questions until these folks are at the end of the change steps and have real answers to your curiosity. Facilitative Questions enable change. Conventional questions try to gather data – unnecessary until folks are already buyers and you both need specifics that can be elicited through normal questions.

4.    Stop trying to make an appointment. All you’re getting is folks who are either using your content to craft their own pitch to their team, or to compare against their internal, or historic, vendor. No one wants to waste their time to hear what YOU want them to hear unless they’re getting something out of it. And given the percentage of prospects who DON’T buy after you visit, you know you pitched to folks who wouldn’t buy. I’m not saying don’t visit. But only visit those who are real buyers, and the whole Buying Decision Team is present. That’s a great use of sales.


The sales model is great for people who have become buyers – the low hanging fruit. Unfortunately, it does nothing at all to engage or facilitate folks still in the process of trying to resolve a problem themselves and who have a good shot at becoming buyers when who have a good shot at becoming buyers when they’ve discovered they need outside help and have buy-in to make a purchase.

Why not find those who are in the process of becoming buyers and facilitate them through their Buying Decision Journey. You’re already sending vast amounts of product content to a wide audience, hoping to ensnare new folks who have no interest because they’re not yet buyers. You’re already spending time following up vast numbers of people who will never buy; why not find those who WILL become buyers (possible on the first call) and speed up their change process. You can even shift your content marketing tactics to address each one of their decision steps.

In summary, save selling until you’re communicating with actual buyers, and start by facilitating folks through their Buying Decision Path. Then you can sell! Not to mention the facilitation process takes a lot less time than pitching, trying to get an appointment, and following up.

Sales is a necessary model to introduce solutions and services beyond what’s possible on the internet. It’s just illogical to use as a prospecting or qualifying tool.

With 8x more real buyers on your lists, stop wasting time on those who will never buy, find the ones who will once they figure it all out, and help them figure it out. Then sell.

For those interested in learning about Buying Facilitation®, here’s a link to some articles. You should also considering reading at least two sample chapters in my book that explains this process: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. I’ve also got gobs more on

What is Buying Facilitation®?

What is Buying Facilitation®? What sales problem does it solve?

Prospects Aren’t Always Prospects

Steps Along the Buying Decision Path

How, Why, and When Buyer’s Buy

Recognize Buyers on the First Call

Don’t You Realize Selling Doesn’t Cause Buying?


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. She can be reached at

May 11th, 2020

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Every day, now, I walk up and down the one mile levee where I live on a houseboat on the Columbia River in North Portland. I’ve gotten to meet many of the neighbors these weeks: folks that used to go to the gym are now runners and walkers regardless of the weather; folks I’ve never met are now outside their townhouses on a nice day. I can now recognize dogs, appreciate gardens, identify relationships between people I hadn’t known were together.

Yesterday I walked past builders who were siding a house. Their radio played my very favorite Keb Mo song (She Just Wants to Dance). When I hear it I don’t have a lotta choice – my body just moves. So yesterday, in the middle of the street, I began wiggling just a bit. Then, hey, what the hell. Great music. Empty dance floor. Booty already shakin’.

I closed my eyes and danced. From the soul right into the hips. Ahhhhhh. Dancin in the soft spring sun with the sounds of water, birds and boats nearby. And Keb Mo! At some point I opened my eyes; four other people were dancing with me. A flash mob!

During my daily walk there’s been a series of activities. At the start of the quarantine period, the men seemed to be outside doing man-stuff on their houses and cleaning their cars; the women were weeding their small gardens. About 3 weeks ago the men seemed to disappear, and the women’s gardening became repotting, fertilizing, etc. And mind you, there aren’t really such things as gardens here. On our houseboats, many of us have potted plants in some sort of aesthetic configuration; on the levees, the townhouses have postage stamp sized gardens that are quite well cared for. Pretty.

This week there’s been another shift. More people-connecting: couples sitting out on their benches and talking or walking holding hands; folks in groups, at a safe distance of course, sometimes a street width apart. By now we’ve gotten to know each other (There are 153 houseboats and maybe 50 townhouses.) and I feel free to join whenever I see 3 people standing near each other. ‘Party?’

Folks seem rather chipper at these get-togethers. Gardens. Take-out. Webinars with clients. Zoom with family. Netflix. Everyone sharing, nodding, smiling. Happy.

When they ask how I am, I say I’ve been creative; lovely clients and colleagues; friends healthy; new book going really well. I’m certainly one of the lucky ones. But half of my heart is grieving. I share my sadness – the deep deep sadness that surrounds me these days – and my despair. My heart actually hurts, I tell them.

My neighbors get quiet, then begin sharing their truths. They too are sad, grieving. So much suffering. So many lives affected, ended. Families, companies, relationships, children, work – lives toppled one way or another. So much of it unnecessary.

And so. Seems we’ve all figured out how to live around the grief. Personally, I contribute what and where I can. I meditate and scream at the television. In bad moments I cry. And I wait. Not sure what I’m waiting for. As a good Buddhist and Quaker I know that Now is all there is. And yet it’s lurking back there, dark and gauzy with no fixed form, waiting for me after Keb Mo.


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. She can be reached at

May 4th, 2020

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Whatever you’re selling, your regular sales tools won’t work now. There’s no one buying, regardless of what they might have needed before the pandemic. It’s not even time to forecast, as buyers now live in confusion and the unknown, with no idea what the norm, or their needs, will look like whenever ‘after’ happens. Until companies are up and running and things settle, there’s no way of knowing upfront what the priorities, people, or policies will be; needs they once had may not be needs now, or there may be others when the dust settles.

So trying to sell can’t work because the sales model needs buyers to buy. And there are no buyers. Any pitching, pushing, or convincing attempts are moot.

Obviously, you must do something different. As a bridge between your company and a client, you can play a very pro-active role in your company’s future and engage real prospects who will buy later – and truly serve them in the process.


By pinpointing people who will most likely need your solution (and these folks may be outside your current target market right now), you can offer the one thing they need more than anything: managing the confusion; and helping them strategize and organize when ‘after’ occurs as they tackle their new normal. With your knowledge of how your solution operates in a user environment, you’re in a prime position to help them transcend the unknowns and organize around their future needs.

Will this make a sale right now? Nope. But it will enable you to serve someone as a representative of your company; will give you a fine reputation as a possible vendor going forward; and just maybe, you can really help them think through their confusion and put you on the Buying Decision Team going forward. Then, if it turns out they still need your solution, they’ll choose you.

This takes divergent thinking. Sales focuses on placing solutions, using market research, pitches, demographics, information gathering, content marketing to find probable buyers with a ‘need’. Right now, no one knows what they need; they certainly have no idea what Tomorrow will look like. But if you replace your ‘seller’ focus with a ‘facilitator’ attitude and serve customers, you can still grow your business and be in a position of trust and respect on the Buying Decision Team going forward.

There’s a huge difference between selling and facilitating. Sales places solutions; facilitating leads change. Sales is tactical; facilitating strategic. Sales resolves a problem; facilitating uncovers and organizes the elements that seek resolution.

The differences lie in the trajectory of change management. Buyers start off as people who want to resolve a problem in the easiest way at the lowest cost to the status quo. The last thing they want is to bring in something new that might upset the apple cart.

It’s only when they cannot resolve their problem on their own AND they get buy-in for change and a new purchase, they become buyers – i.e. their delay in making a purchase has nothing to do with your solution. They never start off as buyers – only folks trying to resolve a problem. In truth, a buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue. And unfortunately, the sales model overlooks this entire portion of how buyer’s buy.

So until or unless people know how to bring in something new in a way that doesn’t ‘cost’ as much as the status quo, they aren’t buyers, regardless of what their ‘need’ looks like to you.


Right now, there’s no way to know anything. Everyone’s status quo is shifting; the cost of the changes they’ll face is a mystery. But there is a way you can enter and be a vital component in the necessary strategizing going forward. It’s the one thing you can do now to serve them.

As a successful sales professional for many years, I figured it out by the seat of my pants when I became an entrepreneur of a tech startup in 1983 in London. My business took off quickly; to handle the hiring and team development, I contacted vendors to help me with recruitment and leadership training. The lovely, smart, charming, professional sales folks who showed up gathered info about my ‘needs’ and gave me presentations. As they spoke and questioned, I found myself resisting.

While they offered terrific solutions, my underlying issues were systemic: I couldn’t buy until I got buy-in from the team, and we had to figure out how bringing in new solutions would affect us all. With a new company and a series of new hires, I had to carefully support the newly-forming management team and add new skills and new members carefully.

So yes, I most likely had a need, but I didn’t know how – or even what! – to buy until I figured it out. While I bet the folks trying to sell me had the knowledge to lead me through all the decision factors I’d need to consider, they didn’t. If they had, I could have been saved months of trying to figure it all out myself — and made a sale.

I realized then, after all my years as a seller, the reason my buyers (who appeared ‘stupid’ to me at the time) weren’t buying. It had nothing to do with my solution and everything to do with the other considerations, the steps that had to be taken (later called Pre-Sales steps) before even becoming a buyer and the sales model overlooked.

The piece I was missing was systems thinking: my team, my company, was a system; and like in all human systems, people seek to maintain the status quo. Whatever problem they face is embedded within a myriad of people, policies, and relationships that keep it in place (The sales model overlooks these issues to seek out only those who have already figured it all out).

Optimally, a solution to a problem should come from within the system so there’s less disruption. But if they can’t fix it themselves, it becomes a cost issue: the ‘cost’ of something new (risky) needs to be weighed against the cost of leaving the problem in place. So buyers don’t want to buy anything, just fix something. And if they have no choice but to buy something to reach their goal, they’ll become a buyer.

One more thing I realized about the sales model: it ignores these Pre-Sales steps and focuses on only those who have finally become buyers (This occurs on step 10 of 13 steps!). This restricts a sale to the low hanging fruit who already have their ducks in a row, and overlooks a much larger group of people who WILL become buyers once they’re ready (and can be made ready). It’s certainly much easier to find and support those who WILL be buyers on the first call than trying to push solutions onto those who SHOULD buy. But you can’t do this with a ‘need’ focus.


I decided to figure out the steps I was using en route to becoming a buyer, and use them to lead prospects through these steps BEFORE I pitched or gathered information. I developed Buying Facilitation® to easily find potential buyers with problems in the area my solution can resolve, lead them through their internal decisions without bias, and help them become buyers or at least serve them.

This saved me time following up those who would never buy (When I train Buying Facilitation® in organizations, we consistently have a 40% close rate against the control group with a 6% close.); brought me referral business; shaved about 50% off my usual close time (I only sold to those who were buying); and I truly served them all. Many who didn’t buy during our connection called months and years later to buy from me.

Here are the stages I delineated that all people traverse en route to solving a problem (and possibly end up as buyers):

1. Is there a problem? Can we live with it? Who and what would be involved with fixing it?

  • Why haven’t we fixed it already before? What’s been involved in maintaining it, and how long are the tentacles that keep it in place?
  • How will we know if it’s worth the cost of fixing? Who needs to be involved in this discussion?

Until everyone who touches the problem is involved, there’s no way to know if anything is missing, the full extent of the problem, or if a fix is viable.

2.    How can we fix the problem with known resources? Can our old vendors help us? Is there a fix that a different department has that would work for us? What are our workarounds?

  • Do we know enough to recognize if we can fix it ourselves? Can we keep this in house?
  • How much risk can we tolerate when considering fix or stay the same?

Before we can go outside to make a purchase we must know for certain that we’ve done all we can to resolve it ourselves. That limits the stress on our otherwise overwhelmed environment.

3.    What sort of disruption will occur when we bring in something unfamiliar?

  • Everyone (or departments) who will be effected by the new solution must understand and agree with the changes, the disruptions, the differences, that the new will bring.
  • The cost of the solution/change must be less than the cost of the problem, otherwise they might as well keep the problem.

Until it’s clear to all stakeholders the exact ‘cost’ of a new solution – people, rules, policies, outcomes, organizational changes – no decision will be taken. None. Regardless of the need or the efficacy of your solution, they cannot buy until they can calculate the cost of change. The change must ‘cost’ less than maintaining the status quo.

Obviously, there’s no way to even get to #3 in our Covid19 environment since no one knows how our lives and businesses and jobs will be altered. But imagine if you now use your efforts to help them discover their answers to 1 and 2. Then you’d have served them, and if they cannot resolve any ultimate problems, you’ll be the only one they’ll call.


To facilitate buying prior to selling, to engage folks who will be potential prospects (and give up selling for now) you’ll need a wholly different skill set as the current skills focus on discovering needs and introducing solutions – both necessary, once they’ve determined they need to buy something and are in the market for a fix.

Questions: I developed new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that facilitates folks down their steps of discovery. They are opposite to normal sales questions which are used to qualify, determine need, and gather data, and instead lead the route through discovery and change, through to purchase, which product knowledge on its own could never do.

Listening: A sales professional’s listening is biased to hear signs, words, that could be misconstrued as a ‘need’ causing sellers to follow up people for months mistakenly thinking they might be buyers. I developed a new way to listen (I wrote a book on this called What?) to hear the underlying meta messages and recognize those folks who might be seeking change – a real prospect – in my knowledge area, which I couldn’t hear with biased ears. People who are satisfied with their status quo have no agenda to change, and wouldn’t be buyers. Again, hearing what I think might be a ‘need’ doesn’t mean this person would buy.

Find prospects on a first call: Believe it or not, folks who will become buyers, people seeking change, are easy to recognize on the first call so long as you stop seeking someone with ‘a need’. By prospecting-by-need,

  1. You’re most likely only speaking to one person. How can that person know exactly what the rest of the Buying Decision Team thinks they need? Is that person representing the entire team, or just their personal views? You have no idea, but if it sounds like a possibility you unfortunately use it as an opportunity to pitch and follow up (and keep calling).
  2. Do you have any idea how this one person will share your data (if it even gets that far) with others? Will they use your data to compare against their current vendor? Again, you have no idea, and again, barrel forth pitching.
  3. Are you just listening for needs? Are your questions based on extracting data so you can pitch – and possibly ignoring some important data that would give you a broader understanding of the status quo?
  4. You have no idea where, or if, this person is along their Buying Decision Path. Are they in early stages of discussing how to resolve their problems and using your ideas?
  5. People who may need your product and aren’t yet ready to buy aren’t interested (yet) in speaking with you or reading/hearing about your product. Need has nothing to do with it.

One of the problems you’ll need to overcome when seeking prospects is using a telephone to have these conversations. Obviously you can’t visit; no one wants to make an appointment; and you can’t spend your time trying to get agreement for a Zoom call when no one is a buyer.

So do the following on the phone. Begin a call with voice rapport and a different sort of beginning:

This was going to be a sales call, but certainly you can’t buy anything now. I’ve been in the X field for many years. Maybe I can help you think through the issues you’ll need to consider as you go through this chaos now so when we come out the other side, you’ll know more about strategizing going forward. Is this a good time to speak?

Then, go down the stages above, helping them find answers to the questions at each stage.

I know you certainly are risk sensitive given what has been going on. I wonder if there are areas of my expertise that could lead you through the criteria you need to consider now. It would probably start with you getting a group of decision makers or leaders together to begin to figure out where you’re at.

Remember: you’ve got nothing to sell if they’ve got nothing to buy – and right now, they’ve got nothing to buy. Your entire approach must be based on something else: You’re not ‘gathering data to uncover needs’ (i.e. YOUR need to sell) or pitching (what YOU want to sell). You’re facilitating change and decision making. And when the environment goes back to ‘after’ – whenever that might be – and you have chosen the folks who will most likely be buyers, they will want to buy what you’ve got to sell.

Your new job is not to sell but to make a prospect. Help them figure out where, how, when, if they will be managing the new issues they’re facing. With your new goal you’ll be welcomed. And going forward, using this Buying Facilitation® approach will immediately ferret out those who are happy in their status quo and wouldn’t be prospects, regardless of whether or not they need your solution.

Everyone now is faced with change management, both in their current environment, and whatever the hell it will be once we’re back to work. Believe it or not, once you take your ‘sales’ hat off, people will recognize you’re helping them design their new fact pattern for going forward; when they arrive they’ll choose you when it’s time for a purchase. Not only is it win/win, but you’ll be a true Servant Leader.


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. She can be reached at

April 20th, 2020

Posted In: Sales

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I used to live in Taos, New Mexico, where I bought everything I ate from a small grocery called Cid’s Market. Run by Cid and Betty Backer, they always offered fresh organic produce, freshly cooked healthy meals, and a health/vitamin section that had everything I wanted. The store environment was happy and very obviously committed to the Taos community. It felt like MY STORE each time I went in. Any question I had was answered; anything I needed was procured, even if it meant they went out and bought me the item at a different store! I was a rabid fan.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who loved them. In the 11 years I lived there (1989-2000) I watched while he grew from a small store to a three story building taking up half a city block. Their service to customers was exceptional. Every morning as the store opened, Cid held a brief meeting with the entire team. “Who pays your salary?” he’d ask. They’d respond “The Customer!” And then they’d start their day.

Everyone’s job was to take care of customers, whatever that entailed. They didn’t need to ‘follow the rules’: that WAS the rule. And creativity and service ensued: In the health department, the manager created free evening community programs for different groups – diabetes sufferers, parents with kids who wouldn’t eat veggies; the produce manager created free cooking classes and lessons on growing organic veggies. Everyone was trusted to make their best decisions and the customers felt their commitment and respect. And in 1993 that was unusual.

One year, on a plane to Mexico to give a keynote address about Servant Leadership, I noticed Cid and Betty.

“Are you going on vacation?” I asked?

“No. We’re going to a conference on Servant Leadership.”

“Oh. I didn’t think a grocery store would seek out that sort of thing.”

“We’re going mostly to learn what we need to learn to serve our employees. If we can’t give them the respect they deserve, and create an environment in which they thrive, we can’t run a business that will also serve our customers. We go to one conference a year to learn all the tools we can so we all have the best knowledge available to serve with.”

They understood that their success came from serving people, community, customers and staff. And they actively made it a priority.


When corporations consider what their jobs are, they sometimes think Profits, or Products, or Shareholders. But I think it’s something else. Think about it: there’s no job that doesn’t include serving:

  • Sell more? Serve customers.
  • Grow the business, be respected in the industry, and retain clients? Serve the company.
  • Retain and inspire good people with tools to inspire creativity? Serve employees.
  • Maintain optimal skills and health? Serve ourselves.
  • Maintain communication skills? Serve each other.

Without hiring and retaining good people that know how to lead collaboratively; without the skills to help managers, sales folks, team leaders, facilitate buy-in; without the creativity from an entire group that, working together, can develop top notch solutions that produce competitive and imaginative solutions; none of us are in business. No matter what our jobs, our core business is to serve.

Unfortunately, too many of us unwittingly follow trends that take us away from our core business of serving. For example, too many companies have chosen the trend of using their websites to collect names. They embed pop ups to retrieve email addresses, making it impossible to find answers to questions and rendering the site unusable (unless you agree to the cookies) and annoying folks with real interest who might even be customers.

Obviously they’re putting their own goals before those of a possible customer. Why would a company do that? Especially the smaller companies who truly depend on offering information as a sales strategy. Is acquiring my name to push out marketing materials that important? Don’t they know I’ll leave the site rather than agree to accept more spam? That they’ll lose my business because I don’t want my name captured? Those companies have lost their way: they are only serving themselves.


What if our real jobs weren’t to collect data, or create content, or push products? What if our jobs were merely to serve? That requires a new skill set, a different viewpoint that produces very different results:

  1. Leaders wouldn’t be getting resistance because they’d attain buy-in and work collaboratively to engage all voices before making change.
  2. Sellers would only pitch to those ready to buy, and use the bulk of their now-wasted time to facilitate people them through their buying decision path as they figured out how to achieve their own type of excellence (and possibly buy solutions).
  3. Managers would hire people whose goal was to serve and retain them because the company’s practices facilitated their excellence.
  4. Coaches would use Facilitative Questions to guide folks to their own answers, trusting each person had their own type of excellence to achieve without the biases of an outsider.
  5. Tech folks would save a great deal of time on projects because they’d be curious without bias, gathering the most accurate data the first time and avoiding biased assumptions that caused flawed results and user complaints.
  6. Companies would be aware of the environment, the role they play in it, and factor in climate issues as a way to serve the planet while serving customers.
  7. Senior Management would dictate that each employee, as well as customers, be cared for respectfully. When an employee isn’t happy, it’s difficult for them to care about customers.

By maintaining focus on ourselves, on our individual needs, we miss the larger picture. By using our jobs and companies as the vehicle to serve others and the planet, we will all live in an excellent world.


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. She can be reached at

April 13th, 2020

Posted In: News

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When my first book Sales on the Line came out in 1993, it was the 26th book published that focused on using the telephone in sales. Obviously that number has increased dramatically since then. But resistance to using the phone to develop trustworthy connections continues. And frankly, I don’t know why: it’s an excellent tool to develop rapport, facilitate decision making, and create win/win communication. We’ve just never been taught how.

And physiologically, the ear has more receptors than eyes and takes in information more quickly, albeit differently. But for some reason, there are fewer people who prefer auditory over visual as their main information gathering sense.


Personally, I get more information of what’s really being said through my ears; my visual seems to draw my attention haphazardly, restricts what I notice to whatever catches my eye, and interpret the bits I notice with bias. As a result I miss important cues that are obvious to me when I’m just listening. For me, the phone is my go-to professional tool where I’m able to

  • get into rapport quickly and invite my communication partner into rapport with me,
  • hear patterns of deciding, beliefs, habits I can’t notice with my eyes,
  • build relationships through voice rapport and matched beliefs,
  • facilitate discovery, decision making and change.

I’ve successfully taught large numbers of sales and coaching clients to use the phone as an efficient tool for prospecting, negotiating, change management, collaborative decision making, and relationship building.

Back in the 1980s when launching my tech start up in London I made hundreds of calls weekly around Europe (no internet, no email, no zoom); flying to a sales call was a huge time waster unless the prospect had already decided to be a buyer.

I became so good visualizing my communication partner on the phone that I was ‘one’ with it, even able to mentally visualize the colors and patterns on a man’s tie! True story: My US investor heard of my ‘skill’ and bought a bunch of new ties to trick me, so I couldn’t guess from the ones I’d seen him in. He called regularly for a few weeks, wearing a different tie each time, asking: “What color is my tie?” I always got it right. He’d then hang up on me, frustrated because he couldn’t figure out how I did that (My mental images are quite sharp, obviously.). I adore the phone. But I digress.


In these times of social distancing and working from home, sellers, healthcare providers and consultants, usually reliant on face-to-face contact, are using skype, zoom, and the telephone to connect. But their history of eschewing the phone has created two main problems. 1. the fields themselves have myths and assumptions about the necessity of in-person contact; 2. people haven’t been taught good skills to make phone use effective. I’d like to help make it easier. I’ll start with sales.

Sales has two major problems.

  1. It still follows the precept of Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People, 1937) that in-person meetings with prospects is essential. In those days, meeting in person was the only option, unless sellers wanted to be on a party line with the whole neighborhood listening in. But let’s be honest here: what else do you use from 1937? Obviously times have changed. And just maybe the phone can be a viable tool to help you do your job.
  2. The model only targets the low handing fruit, only those ready to buy. Because it’s limited to being a solution placement tool, it enters late in the buying decision path and overlooks the vast number of potential buyers who will buy once they get their ducks in a row (and don’t heed information or marketing because they’re not buyers yet). I successfully use the telephone with my Buying Facilitation® process to find and facilitate these folks through their Pre-Sales change management stages that precede their decision to purchase. I find it a dynamic tool that efficiently creates trust and rapport.

Healthcare and consulting are also done largely in person. And yes, I understand that docs and consultants need to be face-to-face with folks to get a full understanding of their concerns. But these fields also have their problems. Too often, professionals enter with agendas and assumptions that unwittingly challenge people’s unconscious beliefs and end up causing resistance, not to mention miss important data. But now, with in-visit meetings less frequent, the phone is a good option to gather information, create rapport, and facilitate win/win collaborative dialogues that enable buy-in and action.


Using a win/win value system, the phone can begin and enrich relationships, as well as enable Others to discover their own excellence (even sick people must ‘do it’ their own way). For those of you now needing to connect with folks you used to meet up with in person, here are some tips.

Rapport. Rapport building is vital for trust-building. But it’s done differently using the phone: you must use your voice and empathy to build rapport. Here are best practices that signal care and collaboration:

  • It’s vital to get into voice rapport immediately. That means tone, tempo, pitch, and volume; your normal speaking voice will feel comfortable only to those who speak like you do. Think about it: your close friends have voice volume and pace similar to yours, and it’s quite uncomfortable speaking with folks who speak a lot slower/faster, or louder/softer. Being out of voice rapport is one of the reasons telesales and robo calls feel so invasive – their products are usually fine.
  • There’s a very specific format to entering a call with a stranger (i.e. a prospecting call, or call with a new patient) to create rapport and avoid annoyance. First, introduce yourself with a very brief description of your goal, and ask if it’s a good time to speak. So:

Hi. This is Sharon-Drew Morgen. I go by Sharon-Drew. And this is a sales call. I’m selling a new type of change management program for sales. Is this a good time to speak?

Then, immediately upon hearing them speak, change your voice to your best approximation of their voice for instant rapport. I once had this series of exchanges with the training director at IBM, on a cold call:

Nancy: HELLO!!!!!!!!
SDM: [using her same rushed tone] You sound busy! When should I call back?
Nancy: TOMORROW AT 2:00
And we both hung up.
Nancy: [Next day, 2:00] HELLO!!!!!!!
SDM: [using same rushed tone.] Wow. You’re still busy. When should I call back?
Nancy: THURSDAY AT 5:00.
And we both hung up. I called back again Thursday.
Nancy: HELLO!!!!!!!!
SDM: You still sound busy.
Nancy: Who ARE you? And why are you calling?
SDM: Sharon Drew Morgen. And this is a sales call. I can call back.
Nancy: What are you selling?
SDM: A new sales paradigm that facilitates decision making. But I can call back.
Nancy: Can you teach my people how to do what you do?
SDM: What did I do?
Nancy: You respected my time, never pushed your own agenda, and created rapport. I trust you already.

And I trained large numbers of IBM sales people nationally for years afterwards. With no pitch, no presentation, no face-to-face visit, no money discussion. Just rapport, respect, and voice matching.

  • The next step is to make sure you’re using their correct name: say,

Can you please tell me how you refer to yourself so I can call you by the name you prefer?

Even if you see a name written in front of you, you have no way of knowing if it’s how they refer to themselves. My name, for example, is Sharon Drew Morgen. Folks who don’t know me mistakenly refer to me as ‘Sharon’ and I must admit it really annoys me. With just a little bit of homework on Google, or looking at my email address ( or reading any of my articles or profile, it’s easy to spot that I refer to myself as Sharon Drew. Calling me by the wrong name automatically puts callers out of rapport with me, and then they have to claw their way back. So unless you know the person, don’t assume you know the name they call themselves. Ask.

  • Given the time demands we all have these days, say upfront how much time you’ve got so everyone is working with the same parameters. So after you get their correct name, say

Hi, Joe. Glad we’re speaking. I’ve got about 15 minutes. Does that work for you? Or would you rather do it at a different time when we could speak longer?

This sets up trust that you’ll be honest and respectful.

Now that you’ve got the initial set up, let’s turn to more tools for a collaborative communication.

WE Space. I coined this term decades ago to represent the HOW of rapport building, comfort, and trust building. It’s about very quickly creating a feeling of familiarity. I’ve heard people say it’s ‘smooth’.

Begin with a conversational tone. And certainly don’t begin with questions to ‘assess need’ or assumptions, or begin sharing information you think they need. Openings like these make people defensive or annoyed if offered before they are ready to hear you. Listening to another person talk about something outside their comfort zone will break rapport and regardless of a ‘need’, they won’t listen. So ixnay on the pitch or ‘illuminating’, regardless of how ‘important’ you think your message is: the conversation must be reciprocal or the listener won’t hear it.

Don’t forget, you’re out of control on the phone and have no idea what the other person is doing. Are they listening? Are they on mute and working on their computer? Are they having lunch? Did their dog just die? I once got a cold call that went like this:

CALLER: Hi. I’m James with XYZ corp. And how are YOU today!?

SD: I’m terrible. I just had to put my favorite dog down (This was true.) I’m so upset

And he hung up. He could have used that opportunity to create rapport, but his only agenda was to sell something. Being human wasn’t in the mix. This is a great example of why you should never, never say “How are you?” to someone on a cold call that you don’t know. It’s a piker move. Shows you don’t care, aren’t sincere, and merely trying to create a fake sense of relationship to get their own needs met. Don’t do it.

It’s vital to have a real exchange that embraces both parties (Sender->Receiver->Sender->). And without both parties on the same page wanting the same outcome, you won’t be heard. This is especially challenging for sales folks determined to discover a ‘need’ to sell into, and merely end up annoying folks who may not know why they’re being talked at; and for patients and clients who haven’t been respected enough to be brought on board to a mutual discovery process. This brings up the next item.

Ask don’t tell.  Don’t enter a call assuming you have answers. I use Buying Facilitation® to help Others discover their own answers, their preferred behaviors, their assumptions and the beliefs they hold to maintain their status quo. Once they’ve figured out where they’re at, what’s missing, and what they need to change for excellence, I offer only data that matches.

  • To help them discover their answers, I developed Facilitative Questions, which do NOT elicit data, but helps uncover unconscious decision criteria instead of conventional questions that are biased by the Asker and restrict the full range of responses. So:

What has stopped you until now from considering other options around X? What skill do you have that might help you shift Y that you’d be willing to begin using? What do you need from me to help you achieve Z if you’re having difficulty?

I am aware that the term ‘facilitative questions’ is being used by now by folks who don’t know the origination of the term, so here it is. Decades ago I realized that conventional questions are biased by the Asker – in words, context, intent, languaging, outcomes, assumptions – and set up resistance, or extract only partial, or incorrect, data.

After decades of trial, I figured out how brains make decisions and developed Facilitative Questions to employ brain function to retrieve data from the unconscious. They use specific words, in a specific order, with a different goal and outcome than conventional questions, i.e. they’re not based on any curiosity or need of the Questioner. I’ve written an article on them, and developed a learning tool to learn how to formulate them. It’s not a natural use of questions, nor a natural use of the brain, but quite powerful as a way to not only build trust, but to enable Others to use their natural ideas and assumptions. After all, at the end of the day, you want your telephone partner to walk away with their own best solutions.

Change your goal. Instead of entering a call to achieve what YOU think is important, enter the call to do what THEY will benefit from – and as an outsider, you have no way of knowing what that is. I suggest you listen for what they have interest in changing; what their brand of excellence is and how they want to get there. Make it your goal to enter as a Servant Leader. Use the phone to help THEM discover what THEY need, exploring and discovering together a shared goal. Remember: the connection is about WE, not about YOU.

And trust me on this: even if you’re a doctor or consultant with necessary data or wisdom YOU think they need doesn’t mean THEY will agree. Especially if what you suggest goes against their instincts (which you cannot know), or they’re already frightened and don’t know who or what to trust. Rapport building and WE Space will handle the psychological issues you don’t normally deal with before you address their concerns. So:

I’d like to discuss what you’d like to get from this call. If you tell me what’s going on, I’d like to hear how you’ve been trying to fix the problem yourself and how that’s working. If there is a way I can help you do it the most comfortable way for you, I’d like to try.

For sellers, your pitches and qualifying questions are based on your needs. Remember: you’ve got nothing to sell (or share) if they’ve got nothing to buy (or learn/change). Certainly your biased questions won’t help them discover what they need to address to make changes, and will only create resistance. You now seek out folks eager to make changes but haven’t figured out how. It’s only when folks are ready and willing to change that they become buyers, regardless of a ‘need’.

One more important factor for any influencer: when you offer information the listener isn’t seeking, they can’t hear it outside their own biases. I wrote a book on this (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?). Here’s why they can’t hear you: words enter brains as chemical and electrical signals that have no meaning. These signals seek out existing synapses and neural pathways that have a close match; where there is insufficient matching, the brain discards the difference – and doesn’t tell us what parts it discarded causing misunderstanding and misinterpretation. And because we think we heard what was said, we have no choice but to respond to what we think we heard. So you might say ABC and my brain hears ABL. It doesn’t tell me it deleted C, D, E, etc. Hence, we all suffer the downsides of miscommunication.

This is what happens when you pitch or offer information before your communication partner recognizes what they’re missing and need from you, and you’ve developed the rapport and trust necessary for them to invite you to serve them. Regardless of how important your message, it will not be received regardless of the efficacy of the idea.

What to listen for. When we listen for what we want to hear, we’re overlooking a vast array of underlying data. With your Servant Leader hat on during a phone call, you can hear what your patients, prospects, and clients have omitted, the beliefs that aren’t serving them, and the reasons behind the choices they’ve made. Listening is a highly biased process. Mitigate this by speaking only when the Other has determined exactly what they need from you, regardless of what you think they need. And the phone is a great tool for this.

One more thing. As your phone call progresses, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I forgetting to be curious about?
  • Why is s/he telling me this instead of something I find more important?
  • Am I hearing what’s being said or am I biasing my listening?

I hope I’ve shed some light on how to make the phone your friend during these troubling times. Should you have more questions, please let me know:


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. She can be reached at

April 6th, 2020

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As sellers, we’ve been taught that someone with a need for our solution is a prospect. But that’s not true or we’d be closing a lot more business and wasting a lot less time following prospects who will never buy. Just because we see a need does not mean they

  • want it resolved,
  • want it resolved now,
  • have the buy-in to bring in an external solution rather than using their own internal fix or beloved vendor,
  • are ready to give up the work-around they have in place that resolves the problem well-enough.

Not to mention we use our biased questions, in our biased language choices, and listen through biased ears to ‘hear’ what’s being said as a ‘need’. In fact, given our predisposed assumptions and restricted inquiries, we have no way of knowing when, or how, or if the people we speak with are willing to bring in an outside solution regardless of a possible match or need. A decision to make a purchase is based on dozens of factors that go far beyond need. So rule number #1: need does not a prospect make.

Unfortunately, the sales model has no capability to go behind-the-scenes to facilitate buy-in from those within the buyer’s environment who don’t yet see a need, or don’t want to share budget, or want to address the problem in-house, or have their own agendas. And the sales model, used to attempt to place your solution, doesn’t have the tool set to enable prospective prospects to manage all these internal, hidden issues. Here’s rule #2: until everyone and everything that will touch the new solution buys-in to bringing it on board, there will be no purchase, regardless of a need.


People don’t want to buy anything, they merely want to reach excellence. It’s only when it becomes clear that they cannot resolve a problem internally that they’re willing to purchase anything, regardless of need or the efficacy of your solution.

As such, buyers have change management problems well before they have solution choice problems. A purchase is merely the last element in a chain of events that must take place, most of which are outside of a seller’s purview: assembling the right Buying Decision Team members, trialing many workarounds and reaching out to current vendors, getting buy-in, managing any disruption that would result from bringing in something new.

One of the biggest fallacies of sales is that someone is identified as a buyer when it seems they have a need that your solution might resolve. Because people merely want to resolve a problem, they must explore all avenues of an internal fix before recognizing a purchase is their only alternative. In other words, they have to know their route to change before considering purchasing anything. And the sales model does nothing to facilitate this.

Indeed, until they figure out if a fix will ‘cost’ less than the status quo, or understand the complete cost of the resources they’ll need to manage any change, people aren’t even buyers. Remember: they were doing ‘good enough’ until now, and if a new solution causes more disruption than the cost of staying the same, they aren’t buyers. Rule #3: the status quo is sacrosanct, regardless of the need or the efficacy of your solution.


Here are two situations in which I failed miserably (and lost quite a bit of money), prior to understanding that buyers (in companies and individuals) must know how to manage internal change before they can buy.

  1. I did a pilot for the sales group in an iconic multinational. Using Buying Facilitation® the group had a 400% increase in sales over the control group (we shortened the sales cycle from 7 months to 4 weeks). They chose not to role out my program because the fallout from the cash flow issues of a short sales cycles, shifts in the manufacturing schedules, etc., would cost many millions to resolve. They eschewed the increased profit to maintain the system.
  2. I trained a large insurance group who got a 600% increase in sales over the control group (they went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales). After the test month, the trained team handed in their resignations because they said had been hired as ‘field sales’ reps and would rather quit than be ‘inside sales’ reps, regardless of how much money they made. They liked handing out donuts and schmoozing.

From my point of view it was nuts to give up vast increases in sales rather than figure out how to manage the change a new purchase involves. But this is where I had my ‘aha’ moment, where I realized the difference between what I had to sell, their ‘need’, and how they needed to buy: People need to maintain the equilibrium of their status quo at all costs – at all costs – regardless of the benefits of our solutions. If they have to fire a team to bring in new software, they have a decision: software or people. Do they need the software? Sure.


I’m going to tell a story I’ve told dozens of times. For those who have read it in other articles or my books, I apologize. But it’s a terrific story.

Years ago, while running a Buying Facilitation® program at IBM, they asked me a favor. They wanted me to speak to folks at a ‘Mom and Pop’ store nearby who they wanted as a Beta test site. These folks would be getting a free computer for their efforts, yet three sales folks had been unable to get a Yes from them even though their old computer was far too slow for their growing company.

A man answered when I called. Here was the conversation:

SD: Hello. My name is Sharon Drew Morgen. I’m calling from IBM. I’m a consultant for them and was reading the files they have on you here when they offered you a free Beta. Can I ask how your current computer is working?
B: Hi. Um, It’s ok.
SD: What’s stopping it from being better than OK?
B: Dad.
SD: Dad? I don’t understand.
B: This is a Mom and Pop shop. I’m the son. The owner is my Dad. He started the company 40 years ago, is now in his 70s, and has been handling all tech issues [Note: those were the early days of the net when there was so much confusion]. He’s retiring next year.
SD: Ah. So you can’t consider bringing in anything new that he might be uncomfortable with and will wait until he leaves to look into it?
B: Right. I would love to do your Beta as our system is so slow by now. I’ve just got to take care of Dad.
SD: I wonder if you and Dad would be willing to travel about 5 miles to X company on Y street. They are using it right now and are one of our Betas. Maybe you and Dad could go play with it a bit, ask them some questions, and see if Dad is comfortable?
B: Good idea.

They went, and a week later took the Beta. They had a need, but weren’t buyers until they figured out how to resolve the change management issues that were keeping them in place.

No matter how much you think your solution matches with a ‘need’, your goal, your questions, your inquiries, are all based on what you’re selling and you’re not facilitating them in the first steps they must take – managing the change – before they become buyers. By this fact alone, you will only ever close those folks who need what you’re selling, the way you’re selling it, at the moment you show up, and you’re only closing the low hanging fruit.

Using the sales model you cannot influence what’s going on behind the scenes. They must do it themselves as they are privy to the personalities, the history, the internal politics, and the ‘givens’ that an outsider can never understand. And they will never buy until it’s done – regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution.


Philosophically the sales model is accurate: as sellers we clearly see needs that our solutions will resolve. But we don’t have a prospect until or unless the Buying Decision Team – everyone who will touch the final solution – is ready, willing, and able to

  • manage any changes that our solution causes to their people, rules, relationships, or job descriptions,
  • ensure the disruption won’t cost more than the problem it’s resolving,

or they cannot buy. Indeed: a prospect is someone who WILL buy, not someone who SHOULD buy. And ‘need’ has nothing to do with it.

I developed Buying Facilitation® in 1983 to manage the issues my own sales team faced in my tech startup. The model is a tool for sellers to facilitate people through their Pre-Sales change management issues before they sell.

As a sales professional, I never understood why ‘prospects’ weren’t buying as often as was logical. When I became an entrepreneur, I realized the problem buyers have when I had needs myself: how could I buy new software when the new programs I had just purchased weren’t yet accepted or used frequently by the users? When would be the right time to hire new folks since the last new batch wasn’t fully trained yet? How would a new manager blend in without disruption when the current team had been working so effectively as unit for so long?

When potential vendors came in to pitch new solutions to me, I understood the reasons I didn’t close as many sales as I thought I should have when I was a seller: the reason I couldn’t buy from these vendors had nothing to do with my need, but about managing my status quo effectively around a new solution; the vendor’s biased questions, assumptions of need, and pitch organized around what the seller was selling instead of addressing the change management issues I had to deal with as part of my buying decision process.

Everything these folks discussed, every question asked, was focused on selling me something. It never occurred to anyone that just maybe I wasn’t ready to be a buyer yet, that just maybe they had nothing to sell until I could clearly see my way through to a path to buy, even though I certainly needed their products.

Our time together should have been used to facilitate my steps to addressing my change management issues in the areas that I needed help with. And then not only would I have been a prospect, but I would have been a buyer.

So I developed my Buying Facilitation® model to add to sales to begin prospecting by

  1. first facilitating people who might have a need to recognize and organize the full Buying Decision Team,
  2. helping them try to find an internal workaround that would maintain their stability,
  3. facilitating them through to buy-in and change management when it became clear they needed to go external for a solution (i.e. when they became buyers), [Note: people need to do this anyway, and we wait in limbo while they do it. Might as well add a new skill set to have the tools to help them through their steps to becoming buyers.]

and then selling. After training this material for decades, I’ve found the most difficult part of Buying Facilitation® is the difficulty sales folks have in remembering to first put aside the ‘need’ or ‘sale’ and instead truly serve others in discovering their most efficient path to their own brand of excellence. People want excellence. The last thing they want is to buy anything. The last thing.

And you’re pushing the last thing far too soon, certainly depriving yourself of a real possibility of become a servant leader , a relationship manager, and a true professional. I’m not suggesting you not sell. I’m suggesting you don’t begin by attempting to assess ‘need’ or ‘value’ when there’s no way for them to know the full extent of their need until they’ve gone through their change management and buy-in issues. Indeed, once they’ve got the entire fact pattern, they may indeed need to buy more from you.

One more thing: once you enter a call with the goal of facilitating change rather than trying to sell, you’ll listen differently to each person. And you’ll know who will be a likely buyer on your first call: It’s those who seek change, and have been flummoxed by being able to resolve the problem your solution can resolve.

Stop seeking those with ‘need’ and seek those who want to change. And then facilitate them through their process. When it’s time to buy, they’ll be ready, won’t worry much about price, and you’ll barely have to pitch.

Help prospective buyers determine how to change, how to get buy-in, how to bring in your solution. Along the way, you both will determine next steps, who needs to be included, and how to get everyone on board – with you! – to move toward the remedy will provide – even on a prospecting call! And then you can sell. Buying Facilitation® first, then sales. You need both. Then you can help buyers decide to be prospects – and they will buy.


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. She can be reached at

March 30th, 2020

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Like most folks in the world right now, I’m homebound. Not homebound, exactly; the new term is ‘shelter in place’ or ‘home stay.’ But I’m not entirely in the house. Each day I take a 2 mile walk. I go out to buy groceries. Plus I live in a houseboat, and spend time daily sitting on my deck on the Columbia River, watching the ducks, sea lions and cormorants go by. Not to mention taking a daily paddle up the river. So I’m not staring at the walls all day.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My clients have shifted to phone work and WebEx meetings, but I still have work and I’ve always disliked flying anyway. Most of my days are spent writing – my weekly blog article and my new book that I finally have time to write – so I have a creative focus.

And frankly, I don’t mind too much. As an Aspie, I don’t seek out social connections anyway. I don’t go to bars, and eat out only occasionally with friends who are equally happy to share food in our homes.

But as someone who believes in the greater good, I believe if one of us is hurting we’re all hurting. And so many of us are now, or soon will be, hurting. Hourly workers won’t have money to pay rent; small business are closing and putting employees out of work; people who are ill can’t get the tests or medical attention they need; children can’t go to school causing a multitude of family problems. So many people. So much suffering. And this will go on for god-knows how long.

So I was thinking. For those of us lucky enough to be receiving regular paychecks regardless of whether or not we can get to an office; for those of us with spare time to serve; for those of us with enough money in the bank to make it through for the long haul, I believe we must serve those in need. I propose the following:

  1. Find a person, family, or group to donate to. It doesn’t have to be a large sum. Maybe help one family with the rent or a week of groceries. When there’s no money coming in, every bit helps relieve the stress and fear.
  2. Volunteer your time to babysit or ‘homeschool’ kids for a day or a week, so parents who are able to work on site can do so.
  3. Find ways to use the internet to support clients in a new way, or reach out to remain connected with friends so you’re not so isolated. Obviously this is a no brainer. But do it.
  4. Start a blog; share your thoughts, fears, experiences with friends, family, and neighbors. By communicating mutual concerns, by sharing your deep thoughts and worries, you’ll feel a bit less alone and the group consciousness may take over. Who knows, you might have a good idea for someone, or you might have an extra blanket, or a roll of toilet paper for a neighbor.

If we’re lucky enough to support our own ‘stay cation’ we must share whatever it is we’ve got with those who don’t. We’re all on the same ship. We’re all vulnerable in one way or another. Each one of us is dealing with the same issues, albeit differently. While some of us are bored, or missing the repartee amongst colleagues; while some of us feel confined by the ‘four walls’ we don’t quite notice in the few hours we’re usually home; while some of us (I’ve read) are eating too much junk food; we’re still alive and well and truly, we can’t complain.

Let’s share what we’ve got. I believe in a world where people care about each other and do what we can to minimize harm. There’s just no way to get around the fact that at this juncture, we can’t afford to be selfish. We’re a global family. We all have hopes and dreams, families and lives to be fulfilled. In these difficult times, let’s remember we’re all in it together. Let’s take care of each other please.


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. She can be reached at    

March 23rd, 2020

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What are decisions?While the perceived wisdom defines decision making as the process used to select new actions among several possibilities, I see decisions as more complex: I believe they represent change management problems, and current decision making often overlooks the full set of actions necessary to achieve optimal results. After all, unless a new decision can be implemented without resistance, and stands the test of time, it can be seen as a flawed judgment.

Because we forget that decisions don’t reside in a vacuum, we often restrict ourselves to weighting facts and uncertainty, or gathering information, and overlook the need to use unbiased thinking, facilitate buy-in from the relevant stakeholders (or synapses) and figure out how a new decision would effect the status quo.

Decision making based on comparative choice between ‘best’ or ‘rational’ or ‘good data’ is incomplete. Unless a new choice is adopted, accepted, and recognized as a fit to the beliefs and rules of the status quo, it won’t be adopted, regardless of its relevance. And no new action – to adopt an idea, buy something, agree to negotiation terms, change a habit – will occur otherwise.


With the most accurate data, the most efficient solution, or the very best idea or moral righteousness, until or unless there’s agreement and a path in place for integration and adoption, a path that includes buy in and excludes resistance nothing will change. We can be right, smart, efficient, and moral – and buy-in can elude us regardless of how ‘right’ or ‘rational’ or necessary the new decision would be. Any new decision, any new choice, requires compliance with the norms of the entity making the change.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky originally said that people make ‘casino decisions’: they gather probabilistic possibilities and calculate the best route between them. But after years of trial and error they found the focus on helping people make ‘good’, ‘rational’ decisions to be of “limited success”. According to Michael Lewis’s new book The Undoing Project, Kahneman said it was necessary to evaluate a decision “not by its outcomes – whether it turned out to be right or wrong – but by the process that led to it.”

If rational action were all we needed, there’d be a lot less failure. We each have plenty of data showing us  that even with right on our side, even with the best data, the most necessary outcome, we can end up making ‘bad’ decisions.

To make sure a decision will be successful, it’s necessary to plan a route to stakeholder buy in and change management before even considering weighted criteria, data, or ‘rational facts’ (all restricted by our unconscious biases that limit our search and curiosity).


Our current decision making process limits the full range of possible outcomes. We must learn to question our intuition and assumptions, and begin by managing our systemic, unconscious, subjective biases.

Let me explain my shift in focus. As humans, we make hundreds of small and large decisions a day. Most of them are quick, simple, and vary on a continuum between conscious and unconscious: which jacket to wear, where to go on vacation, whether or not to say something or keep quiet. When we think something is missing or incomplete and seek a different outcome, we weight and consider facts or givens against our personal criteria (beliefs, values, history, knowledge, assumptions).

When considering choices, a lot is happening unconsciously. And this is where we need to add conscious choice because we’re always comparing the new consideration against the status quo. Without factoring in our internal assessments to ensure anything new will match our hierarchies of beliefs and values (usually unconscious), a decision to do anything different runs the risk of resistance and non compliance.

Indeed, it’s only when we’re convinced that our status quo seems lacking and the new choices feel either more accurate or comfortable, are we willing to adopt anything new. In other words, even if it would behoove us to make a new decision, if we’re comfortable with our status quo we won’t seek change.

This is particularly costly when teams seeking new choices restrict the range of possibilities: facts get researched and weighted according to the goals of a limited group of leaders and the most acceptable sources; assessments get made against accepted industry norms; and value structure of the status quo seems to be the authority on what’s acceptable.

Indeed, long before we determine possible options for choices we give ourselves over to our unconscious beliefs and subjective biases. If we don’t believe climate change has a human component, for example, we won’t feel the need to decide on which recycle bin to purchase, and will find ‘rational’ reasons not to believe a scientific argument filled with proven facts, regardless of its efficacy.


Without first uncovering our unconscious drivers during a decision making process, we end up biasing our outcomes before we barely begin:

  • we only consider as relevant, or sanctioned, a tiny portion of available data that makes sense to us, thereby restricting our data gathering and baseline metrics severely;
  • we dismiss, ignore, restrict, and resist any incoming data that runs counter to our values, beliefs, biases, and internal status quo, regardless of its relevancy;
  • we define ‘rational’ according to our own beliefs, thereby biasing results;
  • our unconscious biases take in, or leave out, potentially important data when our subjective filters interpret information.

As humans living in our personal, idiosyncractic worlds, we work hard to maintain our mental models and our synapses, synaptic connections, and neural pathways that keep them in place. Sadly, we seek to maintain our status quo regardless of the facts, the need, the relevance, or the weighted averages or the ‘rational’ choice.

Make no mistake: regardless of what we decide, our unconscious is always making what it believes to be its best choice for us. I don’t believe there is such a thing as an irrational decision; it’s always rational to our unconscious.

Think about this: Have you ever said to yourself “I think I’ll make an irrational decision”? ‘Irrational’ is a subjective term used by outsiders judging our output against their own beliefs and standards. I always ask, “Irrational according to who?” After all, science is merely a story in time, and ‘facts’ change (Remember when eggs were bad? Or when making an online purchase was a risk?), and there are oh-so-many to choose from!

Using a new type of question I developed (Facilitative Questions) to enable discovery, I once helped a friend decide on what to do with her attic. For years she fought herself on different types of wood and floor plan/design and couldn’t form a decision to take action because of her confusion. When we got to her unconscious she realized she hated her house, but hadn’t wanted to admit that to herself because moving would uproot her family. She had unconsciously delayed her decision, consciously focusing on entirely different issues to avoid dealing with a much larger problem. She was stuck considering the ‘wrong’ decision criteria for 3 years.

When we ignore our unconscious, we either delay a decision because it doesn’t feel right, gather data from insufficient sources, use partial data and miss the full picture or possibilities, or face a lack of buy-in, sabotage, or resistance. To get a good decision, we need to expand our scope of possibility. We can never get it ‘right’, but we can get it ‘righter.’


One of my beliefs is that without achieving a congruent output that’s acceptable to all and fits with the norms and values of the status quo, a decision will fail regardless of the accuracy of the facts. This is quite prevalent in among the Decision Scientist community. After keynoting to 200 Decision Scientists on Facilitating Decision Making a few years ago, I sat with them afterword and listened to them loudly bemoan the 97% implementation failure rate (Sadly, a common problem in the field.) they face. Here was part of our Q&A.

SDM: How do you prepare for a smooth implementation, or encourage buy-in?

We provide the best options as per our research. It’s their problem if they can’t implement. Our job is to find the right solutions and hand them over.

SDM: How do you acquire accurate criteria to design your research?

    We speak with folks who want the decision.

SDM: If you’re only speaking to a subset (influencers, superiors, clients) of users, how can buy-in be achieved – even with good data and rational choices – if the full set of facts are possibly not being considered? Aren’t you limiting your fact-gathering to a predisposed subset? Aren’t you moving forward without consideration of those who may be involved at some point, have unique goals and data, and resist implementing decisions well outside their value structure?

     Not our problem.

SDM: How can say you’re offering a ‘good decision’ if some of those who need to use the decision aren’t ready, willing, or able to adopt it because their reality was excluded from the initial data gathering?

We gather criteria from the folks who hire us, from recognized sources, and weight the probabilities. We give them good data. Feelings have nothing to do with it. Rational data is rational data.

They wouldn’t even consider that by doing initial fact-gathering from as large a set of people involved as possible, they’d not only acquire a larger set of identified goals, understand the foundational beliefs and values necessary to uphold the status quo, they’d set the stage for follow-on buy-in.

When we restrict the possibilities and people needed to define the criteria for a decision,

  • we can’t gather the full data set decide with,
  • alienate those would benefit from the outcome of the decision,
  • cede control to our very subjective, and biased, unconscious.

How can we take action if it goes against our unconscious drivers, regardless of the efficacy of the available information? How can we know where to gather data from if we only pursue a biased segment of what’s available? How can we know if our decisions will be optimal if we’re being unconsciously restricted by our subjective biases and do not gather data from, recognize, or realize that we are restricting the full set of possibilities?


In order to make our best decisions we (even teams and families) must integrate our conscious with our unconscious and find a route that expands scope and possibility without provoking resistance.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

What are my gut thoughts about what a new result would look like, act like, achieve? Am I comfortable with a change? Am I willing to contain/expand the parameters of the status quo? What would cause me to resist?

How far outside of my own beliefs am I willing to go to make sure I have as expansive a range of possible data as possible? Or must I maintain my current parameters (beliefs, or external mandates) regardless of the restrictions this poses on the outcome?

Should I add to what I already know? Or am I willing to explore what’s outside of my knowledge base that may make me uncomfortable? Where would I find acceptable resources to explore – and what would I find unacceptable?

What do I need to believe to be willing to consider data that I don’t ordinarily trust…and what, exactly constitutes trust?

Is there an inclusive idea that’s a ‘chunk up’ from my starting place that might encourage expansive consideration? I.e. if resistance is apparent, is there an idea, an outcome, which encapsulates the proposed change that doesn’t cause resistance? If everyone is fighting over house ownership in a divorce, maybe everyone can agree that a house is necessary for everyone’s well-being and move forward from there.


There is a point when gathering data is necessary. But when? Here are steps to knowing when it’s time:

  1. Make sure all stakeholders, influencers, and unconscious drivers are involved in the initial problem description, data gathering and outcome-setting.
  2. Get internal (personal or team) agreement for the beliefs, norms, and values that a final solution should/shouldn’t entail.
  3. Make sure all stakeholders understand the upsides and downsides to all potential outcomes.
  4. Elicit concerns, fears, beliefs that any change would bring.
  5. Elicit hopes and viewpoints as to best outcomes, goals, and options.
  6. Everyone involved do research on data sources, studies, comparative projects, possible problems (or personally, research all brainstormed possibilities) using agreed-upon resources for data gathering, testing, parameters for results.
  7. Make sure a plan is in place to manage any disruption that the New will bring,
  8. Reach consensus, then begin a typical decision analysis/weighting.

With this approach, your testing and data gathering will have the possibility of being more reliable and complete, will reach the broadest parameters of choice, possibility, agreement, and will encourage buy-in for action. You’ll also be in place for implementing without resistance. Again, the final decision may not be ‘right’ because no decisions ever are, but it will certainly be ’righter.’

*For those wishing an expanded discussion/explanation of how to generate unbiased choice, read Chapter 6 of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. I’ve also coded the sequential steps the brain travels en route to choice, and developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that facilitates decision making and congruent change, for use in sales, coaching, negotiating, and leadership.


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. She can be reached at

March 16th, 2020

Posted In: Change Management

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