By Sharon Drew Morgen

resistance-300x207Do you know what’s stopping you or your company from making the changes necessary to have more success? Or why prospects aren’t buying something they need? Or why clients aren’t adopting the changes they seek? The problem is resistance. And as change agents we’re inadvertently creating it.

Change requires that a complacent status quo risk its comfort for something unknowable – the probable loss of narrative, expectations, habitual activities and assumptions with no real knowledge of what will take its place. People don’t fear the change; they fear the disruption.

THE STATUS QUO OF THE SYSTEM

To understand why our status quo is tenacious we must understand systems. Simply, a system – for the sake of this article families, corporations, or individuals – is
1. a collection of policies, beliefs, agreements, goals and history, uniquely developed over time, which
2. embrace uniform rules that are
3. recognized and accepted by all and
4. constitute the foundation of all decisions.

Because of the law of homeostasis (simply, all systems seek stability) any change potentially disrupts the status quo and will be resisted, even if the ‘new’ is more effective; even if the system seeks the change; even if the persuader is skilled at persuasion tactics.

Until or unless a system is able to shift its rules so that the new product, idea or implementation has the ability to fit in and new rules are adopted that reconfigure the status quo from within, change faces an uphill battle. The system is sacrosanct.

To get folks to change their minds or accept a solution and avoid resistance, it’s necessary to first
*help the system discover the differences between the new and the old,
*help the system discover the details of the risk,
*facilitate an acceptable route to managing the risk,
*facilitate buy-in from the right people/elements
regardless of the efficacy of the proposed change or the need.

OUR GUIDANCE PUSHES AGAINST STABLE SYSTEMS

Entire fields ignore these change management issues to their detriment:

– the sales model fails 95% of the time because it attempts to push a new solution into the existing status quo, without first facilitating a buyer’s non-need change issues;
coaches end up needing 6 months with clients to effect change as they keep trying to push new behaviors into an old system – and then blame clients for ’not listening’ or believing they have the ‘wrong’ clients;
c
onsultants and leaders have a high rate of failed implementations as they attempt to push the new into the old without first collaboratively designing new structures that will accept the change.

Persuasion and manipulation tactics and guidance strategies merely push against a stable system. As outsiders, it’s unlikely we can acquire the historic knowledge and consensus from all relevant insiders, or design the new rules for systemic change, for our ideas or solutions to gain broad acceptance throughout the system.

We can, however, facilitate the system in changing itself. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt excellence.

Obviously, having the right solution does not cause change: pitching, suggesting, influencing, or presenting before a system has figured out how to manage change is not only a time waste, but causes resistance and rejection of the proposed solution. So all of our logic, rational, good content, reasoning, or persuasion tactics are useless until the system is ready. Facilitate change first, then offer solutions in the way that the system can use it.

The question is: do you want to place a solution? Or expedite congruent change?

LISTENING FOR SYSTEMS; FACILITATING CHANGE

For the past 30 years I have designed unique models that facilitate change from the inside. Used in sales, and now being used in the coaching industry, my Buying Facilitation® model offers a unique skill set that teaches systems how to change themselves, and includes listening for systems rather than content, and a new way to use questions (Read Dirty Little Secrets). But whether you use my model or develop one of your own, you must begin by facilitating change, not by attempting to first ‘understand need’ or place a solution or idea.

I’m suggesting that you change your accustomed practices: the idea of no longer listening for holes in a client’s logic to offer guidance goes against the grain of sellers, coaches, and consultants. By listening for systems, by focusing on facilitating change and enabling consensus and change management, change agents are more likely to sell, coach, and implement.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 771 1117; www.sharondrewmorgen.com

September 9th, 2019

Posted In: Listening

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Leaderdhip followersI’m a dancer. When I studied the Argentine Tango there was a foundational rule that I believe is true for all leaders: The leader opens the door for the follower to pass through, and the leader then follows. If anyone notices the leader, he’s not doing his job. The goal is to showcase the follower.

Much of what is written about leadership falls into the category I call ‘trait-centered leadership’: someone deemed ‘at the top’ who uses his/her personality, influence, and charisma to inspire and give followers – possibly not ready for change – a convincing reason to follow an agenda set by the leader or the leader’s boss. Sounds to me like a mixture of Jack Welch, Moses, and Justin Bieber.

What if the leader’s goal overrides the mental models, beliefs or historic experiences of the followers, or the change is pushed against the follower’s values, and resistance ensues? What if the leader uses his/her personality as the reason a follower should change? Or has a great message and incongruent skills? Or charisma and no integrity? Adolf Hitler, after all, was the most charismatic leader in modern history.

IF YOU CAN’T FOLLOW, YOU CAN’T LEAD

Whether it’s for a group that needs to perform a new task, or someone seeking heightened outcomes, the role of leadership is to

1. facilitate congruent change and choice,
2. in accordance with the values, skills, and ability of the follower,
3. enabling them to shift their own unique (unconscious) patterns,
4. to discover and attain new behaviors congruently and without resistance,
5. within the parameters of the required change.

It demands humility and authenticity. It’s other-centered and devoid of ego, similar to a simple flashlight that merely lights the existent path, enabling followers to discover their own excellence within the context of the change sought. It’s an inside job.

Being inspirational, or a good influencer with presence and empathy, merely enlists those whose beliefs and unconscious mental models are already predisposed to the change, and omits, or gets resistance from, those who should be part of the change but whose mental models don’t align.

This form of leadership has pluses and minuses.

* Minuses: the final outcome may look different than originally envisaged because the followers set the route according to their values and mental models.
* Pluses: everyone will be enthusiastically, creatively involved in designing what will show up as their own mission, with a far superior proficiency. It will more than meet the vision of the leaders (although it might look different), and the followers will own it with no resistance.

Do you want to lead through influence, presence, charisma, or rationality? Or facilitate the unique path to congruent change? Do you want people to see you as a guide? Or teach them how to congruently move beyond their status quo and discover their own route to excellence – with you as a GPS system? Do you want to lead? Or enable real change? They are opposite constructs.

POWER VS. FORCE

Here are some differences in beliefs between trait-centered leadership and more facilitative leadership:

Trait-centered: Top down; behavior change and goal-driven; dependent on power, charisma, and persuasion skills of a leader and may not be congruent with foundational values of followers.

Facilitation-centered: Inclusive (everyone buys-in and agrees to goals, direction, change); core belief-change and excellence-driven; dependent on facilitating route between current state and excellence, leading to congruent systemic buy-in and adoption of new behaviors.

Real change happens at the belief level. Attempting to change behaviors without helping people change their beliefs first meets with resistance: the proposed change pushes against the status quo regardless of the efficacy of the change.

New skills are necessary for facilitation-centered leadership:

1. Listen for systems. This enables leaders to hear the elements that created and maintain the status quo and would need to transform from the inside before any lasting change occurs. Typical listening is biased and restricts possibility.
2. Facilitative Questions. Conventional questions are biased by the beliefs and needs of the Questioner, and restrict answers and possibility. Facilitative Questions enlist the unconscious systems and show them how to adopt change congruently.
3. Code the route to systemic change. When asking folks to buy-in, build consensus, and collaborate, they don’t know how to make the necessary changes without facing internal resistance, regardless of the efficacy of the requested changes. By helping people move from their conscious to their unconscious back to their conscious, and facilitating buy-in down the line, it’s very possible to avoid resistance.

If you seek to enable congruent change that captures the passion and creativity of followers, avoids resistance, and enables buy-in, open the door and follow your followers.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen has designed a servant leader-based Change Facilitation model, using the process in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching and leadership, and communication, all enabling others to congruently change themselves. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell  and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew helps the health industry achieve buy-in between providers and patients; helps coaches and leaders enable lasting change with clients; helps sales folks facilitate the entire buying decision path from Pre-Sales to close. Her award winning blog has hundreds of articles that support change (www.sharondrewmorgen.com). She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. 512 771 1117.

August 26th, 2019

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

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I’ve read that there are leaders and project managers who prefer not to collaborate, when engaging in an initiative, because of needs for control. And decision makers who start their information gathering before fully involving those who will implement. What sort of success is possible when one source is driving change and

  • may potentially sabotage a project because of their own biases,
  • restricts outcomes and creativity to a specific set of possibilities,
  • potentially gathers biased or insufficient data from a restricted set of sources,
  • risks alienating those involved with the ultimate fulfillment because there’s insufficient buy-in?

Without:
* real collaboration * gathering data from the best set of sources * consensus and buy-in procedures in place
* understanding the full impact from a proposed decision * front-loading for change management (to avoid failed implementations) we risk falling far short of excellence in our decision making and subsequent execution.

WHY COLLABORATION IS NECESSARY

To ensure the best data is available to make decisions with, to ensure all risk issues managed, to ensure consensus throughout the process, we must have these questions in mind:

  • How will we share, collect, and decide on the most appropriate ideas, choices, and alternatives? How will we know we are working with the most relevant data set?
  • How can a leader avoid prejudicing the process with her own biases?
  • How are collaborators chosen to ensure maximum representation? Are some stakeholders either absent or silent? How can we increase participation?
  • How can we recognize if we’re on the path to either a successful outcome, or the route that sabotages excellence? What markers should we be looking for along the way?

Let me define a few terms (albeit with my own bias):

  1. Collaboration: when all parties who will be involved in a final solution have a say in an outcome:
    a. to offer and share ideas and concerns to discover creative solutions agreeable to all;
    b. to identify and discern the most appropriate data to enable the best outcome.
  2. Decision making:
    a. weighting, choosing, and choosing from, the most appropriate range of possibilities whose parameters are agreed to by those involved;
    b. understanding and agreeing to a set of variables or decision values.

I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on “understanding needs or managing an implementation”) and ‘low collaboration’ (defined as “putting time or control before people and possibility”, and leading from the top with prepared rules and plans). Since I don’t believe in any sort of top-down initiative (i.e. ‘low collaboration’) except when keeping a child safe, and believe there are systems issues that must be taken into consideration, here’s my rule of thumb: Collaboration is necessary early in the process to achieve accurate data identification and consensus for any sort of implementation, decision, project, purchase, or plan that requests people to take actions not currently employed.

THE STEPS OF COLLABORATION

Here are the steps to excellence in collaborative decision making as I see them:

  1. Assemble all representative stakeholders to begin discussions. Invite all folks who will be affected by the proposed change, not just those you see as obvious. To avoid resistance, have the largest canvas from which to gather data and inform thinking, and enhance the probability of a successful implementation, the right people must be part of the project from the beginning. An international team of Decision Scientists at a global oil company recently told me that while their weighted decisions are ‘accurate,’ the Implementation Team has a success rate of 3%. “It’s not our job. We hand them over good data. But we’re not part of the implementation team. We hear about their failures later.”
  2. Get buy-in for the goal. Without buy-in we lose possibility, creativity, time, and ideas that only those on the ground would understand. Consensus is vital for all who will touch the solution (even if a representative of a larger group lends their voice) or some who seem on board may end up disaffected and unconsciously sabotage the process later.
  3. Establish all system specifics: What will change? Who will manage it? What levels of participation, disruption, job alterations, etc. will occur and how it be handled? What are the risks? And how will you know the best decision factors to manage all this? It’s vital to meld this knowledge into the decision making process right up front.
  4. Specify stages to monitor process and problems. By now you’ll have a good idea of the pluses and minuses. Make a plan that specifies the outcomes and probable fallout from each stage and publish it for feedback. Otherwise, you won’t know if or where you’ve gone wrong until too late.
  5. Announce the issues publicly. Publish the high-level goal, the possible change issues and what would be effected, and the potential outcomes/fallout. Make sure it’s transparent, and you’re managing expectations well in advance. This will uncover folks you might have missed (for information gathering and buy-in), new ideas you hadn’t considered, and resisters.
  6. Time: Give everyone time to discuss, think, consider personal options, and speak with colleagues and bosses. Create an idea collection process – maybe an online community board where voices are expressed – that gets reports back to the stakeholder team.
  7. Stakeholder’s planning meeting. By now you’ll know who and what must be included. Make sure to include resisters – they bring interesting ideas and thinking that others haven’t considered. It’s been proven that even resisters are more compliant when they feel heard.
  8. Meet to vote on final plans. Include steps for each stage of change, and agree on handling opposition and disruption.
  9. Decision team to begin gathering data. Now that the full set of decision issues and people/ideas/outcomes are recognized and agreed to, the Decision Making team is good to go. They’ll end up with a solid data set that will address the optimal solution that will be implemented without resistance.
  10. Have meetings at each specified stage during implementations. Include folks on the ground to weigh in.

These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’ if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have preferred to spend more time following the steps above.Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not collaborating. And then do the math.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen teaches decision making, change facilitation, and collaboration for sellers/buyers, leaders/followers, change agents/groups to corporations such as Kaiser, KPMG, IBM, Wachovia, etc. She is the author of the NY Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Her most recent book What? breaks down the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She’s written 7 books on her unique model Buying Facilitation® which teaches sellers how to facilitate change and consensus for buyers.
www.sharondrewmorgen.com.
sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

August 19th, 2019

Posted In: Communication

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teamwork-2198961_960_720

Your solution is great. You know the narrative of the type of buyers who buy. You’re writing appropriate content and getting it out to the right demographic. But you’re still closing less than 5% from first contact and spending a ton of resource finding different ways to touch the same people as your competition touches – in hopes that you’ll have the right message that catches them at the right time or just grind them down.

Why aren’t more buyers buying? Do you know why your well-executed sales outreach programs – salesperson, social media, digital media, marketing – don’t elicit more closed sales?

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

You’re not closing more because you’re messages target a restricted audience, those who have already

  • tried all familiar resources and workarounds to fix their own problem and came up short,
  • decided their only route to a problem resolution is to make a purchase,
  • gotten appropriate buy-in and managed any disruption that a purchase would bring

and then you and your competitors work tirelessly to grab from that small pool of ready buyers. Seeking those you believe are probable buyers (those who SHOULD buy) limits your spectrum of buyers to those at the end of their decision path (beginning at step 10 of 13 steps. See steps below.) and concluded they not only need to buy something but are prepared for any change a purchase will cause.

We forget that a buying decision is first a change management problem, before it’s a solution choice issue (Indeed, the last thing buyers want is to buy anything. Literally: the last thing.). By acting as if selling causes buying, we disregard the internal, private, idiosyncratic, systemic change management work buyers must do before they’ve got their ducks in a row and are ready; until then, they can’t buy regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. You don’t buy a house before organizing a whole bunch of stuff with your family and getting buy-in from all the stakeholders. It’s not about the house.

The sales model only handles the solution choice/buying portion of the complete Buying Decision Path targeting those you believe have a probable ‘need’ – the low hanging fruit – and have completed their journey to Buyer Readiness. But this is merely a fraction of those who will eventually buy.

Here are the problems you face when targeting probably buyers who don’t yet have all their ducks in a row:

  • Once prospects have determined a need, you’re already in a competitive situation and have to find ways to be better/cheaper/more branded.
  • You’re wasting over 90% of your time finding, following up, meeting with, and in several ways trying to connect with, those who appear to need your solution but turn out not to be buyers.
  • You ignore the high percentage of those who would/will buy but aren’t yet ready to (but could easily be gotten ready).
  • You overlook the possibility of connecting with and serving, real buyers early along their change management/decision path
  • and reduces the number of possible entry points onto the Buying Decision Team/buying decision.

Sure, you’re making great information available for those who know what to look for and are ready to engage. But by adding a new component, you could be entering earlier and facilitating the full range of steps along the buying decision process – those that are not accessible with the sales model. The problem has never been your terrific solution but in closing all the sales you deserve to close. It’s because sales are solution-placement driven, seeking optimal ways to get to probable buyers but ignores the much higher pool of real prospects who aren’t far enough down their buyer’s journey to commit or engage.

SELLING DOESN’T CAUSE BUYING

As a solution placement model, the sales model is great for when buyers have determined they cannot resolve their solution on their own and have gotten the appropriate buy-in for change. But for those buyers who SHOULD buy but haven’t yet determined if they CAN buy, sales don’t have the intent, skills, or focus on facilitating the Systems Congruence steps buyers must take first. Sales weren’t created to do that.

The ‘modern’ sales model was developed by Dale Carnegie, introduced in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937). He promoted relationships, face-to-face visits, finding folks with a need, and developing great pitches. Think about it: while there are certainly a helluva lot more bells and whistles in 2017, the basic skeleton of need/relationship/appointment/pitch, remains the same. It shouldn’t be. The buying environment has changed dramatically over the past 100 or so years, far more complex than merely choosing a vendor or solution; the sales model hasn’t. It’s time for new thinking. Let’s join buyers where they really have their real ‘pain’ and facilitate Buyer Readiness earlier in their buy-in/systemic change process.

If prospective buyers might need a new CRM system, for example, they cannot buy until their tech guys, users, time frames, vendor relationships, current software etc. are in agreement, recognize they can’t fix their problem themselves and have assembled everyone who will touch the final solution to integrate the ‘new’. It’s not merely about the need; making a purchase means change and until all ‘givens’ are known and handled, the cost of a purchase is too high and they’ll maintain their status quo. And the time it takes them to manage all this is the length of the sales cycle. Having some good conversations with your sales guy, reading some good articles, and liking/needing your solution are necessary later, once they’ve finished their Pre-Sales change work.

The early portion of the decision path is based on managing internal shifts in the status quo, existent rules, internal politics, and relationships, and is decidedly not concerned with buying anything; the sales model is not the appropriate tool for this. Buyers don’t want to buy anything. They just want to resolve a problem with the least disruption and the most efficient use of a resource.

All prospects/buyers must do this anyway, with you or without you. It might as well be with you. It’s what they’re doing (inefficiently, and in confusion) as you sit and wait and hope they’ll call and buy. Why not use your industry knowledge to help them figure out how to traverse their steps efficiently?

With a different hat on and a new skill set, you can facilitate them quickly through their process and be right there with them as they decide. You want to seek/find those exact ones who CAN/WILL buy. And it’s easy to do this by shifting your initial prism from seeking prospects with a ‘need’ to seeking people who are trying to resolve a problem and are willing to change, in the area your solution handles. Until all the ducks are in a row and stakeholders on board, until they recognize the implications to their environment of adding something new, they cannot even understand their full need.

STAGES IN THE BUYING DECISION PATH

To design messaging to find buyers earlier in their Buying Decision Path, recognize the steps buyers take to be ready and able to purchase:

1. Idea stage: Is there a problem?

        *Does it need to be solved? When? How?

        *What’s the fallout?

        *Is the cost of a fix lower than the cost of the status quo?

        *Who needs to be involved?

2. Brainstorming stage: Idea discussed with colleagues.

3. Initial discussion stage: Colleagues discuss the problem, posit who to include on Buying Decision Team, consider possible fixes and fallout. Action groups formed. Research begins. New team members invited.

4. Contemplation stage: Group discusses:

        *Known workarounds and acceptable/fallout from each,

        *People who would need to buy-in.

5. Organization stage: Group collects all internal issues that need consideration, including finding more folks to invite into process; research into the elements of the status quo; fallout to change. Begins to assess the entire scope of problem, resolution possibilities, cost of change/no change.

6. Change management stage: Group to determine:

        *Types of research necessary (and who will do it),

        *If appropriate people are involved (and who else to invite),

        *A review of all elements of the problem and solution options,

        *How much change management would be required,

        *How much disruption is acceptable.

7. Coordination stage:

        *Review needs, ideas, issues of new members invited,

        *Incorporate change considerations,

        *Delineate everyone’s thoughts re goals and change capacity,

        *Appropriate research responsibilities.

8. Research stage: Specific research for each possible solution; seek answers to how fallout and change would need to be managed with each solution.

9. Consensus stage: Buying Decision Team meets to share research consider their givens: downsides per type of solution, possibilities, outcomes, problems, management considerations, changes in policy, job description changes, HR issues, etc. General decisions made. Buy-in and consensus necessary.

10. Action stage: Responsibilities apportioned to manage the specifics of Stage 9. Calls made to several vendors for interviews and data gathering.

11. Second brainstorming stage: Discussion on results of data gathering, calls with vendors and partners, and fallout/benefits of each. Favored vendors pitched by team members.

12. Choice stage: New solution agreed on. Change management issues delineated and put in place. Leadership initiatives prepared to avoid disruption.

13. Implementation stage: Vendor contacted. Purchase made. Everything put in place.

For those who want to explore these stages and all elements of how buyers buy, see my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

A NEED ISN’T ENOUGH

Instead of only targeting probable buyers (the low hanging fruit) and ignoring the much larger pool of real buyers who are merely too early in their decision process to consider buying anything (but will, once they get to that point in their process), add a new target market and new messaging: spend time interviewing real buyers and learn the full set of issues they must address before they can seek an outside solution instead of trying to resolve the issue themselves, and use your new understanding of their change management issues to help the right ones get ready.

Note: you can’t use your current messaging to begin selling if you want to influence those who WILL buy and use the stages as the focus of leading them through their change management process; it’s the wrong tool because change management issues are not information, need, solution or sales driven. You need a new skill to facilitate change first. To manage this Pre-Sales work, and as an adjunct to the sales model, I’ve developed Buying Facilitation® to

  • work with sales to enter the Buying Decision Path between Steps 1-9 above (Pre-Sales),
  • seek/find those who CAN buy (those who’ve recognized a problem in the area your solution serves, but aren’t set up to buy anything yet),
  • find the large pool of real buyers who can be facilitated efficiently through to Buyer Readiness,
  • collapse the time from problem recognition to discovery of need to purchase,
  • enable sellers to be servant leaders and real consultants, and be part of the Buying Decision Team when buyers get to the point they’re ready to buy.

Buying Facilitation® is a generic change management, decision facilitation model that can help buyers traverse that part of their journey that sales doesn’t handle. Using unique skill sets not involved in sales (Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, change sequencing) it was designed to optimize the change/decision process. By adding some new messaging and Buyer Persona targets, you can find those who aren’t touched by your sales messages but are in the process of becoming buyers.

By adding new messaging to target those who CAN/WILL buy rather than those you’ve determine might have a ‘need’ (probable buyers), by understanding the Pre-Sales (change management) steps all buyers take, by including messaging that teaches them how to address their internal resistance areas, disparate voices, and needs, you can facilitate the Pre-Sales decision path of those who CAN/WILL buy and enable them to ready themselves for a purchase – and your sales messaging. Here are two examples of success after learning Buying Facilitation®:

Kaiser Permanente initially made 110 visits and got 18 closed sales, wasting too much time traveling to those who COULDN’T/WOULDN’T buy. Adding Buying Facilitation® to their sales, they made 27 visits and got 25 closed sales. They still needed to sell – but only to those who were ready/able to buy. And saved a ton of time/money only traveling to those who were real buyers.

Working with Wachovia small business bankers, they went from 100 calls, 10 appointments, and 2 closed sales over 11 months, to 100 calls, 37 appointments, and 29 closed sales in 3 months. The sales folks’ opening Facilitative Question taught prospects how to do an immediate ‘sort’ for change, rather than need, and got invited to visit and meet all (all) the team members for their first appointment:

How are you adding new banking services to the bank you’re currently using for those times you need additional resource?

Know all – all – of the elements (most are hidden, personal and idiosyncratic) of your buyer’s Pre-Sales decision/change steps so you can design messaging to help them traverse their steps (Note: offering information about your solution here is irrelevant) to change and consensus – and THEN sell. We wait while they do this anyway and run after the ones who have completed this journey. Why not add a new criteria and skill set to what you’re already doing and expand your focus to find those who WILL buy.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader, the author of 1700 articles and 9 books including NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling With Integrity and two Amazon bestsellers: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and the game-changing What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  that explains, and fixes, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew is the inventor of a Change Facilitation model that gives influencers a unique set of tools to facilitate congruent change for buyers in sales (Buying Facilitation®), leadership, coaching, and management. She is an inventor, speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach. Her award-winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com carries articles on communication, leadership, decision making, change, sales, and buying. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

August 12th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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Until relatively recently, the United States Post Office (USPO) was a universal communication hub. It delivered birthday greetings and Dear John letters (For you youngsters, those were break-up notes – like you use text these days, only nicer.). It transported legal letters, work agendas, and Christmas gifts. It was how we moved information and communication between people and places.

Now we use the internet and social media for most of our communication. And the USPO? It became a relic of a time never to return, used now to send commercial ads and fliers, inundating us, invading us, with the originator’s needs to push data, separate from our need to utilize it. Superfluous to our lives, we discard these, even if the products they’re introducing are respectable.

SALES NO LONGER NEEDED FOR BUYERS TO BUY

The sales model is drifting down the same route. Until relatively recently, sales was universally accepted as a support and service model, representing expertise buyers needed. Sellers used their skill and product knowledge to help resolve problems; prospects actually sought meetings to get help figuring out how to improve their environments. And certainly, sellers knew their competition well and positioned themselves accordingly.

Those standards no longer apply. People can now choose our solutions without any involvement from us: much of the information buyers need is immediately accessible online – our websites, content marketing, and outreach efforts thoroughly explain our offerings, making a seller’s product knowledge expendable. Outside agencies – Google, social media – rate us independently, without our input, enabling customers to share their experiences of our products, accuracy aside. Our global competitors are at our door, at the touch of a button and shipped in days, often with lower prices. Buying decisions get made amongst large groups of stakeholders, some residing in other countries, often with no direct involvement with day to day operations and certainly well outside our scrutiny or touch points.

The sales model as we’ve known it has gone the way of the USPO – largely irrelevant; buyers now have a more extensive buying decision path that defies our standard practices, guaranteeing much is out of a seller’s control. And yet we continue using the same prism to sell through, the same techniques we used in earlier times, even though our closing rates, now less than 5% for face-to-face and 0.0059% of tech-based sales, consistently decline. Our decades-long focus of placing solutions merely finds the low hanging fruit. Here are some sales techniques we use that are problematic to the buying experience:

  • Pushing, offering, promoting content is secondary until all the right people are on board there’s agreement they can’t resolve the issue internally, and  any change issues/downsides that a new incoming solution will cause are addressed. Constant receipt of our marketing outreach becomes annoying and we’re blocked and ignored, regardless of the efficacy of our solutions.
  • Gathering information is useless if offered before all stakeholder agreement. Our questions, biased by our need to match what we guess might be their requirements to our solutions, have little relevance to the complexities of their problem (that we cannot fully understand, as outsiders) and the intricacies of what a chosen solution must include. People buy only what is agreeable to the full set stakeholders (who we can never know, as outsiders); resolving their problem is secondary to staying stable or they would have resolved it already. Net net, they won’t have accurate answers to our questions.
  • Our research into demographics and need doesn’t necessarily find buyers. Sure, we can uncover ‘target markets’ that would have a propensity to be buyers. But they’re not opening our correspondence and not open to connecting until they are ready, willing, able to become a buyer – someone who has addressed all complexities of bringing in a new solution and has gotten agreement from all internal stakeholders. Continuing to base our research and dissemination on our product assures we only close the low hanging fruit. Because a buying decision is a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, we can add the ability to facilitate buying to our goals and reach/convert a larger number of prospects.
  • Our ‘conversion’ rates are based on a small percent of the total population of would-be buyers, yet we use these to try to convince ourselves that our efforts, our resources, our cost expenditures are relevant. We are not converting potential buyers who haven’t yet become buyers but who will buy once they manage their change. But they are easy to recognize and convert if we shift our prism. Indeed, I’m always curious what those ‘conversion’ numbers represent. Who we seek to ‘convert’ is merely a percentage of those who will/can eventually buy (I hate to keep saying this, but the low hanging fruit.) We miss over 80% of those who will eventually buy: they don’t heed our messages. When you see conversion percentages, ask how much of the potential buying population is being represented. Current conversion numbers are specious.
  • The focus on ‘understanding needs’ is necessary only once buyers understand their own needs – at the end of their change processes: finding a route through to stability among the stakeholders and company/personal norms (Is the disruption from bringing in a new solution worse than living with the problem?) is paramount to buying anything. Until that’s resolved, they will not buy due to potential disruption. If you woke up tomorrow and decided you wanted to move, the first thing you’d do would NOT be to buy a house. You’d discuss with your family, looking at all sides from each perspective, organizing the full set of criteria that would keep the family stable first. A seller’s historic ‘need to understand’ (especially when using questions biased by our need to place a solution) is moot: until all stakeholders are on board with the specifics of how adding something new will affect them, there is no defined ‘need’, a seller’s biased questions aside.
  • Our push to make an appointment is stupid: who is the person we seek to meet with? Why are they taking the time to meet with us? Does this person represent ALL stakeholders or just the few trying to push internal change? How does the person we meet with present our data to others? And at what point in the buying decision process? We’re so busy following the norms of selling that we haven’t stopped to think this through. We get rejected for an appointment not because of our solutions, but because they haven’t yet gotten the full Buying Decision Team onboard, because they’re still trying to fix the problem themselves, because they haven’t determined if it’s worth an external fix due to the disruption that might result. Looking through our biased prism of placing a solution, sellers aren’t looking at the entire picture that people must address en route to resolving a problem.
  • We have a faulty assumption that our solution, data, convincing strategies, etc. will capture a buyer. What is it about the horrific close rates that isn’t registering? Why do we continue to believe if we just have better, faster, improved, advanced content dissemination that we will sell more when it’s a fact that we’re closing less? Why do we continue to assume that with great data, the ‘perfect’ solution, people will buy because WE think it will match what WE consider to be their need? And why is a 5% close rate (i.e. a 95% fail rate) acceptable? Isn’t is obvious there is a problem?

Everything about the selling effort is skewered to finding ways to place our solutions. But we miss the bigger opportunity: we can use our time, our skill, to facilitate Buyer Readiness. That means, leading people through the confusing stages they must – must – manage before they are buyers, before they have needs, before they know if, when, what they’ll buy. We wait on the sidelines while they go through this process; the sales model is not set up to influence this.

I have watched, over the past 35 years, as sales has drifted closer to my beliefs as it attempts to take into account the buying decision and the buyer. But because sales continues to consider buyers ONLY in relation to placing solutions, sales only reaches the low hanging fruit: people in the process of considering how to manage disruption will not have interest (yet) in our content. We haven’t accounted for the entire fact pattern of what goes into a buying decision (i.e. need, problem resolution, and product choice are the final considerations) and overlook the largest portion of buyers: those who will buy but aren’t ready yet.

People really don’t want to buy anything, they merely want to resolve a problem. And the problem is so much bigger than purchasing something. It involves

  • getting all – all – the stakeholders and influencers identified and on board (often not obvious);
  • trying to find a fix for the problem that’s familiar, and minimally disruptive;
  • stakeholder agreement that the cost of a fix is smaller than the cost of maintaining problems (not always obvious) and that they need to go outside for a solution;
  • recognizing/managing the challenges of melding something new as it replaces the old (not always obvious).

People issues. User issues. Tech issues. Human issues. Culture issues. All unique. As outsiders we can never understand the totality of what’s going on. And yet until all internal factors are managed to assure the least disruption, they are not even buyers. It’s only when they are out of options AND get buy in AND manage potential fallout, do they become buyers. Making our solutions the focus relegates us to being noticed by those at the end of their change process – order takers – and robs us of our ability to enter at a stage that helps them become buyers.

Indeed, buying is the last thing people and groups do, and only then when there is agreement that an outside fix is their only option and have figured out how to manage fallout from bringing in something new in a way that avoids disruption. You can’t buy a house without family agreement, regardless of how wonderful the house or how big the need. You can’t bring in a new CRM system unless the users are on board and are willing to use it, unless the tech folks know how to incorporate it into what they’re already using, until they’ve tried to fix what they’ve got, until a user training is developed and scheduled. It’s not about the house. It’s not about the CRM system. It’s about the change process.

So long as we focus on solution placement, we will only find those who have figured it all out. We could be helping them by shifting our focus to first connect via managing their change. Instead, buyers do all this change stuff without us as we wait and call and hope and call and send and hope and wait.

The sales industry has finally figured out that success has at least as much to do with ‘buying’ as it does selling. But it continues to use the prism of placing solutions even here: it has not gone so far as using new skill sets that help buyers manage the change (which is a necessary precursor to buying and has nothing to do with our solutions, or needs, at all – i.e. no info gathering, no understanding of needs, no information pitch, presentation AND no attempt to influence or strategize the final elements (i.e. money) perceived as reasons for buying. We begin contact by facilitating the REAL buying decision factors.).

SALES HAS A VERY LIMITED SCOPE

For goodness sakes, it’s time to stop focusing first on placing solutions. Why not help those who WILL buy be ready! And believe it or not, once we take off our ‘selling’ blinders and use a prism of facilitating the steps to change, it’s quite easy to use a different skill set to recognize people who WILL buy on the first call. For this we enter with a different type of question  (Facilitative Question) and a different goal: to recognize those who seek change in the area we can support them in.

Buying is a change management issue, not a solution choice issue – a process, part of systemic change, not an event. People become buyers only at Step 10 of a 13 step decision process that addresses the elements of recognizing and managing change. Until this is complete, buyers can’t buy and we are wasting a valuable opportunity to facilitate them, of entering earlier where we are now ignored. Let’s recognize that due to the complexity of change, selling doesn’t cause buying:

  • Our information, website, marketing materials – information – is terrific. Our brand is well positioned, and quality. But from online sales we’re closing 0.0059%. We don’t know why site visitors come to our site. Our wonderful, expensive, information-rich, and creative site is not encouraging anyone but the low hanging fruit to buy.
  • Our sales folks are well trained in content, relationship management, closing and pitching techniques. But they’re closing less than 5%. Why is this waste of expensive resource ok?
  • Our marketing folks know how to target the ‘right’ audience, but less than one half of 1% even open our emails.
  • The only folks who heed our great content are folks at the point of buying and we’re competing with global competitors for the same low hanging fruit.

We have chosen to sit back and wait while they go through their non-solution/buying-related steps. But we can enable Buyer Readiness. The sales model as we’ve known it is insufficient as a stand-alone model. It’s a Tier 2 model. Think about this:

1.    People don’t want to buy anything– they merely want to resolve a problem and the last thing they do is bring in something new. People live in environments – systems, if you will – and try to resolve their own problems. It is ONLY when they cannot, AND they have the buy-in from the full set of stakeholders AND can manage any change that a new solution would incur, that they are willing to make a purchase.

When sellers push solution information before people recognize the complexities of the environment they’re seeking to change – they waste an opportunity to facilitate change (which has nothing to do with buying anything). Again, think of that junk you now get in your mailbox.

Buyers don’t even notice our content it until they seek out a solution that will match the intricacies of their buying decision and environment – at the point they are ready to change/buy. It will NOT convince them to buy something they haven’t yet determined they cannot fix themselves. The last thing they do is seek information. In other words, it will be ignored by those you wish to reach, no matter how accurate your demographic data. It’s about the buying, not the selling.

2.     Until or unless everyone who touches a new solution is on board with whatever change will occur with a new solution, there will be no purchase. Talking to that one person who claims she has a need does NOT give us the necessary information to know what’s going on. We cannot ever know the internal dynamics. Ever.

3.    There is a very specific process that everyone (buyers) goes through before they do anything different (change, decide, buy). It involves the 13 steps to all change, a purchase is a change management decision. The sales model only enters at step 10 when it’s agreed by all that the status quo cannot resolve the problem and everyone is ready to change. Hence, we do nothing more than find the low hanging fruit – and then we all fight over the 5%.

The time it takes for everyone who will touch the new solution and processes that come from it is the length of the sales cycle.

4.    People become buyers only if they have a route to manage change. The sales model overlooks the change management piece of the equation, although sellers blame buyers for being ‘stupid’ or ‘not understanding they have a need.’ It’s not about the solution or the information or the buying. It’s about change. So long as sellers focus their interactions on placing solutions, they will merely take orders when people are ready to call in and buy.

The folks who use my Buying Facilitation® model enter all new conversations seeking who is ready, willing, and able to change. The prism is CHANGE, not NEED. Until all the elements of change are managed, people don’t even know what their need entails.

5.    Until everyone buys in to change, the environment will prefer the status quo; whatever is happening now is baked in to the norm. Need has nothing to do with who buys. The prime focus is to maintain the environment. Until they know how to do that, they won’t buy, regardless of need or solution relevance.

6.    We assume that people will understand they need us if we ask the right questions and create the right content, and that folks will wake up and notice of their need as soon as they read it!

We restrict our potential buyers to those who seek that specific information, overlooking their need to integrate information with unique circumstances, their status quo and rules, making much information provided conjecture. Not to mention we could easily reposition the way we discuss the content to meet real needs.

The sales model was designed to place solutions. That’s it. By entering early with a different mindset and skills, we can be closing 40% more sales.

A WHOLLY DIFFERENT SKILL SET

I have written extensively, and trained large numbers of global sellers, around this issue. In Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell I introduce a new model (Buying Facilitation®) that explains the 13 steps all people and groups take (even for small individual purchases) on route to becoming buyers. Since the first 9 of them have nothing to do with buying anything but with managing change, it involves a different set of skills – facilitating the right people through their change to buy sooner. No longer do we begin trying to ‘understand’ buyers, or make appointments, push our solutions, we first find folks who will become buyers and lead them efficiently through their change, and then – only then – offer solution details.

We can’t know anything about the person we’re speaking to. By knowing each step of change, we can hear where they are along their decision path. Have they collected the full set of stakeholders or are they just beginning? Do they recognize the downside to their environment of a purchase? Are they still trying to fix the problem themselves? Change is complex. People don’t even understand themselves. Here is where we can help. We can facilitate people through the steps of change and convert more people into buyers now.

To shift the focus from selling to facilitating change and the buying decision process, Buying Facilitation® employs different skills: since our normal questions are biased by our needs, I developed Facilitative Questions to help Others figure out their own change process; Presumptive Summaries that help them recognize what they’re missing in their thinking; Listening for Systems as a way to truly hear what’s being said outside of our own biases; and the 13 steps of change, to lead them through each of the steps they must, must address en route to change. The entire process is laid out in Dirty Little Secrets.

It’s not a sales process, but works as the front end of selling to help people recognize the elements in their own process that precedes seeking an external solution. Because we seek out folks who CAN change rather than seek those who SHOULD buy, we enter their buying decision path and lead them through each step of change – helping them help themselves. It’s a Servant Leader model that facilitates change, not a sales model that influences solution placement. It’s a very different mindset. I often ask: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They’re two different activities. And sales ignores one of them.

THE COST OF NO CHANGE

The sales industry is like one of those buyers we disparage for not understanding they need us. Since 1987 when I ran my first Buying Facilitation® program at KLM (titled Helping Buyers Buy), I’ve trained about 100,000 sales folks, beginning with pilot programs that always ran alongside a control group selling the same product. Here’s a calculation of the typical results, regardless of industry or price:

  • The groups I trained generally close between 6x-8x more than the control group.
  • Buying Facilitators have a very good idea on the first call who will be a buyer, regardless of complexity of sale, eradicating the need to chase folks who will never buy and concentrate their time on facilitating the buying decisions of those who will.
  • Marketing materials are created in stages of information that match the needs of each stage of change necessary prior to people becoming buyers.
  • Buying Facilitators don’t try to make appointments and yet quickly are invited to meet with the full stakeholder/buying decision team.
  • Prospects begin trusting sellers early due to their ability to help gather all stakeholders and figure out how to resolve the problem internally first.
  • Buying Facilitators don’t discuss their solutions, ask needs based questions, until people have recognized themselves as buyers, usually in 1/8 the time of normal sales.

Kaiser Permanente: went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits, 25 closed sales.

KPMG: selling a $50,000,000 solution, went from a 3 year sales cycle to a 4 month sales cycle.

Boston Scientific: had a 53% increase in close rates and a one call close rather than months of follow up.

IBM: I personally sold $6,400,000 worth of business as I spoke directly with existing clients during the coaching portion of my onsite Buying Facilitation® training.

Sales professionals have told me my results aren’t possible. And I agree: using the sales model, the beliefs and skills of selling, it’s not possible.

SALES CAN MAKE A BIG CONTRIBUTION – BUT NOT THE WAY IT’S BEING USED NOW

With the skills they possess, sellers and marketers can have a vital role in facilitating people through their steps of change to becoming buyers. First they must understand the differences between selling and buying. Here’s what buying entails:

A buyer is someone (or group) who has tried to resolve a problem using their own known resources (People never, ever, start out to buy something first!), has gotten buy in from everyone who will touch the solution, and knows and manages any fallout that the new will cause. A buying decision is a change management problem first, a solution choice issue second. 

Instead of assuming a buying decision is a solution choice issue and continuing as it has for millennia to push content, instead of assuming our job is still persuade folks to take action on our content, or place solutions (It’s not. It’s to facilitate buying.), sellers can facilitate the folks who CAN/WILL buy through the steps of change they must manage – and that we sit and wait for them to accomplish. I have written extensively on this. Here are some articles to peruse.

Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy?

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

The Real Buyer’s Journey

Recognize Buyers on the First Call

Influencing Congruent Change

Plus, get ahold of my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. It introduces each step of the buying decision process, along with how my Facilitative Questions lead prospective buyers, step by step, through to being actual buyers. It’s time to add the ability to facilitate the full buying decision journey into our sales efforts.

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Sharon Drew Morgen is the inventor of Buying Facilitation®, a decision facilitation model that helps people traverse each step they must address on route to being willing to buy a solution while involving the steps necessary to go through congruent change. She is the author of many books, including the NYTimes business bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty Little Secrets, and most recently What? Did you really say what I think I heard that helps close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew’s latest work involves the HOW of Change – teaching folks to consciously generate new synapses and neural pathways for new behaviors and habits. She is a coach, trainer, original thinker, and inventor.

August 5th, 2019

Posted In: News

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listening-3Do you enter conversations with a goal, or set of expectations? Do you assume you’ll have solutions for your Communication Partners (CPs)? Do you listen carefully to pose the best questions to enable you to fulfill your expectations? Do you assume the responses to your questions provide an accurate representation of the full fact pattern – ‘good’ data – to base your follow-on questions on? Do you assume your history of similar topics provides a route to an optimal outcome?

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

 

  • 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, your unconscious inhibits and biases optimal results. But it’s not your fault.

OUR BRAINS CAUSE A GAP BETWEEN WHAT’S SAID AND WHAT’S HEARD

The most surprising takeaway from my year of research for my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard was learning how little of what we think we hear is unbiased, or even accurate. Indeed, it’s pretty rare for us to hear precisely what another intends us to hear. Yet that doesn’t stop us from translating what’s said into what we want to hear.

Employing biases, assumptions, triggers, memory tricks, and habit (filters that act as information sieves) our brains take a habitual route when listening to others, alter and omit at will, and don’t even tell us what’s been transformed, regardless of our desire to be neutral. So the Other might say ABC and our brains actually tell us they said ABL. I once lost a business partner because he ‘heard’ me say X when three of us confirmed I said Y. “I was right here! Why are you all lying to me! I KNOW she said that!” And he walked out in a self-generated rage.

Indeed, as outsiders, we cannot ever know the full range of givens within our CPs innermost thinking. Every person, every situation, every conversation is unique. And given variances in our beliefs/values, background, identity, etc., our inability to accurately hear exactly what is intended causes us to unintentionally end up working with data of unknowable accuracy, causing a restricted, speculative route to understanding or success.

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

ENTERING CONVERSATIONS WITHOUT BIAS

The problem is compounded when we enter and continue conversations with unconscious biases that further restrict possibility. Because of the potential constraints, we must take extra care to enter and guide conversations without bias. But our natural listening habits make that difficult:

  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 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.

Once we have expectations, success is restricted to the overlap between our needs and the CPs; the real problems and solutions lie outside. Here are some ideas to help you create conversations that avoid restriction:

  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.)
  5. Stay away from data gathering. Stick to understanding how the status quo became established, and directing systemic change from there. Your biased questions will only extract biased answers. Use questions focused on 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 ‘discovery of a route to congruent change’ your goal, not a specific behavior.
  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.

Here are the steps everyone goes down to discover their own answers:

  1. What is the complete landscape of the status quo? The hidden elements that caused, and perpetuate, the current state?
  2. How has the person attempted to fix the problem until now? What caused her to fail? How has she continued to maintain her current behaviors? Why isn’t this still working now (regardless of success or failure, all systems create and maintain their status quo for Systems Congruence)?
  3. What internal capabilities does he have, but may be used for other actions, to substitute more helpful choices? What has stopped him from making this substitution until now?
  4. What does the client think he’s missing to get him to success, and how might he use you to help?

By assuming your client has his own answers hidden in his unconscious that just need to be found, by acting merely as a facilitator, by eschewing information gathering questions and pitches, you can help Others design their own fix, avoid bias, stop wasting time on those who will never buy-in, and truly serve another. You won’t have the type of control you’re used to, but thinking with a systems brain, you’ll have a much more powerful control: you’ll be facilitating real change.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an entrepreneur, original thinker, NYTimes bestselling author, speaker, trainer, and coach. She is the author of What? did you really say what I think I heard? that explains how our brains bias and restrict what’s heard and has designed learning materials to help those interested in discovering their biases. She also developed a sequenced facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) that’s often used in sales and coaching, to lead Others through their own unique decision making and change patterns. She is the author of the NYTimess Business Best Seller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and 7 other books on facilitating change. Sharon Drew has been globally training coaches and sellers for 35 years. She is happy to discuss with folks who are curious: sharondrewmorgen@sharondrewmorgen.com; 512 771 1117.

July 29th, 2019

Posted In: Listening

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Imagine being in a strange country where you don’t understand the mores – and aren’t aware you don’t understand them. Say, waiting for scrambled eggs to show up for breakfast in Tel Aviv (They eat salad for breakfast.), or saying a friendly “Hi” to young indigenous men in the jungles of Ecuador, wondering why they then followed you in a pack (Looking into a man’s eyes means a woman is ready for sex.).

The events can be interpreted by both cultures. But in the case of Aspies, we’re sort of stuck: you Neuro Typicals (NTs) make the rules. And they are crazy.

DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS

As an Aspie, my internal rules, my assumptions, my responses, are different from a NTs. My perception of what’s going on is in a different universe. I hear metamessages primarily, content secondarily, and I respond according to what the Speaker intended rather than what my (biased) ears interpret. I think in systems and experience the world in wholes, in circles, in patterns so I experience entirety, not segments of sequences.

From my vantage point, NTs – largely thinking sequentially, in a horizontal world that compares everything against a biased norm – make rules that fit a standard I cannot fathom. Yet somehow, with the majority of humans on the NT scale, there’s agreement that those rules make sense. They don’t.

Why should I reply “Fine, thanks. How are you?” when someone asks how I am? It’s a real question, right? Does that mean they don’t want to know? If they don’t care, why did they ask in the first place? And how did it get agreed that a meaningless exchange is an authentic greeting? I’ll never understand.

Why am I labeled inappropriate when I respond to something differently than ‘expected’? Who says NTs are the ones who understand accurately? Maybe my references and responses are the correct way of seeing and NTs are just following herd thinking. Maybe my references and responses are a great ‘add’ to a conversation that expands the scope of the subject.

Why am I the one being too direct? Why aren’t you being more honest?

Why am I the one who’s deemed too intense? Why are you so superficial?

I recently watched my 7 year old friend throw a small toy across the room where his four younger sibs played on the floor. Stop throwing that, said Dad, afraid the little ones might get hurt. My friend again threw the toy. Stop, or I’ll take it away, said Dad. Again, the toy went across the room. Give me that. No more toy.

I said to my young friend, “Your dad was afraid the toy might hurt your brothers and sister. What were you hoping to accomplish by throwing that toy?”

“I wanted to understand how it was spinning.”

“So next time, tell Dad what you want to do and he’ll let you go outside to throw it.”

THINKING IN SYSTEMS LEADS TO MORE CREATIVITY

My Aspie brain perceives a wholly different culture from the world of NTs, with expectations, referents, assumptions, thinking systems, rules, and different interpretations. I personally have a wholly different understanding of what’s happening – a difference that enabled me to develop new models for conscious choice, so different from making unconscious decisions from long-held biases and assumptions. Indeed, I have devoted my life to unraveling, (de)coding, each step of unconscious systems to make them conscious so everyone can make congruent choices – and then making the new thinking understandable and usable by others in books and courses.

  • I recognized that the sales model merely places solutions, overlooking the change issues involved when anyone seeks to resolve a problem but faces the challenges of the status quo. I invented Buying Facilitation® 35 years ago to enable sellers to lead people through what happens when they want to fix, and possibly buy, something (13 stages), changing the process from placing solutions to the real focus of helping buyers buy. (Note: I realized that selling doesn’t cause buying.) Obviously I annoyed the hell out of the conventional sales folks who fight to find and engage buyers when my model does it in 1/8 the time while using values of Servant Leadership.
  • Because of the way I listen I clearly recognize the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. I developed a road map so people can hear each other without bias and wrote a book on it. Annoyed the hell out of conventional communication specialists and those pushing Active Listening (only based on words, ignoring intent).
  • It was obvious to me that people made decisions via their unconscious patterns and habitual neural pathways, without being able to get their conscious to recognize their full set of choices. To resolve this – a problem for coaches, sellers, doctors, parents, etc. – I developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that facilitate others through to conscious, values-based, permanent change. Sure irritated a whole bunch of coaches who truly believe that their questions (based on their ‘intuition’ – little more than biased judgment), assumptions, and information sharing choices are accurate while wondering why their clients don’t call back.
  • I noticed that people seeking to change behaviors and end habits effecting their health, had trouble keeping their changes because they tried modifying historic synapses (not possible, but easy to generate new ones) that merely directed them down well-worn rabbit holes. So I isolated the elements in the brain that can be consciously managed to generate wholly new synapses/pathways to generate real change. I then developed an online learning model for learners to create new synapses and consciously generate new behaviors during the program (i.e I eschew habit change based on behavior change.). Boy, that bothered conventional change agents, doctors, coaches, who pose questions based on ‘habit change’ and Behavior Modification – neither of which can possibly work given the way the brain is structured: it’s not possible to change behaviors by trying to change behaviors.
  • Seemed obvious to me that pitching information to new learners would only reach those already in agreement with the information, as no brain pathways/synapses agree to something new – especially as it’s presented per the biases, word choices, communication patterns of the speaker, possibly eluding the beliefs of another. So I designed a wholly new way to train that enables learning, according to the learner’s own unconscious rules and values. Certainly annoyed folks teaching presentation skills and sales folks.

Thinking in systems has made my life rich with creativity. I have the ability to translate, and develop models to scale, how brains make decisions and how systemic change occurs. And while I’ve trained my models to sales folks and leaders in global corporations for decades with highly successful results, I continue to be judged negatively against the norms of the NT world. One noted neuroscientist said my thinking, my models are not possible, although he never asked what they’re comprised of. Somehow, ‘different’ goes with ‘aberrant’ or ‘eccentric.’

How, I wonder, does the world change unless the outliers like me instigate radical change? You can’t do that from the middle. And if more NTs were willing to be curious, look through a different lens, it wouldn’t take people like me decades to instill productive ideas.

RIGHT VS WRONG

So that brings me to my question: How do Aspies end up being the ones who are wrong or on the wrong side of normal? I’ve been shunned at invitation-only conferences of author-colleagues (when I was the only one with a New York Times bestseller), ignored at parties, thrown out of events (by very, very famous people), not invited to an event every other person at the table was invited to – and invited in front of me, while I was the one person obviously, meticulously, excluded.

Why? Because my ideas, my speaking patterns, are different? Because they challenge the norm? Why isn’t that exciting? Or fun? Or interesting?

Geesh – I show up in nice clothes, I’ve got a respected professional reputation, I speak well, wrote a bunch of books and train global corporations in my original models. So I guess I’m a bit smart. I don’t harm anyone, have a decent personality, am generous and supportive. I’m even funny.

And yet. And yet, I say ‘wrong’ stuff, and tell unseemly stories when my brain references something that others don’t reference. And instead of going ‘Cool Beans!’ ‘That was interesting!’ Or ‘That was weird, SD. Where did your brain go on that?’ My work gets overlooked, although it can make an important difference in several fields – sales, healthcare, coaching, management, leadership. What rules am I breaking that aren’t worthy of curiosity? Or kind acceptance? Or humor? Or excitement?

I heard a comic once ask why men were the ones in the wrong for leaving the toilet seat up. Why wasn’t the woman wrong for leaving it down? Same toilet seat. Up. Down. What makes one wrong?

The good news about Aspies is that we’re often pretty smart. Because we think in systems and can see all aspects of something (NTs think sequentially and miss whole swathes of real data – the reason Aspies often think NTs are dumb.), we often are the innovators, the visionaries, who notice, invent, code stuff decades before academics or scientists. Yet folks like Tesla, and Cezanne die without their work having relevance. I read that the only painting Cezanne ever sold was to Matisse who wanted to study the painting to learn how Cezanne did what he did. Why didn’t others recognize Cezanne was to be learned from rather than derided? Why is the easiest route the one that ignores, avoids, derides?

I was running programs for internal sales folks at Bethlehem Steel. After a year of working successfully with Dan at their Sparrows Point, MD group, I was being handed over to the Burns Harbor MI group. Dan invited the new manager to lunch to meet me as a hand over. We all spoke for a bit of time, and as I got up to go to the restroom, I heard the Burns Harbor manager say to Dan, “Is she always like this??” to which he replied, “Oh yes! And you’ll learn to love her.”

In these days of more openness and a real desire to accept minorities, to communicate and live without bias, maybe it’s time that Aspies are acknowledged as well. Maybe when NTs hear someone say something that’s a bit off the mark, or rattle on about a topic that’s interesting albeit a bit long winded (We get SO excited by our topics!), maybe they can just say, ‘Hm. Sounds like an Aspie. I wonder what I can learn here. I wonder if I can be curious about something new.’ Then we, too, can have a voice. And just maybe we can become a welcome addition, add our two cents, and maybe make the world a better place because of our differences. Just sayin’.

_____________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation®, Facilitative Questions, 13 steps of systemic change, and the HOW of change. Author of the award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com and  9 books including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew trains, coaches, speaks in several industries, including sales, healthcare, communication, change, Servant Leadership. She lives on a houseboat in Portland OR and can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

July 15th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, News

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Servent LeadershipI became enamored of the concept Servant Leadership in the 1980s. Developed by Robert Greenleaf, it’s defined thus: a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. Greenleaf says, “The servantleader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.”

Such an important concept, yet the skills to practice it elude us. I’d like to help change that.

THE BIAS PROBLEM

As a Buddhist, I deeply believe that serving one another is a necessary aspect of our lives. But the communication skill sets inherent in our culture don’t make it easy for influencers to truly serve:

  • Conventional questions are little more than interrogations based on the needs/biases of the Asker. They pull information to enable the Asker to create an approach that will generate specific results, thereby restricting the full set of possible responses to fit more closely with the needs of the interrogator. The real answers might lie outside the scope of the questions, potentially causing flawed data gathering, missed opportunities, resistance, loss of success, and damaged relationships. Certainly an enhanced opportunity for failure.
  • Normal listening practices listen for content, ensuring we hear mainly what our brains want us to hear as per our subjective listening filters, biases, assumptions, triggers, and habituated neural pathways. Obviously, our range of understanding is restricted accordingly. (See What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) In other words, we hear some portion of the full data set – and it’s biased, at that. This problem is exacerbated when our brain doesn’t tell us what it discarded or misrepresented during the ‘listening’, leaving us to act on what we believe we’ve fully understood – but is most likely some degree of wrong, a problem for both Asker and Responder.
  • Information – regardless of its accuracy, importance, or presentation – cannot be accepted or accurately interpreted when it flies in the face of the Other’s Beliefs. Information when used as a convincer strategy will succeed only when the listener already agrees with it. Our brilliant stories, pitches, rational data, and advice will not convince Others that change is necessary until the Other has already discerned how to make the appropriate changes internally, to ready themselves for the disruption a new idea might bring to the status quo. It’s just not possible for an outsider to elicit permanent change by pushing information of any kind, regardless of its efficacy.
  • We tend to focus on Behavior Change, forgetting that Behaviors are merely the transaction of our Beliefs – Beliefs in action if you will. Change occurs at the unconscious Belief level which when happens, will cause new Behaviors to emerge automatically. Think of it this way: a robot that only moves forward will not move backward if you tell it to, or explain why it should change, or provide a scientific reason why walking backward is best, etc. The only way the robot will walk backward is by changing the programming. And so it is with our approach: once we enable Others to change their own unconscious Beliefs, their Behavior will automatically change. And we will have served them.
  • As influencers (coaches, parents, sellers, leaders, etc.), we believe it’s our responsibility to cause Others to change in the way we believe they must. We find best methods to push our agendas using convincing, manipulating, explaining, advising, etc. strategies meant to lead, influence, manipulate, modify, correct, what we think Others should do, causing resistance in all but a few. But we’re never taught to trust they can – they must – design and discover their own best answers and route to change. We fail to fully understand that no one, no Outsider, can ever understand another’s unconscious system.

With our current skill sets, we end up pushing our own agendas (in the name of the Other, of course), according to our subjective needs, beliefs, and goals (using our ‘professionalism’ and ‘intuition’ to tell ourselves we’re ‘right’) and restrict the full set of possibilities – even potentially causing a rift in the relationship. We assume that because we have the moral high ground, that because our intention is honorable (or necessary, or dictated by above, or rational, etc.) the only missing piece is ‘how best’ to get Others to do what we think they should do. I once ran a Buying Facilitation® training for The Covey Leadership Center. They staunchly believed that because they were teaching The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, they were above manipulation and ‘healers’ who had the right to push and manipulate. And they absolutely believed that because they were ‘right’ they got to use any strategies they need to convince.

We forget that by assuming we have Another’s answers, and taking on the job of making sure the Other does what’s ‘right’, we end up taking their power away, assuredly biasing the direction of their growth journey, and not serving them at all. Not to mention it’s quite impossible to understand Another’s unconscious, that whatever they are doing has been part of their normal operating system and used habitually during the course of their lives.

Regardless of the efficacy of what we offer, our approach threatens the Other’s status quo. Our biased questions, the Other’s inability to hear us outside of their habituated listening filters (and our inability to hear them accurately), and the existing rules and Beliefs that have put the current (problematic) behaviors in place, will resist us. We are causing the resistance we receive and blaming them for their resistance – prospects who seem ‘stupid’, and patients who ‘don’t care’ about their health, students who ‘don’t want’ to learn, and clients who ‘won’t listen’ to us.

WHY WE CAN’T CHANGE OTHERS EVEN WITH GOOD MOTIVES

We know someone needs to stop smoking, or eat differently. We are certain the environment is in trouble. But we don’t seem to have the ability to get someone to change. We provide all the scientific evidence, relate a story of someone who has died, or offer different approaches to stop. And yet they persist. We know that a company or group really, really needs our solution, and yet they persist with failing results rather than buy.

What is going on? Why would anyone prefer to maintain failure rather than change? Seems that way, but it’s not entirely accurate. Everyone would prefer Excellence, but using conventional practices, change runs the risk of permanent disruption in our comfortable habits and status quo; outside-in push/behavior change approaches do not effectively manage the unconscious that would need to buy-in, and accomodate for, any change. Let’s start with our attempts to have Another change a behavior. The reasons we fail mount up:

  1. Threatening the system: Our status quo – our unique ‘system’ of rules, Beliefs, values, experiences, culture, etc. – has become habituated and normalized over time. This system that has developed the Behaviours we think need to be changed enable us to show up as who we are. We wake up daily, and maintain whoever we were yesterday without judgement. Our system just IS, good or bad, right or wrong. And it will fight to the death to maintain itself. Literally.
  2. Change Behaviors: Behaviors are merely the translations of, the action of, the underlying system of Beliefs that initiated them to begin with. They allow us to wake up every day and show the world who we are. When we try to change the Behavior, we push against the entire system they represent. Regardless of the efficacy of our solution or their dire need, unless the change comes from the within the system and the system is reorganized around the ‘new’, it will be resisted.
  3. Information doesn’t get heard: Our brains/ears hear subjectively, filtering out and misconstruing what’s not comfortable all on its own, failing to tell us that what we think we hear is most likely some fraction off of what the Speaker intended.
  4. Ignore the steps to change: As outsiders, we too often use our own intuition and professed knowledge to push the change we want. But for any change to occur, for Beliefs to shift in a way that causes Behaviors to change, the Other must take specific, albeit unconscious steps: the system would need to find a way to include the change into normal operating procedures, end up with minimal disruption, and achieve buy-in for any new behavior change.

So our entire approach leads to a high degree of bias, resistance, and failure as we promote the changes we think should occur in a way that challenges Another’s status quo. We don’t realize that whatever ‘new’ comes into an existing system must fit with the status quo or it gets rejected rather than be disrupted. We don’t realize we’re actually causing the resistance we receive.

And resist they do – not because our data or goals aren’t worthy or necessary, and not because they don’t want to change per se, but because our good will, shared information, and ‘push’ tactics conflict with the Other’s unconscious system that protects itself from unknowable disruption. Indeed, any modifications to the status quo would have to be performed in a way would leave the system congruent. The system would rather be fine, as it is, than not exist. And the time it takes for the system to accept and make room for the ‘new’ is the length of time it takes for adoption. With the best will in the world we challenge their Systems Congruence.

And unfortunately, as doctors and sellers, trainers and consultants, parents and coaches – as influencers – we don’t have the full set of skills to do more than attempt to cause change, rather than elicit it. We don’t naturally possess the skills of Servant Leadership.

GIVE UP INDIVIDUAL NEEDS

True Servant Leadership enables others to elicit their own congruent change. Since our current skill sets won’t get us there, we need new skills that facilitate Others, and a switch in perspective to enabling Others to discover their own answers. We must change the trajectory of our efforts. There is a route to facilitating Another’s change that is congruent, highly successful, and offers real leadership with no resistance.

I’ve spent my life coding the unconscious route through to choice and change. Although I’ve often written about, and trained it, in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), it’s actually a generic Change Facilitation model that offers the tools to enable Others to discover and own their own Excellence, an Excellence that complies with the rules and history of their own Beliefs, an Excellence that can be eagerly, joyously adopted because it operates from within their status quo.

Servant Leadership assumes:

  1. Others have their own answers and routes to their own destination, and are the only ones who can enter their unconscious system to effect change. An outsider (regardless of intent, need, or efficacy of message) can never, ever, fully understand the inner workings of Another’s unconscious system that has defined them. It’s possible to facilitate Others to their own state of Excellence, using their own route to congruent change. Our responsibility is to lead them through the pathway to change themselves.
  2. We only have questions for Another, not answers. And since conventional questions are biased interrogations (biased by the wording, the intent, the direction, and the goal of the Asker) that may miss important, hidden, elements necessary for the Other to elicit their change criteria, I’ve designed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that, with specific wording in specific order, acts as a directional device to lead Others through their own systemic, unique trajectory of change. These questions teach Others to peruse persue their own unconscious to sequentially discover their own answers, in a way that causes new understanding and decision making.
  3. There is no way for an outsider to have THE ANSWERS. Often influencers are self-serving, using  their ‘intuition’ (a subjectively biased guess), professional knowledge, or best wishes, to push another to where they want them to be, having no knowledge of the systemic elements that created and maintain the problem and that must buy-in to any change.
  4. To listen without bias or missunderstanding, we must practice Dissociative Listening to avoid the filters, bias, assumptions, and triggers that are part of our normal listening. [Note: for those interested in learning Dissociative Listening, read Chapter 6 in What?.]
  5. We get credit for serving. That’s it.

Decades ago, I mapped the sequential steps of systemic choice, change, and decision making enabling people to discover their own best choices that match the rules and values of their internal system. These steps traverse a pathway from the unconscious, where their habituated behaviors and status quo originates through to buy-in and Systems Congruence so change is comfortably adopted, without disruption.

I have taught these skill sets to influencers in business, coaching, leadership, and healthcare to assist in facilitating permanent, congruent change: to help buyers buy, to help coaches, leaders, and doctors elicit congruent, permanent change, to help learners learn permanently – eliciting the core of the unconscious HOW to facilitate Another’s excellence their own way – to find their own answers.

So what would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to begin interactions as a Servant Leader rather than a coach, parent, seller, leader? How can you know, given the skill sets and foundations are so different, that it’s worth taking the time to add new skill sets to the ones you already use? Imagine having the skills that truly enable Others to find their own Excellence. Imagine being a true Servant Leader.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, and subject matter expert, as well as the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew speaks, trains, coaches, and consults in sales, healthcare, coaching, and leadership. She is the originator of Buying Facilitation®, a Change Facilitation model that offers influencers the tools to facilitate congruent change in Others via Servant Leadership.  She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

July 8th, 2019

Posted In: Listening

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sucesss

Would you consider a baseball player with a 95% failure rate Successful? Would you choose a surgeon with a 95% failure rate? Can you think of any field but sales, with an industry-standard close rate of 5%, that considers 95% failure ‘Success’? Using targets, commissions, hiring, and profits based on a 5% close rate, the field of sales colludes in perpetuating the lie that failure is Success. Why hasn’t anyone ever said, “Gee. Maybe a 5% close rate is 95% failure. Maybe it’s a sign something’s wrong? Maybe it’s not a solution-placement/content/pitch/buyer/marketing/technology problem.”

It’s possible to have much, much higher close rates. But that would demand the industry admit a problem. By colluding that a 5% close is industry standard – indeed, all that’s possible with the current Solution-Placement focus! – there’s no need to change.

THE MYTH OF SALES

When I began selling in 1979 the average close rate was 8%. Now, with our new electronic capability, sophisticated on-line marketing software, and ‘new new’ sales models, it’s down to 5%. Why? Because our current buying/selling environments are far more complex; consensus and change management are now necessary elements for buyer-readiness; and our Solution-Placement focus is designed to find only the 5% who are ready to buy.

By starting at the end of a buyer’s decision process, hoping beyond hope to convince buyers they need our great solution, sellers get push back from a buyer’s good-enough-functioning system not equipped for change, and finding only those who have completed their comprehensive decision making – the low hanging fruit (5%). That’s right: Sales pushes and pitches, presents and proposes, hopes and waits, using activity developed to find the 5% who are ready. Sales has never questioned its assumption that

  • buyers will be persuaded by ‘good’ content that differentiates/explains/convinces of benefits;
  • buyers will know what to do with our brilliant content;
  • with good marketing and sales outreach, and a prospect with a need to match, we just need to find the button that will get them to buy.

It’s never recognized that prospects can’t even hear what we’ve got to say or know how it’s relevant before determining their readiness to change and buying anything; it’s never mentioned that with all the marketing, all the outreach, all the never-ending attempts to ‘get in’, nothing we’ve done for decades has significantly shifted our close rates. It’s because we’re pushing in from the back end and getting resistance, rather than entering at the beginning. More on this in a moment.

Look at this this way: we’ve got nothing to sell if they’ve got nothing to buy, and doing what we’ve been doing hasn’t produced appreciably different results – and we can’t use the problem to fix the problem [Remember Einstein?]. The issue demands new thinking, new biases, new goals, and new skill sets. Let me share what I did to fix the problem with my tech start up in London in the 80s.

LEADING BUYER-READINESS

Going from a sales person to an international entrepreneur, I recognized the low close rate problem as one of focus: sales focuses on placing solutions; buyers focus on solving (business) problems with minimal fallout. And since buyers can buy only when there is appropriate buy-in for change, management of fallout, and consensus among users (all steps necessary in some form regardless of the size or price of the solution), our efforts to find buyers or prospects is like seeking a needle in a haystack.

I figured out a solution to help my sales teams enter buyer interactions as change facilitators who nurture buyer-readiness first: I developed Buying Facilitation® as a facilitation/leadership tool to help buyers recognize and achieve their most efficient change processes without biasing them or being purchase/product focused. We ended up with a 35% close rate (up from 9%) from first call, regardless of the size of the sale (all buyers/prospects go through some form of this, even if unconsciously).

In 1987 I began teaching the model to clients, then left my business to teach the model full time to global corporate clients. Yet my results – all with control group studies – were largely ignored by the mainstream: I repeatedly came up against the collusion that perpetuates failure and the status quo, even in the face of obvious success. Here’s an overview of some of the resistance:

Working with Morgan Stanley in the 1990s, we achieved a 25% increase in one month over the control group. Follow on: the MD sent someone to Chicago to check on a man who purportedly had a similar buying-based model (turns out he didn’t). Why not just hire me to train everyone? Because I was a woman. He actually said that to the person he sent to Chicago.

A group at William Blair & Co. (brokerage house) went from a $400 million revenue to $1.3 billion in just under four years. Colleagues wondering how Jim achieved those spectacular numbers got a copy of my book Dirty Little Secrets from a carton he kept under his desk. Invariably they said the book was ‘Nuts’ and that Jim was just ‘lucky’. With a near-miraculous success happening before their eyes, this group preferred to devalue the results and continue failing rather than even trying to change.

Working with Boston Scientific, we achieved a 53% increase over the control group. During the ‘Thank You’ call from my client, I asked if we’d be training the entire team. “No, the model is “too controversial.”

Kaiser Permanente went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales (7% close rate) to 27 visits and 25 closed sales (600% increase). They fired my client, saying that training their 1500 sales folks in the new material would create a major disruption; they disbanded and re-assigned the folks I trained so the new skills would be subsumed.

Proctor and Gamble had a 15% increase in one month (huge in a behemoth company of this size). They said it would cost millions of dollars to change the systems that maintained their status quo – the manufacturing, delivery, billing, etc. all maintained a much slower sales cycle. They didn’t do further training.

I could go on and on. Crazy stuff. Incontrovertible proof that adding different skills and shifting the focus closed more sales and wasted a lot less time (in vastly shortened sales cycle, creating more ready buyers, and early dismissal of those who would never buy). They’d prefer to maintain failure? Build and compensate sales forces on 4-6% close rates? Lose market share, hire 9x more sales staff with high turnover, pay more in training and travel? Yet the sales industry is doing what all systems do: eschew greater success to maintain ‘good enough’ and the ‘known’. That’s right. Like the sales industry, my clients preferred lower revenues than change.

HERE’S THE REAL DEAL

Here are the underlying ‘givens’ that we ignore using the sales/Solution-Placement approach alone:

  • Buyers only buy when all of the idiosyncratic change management and people issues buy in and reach consensus. Buyers MUST do this anyway – with you or without you. It might as well be with you; you just need an additional skill as a sales is inadequate here.
  • Buyers don’t want to buy anything; they just want to resolve a problem. They’ll buy something only when all else fails.
  • Buyers buy using their own buying patterns, not a seller’s selling patterns. If the sales approach goes against the grain, buyers will choose a different vendor or solution.
  • A buying decision is a change management problem: the Current State must shift in unknown ways to adopt something new, or face offending the entire system that will then resist.
  • There is no way to ‘gather information’ from one person when it’s not clear that s/he is speaking on behalf of a complete Buying Decision Team who have determined how a solution would need to match their buying criteria (only a small part of which is a solution).
  • Conventional information gathering is biased by the needs of the seller to ultimately place their solution and overlooks important data about decision making, buying patterns, group assembly.
  • Buying involves a 13-step series of idiosyncratic, sequential, systemic, personal change decisions that an outsider can never be privy to but can facilitate. Selling and buying are confined to steps 10-13 and with that focus, there is no need for buyers to invite us in earlier. I’ve written extensively about this. www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com
  • The length of the sales cycle is the time it takes buyers to get buy-in for organizational, job, and personal change and fallout. It’s got nothing to do with a purchase, or a price tag, or even a need. Maintaining systems congruence is sacrosanct.
  • When we get to an appointment to gather data and introduce ourselves, and only one or two people are present, we have no idea what stage of decision making they’re at or what they’ll do with our information after we’ve left. And we often pitch something the Buying Decision Team hasn’t agreed they need yet. Not to mention only those in steps 10-13 will see us and by then sellers are in a competitive situation.
  • Making Step 1 ‘Getting the appointment’ discards about 40% of buyers who will buy once their change issues have been sorted out.

Believe it or not, there is only one issue causing the entire set of problems above. Only one. Sales pushes solution data at the wrong time, starting at the end of the Buying Decision Path, and finds only that group, that person, that shows up at that time, with everyone else ignoring or resisting. You would never buy a computer without doing research, talking to friends to help you gather and recognize all necessary criteria. Lots of personal decisions. As a team member in a company, you would never bring in training without the team’s input, or an attempt to try to fix the problem on your own first, or talking to current vendors, or getting referrals from colleagues. Lots of group decisions.

Research is showing the deterrent to sales success is our difficulty getting in to The Pre-Sales Process. While sales has attempted to resolve this issue by creating clever ways to get in from the outside (Buyer Personas being one) and is trying new tools to lead customers through to their buy cycle, it’s all taking place with a Solution-Placement bias. So long as the intent is to sell, an outsider will get resistance: there’s no way an outsider can ‘understand’ prospects during their change/decision/systems activities as they lie deep within the buyer’s culture. Before any purchase, buyers must figure out how to manage the resultant change and disruption congruently and until they do, theyre just not ready to attend to our needs to sell.

But as outsiders, we can still understand how systems change and serve by helping prospects discover their own steps to Excellence; if what you’re selling matches their buying criteria once they’re ready (much more quickly than if they do this on their own), you’ve made a very quick sale with little competition. Think about it. You don’t buy the way you sell. The sales model is a solution placement model never meant to facilitate consensus, buyer readiness, or systemic change.

It’s fixable once we stop colluding and perpetuating the myth of success; instead of redefining failure to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is optimal, let’s just concede that what we’re doing is Failure and do something different. Put together a strategy to add some sort of leadership/coaching/consulting practice based on facilitating change (not based on manipulating a sale). Do this consistently in marketing and content, cold calls, prospecting, telemarking, presentation meetings, and your large sales. The question is: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? We need both for success; they each demand a different skill set.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Buying Facilitation® that includes a unique form of systemic, non-biased question (Facilitative Questions), a new form of listening (Listening for Systems), and a coded change sequence that incorporates all levels of change. Morgen has trained this model to global corporations for solutions of all sizes. She is a NYTimes Business Bestselling author of 7 books on the topic of facilitating buying decisions, including Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets; she is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and trains collaborative communication and unbiased listening to sellers, coaches, and leadersMorgen consults, coaches, speaks, and trains; her blog ranked one of the top 10 sales/marketing blogs.

Contact Sharon Drew with questions: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 771 1117

July 1st, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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questionsAs professionals a big part of our jobs is to influence change. We assume we know the appropriate means to get where we want to be. Certainly we think we know the right questions to get the data we think we need.

But sometimes our questions miss the unconscious drivers, and the incomplete data we collect as a result skews our outcomes. Or we unwittingly cause resistance even when our solutions are important and well-conceived.

WHAT ARE QUESTIONS AND WHAT DO THEY DO?

The questions we use aren’t achieving what we want them to achieve. Here’s why:

  1. Questions seek to extract information, usually for the benefit of the questioner or to enhance the questioner’s outcome. Due to the restrictions in the wording and intent, they can miss the real answer.
  2. Conventional, or information-based, questions are biased: biased by the Questioner who seeks a specific type of response; biased by the Responder who: is led by the bias in the question to find a ready answer, make up an answer, fails to answer accurately, or some combination of all.

Information-based questions are the standard, but because the focus of the Questioner may not address the full fact pattern or cirumstances of the Responder, they unnecessarily bias outcomes, activities, and data accuracy. What if it were possible to formulate a question that would:

  • influence change,
  • promote efficient implementations, buy-in, and sales cycles,
  • avoid resistance and bias, maintain personal integrity,
  • lead the Responder to discover their own possiblity unconscious – but accurate – answers?

Questions, posed with the goal of enabling Others to change themselves and discover their own answers, can be a vehicle for true leadership, change and discovery. But not the conventional information-based ‘pull’ questions (based on curiosity and needs of Asker) we are accustomed to.

INFLUENCING CHOICE

Since I’ve been a teenager I’ve studied the brain for ways to impact our own unconscious choices, so difficult to influence because of the elusive nature of the unconscious and the problem with subjective bias that can skewer results. I was particularly curious if it were possible for an outside influencer to help us make good decisions that would maintain our integrity by helping uncover and re-weight our unconscious criteria.

In 1988 I read Roger Schank’s The Creative Attitude. The book discusses how the unconscious biases all decisions. I was most interested in his ideas about how our brains store data in memory indices. The idea that inspired me to action remains with me: the only way to get to these hidden bits of memory is through questions. Hhmmm. I found that interesting. Was it possible to use questions to unlock everything in the indices – including the unconscious drivers, the beliefs, the values, the emotions? How could they be used without causing resistance, given the biased nature of questions?

I began experimenting with new forms of questions that would uncover unconscious drivers and weight the hierarchies in each of us that create our status quo, in hopes it might be possible to help others change from the inside out. I finally came up with a model that enables an outsider to facilitate unconscious choices.

[I’m going to walk you through an overview of how I came up with the solution I’ve been teaching in corporations for 25 years. It’s a bit different than you’re used to, so hang with me. And I’m always available to discuss it. At the end of the article I’ve linked to ways  you can learn more. For this article, I’m introducing the concepts.]

I recognized two main factors that offer the foundation to thinking of questions and decision making differently: information and systems.

Information: because the focus of the Questioner may not address the full fact pattern or cirumstances of the Responder,

  • Sellers gather and pitch information they believe would be relevant to influencing a sale – i.e. outside-in – without any real capability of enabling systemic change or eliciting new decisions;
  • Coaches, consultants, facilitators and leaders seek to cause change from the outside (i.e. outside-in). To that end, they pose biased questions, share advise, stories, research, plans, etc. all based on the data they think would influence the Other.
  • Decision analysts gather, weight, and analyze information to compare choices.

But information-gathering is a biased endeavor – biased by the beliefs/needs/goals of the Questioner –  and avoids engaging core beliefs; without addressing the gooey, human stuff that makes up the foundational beliefs, system, status quo that has created, and maintains, the status quo and are in effect to ensure each person remains congruent onto themselves. Given the inherent bias in the Asker’s content-based questions, it’s not possible for conventional questions to discover the full array of possible data points, or encourage change.

Systems: To understand the difficulty of influencing unconscious choice – necessary for success in any sort of change (buying, change management, decision facilitation, etc.) – we must recognize it as a systems problem: since change involves some sort of insult to our internal and unconscious system/status quo, any change must include buy-in of everything within the system that will touch the final solution or the system will resist. It’s the principle of homeostasis – systems maintain equilibrium, and change without buy-in puts the system out of balance. We are all familiar with the repercussions of what happens when unconscious issues rear their ugly heads during implementations or group decisions. No change can happen until all of the systems elements that will touch a new solution knows how to continue functioning well despite the change. The system is sacrosanct.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

Eventually I developed a new type of question: Facilitative Questions 1. assume that only the system (person, group) itself has knowledge of the accurate answers to their own questions, 2. are used as directional devices to parts of the unconscious that will clarify and capture the appropriate, most relevant decision criteria (sometimes unconscious) from a Responder’s memory indices and make their appropriate systemic drivers conscious. These questions enable people to illuminate their own criterial issues necessary to include in new choices for Systems Congruency. We are shifting the onus of responsibility from the Asker wanting the answers to the Responder being the only one that has the answers. In other words, outsiders – sellers, coaches, therapists, friends, clients – are facilitators who enable Others to discover their own Excellence.

Facilitative Questions:

  • open new choices within the unconscious of the Responder to unlock the means to fix whatever issues stand between the Responder and his own excellence;
  • construct new decisions to act based on unconscious belief/values-based criteria;
  • are non-manipulative;
  • offer change agents a new skill to engage the right people, address the right problem, and manage change without resistance;
  • eschew information exchange for systems intervention within the unconscious of the Responder to unlock the means to fix whatever issues stand between the Responder and her own excellence;
  • eliminate resistance by eliciting commitment and buy-in at the very beginning of any project or initiative or buy cycle; 
  • enable Responders (facilitated by sellers, change agents, negotiators, or coaches) to simultaneously uncover the unconscious core of the problem and create the necessary change.

Here’s a simple example of the differences between conventional questions and Facilitative Questions:

Information-based question (conventional question used by a questioner to extract information or gather data for the questioner’s purposes): Why do you wear your hair like that? This is a biased question which extracts historic data from the responder’s memory according to the needs of the questioner, and may cause her to defend past decisions as the query might bump against underlying beliefs. The responder might have no idea of the reasons behind the question but certainly already knows the answer from a previous decision made. The question might feel invasive and her response will be commensurately biased.

Facilitative Question (sequential navigational question used by a facilitator to help responders discover unconscious belief-based criteria): How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? This question neutrally brings together several indices that might make the responder curious without resistant, offers him the curiosity to examine choices and change possibilities, and compares current choices with past and future choices – all without manipulation, bias, or data gathering, and with no potential threat to the current system. The questioner as the facilitator becomes the change agent/servant leader.

In the example above, the question How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle the words ‘how’ ‘know’ ‘if’ ‘time’ ‘reconsider’ are all carefully placed and chosen to be resistance-avoidant, and directed to prior decisions while considering change and obligations. And most important, it doesn’t attack current or previous choices.

THE COMPLETE MODEL

Using Facilitative Questions, and incorporating my historic knowledge of systems, I then developed a decision facilitation model (called Buying Facilitation® as its initial use was in sales) that offers Influencers (sellers, coaches, leaders, management, marketing, doctors, etc.) the ability to help Others sequentially traverse their unconscious indices and design creative answers that discover their OWN answers and maintain Systems Congruence. Used and formulated most effectively, Facilitative Questions use specific words, posed in a specific order, and follow a specific sequence that makes change comfortable and resistance-free. In other words, buyers can recognize issues that would cause them to recognize the need to buy (or not); coaching clients can recognize their best path to change and eschew resistance; doctors can elicit behavioral change in patients rather than push to try to cause change, etc. By enabling Others to discover their own unconscious path we not only help them find their own best answers but act as Servant Leaders to permanent change and decision making.

Think of Buying Facilitation® as a GPS system that knows the (systems) coordinates and can navigate people to their exact destination without needing to know the type of function the car is headed. It’s a systems thinking model that initially ignores the information we are so accustomed to and believes that all change is systemic and must be driven by, and within, the system that would need to change. So a facilitator, seller, or coach would first be neutral navigators that unwrap the unconscious and achieves buy-in, then uses conventional questions to gather and introduce specific data points.

The skills necessary for Buying Facilitation® include those people don’t normally possess or deliberately use together:

Listening for systems: we naturally listen for content and information. To formulate Facilitative Questions, it’s necessary to listen neutrally for the underlying meta messages where the unconscious lie and eschewing content. Later in conversations, listening for content is imperative. I’ve written a book on this topic: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? is about the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, and teaches Disassociative Listening.

Presumptive summaries: people often don’t consciously recognize the import of what they are saying. By offering a type of summary statement that delineates the underlying meaning behind the words – what is meant vs what is said – the responder gets help unwraping unconscious drivers.

Decision sequencing: there are 3 stages to all decisions. Asking Facilitative Questions in the order of the stages enables people to face change without resistance and include the criteria necessary for congruency.

My clients have achieved great success with the model: buyers buy in half the time as they are led to immediately enlist the proper Buying Decision Teams and uncover their personal buy-in criteria; teams go through change implementations with collaboration and creativity and avoid resistance; leaders get buy-in and participation for initiatives easily; facilitators find the core of issues quickly. It’s a Servant Leader model: people are self-motivated to find their own best answers, and become learn exactly how and where in their unique system to make congruent changes in a very short time. Change with integrity: no external coercion, persuasion or advocacy.

FACILITATING CHANGE

The big idea here is the switch from seeking or pushing specific data to being a neutral navigator or Servant Leader to lead a responder through her own values and systems structure toward a potential willingness to change while maintaining Systems Congruence. After all, there really is no way for an outsider to ever know the full extent – the connections, history, values, complications, etc. – of how someone’s internal system is set up. The differences are important:

  • from seeking and pushing content to achieve the influencers goals to facilitating the person’s own discovery of beliefs, values, identity issues and systemic drivers and eliciting (not causing) permanent change;
  • from manipulation to Servant Leadership and neutral navigator;from pushing into a closed system to being accepted into a foreign system as a change agent;
  • from bias and resistance to participation and creativity;
  • from directing change and creating resistance to discovery, buy-in and participation.

To use Facilitative Questions and Buying Facilitation® requires a different sort of thinking and a different level of control. It requires that your outcome be to truly serve the other, to help her initiate and manage change from within – not with any content or directive from you, but true buy-in from her. Obviously your intent will shift as will your success: your sales, initiatives, implementations, and projects will be easier, shorter, and less costly. You’ll just have a different type of control: from attempting to have the answers to being the true leader that elicits congruent answers.

What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to add a new questioning technique to your already superb questioning skills? How would you know that adding a new skill set would be worth the time/effort/cost to make you – and your clients – even more successful?

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity  and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets  and What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  She is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® which she’s trained to sales people and coaches worldwide since 1985. Sharon Drew is an original thinker, thought leader, keynote speaker, coach, and consultant.

For those interested in learning more about Buying Facilitation® or Facilitative QuestionsSharon Drew wrote about this extensively in Dirty Little Secrets. For those wishing to learn how to use this material, visit her store at sharondrewmorgen.com and look up the Guided Study material. Or contact her directly: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

June 24th, 2019

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