In the late 1970s, I approached my studies for an MSc in Health Sciences with an idealistic goal to create ways to promote wellness and prevent disease. Although life took me in a different direction, I’ve tried to stay caught up on healthcare.

Recently, I’ve noticed a committed effort in this country to assist the under-served: food services that offer nutritional training as an outpatient service in hospitals and training in healthy eating for patients; outpatient and home support for treatment and prevention for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer sufferers; school lunches and Pre-K programs. I hadn’t been aware of the extent, or creativity, of the outreach of caregiving professionals. We’re on our way to understanding that prevention is preferable to treatment.

The bad news is that some easily treatable or preventable conditions (diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, obesity) are not garnering the necessary buy-in from patients to make the needed healthy choices.

With the best will in the world, providers – intent on designing outreach programs to encourage behavioral change and choice – are facing non-compliance: even with adequate funding, multi-faceted prevention services, and supervised support, patients are resisting and not adopting the necessary changes to generate long term health. What’s going on?

STATUS QUO

The problem is that the methods we’re using to inspire healthful behavior aren’t facilitating compliance. But with a shift in thinking, buy-in is achievable. It’s a belief-changing thing, not a behavior-change thing.

I’ll begin with a brief discussion of change and how we unwittingly fight to remain stable regardless of its (in)effectiveness. Buy-in is a change management problem.

We’re intelligent. We know smoking and sugar are bad, that exercise and fresh veggies are good, yet we continue to smoke and eat processed foods. We know that telling, advising, or offering ‘relevant’ and ‘rational’ information is largely ineffective and invokes resistance, yet we continue to tell, advise, and suggest, knowing that the odds of success are against us and blaming the Other for non-compliance.

When faced with the need to change, we tend to continue our current behaviors with just a few shifts, hoping we’ll get different results (Hello, Einstein.).

The problem is that change is a systems problem that demands buy-in from the very things that created the problem in the first place – much more intricate than knowing there’s a problem.

Let’s look at the problem by understanding why people keep doing what they do. I’ll be discussing this in terms of systems.

For those interested in a deeper discussion, I’ve broken down change and decision making from the brain in my new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change, and decision making.

Sample

OUR STATUS QUO LIKES STABILITY

Each person, each family (everyone, actually), is a system of rules and goals, beliefs and values, history and foundational norms often called our Mental Models our status quo. It represents who we are and the organizing principles that we wake up with every morning; it’s habitual, normalized, accepted, and replicated day after day – including what created the identified problem to begin with – with the problems baked in. Unfortunately our automatic patterns cause us to keep doing what we’ve always done and has become comfortable.

Any proposed change challenges the status quo and invites risk and possible disruption. When a problem shows up, diabetes for example, the patient has a dilemma: either continue their comfortable patterns and be assured of a continued problem, or dismantle the status quo and risk disruption with unknowable consequences.

How does she get up every day if she needs to eat differently and must convince her family that the food they’ve been eating for generations isn’t healthy? How does she avoid dessert when the family is celebrating? And the family’s favorite recipe is her cookies!

Change means the status quo has to reconfigure itself around new/different/unknown rules, beliefs, and outcomes to become something that can maintain itself with the ‘new’ as normalized. Because – and this is important to understand – until people and their unconscious norms

  • recognize that something is wrong/ineffective,
  • recognize that whatever they’ve been doing unconsciously has created (and will maintain) the problem,
  • know how to make congruent change that includes core values and systems norms,
  • know exactly the level of disruption that will occur to the status quo, and
  • make a belief shift that is acceptable to the rest of the system and enables new behaviors,

they will not change, regardless of its efficacy of the value of the solution.

In other words, until or unless someone understands their risk of change, AND are willing/able to do the deeply internal work of designing new habits, beliefs, and goals, AND manage any fallout, people will not change regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution.

UNCONSCIOUS PATTERNS HARD TO NOTICE

Why isn’t a rational argument, or an obvious problem, enough to inspire behavior change? Because we’re dealing with long-held and largely unconscious patterns, habits, and normalized activities and beliefs that become part of our neural circuitry. And because we’re trying to push change from the outside – usually through information, advice, and activities – before the system has figured out how to change in the least risky way.

Rational argument is ignored because our unconscious fights to maintain the status quo: we’ve been ‘like this’ for so long and it’s been ‘good enough’ to keep us stable. Change must be agreed to from our deepest norms before being willing to change behaviors. And until then, we can’t even accurately hear incoming data if it runs counter to our beliefs.

THE INTRICACY OF BUY-IN

Change is a belief change issue. By focusing on behavior change before facilitating belief change, we’re putting our status quo at risk. Let’s look at what a behavior is.

Behaviors are merely the expression – the representation, the output – of our beliefs. Think of it this way: behaviors express our beliefs much like the output of a software program is a result of the coding in the programming. To change the output, you don’t start by changing the functionality; you first change the coding which automatically changes the functionality. Like a dummy terminal, our behaviors only represent our internal programming.

WHY PROFESSIONALS DON’T PROMOTE CHANGE

How does this all apply to Healthcare? Our current healthcare system considers providers to be experts with the ‘right’ answers. Providers wrongly believe that if they share, advise, gather, or promote the right information with rational reasons why change is necessary, Others will comply. But our patients and clients

  • hear us through biased filters and cannot hear our message as meant;
  • feel pushed to act in ways they’re unaccustomed to or that go against their beliefs;
  • resist and reject when expected to act in ways outside their norm;
  • lose trust in us when we push them.

Because of their history, because brains often mistranslate incoming words, because the new may negatively touch their beliefs – for any number of reasons – information ‘in’ without systemic change may not prompt a hoped-for response.

So how can we effect compliance if offering information or diets or exercise programs, for example, isn’t effective?

PEOPLE CAN ONLY CHANGE THEMSELVES

Start by recognizing that people must change themselves. Instead of seeking better and better ways to offer advice (and getting rejected and ignored), we must help people make their own discoveries and systemic changes.

Here are some ways you can enter a change conversation to enable buy-in and avoid resistance:

  1. Shift your goal. Your job is to help Another be all they can be. It’s not about you getting them to accept the change you believe necessary, but enabling them to design the change they need, in a way that concurs with their beliefs and values.
  2. Enter differently. Enter with a goal/outcome of facilitating change and buy-in, not to change behavior. They must change their own behavior. From within. Their own way.
  3. Examine the status quo. First help Others recognize and assemble all of the elements that created and maintain their status quo – not merely the ones involved with the problem as you perceive it, but the entire system that created and maintains it. Outsiders can’t recognize the full complement of givens within another’s status quo. Starting with a focus on what you perceive is the problem (or the Other recognizes as a problem) inspires rejection.
  4. Traverse the brain’s steps to change. There are 13 steps to change that must be traversed for all change to occur. Unless all – all – of the elements have been included, recognize a need to change, and know precisely how to make the appropriate shifts so a stable systems results, they will resist.
  5. Behavior is an expression and not a unique act. We must recognize that exhibited behaviors are expressing beliefs. Change must occur at the belief level. Trying to push or inspire behavior change is at the wrong level and causes resistance.
  6. Everyone has their own answers. They may not be what you would prefer and might not make sense given the outcomes. Help them recognize how and when and if to change. But not using information as it can’t be understood.

Here are some examples of how I’ve added Change Facilitation to elements of health care in a way that promotes belief change first, ideas that might inspire you to think differently:

Intake forms: instead of merely gathering the data you think you need (which you’ve inadvertently biased), why not enlist patient buy-in at the earliest opportunity? It’s possible to add a few Facilitative Questions (I developed a form of question that enables unbiased systemic change and decision making and eschews information gathering. See examples below.) to your forms to start the patient off recognizing you, and including you, as a partner at the very beginning of your relationship and their route to healthful choices:

We are committed to helping you achieve the goals you want to achieve. What would you need to see from us to help you down your path to health? What could we do from our end that would best enable you to make whatever changes you might want to make?

Group prevention/treatment: instead of starting off by sharing new food or exercise plans, let’s add some change management skills to the goals of the group. By giving them direction around facilitating each other’s change issues, you can enable the group to discuss potential fallout to any proposed change, determine what change would look like, and begin discussions on how to approach each aspect of risk together to recognize different paths to success. Then the whole group can support each other’s different paths to success:

As we form this group, what would we all need to believe to incorporate everyone’s needs into our goals? If there are different goals and needs, how do we best support each other to ensure we each achieve our goals?

Doctor/patient communication: instead of a medical person offering ideas or information, make sure you achieve buy-in for change first. This encourages a patient to self-examine their unconscious behaviors while trusting the provider.

It seems you are suffering from diabetes. We’ve got nutritional programs, group support, book recommendations. But I’d first like to help you determine what health means for you. How will you know when it’s time to consider shifting some of your health choices to open up a possibility of treating your diabetes in a way that doesn’t diminish your lifestyle?

A healthy patient, or any desire to change in a way that benefits a more balanced life, is the goal. Be willing to enable change and compliance, rather than attempt to manage it, influence it, or control it. I’ve got some articles on these topics if you wish further reading: Practical Decision MakingQuestioning QuestionsTrust – what is it and how to initiate itResistance to GuidanceInfluencers vs Facilitators.

______________________

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

May 6th, 2024

Posted In: Change Management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PART ONE: Why our standard sales thinking no longer works


OUTDATED ASSUMPTIONS

There are several stories here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY IS A 5% SUCCESS RATE OK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

REASONS FOR FAILURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PART TWO: How Buyers Buy


WHY ISN’T SALES RELEVANT NOW?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROVIDE THE HELP FOLKS REALLY NEED

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

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

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

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

MY JOURNEY TO THINKING DIFFERENTLY

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

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

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

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

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

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


PART THREE: How Sales Can Be Relevant


FACILITATE CHANGE MANAGEMENT FIRST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIFFERENT THINKING; DIFFERENT GOAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW MEASUREMENTS OF SUCCESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________________

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

December 18th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

customer-service-1641724_960_720A few years ago, Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, was interviewed as he discussed their new Customer Focus initiative: prioritizing Customer Centricity over revenue by putting their customers first. He said something like, ‘The money will come. Let’s take care of the customer!’

Until now, I haven’t noticed many companies, including Bank of America, who’ve actually done the work of re-organizing around customers; to be Customer Centric means you must put rules, staff, tasks, websites and customer interfaces in place to, um, put People first.

DEFINITION CUSTOMER-CENTRIC

My long-held ideas and questions on what a true Customer Centric company would look like begins with an admonition: stop making it so hard on your customers. They purchased something from you. That automatically puts them in a relationship with you (And probably in a leadership position, since if customers don’t buy anything you’re not in business at all.). They paid the price you set and trusted your promises enough to believe they’d get what they paid for. If they have problems, questions or needs, their resolution and your kindness are a representation of your promise, must be a part of the relationship, and cannot be separated from the purchase.

You claim you want ‘relationship’ with customers, yet you create rules that disrespect, offend, ignore, insult, and frustrate them. Your customers have bought-into being on your team; don’t make it so hard on them. All that does is cause customers to complain to their 1000 closest friends, damage your reputation and give your competition the competitive edge. You forget that your customers are your competitive advantage.

New Book

Sample

‘Putting the customer at the center’ means having rules, procedures, hiring and training practices, and baseline values that use a People filter. It demands a customer lens through which to view every aspect of your company. It demands that your customer be the heart and soul of your company.

Corporate identity: Since behaviors and rules are translations – the daily actions – of your foundational identity and values, a Customer Centric company has the commensurate People values and ethics at its core. I always ask myself, after being hung up on, or ignored, or disrespected by a contact with a company whose solution I’ve purchased, what the foundational beliefs of that company must be: That I’ve made a purchase from the wrong provider – a company that doesn’t care about me. That my problems and needs are secondary to profit. That I’m not worthy of care once I’ve made my purchase.

It must begin with an identity of ethics and integrity. How you accomplish this will take the work of change – assembling and assessing the broken elements, getting buy-in for change from each of the broken parts, addressing disruption and confusing implementations. There are lots of decisions to be made that will ripple through the company.

Stakeholder alignment: All stakeholders, all company employees, all managers and Board Directors, must share, exemplify, and communicate the exact same beliefs and values. Your marketing and customer service must portray your kindness and respect; you’ll hire people with values that match. There used to be a legend that Nordstrom had a one line customer service rule: “Use your best judgment.” Imagine how hiring practices, management, and training shift if such rule is in place.

With a People orientation, everything and everyone has one goal: to keep a customer happy. Then, a lower level rep would feel free to make this sort of adjustment on her own:

So sorry this is happening. Please accept my apologies on behalf of X company. What would make this right for you? And I’ll be your Team Leader to make sure your problem gets handled, including speak to whoever I need to speak with on my side and get back to you with a resolution.

not this rule-based, disrespecting flip-off that we all suffer time and time again:

This is not something I can take care of. I’m transferring you (and transferring you, and transferring you, and…).

With a Customer Centric filter, each rep, each internal stakeholder, each person who touches a customer, owns the problem and resolution. This will change your rules.

One more thought here: your employees are your first customers. Don’t ever forget that.

Proximity to customer: With ‘Customer’ in the center, organization is based on the proximity to the customer, giving the most importance (and training) to help desk and sales groups who directly touch customers, and Senior Management, the Board and CEO at the far end with the job of coming up with the ideas and maintaining the foundation of values and vision.

ORGANIZING A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY FROM INSIDE OUT

In order of customer proximity, here are some thoughts on the organization of a truly Customer Centric company. Again, each customer touch point must have a criteria of putting the focus on People first, with Task, Rules and Profit Margin second.

First touch point:

  • Customer service (questions, needs, problems): Reps whose job is to give product service and support must be client advocates. They must have a very strong People filter and be passionate about ensuring each customer gets their needs met. That should be their only criteria and have the right tools and skills – listening skills are especially prone to biased filters – at their disposal to do so.

I’ve been told by customer service reps that they’re only allotted a short time frame – minutes – to handle a problem and then get on to the next customer on the cue. One rep called me back on his own cell phone because he didn’t want to ‘get in trouble’ (his words) for taking too long with a customer. Seriously?! Of course this means you’d need to train your team differently. And yes, you’ll need to hire more reps to get them off ‘the clock’ and into ‘relationship.’ Keep thinking: People vs Task. Which will it be? Here are two conversations I had with different AT&T reps, 5 minutes apart, when I called to change my billing address. I bet you can tell which one has a People filter:

Rep #1: You don’t have your password? Sorry. I can’t help you. I know you only want to change your address. But call back when you find your password….. (And then she hung up on me).

Rep #2: You don’t have your password? Hm… Let’s use your social security number to start with. Then we can change your address, and then I’ll send you a link to reset your password so you have it for the next time you call.

Same company; but one rep was Task/Rules-bound with no criteria re taking care of me and just wanted to get me off the phone quickly; one was Customer Centric and got creative so I was cared for. Both had the same customer screen in front of them when I called but one had a People hat on. And btw, who the hell was supervising that first Rep? Why was that ok? Do companies even KNOW what their representatives are saying to customers?

I urge you to consider having whoever answers the phone ‘own’ the customer’s problem. This way customers don’t get hung up on, and don’t get shuffled between departments to explain their issue over and over again – only to be disconnected after 45 minutes and on maybe the 6th person!

The initial rep must take the customer’s phone number, give them a case number, and a call-back number that connects directly TO THE PERSON THEY SPOKE WITH so there is a continued process. How much will that cost? Compare that with the amount of business and reputation you’re losing now from NOT doing it, from complaints against your company showing up on social media, from customers cancelling service because they can’t take it anymore.

Website: Your site is often the first (and sometimes only) connection with a customer and it can go a long way to making sure customers feel cared for. Here is where a lot of companies fail. Almost all sites are strictly Rules, Company, Profit, Product driven. There’s no way to talk to anyone, and lots of hoops to go through before it’s even a vague possibility.

Few sites have their phone number available. What’s the deal with that? How much business are you losing because a customer or prospect can’t ask a simple question, or get directed to their best resource? What is the cost? I buy only from companies whose sites offer a phone number so I know I’ll have fewer hoops to go through if there’s a problem.

And what’s the deal with ONLY having the sign-in boxes in the Contact area? You’re soliciting their data for your marketing lists and reducing their ability to make contact only according to YOUR terms? You want something precious from them and you’re not willing to offer something in return? What percentage of real buyers won’t fill out those things? I have never, ever filled out one of those damn things. I want my vendors to take care of ME, not me take care of THEM, especially when it might involve me receiving tons of unsolicited email.

And while I’m on a rant, how ‘bout including a real time Customer Tweet roll bar on your home page? Invite customers to Tweet their thoughts, questions, and feelings to make it a living dialogue. Too scary you say? Well, if you focus on a customer, and all your rules are similarly focused, you should hear nothing but good things, no?

And where there’s a negative comment, it will exhibit how quickly and accurately you handle the situation. After all, these folks are going onto social media to complain about you anyway; you might as well hear it straight and deal with it immediately and show other customers your fallible, but trustworthy.

This is your first line of contact. You can use your site as a good representation of your brand’s promise. You’re blowing it.

One more idea. With a People focus, online communication tools like Live Chat/Bot must abandon their Rules/Task focus and use vocabulary that is helpful, soothes disgruntled people, and finds ways to take responsibility for supportive dialogue. It’s beyond infuriating.

I found myself recently having a fight with a Live Chat person (Well, 3 actually, because I kept asking to speak with a supervisor.) for 2 hours (with horrible NameCheap) and finally SCREAMED in frustration at this invisible ‘person’ who kept explaining ‘rules’ that didn’t correspond to my questions; I actually wrote I HATE YOU YOU’RE A TERRIBLE COMPANY AND YOU CHEAT PEOPLE AND I’M GOING TO TELL EVERYONE NOT TO EVER USE YOU YOU’RE CHEATS. I became a tantrumy teenager as I felt more and more disrespected, misunderstood, and thwarted by invisible rules that didn’t seem to match my issue. Turns out not ONE of these folks heard me or resolved my problem. Don’t do this to your customers. They deserve better.

Second touch point:

  • Sales – Sellers are the intermediaries between you and customers. Stop relegating them to a ‘content push’ orientation. Make them the arbiters of true customer focus. Instead of being focused on pushing/placing solutions, using a facilitation model such as Buying Facilitation® (a model I invented for sales and marketing that gives sellers tools to facilitate Buyer Readiness at each stage of their Pre-Sales Buying Journey) it’s possible to use your connection to become industry leaders and become true Servant Leaders. Stop pushing! They can find your solution data on your site! Use your sales team to build and enhance customer relationships based on THEIR needs for excellence, not YOUR needs for profit. This is a place you can truly differentiate yourself from your competition.

Customers don’t need you for the details of your solutions until they’ve decided they cannot fix the problem themselves, what sort of a solution everyone agrees to, and how to manage any change that will occur when they do buy. [A purchase is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue; a prospect is someone who CAN buy, not someone who SHOULD.]

Your site might be one of their steps toward deciding on whether or not to buy anything. Help them. It will not only differentiate you, but you’ll have vast amounts of data to bring back to other groups in your organization to help them be more Customer Centric, including R&D, customer service, manufacturing, billing.

All areas of your company will shift according to the voices of real customers and their needs and problems – so long as the focus is on serving, not selling. Remember: People filter, not Task. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities.

Third touch point:

  • Day-to-day Management: These folks are in leadership positions for employees nearest the customer. Instead of pushing pushing pushing staff to close a sale, or get off the phone, continually find ways to connect, to respond in ways that make, and keep, customers happy. That means you’ll not only need to hire a people-oriented management staff, but the employees will need new types of training, especially additional listening skills. Currently, each group listens through their own Task filters and agendas: sellers listen for signs of ‘need’, help desk reps listen for easy solutions so they can stick to their 2 minute (or whatever) time limit.

Have managers sit alongside of reps and coach them for hours during a week, to check their skills real time. You could even design a Customer Service Check List to hand out to managers for their phone coaching hours. Obviously you’ll have to employ new hiring practices to hire People oriented people rather than Task oriented people. Like the AT&T story above, we all know to keep calling back until we get a ‘good’ rep. How much does that cost you?

Question for you: how will you know that the front-line staff are congruently representing your values? What is it costing you to have reps who hang up on paying customers? Or transfer transfer transfer to the point of madness because no one owns the problem? Why are managers acceding to this practice? What is it costing you?

Fourth touch point:

  • Marketing: your current focus remains selling something; your marketing efforts push product data, with no visible sign of Customer Centricity regardless of your lofty terms. What if you used your marketing to enter along the customer’s decision path to help them manage each aspect of their route to choosing you? They can get solution details on your site so add elements of facilitating the decisions that will make site visitors into customers.

Add a People/Customer filter to your marketing: send out content marketing that helps them make sense of those decisions they need to make as they figure out if they even want to make a purchase. It’s possible to create staged marketing to address each of the 13 stages of a buying decision. Because people aren’t buyers until a purchase is their only viable option to solve a problem, you’re missing entering earlier in their decision cycle and only focusing on those relative few who have already decided to buy (at the end of the buyer’s journey). Make it easier for those who CAN/WILL buy.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself moving forward:

What is the soul of your company? How can you operationalize that? Hint: Make sure you’re not a ‘financial company that serves customers’, and be a ‘customer centric company that offers banking services’. People first; it changes everything.

What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to make People your priority? How would that change your staffing? Sales? Marketing? Leadership? Training? Management? What is the cost? What is the cost if you don’t?

How would you know it would be worthwhile to use a People filter over a Task/Rules filter? Would you need to have a pilot group with specific tracking capability re customer retention, or surveys, or increased revenue, etc.? [Call me. I’ll help you set it up.] A new Mission Statement?

Where do Integrity and Ethics factor in to your customer touch points? Or is that not part of your equation? Do you have defined values? Do the rules you’re currently using match your company values? Why not? And don’t tell me it’s time or money – rescale if you need to. Your success depends on this. Amazon.com has an impressive focus on the customer. Takes me one minute to get a problem resolved, including them giving me my refund BEFORE they even get the product back – and often they tell me just to throw it away, or keep the extra item. They make it easy for me and actually less time consuming for them. I always feel trusted and valued, and I’ll never go to any of their competitors.

How do your current rules restrict Customer Centricity? Evaluate your current rules. What new rules would need to be in place to be Customer Centric – and what does that mean for how you run your company?

How would Customer Centricity change your hiring practices? Training? HR? Management?

How will you know in advance that it will be worth the time/effort to tackle this? Because if you don’t, your competition will. Remember: your customer is your competitive advantage.

What skills training would need to occur? Listening, certainly.

What would need to change within your company culture? How people speak to each other? The symbols of success, expectations, agreements?

How are you currently communicating your values to customers? Take a look at your site, your rules, your reps. What you see IS a representation of your corporate values.

What promises are you making to customers who buy your solution? How does this differ from what a customer thinks you promised them?

How would your technology need to change to embrace a Customer Centric mentality? In 1996 (before Google), I designed a new search tool named Hobbes based on helping a site visitors get to the exact page they needed using 3 simple questions that highlight their choice criteria. I got an offer from the VC Heidi Roisen for funding if I could find one other funding source. I could not. And to this day, no one is using my search tool; seems tech folks never understood why sorting with human criteria is necessary.

I hope I’ve inspired you to begin thinking about this issue and started a conversation. I believe that becoming Customer Centric will be your competitive edge moving forward. But that also means change. What is it worth to you?

____________

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

October 23rd, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

I recently got a call from a noted venture capitalist of healthcare apps.

DH: I heard you have a model that facilitates permanent behavior change. I wonder if it would work with any of the 15 healthcare apps I’ve invested in.

SD: I do have a model that does that. And it certainly could be used as a front end to conventional behavior change apps to enable users to develop permanent habits by developing neural circuits. What are you using now to help folks change behaviors permanently?

DH. Behavior Modification, but it doesn’t work. There’s no scientific evidence that it works and our analysis concurs. But there’s nothing else to use. Can you help?

It’s a known fact that Behavior Modification has a 3% success rate over time. Sure, people initially lose weight with a behavior-based plan to eat differently. Certainly people stop smoking or get to the gym for a few weeks. But because these new behaviors haven’t been accepted by, or made permanent in, the brain, they cannot succeed over time. And repeating the new in hopes that THIS time it will stick obviously doesn’t work.

Stay tuned for my new book coming out in September: HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change, and decision making.

Sample

Permanent change is a very achievable goal. But we’re approaching the problem from the wrong angle. In this essay I will explain what a behavior is, what change is, how our brain governs them both, and introduce the steps needed to form habits. Believe it or not, it’s mechanical. THE PROBLEM WITH BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION Lately I’ve heard several Behavioral Scientists on the radio, all offering Behavior Modification techniques to habituate new behaviors by, well, habituating new behaviors. They ‘remove barriers’, suggest ‘momentum’, offer ‘promoting forces/restraining forces’, and propose ‘behavioral interventions’ such as keeping weights at your desk so you can ‘lift’ during Zoom calls. All meant to motivate behavior change – through behavior change. I suspect Einstein might have something to say about that. The problem is the premise. Behavior Mod’s core assumptions are actually contrary to brain science. It assumes that by merely repeating (and repeating and repeating) new ways to accomplish something that’s been problematic, permanent change will result that can be maintained over time. But it doesn’t. And it can’t. Certainly we’ve all tried. We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t lose weight permanently by trying to lose weight. Or stop smoking by trying to stop smoking. We promise ourselves we’ll be disciplined ‘this time’. But our discipline isn’t the problem. We have no circuits to translate our wishes into actions automatically. Our brain makes us fail. DIFFERENT THINKING REQUIRED The reason we fail is simple: we’re not making the necessary adjustments to the neural pathways that prompt behaviors to begin with. I’ll start with an analogy. Let’s say you purchase a forward-moving robot, use it for a while, then decide you want it to move backward. You tell it why a ‘backwards’ functionality would enhance it, show it slides and presentations of other robots that move backwards, and attempt to push, cajole, and offer rewards. Nope. It won’t move backward. But if you program it differently, it will. What about changing a chair into a table. You put red plastic into a machine that is programmed to spit out a red plastic chair. Once the chair is produced, you can’t make it a table. But you can create a table if you program the machine appropriately at the start. Changing habits by trying to change habits is merely attempting to change the outcome – the output, the habit, the behavior, the robot, the chair – but failing to reprogram the brain with different instructions to create something new. Sounds obvious. But that’s not what behaviorists do: the Behavior Mod approach suggests we get the robot to move backward by pushing it (and pushing it and pushing it) assuming the repetition will cause permanent change. As you know, it doesn’t work. WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR? To understand the full scope of the problem it’s helpful to understand what, exactly, a behavior is. They don’t just arise because we want them to. Behaviors are the output of our brain’s signaling system, the response to input instructions that travel as electrochemical signals down a fixed neural pathway and hook up with a set of circuits that translates the signals into something tangible. Where do behaviors originate? Behaviors are Beliefs in action, physical representations of our core identity factors. Our politics represent our Beliefs. The way we dress, talk; the professions we choose; where we travel and who we marry. Everything we do represents who we are. As the foundational factor in what we do and think, Beliefs must be factored in when considering change or forming a new habit. Current Behavior Mod approaches circumvent Beliefs and therein lie the problem. There is actual science on how behaviors get generated and why we automatically repeat behaviors even when we don’t want to. Here’s a quote from noted Harvard neuroscientist Richard Masland in We Know It When We See It to set the stage: Our brain has trillions of cell assemblies that fire together automatically. When anything incoming bears even some of the characteristics [of operational circuits], the brain automatically fires the same set of synapses [triggering the same behavior]. (pg 143). Here’s a simplified version of how to convince the brain to make the changes that lead to new habits. It explains how behaviors occur and where change comes from. For a more complete explanation and tools to actually create new brain circuitry for change, watch for my new book HOW? coming out soon. NEUROLOGICAL PATHWAY FROM INPUT TO OUTPUT Generally, each behavior starts off as an input – an idea or command, thought or story – that enters our brain as a meaningless puff of air, an electrochemical vibration (a ‘message’). To keep us congruent, the input gets evaluated against our Mental Models and Beliefs before going further. Is this input a risk? Is it congruent with our values? If the idea goes against who we are, it gets rejected or resisted. If the vibration is accepted, it gets turned into signals that then seek out (among our 100 trillion synapses) similar-enough circuits that translate them into action or output – a behavior. Specifically, our brains:

    1. receive input vibrations (from conversations, thoughts, reading, ideas, internal commands) and
    2. compare/test these against foundational Beliefs, norms, and history, after which they
    3. get turned into signals that get
    4. matched with the closest, ‘similar enough’ neural circuits
    5. that translate them into output/action/behavior.

As you can see, whichever neural circuits receive the signals are the translators that determine what we hear, see, know, and do. Simply stated it looks like this:

Input -> Risk check -> Signal creation and Dispatch -> Output

The time it takes a message to go from an input to an output takes 5 one-hundredths of a second. It’s pretty automatic. And obviously, once an output, it can’t be changed. Change begins when initiated from the input. THE NEED FOR VALUES-BASED CONGRUENCY The next important piece is why repetition won’t cause new (permanent) habits. When a wholly new input enters, it requires a new relevancy check. Sadly – and the reason new activity fails when Behavior Mod is attempted – if anything tries to change the status quo without being checked for relevance, our brain discards the new input because it may carry risk! The new isn’t sustainable without new circuitry. When we try to create new habits by merely ‘doing’ new behaviors without sending new and different input instructions we cannot generate permanent change because there are no new circuits to administer it! The good news is that the brain is always willing to create new circuits for new behaviors. It’s called Neurogenesis. CREATING NEW PROGRAMMING, NEW SIGNALS, NEW BEHAVIORS To change behaviors permanently, start with new input messages:

      • create a new belief-based input/message that
      • generates new signals which
      • create or discover a different arrangement of circuits
      • which translate them into new/different behaviors.

I’ll explain with a story. A friend said, “I’ve been telling myself I’m a Fat Cow recently. That means it’s time for me to go on another diet.” Obviously this input would lead her to the same circuits (and results) that it used for past diets that she failed at. But if she changed her input signal and told herself instead:

‘I am a healthy person who will research best nutrition choices for my body type and lifestyle and have the discipline to eat the best foods for the rest of my life.’

she would end up with a different set of circuits and different output/behaviors. Our outputs, our behaviors, are merely responses to inputs that our brain has checked out as congruent with who we are. So one way to change a behavior is to change the incoming messaging to one that is Belief-based and takes into account all the elements (Mental Models, history, norms, experience) that might cause risk to the system. Once it’s approved, it will automatically generate new circuits and new, habituated, behaviors. My new book How? Generating new neural pathways for learning, behavior change, and decision making, will teach you several models to formulate the neural circuits you need to help you change habits permanently. I am passionately interested in enabling people to consciously design new signaling instructions for their brains to output any new habits they seek. My wish is to work with healthcare providers and apps for exercise, healthy eating, meditation and decision making to aid folks seeking to achieve greater health and success. If you want to collaborate, or have questions, contact me to discuss ways we can engage those seeking permanent change. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. And look for my book launch in September.

_______________________

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

July 24th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

Do you know where your ideas, behaviors, and choices come from? Every thought we have comes from our existing neural circuitry, as does everything we do or we’re curious about. What we hear others say is a translation from our existing neural circuitry. Everything we ‘know’, every opinion we believe to be ‘true’ comes from – you guessed it – from existing neural circuitry.

In other words, we live in subjective worlds biased by how our brain stores, translates, and generates our history electrochemically. While this is a known fact in neuroscience, we forget how it restricts our lives. We hear, see, feel, act, think based on our history, limiting new thinking, new ideas, curiosity.

But it’s possible to develop wholly new circuitry to add new choices and behaviors consciously to get beyond the restrictions. In fact, I’ve developed models that do so. They traverse the mind -> brain connection to trigger conscious choice and generate permanent behavior change.

My book describing these models HOW? Generating new neural circuitry for learning, behavior change, and decision making, will be out soon. In the meantime, here are some of the ideas from the book to mull over. Enjoy. And btw I’m seeking readers to read the final draft.

HOW BRAINS EXPERIENCE EVERYTHING

There is no reality. What we notice, think, feel, experience, hear, do are outputs – automatic responses to electrochemical signals our brains interpret to represent our mental models. We live in subjective worlds.

We are at the mercy of how our brain interprets incoming data. Our conscious self is out of control. What we experience is based on what our brain perceives from circuits (i.e. historic, subjective) that hold our history, not what is actually going on.

The world contains no color per se, only light vibrations that get translated into color by the rods and cones in our eyes.

Every minute of every day we construct our ‘reality’, limited by the circuitry, the knowledge, beliefs, experiences, etc. we’ve constructed during our lifetime. This, in addition to the fact that brains don’t differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, explain how difficult it is to do, or think, anything outside our status quo. Our brains are automatic mechanisms that merely do what they’re electrochemically told.

The meaning derived from any situation; what causes us to ‘know’ something or accept something as ‘real’; or ‘hear’ something ‘accurately’; comes from our existing circuits. In other words, what we know and think and hear, what we consider reality, is subjective and biased.

Words are puffs of air, sound vibrations that get turned into electrochemical signals which then get turned into meaning via our existing neural circuitry. We ‘hear’ according to what we’ve heard before and otherwise ‘misunderstand’. (My book What? explains this thoroughly.) What we think we hear is merely a filtered interpretation of what was said – some fraction of what was intended and rarely fully accurate.

We are restricted every moment of our lives by our history, beliefs, and existing circuits that initiate and instruct all that we think and do. Our brains cause us to be stuck in old patterns and behaviors, limiting what we hear to what we’ve heard before, what we do to what we’ve done before. It’s habituated, automated, and normalized, causing us to keep doing what we’ve always done regardless of ‘reality’, discipline, or goals. 

LISTENING

Listening is a physiological, neurological, electrochemical, and mechanical process, devoid of meaning. Words are merely ‘puffs of air’ until they’re translated by existing (subjective, biased) circuits.

What we think we hear is what our existing circuits translate for us, not necessarily what a Speaker intends. Listening is inherently biased and often inaccurate. We can’t understand what our brains don’t have circuits to translate.

What we think we hear is often an inaccurate translation of what remains after our filters delete bits they don’t like, or when incoming signals get sent to existing circuitry regardless of how divergent they are from what was said/intended.

To accurately hear what’s being said without bias or subjectivity we must listen from Observer – meta listening, from Witness or Coach position.

We all ‘hear’ each other when our brain circuits send the sound vibrations from spoken words to ‘similar enough’ circuits that often don’t have the appropriate circuitry to translate incoming, intended messages accurately.

Because of the ways our brain filters and deletes incoming information via electrochemical signals and historic circuitry, we can’t accurately understand what’s been said, regardless of how well we ‘listen’. 

CHANGE

Change is a process of creating wholly new neural circuits by: inputting a precise (new) message; prioritizing beliefs and mental models; executing a learning loop that includes acquiring knowledge, trying and failing, buying-in.

All decisions and change initiatives follow the same 13 steps that include: Where are we? (Problem specifics); assembling the full complement of stakeholders (not just leadership); trying workarounds; understanding the risk of change; managing change/buy-in. Although sometimes iterative, they must be sequential or there’s confusion and lack of buy-in.

Resistance occurs when people are asked to do something outside their beliefs or historic circuits and their brains identify the incoming as risky. It can be avoided if we include people in the solution design.

Information doesn’t teach anyone how to make a decision unless all factors – systems congruence, belief matching, understanding risk – have been managed. And incoming information will always be translated by what’s already been accepted and in existing circuitry (i.e. subjectively).

Our curiosity is limited to what’s already been programmed in our brain. Otherwise we’ve got no way to think it.

No outsider can ever understand someone else’s brain configurations. Leaders, coaches, therapists, sellers, pose biased questions and interpret what’s been said subjectively.

Our opinions have everything to do with our beliefs and nothing to do with reality. Even with strong evidence to the contrary, we will believe nothing that goes against our beliefs.

QUESTIONS

Conventional questions are biased by the needs of the Asker and pull biased, often partial, data from a Responder. The data gathered has some unknown degree of accuracy.

It’s impossible to pose a non-biased standard question since the words, intent, goals are chosen by the Asker. [I invented brain-change directed Facilitative Questions to solve the problem.]

Standard questions 

  • ignore the listener’s underlying personal systems (beliefs, mental models, historic circuitry, etc.) and have a good chance of missing important data stored beyond the parameters of the question. 
  • are problematic when used to gather information as they restrict the scope of the search and bias the outcome.  
  • lead to conscious, automatic, habituated responses from well-worn superhighways that may not offer accurate responses.
  • have a high probability of overlooking the full set of unconscious criteria that created and maintain the problem to be solved.
  • get translated by Responders according to their existing circuitry which may delete, misconstrue, or resist incoming requests as they’re translated uniquely, outside the scope of the Asker’s question.

BEHAVIOR CHANGE

You can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. The main component in behavior change is new neural circuitry.

Because brains operate automatically and are electrochemically organized to choose – in five one-hundredths of a second – the nearest and most-used ‘similar-enough’ pathway to execute an incoming request (regardless of the level of compatibility), behaviors arise from existing circuits. Brand new behaviors don’t occur merely because we want them to.

When learning something new, several activities are required for our brain to create new circuitry to generate it. They include beliefs (check for congruence); stop/fail trials; knowledge acquisition (reading, videos, etc.); and buy-in.

Since our behaviors are the outputs from circuits that received electrochemical signals, wholly new behaviors (i.e. new diets, change) require wholly new signals.

A behavior is a belief in action, an outward manifestation – a representation, a translation, an output – of our systemic world views. They appear after input vibrations/signals (what we hear, what we tell ourselves) have been sent to a specific circuit that translates them into action (a behavior, an understanding).

Regardless of how extensive or important the need to change, NO CHANGE will occur if the system believes it will face major disruption. And NO CHANGE will occur unless the system recognizes an incongruence.

If the cost of change is greater than staying the same, the system will resist.

Change is more complex than merely adding new data: because brains generate action from existing knowledge and circuitry, new content doesn’t cause new action unless there are circuits in place to accept and translate it. 

Because we each have unique brain configurations, an outsider (coach, parent, seller, doctor, etc.) can never understand the full extent what’s going on in the unconscious of another. Yet to facilitate change, the Other must get into their unconscious circuits where their answers are stored.

Making a new decision, creating new habits, or even getting rid of long-held biases has little to do with the rationality, need, or behaviors we seek to change. 

When we try to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior, (i.e. Behavior Modification), we’re hindered by

  • our natural biases and subjectivity,
  • the absence of neural circuitry to translate what we want into action,
  • how our brain instigates behaviors, actions, choices, or thoughts automatically, mechanically, physiologically, neuro-chemically and electrochemically (i.e. outside of conscious awareness).

Permanent change begins by developing wholly new signals that contain beliefs and engage different circuitry. New behaviors emerge automatically.

All change is systemic and must include

  • buy-in from the system
  • acceptance of risk
  • notice of an incongruence
  • norms that match the values of the system (systems congruence).

Systems don’t like incongruence; it’s only when a system fully recognizes it cannot solve a problem by doing what it’s always done and recognizes an incongruence, that there’s a willingness to change. But it will only consider change so long as the change won’t compromise the system. 

One of the problems with change occurs when your system hasn’t recognized the need to change. Change requires noticing an incongruence.

If we try to change in a way that goes outside our beliefs or mental models, our brain will resist as there are no circuits set up to generate the change.

Brains and systems are happy to change, to create new cell assemblies, so long as the proposed change is congruent with the rules of the system. When you try to get different results using the same structure that caused the problem to begin with, you’re actually causing the problem to continue as the underlying system will reject/resist anything new.

Change requires new circuitry, starting with a new path from a new instruction down a different circuit leading to a different choice. When we try to change only the behavior we cause resistance.

____________________________

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

July 3rd, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

As a preamble to a discussion about failing consciously, I’d like to retell a story. Many years ago Xerox was beta testing a then new-type digital printer. The testers sent back complaints: it was hard to figure out how to work the damn thing, and the user guide was confusing. Obviously, User Error, the designers concluded. Yup. More stupid users. So an internal focus group was set up by senior management to test what exactly was happening.

They brought in three middle managers, put them in a room with the new printer and user guide, and from the one-way mirror watched while mayhem ensued. They watched while the managers got confused by the directions in the user guide, spent literally hours arguing amongst themselves about what the user guide meant, kept pressing the wrong buttons, and finally gave up – never getting it to work.

User Error, they again said. Obviously, went the thinking, the managers weren’t smart or savvy enough to understand simple directions. Except they didn’t know a trick had been played on them: the testers were actually PhD computer scientists. Oops. It wasn’t User Error at all. They had failed to design a machine and a user guide that had clear user interfaces. So while the printer itself might have been a marvel of machinery for its day, it couldn’t be used. It was a failure. Or was it?

WHAT IS FAILURE

I contend that until every ‘failed’ step was taken, and every ‘failed’ assumption made, there was no way to know exactly what problems needed to be fixed or if indeed their printer was a success. The failure was part of the march to success.

We call it failure when we don’t achieve a goal we’ve set out to accomplish, whether it’s starting up a company, reaching a job goal, learning something new, or starting a new diet. I think that as humans we strive to succeed, to be seen as competent, to be ‘better than’, even if we’re only in competition with ourselves. It’s natural to want our products, our teams, our families, our competitive activities, to reap success. To be The Best. And we plot and envision how to make it happen.

But the road to success isn’t straight; sometimes we face disappointment, shame, and self-judgment along the route. We get annoyed with ourselves when results don’t seem to comply with our mental images, and tell ourselves maybe we didn’t follow the original plan, or didn’t plan well enough, or maybe we’re self-sabotaging. We blame teammates or vendors, spouses or neighbors.

I’m here to tell you that failure is a necessary part of success. It’s built in to learning and succeeding, actually a natural part of the process of change and accomplishment. Before we win we gotta fail. Tiger Woods didn’t wake up the best in the world. Neither did Pavarotti or Steve Jobs. For anyone to get to the top, to achieve success in any industry, any endeavor, any sport, it’s necessary to fail over and over. How surprising that no one teaches us how to fail consciously. I suggest we develop conscious failing strategies that become built in to our success procedures.

WHAT IS OUR STATUS QUO? AND WHY IS IT SO STUBBORN?

Getting to success is a sequential process that includes trial and error – i.e. winning and losing are both part of the same process, and each adding a piece of the puzzle. Of course there’s no way to know what we don’t know before we start – no way to even be curious, or ask the right questions because we don’t know what we don’t know. And unfortunately, part of the process is internal, unconscious, and systemic.

Change – and all success and failure is really a form of changing our status quo – has a very large unconscious component, and when you only try to add new behaviors you miss the unconscious elements that will rear their ugly heads as you move toward hitting your goals: you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. It just doesn’t work that way.

Let me explain a few things about how your brain works in the area of change. To begin, all change is systemic. Anything new you want to do, anything new that requires, ultimately, new behaviors, or added beliefs or life changes, requires buy-in from what already exists in your make up – your status quo. Indeed, as the repository of your history, values, and norms, your status quo won’t change a thing without congruency. Indeed it will reject anything new, regardless of how necessary it is, unless the new has been properly vetted by the originating system.

Setting a goal that’s behavior-based without agreement from the system, without incorporating steps for buy in assures resistance. Sure, we lay out the trajectory, attempt to make one good decision at a time, and use every feeling, hope, data point, guess, to take next steps. But when we don’t take into account the way our brains unconsciously process, it may not turn out like we envision. Lucky there’s a way to manage our activities to take into account what a brain needs for congruent change and a successful outcome.

THE STEPS TO FAILING CONSCIOUSLY

In my work on how brains facilitate change and make decisions to shift what’s already there (my The How of Change program teaches how to generate new neural routes) I offer ways to create new synapses and neural pathways that lead to new behaviors. Take a look at the Change Model chart I developed, with a careful look at The Trial Loop – the steps we each take to learn, to add/trial something new:

How of Change

The Trial Loop is where the brain learning occurs. It’s here we iterate through several touch points: new data acquisition, buy-in, trial behaviors, and the stop/go/stop action (double-arrowed line between Beliefs (CEN) and red Stop) as each new element is tried and considered before new behaviors are formed.

It’s important to understand that no change will occur until these elements are addressed; merely hearing something new – a directive, an interesting piece of information, an internal decision to change a behavior – doesn’t insure something different will happen. Unless our system buys in, until there’s a specific circuit created for the new, no change will occur. You can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior.

So as we try out new stuff, our personal mental models of rules, beliefs, norms, history, etc., go through iterations of trial, acceptance, rejection, confusion, trial, acceptance, rejection, etc. until the new is congruent with the norms of the system, something we cannot know before we go through this process. So let’s call our disappointments part of the iteration process that precedes success. Here is a closer look at my chart:

  1. An initial goal/idea/thought enters (through the CUE),
  2. then gets sorted through an acceptance/rejection process for beliefs and systems congruence (the CEN), which
  3. darts around the brain seeking a match for an existing neural pathway for earlier incidence of achieving this goal.
  4. If no existing pathway is found, a new synapse/neural pathway must be formed.
  5. The brain goes through an iterative process to form a new path to a new action with agreement (buy in) needed at each step (notice the iterative arrows in the chart).
  6. Iterative process includes: gathering data, trialing new activity, getting internal buy in, testing for Systems Congruence (All systems must be in a congruent state. Individually and personally, we’re all a system.)
  7. Process of Stop/New choice-data acquisition-action/Stop etc. as each new thing is tried.
  8. Final success when there’s congruency and new is adopted without resistance as a final Behavior. (And note: the Behavior is the FINAL activity. You cannot change a behavior by trying to change a behavior.)

Now you know the steps to conscious change. Should you want to learn more about my How of Change program let me know. Here’s a one-hour sample of me laying out the foundation of the course and explaining how change occurs in the brain.

THE STEPS TO CONSCIOUS FAILING

Now let’s plot out the steps to conscious failure to avoid large-scale malfunction.

The Beginning: to start the process toward succeeding at a goal, you need:

  • Include all (all) stakeholders (including Joe in accounting) and all who will touch the final solution;
  • Agree upon the wording for the final goal, including specifics of new behavioral elements, rules, politics, outcomes – i.e. what, exactly, will be different;
  • Write up a ‘guess list’ of problems that might occur (failures) to the status quo as a result: what they might look like, as well as possible workarounds;
  • An agreement clause from all stakeholders to act when something is going off course. Note: listening without bias is urgently needed here;
  • Consider possible ways your starting goals may shift the status quo and make sure it’s tenable;
  • Know how the new outcome will be maintained over time (including the people, rules, norms, changes, that will be involved) and what else has to buy in to maintenance;
  • State potential, detailed steps toward achievement that are agreeable to all stakeholders;
  • Agreement to reconsider all previous steps if the problems that show up cause new considerations.

The Middle: to make changes, add new knowledge to trial, get continuous buy in, you need:

  • Re write the original goals, with delineated outcomes for each;
  • Notice how the new is disrupting the status quo. Is it necessary to amend the new plans to ensure Systems Congruence? Is the cost of the new lower than the cost of the original? There must be a cost-effective decision made;
  • Find ways to acquire the right knowledge to learn from;
  • Check on the ways you’re failing. Were they expected? Do they conform to your goals? Do you need to shift anything?
  • Agreement to develop new choices where current ones aren’t working as per plan.

The End: making sure the outcome is congruent with the original goal:

  • Go through the Beginning steps and check they’ve been accomplished;
  • Compare end result with original goal;
  • Make sure there is congruent integration with the thinking, beliefs, values of the original;
  • Make sure the status quo is functioning without disruption and the system ends up congruent with its mental models and belief systems.

Here are more specifics to help you integrate the necessary failure, and avoid guesswork and reactions to what might seem inconsistent with your goals:

  1. Lay out specifics for each step you’re considering to your goal. Include timelines, parameters, and consequences of results, specific elements of what success for that step should look like, and what possible failure might look like. Of course, you can’t truly know the answers until they occur, but make your best guess. It’s important to notice something new happening when it’s happening.
  2. If something unplanned or feared occurs (i.e. failure), annotate the details. What exactly is happening? What elements worked and what didn’t, and how did they work or not work – what/who was involved, how did the result differ from the expectations? What does the failure tell you – what IS succeeding instead of what you wish for? How does the remedy for the problem influence the next step? How long should you allot for each occurrence before determining whether it’s failure, or just part of the success trajectory you weren’t aware of?
  3. Are all stakeholders involved and shared their input? Do you need to bring in more stakeholders?
  4. Notice the consequences of the outcomes for each: employees, clients, hiring, firing, quitting, vendors, competition, state of the industry and your place in it. What comes into play with these factors when considering if you want to continue down one trajectory rather than designing a new one? What will it look like to decide to change course? How will your decisions effect your vision of an outcome? How are the stakeholders affected by each choice?
  5. How much failure are you willing to risk before you determine that either your outcome is untenable, or you need to make structural changes? What part does ego and denial play? Does everyone agree what constitutes failure? Success?
  6. What will you notice when your trajectory to success is negatively effecting your baseline givens? What are you willing to change, or accept, to reach your goal?
  7. What will it look like, specifically, when you’ve concluded your efforts? Will parts of the failure be factored in as success? Do all stakeholders buy in to the end result? If not, what remains unresolved? And how will you bring this forward?

Of course there’s no way to know before you start what any specific stage will look like. But using the steps, the thinking, above, you’ll be able to get a handle on it. And by including the failure, you’ll have a far better chance of succeeding.

For some reason, as leaders or individuals, companies or small businesses, we shame ourselves when we don’t achieve what we set out to achieve during our change processes. I contend we must think of each step as an integral part of the process of getting where we want to be. As they say in NLP, there’s no failure, only feedback.

________________________________________

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

May 29th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

Our biases have been developed through the stories of our lives. From birth, our parent’s beliefs become part of our unconscious, very personal, ecosystem; the cultural norms of our youth begin creating our lifelong beliefs, habits, behaviors, and identity; the schools we attend introduce us to the way the world works and how to behave accordingly; our professions are chosen to comfortably maintain the biases we’ve accrued and person we’ve become.

Net net, our lives are a conglomeration of our history and unconscious biases, causing us to live and work, marry and spend time with people whose norms, interpretations, and beliefs are very similar to ours.

Our normal skill sets and brain neurology aid and abet us: we unwittingly listen through biased filters and hear restricted versions of what was said (I wrote a book on this: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? ); we play and read and watch according to what we’re comfortable with and rarely venture far afield; and aided by the way our brains filter and prune incoming data, we notice what we notice in response to our personal norms, values, and learned habits.

Our lives are lived in a reality of our own making to maintain our status quo. And yet, regardless of our natural biases, we seem to believe, with certainty, that what we see, hear, and feel is ‘real’. We even restrict our lives accordingly – our politics, our curiosity, what we read, our professional choices. In other words, we each live in a unique reality that gets maintained every moment of every day.

Our personal ‘reality’ is the basis of our unconscious biases and interpretations; so automatic and habituated, so accepted by all around us that we’re often unaware that our actions may harm others whose world views are different from ours.

WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND OTHERS

Given the subjective nature of our lives we cannot help but judge others accordingly. I, for one, never lock doors. My car is always unlocked. My house is always open even when I travel. Many people would find this unthinkable, but they don’t know my reality. As an incest survivor and a rape victim, I always need a quick way in and out. If a door is locked around me, I hyperventilate, panic. Terrifying. But without understanding my reality, you might have judged my actions as being unsafe.

Given the givens, it’s obvious that none of us can truly understand another’s interpretations of anything, or their resulting behaviors. And even though it’s difficult to even notice anything we’re not programmed to notice, we judge each other’s actions against our own.

A problem emerges when we run into others with different lifestyle choices, or communication styles, or education, or assumptions, or race, or political beliefs and behave automatically in ways that inadvertently harm them. We may not have the skills to connect with them in ways they understand or wrongly misinterpret their intent or judge their choices.I believe that most people don’t intend to harm anyone. But without common ground, the best we can do is act from our habituated interpretations and assume because we ‘mean well’ that we’re not causing harm.

NEED FOR CHANGE

Historically, we’ve done a bad job resolving the problems of inherent bias that may ultimately harm others. I think this might be changing. Companies and public servants are now taking unconscious bias seriously and requiring unconscious bias and diversity training in the hopes of giving people new choices and eradicating harm. Good. But I have a concern.

As someone who has spent decades coding and scaling the stages of how human systems change, I know it’s not possible to cause change from the outside, by merely trying to change a behavior. To change, we must each find a way to shift our own core norms and biases from within (i.e. inside/out).

Current training approaches offer information, practice, scientific data, videos, etc., assuming that the offered data will cause behavior change (outside/in). But that’s like asking a forward moving robot to move backwards by showing it videos of other robots moving backward! Obviously the change must come from new programming. You can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior.

Merely assuming that people can change when offered ‘good’ or ‘rational’ reasons to change cannot fix the problem permanently because it:

  • doesn’t get to the root of someone’s unconscious, and very subjective, biases;
  • tries to persuade and change behaviors with subjectively chosen information that doesn’t address the neurochemistry that triggers the originating bias;
  • has no way of knowing the full range of unconscious biases within each individual learner;
  • doesn’t teach how to transcend someone’s habituated ‘unconscious triggers’ that go off automatically when their beliefs are invaded;
  • fails to install permanent, instinctive, alternative neural circuits that cause new behaviors.

Current unconscious bias and diversity training assumes people can learn enough from recognizing problems and practicing ‘real’ situations, etc. to recognize their unconscious bias in hopes they’ll know when it’s time to change behaviors. But with our choices arising in five one-hundredths of a second from automatic and electrochemical neural circuits, it’s hard to know exactly how to change a possibly offending behavior in time. 🙁

In other words, just when our brains are unconsciously registering ALERT, we are supposed to tell ourselves ‘Nope. Wrong thinking. Don’t do that. Do something different. NOW!’ just as it’s occurring. It’s possible to do so, but not with the training currently offered.

WHAT IS BIAS? AND WHY IS IT SO HARD TO CHANGE?

Bias is the unconscious, habitual, involuntary, and historic reaction to something deemed ‘different’ (skin color, gender, lifestyle choices, etc.) that negatively triggers someone’s largely unconscious beliefs and values causing an immediate, unconscious, and automatic reaction.

Our reactions to external stimuli follow our brain’s historic and habituated neural pathways whenever our unconscious triggers go off. To alter these, it’s necessary to go to the source where they occur in the brain; it’s not possible to permanently change behaviors by merely changing behaviors. Changing core biases permanently is not a behavior change issue; it’s a core Identity/Belief problem that must be resolved at the source, within the system that created it. Basically, this level of change is a systems problem.

WE MUST UNDERSTAND SYSTEMS TO ADDRESS BIAS

system is a conglomeration of things that all agree to the same rules. For us, our system keeps us who we are as unique individuals, a composite of our physiology and neurology mixed with our norms, culture, history, values, beliefs, dreams that we hold largely unconsciously and formed during our lifetimes. Systems always seek stability; as a way to maintain balance, they define our politics, our mate selection, even how we listen to others with an unconscious structure of filters that get triggered by situations that make us uncomfortable.

When we try to get others to change by merely requiring behavior changes, their internal systems resist as there is no neurological, physiological foundation from which to act. For permanent change to occur, for new behaviors to be chosen, there must be a change in core beliefs before new skills or situations are offered.

Here are the elements necessary to include in bias or diversity training to trigger permanent behavior change:

  • Listening: our habituated listening filters and neural pathways automatically bias whatever anyone says to us; we set up our lives to avoid discomfort, and uniquely interpret differences in what has been said so our brains can keep us comfortable. When information is offered as evidence, our historic, habituated, biased listening filters kick in and uniquely interpret incoming data, often differently than the intended meaning. Indeed, it’s not even possible to hear anyone without bias; when what we hear (or see, or feel) makes us uncomfortable, we react historically regardless of how far the intended meaning is from our interpretation.
  • Questions: all normal questions are biased by the Asker’s subjective curiosity, thereby restricting the Responder’s replies to the Responder’s reaction and interpretation of what was heard, and potentially overlooking real answers.
  • Historic: biases are programmed in from the time we’re born. Every day we wake up with the same biases, kept in place by our choice of friends, TV, neighborhoods, professions, reading materials, etc. To permanently shift our biases, we’d have to change our historic programming.
  • Physiological: who we ‘are’ is systemic; our beliefs and norms, character and values have been programmed in and become our Identity, creating the behaviors and responses that will unconsciously maintain our status quo in everything we do and every action we take.
  • Triggers: because of our lifetime of inculcated beliefs, values, norms and outlook, our brains react chemically, unconsciously, and automatically when there is an untoward activity.
  • Information: our training programs typically tell, show, explain, offer stories, videos, etc. etc. using our biased choices, in our favored formats, in our languaging, in hopes that our information triggers recognition, or new behavior adoption to people who may not process what we’re telling them in the way we would prefer. They may not interpret, or know how to recognize a need for, or understand, how to make sense of whatever we’re telling them.
  • Behaviors: as the expression and execution of our beliefs and status quo, behaviors translate our core systemic beliefs and norms into daily action. Behaviors represent us; they are not ‘us’.

To change behaviors permanently it’s necessary to change the system, the programming, that created them to begin with. And this cannot be accomplished by merely trying to change the behaviors that created the problem to begin with. Remember Einstein?

CHANGE IS A SYSTEMS PROBLEM

Change is the alteration of something that has existed in a certain way, using specific and accepted norms, in a specific configuration, for a period of time. To amend our responses to bias, we must first recognize, then modify, the specific triggers (historically produced for a reason) that have been developed to operate unconsciously as the norm.

It’s basically a systems problem: for permanent change to occur, we must reconfigure the system that has created and maintains the status quo, and has operated ‘as is’ for some amount of time. Anything new coming into our system (any problem to fix, any new information that creates disruption, any new activity the system is asked to take) demands changing the status quo.

Indeed, any new decision is a change management problem. The way we are addressing the problem now doesn’t enable permanent change. Change means that a system must go through a process to become something different:

  • a trigger alerts the status quo that something may be awry;
  • a careful examination by all elements within the status quo must occur to find any incongruence;
  • agreement within the system (rules, stakeholders, identity, etc.) that change is necessary and that a fix won’t cause permanent disruption;
  • an initial attempt to fix anything missing on its own (using the same elements that created the problem to begin with);
  • the realization that the problem cannot be fixed from within the system;
  • an examination by everything that created the problem of any new possibilities that will create Systems Congruence;
  • an understanding and acceptance of the downside and disruption of a change (i.e. if politics change, how do we speak with family? If same-sex relationships, what happens with our church group?);
  • a fix is found that is agreeable, with full knowledge of how to circumvent any disruption it will cause;
  • new habits, new triggers, new neural pathways, etc. are developed in a way that incorporate the ‘new’ with the old to minimize disruption.

If all of the above aren’t managed, the system will fill in the blanks with something comfortable and habituated (regardless of its efficacy). In other words, if there is not systemic agreement, no known way to resolve the problem using its current givens, no known way to incorporate something new with the existing system so the system doesn’t implode, no change will happen regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.

Indeed – and I can’t say this often enough – you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. And all current bias and diversity training involves a focus on getting behaviors changed without addressing the source that created the behaviors and triggers to begin with.

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

Current bias training attempts to get behaviors changed by offering information: showing and telling people what’s wrong with what they’re doing and what ‘right’ would look like – all of which can be misinterpreted, misread, or objected to, regardless of our intent.

While it certainly can make people more aware, these attempts will not cause permanent change: they develop no new habituated triggers or neural pathways to set off a new response to a stimulus. Let’s delve into this a bit.

Behaviors are what we do – transactions automatically initiated by our core system of beliefs, norms, and experience – to express who we are. We all develop behaviors that ‘be’ who we are, to represent us. Behaviors are the output, the forward movement of the robot, the actions others see.

To permanently change a behavior, a system must:

  • shift the core beliefs that inform any habituated, unconscious bias and develop additional beliefs, assumptions and triggers;
  • create new neural pathways to the brain that lead to choosing more respectful outputs, habits, behaviors;
  • listen with a different listening filter than the habituated ones;
  • enable the person to change themselves, using their own unconscious system of norms to design new behaviors that won’t offend the system;
  • interpret another’s actions in a neutral way that doesn’t offend our own beliefs – or change our beliefs.

To change our unconscious, automatic responses that cause us to respond defensively, the system that has created and maintains the status quo must be reconfigured to produce alternate outputs while still maintaining Systems Congruence. Offering any sort of information before the system knows why, how, when, or if to do anything different – a belief change – will only inspire resistance as the system won’t know how to apply it. It’s a belief change issue: when we change our habituated beliefs and norms (our programming), our behavior will automatically, and permanently, change.

CHANGE IS A SYSTEMS PROBLEM

Real change demands a systemic shift to create new triggers, new assumptions, new neural pathways, and ultimately, as an outcome, new behaviors. No one, no information, no person, from outside is able to go into someone’s unconscious to (re)create all these things. And permanent change will not happen until it does.

The goal is not to train someone to rid themselves of unconscious bias; it’s to help their system discover the underlying beliefs that cause them and enable them to develop new beliefs and responses.

Over the past decades, I’ve coded the 13 steps that constitute the route to systemic, human change so people can make their OWN internal changes that will lead to new choices, i.e. new behaviors. I’ve taught this model in sales as Buying Facilitation® to global corporations (KPMG, Morgan Stanley, IBM, P&G, Kaiser, etc.) for over 30 years, and written several books on it. The book that details each of the stages is Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.

We must become Facilitators, not Influencers. We must teach folks to create and habituate new neural pathways and filters.

  • Listening: We must avoid habituated neural pathways when listening to others. I have a whole chapter on this in What?. Not difficult – you just need to develop triggers that will alert you to the need to do something different before you get triggered into a biased reaction.
  • Questions: I developed a new form of question that doesn’t interrogate and is not biased by the needs of the questioner, but instead acts like a GPS to guide people through their own unconscious. These Facilitative Questions are systemic, use specific words, in specific order, that traverse through the steps of change sequentially so others can note their own incongruencies. So: What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to take an extra step and consciously choose to listen from a ‘different ear’?
  • Beliefs: by shifting the focus from changing behaviors to first changing beliefs and systems, we end up with permanent core change, new triggers and habits.
  • Information: we make several types of information available for the learner to choose from, to fit their own learning criteria and styles, and needs to fit into their unique areas of deficiency.

I’ve developed a new way to train that facilitates self-learning and permanent change from within the system. For those wishing a full discussion, I’ve written an article on this that appeared in The 2003 Annual, Volume 1 Training (I’m happy to send you a more specific discussion of this if you’re not already bored) Just note: my process leads people, without any bias, to those places in their brains, into their system of beliefs and cultural norms, which made the decisions to employ their biased behaviors to begin with, and teaches them how to reconfigure their system to adopt something new (so long as its aligned with their beliefs). We are making the unconscious conscious and developing more appropriate triggers and behaviors.

How will you know that by adding systemic change elements to your training that you can enable more people to make more appropriate behavioral choices around their bias?

If you would like my help in designing a program that resolves unconscious biases permanently, I’d love to help. I believe it’s an important task. I believe it’s time we had the tools to enable learners to permanently change and become non-judgmental, accepting, and kind. And above all, cause no harm. All of our lives depend on it.

____________________________

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

May 15th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management, Communication, Listening

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

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

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

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

BELIEFS DEFINE US

Every one of us has Beliefs unique to us. Our Beliefs are the norms and rules we live by, developed over our lifetimes to make decisions and act against. We gravitate to, and trust, folks with similar foundational Beliefs and world views that match well-enough with our own to proclaim “safety”.

Largely unconscious, illogical to others and hard to change, our Beliefs regulate us, define who we are and enable us to show up congruently in the world. We even listen through ears biased by our Beliefs.

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

Sadly, because everyone’s Belief systems are unconscious and idiosyncratic, and because we each view the world through our own Beliefs and perceptions, it’s difficult to accurately perceive Another’s internal world view. It’s here, in our Beliefs, where our world views collide.

For those folks whose jobs are to influence, there’s an immediate problem. The content they share, or even their unique delivery style, may unwittingly offend the Belief system of the Communication Partner (CP). Bad news for sellers, coaches, managers, etc. who attempt to promote change or buy-in by pushing their ideas and instead cause resistance and distrust.

DRIVERS FOR TRUST

I’d like to offer thoughts on some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust, then provide some ideas of how to stimulate it.

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

Information: As influencers we often attempt to “get in” with the information we assume our CPs need, without accounting for how it will be perceived. Sometimes the “right” data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). We fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, or how their listening filters translate it for them. With the best will in the world, even with good data to help folks who need what we’ve got to share, we aren’t heeded.

In fact, information is the last thing needed to facilitate change or buy-in since people unconsciously defend their status quo. It’s our brain’s fault! Because all incoming data is translated for us automatically by our historic neural circuits, new ideas aren’t always interpreted accurately and run the risk of causing resistance. (See my book on this topic.) So save the information sharing for when a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed.

Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, the “rational/ scientific” data you offer to “prove” climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of the medical model, you won’t use alternate therapies to manage an illness no matter how strong the data for changing your nutrition.

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

FACILITATE BELIEF CHANGE FIRST

Since our great ideas and eager strategies don’t engender trust in folks with different Beliefs, and without trust we can’t change minds, what should we do?

As coaches, sellers, and leaders, we must carefully initiate conversations based on them discovering their own answers, with a goal to match their Belief criteria before offering new ideas. In this way we can help our CPs open up new possibility that actually creates trust:

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

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

FACILITATING TRUST THROUGH QUESTIONS

I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that teaches others to scan their own internal state. These questions are unbiased, systemic, formulated with specific wording, in a specific order, and based on systemic brain change, not information gathering. They also take our CPs into a Witness state, beyond their automatic responses, and from which they can have a neutral, unbiased look at their status quo to notice if it’s operating excellently, and consider change if there might be a more congruent path.

Take a look at a conventional question vs a Facilitative Question:

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

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

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

This leads your CP

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

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

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

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

Until your audience is able to accomplish this in their own way, using their own Beliefs, they will hear you through biased ears, maintain their barriers, and engender trust only with those who they feel aligned with – omitting a large audience of those who may need you.

Stop using your own biases to engender trust: facilitate your CPs in changing themselves. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt excellence. And they’ll trust you because you helped them help themselves.

____________

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

February 20th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

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

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

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

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

DISRUPTION IS NECESSARY

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

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

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

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

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY DISRUPTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______________________

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

January 2nd, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

The terms ‘buying’ and ‘buyer’ seem to be defined by sales and marketing to denote purchase-related activities. After almost 40 years of thinking, training, and writing several books on issues related to the Buy Side, I’d like to offer a clarification: buyING is

a process; a set of systemic, procedural, decision making tasks; a possible result following essential change management practices that may lead to fixing a problem with external solutions.

In this article I’ll explain the buyING process and when, why, and how it sometimes leads to folks becoming buyERS – and when it doesn’t I’ll explain why. I’ll also define each step so sellers and marketers can use them to facilitate their route through to becoming buyERS.

As of now, neither sales nor marketing facilitate the systemic progression of change management steps to buyING decisions, instead use solution-placement, and needs-based content that merely engage the low hanging fruit (currently less than 5%) – those who have already self-identified as buyERS and will probably discover your site anyway.

But the buyING decision sequence is very specific and, with different goals, could easily be added to the front end of sales and marketing to reduce and make efficient the decision time needed to accomplish off-line tasks. Obviously this would produce more sales.

WHAT IS A SYSTEM AND WHY THEY’RE IMPORTANT

To explain the buying decision process, I’ll begin with an explanation of systems. You see, buyING is systemic, not needs-based. Hence what I believe to be the main reason it’s been overlooked by sales and marketing.

I define systems as any group of components that agree to the same rules. Systems are necessary for survival: You’re a system. Your group, your company, your family, are systems.

All systems are based on unique norms, identities and beliefs that designate their individuality and maintain the integrity of their relationships and purpose. Google is obviously a different system than IBM: different management styles, different people hired, different marketing and sales processes.

A unique standard of all systems is that they don’t judge themselves even when they appear inappropriate to others. Systems aren’t logical; their identities and beliefs just represent the unique norms that caused their formation. Have you ever noticed friends in a bad marriage and couldn’t understand why they stay together? Their system was configured that way from the start and maintains its normalized trajectory.

It’s only when a system begins to malfunction that a warning is sounded. And because it has operated in a ‘good enough’ way until then, doing anything different is not a foregone conclusion. The status quo is good-enough.

And here’s a trap we all fall into when we think someone’s system must change: one of the goals of systems is to maintain balance (Systems Congruence), maintain the same configuration of rules and norms through time. Any change, any additions or subtractions, risk disruption.

BUYING IS SYSTEMIC

Here is where buyING comes in. When a system (in this case a possible prospect and the alleged problem that needs fixing) exhibits a problem, it will always use the rules of Systems Congruence to resolve it:

  • Everyone involved with the problematic component must help scope out the full fact pattern of the problem and be involved with the solution or there will be imbalance;
  • Every effort is made to resolve the problem from inside (i.e. workarounds) because anything new may not carry the same rules and norms;
  • Before any change can be made, the ‘cost’ of the change – the risk to the system – must be known and addressed by the full set of stakeholders;
  • Before any change can be made, the ‘risks’ of the new solution cannot be greater than the risk carried by the known problem/the status quo or the status quo will prevail.

It’s only when all of these issues are handled is the system willing to change. This is what sales and marketing overlook. BuyING is a systemic process, certainly not so simple as having a need or making a purchase. Once the problem is fully defined, AND workarounds are tried, AND there is buy-in, AND the risk is fully understood and managed, THEN they become buyERS.

Sellers and marketers start off assuming their solutions can resolve a problem after posing some very biased questions and without full knowledge of the system of hidden politics, relationships, history, or goals that caused and maintain the problem.

But until the group/person has gone through their unique and systemic change trajectory (I call this change management) to figure out if they can withstand change and still function to meet their goals, they’re not seeking an external solution, don’t consider themselves buyERs and ignore your outreach. They’re not even prospects, need aside.

Indeed, your targeted outreach seeks and uncovers only those who have already become buyERS, thereby limiting your success to those already seeking your solution. Unfortunately, this overlooks those who WILL become buyers once they’ve completed their systemic change work.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT PRECEDES BUYING

Change management is an obligatory part of a buyING decision – the systemic decision making process that results in a congruent resolution and may or may not include making a purchase. Here’s what happens.

When a problem presents itself, people start off trying to resolve it themselves (not as buyERS); they take specific steps (see below) on route to a solution to make sure that the system ends up in balance. This route, these systemic laws, determine the buyING process and outcome – whether or not someone becomes a buyER. It’s only after they’ve gone through this and determined

  • that the ONLY way to resolve the problem is with an external solution,
  • that they cannot resolve it with a known workaround,
  • that the risks are all known and don’t ‘cost’ more than the status quo,
  • there is buy-in from ALL stakeholders who will touch the solution,

that they are buyERS. Until then, they don’t even self-identify as buyERS or notice your marketing or sales outreach. People really don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system. Again, buyING is systemic.

Viewing the sales and marketing in this light, it becomes obvious how you restrict your audience: when you offer content directed toward a product or solution, only people who have completed their change process and have deemed the ‘cost’ of a purchase manageable will be interested.

But there are about 80% more potential buyERS who are still in the buyING decision process, haven’t yet gotten their ducks in a row, and can’t buy until they do. You overlook them, mistakenly assuming you can engage them with clever outreach/content or data capture.

But you’re failing, and your closing numbers are diminishing. You call this ‘no decision’, and yet they are making decisions without you, without reading or heading your outreach. And the sales process itself is going the way of the landline.

Why not add a decision facilitation process to serve people where they really need your help?

WHERE BUYING NEEDS SELLING

In 1983 I founded a tech start-up in London. Because I had previously been a very successful sales professional dedicated to discovering ‘need’ and placing solutions, I was surprised at the complexity of making a decision to buy anything. I had to:

  • recognize which stakeholders to include (more than I had assumed!) to even understand the full fact pattern of the problem;
  • garner agreement that something needed to be different (or there was nothing to fix);
  • try workarounds and do all we could to fix the problem ourselves before even considering anything external;
  • fully understand the risk (the ‘cost’) to our status quo before considering buyING/bringing in an external fix.

To my surprise I discovered that my buyING decision had little to do with making a purchase but was a complex set of collaboration processes to facilitate group buy-in and understand the downside of making any changes. Ultimately, all problems had to be resolved with minimal disruption.

As a seller I had been indoctrinated in the normalized thinking of ‘needs-based’ outreach: ‘get in’ to the ‘right’ people with a ‘need’ that matched my solution; write ‘good’ content to engage; make my site compelling to differentiate from the competition, always assuming I could make a compelling case that my solution was the answer.

But as an entrepreneur I discovered that until people were near the end of their decision path they didn’t even seek out or notice content; they might have been in the buyING process, but weren’t yet buyERS. And reading content on a solution I might not need, or my group hadn’t approved of, possibly having only partial facts on how our problem originated or was maintained, or until workarounds were tried, was a waste of time.

Eventually, in 1986, I developed Buying Facilitation® to facilitate the buyING process in my company. I then used the process to double our own sales and have since trained it to over 100,000 people in global corporations such as IBM, Kaiser, Bose, KPMG, Wachovia, Morgan Stanley, DuPont, etc.

Buying Facilitation® is

a generic change management process (used for coaching and leadership also) that makes it possible to execute the decision making steps in a way that leads to a congruent solution and quickly leads those involved in the buyING process to become buyERS where relevant.

In control group studies, used as a front end to sales, it has an 800% increase over using sales on its own. Buying Facilitation® to lead folks through their buyING decisions; sales to help buyERS decide on the purchase. And marketing throughout, although initially focusing on leading each stage until they become buyERS when content-specific data is employed.

To help you understand what goes on in the buyING process, here are the 13 steps in a systemic Buying Decision Path between problem recognition and a resolution (or purchase) that all people must go through as they work at resolving a problem.

It’s quite possible for sales and marketing to enter during these steps, recognize who will be a buyer on the first call (Remember: you’d be wearing a change facilitation hat first, not a sales hat.), and lead them through their buyING steps to become buyERS. Note: these are relevant for any decision making process.

1. Idea stage: Is there a problem? Who needs to be involved to gather the full fact pattern?

2. Brainstorming stage: Idea discussed broadly with colleagues. Begin discerning who to include in ongoing discussions. Begin gathering full fact pattern of problem.

3. Initial discussion stage: Initial group of chosen colleagues begin discussing the problem in earnest to gather full fact pattern: how it got created and maintained; posit who to include on Buying Decision Team; consider possible fixes and fallout. Action groups formed to bring ideas for possible workarounds to next meeting. Invites for new, overlooked stakeholders to join.

4. Contemplation stage: Workarounds (previous vendors, inhouse solutions) discussed for efficacy. People who will touch the solution to discuss their concerns to engage before they resist. More research necessary on possible solutions, ways to determine if workarounds are viable.

5. Organization stage: Group gathers research to determine if a workaround is possible. Discussions of downsides of each. Viability of workarounds determined.

6. Change management stage: If workarounds acceptable, group goes forward to plan to implement. If workarounds deemed unacceptable, group begins broad discussion to consider downsides of external solutions: the ‘cost’ (risk)of change, the ‘cost’ of a fix, the ‘cost’ of staying the same, and how much disruption is acceptable. Broad research to be done for next meeting on solutions that might meet the criteria and ‘cost’ minimal disruption.

7. Coordination stage: Dedicated discussions on research in re risk factors, buy-in issues, resistance. Delineate everyone’s thoughts re goals, acceptable risks, job changes, and change capacity. Once agreement is reached, folks resisting must be heard; group must decide how to include and dismantle resistance. Specific research now needed. Discussions on next steps.

8. Research stage: Discussion on research that’s been brought in for each possible solution. Who is onboard with risk? How will change be managed with each solution? To include: downsides per type of solution, possibilities, outcomes, problems, management considerations, changes in policy, job description changes, HR issues, etc. and how these will be mitigated if purchase to be made – or discussion around maintaining the status quo instead of resolving the problem at all (i.e. cost too high). List of possible solutions now defined; research for each to be ready for next meeting.

9. Consensus stage: Known risks, change management procedures, buy-in and consensus discussed for each possibility. Buying Decision Team makes final choices: specific products and possible vendors are named. Criteria set for solution choice.

10. Action stage: Responsibilities apportioned to manage the specifics of Step 9. Calls made to several vendors for interviews, presentations, and data gathering. Agreed-upon criteria applied with each vendor.

11. Second brainstorming stage: Buying Decision Team discusses results of calls and interviews with vendors and partners, and fallout/benefits of each. Favored vendors pitched by team members among themselves, and then called for follow on meetings.

12. Choice stage: New solution/vendor agreed on. Change management issues that need to be managed are delineated and put in place. Leadership initiatives prepared to avoid disruption.

13. Implementation stage: Vendor contacted. Purchase made. Implement and follow on.

Given these steps, you can see that people aren’t buyERs until Step 9. Before then, they are people trying to fix a problem internally, and aren’t seeking out products or solutions to purchase so there’s no way ‘in’ with traditional sales and marketing. But if you lead folks through their Steps of change, both sales and marketing can influence the buyING so folks become buyERS.

ADDITIONAL SALES AND MARKETING OUTREACH

To help those in the buyING process become buyERS, marketers can write change management-based content with different focus: help them determine the full set of stakeholders; teach them how to engage buy-in etc. Sales can begin each contact by helping them notice where they are in their change process (i.e. instead of need). And once they get to the end of their buyING process, they would be buyERS and ready to purchase and receive relevant content.

I have actually created a Buying Enablement process to help marketers achieve this, complete with titles for content outreach. Note: it’s vital that content do NOT include any product pitches as folks truly are not considering this until the later stages. Of course a great footer and linked articles will lead to solution content.

Folks must go through their decision making/change management process anyway, with you or without you. So it might as well be with you, especially since you’ll know the specific components of each step better than they do.

It’s obvious that with websites and search being what they are, people no longer need sellers or marketers to provide content. But because the buyING process is so much more complex these days, this is where they need the most help. HELP THEM BECOME BUYERS by facilitating them through their buyING process. It’s a win/win folks.

_______________________________

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

March 21st, 2022

Posted In: Change Management

Next Page »