How to Listen to be successfulHave you ever realized that people don’t always hear each other accurately? The problem is not that we don’t hear their words accurately; the problem is in the interpretation. Our brain gets in the way.

During the listening process, our brains arbitrarily filter out, or reconfigure incoming sound vibrations, turn what’s left into electrochemical signals, then dispatch them to existing circuits for translation where further deletions occur. This process ensures whatever was said matches something our brains are more familiar with – not necessarily what the speaker intended, and potentially biased.

Given that all filtering is electrochemical, and the signals (once words) are sent via neurotransmitters, the listening process is unconscious, physiological, mechanical and meaningless. By the time our brain translates incoming content into meaning, we have absolutely no idea if what we think we’ve heard is accurate.

The net-net is: we might ‘hear’ specific words accurately but our brain doesn’t interpret them as per the intent of the Speaker. With this in mind, I define listening thus:

Listening is an automatic, electrochemical, biological, mechanical, and physiological process during which spoken words, as meaningless puffs of air, eventually get translated into meaning by our existing neural circuitry, leaving us to understand some unknown fraction of what’s been said – and even this is biased by our existing knowledge.

Obviously, what we think was said is not necessarily accurate – and we don’t know the difference. So if I say ABC and your brain tells you I’ve said ABL, you not only have no way of knowing that you’ve not understood my intended message, but you’re thoroughly convinced you heard what I ‘said’. Obviously, this interpretation process puts relationships and communication at risk.

This is especially annoying in sales. When sellers pose questions to prospects to know what, how, when, or if to make a pitch, neither the seller nor prospect can be assured they’ve accurately heard the other.

CASE STUDY OF PARTNERSHIP LOST

Here’s a great example of how I lost a business partner due to the way his brain ‘heard’ me. While at a meeting with co-directors of a company to discuss possible partnering, there was some confusion on one of the minor topics:

John: No, SDM, you said X.
SDM: Actually I said Y and that’s quite a bit different.
John: You did NOT SAY Y. I heard you say X!!!
Margaret: I was sitting here, John. She actually did say Y. She said it clearly.
John: You’re BOTH crazy! I KNOW WHAT I HEARD! and he stomped out of the room. [End of partnership.]

Given we naturally respond according to what we think we heard rather than what’s meant, how, then, do we accurately hear what others mean to convey? Maintain relationships? Respond appropriately? I found the topic so interesting that I wrote a book on the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, the different ways our brains filter what’s been said (triggers, assumptionsbiases, etc.), and how to supersede our brain to hear accurately.

Read Sample

But there are ways we can alleviate the problem.

CASE STUDIES OF PROSPECTS LOST

When we enter conversations with a preset agenda, we’re unconsciously telling our brain to ignore whatever doesn’t fit. So when sellers listen only for ‘need’ they miss important clues that might exclude or enlist our Communication Partner as a prospect. A coaching client of mine had this conversation:

Seller: Hi. I’m Paul, from XXX. This is a sales call. I’m selling insurance. Is this a good time to speak?
Buyer: No. it’s a horrible time. It’s end of year and I’m swamped. Call back next week and I’ll have time.
Seller:ok.iwanttotellyouaboutourspecialsthatmightsuityourbusinessandmakeyoumorerevenue.

And the prospect hung up on him. Because the Seller was initially respectful of the prospect’s time, they were willing to speak but lost interest when the Seller tried to pitch. As I was training the Seller on Buying Facilitation® that advocates facilitating decision making before pitching, I was quite surprised:

SDM: What happened? He told you he’d speak next week. Why did you go right into trying to sell something? You know to first facilitate the Buy Side before attempting to sell anything. And why did you speak so quickly?

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

Obviously not a way to sell anything. Here is another example. Halfway into a sales call in which my client was facilitating a prospect through his 13 step Buying Decision Journey, and just as the prospect was beginning to recognize needs and was beginning to trust him, he blew it by making a pitch at the wrong time.

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

Seller: I’d love to stop by and show you some of the features of our new CRM technology. I’m sure you’ll find it very efficient.
And that was the end of the conversation. By hearing his prospect’s intent he might have said this and become part of their Buying Decision Team:

Wow. Sounds like a difficult situation. We’ve got a pretty efficient technology that might work for you, but obviously now isn’t the time. How would you like to stay in touch so we can speak when it’s closer to the time? Or maybe take a look at adding some resource that might alleviate your current situation a bit while we wait?
By hearing and respecting the prospect’s status quo the seller might have opened up a possibility where none existed before.

Unfortunately, in both instances, the sellers only listened for what they wanted to hear, and misinterpreted what was meant to meet their own agenda at the cost of facilitating a real prospect through to a buying decision. But there are ways to increase our ability to hear prospects.

WAYS TO INCREASE ACCURACY

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

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

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

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

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

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Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including 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.

April 22nd, 2024

Posted In: Listening, News

When I coined the term Buying Process in 1987 I was describing the change management steps people take between having a problem, going through their change/risk management decision issues, and finally self-identifying as buyers. In other words, the Buy Side.

Sadly, in the intervening years the sales industry has (mis)translated the term to refer to how people choose a solution (the Sell Side).

The Buy Side and Sell Side are wholly different: one manages risk; one sells solutions. They have different goals and journeys: before self-identifying as buyers, people/groups must assemble stakeholders, try workarounds, figure out the risk of disruption and get buy in (Buy Side); to make a purchase (Sell Side) self-identified buyers must figure out how, when and if to choose a product and make a purchase.

Buying is a change management problem (Buy Side) before it’s a solution choice (Sell Side) issue. When both are addressed it’s possible to both find and facilitate folks who WILL become buyers (the Buy Side) and help the now-self-identified buyers choose their solutions (the Sell Side).

By overlooking facilitating the (Buy Side) Buying Process; by narrowing the search for buyers to those who’ll listen to product details or seem to have a ‘need’ (the Sell Side); by ignoring what folks must handle on the Buy Side; the sales industry overlooks the 80% of potential buyers who could use help figuring out the many hidden elements that might cause risk before they self-identify as buyers. And while sellers focus on finding folks with ‘need’, they’re wasting an opportunity to prospect for folks in the process of figuring it all out and helping then where they need help. After all, they can’t define their real needs until they do. Nor do they consider themselves ‘buyers’ yet.

As a result, sales closes a small fraction of possible buyers, not to mention having a longer-than-necessary sales cycle as prospects address their internal issues privately. I believe the field is using the wrong metric and chasing the wrong target (‘Need’). Not to mention selling doesn’t cause buying.

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When the focus of a conversation is to sell, even when mentioning tasks prospects should be handling, the goal and focus of the query is still selling, skewering the conversation to the Sell Side and wholly ignoring the Buy Side – certainly not providing the real help buyers could need help with. In fact, long sales cycles are the result of the current sales model.

To actually enter and serve the Buy Side, the goals and skills are vastly different: sellers actually become consultants first before trying to place their solutions. This not only closes 6x more sales in half the time, but it takes sales out of the transaction business into a relevant, necessary profession.

LOOKING FOR PROSPECTS IN THE WRONG PLACE

Buyers aren’t where sellers are looking for them. It’s like that old joke about folks looking for lost keys where the light is instead of where they lost them. Sure, sales continues to find new and better ways to push solutions. But that’s not where or how people buy these days, especially with layers of decision teams and risks.

People become buyers when they have no other choice AND have buy-in for change AND can tolerate the risk of doing something different (a purchase); if the risk (the disruption, the change involved with bringing in something new/different) is too high they’ll stay the same regardless of need.

Here’s one of my MorgenismsPeople don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least cost to the system.

Selling and buying require two different sets of actions. By only focusing on one portion of the Buying Decision Process, sales overlooks the vast numbers of not-yet-self-identified buyers who really need help figuring out how to resolve a problem with minimal risk given their unique systemic change issues.

But the approach to facilitating the Buy Side Buying Process isn’t through any content details or presentation, needs assessments, or qualifying strategies used when selling a solution. Facilitating a buying decision (Buying Facilitation®) begins by seeking folks with need. Sellers should begin by seeking out folks trying to fix a problem their solution can resolve: before folks even understand their need they must know the full fact pattern they must address – the very reason sellers who enter too early believe their prospects don’t understand their problem. And sellers aren’t helping them.

A ‘NEED’ FOCUS CAUSES FAILURE

Let’s think about ‘need’ for a moment, and why this is a flawed indicator of a buyer. Do you need to stop watching so much TV and exercise more? Do you need to shed 10 pounds? Do you need to be kinder to your employees? See? Need is NOT the measure used by folks who will become buyers! Your 5% close rate should tell you something is wrong. People buy when

  • everyone (even peripherally involved), and everything (policies, projects, leadership) agrees there’s a problem that needs resolving;
  • they’ve tried everything they know to resolve it and nothing worked;
  • they fully understand the risks – the cost – to the system and find them manageable;
  • everyone who will touch the final solution buys in to doing something different.

Here’s why a ‘need’ focus causes sales to fail:

    • You get few meetings with few in attendance, and then don’t hear back.

o  What ‘weight’ did the folks in the meeting have on the final decision team?

o  How many folks needed your solution but wouldn’t take a meeting?

o  Who took the meeting and why? Have they tried workarounds yet?

o  What will they use your presentation content for?

o  Where are they in their Buy Side Buying Process?

o  When you facilitate folks through their complete change process (Buy Side Buying Process), you’ll help them discover who to assemble, how to find workarounds to try, and how to assess risk and manage buy in according to their unique environments. THEN they all want to meet with you and bring 10 people to the meeting.

    • You’re posing biased questions based on what you sell and miss important data.

o  Your questions are biased according to what you think would make them a prospect, hence miss the underlying (systemic) reasons they haven’t resolved the problem yet and where they really need your help and your differentiation point.

o  Facilitative Questions help them uncover their own idiosyncratic route to a problem resolution and buy in without bias.

o  Your ‘need’ focus causes you to assume far, far more people are prospects and you spend large amounts of time chasing folks who will never buy. Remember: People cannot buy unless they understand the risk of change. It’s not about their problem or the efficacy of your solution.

    • With a ‘need’ focus you’ll get one person’s restricted viewpoint and mistakenly believe she’s a buyer.

o  It’s possible someone is speaking with you only because she’s the only one who wants change and using your call to collect data points.

o  When you only seek need, you really have no idea of the accuracy of the person’s answers, or their reason to speak with you.

o  When you only seek need, you miss people doing their discovery and not yet ready to self-identify as buyers.

o  When you only seek need, you don’t understand the entire fact pattern the problem sits in and don’t recognize folks who could never buy.

    • You have no idea if the person you’re speaking with represents a real opportunity.

o  Has he been directed to contact vendors because the team is ready to choose? or just doing research? Has the whole team self-identified as buyers?

o  By assuming folks talk to you because they have a ‘need’ you’re overlooking the systems/change management issues that must be resolved before they’re even buyers and wasting a lot of time pushing products they can’t buy.

o  By assuming folks have a need, you’re restricting your close rate to 5% and wasting 95% of your time.

    • You have no idea what stage folks are at in their (Buy Side) Buying Process?

o  Have they assembled all (ALL) the stakeholders? Know the full fact pattern of the problem (only happens toward the end of the Buying Process when all factors are discernable)? Have they tried workarounds? Do they know the type of risk they face if they purchase? Do the stakeholders buy in to the risk?

o  Until or unless they’ve gone through all change management stages (i.e. the Buy Side Buying Process), they are not buyers, regardless of what you think they need.

The sales model is so focused on placing solutions, on sharing information sellers believe prospects need to hear, that they miss the real Buying Decision Pathjust because you think they have a ‘need’ doesn’t mean they’re ready willing or able to buy.

Remember: Selling doesn’t cause buying.

STEPS TO BUYING ARE CHANGE MANAGEMENT BASED

Until they realize they cannot fix the problem themselves AND everyone recognizes that the cost of the fix is less than the cost of staying the same, they will not, cannot, buy. And when you don’t hear back, they’re not facing indecision: they’re merely involved in their change management process and not yet buyers. And unless the risk of the change is less than the cost of staying the same, they’d rather stay the same and avoid the disruption.

Sellers can help would-be buyers traverse their decision path – their Buy Side Buying Process – BEFORE trying to sell them anything and help them become buyers very quickly. After all, they must do this anyway, with or without you: until they accept the risk that a new solution brings, they aren’t buyers anyway. That leaves you selling to the low hanging fruit (the 5%) rather than helping the 80% manage their Buy Side decision process.

Before considering themselves buyers, all people must mitigate the steps between problem recognition and risk management. Until people manage their front-end change management piece (the first 9 steps of a 13 step change process, or, um, Buying Process) they ARE NOT BUYERS and will ignore any attempt at being sold to!

The sales industry must shift their thinking to facilitate the Buy Side as a precursor to selling. I know the field has recognized the need to do so, but uses the same tools and Sell-Side thinking to try to get there!

SELLING DOESN’T CAUSE BUYING

Buying is risk management. Selling is product placement – two different sets of things to handle for two different sets of problems.

Facilitating people through their discovery of risk is not based on a solution, or need, or features and functions, but on a different metric entirely: neither the sales model nor the solutions themselves can help with the Buy Side Buying Process. Buying is first about change:

Buying represents change in the underlying system that includes people, policies, initiatives, jobs, budgets etc.

Change represents disruption. It must be addressed and bought into by everyone it will disrupt.

A purchase represents an unknowable risk to the system.

And sellers, as outsiders, cannot ever understand what their idiosyncratic issues are.

I’ve written extensively on this for decades. Terms that I’ve coined as part of the Buy Side Buying Process (‘stakeholders’ buy cycle, buying patterns, buyer’s journey, ‘workarounds’ ‘Buying Decision Team’) have been mistranslated, and now endemic in the sales vocabulary as part of the Sell Side. Buying Facilitation® finds those on route to becoming buyers and leads them through their change steps.

BUYING FACILITATION® FOR THE BUY SIDE

When I started up my tech company in 1983 and became a buyer after being a very successful seller, I realized the problem with sales: as an entrepreneur with problems to solve, I didn’t even think of making a purchase until I assembled the full set of stakeholders and knew the full fact pattern, tried everything familiar to fix it, and understood the disruption an external solution would cause.

I invented Buying Facilitation® to facilitate folks through their change management steps on route to becoming real buyers. It works WITH sales but isn’t sales. It’s change based, not product sell based. In my Buying Facilitation® training programs I teach how to facilitate change as the precursor to selling. Participants close 40% against their control groups that close (on average) 5.4%. When I trained my own sellers to find folks on route to change, our closed business improved by a factor of eight.

Buying Facilitation® uses wholly different tools and goals, starting with prospecting for people seeking to resolve a problem – people in their Buying Process – that the seller’s solution can resolve. It includes:

      • Facilitative Questions: a wholly new form of question in invented (Took me 10 years!) that leads Others through their elements of systemic change.
      • Listening for systems: a way to listen for systemic problems (leadership, ancient corporate rules, etc.) instead of seek what I wanted to hear.
      • The steps of change: the 13 steps all people must traverse before they agree to any change. Sales enters at step 10 when folks are ready to buy. They can enter at step one and lead folks efficiently through their change issues.

Buying Facilitation® finds people on route to becoming buyers ON THE FIRST CALL when your goal is to find folks changing in the area you solution can serve. It’s a generic change facilitation model used also by coaches and leadership. It has nothing to do with buying or selling per se. And yet it facilitates real change.

Below I’ve included a few articles I’ve written on the subject. Go to www.sharon-drew.com, read the section Helping Buyers Buy, and go to the categories Sales, Buying Facilitation® in my blog section and start reading. Then call me. I’ll teach you.

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‘No Decision’ is not Indecision

What is Buying Facilitation® and What Sales Problem Does it Solve

The Real Buyer’s Journey: the reason selling doesn’t cause buying

How, Why, and When Buyers Buy

A View from the Buy Side

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Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including 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.

April 20th, 2024

Posted In: News

Have you ever wondered why folks who take training don’t retain the new knowledge? According to Harvard studies, training fails 90% of the time. Surely students want to learn, trainers are dedicated professionals, and the content is important. But the problem goes beyond the students, the motivation, the trainer, or the material being trained.

I suggest it’s a brain change issue: current training models, while certainly dedicated to imparting knowledge in creative, constructive ways, may not be developing the necessary neural circuitry for Learners to fully comprehend, retain, or retrieve the new information.

As an original thinker who’s been inventing systemic brain change models for decades, I’ve developed a Learning Facilitation model that separates the brain from the mind as the central training element to generate new neural circuits that will translate, understand, retain, and act on, the new knowledge.

I’m presenting Learning Facilitation at the Learning Ideas Conference in New York in June. For folks interested in learning a new training approach that offers brain training before mind/content training, here’s an abstract of the paper I’ve submitted to the conference and a link to the actual paper.

Link to paper: https://bit.ly/3vErBjm

Design Training to Enable Neural Circuits to Accept and Retain New Learning Without Resistance, by Sharon-Drew Morgen

Abstract. Standard training assumes that the right information presented and practiced in the right way will cause a Learner to understand, use, and retain it. But without first generating a home in the brain for the information to be triggered, Learners may not retain it, resulting in a 90% fail rate.

Learning occurs only when Learners have the requisite neural circuitry to translate the incoming content into action. In other words, training must include circuit generation before offering new information or it might not be understood or retained.

This paper introduces a brain-change learning approach that separates the mind from the brain to first enable students to generate new neural circuits to house the new content. It explains why current training models don’t enable Learners to form new circuits; how brains ‘listen’; how new neural circuits get generated; how to set up a room, instruct, and design exercises that work directly with a learner’s brain and eschew their mind (initially), before the new content is taught.

This training model has been used successfully in global corporations with 100,000 learners who, on follow-up, retained their knowledge for decades.

Link to paper: https://bit.ly/3vErBjm

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Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including her new book HOW? Generating new neural circuits for learning, behavior change and decision making, 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.

April 15th, 2024

Posted In: News

There’s been so much written extolling the uses of AI. Certainly, it’s exciting – filled with possibility and mystery, similar to the early days of the World Wide Web. With possible uses as chatbots to serve customers, an illustrator to develop visuals, a content-creation tool for sales and marketing, a facial recognition tool for customer protection, it’s possible to become our future, now.

Everyone is excited, tempted by the seemingly infinite possibilities. But should companies adopt it? What use cases would work best? Are we set up to manage data breaches or operations breakdowns? Are our stakeholders equipped to handle measurement and oversight?

Certainly consultants have shown up in droves to help companies use, implement, and govern AI. But I think those concerns are premature. The question becomes: how do we determine the risks? And if we know precisely what they are and we’re willing to accept them, are we set up well-enough to resolve them? Unfortunately, there’s no way to know what we don’t know when we begin.

Although there are many types and forms of AI, all represent some form of unknowable risk that must be managed before a decision to adopt the new capabilities:

– What are the types of risks involved?
– Who to include in decision making?
– Who will implement, govern, and maintain over time?
– What if customers lose trust in the company because of the inherent biases?
– Who will design, program, and implement?
– What will be the ‘cost’ – in money, resource, market share, personnel, loss of trust, governance? How do we know it’s worth it…before we begin?
– What’s the legal liability? How to manage, govern, and assess data accuracy, privacy, cybersecurity, misinformation management?

These are just a few of the risks. (See this paper for an exhaustive list of risks: https://www.energy.gov/ai/doe-ai-risk-management-playbook-airmp)

Until the ‘costs’ of bringing AI into a company are identified and accepted, the risks of adoption won’t be known until implementation:

  • if there’s a likelihood of data breaches and operation breakdowns,
  • if there’s no buy-in from all who will work with it,
  • if it causes problems with current technology,
  • if it plays havoc with the workforce and daily routines,
  • if there’s no way to assess the risks,
  • if it erodes trust with customers,
  • if biases, misinformation, or data breaches invade the use,
  • if there’s legal liability or ethical pitfalls,
  • if you can’t verify, govern, or manage the ongoing costs (resource/money),
  • if there’s no agreement on managing the ethics, verification, or regulations,

it may not be the right time to adopt it. So how will we know the risks before we make costly decisions? The simple answer is, we won’t.

NEEDS ASSESSMENT

I suggest that before deciding whether to bring AI onboard, which form or technology to choose, who will develop and implement, how to manage the cyber risks or deciding which is your best use case, I suggest you set up a structure to organize around shared risk.

Make sure that everyone who will touch the new capability is part of the solution or they’ll end up as part of the problem: they must have some voice in the final decisions, be aware of the risks to them and their jobs, and be willing to accept responsibility if the risks become problematic.

Begin by assembling a full set of representative viewpoints to gather data concerning team- or company-wide needs to assess if AI would be the best solution to some existing problems. Remember: without stakeholder buy-in for a use case, or teams in place for ongoing oversight, you’ll face the risk of resistance to add to the pile of other dangers.

Here are some questions to consider to help you decide:

  • Do we have problems that could be solved with AI? Why haven’t they been solved? (i.e. time/money; capability. This is important as the reasons they’re unresolved may trail the new implementation.). Are the risks of a new AI implementation higher than the risk of the problems remaining unresolved? Again, this is important to know.
  • Can problems be fixed inhouse or must we hire in? What are the costs involved with hiring in (time, money, disruption, ongoing governance, legal liability) and can existing folks be trained to maintain it?
  • Is there an oversight team to monitor, govern, implement, measure, assess, manage risks, check ethical standards, etc.?

Ultimately, although AI is ‘technology’, it’s a people problem. There must be broad agreement to generate a new offering or fix an unresolved problem with AI. And everyone must know what would change daily for them. Because of the security risks, operation breakdowns, data privacy and misinformation issues; due to the risks to daily work routines, potential job loses, corporate trust erosion, legal, and governance costs it’s a decision that goes beyond the tech folks or leaders.

MANAGING THE RISK

Take heart! There are markers that can help minimize the risk. I suggest companies address the following:

  • Generate rules and norms of use that match the company identity and values.
  • Know the tolerance for risk in terms of time, resource, reputation, and governance. Assemble a set of parameters that represent the risk factors for implementations you’re considering.

o  Customer ease/use
o  Implementation – internal or external
o  Job loss
o  Ethics
o  Privacy, cyber security, verification
o  National, corporate regulations and governance
o  Resource expenditure, cost of possible upheaval
o  Changes to corporate messaging
o  Etc. [Unique criteria to be decided within each company.

  • Agree to the goals and how they’ll be maintained, measured, and governed over time.
  • Manage buy-in – employees, customers. Assess customer’s acceptance.
  • Establish oversight team(s) including legal.
  • Iterate risks into project lifecycle. Checklists of suggested ways to mitigate.
  • Know the risks of failure. Agree that the risks are worth it.
  • The use must match the company strategy, not merely to use AI just to use AI.

Net net, without understanding and addressing the full set of risks involved with implementing the new, without having teams to give attention to the greatest risks as they appear, without legal, governance and measurement protections, unless there is broad stakeholder buy-in, the cost of adoption may be too high. AI is a great addition to a world of choice and possibility. But without managing the corporate risks, the downsides might outweigh the benefits.

_______________________

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.

April 8th, 2024

Posted In: News

I live on a floating home on the Columbia River, north Portland, OR, with an intimate connection to the river. I have three decks – one on the river side and two on the ‘lagoon’ side – from which I launch my kayak, welcome friends with boats, share a beer or two with visitors, sit and meditate in the early morning, swim.

My house has twenty 5’ tall windows that admit the light reflecting off the water year-round, so regardless of the season (the weather being unpredictable here in the Pacific Northwest), I have light all around me.

The weather is certainly a factor in our daily lives. Temperatures generally range from 40-80, with drizzle and rain much of December through March and occasional explosions of sunny days so we remember. Spring is variable, and mythically glorious in summer and fall.

It’s the end of March now. Last week it was in the 70s for 5 days. I sat with a book on the sparkly river as an occasional duck or goose swam by, some looking up to see if I had food (Feeding them means they’ll not only return for years but tell their kids and grandkids that I’m a mark. My neighbor Bob used to feed them daily. The day he missed, one spoiled goose went right up to his door, honking, honking, steadily honking, honking for an hour. I had to call Bob to come home and feed him to keep me from going crazy.). Yesterday a sea lion swam by. Huge.

I assume the sun is considering returning full time. But not today; it’s raining again, for a change. And if I don’t look outside to see the wet decks and gray skies, I can remind myself that yes, really, it’s becoming spring.

MY FRIEND

If past years are prologue, my duck friend should be by soon to lay her eggs in one of my tall river-side planters. She’s comfortable with me by now. When I come out her little head rises up, one eye checking that it’s me, then descending back into her job. But when I have guests she’s unfamiliar with her head stays up, alert, watching, aggressively observing, protecting.

Every night I check on the eggs around 8:00 pm when she goes out for food. Two summers ago a raccoon ate the 10 eggs about a week before they were ready to hatch. I found my agitated friend swimming back and forth, back and forth for days looking for her ducklings. I felt helpless. Like I was a bad grandmom.

But last year she had nine ducklings. Nine! It’s always sweet hearing them chirp when they hatch. When they’re a week old, they’re ready to learn to swim. I watch as she gentles them into the water, guiding them first in more shallow water, then after 3 weeks onto the river itself, always keeping them safe. It fascinates me how she knows what they’re doing when behind her; there’s always one who wants to do its own thing, but Mom is quite strict. Nope. In the line with your sibs!

Watching them grow as they learn to swim in the nearby water – those that don’t get eaten by other river creatures – is fun. Last year 7 of them survived. They all came ‘round to see me when they were grown, all the same size as mom, all ready to start their own families. I felt proud as Mom swam with them in circles in front of me, to show them off.

FLOWERS EMERGING

On my daily walks these days I see new flowers appearing. The floating homes have garden pots now budding with tulips and daffodils. The town houses across the street have carefully tended, creative, colorful, postage-size gardens: some wild, some manicured, some small Zen-scapes with stones and water features. Pretty.

Daphne scents the air. The pink and magenta magnolia petals open wider daily to show off their different hues. And that purple ground cover – no idea what it is – is all over. Rose buds. Hyacinths. Pinks, purples, yellows, lavenders. Sweet explosions of color and smell. Spring is emerging.

People outside walking, leading leashed dogs that would much prefer to run free. Everyone smiling. Boats returning. Small boats, some with couples, families, dogs; party boats with music blaring, sometimes the bebop of Ella or Billie, sometimes (unfortunately for my ears) the thump of techno.

Paddle boards with young folks, small dogs on the front; kayakers floating in pods of friends. I do an early morning paddle before the river gets busy and let the downstream current carry me along as I listen to the birds and the silence. Feels like I’m in the arms of something Bigger. A moment out of life. A joy.

Yes, we’re on route to being sunny and warm and sparkly and vibrant for the next 6 months, emerging from our wet hibernation. And I’m delighted.

______________________________________________

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.    

April 1st, 2024

Posted In: News

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

SD: You’re all dressed up to see a client, I bet. You look great.

YM: Thanks. I am. I’m going to offer my services free to a prospect for 2 weeks and hope he accepts.

SD: I bet you hope that you’ll prove your worth him paying for your services.

YM: I do! But I don’t know if any of it will pan out.

SD: What’s stopping you from facilitating him and his team through their pre-sales decision making so they all realize they need you and are willing to pay for you?

YM: You sound just like this book I just read on helping buyers buy. It was brilliant, and the author says prospects don’t have problems with our solutions, merely understanding their risk of change. And sellers should lead them through the change process before we push product details. I thought that was smart.

SD: (holding back a smile, as he was of course talking about my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell): So what’s stopping you now from helping these folks first manage their change so they can identify as buyers before giving them free work?

YM: I told my boss I thought we should bring her in to train us all. I got him a copy of her (my!) book. He read half of it then told me it was crazy stuff, that that isn’t the way to sell, and to not do anything she suggests. So I’m sort of stuck.

This man’s boss would rather risk the cost of his travel, his time, his opportunity cost and the prospect’s goodwill than add new sales skills and have a much greater chance of closing the sale. He wasn’t even curious enough, or respectful enough, to allow the man to try something new.

WE’D RATHER BE STUPID THAN DIFFERENT

Groupthink. A form of structural stupidity. Going along with the status quo because…. because what? Is rigidity acceptable merely because everyone follows the same flawed thinking?

I don’t understand why the risk of change with a credible chance of success is greater than the cost of customary activities when their probability of failure is known to be high.

Failure is such a known quantity in several industries that companies build it into their budgets. They

  • build in extra time for a project to manage resistance during change initiatives (95% fail rate);
  • continually seek new coaching clients after they cancel when they haven’t gotten the promised results (80%);
  • bring in additional training programs because the training provided wasn’t retained (90% fail rate);
  • budget training funds for new hires due to attrition, when perfectly good employees leave due to low morale;
  • hire 9x more sales folks because of the 95% failure rate due to outdated sales thinking.

And yet they keep doing what they’ve always done, getting the same results. Hello Einstein!

PUSH BACK

As an original thinker and inventor of proven (and innovative) models that correct for, and entirely avoid, these failures in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, training, and change management (Change Facilitation), I’ve been running into this blind spot for decades. And I still can’t understand why people would choose to continue failing when, with a few changes, they could avoid resistance, enable permanent change and learning, and retain good employees.

But no matter how many books (10, including Selling with Integrity, the first sales book on the New York Times Business Bestseller’s list) I’ve written; how many people I’ve spoken to on radio, tv, podcasts, keynotes over forty years; or Fortune 500 clients I’ve successfully trained (many); I still get major pushback: the risk of change is higher than their need for success.

To show you how endemic the resistance to change is, here are some real comments following highly successful Buying Facilitation® pilots that taught sellers how to close sales in one quarter the time, AND with Servant Leader tools:

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

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

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

(WmBlair & Co): This is crazy stuff. This isn’t sales. You folks just got lucky (said folks as they watched their colleagues close sales quickly).

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

STAYING THE SAME AT ALL COSTS

The perceived risks of change seem too high for mainstream. But take a look at the risks of following Groupthink:

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

In my map of the world, when I see something failing after a fair trial period, I change the thinking behind the problem, not merely move around the chairs. I understand I can’t get it right initially, but failure is nothing but a tap on the shoulder reminding me to do something different. In fact, failure is a necessary element of learning and change. Why has it gotten such a bad rap? And why is it a more potent determinate of action than the possibility of success?

Here are my guesses as to why companies maintain models that demonstrably fail:

  • They prefer the known failure as there’s a buy-in for it.
  • They don’t know what’s worth taking a risk on (And don’t discuss alternative possibilities with the team).
  • They build in or hide the fallout (Sales operations record real costs – outsourced lead gen, for example – in the cost center and closed sales in the profit center) so the success ratio appears larger than it really is.
  • They don’t know who or what to trust. (And haven’t done purposeful research to get references or read case studies that prove it.)
  • They assume what they’re doing is the best that can be expected. (And don’t question that premise as per egos and job expectations.)
  • They don’t know how to strategize using a different model.
  • They assume the failure is an accurate version of what’s possible. (And haven’t researched alternate, proven modalities.)
  • They assume that since the model is the standard model used in the field, it must be the best option. (And they consider the risk of change higher than the risk of success.)

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

At what point is the risk of change worth taking? When is the cost of failure less than the cost of trialing something out-of-the-box? After all, different thinking is the only way real change happens.

WHAT IS YOUR RISK?

Here are some questions to help you consider going outside the box going forward:

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

Personally, I don’t consider failure an option. For me, the risk of trialing something new when I know the enormous risks of maintaining the status quo is not a real risk given the alternative. Without innovation, without the risk of disruption in the name of success, continued failure is the only option. If you’re willing to go beyond Groupthink and consider innovative, successful alternatives that have been proven in global corporations, contact me.

___________________________

Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including 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.

March 25th, 2024

Posted In: News

cash-in-handYour important nonprofit or exciting startup will help the world be a better place, bring innovative ideas to the market, and be quite sucessful. You’ve created a terrific pitch deck, have a highly competent management team and terms, and have identified donor prospects with major gift potential. You’ve designed a multi-channel approach to build relationships with small investors to excite them to becoming large investors. Why aren’t you raising all the funding you deserve?

  • It’s not you, your message. or your organization;
  • It’s not the strength of your relationship or who you ‘know’;
  • It’s not the market, your competition, your return potential or your marketing materials.

It’s about how your investors will choose you over the competition. But do you know how, specifically, they’ll choose? Since each potential investor has unique, and unspoken criteria for choosing who to invest in, there’s no way to know. How, then, can you engage them?

HOW DO INVESTORS CHOOSE?

Investor funds are not sitting there waiting for you to show up, no matter how compelling your information, solution, management team or terms. They must choose from among several worthy investments. And certainly they’ll have unspoken, and possibly unconscious political, ecological, or personal biases.

Clearly they’re judging you against some criteria that you are unaware of,  and you’re guessing what information to present based on your criteria. Unfortunately, the criteria don’t always match.

Sadly, as an outsider, you have no access to an investor’s hidden or historic arrangements, personal beliefs, or political mind-fields. And asking them directly about their criteria will only get you obvious answers.

How can you set yourself apart from the competition and flush out their choice criteria so you can make an effective pitch? Let’s begin by understanding the difference between how investors choose and what you offer.

ALIGN CRITERIA FIRST

Decades ago as a sales person, I realized the difference between choice criteria (personal, idiosyncratic) vs content (data) when attempting to engage a prospect.  I was frustrated with the seeming gap between what I thought prospects needed (my solution, of course) and their willingness to buy, between the information I thought might persuade them and how they made decisions.

When I started up a tech company in London and became The Buyer I realized the problem: selling involved me getting my solution placed; buying involved me meeting specific criteria that managed risk so we could make necessary changes with minor disruption or wasted resource.

Now on the other side of the table, I realized that people bought, or invested, only once their own criteria were met. I had to shift from believing that my details would rule the day, to understanding I had to help investors recognize their own criteria and match it.

I did something I had never done: Rather than designing pitch materials based on what I thought they should know, I began my interactions with questions that helped them discern their decision criteria first, THEN presented my content in a way that fit.

TRUTHS ABOUT HOW INVESTORS DECIDE

To consider the components of a decision to invest, start-ups and scale-ups should consider how investors choose:

  1. Folks seeking funds have no way to understand an investor’s choice criteria as each has their own unique sets of rules, beliefs, values, vision they choose from. For example, some choose management as their criteria, some choose market size and potential for penetration, etc;
  2. Unless the investor’s choice criteria are met, no decision to buy or invest will be made;
  3. Unless the investor is willing to shift their criteria, they’ll consider presentation materials with a biased eye, regardless of the efficacy of the investment.
  4. Information is only relevant when it fits into the investor’s criteria or it will be ignored, resisted, or misunderstood.

To have the best chance to engage investors, begin by facilitating them through the internal, and often unconscious and biased, decisions they must make then customize your pitch to meet their specific criteria.

HOW TO MOTIVATE

Enter your fundraising session with a goal to facilitate decision making. Otherwise, you’re entering into a black box of unknowns, assuming that your ideas, your solutions, or the quality of your deck will get you funded. Money goes to those opportunities that first match their hidden criteria regardless of how you present.

Rather than attempting to inspire and provoke action with a brilliant pitch and deck, I begin my funding sessions by posing questions to help the investors discover their unconscious choice criteria.

For example: As a woman, I know only 4% of investor funds go to women (up from 1% in 1996!) so I pose a question to help them recognize their bias here. I might ask:

  • How would you know that investing in a woman-owned company would be a good investment and offer an excellent opportunity for a high return on your investment?

By enabling them to make their choice criteria transparent and dialoguing with them, I let them tell me how I fit into their standards or not. THEN offer the specific information to address that specific criterion (and yes, I design a pitch deck with flexibility, beyond the content that I think is important.). So: Q&A first THEN pitch deck.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS THAT GENERATE REAL ANSWERS

I’d like to discuss the type of questions I pose. I’ve invented a new form of question that prompts the Other to discover their own answers, unbiased by my needs or assumptions.  Facilitative Questions help Others discover their unconscious choice criteria.

(Note: FQs are brain-directional, not information gathering. They use different goals than conventional questions, with very specific words, in very specific order, in very specific sequences to get to the neural circuits within the Responder’s unconscious where their values-based criteria are stored. They are so different from standard questions that they can’t be learned without training. Here’s a link to a Learning Accelerator that will teach you how to formulate them.)

They not only find real answers, but instigate discussions to generate flexibility where possible. Here are some Facilitative Questions that I use during funding sessions:

  • What would you need to see from me and my company to know it’s got a high probability of succeeding?
  • What would you need to see to know we’re organized and managed for ongoing success, can enter the market competitively, and employ ethical standards?
  • How would you know in advance that we represent collaboration, communication, and cooperation making us a good choice for partnership?

By posing these questions, you can dialogue with the investors first around substantive issues, begin a relationship, and get rid of the hidden criteria as much as possible. This will certainly differentiate you from your competitors. And don’t worry if some investors don’t want to play: they’re the ones who wouldn’t have invested in your anyway. It’s not only the investors who must choose: you get to choose who you want to get into bed with.

Remember: your solution is great. But so are the other solutions these investors are considering. The problem is not how to position your solution, but how to inspire investors to choose 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.

March 18th, 2024

Posted In: News, Sales

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

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

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

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

Sample

BELIEFS

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

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

FOCUS ON SHARED VALUES FIRST

Try this:

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

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

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

____________

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 making, 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 26th, 2024

Posted In: Listening, News

What Makes A Decision Irrational? After spending 30 years deconstructing the mind-brain interface that enables choice and decision making, and training a decision facilitation model I developed for use in sales, coaching, and leadership, (Buying Facilitation®), I’m always amused when I hear anyone deem a decision ‘irrational’.

Only outsiders wishing for, or assuming, a different outcome will designate someone’s decision as ‘irrational’. I doubt if the decision-maker says to herself, “Gee! I think I’ll make an irrational decision!” I could understand her thinking it irrational after reaping surprising consequences. But not at the moment the decision is being made.

Sample

HOW WE DECIDE

We all make the best decisions we can at the moment we make them. It’s only when someone else compares the decision against their own subjective filters and standards, or use some academic/’accepted’ standard as ‘right’, or judge the decision against a conclusion they would have preferred, that they deem it ‘irrational’. I always ask, “Irrational according to who’s standards?”

There are two components to making a decision. The brain; and the criteria against which the decision maker weights their options.

Brain: All of our actions arise from neurological, biological, physiological, electrochemical and automatic interactions in our brains. When we think, listen, hear, see, our brain goes through several processes before finding familiar neural connections to translate the incoming vibrations into decisions, behaviors, habits. Even when something brand new enters, we end up using existent – historic! – cell assemblies to translate it, restricting us to what we’ve done and thought before. Net net, our decisions emerge unconsciously, and sometimes don’t reflect the full fact pattern of all that is possible.

Data weighting: to ensure congruency, our brains compare incoming content against our mental models, an unknowable set of highly subjective factors including

Personal beliefs, values, historic criteria, assumptions, experience, future goals;
Possible future outcomes in relation to how they experience their current situation.
No one uses the same data set, or has the same criteria, beliefs, or life experiences the decision maker uses to evaluate their decision.

Each of us have unique brain systems; different mental models, connections, neural pathways, histories. There’s not a single person whose brain is organized as anyone else’s. In other words, we just can’t judge others according to our own standards.

Indeed, there is no such thing as an irrational decision.

CASE STUDY OF AN ‘IRRATIONAL DECISION’

Let me offer a simple example to explain. I recently made an agreement with a colleague to send me a draft of the article he was writing about me before he published it. Next thing I knew, the article was published. How did he decide to go against our agreement? Here was our ensuing dialogue:

SD: I’m quite upset. How did you decide to publish the article after agreeing to send it to me before publishing?

BP: I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was only a brief article.

SDM: It was a big enough deal for me to ask to read it first. How did you decide to go against our agreement?

BP: You’re a writer! I didn’t have the time you were going to take to go through your editing process!

SDM: How do you know that’s why I wanted to read it first?

BP: Because you most likely would not like my writing style and want to change it. I just didn’t have time for that.

SDM: So you didn’t know why I wanted to read it and assumed I wanted to edit it?

BP: Oh. Right. So why did you want to read it?

SDM: My material is sometimes difficult to put into words, and it has taken me decades to learn to say it in ways readers will understand. I would have just sent you some new wording choices where I thought clarity was needed, and discussed it with you.

BP: Oh. I could have done that.

While a simple example, it clearly describes how we judge situations according to our Beliefs, assuming everyone is operating with the same ones. But that’s not true: each decision maker uses her own subjective reasoning regardless of baseline, academic, or conventional Truths.

In our situation, my partner wove an internal tale of subjective assumptions that led him to a decision that might have jeopardized our relationship. I thought it was irrational, but ‘irrational’ only against my subjective criteria as an outsider with my own specific assumptions and needs.

And everyone involved in group decision making does the same: enter with unique brain configurations and personal, unique criteria that supersede the available academic or scientific information the group uses. This is why we end up with resistance or sabotage during implementations.

STOP JUDGING DECISIONS

What if we stopped assuming that our business partners, our spouses, our prospects were acting irrationally. What if we assume each decision is rational, and got curious: what has to be true for that decision to have been made? If we assume that the person was doing the best they could given their subjective criteria and not being irrational, we could:

ask what criteria the person used and discuss it against our own;
communicate in a way that discusses assumptions, differences, gets curious, enables win-win results;
agree at the start to work from the same set of baseline assumptions and remove as much subjectivity as possible before a decision gets made.
In other words, to make sure we understand where Others are coming from, we need to become aware of any incongruences and find common ground. Because if we merely judge others according to our unique listening filters, many important, creative, and collaborative decisions might sound irrational.

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Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including 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.

February 19th, 2024

Posted In: News

I’m writing to complain about vendors – more specifically, the way they’re engaging with customers these days. They seem to forget that we’re the ones paying their salaries; one of the ways to exhibit their commitment to us is by making themselves available. It’s part of what we pay for when we choose their product – a differentiator, if you will.

But now there’s little differentiation: most vendors have reduced us to faceless numbers, to a sort of currency: in exchange for us making a purchase, they take our time, our loyalty, our good will and fail to deliver any meaningful connection when we need support. Personally, I’m getting really annoyed.

Here are some situations I’ve faced lately:

After hours of research and thought, I decided to purchase a somewhat pricey, certainly unnecessary, personal item. I decided to buy it directly from the manufacturer and pay the extra bucks to get the service they offered. When attempting to purchase the item, I was immediately hit with a near-page-sized popup that wouldn’t go away unless I hit ‘allow’. I looked up ‘contact’ and was given two options: email or chat. OK. Maybe a bot could help me buy the damn thing. I asked chat how to get rid of the popup so I could buy the item and was told to just hit ‘Allow’ and then buy it! Nope. They obviously want my name more than my money. Next.

Yesterday, I went to Baskin Robbins to get my bi-monthly hot fudge sundae. I’ve gotten the exact same thing for years: hot fudge, jamoca-almond fudge ice cream (the regular scoops, not the smaller sundae scoops), and extra nuts. I laid out the $6 I’ve always paid and was told I owed $2.50. What?? The associate said it was for the larger scoops and the extra nuts. But I’ve never paid extra for those things and I’ve been coming here for 7 years! I knew the kids that worked there, and the owners Joe and Annette were terrific! “The original owner sold the store. I was trained by corporate. I’m charging you according to the rules.” But why wasn’t I told there might be different prices? I’ve always paid $6! “The prices are right there on the menu. You should have read them.” I see you’re putting rules before people, said I. “Yup. Just doing my job.” Precisely. I wonder how many customers came regularly because it was like family and who will now be seen as rule-followers.

Sample

Last week, I had to go through the rigamarole of returning an Amazon item. I waited 45 minutes in a long line at Whole Foods because the scanner was broken. I remembered when I could call Amazon directly and they’d send me a link to drop the package off at Mailboxes Etc. Thankfully I rarely send anything back (This was a defective item.), but I’ll certainly rethink my choice of vendor with an unknown item.

And don’t even start me on the lost, wasted time I’ve spent – hours and hours! – waiting for customer service reps to answer. Once, waiting to solve a huge tech problem with Best Buy (who I paid for tech support), I was put on hold for 13 hours! They finally called at 3:00 A.M.! The techie said to my sleeping, groggy self, ‘Hi. How are you?’ “Well, it’s 3:00 a.m. and I’ve been on hold for 13 hours, so not a particularly happy camper.” And he hung up on me!

What about the self-checkout at the grocery stores? I used to have lovely chats with the cashiers. One Wal-Mart cashier said she’d like to make my day by subtracting $1 from each purchase! I didn’t save much money, but it made me smile and revisit that particular store frequently. What about airline agents? They always found creative, cheaper routes with great travel tips. When I made hotel reservations I seemed to charm the clerks into giving me best rooms, or special rates.

What about customer service folks who used to be available in each company to answer questions? Gone! All switched to digital, to screens and confusing choices, with no way to pose questions except sending emails that won’t be returned or ‘talking ‘ to those stupid chatbots who always seem to have the wrong answer.

Now I’m left scrolling down some corporate site trying to figure out options, and getting more and more annoyed.

How did we end up so commodified that our value, our worth as customers, is merely a function of a company’s profit and greed? I wonder if companies have tested customer loyalty pre- and post-digital. Surely there must be a falloff. I wonder what it’s costing them.

Being able to complete tasks digitally doesn’t mean it should be the only choice. And certainly digital can’t be that much cheaper in the long run. I miss the old times when I could speak with someone human. Am I the only one unhappy? I sure hope it reverts, and vendors realize that caring for customers is part of their promise.

___________________________

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. 

February 12th, 2024

Posted In: News

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