By Sharon Drew Morgen

Conversation

In these trying times, one thing has become clear: the biases we live with restrict our choices. Certainly no one ever wants to harm anyone. And yet, because of the unconscious nature of them, we are too often unaware that we even have them. It’s not our fault, but we must learn to take more responsibility for them.

Our biases have been developed through the stories of our lives. From birth, our parent’s beliefs and life trajectory become part of our unconscious, very personal, ecosystem made up of our habits, behaviors, and identity; the schools we attend or the gangs we join introduce us to the way our world works and how to behave accordingly; our professions are chosen to allow us to comfortably maintain our norms.

These norms – unique for each of us – create the status quo we make unconscious choices from. Net net, our lives are inspired by our 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 aid and abet us: we listen through biased filters and hear and respond to, basically, what our biases tell us 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 already believe and rarely venture far afield; we notice what we notice in response to our nucleus of personal norms, values, and learned habits. All our decisions, actions, choices, are ruled, restricted, and biased by our unique predispositions.

Indeed, we trust our unconscious biases and interpretations, and the resulting responses, so thoroughly that we are often unaware that our actions – built in, normalized and habituated, accepted by our family, peers, and profession – may harm others.

WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND OTHERS

We believe, with certainty, that what we see, hear, and feel is ‘real’ because it IS our reality; we restrict our lives accordingly, making it difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand another’s reality. What we might hear as powerful might be heard as insulting by another person; an incident might be noticed by one person, ignored by another, and an excuse for violence by another. We cannot help but judge others according to our reality.

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. I find it safe. 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. Terrifying. My choices, of which locks on doors are only a subset of the aftereffects of my early life, have affected my communication, my lifestyle, my choice of friends and mates, my political views, my unconscious triggers, and my choice of professions even after decades of therapy. There is no way you can understand my interpretation of anything, or the resulting behaviors I exhibit, unless you’ve lived in my shoes. And yet my differences might cause you to judge my actions against your own and find them wanting.

And herein lie the problem. When we run into others with different lifestyle choices, or communication styles, or education, or assumptions, or race, or political beliefs, we may not have the skills to connect with them in ways they understand; we may wrongly misinterpret their intent; we may judge them against our own standards which they could never understand. Certainly we may not notice we’ve harmed someone with our actions or words and behave automatically in ways that inadvertently harm another.

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 caring about 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 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 push change from the outside; each individual must find a way to evaluate and reconsider their own core norms and biases to make any necessary corrections that only they can make, from within (i.e. inside/out). I don’t believe we’re doing that.

Current training approaches are based on helping folks recognize and change behaviors by offering information, practice, scientific data, videos, etc. from the outside (outside/in), hoping to create new triggers, new behaviors, and new awareness. This approach cannot fix the problem permanently because it:

  • doesn’t get to the root of someone’s unconscious, and very subjective, biases;
  • demonstrates subjectively chosen hypothetical situations believed (from the outside) to trigger bias and may miss specific issues and habituated norms of an individual;
  • has no way of knowing if the offered visuals or stories or trial experiences address the full range of potential biases within each individual learner;
  • doesn’t teach how to transcend someone’s habituated ‘unconscious triggers’ that go off in real situations;
  • fails to install permanent, instinctive, alternative, appropriate behaviors.

Current unconscious bias training assumes people can change if they understand the ‘good, rational’ reasons behind it. The training offers videos, discussions, practicing ‘real’ situations, etc. showing examples of unconscious bias, hoping this creates the awareness to recognize a problematic situation as it’s happening and know exactly what behaviors need changing – and what to change them to!

In other words, just when our brains are unconsciously registering ALERT, we want it to tell itself ‘Nope. Wrong thinking. Don’t do that. Don’t think that. Stop responding that way. Do something different. NOW!’ just as it’s occurring. It’s possible to do so, but not with the training offered. For real change to occur it’s necessary to get to the root of the bias: beliefs. And unfortunately, as you’ll see, information doesn’t teach anyone how to change, even it attempts to explain the reasoning behind the need to do something different. Sharon Drew’s rule: change cannot occur because of any outside rational, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.

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 – going against what the person deems ‘right’ or ‘good’ – causing an automatic feeling of, and defense against, some sort of violation.

Our reactions to external stimuli are unconscious and automatic, and follow our brain’s historic and habituated neural pathways whenever our unconscious triggers go off. In other words, we do what we do, react the way we react, in a split second as per our historic responses logged permanently into our brain circuitry.

To alter these, it’s necessary to go to the source; it’s not possible to permanently change behaviors by merely trying to change behaviors. Offering behavior-based training that merely offers examples and experiences of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviors, and expecting people to undo their habituated triggers because they ‘admit’ to, or recognize ‘bad’ behaviors, uses the wrong thinking.

Changing core biases permanently is not a behavior change issue; it’s a core Identity/Belief problem that must be resolved, within the system that created it. I’ll lay the problem out for you piece by piece, then introduce a solution for permanent change. Basically, this level of change is a systems problem.

WHAT IS A SYSTEM, AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO ADDRESS IN BIAS TRAINING

A system is a conglomeration of (historic, unique) elements (consisting of our norms, culture, history, beliefs, dreams, etc.) that we hold largely unconsciously and are a foundation of who we are. They are formed during our lifetimes starting from birth, and as in all systems, are made up of elements (values, cultural norms, ethics, morality, etc.) that operate from the same set of rules. Indeed, we live our lives in cities alongside others of similar political beliefs, marry people of similar education, and even listen with biased filters that keep out uncomfortable ideas.

Systems are congruent (Systems Congruence) entities that always seek stability (Homeostasis); they define our politics, our mate selection, even where we live and how we listen to others. Because systems seek to maintain congruence, they avoid situations that make them uncomfortable or they find incongruent. Attempting to shift them, to change in any way, causes resistance because they seek to override the norms of the system that hold them in place, without getting buy-in.

As a result, trying to change from the outside in, by trying to change behaviors without getting the necessary buy-in, threatens stability. As a result, by attempting to push change without the system’s agreement, we’re threatening the system’s internal congruency, regardless of the seeming need to do something different or the efficacy of a new/better solution. In other words, our status quo shows up every day to maintain itself and we will do whatever it takes to maintain it. It’s who we are.

For permanent change to occur, for new behaviors to be exhibited and chosen, there must be a change in core beliefs before new skills or situations are offered. Current bias training uses methods don’t facilitate this 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.
  • Questions: all normal questions are biased by the Asker’s subjective curiosity, thereby restricting the Responder’s replies to the 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 the biased choices- languaging, presentation style, chosen information – of the trainer in hopes that their information triggers a new response. But since people can’t even listen without bias, they can’t accurately make sense of whatever we’re telling them: they have no brain circuitry already set up to listen through, and the process of ‘telling’ does not develop new circuitry. All it will do is get misinterpreted or misunderstood according to historic beliefs already in place.
  • 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’. And since behaviors are merely outputs, they are fixed by the time they show up. Change must happen at the input, at our beliefs.

And herein lie the problem. Because of the complexity and sophisticated combination of the elements above, merely doing something different because we are told to, or even want to, won’t change our behaviors or our systems permanently. It’s the equivalent of trying to get a forward moving robot to move backwards because we tell it it needs new options, or think it would be better if it did, or show it pictures of other robots who do move backward. To change behaviors permanently it’s necessary to change the system, the programming, which created them to begin with. And this cannot be accomplished by trying to change the output of the problem itself. Remember Einstein? Trying to change behaviors with the system that created them won’t permanently change behaviors.

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 in to our system (any problem to fix, any new information that creates disruption, any new activity) demands changing the status quo. Indeed, any new decision is a change management problem. The way we are addressing the problem of changing people’s unconscious biases is not enabling permanent change.

Change means that a system (by definition stable) 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 (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.

Does any element of the original need to be kept in place? How will the system know? How would any change effect the whole? How will the bits that need change shift while still maintaining its core values? The system will fight to maintain itself.

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 to the existing system so the system doesn’t implode, no change will happen regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.

Indeed, you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. And all of the current bias 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 using ‘rational’ means: showing learners biased situations, offering data and research, and playing videos to learn what bias looks like. In other words, 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, and might, if remembered, offer different choices of actions, 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.

If asked in a vacuum if we want to harm anyone, few of us would want to. And yet in small and large ways, our unconscious behaviors too often end up unjustly ignoring, being mean to, or harming someone because of their gender, or race or or… I once heard Malcolm Gladwell, who is bi-racial, say that when tested for unconscious racial bias, he came up biased.

We all carry some biases. The question becomes 1. Do we notice when, or before, problems occur, and if not what would we need to know or believe differently to notice, and 2. Once we notice (or not) can we have choice over our actions and avoid biased behaviors or make adjustments at the time, or just before, they occur. 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. And unfortunately, information-based training (showing, feeling, telling, explaining) is ineffective because it only seeks to change behaviors.

CHANGING BEHAVIORS DOESN’T CHANGE BEHAVIORS

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 as it’s ‘just fine, thanks.’ It’s a belief change issue. We’re asking the system to repopulate its status quo that created the problem to begin with, design new behavioral responses, and develop a new set of triggers to tell the system it’s time to behave differently. Initially the system doesn’t know what it doesn’t know and has no inherent desire to do anything different.

As per my robot example, if you think the robot should have the option of moving backwards, telling it when and how to know when or if to move backward, giving it scientific data as to why it should move backward, or pushing it backward, will not cause the robot to change. The programming must be changed. And so it is with all of us: when we change our habituated beliefs and norms (our programming), our behavior will automatically change.

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 teach the system itself how to discover where its beliefs are restricting understanding and teach it how to add new beliefs to decide with and facilitate it through to new behaviors a way that maintains the foundational norms of the system.

Basically, to alter the foundation that will develop new behaviors, the brain must change itself. 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.

  1. Listening: We must avoid habituated neural pathways when listening to others. In your mind’s eye put yourself on the ceiling and listen from above. From above, you can observe what’s going on without bias or reaction. I have a whole chapter on this in What?. Not difficult – you just need to want to do it and develop triggers that will alert you to the need to do something different.
  2. 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 spend time with me so we could both learn, together, how to listen from a ‘different ear’?
  3. 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.
  4. Information: we make several types of information available for the learner to choose from, to fit their own learning criteria and styles.

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

October 8th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management, Communication, Listening

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blind_buyer-166x2501Buyers want to solve a problem in a way that causes the least disruption; the last thing they want to do is bring in something new into their environment that will disrupt. But until the stakeholders (decision makers, influencers, appropriate managers) agree that making a purchase (rather than finding a workaround, using a familiar fix, or maintaining the status quo) is the only way to get where they want to end up, and all of the people that will touch the new solution buy-in to altering the status quo, they will not make a purchase or a change: they will continue the dysfunctional behavior even when an ideal solution is available.

While you might see your solution as offering a better alternative to what they are doing now, buyers have systemic issues to handle when they bring in something new. Making a purchase, or doing something different, means

  • some sort of change management to ensure that the new and the old work together,
  • helping folks who touch the current practices be willing and able to change,
  • understanding and diminishing any fallout that will ensue.

Bringing in something new into an existent system – whether it’s a purchase or an implementation – is a change management problem. And the sales model does not manage change. Indeed, selling doesn’t cause buying.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEM

Sales, marketing automation, and the new telemarketing field, ignore the change management aspect of what buyers must accomplish and instead focus on figuring out how and what and to whom to pitch and sell their solution. Let me back track a bit. Givens:

  1. sales manages the needs assessment and solution placement portion of the buyer’s decision.
  2. neither sales nor marketing are equiped to enter the environment/culture in which the buyer lives to help facilitate the systemic, non-solution-focused internal political or relational issues buyers must address to get the buy-in and make the adjustments to their culture that change demands .
  3. buyers don’t know their route through, or implications to, change when they begin to think about resolving a problem.
  4. the time it takes buyers to get the appropriate buy-in from all who will touch the solution is the length of the sales/change cycle. Until they figure this entire process out, they cannot buy. This is considered the pre-sales process.

These are the issues we come smack up against as sales folks: having spoken to only a fraction of the full Buying Decision Team, and having no way to know the political and personal discussions going on internally (and without us), we try to push a solution into a group that haven’t progressed through their entire change management path; we get objections and time delays as buyers figure it out. And we are so dedicated to finding ways to present our solution that we are blind to the buyer’s needs to first manage change. I often ask my own clients where their prospects are in their change path at the point they want to pitch. They have no idea; sales people don’t think about faciltiating change; the sales model as it is, is not equiped to facilitate the systemic change management issues that must be resolved in order for people to become buyers. It’s just far more complex than having a ‘need’ or a problem.

A SOLUTION CAN’T COMPROMISE THE STATUS QUO

Buyers have 13 steps they must take from first idea to making a purchase. It’s not until step 10 that they they actually become buyers, i.e. recognize they have a problem they can’t resolve with their own resources AND is worth fixing AND they have buy-in to buy something. Sales enters and manages steps 10-13. Steps 1-9 are the pre-sales process that focuses on change and determining if a purchase is necessary or a workaround is possible: assembling the right people, understanding the effects that solving a problem will produce, getting buy-in for a course of action – and then, determining if/what/why they want to buy. Unfortunately, as outsiders we can never understand what’s going on – nor do we need to. We just need to help them do it themselves. I have written an entire book to explain this problem: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.

When we enter too early with a solution-placement goal, we potentially speak to the wrong person/people, at the wrong time, using biased questions to gather data we use to sell with – and then we sit and wait. We are holding a hammer, waiting for the time when they are ready with a nail. But there is a much more efficient way to do this: we need to help them facilitate change first before beginning the actual sales process. We sit and wait while prospects do this anyway – all the while hoping, calling calling calling – and overlook a real opportunity to become part of the Buying Decision Team and sell to those who will buy. Buying anything is the last thing people do; before that they cannot hear you, understand they need you, and don’t even consider themselves buyers. And by focusing on solution placement, we are short-circuiting the buying decision process, entering at the end, and overlook the real opportunity to facilitate the entire Buying Decision Path. To do this, however, requires a skill set different from sales.

I actually developed a pre-sales model that facilitates a buyer’s change management process called Buying Facilitation®. Although a change facilitation model, not a sales model per se, it works with sales and employs a wholly different skill set (Facilitative Questions, Dissociative Listening) that actually shows buyers how to discover and manage the systemic change they will face when purchasing a solution or bringing something new in to their status quo. It not only teaches buyers how to get the requisite buy-in so their daily functioning won’t be compromised – managing the people, policies, technology, and old vendor, etc. issues – but shows them how to pro-actively manage the change that will happen once the new solution is on board. After using Buying Facilitation® THEN it’s time to use the sales behaviors you’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not taking away sales; I’m just employing it at the right time, once the buyer is ready, willing, and able to buy. After all, if purchasing your solution would cause more harm than good to the prospect’s environment – regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution – they won’t buy. And the time it takes them to figure all this out is the length of the sales cycle.

If the tech guy doesn’t want to outsource work; if the sales and marketing folks are not talking to each other; if the “C” level person has a favored vendor from 3 years ago; if there is already something in place that cost a bundle and the buyer merely wants to tack on yet another fix – if anything political or relational is going on internally that would compromise the system, the buyer will not buy: they will not buy if the system itself would be at risk.

Let’s teach buyers first how to buy – how to manage their change so they are ready for you to sell and place your solution. Use Buying Facilitation® first to facilitate the Pre-Sales change management issues all buyers must manage, help them get ready to change, and turn them quickly into buyers.

_____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions. Sharon Drew is the author of Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell  to introduce the buying decision stages. She is also the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  She can be reached at; sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.comwww.didihearyou.com;www.sharondrewmorgen.com

July 9th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management

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change-2696395_960_720How do we manage change in our organizations? Not very well, apparently. According to statistics, the success rate for many planned change implementations is low: 37 percent for Total Quality Management; 30 percent for Reengineering and Business Process Reengineering, and a whopping 97% for some software implementations. Regardless of the industry, situation, levels of people involved, or intended outcome, change seems to be sabotaged in unknown ways, causing the real possibility of failure:

 

  • Internal partners fail in attempts to promote and elicit proposed change initiatives across departments.
  • Leaders get blindsided by unknowns, creating more problems or becoming part of the problem when attempting to find a fix.
  • The system gets disrupted during the change process, unwittingly harming people, relationships, and initiatives.
  • Improper, or non-existent, integration between developers and users cause lack of buy-in and resistance.
  • The change doesn’t get adopted as conceived, with financial and personal fallout.

Is it possible that our approach is causing some of the problems? I submit that we’re omitting some of the foundational elements to congruent change, change that can be successful in:

  • its comfortable transitions between phases;
  • its ease of buy-in;
  • enabling all participants to embrace leadership roles and be a part of designing and developing the Rules and Beliefs that will define the emerging, new system;
  • reducing fallout and cost;
  • eliminating resistance,
  • encouraging creativity.
 But we’ll need to do something different from what we’re currently doing.

THE SYSTEMS ASPECT OF CHANGE

Let’s begin at the beginning with my definitions of change and systems.

CHANGE: Change is a new set of choices within a system that cause the elements of the system to exhibit altered Behaviors while still maintaining homeostasis. No change can occur unless the system reorients (i.e. re-organizes, re-prioritizes etc.) itself in a way that incorporates and maintains its core accepted norms (i.e. homeostasis, Systems Congruence). In other words, all change must include a way for the elements to ultimately buy-in to, and incorporate, new functioning while maintaining the rules and Beliefs of the status quo.SYSTEM: Any connected set of elements that comprise a homeostatic entity, held together by consensual rules and Beliefs that then generate a unique set of Behaviors that exhibit its unique identity. All systems must maintain Systems Congruence or they lose their identity and become something else. Because change represents the disruption of the status quo in unknowable ways, systems defend themselves by resisting when feeling threatened. In order to facilitate congruent change, it’s necessary to get the agreement, and a recognized path forward (There are specific, sequential steps in all change processes.), of all of the bits that will be effected by the final solution to ensure it maintains its core identity, Beliefs, and rules.

As a lifelong student of systems thinking and theorizing (50+ years), I’ve recognized that change is often approached with an eye on altering activity and Behaviors without addressing the vital need for the core system to maintain homeostasis. And when we tie our understanding of the functionality of a system to its Behaviors and attempt to push Behavior change before eliciting core Belief change, we

  • overlook the ability to facilitate the system down its own path through to it’s own version of congruent change
  • are relegated to managing the fallout when the stable system reaches Cognitive Dissonance and is forced to defend itself.

Herein lie the problem: until or unless the full complement of relevent elements (that not only created the problem but holds it in place daily) agrees to congruently alter, and get buy-in from, the elements that caused the problem and will be effected by any change, it will resist change regardless of the underlying problem that needs fixing. The system is sacrosanct. And it applies whether trying to get a teenager to pick up his socks, a diabetic patient to exercise, a team to work harmoniously, or a person to figure out if/when she needs to buy something. In general, outsiders cannot effect congruent change because they cannot know the core elements that have created and maintain the status quo, nor how to re-orient them congruently around any proposed change. It’s an inside job.

With our focus on changing Behaviors, we’ve overlooked the need for a system to maintain Systems Congruence – the foundational rules, Beliefs, relationships, etc. that define the system. Outside influencers – regardless of their initiatives or rationality or persuasiveness or authority – can never understand a system they’re not a part of. Change must begin by teaching the system how to change itself. I’ve written this article to:

  • Explain how current approaches to change management lead to resistance,
  • Introduce the elements of change and need for buy-in,
  • Introduce a route to change that can achieve goals without resistance while maximizing leadership and creativity through buy-in and congruent change.

In my forthcoming book (tentatively titled Facilitating Change) I’ll explore this topic thoroughly. In this article I’ll introduce the important elements and lay out my thinking. And I look forward to your feedback.

ALL PROBLEMS START WITH SYSTEMS

Most influencing professions (leadership, coaching, consulting, sales etc.) begin with a goal to be met, adopt an outside-in approach that uses influence, advice, ‘rational’ scientific ‘facts’, and various types of manipulation to inspire change – while ignoring the fact that anything new, any push from outside the system, any dissimilar element not already within it, represents disruption and Cognitive Dissonance. We put the cart before the horse, attempting to change Behaviors and elicit buy in before the system is certain it won’t be compromised and knows how to make sure it survives. Until the necessary steps of change are completed and the system knows it will maintain Systems Congruence, the identified problem will continue as is: it’s already built into the system:

  • The full complement of elements and that created the problem and represent the status quo must be assembled and recognized [Note: this applies to making an individual decision since each of us is an individual system.];
  • Everyone/everything within the system must accept that it’s not possible to fix the problem with known resources;
  • All of the elements (people, policies, rules, relationships, etc.) that will be effected by a new solution – i.e. change – must begin by understanding, buying-in to, and accounting for, the ways they’d be changing to ensure the path they design for better funtioning leads them to homeostasis.

Until all that happens the system will resist change (or buying, or learning, or eating healthy or or) regardless of the level of need or the efficacy of the solution. And because of the unconscious, historic elements involved, for congruent change to occur, those inside the system must design their own route to acceptable change. And as outside influencers we actually cause our own resistance by pushing our agendas, when we can actually lead Others through to their own change.

By assuming a Behavior addition/subtraction is ‘rational’ or necessary, without accounting for whatever workaround the system has already adopted and built in to its daily functioning, we end up with far more failure and resistance than we should have given the efficacy of our solutions. Indeed, it’s necessary to elicit buy-in for each element that will be changed: to maintain congruence throughout the change process, systems must

  • Maintain Functional Stability. Systems must maintain homeostasis. Their current functioning, even when problematic, has been finely honed over time, waking up every day maintaining the Behaviors, rules, goals, etc. that created the problem to begin with. Change is not so simple as shoving in a new Behavior. Remember: a system doesn’t judge itself as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It just is. And it keeps ticking over the same way day after day.
  • Achieve Buy-In. Whether consciously or unconsciously, a system will resist anything from outside that threatens the status quo, regardless of the efficacy of the change. For successful change to occur, the system must recognize exactly what fallout will occur when anything shifts or is added, and how each affected element must modify itself in a way that maintains the integrity of the system (i.e. Systems Congruence). I can’t say this enough: the system is sacrosanct, quite separate from whatever reasons an influencer uses to change it.
  • Maintain Underlying Rules and Beliefs. Great data or solutions, important needs or dangerous consequences do not influence the change if they run counter to the system’s homeostatic Beliefs and rules, overt or covert. (It’s why your Uncle Vinny still smokes with lung cancer, and why training doesn’t cause new behaviors.) Note when we attempt change a set of Behaviors without changing the underlying Beliefs that created those Behaviors to begin with, we cause resistance. And here’s a tip: when you start from inside out, from eliciting any change within a system’s Beliefs and rules (i.e. rather than ‘Eat your broccoli,’ start with ‘I’m a Healthy Person.’), new behaviors will automatically accompany them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way ‘round: when we attempt to push a new Behavior into the system – say, asking a heart patient to change her diet or exercise program – before eliciting Belief change from the entire (and largely unconscious) system, we will achieve resistance as it may be seen as a threat. It cannot be otherwise.

The issues are the same regardless of the focus, whether it’s a company resisting reorganization, a patient refusing meds, a user group resisting new software, a buyer who hasn’t figured out when, if, how to buy, or a group not taking direction from company leadership. As outsiders we too often push for our own results and actually cause the resistance that occurs.

It’s possible to use our positions as outside influencers eschew our bias and be real Servant Leaders and teach the system how to traverse each step of its own change.

CASE STUDY: SYSTEMS ALIGNMENT

Here is a case study that exhibits how to enable buy-in and congruent change management by facilitating a potential buyer through her unique systems issues en route to a purchasing decision. Note: All change situations (whether coaching, leadership, software implementations, family problems, healthcare initiatives, etc.) must go through a series of steps to change to achieve buy in. Until now, we’ve left Others to manage the route through to the steps of change on their own as we push, advocate, advise, influence, manipulate for our own agendas and then we blame them when they resist – not to mention potentially not even reach their own internal route to change.

I was with a client in Scotland when he received a call from a long-standing prospect – a Learning and Development manager at a prodigious university with whom he’d been talking for 11 months – to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” for the product purchase. After three product trials that met with acclaim and excitement, an agreed-upon price, and a close relationship developed over the course of a year, what happened? The software was a perfect solution; they were not speaking to any other providers; and price didn’t seem to be a problem.

At my client’s request, I called the L&D manager. Here is the conversation:

SDM: Hi, Linda. Sharon Drew here. Is this a good time to speak? Pete said you’d be waiting for my call around now.
LR: Yes, it’s fine. How can I help? I already told Pete that we wouldn’t be purchasing the software.
SDM: I heard. You must be so sad that you couldn’t purchase it at this time.
LR: I am! I LOVE the technology! It’s PERFECT for us. I’m so disappointed.
SDM: What stopped you from being able to purchase it?
LR: We have this new HR director with whom I share a leadership role. He is so contentious that few people are willing to deal with him. After meeting with him, I get migraines that leave me in bed. I’ve decided to limit my exposure to him, discussing only things that are emergencies. So I’ve put a stop to all communication with him just to keep me sane. He would have been my business partner on this purchase.
SDM: Sounds awful. I hear that because of the extreme personal issues you’ve experience from the relationship, you don’t have a way to get the necessary buy-in from this man to help your employees who might need additional tools to do their jobs better.
LR: Wow. You’re right. That’s exactly what I’ve done. Oh my. I’m going to have to figure that out because I’ve certainly got a responsibility to the employees.
SDM: What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to work through the personal issues and figure out how to be in some sort of a working relationship with the HR director for those times your employees need new tools?*
LR: Could you send me some of these great questions you’re asking me so I can figure it out, and maybe use them on him?

I sent her a half dozen *Facilitative Questions to both teach her how to design a route to her own sanity and a path to healthy collaborative partnership with the HR Director. Two weeks later, Linda called back to purchase the solution. What happened?

1. While the university had a need for my products solution, the poor relationship between the HR director and the L&D director created hidden, ongoing dysfunction. The information flow problem could not be resolved while the hidden problem remained in place – details not only hidden from the sales person (outsider) but used as a deterrent by Linda (who didn’t know how to resolve the problem other than to walk away because her own internal system had been violated). So yes, there was a need for the solution and indeed a willing partner, but no, there was no systemic buy-in for change.

2. I stayed completely away from attempting to resolve the problem by sharing, gathering, pitching information or my reasons why change (i.e. buying my solution) was necessary. (Not only is information not needed until the system knows what information it needs – if you haven’t figured out what type of car you want to buy there’s no need to hear a pitch about a Lamborghini – but the bias involved in sharing it and gathering it restricts success. There’s plenty of time to offer our solutions when we can pitch it relevantly, according to the way the system is set up to use it.). The only viable route was to help her figure out her own route to a fix.

3. This was not a sales problem (It’s always a ‘systems change’ problem, rarely a ‘coaching’ problem or an ‘implementation’ problem) – the Behaviors/outcomes were merely representing a broken system. I had to facilitate the change by enabling Linda to resolve her own system. This is how current change management models fail: they attempt to rule, govern, constrict, manage, influence, maintain the change, rather than enabling the system to recognize and mitigate its own unique (and largely unconscious) drivers and change itself congruently.

4. There was no way for the system to fix itself as long as the L&D director – merely one piece of the systemic puzzle that created the problem to begin with – didn’t know how to develop additional choices for herself. Her choice to do nothing was an ode to Systems Congruence.

5. In Linda’s unconscious decision to forgo a problem fix to maintain her own personal homeostasis, she unconsciously weighted her personal criteria above her criteria for doing her job. In order to buy the solution, she’d need to find a way to ensure personal Systems Congruence.

Linda was willing to separate her work-related decision from her personal issues and reevaluate her choices once she realized there was a way to maintain her internal homeostasis AND fix the problem.

Rule: Until or unless people grasp how a solution will match their underlying criteria/values, and until there is buy-in from the parts that will be effected from the change, no permanent change will happen regardless of the necessity of the change, the size of the need, the origination of the request, or the efficacy of the solution.

Current change management models assume that a ‘rational’, information/rules-based change request and early client engagement will supplant the system’s need for homeostasis.

Focusing instead on effecting Behavior change as per the route, goal, assumptions, needs of the influencer. Indeed, even when change agents attempt to include clients into the software design or change implementations, their questions and info sharing strategies are largely biased by their personal outcomes and unwittingly overlook the interdependency of core Beliefs, historic roles, unspoken rules and relationships, and unconscious drivers within the user’s unconscious system.

Rule: Whether it’s sales, leadership, healthcare, coaching or change management, until or unless the folks within another’s system are willing to adapt to, and adopt, the requested change using their own rules and Beliefs, they will either take no action or resist to maintain the homeostasis of the system. The system is sacrosanct. And information push, rational argument, leadership directives, or any outside-in model threatens the system.

HOW BELIEFS, BEHAVIORS, AND BUY-IN EFFECT SYSTEMIC CHANGE

Fortunately, it’s possible to highlight each pivotal element of change and get buy-in before attempting a change initiative. It requires an understanding of what, exactly, is a Behavior, and why starting by attempting to change the Behaviors/output of the system can only cause resistance.

Behaviors are merely Beliefs in action – the physical transaction that exemplifies the underlying rules and values of the system. In other words, they’re the means a system uses to operate and perform its purpose – the end point, and certainly an ineffective place to begin change.

Think of it this way. If you want your forward-moving robot to go backwards you might tell it why moving backward is beneficial, order it to move backward, offer scientific proof why moving backward is best, or push it. But until the internal programming is changed from the core, it cannot change regardless of how you position your request or push the robot backwards. Indeed, you might even break the robot in your attempts to get it to behave the way you want it to behave.

Since it’s not possible for an outsider to lead from inside, we must teach the system how to lead itself, much like a GPS system leads a driver to a destination without actually being in the car or noticing the landscape. Like a GPS system, we begin by leading the system through its own idiosyncratic route to design its own change (i.e. like I helped Linda figure out her core issues (i.e. not our products) and how to communicate with the HR director) to ensure Systems Congruence, buy-in and leadership from within. Here are my rules to facilitating congruent change and buy-in:

1. Enter with no bias. Help the system define the elements that created the status quo and must buy in to the change. These include anything – jobs, people, initiatives, relationships, departments – that the new solution will touch. Rule: Entering the decision-navigation portion of the change experience with bias or a personal outcome will impede the process and create resistance. Change agents must listen for systems without a biased ear (see my new book on this topic – What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) and eschew attempting to introduce information until the system is set up to change, knows what it needs to know (usually quite different from what we think it needs) and has achieved buy-in.

2. Help the system recognize all of the parts – the people, rules, relationships, presuppositions, workarounds – that created and maintain the status quo. Rule: Until or unless the system recognizes all of the factors, knows how they have contributed to the problems in the status quo, and ensures that they buy in to the change, it will not be able to give agreement.

3. Help the system figure out how to reorganize around the new change so it will not face disruption and will have all of the pieces in place to accommodate the change. Rule: The change cycle is the time it takes for the system to figure out its own trajectory so there will be minimal disruption during the change process.

BUY-IN: A REAL WORLD EXAMPLE

Joseph, a coaching client of mine, was a CMO in a small company (around 150 employees) had a problem: He wanted to implement a new customer-service initiative but had just joined the company and was fearful of making waves. He initially wanted to design the project, issue edicts, and fire those who didn’t comply with the initiative. After casually speaking with a few people about it, he got huge resistance.

He called me in when he realized he had to choose between enforcing the Behaviors and outcomes he had in mind, or creating the structure and teaching the employees how to become creative leaders who would design their own congruent process. I helped him build a creative structure for congruent change, which meant giving up some of the details of his plan while maintaining the congruence of what the outcome looked like. Joseph put together a list of his baseline criteria and then left open the financials, job descriptions, activities, and other decisions:

1. Maintain the company’s integrity, professionalism, and level of service;

2. Design a mix between technology and human interaction;

3. Provide customers with better access to more data, have ease of use for any information they needed, and meet their needs more proactively;

4. Create award-winning service that would differentiate the company from all competitors and keep customers over time.

He called a meeting with the entire company – even groups that the change process wouldn’t necessarily touch – and told them that he was thinking about expanding the customer service operations. He asked everyone to take a few hours to discuss, think about, and brainstorm what it could look like if they had an unlimited budget (which they didn’t have, but it would eliminate the money piece from their brainstorming), and said he’d meet with them the next week to get their ideas.

He told them that this process was highly important, and he wanted it to be part of people’s daily discussions over the next week. He asked that each group have a spokesperson and historian to keep track of all ideas.

The next week, Joseph met with employees again and asked for their input. He captured the ideas by audio and put them all up on an interactive website for the new ideas and told people to add their thoughts. He then sent them back to consider the ideas offered and generate even more.

At the next meeting, he asked workers to take all of the ideas now floating around and use them to brainstorm what the new initiative would look like, who might do what, what would have to change, and what the change would look like for those involved. He asked them to consider:

1. What jobs would change? What jobs would be added/subtracted – and what would happen with the people whose jobs might be affected?

2. What needed to stay the same internally, no matter what? And how could this be included in the new initiative?

3. What might be the possible fall-out from the staff and from customers?

4. What could get in the way of a successful change initiative?

Eventually, employees got into teams and developed solid implementation plans. Those folks who had to change jobs or had their work significantly restructured in a way that might cause resistance joined a management team or focus group and became part of the solution. And throughout the process, I listened carefully to hear points of discontinuity so we could stop and go through their internal examination of their steps to change.

Did Joseph get everything he wanted? Well, yes and no. The new organization ended up far exceeding anything he had conceived. It had more creativity and leadership. It also cost more than he realized (time and money) to put everything in place. But it elicited buy-in from everyone: there was no resistance because everyone had bought in to the idea and made it their own. And over a short amount of time, the change paid for itself.

This is only one method of facilitating change and avoiding resistance. I’ve developed a Change Facilitation model, used often in sales as Buying Facilitation®, that uses a unique skill set to enable core change. I’ve trained this to Senior Partners at recognized consulting firms, farmers in Iowa, tech people in Hong Kong, coaches in Kansas. It’s a generic model that influencers can use to elicit real change. I’m happy to discuss it with you (Sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com).

Conclusion

Before introducing any change initiative, give up the need to push the change, listen without bias, and enable Others to traverse their route to discovery:

  • what elements created and maintain the status quo,
  • who needs to be included (often a larger group than anticipated),
  • recognize what would get in the way of success and what needs to happen to mitigate that interference,
  • figure out how to manage the workarounds in place that attempt to mitigate the problem,
  • notice levels of buy-in and help those who resist shift their personal criteria to become part of the group,
  • get agreement, steps, criteria, and Behaviors for an intact, non-resistant, functioning system that welcomes the new initiative. Then introduce the change.

Until now, we’ve assumed that resistance is a normal part of the change process. But we’ve effectively been pushing our own biased needs for change into a closed, hidden system. We’ve ignored the rule of systems and forgotten that the change we are suggesting will encounter a status quo that is trying to maintain homeostasis. But as we’ve explored above, it is possible to get buy-in without resistance. We don’t have to throw out the many wonderful change models out there. But we first need to get buy-in, and then the change will be welcomed rather than spurned or sabotaged.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, systems theorizer, and developer of a change facilitation model used in sales as Buying Facilitation®. She is an award-winning blogger (www.sharondrewmorgen.com), and the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets
and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has trained Buying Facilitation® to coaches, leaders, healthcare providers, in many global corporations such as KPMG, Wachovia, Bose, Kaiser, Morgan Stanley, IBM. She is currently working on a new book tentatively titled: Facilitating Change: the route to congruent decision making, buy-in, and compliance.
www.sharondrewmorgen.com;  sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

May 14th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management, Listening, News

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parentingGiven what’s going on in the world these days, I thought we all might need a bit of Sweet. Enjoy. SD

In 1981, I was a single parent of a young disabled son, working a full time job, living in Park Slope Brooklyn. Given my constant state of overwhelm, I decided to get a group of parents together to see if we could find ways to parent without nagging, or threatening, or cajoling, and maybe even free up time for us to enjoy our kids. I doubted I was the only parent in overwhelm mode. I put together a bit of a program design and convinced the local library to give me a room one night a week for 8 weeks for a Parenting with Integrity program. They gave me a room, coffee, and advertising. They were terrific.

About 10 parents showed up (although it grew) – mainly families from the police force and city workers, couples and single people. Agreeing how deeply we respected the individuality of our kids, and taking our jobs as parents seriously, we began with a core value to avoid the nasty ‘parent’ stuff of cajoling, punishing and threatening. We formulated our agenda: develop thinking that led to enabling our kids to safely, ethically make and recognize their own best choices, with life lessons imbedded.

One of the women had 5 kids aged 8-16. Susan complained that her mornings were hell trying to get them all dressed and fed and out the door. By the time she got to work, she said, it took her an hour to recover from the yelling and screaming and chasing and reminding and name calling and… We put our heads together and came up with a plan.

Over dinner the next night, Susan told the kids how their chaotic mornings left her unhappy and frazzled. So to make sure she got to work happy, and make sure their days would start off nicely, she was going to change a few things starting the next morning: She would announce when it was 7:00 a.m. and say it loudly to make sure everyone could hear; then, as she got herself dressed and prepared breakfast, she’d give them 5 minute updates until they all left the house at 7:45. She would no longer fight with them over getting up, eating breakfast, clothes or misplaced items. She assumed they would awake with either her voice or their alarm clocks, and eat breakfast if they were hungry. She assumed that whatever they were wearing at 7:45 when they left the house were the clothes they wanted to wear that day. And she wouldn’t wait for any of them: if they weren’t at the door at 7:45, they’d have to find their own way to school.

And she was hilariously, fiercely, deadly serious.

The next morning, Susan cheerfully chirped “It’s 7:00 a.m. Morning everyone!” Then again at 7:05. ”Hi kids. It’s 7:05. Hey, did you see that the trees are beginning to bud? Take a look later. Pretty.” 7:10: “I have pancakes for everyone on the table for whoever’s hungry.” And so on, until 7:45 when she got to the front door to leave. Indeed, there were 5 children waiting. And 3 of them actually had clothes on. The other 2 wore pajamas. Without saying a word, Susan cheerfully got them into the car, put on her favorite CD and sang all the way to their schools. During the drive not a word was spoken.

Two principals called her that day. Here was her conversation with one of them: “Did you know your daughter is wearing her pajamas today?” Yup. That’s what she wanted to wear. “Um. OK. Just checking. I think the kids are making fun of her. But I’ve seen worse. Good luck.”

At 7:45 the next morning, all 5 kids were ready and dressed. She never had another bad morning.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we always knew how to create the circumstances that enable each other be our best selves?

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the thought leader behind Change Facilitation. Used in sales (Buying Facilitation®, coaching, leadership, and any type of buy-in, her original models enable people to go beyond bias to creativity, integrity, and excellence – all with collaboration and involvement. Sharon Drew is the author of nine books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller’s Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Her award winning blog carries thought pieces and practical essays on helping buyers buy, enabling ethical collaboration and communication, and why mainstream thinking doesn’t always cause success. Sharon Drew is a speaker, consultant, coach, and trainer.

December 4th, 2017

Posted In: Change Management

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Buyers 2In 1993, when my first book came out and before he died, David Sandler called to buy out my Buying Facilitation® model. We couldn’t agree on terms, but he was excited by my differentiation between the sales model and the buying process: “I recognized that the problem was on the buy side, and thought my Sandler method was thinking out of the box. Reading your stuff, I now recognize my focus is still on getting solutions sold,” he said. “I hadn’t realized that ‘outside the box’ meant to shift the focus first to facilitate buying. Well done.”

And yet, after all these years, the problem remains: we’re limiting success and wasting an untold amount of resource seeking those few who are ready, willing, and able to buy: we’re missing a much larger, untapped market of potential (but real) buyers we ignore because our sales outreach doesn’t affect them. By broadening the goal to include facilitating change with those in the process of becoming buyers, by recognizing that a buying decision is a systemic, change management issue before it’s a solution choice problem, it’s feasible to engage earlier (albeit in a different way) and find a much larger population of real buyers.

HOW SALES RESTRICTS SELLING

The sales industry has a singular goal of placing solutions. It’s an industry with solutions looking for a problem. And the paltry results of a 5% close rate have been baked into the system: you accept low closing ratios as the best you can do, hire more sales people than you need, suffer from a sales cycle that is months/years longer than necessary, and lose buyers that will need your solution but don’t yet need or notice the information you provide.

Have you never asked yourself why, with all the capability of finding prospective buyers at your fingertips, you still close only 5% – down from 7% a decade ago (and with much less technology)? And why you continue to waste untold bazillions on staff, technology, and time, chasing folks who will never buy. Have you not recognized that

  • the people you target aren’t necessarily buying or buyers,

  • you’re expending too much resource on those who will never buy,

  • you don’t know the difference between those who will and those who won’t buy?

With the best technology available, the most professional branding and marketing, great content, and a good solid product, you’re losing far more sales than you need to. This much should be obvious: No matter how much new technology, or how many sales methods available to you – regardless of all the ‘new new’ things at your fingertips – you’re still merely closing the low hanging fruit (those 5% who have determined they are ready, willing, able to buy).

A buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.  By adding a few bells and whistles to your sales efforts you can find people who will be buying but aren’t yet buyers and facilitate their strategic Pre-Sales, non-solution-based decision path that concludes with them buying. Then you’ll close far more than you’re closing now with half the staff and half the time. But it needs different thinking.

SELLING VS BUYING

People become buyers only when there are no other options and a purchase is their last hope for problem resolution. They can’t even accurately define a ‘need’ until the full complement of stakeholders are involved and the scope of any resultant change is recognized. Sales ignores this group because their touch points are different and they are definitely not yet buyers. Yet it’s here they’re more open for support and connection: their path to congruently resolving a problem is confounding; they may forget to bring in “Joe from accounting”, or can’t recognize the full scope of issues until they’ve falsely started down one path to resolution and must start all over.

You’re a subject matter expert in the area of their problem resolution and could really be a support here – so long as you avoid trying to sell and focus on facilitating change first. This is where they will be eager to connect. By only focusing on selling/placing your solution, you ignore 40% of real buyers who haven’t gotten there yet but will.

Ask yourself this: Do you want to sell – or have someone buy? They are two different activities with different rules, needs, and behaviors. Sales is tactical. Buying is strategic. Your tactical focus on placing solutions with Buyer Personas, Opportunity Management, content differentiation, and yes, even Sandler, SPIN etc. offer biased questions and content focused on those few who have defined, and understand, their need and change issues, overlooking those people in the midst of strategic decision efforts who will develop into buyers once they get their ducks in a row. Sellers actually sit and wait while prospects do this anyway. Why not help them! Here what sales ignores:  

  1. A buying decision includes a 13 step change management process, the first 9 steps of which are systemic change (not purchase or need) focused; they aren’t ‘buyers’ until step 10 when all of their systemic/change management stuff is worked out, and there is agreement that a purchase is their only option.

  2. A problem doesn’t equal a need; a ‘need’ doesn’t equal a purchase. It might turn out that maintaining the status quo is a better option for them; as an outsider, you can never understand why.

  3. People aren’t buyers until they’re out of options to fix their problems themselves AND they’ve gotten buy-in to bring in a ‘foreign’ element. The last thing they want to do (precisely, the last thing) is to buy anything. The buyers you seek/find are already at the end of their decision path.

  4. Your terrific content isn’t being noticed by people who haven’t yet determined, defined, agreed upon a ‘need’ even though they may become buyers later, or even really need your solution.

  5. Your content/selling push assumes that with the right content and message, offered to the right demographic, at the right time, focused on the right need -> purchase scenario, you’ll get in/close – but you’re only reaching those few who are ready OR those in the midst of their research (who may never buy but may call you with questions or take an appointment). They won’t even read or heed your outreach.

  6. You’re using a ‘need’ and ‘solution-placement’ filter which restricts your results 95% of the time, causing you (beyond all logic) to push push push push harder or better, against a closed system of people and policies that’s not ready, willing, able to buy.

The problem is not your solution (It’s great. And people can find the content they need on line when they’re ready.); the problem is that the sales model places solutions with people who need them, but does nothing to help facilitate the change elements people traverse en route to becoming buyers and are not buyers yet. Here are the main stages people execute as they seek to resolve a problem (The full set of steps are laid out in my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.):

  1. Assemble the full set of stakeholders (including “Joe in accounting”) who spend time understanding the scope of the problem, how it got initiated, and how it maintains itself;

  2. Once a problem is defined by all stakeholders, the group tries to resolve the issue with familiar resources to minimize fallout. (This is where they might contact you with questions. They’re doing research, not buying.)

  3. Once it’s decided to seek an external solution, they must find a route to resolution that maintains Systems Congruence. So if your users refuse new technology, or your teams function well as they are, you might find a way around a purchase if the disruption is too great. An Outsider can never understand the unique nature of internal dynamics. Can I ever really understand why you don’t stop smoking, or stay in a dysfunctional relationship, or stay in a job/relationship that makes you miserable? Change is always personal.

Notice how these stages are change- and systems-focused, and not accessible to Outsiders with a ‘sales’ hat on. And until they are addressed, there’s no ‘need’ and no ‘buyer’. Btw, I developed these stages decades ago; they apply to anyone making a decision including coaching clients, patients, and employees, and all buying situations regardless of the size of the change/purchase. Whether you merely need to buy a new phone, or go through a merger, the steps of change must be traversed in a way that maintains the status quo (even when it’s unconscious) regardless of need. You wait while people do this anyway; why not find those who CAN become buyers (rather than ‘should’), facilitate their change quickly, and be there with them as they buy – and be with them as they figure out their own unique strategies for change – so long as you avoid trying to sell anything as they’re not buyers yet.

Is it sales? No. It’s a Change Facilitation process I call Buying Facilitation®. By first enabling people to facilitate their buying decision path, you’ll have less competition, close more, stop wasting time selling to those who can never buy, and be true Servant Leaders; you can use your technology, your content marketing, your sales efforts as you are now, but with an additional focus.

WHY AREN’T THEY BUYING? SDM ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS

Using the above thinking, here’s a ‘Q&A’ to help you better understand why you’re getting the results you’re getting.

What’s wrong with seeking buyers to place our solutions? Isn’t that what sales is?

Sales is perfect for finding and educating buyers with a need, but not for facilitating the buying decision path. There’s a 13 step decision path between recognition of a problem and a purchase. Sales only handles the limited portion (steps 10-13) that occurs once people reach the point where a purchase is their only option AND they have buy in from the full complement of stakeholders for non-disruptive change (step 9) (Think about it. You won’t buy a new car, or a new X, until you’ve tried to fix the one you’ve got, AND you have the funds now, AND your spouse/team agrees, AND you’ll still function as well with the new item.). No Outsider can make these determinations, they’re not based on buying anything, and your content is irrelevant until then.

Why do they keep talking to me if they’re not going to buy?

Until the entire scope of change is understood and integrated, people don’t understand the perimeters of their need (and when you ask biased questions, the flawed answers you receive often cause you to chase those who will never buy). Before becoming buyers, people must recognize that the cost of change (buying) is less than maintaining the status quo: their ‘system’ is sacrosanct. Would you buy a new car if your spouse would divorce you? Would you bring in a new CRM system if half of your user team would quit, or refuse to use it, or until the tech folks have the time to implement? You know you have to go to the gym more, and eat/drink less. You’ve got a need. Have you signed up for the gym? Stopped drinking beer?

Why are we still getting such a low close rate when we’ve got so many terrific tools at our disposal to introduce our features AND find the right demographic?

Because only a small percent of people you focus on are buyers. Until they’re out of other options AND determined they must bring in something from outside AND have all of their internal ducks in a row, AND have buy-in (Buyer Readiness), your tools aren’t recognized.

Why do they keep talking to me if they’re not going to buy?

During their change process, people research all possibilities. Your solution may be one of them; they’re actually using you for reference to report back to their team, or to figure out their own workarounds, or mention to their current vendor. It’s possible to know on the first call who will be a buyer and who is merely seeking data that will never lead to a purchase – but not with a solution-placement focus.

Why don’t buyers realize they need our solution when it seems so obvious?

It’s only ‘obvious’ to you. The best content, the most relevant solution, will be ignored until they reach step 10 when they become buyers.

Why is the sales cycle so long when there is a solid need/solution match?

The time people take to figure out how to manage change congruently is the length of the sales cycle. As Outsiders, we can never understand the depth of the change management issues: Who is fighting with who? What is the tech schedule? Who will need to be let go? How do internal politics show up? How does their history/future factor in?

The system that holds the problem in place is much more powerful than any solution you can offer. They need buy-in from EVERYONE and EVERYTHING that created the status quo and will touch the new solution. You’ll never recognize “Joe from accounting” who is an unsung influencer, or the fight going on between the sales and marketing folks who need to share budget. It’s not about their need – until it is. And they can’t tell you because they don’t know, or they won’t have found the nut of the problem yet, or you’re asking the wrong questions biased by your need to sell.

Why do buyers make promises they don’t keep? Are all buyers liars?

Buyers don’t lie. The one person you’re speaking with is responding to your biased questions, getting out of the thrust of your sales push, and is giving you the best data they’re willing to give you, or as much data as they have at that point in their 13 step change path. Whatever data they offer is limited by their access to the full Buying Decision Team, and the stage they’re at in their change management. You are, after all, strangers approaching them with a solution placement hat on, asking the wrong questions to the wrong people at the wrong time. As an Outsider you can never, ever have a clue as per the political, personal, strategic decision issues they face. But you can understand they system they decide in, a per your expertise in your field.

Why isn’t our great content being read or acted upon by the larger audience who really needs it?

Needs it according to who? Your research? Your biased questions? Your focus on placing solutions limits your audience and keeps you from getting into the decision path earlier. Are they at the point of seeking workarounds? Is there a team buy-in problem? Have they forgotten to assemble some of the appropriate stakeholders? Are they finding a glitch (political, personal, management-based, etc.)? Your sales, marketing, content, and technology restricts your target market to the low hanging fruit who have clearly defined their need, know they cannot fix their own problem, and have a route to congruent change.

When I gather info about a need, and it seems obvious there is one, what am I missing?

You’re merely asking biased questions to elicit the data YOU want to elicit from one person or a few research visits to your site, to find people who SEEM like they have a ‘need’ and spend a lot of resource chasing after them whether they are real buyers or not. Plus, because someone has a need doesn’t mean they are ready, willing, or able to buy; because the one person on the team you’re speaking with does NOT seem to have a need, doesn’t mean they don’t have one. You’re a solution looking for a problem. Enter first with a Facilitator hat on, help those that CAN/WILL become buyers traverse the route to change, and THEN sell.

  It’s not as hard as you think. I developed a new form of unbiased question (Facilitative Question) to facilitate change (part of the Buying Facilitation® process) and pose these down the Pre-Sales steps to help the ‘right’ people become buyers. Here are two examples of responses to a Facilitative Question used on a first call. I bet you can tell which one CAN buy:

SDM: How are you currently adding more tools and capability to your sales team for those times you seek to reach an expanded market?

SALES DIRECTOR #1: I read a couple of sales books annually. If I like them, I’ll pass them on to my sales managers and tell them to get the sellers to read them, and run meetings to discuss their takeaways [Note: this was a real response.]

SALES DIRECTOR #2: I’ve had a helluva time trying to find new tools to use. I’ve tried several, and keep getting the same results. I’d be glad to use something new if I could be assured it was really new, and it would work.

My opening FQ, different for each situaltion, begins by shining a light on the system the person is operating in, and provides an invaluable insight into the state of possible change. It also begins making the person a Coach/Witness to her own status quo by asking for an overview of the system. This particular FQ helps #2 take an unbiased view of how she’s managed change until now. Buying Facilitation® then proceeds down her change steps so she can address each step efficiently, with me by her side. Director #1 had a need, but wasn’t a buyer.

When I form a wonderful relationship with a potential buyer with a need, where does he go? He seems to take calls and stay in touch, and then disappears. Where does he go?

He was never a buyer. He either couldn’t get the buy-in from the Buying Decision Team (BDT), or came up with an alternative solution, or decided not to move forward because the cost of disruption was too high. He stays in touch as long as there is a possibility he needs to buy something (he hasn’t yet gotten team agreement or become a buyer), or so long as the data you’re offering is useful to their ultimate decisions. 80% of our prospective buyers will buy a solution similar to ours within 2 years of our connection. That means they had a need but couldn’t figure out how to congruently manage the change.

When I’m months into a sale, and everything that was going well suddenly stops, where did it go?

See above. The person wasn’t really a buyer yet or the team wasn’t bought-in to change.

Are buyers spending a lot of time trialing and speaking to other providers before they choose us?

Possibly. People research the best alternatives to managing change with the least disruption.

Why aren’t we more successful when we check that they’ve brought in all stakeholders and help them achieve buy in? That’s managing Buyer Readiness, no?

You’re an Outsider. You’ll never understand what’s going on; the questions you pose and the direction you offer are solution placement based; you listen with a biased ear, etc. (Seriously: Read Dirty Little Secrets then call me and I’ll teach you how to do it.) Did they bring in “Joe from accounting”? How are they managing the fight between sales and marketing? Oh – one other big reason: you’re merely speaking with one, at most two, people; you have no reach through the sales model to facilitate change. I can’t say this enough: you’re an Outsider.

If you start as a Neutral Navigator, listen for systems and facilitate them through their OWN decisions with NO BIAS to selling, you can quickly find and serve those who WILL become buyers and help them efficiently manage change. Using Buying Facilitation® KPMG went from a 3 year sales cycle to a 4 month sales cycle with a $50,000,000 solution; Wachovia small business bankers went from a 2% close over 11 months to a 29% close over 3 months; Kaiser went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales.  By adding BF to their dummy terminals, Barclay’s helped customers define, and buy, the exact solutions they needed. Help them traverse their change path and sell to those who will buy.

Why don’t more people show up at appointments? Why are so many buyers reluctant to take appointments?

  1. All of the stakeholders aren’t involved yet so they don’t even have a clear, complete description of ‘need’. Those who take appointments are doing research (and do WHAT? with your content) and haven’t gotten team buy-in, or the full decision team isn’t on board yet;

  2. They know from the first moment of a call that you’ll be pushing YOUR solution and not facilitating them in discovering THEIR own solution. It’s only if you can be an asset to them that they’ll be willing to see you.

What’s wrong with trying to place a solution by ‘understanding need’, or creating a need, or selling?

You can do that, for those who are already buyers understand their need.

I’ve paid a fortune for technology, research into demographics, opportunity management software, scripts, and experienced sales folks – but I’m still not closing all I deserve to close. Why?

Because your efforts are focused on ‘buyer’ ‘need’, and neither of those necessarily correlate with buying anything for those who aren’t yet buyers.

How does Buying Facilitation® find, and close, more real buyers?

            Buying Facilitation® 
is a Change Facilitation model that works with sales (and coaching, etc.) and includes Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, Presumptive Summaries – wholly different skill sets than sales, and includes no bias. It traverses the first 9 steps of change management, in the ares your solution operates in, beginning with immediately ascertaining who is set up to be able to buy, or has a possibility of systemic change and then teaches them precisely how to discover their path to change. By adding BF you not only find the right buyers, but teach those who may not have been able to buy how to facilitate change.  

           With Director #1 above, it would take so long to convince him that his plan was flawed, and then get the other managers who have complied with his plan to acceded to change, that it’s not worth the effort. BF progresses down the change steps and teaches them how to bring in the right people, discover if workarounds are worthwhile, and why they haven’t worked until now. Then it helps them determine how change would need to be addressed – and with BF you can do this on the first call. It will ignore the ones who will never buy, and help the real buyers be ready to buy. So much easier than finding those relative few who have already done this. And it’s much easier than it sounds: you’re just not used to it yet.

IN CONCLUSION

Here is a rule: as long as the sales model tries to ‘find buyers’ and ‘place solutions’, you’ll never sell to anyone other than those who have determined they’re buyers, leaving you continuing to push your solution into their closed system. You can

  • discover who is, or will be, starting down the journey that will lead to a decision to purchase something,

  • figure out, with a change management hat on, what the journey in your industry, and among your buying market, looks like (or call me and I’ll help),

  • then enter with those few on their change journey as they quickly (with your help) figure out how to manage stakeholders, buy-in, workarounds, etc. and become buyers.

By adding outreach, vocabulary, content, that first focuses on facilitating the buying decision path earlier you’ll enlarge your range of buyers by 5x. After all, people must do this anyway before becoming buyers; we might as well join them where they are and facilitate the right ones.

Call me. Together, we can create content, software, scripts to find the right ones – those who WILL become buyers – and facilitate them down their decision path toward effective change and buying.

____________

For more reading on the subject, here are some ideas: Practical Decision Making, Questioning Questions, Buyer’s Journey, Do You Want to Sell? Or Have Someone Buy? , Influencers vs Facilitators. Or contact me to discuss. Am happy to share what I know. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader and original thinker, as well as the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She has designed a Change Facilitation process for sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, health care, leadership, change management, and influencing, training it to such companies as DuPont (8,000 people), KPMG (6,000 people), Wachovia, Kaiser, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, IBM, P&G, Sandler Sales, ATT, Bethlehem Steel, Sandia Labs. Her blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com is recognized as one of the top business blogs, with articles on decision making, listening, questions, sales, coaching, etc. She is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and coach. Sharon Drew can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

September 11th, 2017

Posted In: Change Management, Sales

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opportunityThe hot new sales tool is Opportunity Management automation. Just another in a long list of New New Things that seem like THE answer to THE way to efficiently close more sales. But is it? Over the past 10 or so years you’ve tried Buyer Personas, Understanding Need, marketing automation, Relationship Management, Trusted Advisor, Challenger, Sandler, SPIN, and lots of technology to push content. All hoping hoping hoping that THIS is ‘the one’ that will help you close more. But you’ve ended up with the same 5% close rate you’ve had for decades (It used to be 7%, remember?), regardless of the approach or the way an opportunity is managed.

Don’t get me wrong: opportunity management apps help sellers optimize their time and track results. But to what end? The tools can’t close more sales if the opportunity itself is flawed. What if you could find more viable opportunities by expanding your definition of ‘opportunity’?

WHAT’S AN OPPORTUNITY?

As I’m sure you’re aware, an ‘opportunity’ is often not an opportunity at all, or has only a small chance of being one. What if buyers aren’t your target audience? What if the larger opportunity is in a different place along the buying decision journey?

With the sales model based on entry points of ‘buyer’, ‘need’, Buyer Personas, and ‘need/solution’ match it’s impossible to close anyone but the low hanging fruit – buyers seeking a solution. This definition

  • restricts your close rate to those people or groups who have gotten themselves ready to bring in an outside solution (5% with sales outreach; 0.00059% of online marketing outreach) and are ready, willing, and able to buy;
  • assumes that those with a seeming ‘need’ is a prospect (They’re not. ‘Need’ does not equal ‘Buyer’ – but you know that by now);
  • focuses questions, content, and relationship-creating skills with a bias toward placing a solution (ignoring the vital non-solution, systemic, change management, Pre-Sales steps that have no relevance to, but precede, buying anything);
  • doesn’t sort for differences between someone who is strategically en route to becoming a buyer vs someone you’ve determined SHOULD buy and has a 95% chance of NOT buying;
  • uses tools to pushpushpush what YOU want to sell (into a prospect’s private, personal, closed system of cultural norms and givens that outsiders aren’t part of), and closing merely 5%;

and restricts you from finding those who WILL close, aren’t quite ready, and could use your help efficiently getting there. The confusing part for sellers is that these folks – these real, potential buyers – are off your screen: they aren’t buyers, aren’t seeking a solution, haven’t determined they want to buy anything yet, haven’t yet fully determined the scope of their need, aren’t attracted by your content.

And therein lies the rub: before people become buyers they merely want to resolve a problem in the most efficacious way and their route to competence is initially not directly related to what you’re selling. Before people become buyers, before there is a sales opportunity, they must first conclude there is absolutely no route to resolving their problems with known resources AND have a route through to congruent change – internal adoption, buy-in, Systems Congruence, and change management. The last thing they want to do is go outside their system to buy anything – they never start out as buyers until they run out of options to fix a problem themselves. By putting on a wholly different hat, we can find and facilitate the ones who will BECOME buyers and vastly increase our pool of opportunities. But we can’t use a ‘sales’ hat to find them.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT PRECEDES BUYING

A buying decision is a change management problem first before it’s needs- solution-based. Buyers are merely people who have gotten to the point in their change management procedures when an external solution (i.e. making a purchase) is their only viable alternative to Excellence. The fact that people have a ‘need’ that your solution can resolve does NOT mean they are, or will ever be, ready, willing, or able to buy. There is a 95% chance that those who seem like buyers aren’t buyers at the point where your content finds them. And sadly, your content won’t get them there: they won’t even notice it because they’re not yet looking for it even though they may eventually seek it.

It’s possible to shift the ‘opportunity’ criteria to people who WILL be buyers but aren’t ones yet – and know how to recognize real buyers from ‘tire kickers’ on the first contact; there are far easier entry points into a buyer/seller dialogue than what might seem to the outsider like a ‘need’.

Before becoming a buyer, or having a fully defined need, people traverse a specific path (I’ve spent decades coding and defining, training and testing, the 13 steps in a buying decision path, as explained in www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com) between recognizing a problem, assembling the proper stakeholders to buy-in, managing any negative consequences of change, and deciding to make a purchase; they become buyers only at step 10 once they agree that making a purchase is their best option.

In other words, there are 9 non-buying change management (Pre-Sales) steps people take as they figure out how to congruently solve their problem and manage the change an external factor will cause. Using a Change Facilitation lens, with a bias toward the steps of congruent change, we can enter earlier to efficiently facilitate real prospective buyers and be part of their system as they begin the buying process. It’s possible to expand your criteria and tool kit to connect along different stages of the decision journey and recognize/facilitate exactly who WILL become buyers but aren’t there yet. But your initial focus must be systemic change, not selling. Different questions, different listening.

Using ‘need’ and ‘solution placement’ criteria, the only way to attract an opportunity is to find those relative few who have gotten to the point of recognizing they cannot resolve their own problem. Until then, they cannot buy: they haven’t fully defined a ‘need’, don’t have their full Buying Decision Team (BDT) in place, haven’t gotten buy-in, and aren’t actively seeking to buy anything. Selling is tactical: buying is strategic.

WHO IS A BUYER?

Think along with me for a moment. A person or group doesn’t become a buyer unless they’ve determined they cannot fix their problem themselves with familiar resources AND they are set up (environment, culture, technology, implementation, buy-in) to manage any fallout from having a foreign element (a purchase) enter their system. Maintaining Systems Congruence is vital; the last thing, literally, that a person wants is to buy anything due to the possibility of disrupting their status quo that is functioning ‘well-enough’. Indeed until they

  • have a plan to manage their strategic, idiosyncratic, private activities and are convinced they will end up with Systems Congruence;
  • have assembled their full complement of stakeholders and understand their full complement of buy-in and change issues (including ‘need’);
  • are congruently ready to seek purchasing options;

they’re only ‘people’ meandering through a confounding route to Excellence, facing political issues, personnel/personal issues, buy-in issues, tech integration issues, etc. They’re not buyers regardless of what you consider to be an ‘opportunity’, how many appointments you make, or how well the folks like you. And the way sales is implemented and biased toward solution placement, the questions posed, the answers sought, you’re only seeking and attracting those who have already reached step 10 and consider themselves buyers.

What’s the difference between an ‘opportunity’ and one that’s NOT an opportunity?

  1. There’s no opportunity to place a solution with a prospect until they’vea. fully assembled their entire BDT including ‘Joe’ in the back office who you never get to speak with but who’s a huge influencer,
    b. tried workarounds to fix the problem themselves with familiar resources,
    c. fully recognized the change management issues that would potentially cause a breakdown should they bring anything in (buy something) without appropriate change management and
    d. determined that the cost of a purchase is less than continuing their status quo.
  1. With a bias toward placing a solution, you try to ‘get in’, ‘find a need’ and ‘have a relationship’  based on your desire to sell, gathering biased, wrong or incomplete data, leading to false assumptions of Buyer Readiness. Until they’re buyers, they haven’t fully defined their need or what it would take to fix (although BDT members might research your solution or reach out to you to gain knowledge).
  2. When you make an appointment to ‘begin a relationship’ and the full BDT is not present, you are neither connecting nor starting a relationship. What portion of the BDT does the person you’re meeting with represent? Where are they along their decision path? How do you know the rest of the full BDT agrees with that assessment?  How will they use, or convey, the data you present? Are you pitching what THEY need to hear to address their internal change problems?
  3. Until the prospects recognize they cannot fix their problem with known resources AND have a strategic plan to implement any necessary change that a new solution might cause (even for a cheap, or personal, or small, item), they’re not buyers. Just because you think there’s a need doesn’t mean they will end up buying anything.
  4. On route to fixing a problem with known resources, people often have a plethora of choices that you’re not familiar with that may provide them with a congruent outcome that does NOT include a purchase. I can’t say this enough; the last thing people need is to bring in an unfamiliar vendor/product: the cost of disruption may not be worth the price of a fix.

Your identification of an ‘opportunity’ is currently based on your biases, assumptions, conversations with a fraction of the full BDT, assessments, research, etc. based on the fit that YOU perceive between what YOU’VE determined (or that one outlier from the BDT) they need – and your solution. What you think is an opportunity most likely isn’t. Otherwise you’d be closing more than 5%. Data collected from my control groups when I train show it’s possible to close about 5X more than you’re closing now by entering earlier along their change path and using a Change Facilitation skill first. More on this in a moment.

WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY SOUNDS LIKE

Here’s what you’ll hear when there is a real opportunity (and yes, even on the first call, using a Change Facilitation skill set focus):

  1. All stakeholders are on board already. When you speak with someone who still needs approval, or hasn’t assembled the full complement of stakeholders yet (and even your prospects often don’t know the full complement of stakeholders). Note to sellers: you cannot ask someone specifically if their BDT is fully on board – they won’t know , and can’t offer, an accurate answer until near the end of their journey. But you can help them assemble the right people quickly – just not with the sales model. They always forget ‘Joe’ and HR, for example, and then must go back to the beginning;
  2. All change management elements are recognized with a plan to move forward. I.e.: the users are developing their criteria for a new piece of software, and the techies have a specific integration and implementation plan; participants for a training program are ready to interview you to see if you meet their criteria, etc. In other words, they’re aware of their stumbling points and are already in the process of handling them;
  3. The prospect wants to set up a meeting with you and the rest of the Buying Decision Team to discuss their expectations and criteria for choosing you.

When you make an appointment with only one or two people you don’t have a real opportunity. If the person you’re speaking with thinks s/he has a need but hasn’t gotten team buy-in yet, or doesn’t know the complete set of potential disruptors that need managing, there’s no opportunity. If your prospect is going to take your information back to the boss/manager, there’s no opportunity. If a prospect calls you for information, there’s most likely no opportunity (although you can use this time to begin the Change Facilitation process).

I don’t consider a 95% failure rate success; you’ve just convinced yourself that this is the way it is for your industry. Let’s change it to be more successful. Instead of running after people once they become buyers, why not find those who are already en route to buying, use a different focus and new skill set such as Buying Facilitation® (the model I’ve developed to handle Pre-Sales Change Facilitation) or some change management tool to enter earlier in their change/decision journey, quickly facilitate them through their change, and THEN sell.

It’s not rocket science. You’re current selling/solution-placement modality restricts you to fighting for those who have defined themselves as buyers. People really need help determining how to change congruently. But the time it takes them to do so is the length of the sales cycle. You’re wasting your time chasing the 5% and ignoring the 80% of prospective buyers who WILL buy within two years of connecting with you but can’t until they’ve got their ducks in a row. But you can hasten their journey by first becoming Neutral Navigators doing a Change Facilitation process and THEN wear a ‘seller’ hat. Then you’ll stop wasting time and resource with those who aren’t buyers and truly serve those who WILL buy become buyers much quicker. But no amount of content, relationship, or Opportunity Management will force those who aren’t, or who will never be, ready. You’re waiting while people do this anyway. Help them. Close more. And have more opportunities to manage.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of a Change Facilitation model used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, healthcare, and management. She’s been running Buying Facilitation® and How Buyers Buy training programs in global corporations since 1985. She is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell,and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has trained over 100,000 sales people globally, and is currently running Listening programs to facilitate unbiased listening. Her blog is consistently ranked in the top 10 of all sales/marketing blogs. Sharon Drew is considered an original thinker and thought leader, doing keynotes, coaching, and consulting to enable servant leader skills. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

August 28th, 2017

Posted In: Change Management, News, Sales

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Think changeIn the late 1970s, I approached my studies for an MSc in Health Sciences (Community Health Education) 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, but now have merely a passing understanding of what’s going on. Lately I’ve had some opportunities to look more intimately into the healthcare profession/industry, and I’m both gladdened and saddened.

On the plus side, there’s a committed effort in this country to assist the under-served. Food services that offer nutrition to hospitals and training in healthy eating for patients; outpatient groups 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. (How could I have known this? News sources focus on the bad stuff.). Esther Dyson’s Wellville.net, for example, even lets us track the progress of 5 groups of caregivers around the US as they design and implement innovative projects to promote preventative health care. We’re on our way to understanding that prevention is preferable to relying on 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 change and choice – are facing non-compliance: even with adequate funding, multi-faceted prevention services, and supervised support, patients are not adopting the necessary changes that have the capability of making a difference in their long term health. What’s going on?

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. Let me begin with a brief discussion of change and how our ‘system’, our status quo, fights to remain stable regardless of its (in)effectiveness. Buy-in is a change management problem.

STATUS QUO

We’re intelligent. We know smoking and sugar are bad, that exercise and fresh veggies are good. Yet we continue to smoke and eat sweets. 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 even before we start that the odds of success are against us, and blaming the Other for non-compliance.

We all tend to continue our current behaviors, hoping we’ll get different results (Hello, Einstein.), finding things to blame, or new approaches using the same thinking. The problem is that any change is a systems problem that demands buy-in from the very rules that created the status quo. And buy-in is much more intricate than knowing there’s a problem, or offering good ideas and recommendations, or getting people to sign up for healthful activities.

Let’s look at the problem from a different lens. Let’s understand why people keep doing what they do, regardless of any evidence that points to a need for other options.Each person, each family (everyone, actually), is idiosyncratic but made congruent through an internal – often unconscious – system of rules and goals, beliefs and values, history and foundational norms. It’s 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, and will do whatever it takes to remain its own unique brand of congruent.

Any proposed change challenges the status quo, offering a potentially disruptive outcome. 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 desert 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

  • 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 recognizes that change can be accomplished without permanent disruption to who they are and how they live, 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 your solution. [Note: I’ve been teaching the same premise to sales folks and coaches for decades.]

Why isn’t a rational argument, or an obvious problem, enough to inspire behavior change? Because we’re dealing with long-held patterns, habits, and normalized activities and beliefs that represent the status quo and identity of the person. 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 itself congruently.

THE INTRICACY OF BUY-IN

With the best will in the world, we’re trying to cause change in the wrong place, in the wrong way, at the wrong time. We try to offer new choices, new behaviors, before we have enabled internal, unconscious agreement to change. And here’s the interesting bit: behaviors will change themselves once the core beliefs have shifted (i.e. I must go to the gym because I’m a Healthy Person, as that’s one way I define Healthy. And I hate going. But I must because I’m a Healthy Person.). By focusing on behavior change before facilitating belief change, our approach is actually creating resistance because our status quo must, by the laws of Systems Congruence, maintain our status quo at all costs (literally).

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

It’s the same with any human change: failure ensues when we focus on changing the output of the program (in this case, behaviors) rather than focusing first on adapting the source. Like a dummy terminal, our behaviors only do what its programming allows them to do. Trying to explain why a different output, or behavior, is necessary is useless, even when our information is ‘rational’ or ‘right’.

Here’s what happens. When influencers believe that if they share, advise, gather, or promote the right information in the right way, using the right words and offering good rational reasons why change is necessary, Others will comply. But our patients

  • 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 currently outside their norm;
  • lose trust in us when we push them.

Our patients cannot even consider, understand, or recognize the validity of, our information appropriately. Everyone actually listens through biased filters that only allow us to hear what our brain determines it wants to hear to maintain our status quo; our brains filter in/out at will, leaving out concepts, words, meaning, and adding in concepts, words, meaning. We all do this unconsciously, leaving us to assume that what we hear is what’s been said. (Note: I just wrote a book about this – What? Did you really say what I think I heard? – and was quite surprised to learn how effectively our listening controls our status quo.) So my brain might tell me you said ABX when you actually meant ABC, and I believe my brain is accurate (and it didn’t tell me what it left out) and you’re the one who remembered it wrong. We’re offering data that can’t even be heard or absorbed appropriately.

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 change themselves; change can’t come from the outside. Instead of seeking better and better ways to offer plans, rules, and advice (and getting rejected and ignored), we must help people make their own discoveries and systemic changes and design a path to their own change so they can remain congruent. The sad truth that all influencers must understand is that the need for Systems Congruence is of greater importance (unconsciously) to the system than the need for change, regardless of how necessary the change is. That’s how people end up refusing smoking cessation programs when they have lung cancer, or continuing to eat unhealthful foods with diabetes (or voting for candidates that go against our best interest).

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 but hasn’t consistently switched to the new behavior) 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 (Note: these below exemplify only a portion of what would need to be included on forms, in groups, etc.):

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. It uses no information gathering and has no bias. 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, we can enable the group 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 the trust/belief that the professional has the patient’s success in mind, rather than a dependence on the information (and viewpoint) they wish to espouse.

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 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 Making; Questioning Questions; Trust – what is it an how to initiate it; Resistance to Guidance; Influencers vs Facilitators.

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Sharon Drew Morgen is a Change Facilitator, specializing in buy-in and change management. She is well known for her original thinking in sales (Buying Facilitation®) and listening (www.didihearyou.com). She currently designs scripts, programs, and materials, and coaches teams, for several industries to enable true buy-in and collaboration. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard. Sharon Drew has worked with dozens of global corporations as a consultant, trainer, coach, and speaker. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 771 1117

July 10th, 2017

Posted In: Change Management

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