By Sharon Drew Morgen

customer-1

Recently I listened while a coaching client pitched his solution precisely when he could have facilitated his prospect through the contingent issues she had to handle before she could buy anything.

SDM: Why did you pitch when you pitched?

CL: It gave me control over the conversation, and gave her the data she needed to understand why she should buy.

SDM: So what sort of control did you achieve?

CL: Now she knows how our solution will meet her needs.

SDM: Do you know if she heard you? Did your pitch convince her to buy from you? How do you know she knows she needs your solution? Has she assembled the appropriate folks to begin discussing problems or a need for change? Have they already tried a workaround that proved impractical and now must consider making a purchase? Have they resolved any implementation/user issues that a new solution would cause? Have they reached consensus?

You’re assuming a need before the buyer gets her ducks in a row: she can’t understand her needs until she’s handled her contingent change issues;  she can’t hear about possible solutions – your pitch – until she knows what to listen for.

Just because she fits your buyer profile doesn’t mean she’s a prospect. A prospect is someone who will buy, not someone who should buy. You spend too much time chasing folks who fit a profile but will never buy; you can’t recognize a real buyer because you’re only listening for ‘need’. And that stops you from finding those who will become buyers but may have not completed their buying decision process.

This prospect can’t do anything with your information – unless you got lucky, and found one of the few (5%) who have completed their groundwork at the moment you connect with them. Making a purchase is the very last thing people do once they realize they have a problem they can’t resolve and have gotten stakeholder buy in to make a purchase.

CL: I know what they need.

SDM: That’s not possible. She doesn’t know what she needs yet; she can’t until the full stakeholder team is on board and fully discusses all the angles of the problem. You don’t know her buyer readiness or if she’s representing everyone else involved or where/if the team is stuck somewhere along the Buying Decision Path. You don’t live with them; only they can amalgamate all of the voices, givens, change issues, or future considerations and come up with the full fact pattern of a ‘need.’ People merely want to resolve a problem, not make a purchase.

CL: But our solution is a perfect match for her needs.

SDM: Your solution might seem like that to you, but in fact it’s not yet clear what it seems like for her! Especially since not all the stakeholders are involved yet. She doesn’t even know the full fact pattern yet, not to mention she hasn’t gotten agreement from the Buying Decision Team. She’s got a lot of work to do before she’s ready.

Instead of first focusing on selling, start as an unbiased coach and lead her through the decision issues she’d have to handle before being ready to purchase anything. Put on a ‘change management’ hat before your ‘seller’ hat, and begin by facilitating her route through consensus and change. Then you’ll be there at the right time with real prospects and never waste time on those who can’t buy. You could even speed up the decision path and find those who would have bought later once they had their ducks in a row. I’m not telling you not to sell, but to facilitate the buying first. They are two different things and you need to do both.

CL: I have no idea where she is along her Decision Path. Isn’t that just price, vendor or solution choice?

SDM: Solution choice is the last thing she’ll do. She must first assemble everyone to design a solution that fits everyone’s needs and avoids major disruption. Folks would much rather maintain their status quo if the price of change is too high – and you can help her manage her change efficiently so she’s ready to buy.

She has to do this stuff anyway, so instead of waiting while she does it, you might as well facilitate her through, and be part of, her discovery process.

Giving her data too early doesn’t help: no matter how good or relevant your data is it’s useless until all stakeholders are on board, they’ve carefully determined they can’t fix their problem without some outside help, and they know how to bring in something new without causing major disruption. Until then, they win’t even accurately hear your solution details because they won’t consider themselves buyers.

This is the length of the sales cycle. Be involved early as a Buying Facilitator and have real control. Or keep closing the same 5% that show up as the low hanging fruit.

WHAT CONTROL DO YOU HAVE?

Focusing on understanding, and biasing material toward ‘needs’ is specious: we’re outsiders and can never understand the unique composition of anyone else’s culture that has created, and maintains, what you consider the ‘need’ and they most likely consider their status quo because they’ve lived with the problem for so long. Even if it looks like a ‘need’ to us, it might be business as usual to them and we certainly have no control over that.

As sellers or influencers, here’s what we’ve got control over: pitch, solution data, content, questions, listening biases, assumptions.

Here’s what we can’t control: The prospect’s internal ill-defined decision-making process; the assembly of the people, problems, vendor issues, interdepartmental politics, relationships, balance sheets, corporate/team rules; their history; what criteria a solution must meet; consensus and change issues.

Until buyers make sense of this they can’t responsibly buy. No matter how good our content, presentation, pitch, or marketing is, it will only be heard by those ready for it and then you’re playing a numbers game. By trying to control the elements YOU think should be involved, or offering information/content where YOU believe it’s needed, or even thinking you can serve them and offering data to prove you can help, you’re restricting successful outcomes to your bias of what you want to achieve and will sell to only those who match your restricted criteria.

You can only ever have an outsider’s superficial understanding. Folks who need your solution but haven’t completed their change work will be turned off, not hear you, not understand how you can help, regardless of whether they need you or not. Even offering a price reduction will only attract those who have done their Pre-Sales change work first. The cost of change is higher than your price reduction.

You have no control over others; mentioning your solution details doesn’t give you control over the Buying Decision Path; trying to provide value is meaningless because you gave no way of knowing what they might consider value.

You can, however, have real control by first facilitating prospects who are considering change in the area your solution serves, down their Decision Path to manage change and select a solution that includes you as the natural provider – or eliminate them quickly if it becomes obvious they can’t ever buy.

So your choices are to either wait for those who’ve completed their Decision Path to show up, call/chase enough people to find those who are ready, or become a Buying Facilitator and help the real buyers through their path quickly and shorten the sales cycle.

Use your need for control to facilitate them in discovering their own best solution, not manipulate them into using yours. Where they are the same, you’ll make an easy sale.

____________

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

November 23rd, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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By any standards, I’m considered successful. A NYTimes bestselling author of 9 books, an inventor and thought leader, I’ve trained a very large number of people globally in a change facilitation model I invented for sales (Buying Facilitation®), started up a successful tech company in the 1980s and a non-profit that helped thousands of people walk again, and had my picture on the cover of magazines. I wrote a landmark book on hearing others without bias, and developed a revolutionary training model that enables learners to make permanent brain change.

But unless I’m referred, unless people have followed my work and know me, I’m patronized, condescended to, ignored, and dismissed in most settings. Why? Two reasons: A bit because my ideas challenge the norm and folks don’t fully understand them, and because  I have Asperger’s, and I relate and respond differently.

I’m told I’m intense, challenging, in your face. And I bet that’s all true, although I can’t tell because my way of relating seems normal to me. And then, maybe because I don’t conform to the norm, or because I’m a woman, people feel they have the right to disrespect me.

As a result, my important ideas about facilitating others through their own congruent change and decision-making – so necessary in healthcare, leadership, sales, coaching – get ignored, misinterpreted, stolen, or ridiculed. And it’s a shame, as these concepts are not only revolutionary, but important and would serve a vast number of people.

Often, the people who unwittingly disrespect or ignore me are the same people who fervently believe in treating others with respect and having a fair world. How do these folks forget their values when they actually come face to face with someone like me who is merely ‘different’? Where do their values go?

WE ALL SEEK TO BE KIND

In our workplaces, our social lives, the daily lives of our children, our schools, our communities, it’s more urgent than ever that we communicate/serve others with kindness and equanimity, that we become intentional. But getting it right is often like walking an obstacle course. We mean well, but sometimes we inadvertently get it wrong. We certainly don’t mean to.

Given our vantage point from the culture we identify with – with inbred norms and accepted behaviors – we sometimes unwittingly wound others from unfamiliar cultures because we don’t understand our differences.

Obviously we can’t stand in their shoes, try as we might. Sometimes we don’t have the knowledge to automatically behave correctly or recognize a misstep. Sometimes we unknowingly bias how we listen and wrongly interpret what they’ve said according to our subjective beliefs. And sometimes we don’t know for certain the correct action or communication approach.

I believe that if we operate from the universal values we all hold as human values, we will be more inclusive, less hurtful, be far more creative, and serve others. It’s time we learn to do the right thing.

Kindness. While our intent is usually to be kind, sometimes we unwittingly harm. How can we determine if our action will be experienced as hurtful or kind? For openers, we could stop making assumptions and begin dialogues by asking our communication partners for guidance on best communication styles, or ask to be told when/if we misstep.

Personally, I hear what’s said differently than neurotypicals, and respond accordingly – which often confuses others. When I see a quizzical look on someone’s face I immediately ask them what they heard me say. I wish I had the ability to avoid the misstep, especially when people walk away rather than discuss it with me to find a common language and acceptance.

To mitigate this problem I’ve learned to introduce myself thus: “I have Asperger’s, and sometimes my responses are too direct and can cause hurt. Please accept my apologies in advance. And please let me know if I’ve confused or annoyed you so I can make it right. I have no intention to harm you. Help me make it right so we can be connected.”

This usually works, and the incidents of miscommunication have drastically reduced. I understand that few people intend to be unkind, and don’t realize it when they are. But it begs the question: How can we all just show up as kind people and accept differences as merely interesting instead of challenging?

Willingness to hear diverse ideas. We often assume our communication approach, our beliefs, the words we choose, our norms, are ‘the right ones’ and forget that these ideas are ‘right’ only for us. What would you need to believe differently to willingly listen to ideas that are diverse?

This is a big one for me. As an original thinker I regularly run into people eager to dismiss me, unwilling to consider my ideas worthwhile rather than be curious enough to consider them. Recently, at a think tank filled with lots of other smart people, I met a neuroscientist doing research in an area my original ideas could enhance and where I know the field is stuck. When I offered one of my new ideas, he called me a liar, saying my ideas were impossible (after I’ve successfully trained it to thousands of people and written books on it).

When our idiosyncratic beliefs keep us from expanding our own knowledge base, we are not only harming ourselves but those who could benefit. Not to mention the world is restricted by the biases of those with the loudest voices and most acclaim along the lines of conventional thinking.

Curiosity. Our curiosity is biased by what we already know. It’s not even possible to be curious about something we know nothing, and therefore we restrict our sense of wonder. The best we can do is have our ears attuned to noticing when we hear something ‘new’ or ‘different’ or ‘odd’ and ask questions about it. The worse we can do is what too often happens: turn the other person off or put them down, preferring to be ‘safe’ with what we know.

It’s been quite ‘curious’ to me that when I tell others I’ve invented a new form of question (Facilitative Questions), a new form of training, or coded the physiology of change, I get disparaging looks, eye rolls, a derisive comment, and no curiosity. Seriously? Just imagine if I’m telling the truth! Consider the years folks like Da Vince, or Van Gogh, or Tesla had to struggle to get their new ideas accepted. All those wasted years we could have been learning from them while they were alive. What do you need to believe differently to be curious instead of disparaging?

Willingness to learn and change. This goes with curiosity. It’s about ego, about being smarterbetterrighter. One of the issues here is that our thinking follows the 1,000 trillion synapses in our brains that carry our existing behaviors and ideas. When confronted with something unusual, our brains automatically recruit existent synapses that don’t even know how to hear anything different and they automatically resist. But it’s possible to develop new pathways with new ideas. We just need to recognize when we don’t know something so we can have an eagerness to learn. How would you know when a new idea might be worth learning about?

Willingness to be wrong and apologize. This is a hard one. So many people need to be right. The only thing they get from that is staying in place, finding friends just like them, and restricting anything new that might cause disruption. We need to be humble. And yet we staunchly defend our ‘rightness’ rather than be wrong. This serves no one. What happens when you feel the need to defend yourself and be right? Are there any other choices available to you – like, being willing to be wrong?

Humility. What a concept. As an Aspie, I have no choice but to be humble. As soon as I see a quizzical look, or an annoyed face, I assume I’ve done something wrong. It’s about my brain, and I hate harming anyone, but I’ve primed myself to notice so I can take responsibility.

Unfortunately, the people who need to be right, better-than, and smarter-than assume I have an agenda, or I ‘have no humility’ or ‘who do you think you are anyway’ syndrome. Feeling superior feeds their ego I suppose so they can continue telling themselves they’re wonderful. Unfortunately, this restricts their own lives and potentially harms others. Who would you be if you lived each moment with humility?

Authenticity. So who are you? No, really. Are you willing to show up as you are? To get it wrong sometimes? To stand up for yourself? To be honest and vulnerable? As an Aspie, I live this way because frankly, I have no choice. But maybe you shouldn’t either. Maybe we all should show up as ourselves, with no pretention, no shield. What would you need to believe differently to be willing to really show up?

Equality. One of the things I’ve learned as a Buddhist and practicing Quaker is that we’re all the same, but responsible for different things. We all want health, happiness, respect, love, friends, a roof over our heads, safety, success for our children, enough money to live comfortably and eat, good work and a little bit of fun every now and again.

I used to date a FedEx driver. I earned in a day what he earned in a year. Our professions, life experiences, education, cultures, certainly didn’t match. But he was a brilliant woodcrafter, had the kindest heart I’ve ever experienced, and a knowledge of music that was encyclopedic. I learned a lot from him. We were equal. Humans, each doing the best we can. What would each of us need to believe differently to see worth and value in all others?

Imagine if each of us show up in each interaction authentically. No need to compete, or exhibit better-ness. No need to be right or smart. No need to be richer or ‘more’. Just people working, communicating, learning, growing, loving, creating together. I offer these givens:

* Connect not compete * Questions not answers * Listening not talking * Responsibility not blame * Yes not no * Understanding not indifference * Respect not derision * Compassion not malice * Acceptance not dismissal * Possibility not risk

What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to show up authentically, with each communication partner a potential friend, leader, or role model, and each communication an opportunity to make the world a better place? To recognize everyone as having value, not as Other. It’s time to begin. Now. The world, our lives, depend on it.

____________

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

November 16th, 2020

Posted In: Listening, News

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conversation1 (1)Our brains make it difficult, if not impossible, to fully or accurately comprehend what our Communication Partners wish to convey. We hear their words, of course, but we often end up interpreting them well outside the intent of the Speaker. I spent 3 years researching and writing on this topic for a book, (What?) and came away in awe of the magnitude of this issue and how deeply our unconscious choices prejudice our conversations.

THE PROBLEM WITH GOAL-CENTERED LISTENING

As a coach to coaches, sellers, and managers, I’m painfully aware of how sellers often listen only to ‘recognize a need’, or coaches listen for a problem they’ve had success resolving before, or managers listen for a difficulty they know how to regulate.

By listening for something specific, we end up taking away a myth as meaning. With mischaracterized and potentially inaccurate data (compounded over the length of the conversation), we then have no accurate data with which to base follow-on decisions, not to mention that everyone potentially walks away from the conversation with mistaken beliefs, feelings, and expectations. And then we blame the Other for any failure. Sadly, because our brains don’t tell us they have misunderstood or biased what was meant (we actually believe we’ve ‘heard’ accurately), we’re rarely aware that we have missed the meaning or the possibility, until it’s too late.

TIPS TO LISTEN ACCURATELY

Here are some tips to create a discipline to help minimize any biases and assumptions that ambush your understanding of what others are saying:

  1. Prepare and De-stress. Before each conversation, clear your mind of any expectations or hopes, or feelings from past conversations. Otherwise your brain will unconsciously seek confirmation (Confirmation Bias) for that very thing while ignoring or misconstruing possibilities (minimizing your chances of success or creativity).
  2. Humility and humor. Unless you have written a script that everyone speaking has signed off on, you have no way of knowing what your Communication Partner will say, mean, need, or feel. I often hear people attempt to push their own agenda and don’t recognize what the Other has conveyed. Since there is no such thing as win/lose, this tends to create lose/lose, although the offended Communication Partner might not mention it during the conversation.
  3. Flexibility. All conversations demand flexibility to be present to the messages within the dialogue that actually occurs. The larger the bias or expectation going in, the harder it is to achieve, the greater the gap in understanding and expectation, and the greater the fallout from unrealized possibility.
  4. Trust. I know it’s hard to walk away without getting exactly what you want, or to hear things that don’t match your needs or expectations, but somewhere in the conversation there is a creative win for everyone. It may not look or act like your dream, but it will be something that everyone can accept. Besides, if you’re not trusting the dialogue actually occurring, you’re merely pushing your own agenda. And then you can’t even trust the outcome you’ve devised.

Unless both sides of a conversation fully understand what the Other intends to convey, there is no reality to work with and everyone risks unnecessary failure or limited possibility: it might have been possible to achieve success in a different way, or maintain a relationship over time for future possibilities. In almost every in-person coaching session I have had, my client has missed real possibilities (even of getting exactly what they want) in pursuit of hearing what they believe they should hear.

Here are some questions to think about as you consider adding some discipline to your listening skills:

  • How adept are you at entering conversations with no needs, no expectations, no biases?
  • How capable are you of showing up in a conversation with the ability to have a We Space – not two “I’s” which lead nowhere except self-serving exchanges, but a genuine melding of the people involved to find the win for all?
  • What do you need to believe differently to recognize that when you enter conversations with personal biases, assumptions, and triggers, that you will only succeed those times when the Other has the exact same biases, assumptions, and triggers – and all those who could truly benefit from your expertise and heart will not be able to hear you either (regardless of how well-meaning or accurate you are)?
  • How willing are you to learn to show up with an open mind, recognize when you have biases or expectations and quiet them before starting the exchange?
  • How can you react to something you’re not prepared for in a way that encourages collaborative dialogue?

You can continue doing what you’ve been doing, of course. But for those times you seek excellence in your conversations, a bit of preparation is in order.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author most recently of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?, as well as self-learning tools and an on-line team learning program – designed to both assess listening impediments and encourage the appropriate skills to accurately hear what others convey.

Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller ‘Selling with Integrity’ and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help Others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 articles that help sellers help buyers buy.
Sharon Drew can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

September 8th, 2020

Posted In: Listening

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With untold millions of sales professionals in the world, sellers play a role in any economy. While our jobs are nominally to place solutions, we are uniquely positioned to make a difference: as the intermediary between clients and providers, we can make sales a spiritual practice and become true facilitators and Servant Leaders (and close more sales).

WHAT’S WRONG WITH SALES?

The current sales model is a time-waster, restricts success, and is horribly inefficient. We close 5% of our sales and waste 95% of our time (approximately 130 hours a month per seller); our product data is well-represented online so pitches based on product details may be irrelevant; we connect with only those who are ready to buy, and ignore the possibility of facilitating and serving people en route to becoming buyers.

Until people have tried, and failed, to fix their problem themselves, and then figured out how to manage any disruption that a new solution might cause their environment,  they aren’t buyers. It’s only when:

  • they know exactly how to manage and recognize any change that bringing in something new creates,
  • they’ve calculated that the cost of bringing in something new is lower than the cost of maintaining the status quo,

will they seek help through a purchase. Indeed, buying is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.

People don’t want to buy anything, they merely seek excellence and will buy something only if that’s the only way to achieve it, and they are absolutely certain they cannot fit it themselves. And the sales model, using eyeballs, content, price, and needs assessments seeks to place solutions, ensuring that the only people they find are the low hanging fruit – those who have already gone through their process of determining they need an outside solution.

Because sales focuses on only the final steps of a buying decision, and overlooks the change process necessary to get to that point, it’s only possible to attract interest from those who have ended up there. Others who may need us eventually won’t even heed our messages, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. As a result, we end up closing 5% and wasting a helluva lot of time being ignored and rejected.

It’s not what we’re selling that’s the problem – our solutions are just fine. It’s the process of pushing solutions rather than first helping those who will become buyers facilitate their necessary change process that’s misplaced, mistimed, and misguided, leading to the win-lose quality of sales: sales becomes a product/solution push into a closed, resistive, private system, rather than an expansive, collaborative experience between seller and buyer wherein both attain a win-win.

And we end up seeking and closing only those ready to buy at the point of contact – unwittingly ignoring others who aren’t ready even though they may need our solutions, and just need to get their ducks in a row before they’re prepared to make a decision.

Imagine having a product-needs discussion about moving an iceberg and discussing only the tip. That’s sales; it doesn’t facilitate the entire range of hidden, unique change issues buyers must consider – having nothing to do with our solutions – before they could buy anything. Failure is built in.

But when we begin our conversation at the point where people are considering change in the area our product resolves, and lead them through their change management before selling, we are in a position to truly facilitate them through all of the issues they must resolve (even those that aren’t obvious), have all stakeholders in the loop from the start, and help them figure out how to address the disruption of bringing in a new solution. Then we are true servant leaders.

IS SELLING PREDATORY?

Seller’s restricted focus on placing solutions, the listening for needs rather than for ability to serve, all but insures that kindness, respect, and true facilitation are unwittingly overlooked as we focus on selling instead of facilitating buying. A major factor is our one-sided communication:

  1. Prospecting/cold calling – driven by sellers to gather needs/information and offer solution details (all biased by the need to place solutions). It ignores the full unique fact pattern of the buyer’s environment and change issues and enlists only buyers seeking THAT solution at THAT time at THAT period of readiness, omitting those who could buy if ready or knew how to include the solution congruently into their current plans.
  2. Content marketing – driven by the seller to push the ‘right’ data into the ‘right’ hands at the ‘right’ time according to their biased interpretations of ‘right’, but really only a push into the unknown and a hope for action. Wholly seller-centric.
  3. Deals, cold-call pushes, negotiation, objection-handling, closing techniques, getting to ‘the’ decision maker, price-reductions – all assuming buyers would buy if they understood their need/the solution/their problem, all overlooking the real connection and service capability of addressing the person’s most pressing change issues. Wholly seller-centric.
  4. Real communication involves each communication partner, in this case a buyer and a seller, being equally served; sellers can facilitate buyers through their private change management issues first as they travel towards a purchase (rather than try to extract a purchase from those who have gotten to the point of buying), thereby facilitating Buyer Readiness, AND developing a win/win connection, AND closing more sales. Win-win.

I’ve been a seller, trainer, consultant, and sales coach since the 1970s, been a buyer as founder of a tech start up 1983-1988, and have personally worked with dozens of global corporations and untold thousands of sellers. I see sales as a near-predatory job: sellers spend their time seeking and following, pitching and positioning, networking and calling to find those few set up to buy something, and ignoring a large population of potential buyers who merely aren’t ready, but could be with true facilitation.

The model is fraught with guesswork and hope, manipulation and persuasion, white lies and exaggerations – not to mention highly ineffective when the time spent vs sales closed ratio is examined. Not only are we wasting time pushing/chasing folks we’ve deemed prospects (A real prospect is one who WILL buy, not someone who SHOULD buy; the current sales model doesn’t know the difference.), but the global nature of staffing patterns and decision makers in our client’s environments causes closing to take 30% longer. And the very nature of the web makes most pitches and presentations moot. In fact, buyers often know more than sellers.

Sales unwittingly ignores the real problem: it’s in the buying, not the selling. The sales model’s focus on placing solutions keeps us from using our positions as knowledge experts and Leaders to facilitate buyers down their own path to excellence.

Truth is, as outsiders we can never know all the elements that have created and maintained their status quo, or what needs to happen internally for them to be ready to make a purchase. We might ‘know’ how our solution would make a difference, but we can never know how they will buy. And here is where we can truly serve.

SALES IS SHORT-SIGHTED

Indeed, the job of ‘sales’ as merely a solution-placement vehicle is short-sighted.

  1. Buyers can find our products online. They don’t need us chasing them.
  2. Our solution isn’t the problem – it’s the buyer’s behind-the-scenes timing and change management process that gums up the works.
  3. 80% of prospects will buy our solutions (but not necessarily from us) within two years of our connection.
  4. The lion’s share of the buying decision (9 out of the 13 step decision path) involves buyers traversing internal change with no thoughts of buying anything until there’s consensus.

But we can truly serve clients AND close more sales, by adding a Change Facilitation capability that expands our entry points into the buy cycle, makes the buying decision process much more efficient and makes sales a spiritual practice (that closes dramatically more sales in a fraction of the time). Here’s my definition of ‘spiritual’:

  • the whole is greater than the parts;
  • we’re all here to serve each other;
  • everyone has their own unique excellence;
  • no one has an answer for someone else.

Different from sales, which

  • purpose to be win/win but often is ‘win-lose’,
  • believes the parts might be greater than the whole,
  • causes buyers to feel pushed with content and contacts,
  • considers their solution the ‘right’ answer,
  • only addresses the tail end of a larger (and unknowable to outsiders) system of rules, internal politics, relationships, and status quo.

To elaborate:

Aspiring to a win-win

Win-win means both sides get what they need in equal measure. Sellers believe that placing product or resolving a problem offers an automatic win-win but that’s not wholly accurate.

Buying isn’t as simple as choosing a solution; buyers first must resolve the entire system that created and maintains their problem (problems never occur uniquely). The very last thing they want is to buy anything, regardless of their apparent need. As outsiders we can’t know the tangles of people and policies that hold their problem/need in place. The time it takes them to design a congruent solution that includes buy-in and change management is the length of their sales cycle. Buyers need to do this anyway; it’s the length of the sales cycle. They will do this with us or without us, so it might as well be with us.

If we enter first as Change Facilitators and help buyers efficiently traverse their internal struggles (that we can never be a part of per se), we can help them get to the ‘need/purchase’ decision more quickly and be part of the solution – win-win.

We’re wasting a valuable opportunity to share this process with them by only wanting to sell – and then wait and hope, while competitively chasing after those who show up after they’ve completed their internal work without us.

If we enter earlier, work with them as Change Facilitators (with wholly different skills and goals) to help them facilitate their change, we can spend our time capturing and serving more real prospects, and spend less time seeking out the low hanging fruit. We can use our time more profitably to develop real buyers and simultaneously serve them, rather than fighting to find those who are ready. Let’s shift gears and enter earlier with a different hat on.

Believe it or not it becomes a very efficient process and great time saver: no more chasing those who will never close; no more turning off those who will eventually seek our solution; no more gathering incomplete data from one person with partial answers. We can enable those who can/should buy to buy in half the time and sell more product – and very quickly know the difference between them and those who can never buy. Win-win. [All the change issues buyers must address are in my book Dirty Little Secrets].

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

There are several pieces to the puzzle here.

  • The buyer and the system the buyer lives in, including people, policies, job titles, egos, relationships, politics, layers of management, rules, etc. that no one on the outside will ever understand and are focused on excellence, not on buying anything. It’s never as simple as just changing out the problem for a new product; their focus is to have the best situation possible and will buy a solution only when they’re certain they can’t fix their own problem.
  • Resolving the problem needs full internal buy-in from the system before being willing to change (i.e. buy) regardless of the efficacy of the fix. A purchase is not necessarily their best solution even if it looks like a fit to a seller.
  • The ability of the buyer to manage the disruption that a new purchase would incur on the system, people, and policies. A fix, or purchase, might be worse than the problem.
  • The seller and the seller’s product may/may not fit in the buyer’s environment due to idiosyncratic, political, or rules-based issues, regardless of the need.
  • The purchase and implementation and follow up that includes buy-in from all who will experience a potentially disruptive change if a new solution enters and shifts their job routines.
  • The sum of these parts is the whole; seller and buyer can work together to facilitate systemic change first. Surprisingly, this is a very quick process, uncovering real prospects almost immediately. Win-win for all.

We are all here to serve each other

Sellers understand enough about the systems in our areas of expertise to help buyers traverse their change route that could lead to a sale. With an entry point of systems excellence rather than solution placement, buyers immediately recognize the benefits from a collaboration with the seller and are happy to invite sellers onto their decision team and not seek other competitors. Win-win. The Facilitative Question I developed for Wachovia’s Small Business Banker’s cold calls helped prospects immediately realize a problem they had to resolve rather than say ‘No’ to an appointment request:

“How are you currently adding banking resources to the bank you’re currently using for those times you seek additional support?”

With no disrespect, no push, no information gathering or asking for an appointment, this Facilitative Question above (as one of several asked in a specific sequence, using specific words) merely pointed to the problem they might have to resolve over time. [Note: I invented Facilitative Questions to lead brains through to change, rather than conventional questions that elicit biased data.] The results were astounding: against 100 prospecting calls and a control group: 10% appointments vs 27%; 2 closes in 11 months vs 19 closes in 3 months; we facilitated discovery immediately and served: we actually helped folks figure out their own configuration for change. And we only visited those who could close.

One more note: people are happy to buy in a short time frame once they know, and figure out how to manage, the full set of change issues they’ll have to deal with (Fire a team? Retrain users? Get rid of software they’ve used for years?). As I’ve said above, they must do this before they can buy. And we’re not helping them. But we could. And truly serve them in the process.

There is no right answer

Sellers often believe that buyers are idiots for not making speedy decisions, or for not buying an ‘obvious’ solution. But sales offers no skills or motive to enter earlier where buyers are not at the point of even knowing if – let alone what – they might buy. We must expand the definition of a buying decision as the route down the 13-step path from the status quo through to congruent change. Includes the people, policies, relationships, and history – the systems issues that insure Systems Congruence – that maintain the status quo and must be addressed before they consider buying anything.

Once buyers figure out their congruent route to change, they won’t have objections, will close themselves, and there’s no competition: buyers are the ones with the ‘right answer’; sellers facilitate change management first and then sell once everything is in place. No call backs and follow up and ignored calls. Win-win.

No one has anyone else’s answer

By adding decision facilitation, everyone focuses on uncovering the right questions. Collaborative decisions get made that will serve everyone.

Let’s change the focus: instead relegating sales to a product/solution placement endeavor, let’s add the job of facilitation to first find people en route to becoming buyers, then lead them through to their own type of ‘excellence’ through their internal change process first, and then using the sales model when they’ve become buyers. Then buyers make better, quicker, more congruent decisions – with more/quicker sales, less tire-kickers, better differentiation, and no competition, and sales close in half the time.

THE NEW WAY

As a seller and an entrepreneur (I founded a tech company in London, Hamburg, and Stuttgart in 1983), I realized that sales ignored the buying decision problem and developed Buying Facilitation® to add to sales as a generic change management to be used as a Pre-Sales tool.

Buyers get to their answers eventually; the time this takes is the length of the sales cycle, and selling doesn’t cause buying. Once I developed this model for my sellers to use, we made their process far more efficient with an 8x increase in sales – a number consistently reproduced against control groups with my global training clients over the following decades.

With Buying Facilitation® we can add a new capability and level of expertise and be a part of the decision process from the first call. Make money and make nice.

We no longer need to lose prospects because they’re not ready, or cognizant of their need. We can become intermediaries between our clients and our companies; use our positions to efficiently help buyers manage their internal change congruently, without manipulation; use our time to serve those who WILL buy – and know this on the first contact – and stop wasting time on those who will never buy. Let’s stop merely trying to place our solutions, and use our knowledge and care to serve our buyers and our companies in a win-win. Let’s make sales a spiritual practice.

____________

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.    

August 31st, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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kindness-clipart-famille-32

I’ve recently heard people discussing ‘kindness’ as a business strategy. I’m so pleased.

Kindness – not a word historically associated with corporations, those bastions of male verve – is now being equated with the bottom line. How times have changed. In the 90s when I gave keynotes titled ‘Sales as a Spiritual Practice’ I would get asked: “Yes, but how would we make money?”

Imagine embracing the desire to be helpful and considerate, compassionate and generous as part of accepted business practice. We all know what happens when it’s ignored. We know how workplace issues grind people down, and how infrequently those below the top tier get asked their opinions. We know we lose more good employees to treatment issues than to pay issues. We know that 70% of buying decisions are made by women.

And yet we continue assuming the bottom line is about minimizing costs and maximizing profit and putting rules before people.

HOW KINDNESS CAN EFFECT OUR BOTTOM LINE

The costs of degrading and ignoring employees and making customers conform to our money-saving practices, the cost of treating customers merely as numbers that get crunched, cost us high turnover, a paucity of fresh ideas and new leaders, a loss of customers and reputation, a loss of revenue, and the need to hire more supervisory managers and do more ‘reputation management’ to handle the fallout.

I intimately know a company with a reputation for treating employees so punitively that only naïve out-of-towners apply for the many available jobs. Without kindness, everything suffers, and in this day and age, clients, customers, staff, have vehicles for their complaints.

Research has shown kindness actually increases our bottom line:

  • When employees are asked their opinions, treated respectfully, given jobs that enable them to exhibit excellence regardless of their pay scale, they are more creative, responsible, and loyal. They adopt leadership roles, put in longer hours, and have fewer sick days.
  • When we treat our clients kindly we keep them longer, hear about problems (rather than lose them to competitors), are offered new ideas to monetize, and have brand ambassadors to offer free marketing to connections who may become clients.
  • When we value people we make more money and have less turnover.

Here are a few of my personal experiences of monetizing kindness:

1. Kindness with customers:

a. In Portland, I couldn’t locate my correct bus stop. I called the Transit help line and a person answered! And he stayed on the line until I got to my destination! I also had an issue with the local gas company causing very minor damage to my countertop. They called, apologized, and immediately sent me a check for $500 for recompense (It might cost $100 to fix.).

  • Takeaway: the random acts of kindness I found throughout Portland have led me to move there.

b. After not receiving my NYTimes for four Sundays, I made two angry calls. The first woman said I would need to speak with a supervisor on Monday; the second woman not only called my local delivery folks, she called back to tell me when the paper would be delivered, called again to make sure I got it, and then left me her cell number in case the problem occurred again.

  • Takeaway: I won’t cancel my subscription.

2. Kindness with employees:

a. In the 80s I started up a tech support company in London with 48 tech folks and about a dozen management staff. It was my delight to create an infostructure that respected, and was kind to, my employees. For starters, I gave each of my managers $2000 annually to take a paid week off to attend any course they wanted (photography, cooking) to feel renewed. I also didn’t give them specific vacation days: I said: “You’re an adult. You’re tired? Take time off, so long as you cover your responsibilities and give the rest of us a heads up.” What happened was lovely: I actually had to fight with them to take time off! I also required my managers to take off one day a month to do volunteer work. And at least four times I year went to the field tech’s job sites (and they were not my direct reports), took them to lunch, and picked their brains on ways we could do better for them and for our clients. Their ideas were terrific. And monthly, I met with them all for a game of darts (which I always lost) in a local pub. I ran into competitors at conferences who said they tried to hire my folks away yet couldn’t pry them from my grip. “What are you doing to those folks?” I was just respecting them.

  • Takeaway: there was no turnover in 4 years; the tech folks called us from their sites whenever they heard rumors of new business and I was in place by the time the vendor delivered the product.

b. I hired a full time ‘make nice’ guy whose job it was to visit staff and clients on site to make sure the relationships and programming worked efficiently, nipping problems in the bud. With no fires to fight I had nothing to do but grow my company.

  • Takeaway: revenue doubled annually; I had a 42% net profit – in an environment with no computers, no websites, no email.

THE HOW OF KINDNESS: LISTENING SKILLS ENHANCE RELATIONSHIPS

I believe the process of listening is one of the skills that enable us to be kind. Not only do we need to set up client Listening Conferences and staff Listening Hours, we must hear what’s being said between the lines using a ‘kindness ear’. My new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? explains whatever we listen for is one of the determinants of what we hear.

Our biases, as I learned while researching the book, determine what our brains tell us was said, actually deleting anything outside of our own belief/value/need system. So rather than merely listen for problems, we must listen for the patterns in the problems: Lots of turnover? Complaints about small stuff? We’re ignoring something we don’t want to handle. Bottom line decreasing due to competition? Maybe we’re ignoring what’s really going on and just blaming competitors when we need a all-hands-on-deck brainstorming session. Are we hearing that clients aren’t happy or want additions to our solution? Maybe our solution isn’t robust enough and we need to get a group of clients in to talk to them and find out.

Through the years, with clients and staff, coaches and colleagues, I have found the biggest obstacle to authentic communication is how imperfectly we hear others. Far too often we enter conversations with biases, assumptions, triggers, and filters, all based on our own intent and beliefs,and miss what’s being conveyed that falls outside the range of expectation. Imagine if we approach our conversations with the bias of kindness:

  • An employee is perpetually late with work assignments: is there something going on in the department, with other employees, with her work load, that is causing the problem? What could we do to make it easier for her?
  • Customer service folks must recognize patterns in complaints and become leaders in resolving problems rather than maintaining the status quo. I recently heard a rep say: “I’ve had lots of complaints about this. But there are no plans to fix it.”

So many folks want to be leaders. Kindness and caring for employees and clients is a good way to start.

THE HEART OF KINDNESS

As individuals we all think we’re kind. Yet in our business lives, sometimes we put rules, expectations, and the bottom line before we put kindness forgetting that happy employees make profitable companies. We’re often kind to clients to keep/get their business, kind to employees over holidays. And the rest of the time, we fear that being kind – supporting real people with real lives and real problems – will diminish our bottom line.

Let me say that being kind – giving employees maternity/paternity enough time off, extending small loans with no interest, designing good working conditions and job titles that are creative and exciting, asking employees regularly what type of training programs they’d benefit from – always brings in more money.

Not to mention when employees are treated kindly they

  • treat our clients kindly, giving us a differentiator over competitors who don’t;
  • listen, commiserate, have compassion, and seek creative ways to help them;
  • are willing to take criticism from clients as part of their Servant Leadership, and to learn from;
  • put people/clients over rules and make sure each conversation is a win-win.

In other words, kindness will increase sales.

Let’s speak about this. I believe it’s a necessary conversation. Here’s the question: How can we monetize kindness with staff and clients? It’s possible to make money AND be kind.

________________

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

June 29th, 2020

Posted In: Listening

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questioning-questionsDecades ago I had an idea that questions could be vehicles to facilitate change in addition to eliciting answers. Convention went against me: the accepted use of questions (framing devices, biased by the Asker’s need to know) is built into our culture. But overlooked is their inability to extract good data; overlooked is their ability to facilitate congruent change.

WHAT IS A QUESTION?

Questions are biased by the expectations, assumptions, goals, unconscious beliefs and subjective experience of both the Responder and the Asker and limit responses accordingly. In other words, questions can’t extract ‘good’ data. They’re certainly not designed to lead Responders through to real change or accurate revelations. (What? Did you really say what I think I heard? offers a broad discussion of bias.) Here are the most prevalent ways we limit our Communication Partner’s responses:

Need to Know Askers pose questions to pull conscious data from the Responder because of their own ‘need to know’, data collection, or curiosity.  An example (Note: all following italicized questions are posed as a mythical hairdresser seeking business) might be: Why do you wear your hair like that?

These questions risk overlooking more relevant answers that are stored beyond the parameters of the question posed – often in the unconscious.

Pull Data Askers pose questions to pull a range of implicating data considered useful to ‘make a case’ in a ploy to obtain their desired results (i.e. sales, leadership, marcom, coaching). Don’t you think it might be time to get a haircut?

These questions run a high risk of missing the full range of, or accurate, responses. Certainly they offer no route to enabling choice, decisions, or collaboration/buy-in. They encourage resistance, partial/missed answers, and lies.

Manipulate agreement/response Questions that direct the Responder to find a specific set of responses to fit the needs and expectations of the Asker. Can you think of a time you’ve felt ‘cool’ when you’ve had short hair? Or Have you ever thought of having your hair look like Kanye/Ozzy/Justin? Or What would it feel like to have hair like Kanye/Ozzy/Justin? Wouldn’t you say your hairstyle makes you look X?

These questions restrict possibility, cause resistance, create distrust, and encourage lying.

Doubt Directive These questions, sometimes called ‘leading questions’ are designed to cause Responders to doubt their own effectiveness, in order to create an opening for the Asker. Do you think your hairstyle works for you?

These narrow the range of possible responses, often creating some form of resistance or defensive lies; they certainly cause defensiveness and distrust.

Questions restrict responses to the Asker’s parameters, regardless of their intent or the influencer’s level of professionalism and knowledge. Potentially important, accurate data – not to mention the real possibility of facilitating change – is left on the table and instead promote lost business, failure, distrust, bad data collection, and delayed success. Decision Scientists end up gathering incomplete data that creates implementation issues; leaders and coaches push clients toward the change they perceive is needed and often miss the real change needed and possible. The fields of sales and coaching are particularly egregious.

The cost of bias and restriction is unimaginable. Here’s an especially unfortunate example of a well-respected research company that delayed the discovery of important findings due to the biases informing their research questions. I got a call from one of the founders of Challenger Sales to discuss my Buying Facilitation® model. Their research had ‘recently’ discovered that sales are lost/delayed/hampered due to the buyer’s behind-the-scenes change issues that aren’t purchase-driven and sales doesn’t address – and yay for me for figuring this out 35 years ago.

Interesting. They figured this out now? Even David Sandler called me in 1992 before he died to tell me he appreciated how far out of the box I went to find the resolution to the sales problem (He also offered to buy me out, but that’s a different story.). The data was always there. I uncovered this in 1983. But the CEB missed it because their research surveys posed biased questions that elicited data matching their expectations. Indeed, even during our conversations, my Communication Partner never got rid of his solution-placement (sales) biases and we never were able to find a way to partner.

WHAT IS AN ANSWER?

Used to elicit or push data, the very formulation of conventional questions restricts answers. If I ask ‘What did you have for breakfast?’ you cannot reply ‘I went to the gym yesterday.’ Every answer is restricted by the biases within the question. I’m always disappointed when I hear sellers say “Buyers are liars” or coaches say “They didn’t really want to change.” Or therapists or managers or leaders say “They’re resisting”. Askers cause the answers they get.

  1. Because we enter conversations with an agenda, intuition, directive, etc., the answers we receive are partial at best, inaccurate at worst, and potentially cause resistance, sabotage, and disregard.
  2. There are unknown facts, feelings, historic data, goals, etc. that lie within the Responder’s unconscious that hold real answers and cannot be found using merely the curiosity of the Asker.
  3. By approaching situations with bias, Askers can only successfully connect with those whose conscious biases align with their own, leaving behind many who could change, or connect when their unconscious data is recognized. And conventional questions cannot get to the unconscious.
  4. Because influencers are unaware of how their particular bias restricts an answer, they have no concept if there are different answers possible, and often move forward with bad data.

So why does it matter if we’re biasing our questions? It matters because we are missing accurate results; it matters because our questions instill resistance; it matters because we’re missing opportunities to serve and support change.

When sellers ask leading questions to manipulate prospects, or coaches ask influencing questions to generate action, we’re coaxing our Communication Partner in a direction that, as we now recognize, is often biased. Imagine if we could reconfigure questions to elicit accurate data for researchers or marcom folks; or enable buyers to take quick action from ads, cold calls or large purchases; or help coaching clients change behaviors congruently and quickly; or encourage buy-in during software implementations. I’m suggesting questions can facilitate real change.

WHAT IS CHANGE?

Our brain stores data rather haphazardly in our unconscious, making it difficult to find what we need when we need it, and making resistance prevalent when it seems our Status Quo is being threatened. But over the last decades, I have mapped the sequence of systemic change. Following this route, I’ve designed a way to use questions as directional devices to pull relevant data in the proper sequence so we can lead Responders through their own internal, congruent, change process and avoid resistance. Not only does this broaden the range of successful results, but it enables quicker decisions and buy-in – not to mentiontruly offer a Servant Leader, win/win communication. Let’s look at what’s keeping us wedded to our Status Quo and how questions can enable change.

All of us are a ‘system’ of subjectivity collected during our lifetime: unique rules, values, habits, history, goals, experience, etc. that operates consensually to create and maintain our Status Quo; it resides in our unconscious and defines our Status Quo. Without it, we wouldn’t have criteria for any choices, or actions, or habits whatsoever. Our system is hard wired to keep us who we are (Systems Congruence).

To learn something new, to do something different or learn a new behavior, to buy something, to take vitamins or get a divorce or use new software or be willing to forgive a friend, the Status Quo must buy in to change from within – an inside job. Information pulled or pushed – regardless of the intent, or relationship, or efficacy – will be resisted.

For congruent change to occur – even a small one – appropriate elements within our Status Quo must buy into, and have prepared for, a possibly disruptive addition (idea, product, etc.). But since the process is internal, idiosyncratic, and unconscious, our biased questions cause the system to defend itself and we succeed only with those folks whose unconscious biases and beliefs mirror our own.

  1. People hear each other through their own biases. You ask biased questions, receive biased answers, and hit pay dirt only when your biases match. Everyone else will ignore, resist, misunderstand, mishear, act out, sabotage, forget, ignore, etc.
  2. Due to their biased and restricting nature, your questions will not facilitate those who are not ready, willing, or able to manage internal change congruently regardless of the wisdom of your comments or their efficacy.
  3. Without the Responder being ready, willing, and able to change, ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN CRITERIA AND SYSTEMS RULES, they cannot buy, accept, adopt, or change in any way.

To manage congruent change, align the Status Quo, and enable the steps to achieve buy-in – I’ve developed Facilitative Questions that work comfortably with conventional questions and lead Responders to

  • find their own answers hidden within their unconscious,
  • retrieve complete, relevant, accurate answers at the right time, in the right order to
  • traverse the sequenced steps to congruent, systemic change/excellence, while
  • avoiding restriction and resistance and
  • include their own values and subjective experience.

It’s possible to help folks make internal changes and find their own brand of excellence.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

Facilitative Questions (FQs) employ a new skill set that is built upon systems thinking: listening for systems (i.e. no bias) and Servant Leadership. Even on a cold call or in content marketing, sellers can enable buyers down their route to change and buy-in; coaches can lead clients through their own unique change without resistance; leaders can get buy-in immediately; change implementations won’t get resistance; advertisers and marketers can create action.

Using specific words, in a very specific sequence, it’s possible to pose questions that are free of bias, need or manipulation and guide congruent change.

Facilitative Question Not information gathering, pull, or manipulative, FQs are guiding/directional tools, like a GPS system. Like a GPS they don’t need the details of travel – what you’re wearing, what function you’re attending – to dictate two left turns. They lead Responders congruently, without any bias, from where they’re at to Excellence. How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?

This question is a guiding mechanism to efficiently enable a route through the Responder’s largely unconscious path to congruent change.

Here’s the big idea: using questions directed to help Others efficiently recognize their own route to Excellence, and change as appropriate vs. using questions to seek answers that benefit the Asker. This shift in focus alone creates an automatic trust.

An example is a question we designed for Wachovia to increase sales and appointments. Instead of seeking prospects for an appointment to pitch new products (i.e. using appointments as a sales tool), we designed questions to immediately facilitate discovery of need, taking into account most small businesses already have a banking relationship. After trialing a few different FQs, our opening question became: How would you know when it’s time to consider adding new banking partners, for those times your current bank can’t give you what you need? This question shifted the response to 100 prospecting calls from 10 appointments and 2 closes over 11 months, to 37 invites to meet from the prospect, and 29 closes over 3 months. Facilitative Questions helped the right prospects engage immediately.

When used with coaching clients, buyers, negotiation partners, advertisements, or even teenagers, these questions create action within the Responder, causing them to recognize internal incongruences and deficiencies, and be guided through their own options. (Because these questions aren’t natural to us, I’ve designed a tool and program to teach the ‘How’ of formulating them.).

The responses to FQs are quite different from conventional questions. So when answering How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?’ the Responder is directed by word use, word placement, and an understanding of systems, to think of time, history, people, ego, comparisons, family. Instead of pulling data, you’re directing to, guiding through, and opening the appropriate change ‘boxes’ within the Responder’s unconscious Status Quo. It’s possible Responders will ultimately get to their answers without Facilitative Questions, but using them, it’s possible to help Responders organize their change criteria very quickly accurately. Using Facilitative Questions, we must

  1. Enter with a blank brain, as a neutral navigator, servant leader, with a goal to facilitate change.
  2. Trust our Communication Partners have their own answers.
  3. Stay away from information gathering or data sharing/gathering until they are needed at the end.
  4. Focus on helping the Other define, recognize, and understand their system so they can discover where it’s broken.
  5. Put aside ego, intuition, assumptions, and ‘need to know.’ We’ll never understand another’s subjective experience; we can later add our knowledge.
  6. Listen for systems, not content.

FQs enable congruent, systemic, change. I recognize this is not the conventional use of questions, but we have a choice: we can either facilitate a Responder’s path down their own unique route and travel with them as Change Facilitators – ready with our ideas, solutions, directions as they discover a need we can support – or use conventional, biased questions that limit possibility. For change to occur, people must go through these change steps anyway; we’re just making it more efficient for them as we connect through our desire to truly Serve. We can assist, or wait to find those who have already completed the journey. They must do it anyway: it might as well be with us.

I welcome opportunities to put Facilitative Questions into the world. Formulating them requires a new skill set that avoids any bias (Listening for Systems, for example). But they add an extra dimension to helping us all serve each other.

____________

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.

June 22nd, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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As a Buddhist, I don’t understand why anyone would want to take another’s life or how it’s even an option. Yet so many in our country are feeling disempowered and ignored, targeted and disenfranchised and we haven’t yet created a dialogue to heal. In fact, we don’t even know how to hear each other. During this time of racial, class, political, gender, and education divide, of distrust and blame and victimhood, of killing and guns and violence, our inability to deeply hear each other is heartbreaking and costly.

I’m not going into the moral issues of Right/Wrong here, except to say that I’m vehemently opposed to violence and injustice. But I can offer my bit to make it possible to find solutions.

THE PROBLEM: HOW OUR BRAINS LISTEN

During the 3 years researching and writing a book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I learned how ubiquitous our challenge is: the distance between our subjective experiences and cultures makes it almost impossible to accurately hear others outside of our own ingrained biases, assumptions, and triggers. Indeed, words can’t be correctly translated when the intended meaning gets lost in another’s unfamiliar mind-set, culture, and history; the possibility of finding collaboration and reconciliation gets lost in our communication.

Heartfelt intent and tears aside, we’ve not been taught how to listen without bias. From the individual spots we each stand in, with our restricted viewpoints and hot-buttons, we pose biased questions and make faulty assumptions, overlooking the possibility that our Communication Partner (CP) may have beliefs and life experience that we just don’t know how to relate to.

Unfortunately, our brain causes the problem. It translates what’s been said into what’s comfortable or inflammatory or habitual or or… and doesn’t realize it has misunderstood, or mistranslated the Speaker’s intent. So we actually hear ABL when our CP said ABC and we have no reason to think what we we’ve ‘heard’ is faulty. I lost a partnership this way. During a conversation, John got annoyed at something he thought I said. I tried to correct him:

“That’s not what I said.” I told him.
“I know what I heard! Don’t try to get away with anything here!
“But I didn’t say that at all!
“John, I was sitting right here. She’s right. She never said that,” said his wife.
“You’re both lying!!! I’m outta here!!” And he stomped out of the room, ending our partnership.

It’s pernicious: our brains select a translation for us, reducing whole conversations and categories of people to caricature and subjective assumption. But to distinguish what’s meant from what we think we hear, to experience what others want to convey when it’s out of our experience, we must recognize when there’s a mismatch between our assumptions and another’s reality. We need to recognize when it’s time to make a new choice at the moment we need to make one.

HOW TO DO HOW

We need to find common ground from which to listen to each other and create action steps to help us all heal. I’m going to offer some steps for us to dialogue and reach win/win consensus. But first I’ll a few foundational truths:

  • Everyone’s experience and history is valid, unique, and guides their choices.
  • Others cannot see or feel what you see or feel.
  • Everyone has a right to the same basics: health, a living wage, good work, safety for our families, education.
  • All change, including adopting new ideas, is threatening to the status quo and will cause resistance unless there is buy-in at the level of beliefs.

We must

  • recognize common beliefs and values we can buy-in to without impairing our individual values,
  • feel safe in conversations when it feels like we’re speaking with enemies,
  • override our resistance and biases to find common intentions, compassion and outcomes,
  • be able to hear another’s intended message without overlaying our biases, assumptions, and habits.

I’ve put together a few action steps to begin to dialogue with those we’ve historically sat in opposition to. I also recommend that our conversations must work toward win/win. I call this a We Space.

Get agreement for a dialogue: It’s likely that you and your CP have different goals and life experiences. Begin by agreeing to have a conversation to do nothing more than find common ground.

  • “I’d like to have a dialogue that might lead to us to an agreeable route forward that meets both of our goals. If you agree, do you have thoughts on where you’d like to begin?”
  • “I wonder if we can find common goals so we might possibly find some agreement to work from. I’m happy to share my goals with you; I’d like to hear yours as well.”

Set the frame for common values: We all have similar foundational values, hopes and fears – they’re just different in how they show up in our lived lives. Start by ‘chunking up’ to find agreement.

  • “I’d like to find a way to communicate that might help us find a common values so we can begin determining if there are places we can agree. Any thoughts on how you’d like to proceed?”
  • “It seems we’re in opposite mind-sets. What might be a comfortable way forward for us to discover if there is any agreement at all we can start from?”

Enter without bias: With limiting beliefs or hidden agendas, there’s no way to find commonality. Replace emotions and blame with a new bias, just for this conversation: the ‘bias’ of collaboration.

  • “I’m willing to find common ground and put aside my normal reactions for this hour but it will be a challenge since I’m so angry. Do you want to share your difficulty in this area, or are you ok with it and can help me? How do we move forward without bias?”

Get into Observer: In case you have difficulty overcoming your biases and filters, here’s a physiological ‘How-To’ that comes straight from NLP: in your mind’s eye, see yourself up on the ceiling, looking down on yourself and your CP. It will virtually remove you from the fray, and offer an unbiased view of your interaction – one step removed as it were. One way to do this is to walk around during the conversation, or sit way, way back in a chair. Sitting forward keeps you in your biases. (Chapter 6 in What? teaches how to do this.)

Notice body language/words: Your CP is speaking/listening from beliefs, values, history, feelings, exhibited in their body language and eye contact. From your ceiling perch, notice how their physical stance matches their words, the level of passion, feelings, and emotion. Now look down and notice how you look and sound in relation to your CP. Just notice. Read Carol Goman’s excellent book on the subject.

Notice triggers: The words emphasized by your CP hold their beliefs and biases. They usually appear at the very beginning or end of a sentence. You may also hear absolutes: Always, Never; lots of You’s may be the vocabulary of blame. Silence, folded arms, a stick-straight torso may show distrust. Just notice where/when it happens and don’t take it personally – it’s not personal. Don’t forget to notice your own triggers, or blame/victim words of your own. If their words trigger you into your own subjective viewpoints, get yourself back into Observer; you’ll have choice from the ceiling. But just in case:

  • “I’m going to try very hard to speak/listen without my historic biases. If you find me getting heated, or feel blame, I apologize as that’s not my intent. If this should happen, please tell me you’re not feeling heard and I’ll do my best to work from a place of compassion and empathy.”

Summarize regularly: Because the odds are bad that you’ll hear exactly what your CP means to convey, it’s necessary to summarize what you hear after every exchange:

  • “Sounds to me like you said, “XX”. Is that correct? What would you like me to understand that I didn’t understand or that I misheard?”

‘I’ statements: Stay away from ‘You’ if possible. Try to work from the understanding that you’re standing in different shoes and there is no way either of you can see the other’s landscape.

  • “When I hear you say X it sounds to me like you’re saying Y. Is that true?”
  • “When I hear you mention Y, I feel like Z and it makes me want to get up from the table because I don’t feel heard. How can we handle this so we can move forward together?”

Get buy-in each step of the way: Keep checking in, even if it seems obvious that you’re on the same page. It’s really easy to mistranslate what’s been said when the listening filters are different.

  • “Seems to me like we’re on the same page here. I think we’re both saying X. Is that true? What am I missing?”
  • “What should I add to my thinking that I’m avoiding or not understanding the same way you are? Is there a way you want me to experience what it looks like from your shoes that I don’t currently know how to experience? Can you help me understand?”

Check your gut: Notice when/if your stomach gets tight, or your throat hurts. These are sure signs that your beliefs are being stepped on. If that happens, make sure you get back up to the ceiling, and then tell your CP:

  • “I’m experience some annoyance/anger/fear/blame. That means something we’re discussing is going against one of my beliefs or values. Can we stop a moment and check in with each other so we don’t go off the rails?”

Get agreement on the topics in the conversation: One step at a time; make sure you both agree to each item, and skip the ones (for now) where there’s no agreement. Put them in a Parking Lot for your next conversation.

Get agreement on action items: Simple steps for forward actions should become obvious; make sure you both work on action items together.

Get a time on the calendar for the next meeting: Make sure you discuss who else needs to be brought into the conversation, end up with goals you can all agree on and walk away with an accurate understanding of what’s been said and what’s expected.

Until or unless we all hold the belief that none of us matter if some of us don’t; until or unless we’re all willing to take the responsibility of each needless death or killing; until or unless we’re each willing to put aside our very real grievances to seek a higher good, we’ll never heal. It’s not easy. But by learning how to hear each other with compassion and empathy, our conversations can begin. We must be willing to start sharing our Truth and our hearts. It’s the only real start we can make.

___________

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

June 15th, 2020

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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Customer buying decision path

I moved to London in 1983 to start up a tech company after spending years as a successful sales person. After years of “understanding” and “qualifying” prospects, getting appointments and networking, presenting and following up, I thought I understood buyers well-enough to become one. But I was wrong.

SELLING VS BUYING

My new role taught me the differences between selling and buying: I hadn’t realized how the complexity of my Pre-Sales activity determined whether or not I’d become a buyer:

As a sales professional my ultimate job was to place solutions; as a buyer, my main focus was to create and maintain Excellence in a way that caused the least stress on my company and team and matched our internal norms.

As a sales professional I struggled to say/offer the right thing, at the right time, to the right prospects, in order to close; as an entrepreneur and potential buyer I had to continually manage any changes we needed while growing by using the most efficient, integrous, and least disruptive route to success to maintain happy employees and clients, and a great product.

As a sales professional, I sought to influence those who needed my solution; as a buyer, I couldn’t fully define my needs, make adjustments, or resolve problems, until all voices (stakeholders) and impediments to change were factored in and until we were absolutely sure we couldn’t resolve our problems internally.

Selling and buying are two different activities: different goals, different behaviors, different communication and thinking patterns. And before becoming a buyer myself, I hadn’t fully appreciated how severely the sales model limits itself to seeking only the low hanging fruit – those who have come to the realization that they cannot fix their problem themselves and know, precisely, the sort of solution that would be acceptable with the least ‘cost’ of resource. Buyers don’t start off wanting to buy anything; they merely want to resolve a problem at the lowest ‘cost’ and least disruption.

As a buyer, the very last thing I needed was to buy. Literally. But when I did buy, it was based on my ability to manage change without disruption, not on my need. Indeed: the ‘cost’ of a fix had to be lower than the ‘cost’ of maintaining the status quo, regardless of my need or the efficacy of a solution.

What I hadn’t realized was that a decision to buy anything was first a change management problem before it was a solution choice issue. And any needs I had were secondary to maintaining consistency and team agreements. After all, we were doing ‘just fine’ without bringing in anything new.

THE JOB OF A BUYER

As a seller, I hadn’t understood the importance of a buyer’s need to maintain their status quo. I never even thought of anything besides placing my solution and never realized how much I was restricting my success by limiting my search to folks with ‘needs’. I overlooked an 8x larger audience who were in the process of becoming buyers but not ready.

As a buyer, I had more to worry about than having a problem. I had to take into account

  • the rules and brand of the company,
  • the well-being of the employees and staff,
  • the integrity of the product or service provided,
  • the congruence and integrity of the status quo,
  • the needs of the customers.

My challenge was to be better without losing what worked successfully, to ensure

– everyone involved agreed to a common solution,

– I had consensus and a route through to congruent change,

– we were all absolutely certain we couldn’t fix the problem with something familiar,

– I managed a range of idiosyncratic decision factors that involved my investors, my Board, my staff, my clients, and

– I made sure any change or purchase maintained our status quo.

Even though I was the Managing Director/Founder, it wasn’t totally up to me how, if, or when to resolve problems. I had a well-oiled machine to consider – great staff, great clients, fantastic ROI – one that had a few problems, but did a lot successfully; I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Here’s what I needed to know before I began looking ‘outside’ for answers for any potential change or purchase:

– Who did I need to get agreement from? And how would their combined voices inform our needs or a resolution?

– What would the ‘cost’ be to us, the downside, of bringing in something external? Was the downside worth the upside and could we recover?

– How could we fix the problem ourselves? At what point would we realize we couldn’t?

– How could we be certain upfront that the people, policies, rules, and goals we had in place would fit comfortably with anything new we might do, any solution we might purchase? And was it possible to know the downside in advance?

Once I shifted gears from selling to actually making a buying decision and realized that my needs were not the driving factors, I realized that my first job was to consider how to change in a way that maintained us without destroying us; and if the only way we could fix our problems was to buy something, could we recover? I had to know the upsides and downsides of fixing our problem in order to know if maintaining my status quo was the best option vs. making a purchase. Certainly not so simple as having a need.

I noticed I was taking specific steps to figure this all out. It was certainly much more complex than merely picking up a phone to buy something. I decided to get it all on paper so I could make sure that going forward I could replicate my decision process.

I then mapped out 13 steps necessary to go from someone with a problem to a buyer seeking a solution. I took that knowledge and designed a change facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) as a path to facilitate buying decisions for sellers to use as a Pre-Sales process before trying to place their solutions.

One thing I’d never considered as a seller: as someone with a problem to solve, until I fully realized I couldn’t resolve my problems on my own, I wasn’t in the market to buy anything. I wasn’t even a buyer!

That meant as a seller, all of my pitching, my marketing materials and great content, weren’t even noticed by real people who would eventually be real prospects – because they weren’t yet buyers!

I realized that sales restricts its outreach to only those who had already become buyers (step 10 on the 13 step decision path) and overlooked those real prospects who were ON ROUTE to becoming buyers and weren’t yet seeking or noticing any marketing I sent out, or any connection at all. All those years I sold, and hadn’t realized that selling doesn’t cause buying!

Once I developed the model for myself, I taught it to my sales staff so they could begin all sales calls where people on route to becoming buyers needed help – along their Pre-Sales buying decision path.

  • Assemble all the right people – decision makers and influencers of all types – to get consensus for any change at all. It was quite a challenge to figure out every one of the folks whose voices had to be heard.;
  • Enable collaboration so all voices, all concerns, approved action by a consensus. This was a systems-change issue, not a solution-choice issue;
  • Find out if there was a cheap, easy, risk-free way to fix problems with groups, policies, technology we already had in place;
  • Discover the risks of change and how we’d handle them;
  • Realize the point where there was no route to Excellence without bringing in a new/different solution;
  • Manage the fallout of change when bringing something new in from outside, and determine how to congruently integrate a purchase into our status quo.

As a seller, I overlooked all this. But it cost me sales. I had thought that with the right solution, offered in the right way to the right people, they’d buy. Now, as a potential buyer, I realized that buying had to involve change management; and unless sellers could help me figure out how to change (the first 9 steps of my 13 step Buying Decision Path) separate from their need to sell, I didn’t need them! (My book Dirty Little Secrets describes the process.).

A WALK THROUGH THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

Take a look at this summary of my journey from a person with a problem to a buyer. Like all buyers, I didn’t know what I didn’t know: I didn’t know WHO really needed to be involved (It wasn’t obvious due to the hidden influence from some of the folks peripherally involved.); I couldn’t know if we could fix the problem ourselves; I didn’t know how disruptive a purchase would be and certainly couldn’t even consider bringing anything new in until there were no other options; I didn’t know what the ‘cost’ would be to bring in something from outside, and if the ‘cost’ was lower or higher than keeping the problem.

In other words, even though we had needs, buying anything was not the objective nor the first thought. When I had an idea of something that needed improvement I needed to hear from the appropriate folks to flush out their issues before we’d have a complete fact pattern; we all had to agree to the goals, direction, outcomes, results, risks, and path to change – confusing because every voice and job title had different priorities, needs, and problems.

It was a delicate process, and there was no clear path forward until we were almost at the end of the path. Every buyer goes through some form of this; they never begin at the end where sales enters. And make no mistake: by coming in at the end of the Buying Decision Path, sales restricts who buys to those who are ready, and overlooks the very real possibility of facilitating folks with real needs through to becoming buyers.

This is where buyers go when they’re silent. They’re not dragging their heels or seeking lower prices; they need to traverse their entire Buying Journey to get to the point of even becoming a buyer. And the process of navigating through the people and policies within the status quo to garner consensus for a potentially disruptive change is a confusing process. It certainly can’t be driven by knowing about, or considering, an external solution.

As a seller I recommended my prospects bring in the stakeholders, according to who I thought was a decision maker (but I sure could have been wrong!); I even attempted to help them make ‘good’ decisions. But I was an outsider. And I was biased by my directive of wanting to sell, or understanding how my solution would fit.

No one from outside could ever understand the internal politics and relationship issues people need to manage if they’re going to become buyers. As an entrepreneur there was no one to guide me through this; not schooled in systems thinking, I had to figure out how to navigate this minefield on my own. I sure could have used the help of an unbiased sales professional who knew far more than I did about the environment.

This is the Buyer’s Journey – the route from the problem recognition, to the assembling of the appropriate people (idiosyncratic; not obvious), to the research and trials and workarounds to fix the problem with known resources, to the change management issues, to the point of defining the type of solution that will resolve the problem with least disruption.

The act of selling, I realized, does not create buying. But with a different hat on, by entering first as Change Facilitators, sellers could first notice who WILL become a buyer, enter the Buyer’s Journey at the beginning and efficiently help people navigate through their initial change management decisions.

NAVIGATING THROUGH THE ENTIRE JOURNEY: THE JOB OF BUYING FACILITATION®

My own sellers used Buying Facilitation® as their first tool on cold calls, and even when prospects would call in to us, to begin by guiding people through their own 13 steps, and then sell to the ones who became buyers when they had all their ducks in a row (We had an eight-fold increase in sales and no longer wasted time following up those who would never buy as it was very obvious.).

The time it takes buyers to navigate these steps is the length of the sales cycle. And buyers must do this anyway – so it might as well be with us. Sellers wait (and wait) while buyers do this and then hopefully be there to pick off the low-hanging-fruit. Might as well start at the beginning, be Servant Leaders, and find/close more buyers.

As part of Buying Facilitation® I coined the terms Buyer’s Journey, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Path, Buying Patterns, Buying Decision Team, and Helping Buyers Buy between 1985 and 1993:

Buying Decision Path represents the set of 13 steps from problem recognition and garnering consensus, through to recognizing and managing change in a way that enhances the status quo –  all before getting to the stage of purchasing anything. It’s possible to facilitate and discover those who could buy and efficiently help them navigate the steps to purchase and get into the Buying Decision Team. A buying decision is a change management process.

Buy Cycle represents the time it takes from recognition to Excellence, from seeking internal solutions to making a purchase. It’s a change management process, not a solution choice process.

Buying Patterns explains the unique and idiosyncratic actions each buyer takes along their journey to Excellence.

Buyer’s Journey includes the full fact pattern and set of decision and change issues between discovery and decision to buy anything and manage change. This is not merely a journey to a purchase. It’s a journey to Excellence.

Buying Facilitation® is a generic change facilitation model for influencers (sellers, coaches, leaders, managers) that helps buyers (and clients, etc.) traverse and uncover their hidden path to change with Systems Congruence and consensus. It includes a unique set of tools that includes Listening for Systems, a Choice Model, and Facilitative Questions.

Buying Facilitation® demands a systems thinking brain and eschews trying to sell anything until or unless the buyer knows exactly how they need to buy – the first 9 steps of their Buying Journey. After all, you’ve got nothing to sell until they have something to buy. And all the information you share isn’t relevant until then.

All buyers – even individuals buying a toothbrush, as well as complex sales – go through some sort of internal change management before they’re ready to buy. It’s about the buying, not about the selling – two different activities. Do you want to sell? or have someone buy? By putting on a consulting/coaching/facilitation hat, it’s possible to discover and enable real buyers quickly.

BUYING FACILITATION® FACILITATES THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

Here’s what we don’t know as sellers when we first reach out to buyers to understand need or find a prospect:

  1. Where buyers are along their decision path.
  2. How many, or if, the requisite Buying Decision Team is in place, and ALL appropriate voices have been heard so a full evaluation of the upsides and downsides to change can be considered.
  3. Until ALL voices have been heard, there is no way to recognize or define ‘need.’ As outsiders we can NEVER know who belongs on the Buying Decision Team because it’s so unique to the situation.
  4. Who is a real buyer: only those who know how to manage change, and get consensus that they cannot fix the problem internally are buyers. Need doesn’t determine ability to buy.
  5. The fallout of the risk factors, and the ability for any group to withstand change.
  6. The types of change management issues that a new solution would entail.

The sales model does a great job placing solutions, but expends too much energy seeking those few who have completed their Buyer’s Journey and consider themselves buyers. Sales believes a prospect is someone who SHOULD buy; Buying Facilitation® believes a prospect is someone who CAN/WILL buy efficiently facilitates the Buyer’s Journey from the first moment of the first call, and THEN sells, to those who are indeed buyers.

For less time and resource, we can actually lead buyers down their own change route; and we can easily, quickly, recognize who will, or won’t, be a buyer. In one conversation we can help them discern who they need to include on their Buying Decision Team; if we wish an appointment, the entire Decision Team will be eagerly awaiting us. And with a Change Facilitator hat on, on the first call it’s possible to find buyers at early stages along their decision path who need our solutions but aren’t yet ready to buy. We just can’t use the sales model until after it’s established who is actually a buyer.

The differentiating factor is that we start out not trying to sell, or qualify, or determine needs since there’s no way for folks to actually know their needs until every stakeholder has had his/her voice heard and the determination of the ‘cost’ of change has been made. As Change Facilitators we trust that our buyers have their own answers, and our solutions may be a part of their solution. We’re outsiders; we can never know the intricate politics and history of a buyer’s environment.

Let’s enter earlier with a change consultant hat on, to actually facilitate buyers to the point where they could be ready to buy – and THEN sell. We will find 8x more prospects, immediately recognize those who can never buy, and be true Servant Leaders. Otherwise, with a 5% close rate, we’re merely wasting over 95% of our time and resource seeking the low hanging fruit, and missing a vital opportunity to find, and close, those who WILL buy. And more will buy, and quicker.

I know that some of the recognized sales models talk about ‘buying’. But they are using ‘buyer-based’ terms in service to placing solutions, of finding ways to influence, persuade, or manipulate buying. But buyers don’t buy that way. They first need to navigate through their entire Buyer’s Journey. Help them. Then sell.

____________

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.

 

June 8th, 2020

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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

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

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

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

BELIEFS DEFINE US

We gravitate to, and trust, folks with similar foundational Beliefs and world-views that match well-enough with our own to proclaim “safety”. The problem is that when trying to connect with another, we’re at the effect of their unconscious filters that immediately signal “risk” when there is a perceived misalignment between our Beliefs.

Largely unconscious, illogical to others and hard to change, our Beliefs have been created during the course of our lives; they regulate us, define who we are and are the glue that enables us to show up congruently in the world. We even listen through ears biased by our Beliefs.

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

Sadly, because everyone’s Belief systems are unconscious and idiosyncratic, we can’t accurately perceive Another’s internal system of rules, values, history, habits, experiences etc.We choose our friends according to matching Beliefs; it gets problematic when we need a trusting relationship to accomplish our goals and we’re not clear how to achieve it.

For those folks whose jobs are to influence, there’s an immediate problem. The stories, content, data they seek to share, or their one-sided agenda, may offend the Belief system of the Communication Partner (CP). Bad news for sellers, coaches, managers, etc. who attempt to promote change or buy-in by pushing their ideas, expecting us to accept them, but instead unwittingly causing resistance and distrust.

DRIVERS FOR TRUST

Here are some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust.

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

Information: Our chosen vehicle to “get in” is often with information that we believe they need, without accounting for how it will be perceived. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, our brilliant attempt to share the “right” data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). When we try to motivate, push, share, persuade, etc. we fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, as well as how their listening filters translate it for them, regardless of its efficacy. So with the best will in the world, with folks who might really need what we’ve got to share, we aren’t heeded.

In fact, information is the last thing needed to facilitate change or buy-in, as everyone is pretty protective of their status quo and fears the new information carries the risk of disruption. So save the information sharing for when there’s a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed, and then offer the information in a format that matches Beliefs. Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, offering “rational/scientific” data that “prove” climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of doctors, you won’t use alternate therapies to manage an illness no matter how strong the data for changing your nutrition.

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

Since our great ideas and eager strategies don’t engender trust in folks with different Beliefs, and without trust we can’t change minds, what should we do? Instead of entering conversations wanting them to act according to our needs, why not facilitate them through their Beliefs to discover if they are in Excellence, and if not, what would they need to do to find it. In this way we can help our CPs open up new possibility in ways that don’t feel invasive but actually create trust. But they have to do it themselves.

BELIEFS RULE

Every one of us has Beliefs unique to us, and comprises our status quo. Our Beliefs are the norms and rules we live by, rules that we have developed over our lifetimes to make decisions and act against. Right or wrong, everyone’s Beliefs are normalized, unconscious, and unique, certainly unknowable to an outsider; as coaches, sellers, and leaders, we must carefully initiate relationships and conversations with a goal to match their Belief criteria before considering offering new ideas.

When we wish to engender trust with our CPs it’s possible to use languaging in a way that puts us on the same side of the table as our partners:

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

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

FACILITATING TRUST THROUGH QUESTIONS

I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that teaches others to scan their own internal state. These questions are unbiased, systemic, formulated with specific wording, in a specific order. They also take our CPs into a Witness state, beyond their automatic responses, and from which they can have a neutral, unbiased look at their status quo to notice if it’s operating excellently, and consider change if there might be a more congruent path.

Here’s a story. During a training program, a student showed everyone pictures of his 2-year-old twin daughters (adorable) and his beautiful wife. Once outside during the first break, he lit up a cigarette. It was hard to believe that he hadn’t heard that smoking wasn’t a healthy choice, but there was some Belief that kept him smoking and information hadn’t enabled him to quit. My job became helping him reprioritize his Hierarchy.

I went over and posed a Facilitative Question:

“What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to be alive and healthy by the time your daughters graduate university?”

He threw his cigarette, and the entire pack, away; he called me 6 years later to tell me he still wasn’t smoking. That one Facilitative Question brought him to his Witness place and enabled him to use his own criteria for discovery and change and put his children high up in his conscious thinking. By enabling him to observe himself to find his own unconscious drivers, I helped him make his own change. If I told him cigarettes were unhealthy, I’d be challenging his Identity about his choices and trying to shove information into an unknown Hierarchy, certainly to meet with resistance.

Once people discover their own incongruence they’re happy to change. But offering data doesn’t accomplish this. Take a look at a conventional question vs a Facilitative Question:

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

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

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

This leads your CP

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

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

But take care: these questions take a few weeks to learn to formulate. They use an entirely different belief system, different goals, different outcomes; they need specific words in a very specific order to capture specific parts of the CPs brain; they need a knowledge of memory channels. In other words, they are quite complex. Many folks have attempted to ‘borrow’ a few of my Facilitative Questions, rework them a bit, and try to use them in the same way actual Facilitative Questions are used. But it merely causes distrust; taken out of context, used out of sequence or employing words in the wrong order, they become highly manipulative and off-putting. For those wishing to learn to formulate them, here is a learning accelerator.

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

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

Until your audience is able to accomplish this, they will hear you through biased ears, maintain their barriers, and engender trust only with those who they feel aligned with – omitting a large audience of those who may need you. Stop using your own biases to engender trust: facilitate your CPs in changing themselves. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt Excellence. And they’ll trust you because you helped them help themselves.

____________

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

June 1st, 2020

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

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listening-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENTERING CONVERSATIONS WITHOUT BIAS

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

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

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

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

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

____________

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

May 25th, 2020

Posted In: Listening

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