By Sharon Drew Morgen

Many years ago, just as technology was becoming ubiquitous, I closed $6,400,000 worth of business in the sales reps’ long-term accounts during the real-time call portion of my Buying Facilitation® training with IBM. This particular group had had their accounts for 3 years on average and knew their clients quite well…. Or so they thought.

The funny/sad thing was that I had no specific details about what I was selling, and I certainly had no relationship with the clients I spoke with. But not only did the clients and I discover things they needed to buy during our facilitation process, they gave me the orders without a pitch (Obviously I couldn’t pitch anything.) in the first 15 minutes of speaking with me – a stranger with no prior relationship.

The group director who had hired me to train this pilot had mixed emotions. Incredulity that I could close so much given I was a complete stranger with no product knowledge and the long-term reps hadn’t thought of it; Excitement that I’d closed so much (in two days!); and Frustration that not only did these 15 top reps themselves know nothing about the needs or business sitting there (Sitting there!), but the other 235 reps in that group who hadn’t been trained yet most likely had that sort of business sitting undiscovered in their accounts also.

I asked some of the team members what they thought was the reason they weren’t upselling in their accounts. The two responses I heard led me to suspect that more sales folks might fall into the same traps:

  • An assumption that because of the long-term relationship, clients would call with an order when they had a need;
  • A belief that because they knew the client ‘so well’ that they’d know when/if the client had a need.

Obviously, both assumptions were false.

During the two days I made calls for an hour with each of the 15 course participants, I found client needs that went beyond what the reps had been selling them. I’ll recount a call I had with one of the clients below. In each call introduced myself as a new member of their rep’s team, and called each rep’s smallest client or one they thought had a need but hadn’t been able to close. The call below was to a man from student services at a small college who only bought a printer once or twice a year. And note: although I was given the client’s direct line, the number didn’t go directly to the client. Apparently, the rep had been receiving incoming calls and hadn’t placed calls himself for some time.

Note: This situation occurred quite some time ago but I believe the presenting problem remains valid: sales reps often don’t know what’s really going on in their long term accounts, and even when they do they don’t do more than sell what they’ve always sold to that client, or off-handedly ask if anything new is going on without facilitating a real discussion. I’ll discuss more after the story.

CALL WITH EXISTING CLIENT

Secretary: Hello. This is the technology support group.

SD: Oh. Hi. I was given this number for Charles. Am I calling the wrong number?

Secretary: No. Charles has been working in a team of 5 for about 9 months and I try to take care of them. Can I help you?

SD: Yes. I’m with IBM and work with Steve, and I’d like to speak with Charles if he’s around. But I’m curious. Is Charles no longer in the same student services group he was in before?

Receptionist: Well, yes and no. The group has vastly expanded its focus to include technology needs so we can help our students and school use the new technology and connections coming available. We’re trying to become tech savvy, and it’s been quite a learning curve for us. Let me get Charles for you.

C: Hi there. Susan said you work with Steve? How’s he doing? We’ve not spoken for a few months.

SD: Hi Charles. Steve is great. He’s just here. As I’m a new member of his team, I’m making calls to his regular clients to introduce myself. My name is Sharon-Drew. Hi! So… wow. Susan says you’re all getting into some kinda trouble these days.

C: We are! What fun we’re having, although the learning curve is steep. And it seems to be changing every moment.

SD: It’s interesting from this end too, as IBM keeps inventing new products for us to offer. I’m curious. Given all the change going on, what are you responsible for now that you weren’t responsible for before?

C: Me and my team are responsible for the student/university interface.

SD: I didn’t know you had one.

C: We didn’t. But we’ve decided to give all incoming freshman laptops as part of their matriculation so they can have access to all our departments. We plan on rolling this out next September when the new students come in.

SD: Are you set up for that?

C: What do you mean? What do we need to have set up? (Note: this was before the world was wired.)

SD: Well, you’d need to have the whole university wired so laptops and students could connect, you’d need servers – you’d need a massive overhaul of your grounds to get proper wiring so the computers could talk to the departments and to each other. It’s not as simple as just buying computers and it’s a pretty disruptive process. And it’s November now, and you want it all done by September? I’ll need a bit more data from our folks here to know the exact time frames involved, but I believe it would take many months to get your campus set up for technology. I’m not even sure it could all be completed to be ready by then.

C: Oh! I didn’t know that! We’d better get started now.

SD: Have you decided who you’d be purchasing your laptops from?

C: Well, you folks of course. You’d give me a good price on 2000 laptops, no? And are you able to set up our campus? I’d prefer if IBM did it all for us if possible.

SD: Sure. We won’t send you the laptops until you need them, and Steve will get back to you on the details of the actual work. But we should probably wait until we speak with the rest of your team, no? I notice you’ve got a team of folks involved in the same project. What would we need to do to help them buy in to such a large undertaking?

C: They’re all here. We just came back from lunch. Give me a moment and I’ll have Susan patch us all together.

C: Hey folks. Sharon-Drew works with Steve at IBM who has supplied me with printers for the past years and now can walk us through our project to get students laptops and wire the campus so the laptops and departments and students are all connected. I thought we could just buy computers but seems we have a much bigger problem.

I then brought Steve into the conversation, and for the next hour we noodled on the problems inherent in a project this size and how we could resolve them together. For this I posed Facilitative Questions such as:

Who would you need to involve to make sure you had the best data to make choices around, and get buy-in for, X or Y?

What would we need to set up together, at earliest, to make sure we would cause the least disruption to your campus?

Obviously we didn’t have all the details, but I gave them the questions to begin planning such a huge project; Steve became a partner in their discovery and delivery. And they decided during our meeting that they’d better begin immediately. They started with a $2,000,000 order.

Here’s one of the things I didn’t tell you. Steve was becoming a team leader in the next two months. If his clients had waited until the next September to place the $2,000,000 order, not only would they have to wait another year to implement their plans, Steve wouldn’t have gotten his very large commission check.

DO YOU KNOW YOUR ACCOUNTS?

Instead of assuming you know your accounts, why not call each of them and discuss with them what their future looks like, what has changed in their current situation, and how you can serve them best going forward. If they haven’t given you new business in a while, make sure you notice who else has been added to their team when you ask about what’s changed, because new stakeholders might have preferred suppliers that aren’t you.

One other consideration. Sometimes project leaders running teams that serve the healthcare and technology industries are not sales folks per se, but more technical folks who are only curious in a limited, ‘do-ing’ way without taking the ‘people’ side into account. This thinking might bias conversations and overlook future needs or unaware stakeholders.

When you’re ready to discuss potential needs, remember to include these issues:

  • Have client include all stakeholders. See if there are new ones or folks from other departments, even if you think you know them all.
  • See if the objectives have changed over time. You might have met these clients under different circumstances and aren’t aware of their growth.
  • Notice if there are issues you think need to be resolved, even if they haven’t yet noticed or aren’t prepared to resolve them. If this is the case, use Buying Facilitation® to help them discover how to bring in all stakeholders, try workarounds, and figure out the cost of bringing in something new. Don’t put on your sales hat until then: there’s a reason why they haven’t resolved the problems yet so don’t use your own assumptions to push or sell, even if your solutions would help them.

In these times of change, reorganizations, mergers, and a shifting economy make it likely that your regular clients are going through some sort of transformation. Call them and check in. You never know when you’re going to find new business opportunities and ways to serve.

______________________________________

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

October 12th, 2020

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Do you ever wonder why all those folks who obviously need your solution don’t buy? No, really. Do you? Do you think it’s because they’re, um, stupid? or ill informed? How ‘bout your belief that if you can get a chance to explain it better, or get in front of them, they’ll buy?

Here’s a hint: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your solution. It’s great. And no, buyers aren’t stupid. And no, your information won’t help. And trying to get in front of them to enable your captivating personality woo them, is just wasting time.Buyers buy exactly what they need, when they need it, and who they want to buy it from – your content is searchable and your site professional and data rich.

Buyers are smart. They’re just not listening to you.

SALES IS THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION

The way you’re using the sales model is the problem: everything you do, everything you say, everything you send, has one focus: to sell. Don’t get me wrong. You’re a fine sales professional and your product, your marketing, and your pitches, are great. But you’re using the wrong thinking if you’re using the sales model itself to find actual buyers.

Not only is the sales model a second tier model – great for placing solutions once buyers are ready – but it’s useless as a prospecting and qualifying tool. Used to discover need, persuade and convince, it’s a time and resource waste.

The sales model does nothing to promote buying.The sales model (the baseline being a tool to get solutions placed) is based on Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937): find the folks who need what you’re selling, explain it as many ways necessary so they’ll recognize it will resolve their need, and keep following up to remind them that you’re still there and here’s why they should buy your solution.

Believe it or not, and even with the new technology, the baseline thinking of the sales model hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. The sales process:

  • analyzes demographics to uncover areas with a higher probability of prospect need;
  • maximizes content/information distribution to match those demographics;
  • maximizes buyer touch points to develop brand and trust to minimize objections;
  • prices the solution competitively;
  • connects with buyers personally when possible to create trust and build relationship;
  • beat the competition.

Everything is focused on selling a solution. But there’s a problem with that focus: Every penny spent on recognizing buyer personas, or demographics, or buyer personality types, not only assumes that a seller can convert that name to gold, but assumes you’re meeting these prospective buyers at the point they’re ready to buy, which occurs 5% of the time. That success rate (No other industry would call 95% failure success!) alone should be a hint that maybe something’s wrong. There is. And yet it’s always, always considered to be a sales problem, not a change management problem.

Instead of wondering how you can find folks with a need so you can place your solutions, maybe you should start thinking of what comes first: how to facilitate folks through their change management decision process that occurs before they become buyers in the first place. By starting with the sales model and sales thinking, there is no way to address or facilitate the full buying decision process that puts ‘buying’ last.

It’s time to forego the focus on selling and instead concentrate on the process, the steps, people go through as they navigate through their decisions to make a change or bring in a solution. A buying decision is a strategic process, not tactical like sales. And it’s not focused on buying anything.

Why is it assumed that the solution, the purchase, the final act of attempting to resolve a problem, is the focus for how people become buyers or choose a solution? Or the only decision to be made is the product purchase decision? Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They’re two different processes.

WHAT’S CHANGED?

Believe it or not, even with all the cool technology and knowledge of demographics, the core sales thinking hasn’t changed. But the environment has. And so has the close rate (It’s going down.). And yet we’re still using the same baseline thinking. Here are the problems with this:

A. Obviously, as per travel in 1937, most of Carnegie’s prospects didn’t live too far away. And he knew most of them personally.

  • We don’t personally know our prospects. Oh, sure, we’ve got high tech methods to ‘find’ probable buyers. Yet when I train the model I developed (Buying Facilitation®) to sellers, the control group using the sales model closes 5% and my learners close 40%. That means we’re ignoring 8x more real prospects using the sales model alone. By first helping people traverse through their pre-sales cultural decision issues – stakeholder buy in, trying workarounds, figuring out the how to manage any downside to bringing in something new (all stuff we wait for them to do anyway) it’s possible to find folks who will become buyers on the first call, and shorten the sales cycle dramatically.
  • Our push to ‘create trust/relationships’ is silly. Everyone knows it’s not a real relationship, that it’s a ploy to sell. Not to mention trust can’t occur when one person is trying to convince another to make a purchase. And frankly, just because someone likes you doesn’t mean they can convince their team to buy given the complexity and politics of the stakeholder decision process.

    B. Carnegie stressed describing details of a new product/solution.
  • There was no internet, no regular phone use, no content marketing, no search. Not to mention people looked forward to sitting down with sellers to learn to solve their problem. Now they use Google and don’t need sellers to explain anything. Let me say this again: our prospects do not need us to pitch product content! They do not need us to tell them price, features, functions. They do not need us to ‘gather information’ so WE can find out ‘their needs’. Everyone knows those are all ploys and entries to them pitching them what WE want to tell him. Not to mention as outsiders we can NEVER understand their ‘needs’ as they’re systemic, not tactical.

    C. Buying decisions involved the seller, the problem, the product, and the buyer.
  • There are layers of stakeholders and decision makers now; buyers live in complicated systems of norms, rules, history, group/individual needs – all of which must be addressed before a buying decision takes place. Pushing solution content before these issues have been addressed does nothing to facilitate group buy-in; it merely causes distrust.

    D. A purchase was tactical.
  • Now, unless it’s a small personal item, most purchases are strategic and involve a range of conscious and unconscious issues that must be managed first before folks even become buyers. With all the demographics in the world, with even the knowledge that this person will buy eventually, an outsider using the sales model cannot, cannot facilitate people through the steps they MUST take before deciding to buy. The sales model just does NOT facilitate the strategic elements of enabling buy-in for change. And that’s 3/4 of what people do before they become buyers. And we’re ignoring this vast pre-sales capability.

    Here’s what Carnegie didn’t know:
    • People don’t want to buy anything. They just want to resolve a problem at the lowest ‘cost’ to their culture and become buyers only when they recognize they cannot resolve the problem internally and everyone understands the ‘cost’ of bringing in something new.
    • Until people have determined they’re buyers, they have no inclination to read or hear a pitch because they haven’t yet determined the need or know if it can be resolved internally. They won’t read our information because they’re not aware they need it yet, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. Not to mention, pitching too early creates objections.
    • Need doesn’t determine who buys. Just because there’s a real need doesn’t mean it’s the right time, there’s the proper buy in, and the calculation of cost to the system: the cost of bringing in a new solution must be less than the cost of maintaining the problem. Not to mention it’s quite difficult for sellers to recognize real ‘need’ when they pose biased questions to obtain cues that obviate a pitch or follow up.
    • There’s no way a seller can know the unique, idiosyncratic issues going on within a buyer’s environment that dictate how their decisions get met. And until whoever will touch the final solution buys in to something new, a purchase will not be made. Hint: assuming we have a prospect because we interpret what we hear as a ‘need’ doesn’t make someone a prospect.

      NEW RULES FOR NEW TIMES
      The crucial missing pieces are systemic and have nothing to do with a purchase:
    • Buying an external solution has a cost beyond money. It’s much ‘cheaper’ and far less disruptive to fix the problem with known resources if they can. Until they figure this out if a workaround is viable, they will not buy regardless of need.
      Rule #1: Prospects aren’t always prospects.
    • Buying is systemic. People won’t become buyers until they have: the full set of facts that caused the problem and maintain it (or they can’t know the extent of the problem); a fair exploration of workarounds or internal fixes to try first to resolve the problem themselves; an understanding of the downside of bringing in something new that must be implemented, learned, accepted, used. Until then they’re just people with a problem they want to resolve. Themselves.
      Rule #2: Need has little to do with who is a buyer and it’s the wrong metric to use to help buyers buy.
    • People with a problem won’t be researching our information unless it’s to learn from as they attempt their own fix – not to buy. While they will certainly seek out information once they become buyers, we’ve got that market covered with our sites and marketing. That’s the low hanging fruit – your 5% close.
      Rule #3: Our content, marketing, emails, and requests for appointments won’t be noticed nor needed until folks consider themselves buyers.
    • Until or unless the entire stakeholder group is on board and buys in to any change that will occur once they implement the new purchase, they will never buy.
      Rule #4: Buying is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.
    • 40% of the folks we’re prospecting will buy our solution (maybe from a different provider) within about two years: the time it takes them to figure out how to figure it out is the length of the sales cycle.
      Rule #5: Sales concentrates on placing solutions to the exclusion – to the exclusion – of facilitating the buying decision process which is change based, not solution choice based. The change process can be accelerated, but not with sales.
    • People aren’t seeking to buy anything, they just want to resolve a problem. They only become buyers if they cannot resolve the problem with internal workarounds. If the only way they can resolve the problem is to make a purchase, the ‘cost’ of the solution must be less than the cost of maintaining the status quo.
      Rule #6: People won’t notice details, pitches, content marketing about our solution until they consider themselves buyers and know how to manage the cost of implementing it – regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution.

      Net net: Seeking need isn’t working or we’d close more. Creating a trusting relationship isn’t working or we’d close more. Generating terrific content isn’t working or we’d close more. Finding the right demographic isn’t working or we’d close more.

      All of those tools will uncover those who are specifically seeking your solution at this precise moment. That’s it. They will not expand our audience. And those who are ready are a small percent of folks who need our solution but can’t buy until they’re ready (5% vs 40%).

      TIPS TO HELPING BUYERS BUY
      Let’s take the inherent problems with sales and the extremely low close rate, and shift to a new way of thinking about this. Here are some tips to truly serve folks exactly where they need you (Remember: they don’t need us to pitch or inform.) during their change facilitation process, and steps to actually help those who WILL become buyers to buy:
    • Before selling, help folks do what they need to do to become buyers – facilitate them through their change management (their Buying Decision Path). They have to do it anyway, with us or without us. So let’s go a bit outside the sales/solution placement model, and just help them with the change management first.

      Change the goal of prospecting calls. Stop trying to find someone with a need. Find folks considering change in the area you support. These folks are easy to find if we stop trying to push our products or ask biased questions. The time it takes them to figure this out is the length of the sales cycle. So help them figure it out. Then we’re already there when they become buyers. NOTE: the initial effort must be on facilitating change – not selling.
    • Facilitate potential buyers through the steps to change they they must go through (I’ve coded 13 steps involved in the Buying Decision Journey) before they become buyers.
      • recognize the full extent of the problem, possible by assembling the complete set of stakeholders (which sellers can never know) to share information;
      • attempt to fix the problem internally (which sellers can never do as outsiders);
      • manage any disruption an outside fix would entail (which we can’t do for them).

        I can’t say this enough times: a purchase is NOT about ‘need’; and no purchase will be made if the cost of the solution is higher than the cost of maintaining status quo regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. And an outsider, a seller, can never, never make any of those determinations.
    • Stop posing biased questions. I invented Facilitative Questions which do NOT gather information, but point the client in the direction they need to consider on route to change. Many folks in the sales field misuse my term Facilitative Questions (which I invented in 1993). Let me be clear: If you haven’t studied with me and try to formulate these questions, you’re using ‘Susan’s questions’, or ‘Joe’s questions’, not Facilitative Questions.

      Facilitative Questions take some training. They use brain function to lead people down their path to change and decision making. They do NOT attempt to gather information! And they use brain science: They contain very specific words in a very specific order, often with a time element involved, and always pulling data points in a very specific sequence from one memory channel to the next. If you want to discuss, email me: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. If you want to learn, take a look at this learning accelerator.

      The problem with using conventional questions, regardless of your intent, is that
      • They’re biased by your need to know and most likely overlook vast bits of knowledge;
      • They are restricted in scope by your outcome and languaging;
      • They cannot be heard as intended due to the bias that your communication partner (all people!) listens through;
      • There’s a high probability that the real answer to what you want to know either doesn’t exist, or isn’t fully formed yet.
    • So don’t use conventional questions based on your needs to inform and discuss your solution until these folks are at the end of the change steps and have real answers. And please operate from a different focus: learn Facilitative Questions to help them manage the change necessary so they can become buyers. Facilitative Questions address change. Conventional questions try to gather data – unnecessary until folks are already buyers and need specifics that can be elicited through normal questions.
    • Stop trying to make an appointment. All you’re getting are folks who are either using your content to craft their own pitch to their team, or to compare against their internal, or historic, vendor. People who will become buyers generally do their research and call to ask for a sales person. I’m not saying don’t visit. But only visit those who are real buyers, and the whole Buying Decision Team is present. That’s a great use of sales.
  • CONCLUSION
  • The sales model is great for people who have become buyers – the low hanging fruit. Unfortunately, it does nothing at all to engage or facilitate folks still in the process of trying to resolve a problem themselves and who have a good shot at becoming buyers when they’re done. By prospecting from the knowledge you first seek those seeking to change, you can find very highly qualified folks who WILL become buyers, and using Buying Facilitation® you can reduce the sales cycle by 3/4.
  • With a Change hat on, it’s easy to find those in the process of becoming buyers and facilitate them through their Buying Decision Journey. You’re already spending time following up vast numbers of people who will never buy; why not find those who WILL become buyers (possible on the first call) and speed up their change process.
  • In summary, if you facilitate folks through their Buying Decision Path, you can lead them through their discovery of the full set of stakeholders (which you would never have known or discovered); their search for an internal solution (They would have had one already if it were available – but if they discover one, they wouldn’t have been buyers anyway!); managing the change. Then, when they’re buyers, they will invite YOU to visit and ALL of the stakeholders will be there ready to buy. Then you can sell! Not to mention the facilitation process takes a lot less time than pitching, trying to get an appointment, and following up.
  • Sales is a necessary model to introduce solutions beyond what’s possible on the internet. It’s just illogical to use as a prospecting or qualifying tool. With 8x more real buyers on your lists, stop wasting time on those who will never buy, find the ones who will once they figure it all out, and help them figure it out. Then sell.
  • I’m not taking away the sales model, only the frustration, expenditure of resource – not to mention it’s far easier to sell when you have buyers. One more thing: for those interested in truly serving your customers, facilitate them through their confusing decision making. Then you’ll have a customer for life.
  • For those interested in learning about my Buying Facilitation® model, here’s a link to some articles. I’ve also got gobs more on Sharondrewmorgen.com.
  • What is Buying Facilitation®?
  • What is Buying Facilitation®? What sales problem does it solve
  • Prospects Aren’t Always Prospects
  • Steps Along the Buying Decision Path
  • How, Why, and When Buyer’s Buy
  • Recognize Buyers on the First Call
  • Don’t You Realize Selling Doesn’t Cause Buying?
  • Do you want to make a sale? or an appointment?______________________________________
  • 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

October 5th, 2020

Posted In: News

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A friend of mine delivers leadership training in police departments. On the first morning, he has the partners dance with each other, taking turns for an hour at a time as leader and follower. As most of them are men, they start off very uncomfortable as the ‘follower’, usually a woman’s role in dance. But follow they must; he tells them if they can’t follow, they can’t lead.

As leaders with specific goals we’re responsible for, we operate from the assumption we’re in charge. But what, exactly, are we in charge of? I believe our job is to set the tone, and enable our followers to create a path to a successful goal. As they say in Argentine Tango, if you notice the leader, he’s not doing his job.

WHAT IS OUR JOB

With unconscious blinkers, limited by our biases and assumptions, leaders often begin with a plan, an idea, a fantasy if you will, of how to achieve an outcome. We then work at creating and driving the path to execute it. But this strategy faces several unknowns:

  1. We really have no way of knowing beforehand if it could succeed.
  2. We don’t know the follower’s unspoken beliefs, creative capabilities, or dynamics, how their process factors in, or the range of ideas they might come up with if encouraged.

Even with an aim to be inclusive, we too often carry our plan into the initial sessions with the group and, maybe unconsciously, try to persuade them to adopt the path we imagine. This route might yield resistance at best; at worst, it restricts the full range of possible outcomes.

I recently heard Presidential Candidate and Senator Amy Klobuchar say: “I haven’t gone on TV for interviews much before now. But my team told me I needed the exposure. So here I am.” Was she the follower? Or the leader? While smart enough to be considered to be leader of the free world, she didn’t have the foresight of her team to expand her publicity. That makes her the leader AND the follower.

I contend that as leaders using our own assumptions, ideas, and expertise, it’s not possible to achieve an optimal result: until followers develop their own values, vision, and voices; until the group discovers a path through their own group dynamics; until the group works collaboratively to develop creative outcomes that they can all buy into; there’s no condition for success as the outcome will be restricted.

So here’s the question: do you want to facilitate a route through to the best result? Or drive the path to the result you’ve imagined? You can’t do both.

  • What would you need to believe differently to trust you can achieve the best outcome if it’s driven by the followers?
  • What is your role if the followers are in charge of the route to a successful outcome?

I believe that leading and following are two sides of the same coin. And I believe it must be an interdependent process.

CONTROL

I once trained a group of executive leaders at a company with a reputation of having values. They were the most manipulative group I’ve ever trained. Getting them to consider any form of leadership that didn’t involve them having total control was a herculean task. Seeing my frustration one of them said: “But our message is values-based. Of COURSE it’s our job to convince them to do it our way! It’s the RIGHT way.” Having a great outcome does not give license to push our agendas to get it done OUR way.

As leaders, we must give up our egos, our needs for control, our perceived value of being ‘right’, of being The One to exert power and influence. We obviously need to have some sort of control given we’ve got a job to do. But control over what?

There are two components to our job: reaching a goal, and getting there; we cannot control both unless we do it alone. To work with a group of followers, I suggest we manage the goal and supervision of the journey through change; the process of getting there, the details and actions along the route, must be managed by the followers. It’s an interdependent process. On a day-to-day basis that means the leader

  • controls the space that will enable all voices to be heard, giving rise to creativity, collaboration, and mutual responsibility for planning and delivery;
  • leads the group through forming, failure and resistance, discovery and confusion, trials and success;
  • guides the group through the route they designed and helps them maintain equilibrium.

Here I’m reminded of another great Argentine Tango expression: The leader opens the door; the follower dances through using her own unique steps; the leader follows.

STRUCTURE VS CONTENT; CONTEXT VS COMPONENTS

I contend that we must assure results, but hand over the control of the journey to the followers.

Let’s look at the two components, the goal and the route, from a systems perspective. Considering the result we seek to achieve from the viewpoint of the structure – the context, the boundaries that define the goal – the goal is clear and unadorned. The structure is the headline that identifies what’s within, so a headline that reads: Sandals are Worn in Summer, would have an article about shoes, not recipes for spaghetti.

I refer to the components within the structure as the content – the details, the story line, the items that fit within the parameters of that specific structure. Using the above headline, the content might include different types of sandals, shoes worn in summer vs those worn in winter.

Another simple example would be the structure defines the size and use of a room, while the content includes the size and type of furniture that will fit into it; so an 8’ by 10’ room to be used as a bedroom would not hold a 12’x12’ living room couch.

The structure strictly limits, controls, defines, and identifies the content. Any content is acceptable so long as it fits within the confines of the structure.

If leading a team through an initiative to enhance customer service, for example, the leader is responsible for ending up with happier customers and supervising the journey to get there, while the followers are responsible for

  • the route taken to get there,
  • the choice of the components of the new services,
  • what these services will do, the planning to get there, and the rules that will maintain them,
  • what each team member will do,
  • how it will be delivered.

Here’s the deal: we can only have real control over a single factor – the structure OR the content. Sadly, leaders too often try to control both. The real control and power is in controlling the structure:

  • By controlling the structure, any components that fit would be acceptable so long as they clearly meet the goal’s criteria. By controlling the structure, we’re a problem seeking a solution. If we have a 3 foot box, we can choose whatever we want to put into it – balls or bananas – so long as it fits. Improved customer service might mean more reps, better phone coverage, more focused email responses, year-end gifts, better website access. Humana offers televisits for patients who can’t get to a doctor’s offices. Whatever fits, whatever the group agrees to within the parameters of the structure, is up for discussion. The content will correspond with the structure.
  • By controlling the content, by focusing on the components, it’s necessary to find a structure that confines them. We become a solution looking for a problem – obviously limiting the field of possibilities. With 12 green 10” balls, we need a very specific-sized box. Using our example, we might train reps to answer phones by the third ring and lower prices; then must define a goal to match that. And of course the full range of options for improving customer service would be overlooked. Obviously, starting from the components, the content, is the less flexible, less creative route.

It’s by controlling the structure we can plant a stake in the ground with the rules and criteria for success that all else emanates from. Our job then becomes to maintain the tone and vision; how we get there is the job of the followers, tasked with creating the content.

When followers control the content, they create a collaboration amongst themselves, use their combined imaginations to develop a set of behaviors and outcomes that will fit within the rules and structure, and take ownership of the process and journey to success. Each follower is a leader who buys-in to the change and process, owns the solution, manages any resistance, and takes responsibility for implementation. The leader then maintains the space the followers created.

STARTING UP A COMPANY AS A LEADER/FOLLOWER

I’d like to share a story of my own journey as an entrepreneur of a tech start up in London. I began with no knowledge of business and even less of technology (Those were early days, remember?). I was smart enough to know my range of content knowledge – nil. So I wrote an outline of what I wanted to achieve (the structure):

  • a company that would take great care of the needs of customers in the area of 4th Generation Languages (Really early days!) with integrity, honesty, and win/win values;
  • be seen as a premier provider by charging high prices and great service expertise;
  • have my staff be as happy and cared for as my clients;
  • make money and have fun.

That was my structure. I had no idea what would be in the content. I did my best to research, speak with people, read a few books. Then I realized that it would be best if I hired good people who designed their own jobs. My hiring process included asking applicants to bring in a P&L that included their salary and the route, within the confines of their job and the structure I put forth, to getting their salary AND bringing in a profit for the company. We ended up providing programming, training, and consulting services to users and teams. But I didn’t know that when I started.

The applicant for the job of receptionist was quite creative. Ann Marie wanted a small salary and a percentage of the gross income. For this, she would make sure the company ran efficiently and staff and clients would be thoroughly taken care of to the point they wouldn’t want to go anywhere else and would have the time to do their best job. Wow. I hired her. And she did exactly what she said. She made us write these daily TOADs – I don’t remember what the acronym stood for…something like Take what you want And Destroy the rest… but it took us an extra hour each night to write them up (No computers in daily use in the early 80s, remember?). Each morning we found the full set of everyone’s TOADS on our desks when we arrived. They involved current initiatives, our frustrations, any good/bad issues with clients and prospects, any good/bad issues we had with each other.

As a result of us all knowing ‘everything’, on any given day, if a phone would ring and the person wasn’t there to answer, anyone could answer it and be able to help. As the receptionist, Ann Marie would take the time to make kind comments to whoever was calling, making every caller feel wanted and comfortable. Office squabbles and gossip didn’t have a way to fester as we knew who was mad at who and the argument dissipated. Team members helped each other by coming up with creative solutions, or sharing resource. We had the knowledge to introduce clients to each other for follow-on partnerships. Frankly, Ann Marie terrified me. Tall, officious, unsmiling, we all did what she told us to do (Talk about leaders!). And she walked away with pockets full of money as she helped the business double each year.

I hired John as a ‘Make Nice Guy’ to bridge the divide between technical and people skills. He wanted a $100,000 salary (in 1985!) to make sure techies, their code, and how our contractors maintained relationships with the teams they worked with, all ran smoothly. That was a no brainer. With John taking care of all outside stuff, I was left with no fires, no problems, no crashes, no personality issues, no client problems, and I could grow my business. He even found out when a client was buying new software that we could support well before it arrived on site; when the vendor came to install it, my folks were there waiting, well before the vendor tried to sell their services.

The team worked hard to get me to say “We’re doing WHAT??” I was once walking down the hall and ran into my Training Manager. When I asked where he’d been hiding since I hadn’t seen him in days, he told me he was busy scouting out extra office space for the new training programs being developed. “We’re doing WHAT??” And fill the seats he did, bringing in new clients and new programs. Including me as a trainer. “I’m doing WHAT??” Apparently, the team believed I supervised techies so well as a non techie that I should teach other non-techie managers how to supervise their techie staff. I would never have thought of that myself. So they got me to run monthly programs which were always packed.

As part of my commitment to creativity and growth, I told the management team to take risks but to let me know if a disaster was imminent at least three feet before they fell off the edge (If they waited until they were already off the cliff there wouldn’t be a thing I could do but wave). And they did. As a result they created unique programs, processes, and initiatives that I could never have dreamed of. And they mostly got it right.

By setting a tone of authenticity, I regularly discussed my failures and got input from the team as to how to make things better. This obviously opened the door for us all to discuss failures as part of our job. Also my maintaining control of the structure, by trusting the staff and enabling them to be leaders and innovators, I was able to double the company income every year. With no computers, no internet, no email, no websites, we had a $5,000,000 revenue (and 42% net profit) within four years. Everyone made money, loved coming to work, and grew individually. We controlled 11% of the market (the other 26 competitors shared the other 89%), had loads of fun, and we changed the landscape of what was possible.

TRUST

I could never, ever have been that successful if I hadn’t trusted my followers to create their jobs. I controlled the structure. They controlled the content. Win/win. Interdependent. Trust. Respect. Their joke was that they were the ones with the brains, and I was the one with the mouth. Cool beans. I opened the door, they danced through it, and I followed.

Leadership is an interdependent process with followers and leaders working together from the inside and outside simultaneously to inspire trust and reach the best possible outcome. Here are the givens:

  • The process is always transforming and dynamic, rendering pockets of success, confusion and failure, creativity;
  • There’s no way to know until the end what the trip will include so it’s necessary to build in trust, collaboration, and openness;
  • The result will be what everyone wants. The process will not be what the leader envisaged;
  • The process will proceed according to the values, creativity, and needs of the followers;
  • The leader will be respected so long as s/he uses her/his power to shepherd the process;
  • Failure is part of the process and can be used to inspire creativity;
  • Resistance will be visible and managed by group with no fallout;
  • The result will be the best amalgam of everyone involved bringing their values and hearts.

A real leader enables their followers to operate interdependently, using their own values, their own creativity, their own vision. As leaders we must stop trying to exert influence over the entire process, and begin trusting followers to lead us.

THE HOW

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know that I always include a ‘how’ so readers can use the ideas I espouse. In this case, my suggestions will be a bit challenging: the necessary skills to implement this style of leadership includes rethinking and enhancing two skills we all believe we’re good at and take great pride in – our listening and our questioning.

The reality is that no matter how professional, how fair, how honorable, how impartial we believe ourselves to be, when we use our conventional questioning and listening skills there’s a high probability we’ll be (unconsciously, unwittingly, automatically) biased by our words, ideas, needs, beliefs, and history. I’ve developed ways to listen and question that avert bias and indeed facilitate transformation and expanded possibility. I train these skills to leaders when I train in organization

1.    Listening. The biggest problem is that it’s just not possible to listen without bias no matter how hard we try to show up as good listeners, or how carefully we listen to every word. We just cannot separate our intent from our physiology.

Words, as sounds, come into our ears as electrical/chemical signals, devoid of meaning. Simplistically, these signals go down neural pathways in our brains to find the nearest synapses that carry similar signals – assumed, sometimes wrongly, to be a match, regardless of the accuracy of the underlying meaning. So our brains might find a match with ABL when the speaker actually said ABC. Listeners actually hear ABL with no recognition that there’s a misunderstanding; our brains don’t tell us it omitted D, E, F, G… Net net, we unwittingly listen with biased ears and ‘hear’ what our brains tell us has been said…often some degree ‘off’ of the speaker’s intended message.

There is a way to mitigate this. (My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? teaches how.) By listening in Observer/Coach, on “the ceiling” we supersede our normal neural pathways and enable our brains to find a more accurate match. Using normal listening, it’s only possible to hear what is most comfortable and habitual. For those who don’t get a chance to read the book and learn how to listen to whole conversations without bias, I suggest you at least take this shortcut and say: “I want to make sure I understand you accurately. I’m going to tell you what I think I heard; can you please tell me if I’ve got it right and correct me where I’m wrong?” That will keep the conversation on track.

2.    Questioning. Conventional questions elicit information as per the Asker’s curiosity. Of course given our unconscious biases, our curiosity is restricted by our beliefs and life histories, resulting in questions limited to what we think we need to know (certainly not the full universe of available information). It goes without saying that there’s no way an outsider can know what’s going on within someone else’s life experience. It’s even more difficult within a group setting. Hence, normal questions can only gather information that’s some fraction of what we need, and an unknown level of accuracy.

Of course often people need information to act from, and normal questions are necessary. But for those times change is part of the process, people/followers need to understand their own motivation, values, and beliefs to act from. For this I invented a new form of question called a Facilitative Question that makes it possible to enable Others to mentally (unconsciously) aggregate their own values and needs to make their own best decisions, define their own outcomes, recognize their own success criteria, and chart their own next steps, with no bias or influence from the leader.

So: Why do you wait for six rings before answering the phone? would be replaced with What would need to be willing/able to answer an incoming call by the third ring? Instead of gathering information, facilitate people through to their own actionable answer and non-resistant choice, using their own criteria. Used in a group setting this process enhances creativity and responsibility for action.

For those wishing to learn how to formulate these questions, read this article, and take a look at this learning module I developed. Formulating Facilitative Questions employs listening for systems, understanding word usage and word placement, and the sequence of decision making in the brain. A much different process than posing normal questions.

As leaders, our job is to facilitate a collaboration with our followers to interdependently create a successful goal. It demands that leaders enter with a different outcome, a different mindset, and a different tool kit. But it’s worth it. We’ll end up with the real power of spearheading harmony, integrity, creativity, and excellence. And have a greater success than we ever could have achieved alone.

____________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader, original thinker, consultant, trainer, and speaker. Sharon Drew trains leadership teams and sales forces. She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew’s award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com carries original articles on topics such as sales, leadership, decision making, questions, collaboration, and values.

Sharon Drew is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® the first new paradigm that gives sales people, healthcare professionals, leaders, and managers, the tools to enable others to generate real change based on their own internal beliefs, rules, systems, and vision. She has spent her life decoding how brains decide and how to generate real change at the core neurology of synapses and neural pathways. She has also designed innovative training models to facilitate learners in producing permanent change. Sharon Drew lives on a houseboat in Portland OR.

September 28th, 2020

Posted In: News

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appointments

Do you want to make a sale, or an appointment? Does an appointment create a ‘relationship‘ that will close the deal? Give you a higher probability of closing a sale? And how’s that working for you? Are you closing all the sales you deserve to close?

By seeking appointments with prospects with a ‘need’ who could buy your solution (a prospect is someone who WILL buy, not merely someone who COULD buy), you severely limit your ‘intro meetings’ to either those already seeking your solution (and competitors), or those you’re guessing might (might) be buyers. Indeed, what you determine a ‘sales qualified opportunity’ might be nothing more than a biased interpretation of a biased conversation that affords the opportunity to try to convince someone to buy; the odds are very high you’re wasting your time.

Maybe you’re not finding the right prospects. Maybe a qualified opportunity isn’t qualified. But the real problem is that by sorting for prospects with both a ‘need’ and a willingness to take an appointment, you’re severely restricting the playing field and most likely closing well under 5% of qualified leads. So something is awry. But by shifting your criteria, by seeking candidates who CAN buy, it’s possible to make appointments with buyers ABLE to buy.

APPOINTMENT SETTING IS COSTING YOU SALES

Right now you’re spending a lot of resource for a very low return, with a substandard ratio between seeking, and connecting with, initial conversations to the actual closing of a sale:

200 cold calls = 10 conversations = 1 meeting (.5%) Lots of meetings = unknown closes

I have a colleague who charges $5,000 per “C” level appointment; it takes his team 1500 cold calls to get an appointment, and again, he has no concrete numbers on how many sales are actually closed. (Sales Development groups consider themselves finished when they book appointments, and have no attachment to whether or not the sale closes.)

I believe that the way you’re going about seeking appointments is costing you sales.

Ask yourself this: Would you rather sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. When you start off with a goal to make an appointment, you’re

  • greatly narrowing your prospect field by those who seem to have a ‘need’ and ignoring those who are ‘able’ – those who should buy instead of those who will buy;
  • potentially setting up appointments before the buyers have assembled the full Buying Decision Team (often unknown at the beginning, and certainly not all obvious) and haven’t yet fully defined their needs or gotten consensus (i.e. no way of knowing if they’re really buyers, hence the huge gap between appointments and closes);
  • assuming that your bright shiny face and sterling personality is necessary to close a sale.

What makes ‘need’ the criteria anyway? What if your criteria were to discover those who CAN buy? By using your first interaction to facilitate a buyer’s ability to buy, by facilitating Buyer Readiness, you can find real buyers and get an appointment with all of the appropriate influencers and decision makers present on your first call.

WHY APPOINTMENTS SUCK

Have you ever even asked yourself why you believe it’s necessary to make an appointment as part of your sales process? Here’s why: because in 1937, in How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie suggested sellers needed to make appointments. That’s right, 1937. In 1937, without the internet, computers, good phone lines or travel, sellers probably didn’t go too far from their homes to sell.

What else are you doing from 1937? There’s now a completely different set of global, technology, capability givens: buyers have all the data they need at their fingertips; sellers needn’t be physically present to actually demonstrate a solution; it’s easy to sit at a desk and communicate anywhere in the world.

You can actually facilitate a buying decision with prospects who will buy, once they’ve got their ducks in a row, in less time than it takes to make an appointment. Here are the problems sellers face when their goal is to make an appointment with those with a ‘need’, and why you’re closing such a paltry percentage:

  1. Meet prospects who won’t ever buy (99+ %): The only prospects who can offer an accurate description of needs have already assembled their complete Buying Decision Team, have completed their Pre-Sales (systems-based, not need-based) steps toward determining the range of best possible fixes for an agreed-upon problem, and understand the challenges they face when bringing in a new solution. Those not ready/able to buy may meet with you to gather data to present options to their teammates, learn about something interesting that they won’t ever buy, or compare against their current vendor, or or or.
  2. Need is not the right criteria: Just because it seems someone has a need doesn’t make them ready or able to buy. They might end up with their old vendor, or not fixing the problem now, or facing too much internal conflict to make a change. But 80% of these folks will buy within 2 years. You can teach them how to buy now in the time it takes to make an appointment.
  3. Double sale: By seeking an appointment, your first ‘sale’ is the appointment. In other words, you’re expunging real, potential buyers who might need your solution but didn’t want, or aren’t ready for, an appointment (but could easily be made ready).
  4. Wasting resource:  1. Who (Yes: who?) would use their valuable time to learn something they can learn online? 2. You can use the exact same syllables, and less time/resource/effort to focus on the buying side and offer a service within an interaction that creates a real reason to meet. 3. You’re throwing away numbers of potential buyers because they say ‘NO’ to an appointment.
  5. You’re one of many: You’re most likely not the only meeting they’re having, so you’re already in a (price) competition by the time you arrive. The odds are against you that you’re the only game in town.
  6. Person meeting you is an unknown: You have no idea who, or what, the person who takes the meeting represents in re Buyer Readiness, regardless of their title. Is he using your data to get buy-in from his team to push his own agenda? Will she use your data to send to their current vendor? If there are only 1 or 2 people at the meeting, these folks are merely conduits, regardless of what they tell you. Not only are the odds good that the ‘needs’ you’re gathering aren’t accurate, the content you’re pitching may not be the most relevant data for their buying situation. Again, do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Admit it: you have no understanding of the real reason this person has agreed to an appointment.
  7. Buying Decision Team may not yet have defined the full scope of need: Has the full complement of Buying Decision Team members been assembled? Has everyone’s voice been considered and integrated, and the person you’re meeting with carry the full complement of problems/needs/change issues? If not, there is no defined, consensual ‘need’.
  8. Person may not deliver your message appropriately: You are dependent upon this person to represent you to the Buying Decision Team, at the right time, in the right way. Will he explain your content accurately, at the most advantageous time? What will she unwittingly omit? Will he use your data to compare with your competition? Just because you managed to wangle an appointment doesn’t mean you know how to deliver the message appropriately for that person’s situation, or that person will know how to appropriately share your great content. Hint: you can never, ever know what’s going on behind closed doors.
  9. Your message might not be heard: Without an accurate set of data culled from the fully assembled Buying Decision Team, you have no idea what this person is listening for in your meeting.
  10. Your message might be inadequate: Are you discussing your solution according to your need to sell or their ability to bring in a new solution? Are you positioning your message to help them get consensus for a purchase they may not be set up to buy?
  11. Information gathering/’understanding needs’ dubious: You have no idea what percentage of their Pre-Sales (change management) issues have been handled before the meeting, and cannot know their state of Buyer Readiness. The completeness of the Buying Decision Team, the state of change, and consensus, determine when/if a buyer buys; ‘need’ is irrelevant. When you’re only gathering data based on your assumptions/your need to sell, the data you gather will be flawed or incomplete. And your questions and listening will be biased by your own expectations and needs, missing important data. If you were doing a better job at this, your closing rates would be higher.
  12. Neglecting opportunity to facilitate those not ready but able: By merely seeking an appointment, you’re ignoring buyers with real needs who merely need to complete their Pre-Sales change management work. Buyers cannot buy if a purchase will cause disruption that costs more than fixing the original problem.

It’s possible to use your lists and phone time to first facilitate Buyer Readiness– on the first call – before asking for an appointment. Then, with your expert help, buyers assemble the appropriate Buying Decision Team, quickly determine necessary change/purchase issues, and know how to handle the fallout a purchase would entail. You can do this on the phone less time than it takes you to get an appointment.

 CASE STUDY

Here’s a situation that happened to me years before Sales Development Consulting to find ‘sales qualified opportunities’ was a thing. It’s a funny example of how little we know when we make an appointment, and how costly our assumptions of ‘need’ can be.

When I lived in Taos, NM, I hired a sales professional in Albuquerque. While it was only 147 miles door to door, that trip was treacherous going up and down the Sangre de Christos Mountains in the winter and I hated the drive. One day my new hire Anna called to tell me she made an appointment for us to meet with senior folks in a local bank. Working with me she knew she wasn’t supposed to make appointments. “But they asked to see us!” she said, excitedly. “And they need sales training. They’re very excited to meet with you.” I bet her a lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant in Albuquerque that she’d realize she shouldn’t have made an appointment, that I would do the best I could, but she’d surely owe me a lunch.

We entered a boardroom, with 2 seats for me and Anna on one side, and 3 men sitting on the other. According to their business cards, it was the Branch Manager, Assistant Branch Manager and the Training Director. At the start of the meeting, the men’s chairs were pretty much equidistant.

We shared a few pleasantries as I watched Miguel, the Training Director on the far left, move his seat, bit by bit, away from his colleagues. Within about 5 minutes, he was at least 2 feet away from his nearest seatmate. After the pleasantries, I asked:

SDM: How’s your current sales training working?

PAT: (Branch Manager): It’s fine.

SDM: Sooo how did you decide to see me today?

PAT: Well, Anna called and told me all about you (Again, something she is not supposed to do.) and I found it interesting. I thought it might be fun to just sit and talk about sales training.

SDM: So your sales training is merely fine, and you didn’t seek anyone out to find out how to make it better?

PAT: Well, it’s working well enough. [NOTE: Obviously, this wasn’t a buyer; he’s got nothing to buy.]

SDM: And what is it about sales training that you would hear from me that you’d find interesting? It’s sort of confusing me since you seem to be fine as you are.

PAT: (silence for about 3 very long minutes.) Oh, I don’t know, maybe we can talk about the sort of results banks might get from sales training?

SDM: Pat, I’m not sure why I’m here. Sounds like you’ve got training that’s working for you and you haven’t been seeking anything new. I’m confused. How ‘bout you call me if you decide you want to do something different and we can talk on the phone.

The visit lasted 10 minutes. Anna and I walked out, wordlessly got in the car, and she drove me to my Japanese restaurant. Cost: SDM – 6 hours of driving time. Anna – 3 hours of lost calling time to facilitate real buyers, plus $100 for lunch.

The next day, Pat called me.

PAT: I’d like to apologize for yesterday. That wasn’t fair to you. What you didn’t know was that Miguel, on the end, was the nephew of the owner of the bank. He designed all the sales training we’ve used for the last 10 years. It’s awful and our results are terrible. But politically, I couldn’t be the one to say we needed you. I hoped with you being there he’d be willing to discuss the problems and maybe seek a new solution. I kept giving him opportunities to say something. He never did.

A coda: I ran into Pat in Taos about 4 years later. Seemed they were still using the same sales training, getting the same bad results. Note: I could have spoken to Pat on the phone and avoided this meeting. They were never buyers, although they certainly had a ‘need’ I could fulfill.

I suggest you shift the focus to facilitate buying, and use appointments to sell once there is a real buying opportunity. The problem has never been in your solution, has it?

ENTER FIRST AS A FACILITATOR

We can use our early moments on an initial call to immediately begin facilitating Buyer Readiness. Here’s a story I often share. Sorry if you’ve read this from me before now, but the example bears repeating. When I trained a group of small business bankers at a large bank, their initial cold calls sought an appointment:

Banker: Hi. I’m John Smith and a small business banker at W bank. I’m going to be in your neighborhood next week to introduce folks to our new solutions for small businesses. Would you have time for me to come by Tuesday or Thursday afternoon? I’d come by to show you resources that would help your business grow.

The bankers got 10% agreement to make an appointment, and closed 2 in 11 months. 2% close.

During my training with these folks, we designed a Facilitative Question (a skill in Buying Facilitation®) that helped the prospects determine how they could achieve excellence and solve a problem from the first question in our interaction:

Banker: Hi. I’m John Smith and a small business banker at W bank and this is a sales call. How are you currently adding new resources to use with the bank you’re currently using, for those times your bank can’t give you all that you need?

The bankers got 37% agreement to make an appointment. The question caused those with a need realize their current bank wouldn’t be able to give them large loans, and they actually requested the appointments with their whole Buying Decision Team present. The bankers closed 29 for a 29% close in 3 months.

By starting with facilitating excellence, we highlighted an area we knew to be a problem, took into account our understanding of the small business owner’s historic relationships with their bankers, and quickly taught prospects how to ‘think forward’ to develop a plan to add resources without threatening their long-standing relationships. And we immediately, on our first question, taught almost 4x the number of prospects HOW to buy from us, and found truly qualified prospects who invited us to an appointment – with everyone present. It saved us from seeking out only those prospects who didn’t have banking relationships and expanded the field.

By beginning your interactions seeking to make an appointment with prospects with a ‘need’, you’re short-changing your sales. Change your criteria. Begin your sales calls by seeking how you can facilitate excellence. Using the model I designed for this process (Buying Facilitation®) my clients have been able to close 30% more than the folks using the same list in the control group, in half the time with ¼ the resources, and without going through the call/conversation/meeting process. And it’s certainly possible to develop scripts and email campaigns to accomplish this.

Design your own facilitation system. Just shift your goals and expectations for what a successful appointment would need to look like (i.e. those who can buy, and who invite the full Buying Decision Team to meet you) and enter each call to facilitate buying. You’ll not only stop wasting time and resource, but you’ll close a helluva lot more sales. Teach your prospects how to know what they need and how to get consensus – and close quickly. And in addition, you’ll be a servant leader Make money and make nice.

___________

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.

September 14th, 2020

Posted In: News

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Things are changing these days. Of course we’re always in flux, but during this pandemic we’re also in confusion. People either aren’t working, aren’t working in their normal business location, are having difficulty accomplishing normal tasks, or getting shuffled in reorgs; companies are reexamining their status quo and making shifts not considered just months ago. Norms and rules that worked are now suspect.

As we figure out what change means to us, I think there’s a central question businesses need to answer: How will we compete when our industry has new rules, new players, new outcomes and possibly new marketing and sales efforts to respond to, when we don’t know what will stick, what will arise, who our competitors are? Little, it seems, is as it was, and there’s literally no way of knowing what will be. Old standards don’t apply. Now what?

ARE YOU A GOOSE OR A DUCK?

Because there’s so much confusion, because the norms are shifting, there doesn’t seem to be a clear way forward. I have an idea on how to use this time of uncertainty to differentiate yourself.

If you’re like most companies or vendors, differentiating yourself is one of your longstanding challenges. Although your offering is obviously unique, you most likely show up as more similar to your competitors than you’d like: the language, words, phrases, you use to describe your solution and market yourself might be considered industry standard; your website might use fonts, themes, phrases and syntax similar to others in your industry. You might use a more tactical approach that unwittingly sounds like everyone else, making it more difficult to differentiate. After all, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s hard to explain that you’re really a goose.

I suggest you use this time to differentiate yourself as a Servant Leader-focused vendor practicing win-win and integrity. In other words, as Authentic. Showing up as genuine, reliable, and trustworthy, with care, concern, and respect, would be a good place to start to become the new you, and certainly a great way to differentiate.

CASE STUDY: WORST SERVICE EVER – BEST BUY GEEK SQUAD

Here’s a case study where the company told me exactly who they were by their disrespectful actions – certainly in contrast to what they say on their site or in their marketing materials. Remember that companies, like people, are always telling you exactly who they are by their actions. And this company told me they had no integrity. They certainly don’t care about customers.

In the past week I spent upwards of 45 hours being abused by the absolutely dreadful Best Buy’s Geek Squad that I pay to provide me with tech support. Phones didn’t pick up; kept on hold for hours and then told by voice message to ‘call back at a later time’; 39 hours worth of holding, waiting, holding; 14 reps, 7 wrong transfers; hang ups. One time, after I’d been on hold for 45 minutes after 22 hours of frustration trying to get a simple problem fixed, the man who answered asked how I was doing and I burst out crying. And he hung up on me.

For 2 days I begged, yelled, screamed, waited, waited, waited, listening to that blasted audio telling me how much their customers matter to them, all the while unable to work because of the infuriating problem that remained unfixed.

Finally, at 5:36 in the morning, after waiting 13 hours after trying trying trying 26 previous hours, (to fix what turned out to be a four minute fix), the tech wrote in the little box that he’d tried to call (not true) but when no one answered (I was on the computer with phone next to me!) he was hanging up (even though he had all the details and passcodes!); I immediately tried talking/writing to him on the little screen but was ignored. Tears. Big tears of frustration. I called back one more time before throwing my computer into the river (I live on a floating home). A young tech answered, saw the problem and immediately fixed it. Four minutes.

I decided to complain, that just maybe someone cared like the audio messages told me they did when I was on hold. I placed many calls to the GM at my Best Buy store where I pay for service. She, Caitlin O’Something, refused to return the calls, but finally, finally, the next day I got a return call from the Tech Manager. Here was the conversation:

Man: I hear you have a complaint?

SD: I’m a client. I tried for 2 days – 45 hours – to get you folks to solve a 4 minute problem. I was treated very disrespectfully. Hung up on, kept on hold for hours and hours and hours. Lied to. Transferred over and over to the wrong people. Let waiting for service for 13 hours. Finally my initial problem was resolved but there are side problems still occurring. I want to speak with the GM.

Man: I’m a tech supervisor and work under her. I can try to see if I can get someone to help.

SD: Why don’t you start off with “I’m sorry.”

Man: Sure. Now let me see if I can get someone to help. I’ll try.

SD: Wait, what? No ‘sorry’?

Man: I understand your frustration.

SD: You do? You understand my frustration? How could you? I find that disrespectful. I bet you’ve never waited for 45 hours to get help from a service provider you paid for. Or been hung up on after waiting a full day? Or kept on hold for dozens of hours? Or been redirected over and over again. I’ve heard your hold recording and know it by heart by now. It tells me you care about me and care about my problems. It tells me my feedback is important to you. That you want to serve me. Right? So serve me. Telling me ‘you can TRY to SEE’ if you can help is not helping. You’re a senior manager, not an hourly worker. You’re representing the GM. Take ownership of the problem. You need to step up and take responsibility. Isn’t that your job? Stop telling me you understand what you cannot possibly understand, say “I’m sorry that happened, Ms Morgen. That shouldn’t have happened to a loyal client. I am a tech manager and will make sure you get the help you deserve. I will own the problem and make sure it gets fixed.”

Man: I’m sorry you feel that way.

And then he hung up on me.

That’s not customer service. That’s not integrity, or Servant Leadership. That’s just plain abuse.

HOW ARE YOU SHOWING UP?

The world is sort of shifting now, in favor of kindness, trust, integrity and authenticity. You can indeed make money by making nice. Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready to leave the tactical behind and be willing to differentiate yourself with your care:

  • What do you need to believe differently to be willing to truly serve your customers? What does that mean to you? What internal ‘rules’ and ‘norms’ need to be considered? What behaviors could you offer that would exhibit that level of care? What’s the difference between those rules in place now and what you’d need to change? Maybe having real people available for customers to speak with? Or enough folks for support to avoid anything longer than 10 minute wait times? Or human being to call customers within an hour?
  • Do you know how your current rules and norms actually affect your customers? I’m sure Best Buy didn’t understand what their sweet promises during hold time actually meant. They don’t care about customers. Does your company? How do you show your customers you really care?
  • Are you willing to differentiate yourself by being the best service provider in your industry? To offer such good service that no one would ever think of going to anyone else, that your brand would be equivalent to CARE, or GREAT SERVICE? Most customers would be HAPPY to pay for great service, certainly preferring you over the competition.

In these days, having a good product, a good solution, isn’t enough. What are you willing to do to show up authentically? By showing up as a trustworthy vendor, by having integrity and a great service mentality, by truly seeking to facilitate Excellence with them, you can not only differentiate yourself, but make a lot of money by being nice.

_________________________

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 24th, 2020

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What Makes A Decision Irrational?After spending 30 years deconstructing the inner processes of how people decide, and training a decision facilitation model I developed for use in sales, coaching, and leadership, (Buying Facilitation®), I’m always amused when I hear anyone deem a decision ‘irrational’.

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

We all make the best decisions we can at the moment we make them. It’s only when someone else compares the decision against their own subjective filters and standard, or using some academic/’accepted’ standard as ‘right’, or judging the decision against a conclusion they would have preferred, that they deem it ‘irrational’. I always ask, “Irrational according to who’s standards?” Outsiders don’t have the same data set, criteria and beliefs, or life experiences the decision maker uses to evaluate.

Indeed, there is no such thing as a decision maker making an irrational decision. The decision maker carefully – partially unconsciously – weighs an unknowable set of highly subjective factors including 1. Personal beliefs, values, historic criteria,assumptions, experience, future goals; 2. Possible future outcomes in relation to how they experience their current situation.

There is no way an outsider can understand what’s going on within the idiosyncratic world of the decision maker, regardless of academic or ‘rational’ standards, the needs of people judging, the outcome as viewed by others.

CASE STUDY OF AN ‘IRRATIONAL DECISION’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BP: Oh. I could have done that.

While a simple example, it’s the same in any type of personal decision (vs. those decisions that get weighted against specific academic or group criteria – such as coordinates to drill a well): each decision maker uses her own subjective reasoning regardless of baseline, academic, or conventional Truths.

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

And, although I’m calling this a personal decision process, anyone involved in group decision making does the same: enter with personal, unique criteria that supersede the available academic or scientific information the group uses. This is why we end up with resistance or sabotage during implementations.

STOP JUDGING DECISIONS BASED ON OUR OWN NEEDS

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

  1. ask what criteria the person was using and discuss it against our own;
  2. communicate in a way that enabled win-win results;
  3. ensure all collaborators work with the same set of baseline assumptions and remove as much subjectivity as possible before a decision gets made.

Of course, we would have to switch our listening skills. We’d need to become aware of an in congruence we notice and be willing to communicate with the ‘irrational’ decision maker. My new book What? explains why/how we hear others with biased ears, only understanding some percentage of their intent. Because if we merely judge others according to our unique listening filters, many important, creative, and collaborative decisions might sound irrational.

____________

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 17th, 2020

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When I begin an on-site training program I start by saying:

“Hi everyone. I’m going to begin with a warning: I hope you’re all comfortable-enough with confusion because I use it as a teaching tool. Confusion is merely your brain attempting to input new information and not finding circuits. Stuff you already know goes down familiar, well-worn circuits and you feel no confusion. So when you’re confused I know you’re learning and it makes SO happy!

“The participants laugh uncomfortably. But then it becomes a sort of gentle contest during the first day – who can be the MOST confused. Invariably someone says,

“Sharon Drew, you’ll be SO proud of me! I’m SOOOO confused!”

And everyone laughs together and claps in knowing agreement.

WHY IS CONFUSION DEEMED BAD?

I wonder why confusion is something to be avoided. Why do we all have to ‘know’ everything? Why can’t we delight in the mystery, the jumble, the dark moving spaces that bring that slight bit of discomfort, a touch of fear and dollop of curiosity?

When we think we ‘know’ something, it’s because we’re using circuits that already exist in our brains to signal our historic thoughts and responses, assuming they accurately represent us even if they end up being inaccurate or biased.

Old beliefs, previous knowledge, habits and assumptions become concretized, and any new ideas become suspect because there’s no precedent for them and our brains work overtime to reject them, even if the new ideas are more cogent. Our brains just love our status quo. Simple. Stable. Quick. Reality? No such thing.

I got a call recently from a Venture Capitalist who owns 15 healthcare apps:

DH: Hi Sharon Drew. I was given your name by X (very powerful, noted person in the healthcare field) who told me you’re a genius, that you develop change models that can help patients follow directions from docs and become actively involved in their own healing process. She says you could create a front end to our apps that would enhance the behavior modification elements we’re using.

SD: Sure, I can do that. I already have a model that might work. Question: why are you using behavior mod? You know it doesn’t work and you must have millions of people failing and getting sicker as they try to use it successfully.

DH: Hahahaha. Right. The whole field knows it doesn’t work. There’s not even any scientific proof that it works. But it’s the only thing we’ve got.

SD: Let’s fix the problem! Let’s test my stuff with your stuff. We’d only need 100 trial people to test it.

DH: Great. But I have one question: has your work ever been written up in a scientific journal?

And he hung up on me.

This was a good example of how science, neuroscience in particular, is so limited by biases that it rarely experiments with ideas the field doesn’t believe relevant (In my particular case, for decades neuroscientists have been researching how our brain circuitry is wired, totally overlooking the need to test how the circuits get triggered to begin with.).

How do new ideas get into the world when they’re contrary to existing myths and norms? Why isn’t ok to be confused and then curious to research, think, debate new ideas? 

As per my friend DH above, entire fields remain committed to researching within the confines of the status quo, even when they suspect, or know, it’s not working! How does something new enter if confusion, or the ‘unknown’, isn’t worth considering? Hint: remember flat earthers? What about radio waves? Or relativity? Did you know only one painting of Cezanne’s was purchased during his life? Or that it took 40 years after the invention of the telephone to begin broad use – using Morse Code instead? Are you aware that initially Bill Gates told his team that he wasn’t convinced the internet had value? Seriously.

WE COULD ALL USE A BIT OF CONFUSION

What we read or enjoy; the colors we see and the words we hear; the friends and jobs and neighborhoods we choose; are restricted to what we agree with and the worlds our brain circuits have created for us – obviously a carefully calibrated world view; obviously restricting a whole lotta world out there we don’t recognize or enjoy or share. We could all use a little confusion now and again.

To allow ourselves to be confused, we’d have to ignore, or at least hide from view, some of our biases. So rather than guess what you’re biases are, I’ll pose some questions of you, because I’m sure confused why you’d rather keep doing what you’re doing rather than face confusion and learn, change, and be enriched:

  • What would you need to believe differently to be willing to rid yourself from some of your biases? Do you know which ones you’d be willing to part with? How do you know your answer isn’t biased?
  • How would you know that any confusion is worth the cost of ‘not knowing’ and being uncomfortable?
  • What issues come up for you when you face the prospect of being confused in an area you’re expert in?
  • Are there any areas of your life or work knowledge that you protect, that you prefer not to feel confusion around because you believe you have all the knowledge you need – and it’s accurate? Would you be willing to examine these to see if there is anything new to learn? Any areas for you to rethink?
  • Think of a topic, an idea that runs counter to your beliefs and spend time with it. No, really. Spend enough time to understand it, and know precisely how it differs from your beliefs. See if you can find any fragment in there that confuses you that you’d be willing to think about for a day or two.

The reason we feel discomfort is because we’re accustomed to having an automatic answer, knowledge at the ready that has been vetted by our brains and accepted and comfortable. But you can create new circuits, and then have a whole new knowledge set. All you need is some curiosity and the willingness to be confused for a bit of time. You’re worth it, no?

__________________________________________

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.

July 27th, 2020

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Those of us in business (as well as just about everyone these days) are living in confusing times. Learning how to run our businesses and stay afloat, how to remain connected with staff and clients in a way that maintains relationships and endurance, how to work from home and still manage child care and at-home schooling, have no modern precedent. And I’m not convinced the confusion will end any time soon.

Whatever our new normal will end up being will most likely look nothing like the world we’ve become accustomed to. The systems from which we’ve made decisions for decades – the factors we’d made projections and budgets against, the expertise or industry recognition we were adjusted to, the skills we used to communicate, lead, and sell – will have far less value. And we don’t yet know what will take their place.

WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

Not only do we not know what our future will look like, we don’t even know how to think about it – there’s no ‘There, There’ yet. Our foundations have shifted; new norms don’t yet exist; old ones will fail us because they no longer fit.

With no way of knowing where we’re going or what our new status quo will look like, there’s no way of knowing what skills we’ll need later. Certainly there is no route to success using past norms. Everything has changed. Where folks work from, the jobs that need doing, the client needs and problems, budget and staffing issues…

As first next steps, companies will most likely attempt to work from the ‘old normal’ differently. But after trying and failing they’ll recognize the need for new norms. That’s already becoming obvious as new, creative concepts are making successful debuts in technology, the arts, education, and customer care, to fill gaps where none existed before.

While I personally assume the new norms will drift to the side of integrity, authenticity, respect, values, trust, and fairness, none of us really have any way of knowing. But think about it for a moment: without any conventional norms in place, the only way to assess decisions going forward will be from our guts – usually good indicators of integrity. But the one constant is change.

I contend that the companies who will flourish going forward are those with the skills to successfully facilitate change. Unfortunately, we can’t work from the same standards we used to work from ‘before’. How, then, do we create new standards?

CHANGE

There are many new issues to account for now: the personal for our staff (Do I want to return full time to my office? How can I incorporate time with my children into my workload?) and the professional for our clients and business (What if our clients don’t return? Will I need new marketing strategies? New forms of revenue to match the new temperament? How can I establish trust now?).

All of us must ask ourselves new questions: what must I consider to end up both successful and positioned for a future I can’t yet imagine? What might need to change? Business structure, staffing, organization, management structure, client outreach, branding/marketing/sales efforts, etc. all must go under the microscope.

The problem is we don’t know how to even think about these real issues. Current leadership models work from conventional biases and assumptions; current questioning models work from the curiosity of the leader in relation to existing norms; current sales models work by assuming they’ll find enough folks with ‘need’ to place their solutions – yet those with ‘need’ can’t make decisions now. New thinking must replace most of our long-held assumptions.

The overarching question we face is this: without the myths we’ve worked from, the norms we’ve operated from, the assumptions we’ve made to hire, fire, brand, sell, and organize around, what measures do we now use to compare ourselves against, or truths to think from?

Lots of decisions to make. There are no answers now, only questions. Whatever norms we will develop will become new norms going forward. But not yet. The only measurement we have going forward is our values.

To help address all this change, to help us work toward a future we cannot know, to operate from a blank slate that will inspire new thinking without carrying over the concepts we’ve worked from until now, I believe that Change Facilitation is an essential skill set.

There are just too many issues that represent unknowns to use any of the conventional thinking that has guided us before now: Buyers can’t buy until potentially new stakeholders determine if maintaining their status quo is their best option during their own confusing, risky circumstances; managers have increased responsibility to lead teams possibly working from different locations and time schedules, maybe while home-schooling children simultaneously; priorities of Boards and top leadership teams are not resolved yet, but need to be.

CHANGE IS SYSTEMIC

The issue at hand is how to manage change. Let’s use as the foundational reality that all change must be systemic. Changing one new behavior, one new rule at a time is not only senseless but inefficient. We must restructure our systems.

What are the new norms, rules, beliefs, and values that will take us into a new, unknowable future? How do we operationalize these, and who do we include as we design new possibilities?

There are specific elements necessary to accomplish congruent change. I will list them here but note: each component is filled with unknowns; unbiased guidance is needed to facilitate discovery:

  1. Where are we? And what’s missing? Until all stakeholders (unknowable at the start) are included, there’s no way to assess the needs, the damage to the historic norms and practices, the problem areas. All voices must be heard and collaborate to begin painting a picture of a new future. Without everyone’s voice, any missing bits will emerge later (possibly too late).
  2. What can we salvage? Again, without all stakeholder voices present, there’s no way to assess what might still work going forward.
  3. What rules, norms, outcomes, objectives, need to change now, and what do we change them to? With no baseline standards, it will be necessary to hear the needs, ideas, of everyone as new identities and priorities emerge. Buy-in is crucial; resistance is dangerous.
  4. What systems do we need in place? How can we make these flexible enough as we go through trial and error? Who will be responsible for these?
  5. Who will oversee this period of disorder? No. Seriously. Who? The answer may not initially be obvious.
  6. How will we know what’s right? Are there ways we can build-in trials, success or failure factors so we can change on a dime if need be?
  7. What is the timing on this? Will anything new be a permanent change? or roll out in stages?

With so many issues to manage, a Change Facilitator is needed. But it’s not as simple as using conventional leadership practices. It’s quite urgent now that there be no biases, no assumptions, predicated on past successes. Change Facilitators will need to listen differently than before, ask new questions, and have different goals.

FACILITATION REQUIRES DIFFERENT SKILLS

Current leadership models won’t work now:

  • The problem set, the outcome, the needed skills, the timing, are unknowns. So there are no clear goals or foundational assumptions to operate from;
  • The industry norms are no longer valid and new ones must be developed;
  • No one, no one, has answers or even the right questions to ask: a new set of questions and answers must be developed real time;
  • Conventional industry biases are no longer appropriate.

We must begin thinking in systems as the fundamental ingredient in any change consideration. No change can happen, no new beliefs or behaviors or decisions or actions, unless the status quo agrees to it.

Real change is the result of reprogramming our physiologic, chemical, automatic, neurological, and unconscious brain wiring. Unless fundamental changes to our beliefs and values, and new rules are developed, our systems are set up to continue doing what they’ve always done. It’s now necessary to enable new choices for new outcomes.

For the past 35 years I’ve been teaching Change Facilitation (named uniquely in each industry I teach in, i.e. Leadership Facilitation, Buying Facilitation®, Training Facilitation, Coaching Facilitation). Since it’s vital to avoid historic judgments to ensure all possibilities are on the table, leaders must approach change with a clean slate and without bias. In other words, leaders won’t have answers, or any assumptions based on past knowledge.

The only way to facilitate change is by enabling systemic change. Here are the topics I teach in my Change Facilitation programs:

  1. Systems thinking. Current industry biases are no longer operational. Using systems thinking, there’s a specific trajectory for all change that promotes buy-in, creativity, and collaboration according to the norms of the system – new norms that must be established from a blank slate.
  2. Listening. We all think we know how to listen. But as my book What? explains, conventional listening is biased by assumptions and historic brain circuits against which incoming information is translated. I’ve developed a wholly new way to listen that avoids bias. I call this Listening for Systems; it’s a vital skill set for this new era as biases will keep us doing what we’ve always done.
  3. Buy-in. Without stakeholders agreeing, no new norms, goals, practices, can be developed. Discovering the right stakeholders, btw, won’t be as obvious now as it once was.
  4. Collaboration. Stakeholders must figure out how they, and their teams and unique personal issues, will work together. Answers can only appear when everyone puts their heads together without preconceptions.
  5. Integrity. With no norms to work from yet, how do decisions get made? What interim rules must be put in place that will define and represent the group/company?
  6. Win-win. We’ve all learned how necessary it is to work from win-win. Companies that made money by creating marketing/sales/leadership practices that were less than integrous will no longer be successful. A route must be developed to ensure everyone wins. Customers are hungry for integrity today.
  7. Communication. With industry standards no longer certain, answers will be found in the collective (un)conscious. And make no mistake. This will be messy.
  8. Beyond behavior change. Our behaviors are the means we have to exhibit our values. We need new messaging that leads to new outcomes, and operationally translates values. This is key to our future success.
  9. Trust. Too often leaders and coaches focused on their own reasons, their own desire to engage (to sell, to change, to influence) and unwittingly caused resistance or sabotage. We don’t have the time to handle resistance right now. We must facilitate, not ‘lead’ choice and change.
  10. Enhance creativity and curiosity. Our status quo is just that: set, accepted norms from which we think and decide. To be more creative, to think ‘outside the box’ or beyond norms, to not be biased by what’s been successful up til now, we must expand our parameters.

Change is a systems problem, not an information problem, or a behavior change problem, or an influencing problem. It’s a problem of developing wholly new norms and values that all decision making flows from, operating without bias to enable all that’s possible, and making sure there’s buy-in and collaboration to create cohesion and follow-through.

Normal skills have grown and developed from long-held assumptions that no longer apply. It’s time for internal coaches and leaders to learn new skills that facilitate new decisions, new thinking, collaboration, and true win-win communication.

Please contact me to help your company, and your leaders, learn the tools to facilitate change. I look forward to teaching leaders the new skills.

____________________________

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.

July 20th, 2020

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Years ago I ran a Buying Facilitation® program for a group of Senior Partners at KPMG. Before working with this team, they were using 2-4 people, spending between $500,000 and $1,000,000, to create large, glorious presentations to woo and wow prospects as part of their proposal responses. They won 20% of the business. That means some highly paid professionals wasted 80% of their time.

At the time, my KPMG client Dave told me he and a few others were working ’round the clock on a proposal after receiving an RFP from a large airplane manufacturer who had historically used the now-defunct Arthur Anderson. I asked him why the prospect wasn’t going to use AA again for this job (a $50,000,000 job, btw). He had no answer, but he called them:

DAVE: Why aren’t you using AA for this job?
AIRPLANE COMPANY: We are. We just needed a second bid.

I asked Dave to send me the RFP to see if I could find any issues within it that would provide an opening for KPMG to get the business. I noticed that like most RFPs, it sought an outcome without recognizing the scope of the complex internal issues  involved. Without taking these issues into consideration, the project was en route to disaster. I figured if KPMG could help the potential client

  • understand how to get all relevant stakeholders to buy-in,
  • manage the complex collaboration and management issues the work required before, during, and after implementation,

they would not only be differentiated from the competition, but prove their value as real leaders and win the business.

We carefully went over the unresolved assumptions in the RFP and the areas it didn’t address at all. Knowing they weren’t giving us the business, we wrote a cover letter explaining we understood they were choosing Arthur Anderson. Instead of submitting a proposal we were offering some questions to help them think through what we considered to be problem areas.

I put together a list of Facilitative Questions that would help the client discover the underlying issues that had to be managed during the project.  As a change facilitator, my focus is to help folks leading projects discover and implement their own route to change through their people and policy issues, and then guide them through their own choices. Here are two of the many questions we submitted, asked in such a way to enable them to discover their own answers:

How will you know when you have the right stakeholders, and appropriate buy-in, before you begin? How would you know, before beginning a project of this magnitude (a global undertaking), that one of the vendors would know how to bring together the full stakeholder and management teams to work together once it’s time to implement?

Of course, AA still won the business. But 6 weeks in to the project, they fired AA and called KPMG to come and do the work. Why? Here’s what they told my clients:

When we saw your questions, we realized we had not considered the implications of bringing in this type of change. When AA was not addressing these issues we realized we would potentially have a disaster on our hands as many of our folks weren’t buying-in and we had not properly managed the change. We would like you to take over, and start with the change management issues before you move ahead with the work.

The client needed success more than loyalty to a vendor. When they put together the RFP they hadn’t considered the full fact pattern to insure success. By providing a lens into how KPMG could lead them to discover their own excellence, KPMG won the bid – without even submitting a proposal or discussing price.

And going forward, each time KPMG received an RFP they first submitted Facilitative Questions to ensure the client knew the full scope of the problem. And as a result, they got a lot of business without a proposal at all.

RFPS CAN PROVIDE CLARITY

Sales folks assume that buyers merely need info, competitive price, and a relevancy statement about a solution to respond to the parameters offered by an RFP. But the tables are actually reversed: the companies use the proposals they receive to more fully understand their next steps. After all, they don’t know what they don’t know before the project. But you do, and here is where you can differentiate yourself; you can help them have clarity.

Instead of just responding with your solution and explanation of how great you are, help them discover how to create the right conditions for success by explaining how to ensure appropriate buy-in, and change management and implementation capabilities as part of the proposal process.

In my history of helping clients write winning proposals, I’ve discovered it’s possible to not only offer a good solution, but help their clients define the people and steps necessary for successful change. It then becomes obvious to choose you over the competition.

One more thought: if a buyer knows exactly how to choose one vendor over another, or one vendor has helped them through their steps to buy-in and congruent change, AND has the solution they need, they might not need an RFP.

_________________

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.

July 6th, 2020

Posted In: News

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Did you ever wonder why all those folks who obviously need your solution don’t buy? No, really. Have you? Did you think it’s because they’re, um, stupid? or ill informed? How ‘bout your guess that when you get a chance to explain it better, or get in front of them, they’ll buy?Here’s a hint: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with your solution. It’s great. And no, buyers aren’t stupid. And no, your information won’t help. Buyers buy exactly what they need, when they need it, and who they want to buy it from – your content is searchable and your site professional and data rich. Buyers are smart and your solution is great.

SALES IS THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION

The way you’re using the sales model is the problem: everything you do is focused on selling. Indeed, selling doesn’t cause buying.

The very focus of the sales model restricts who will buy, leaving behind a vastly larger group of people who will buy once they’re ready. The sales model is great for after they’re ready – not for making them ready.

I suggest you employ sales at a later stage of the buying decision process, and first engage with the people who will become buyers but haven’t gotten there yet.

With a focus shift, you can find the people with a high propensity of becoming buyers early along their decision path, facilitate them through their Pre-Sales change management issues, and then sell when they’re ready. In other words, instead of waiting for them while they do this themselves (and the time it takes them to do this is the length of their sales cycle), put on a different hat and facilitate them through their necessary process. They’re going to do it with you or without you. And you’re wasting a valuable resource by ignoring it.

Don’t get me wrong. You’re a fine sales professional. You’ve just overlooked what goes on in the buying. And it has nothing to do with how you’re selling.

The sales model (the baseline being a tool to get solutions placed) is based on Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937): find the folks who need what you’re selling, get into a relationship so they trust you, explain as many ways necessary so they’ll recognize your solution will resolve their need, and keep following up to remind them that you’re still there and here’s why they should buy your solution.

It’s not changed much in the intervening years, and indeed has enhanced the very same themes:

The sales process must analyze demographics to uncover areas with a higher probability of prospect need; maximize content/information distribution to match those demographics using whatever technology is most effective to garner attention; maximize buyer touch points to develop brand and trust to minimize objections; price the solution competitively; connect with these buyers personally when possible to create trust and build relationship; and beat the competition.

Notice that everything is focused on a seller’s need to sell. Here’s the problem with that. Every penny spent on recognizing buyer personas, or demographics, or buyer personality types, or ensuring your messaging is appealing for the recipients, assumes that a seller can/should convert that name to gold. And yet it only occurs 5% of the time in face to face sales, and 0.0059% in digital marketing. That success rate (No other industry would call that success!) alone should be a hint that maybe something’s wrong. There is.

It’s time to forego the singular focus on placing your solution and first connect to facilitate buying. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They’re two different processes. One’s tactical, one’s strategic. And the tactical is moot until the strategic is completed. Starting with sales ensures you will only attract folks already buyers and ignore a much larger group (5x larger) of folks who are in the process of becoming buyers but haven’t gotten their ducks in a row yet.

Btw when I say ‘facilitate buying’, I don’t mean final purchasing considerations of price or vendor. I’m not even talking about learning more so you can ‘understand them’ better. Or leading them where YOU think they should go. I’m talking about the process they go through much earlier, before they’ve become buyers, when they’re people just discovering a problem, up through all the intricacies of making a decision to go ahead and bring in an external solution and includes stakeholder buy-in.

Believe it or not, it takes less time to facilitate (regardless of the size or price of a sale) the decision process that all people must go through before they’re buyers than deal with the consequences of competing for the low hanging fruit once they are.

WHAT’S CHANGED?

I’d like you to consider that there are two elements to buyer’s buying. 1. traversing the stages of discovering whether a problem is worth resolving within their set of givens, and 2. the choice process if they can’t fix it themselves and need to make a purchase. First they’re just folks trying to resolve a problem with their familiar resources, and when all else fails they become buyers.

By limiting your outreach (marketing and sales) to #2 you’re restricting your success to the last few steps along the Buying Decision path and it’s costing you money, not to mention it’s a tremendous waste of resource.

Let’s go back to Carnegie. Even with all the cool technology and knowledge of demographics, the core sales thinking hasn’t changed. But the environment has. And so has the close rate (It’s going down.). Here are the limits of continuing to think only of placing solutions:

A.    Obviously, as per travel in 1937, most of Carnegie’s prospects didn’t live too far away. And he knew most of them personally

  • We don’t personally know our prospects. Oh, sure, we’ve got high tech methods to ‘find’ probable buyers. My research shows we’re ignoring 5x more real prospects using the sales model alone. Using the model I’ve developed to help buyers buy, Buying Facilitation® closes 40% of the same list selling the same solution, against the control group close rate of 5%. (In my client control groups, these same percentages have persisted for decades across all industries and product types.)
  • Our push to ‘create trust/relationships’ is silly. Everyone knows it’s not a real relationship, that it’s a ploy to sell, not to mention trust can’t occur when one person needs another person to act in a certain way. And frankly, just because someone likes you doesn’t mean they can convince their team to buy when half of them would be fired in the process.

B.    Carnegie stressed describing details of a new product/solution

  • There was no internet, no regular phone use, no content marketing, no search. Not to mention people looked forward to sitting down with sellers to learn to solve their problem. Now buyers search Google and don’t need sellers to explain anything. But once they’ve discovered what a solution must entail for them, you can then pitch or present using THEIR criteria for buying as opposed to YOUR criteria for selling – which might be very different.

C.    Buying decisions involved the seller, the problem, the product, and the buyer

  • It was simple then. Now there are layers of stakeholders and decision makers; buyers live in complicated systems of norms, rules, history, group/individual needs – all of which must be addressed before a buying decision takes place, even for small sales. Pushing solution content from the outside does nothing to facilitate group buy-in among prospective buyers (and trust me: no matter how many you think there are, there are double that number); it merely causes distrust with those not ready. Those seeking your solution can find what they need without you if your only job is to sell.

D.   A purchase was tactical

  • Now, unless it’s a small personal item, most purchases are strategic and involve a range of conscious and unconscious issues that must be managed first.

Here’s what we know that Carnegie didn’t know:

  • People don’t want to buy anything. They just want to resolve a problem at the lowest ‘cost’ to their status quo and will become buyers only when they recognize they cannot resolve the problem internally and everyone understands the ‘cost’ of bringing in something new.
  • Until people have determined they’re buyers, they have no inclination to read or hear a pitch because they haven’t yet determined the need or know if it can be resolved internally. They won’t read your information because they’re not aware they need it yet, regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. Not to mention, pitching too early creates objections.
  • Need doesn’t determine who buys. Just because there’s a real need doesn’t mean it’s the right time, there’s the proper buy in, and the calculation of cost to the system: the cost of bringing in a new solution must be less than the cost of maintaining the problem. Not to mention it’s quite difficult for sellers to recognize real ‘need’ when they pose biased questions to obtain cues that obviate a pitch or follow up.
  • There’s no way a seller can know the unique, idiosyncratic issues going on within a buyer’s environment that dictate how their decisions get met. And until whoever will touch the final solution buys in to something new, a purchase will not be made. Hint: assuming you have a prospect because you interpret what you hear as a need doesn’t make someone a prospect.
  • It’s possible to facilitate the Buying Decision Path and partner with someone who WILL become a buyer – but not with the sales model which offers a solution before the full problem set has been scoped out and before there is stakeholder buy in.
  • If we can first show up as Servant Leaders and facilitate the change management portion, we can expand our value and beat the competition when they become buyers.

NEW RULES FOR NEW TIMES

The crucial pieces buyers are missing are systemic; quite confusing because what until they figure that all out for themselves (Remember: we’re outsiders with an agenda.) they cannot buy:

  1. Buying an external solution has a cost. It’s much cheaper for people to fix the problem with known resources if they can. Until they figure this out, they will not buy.

Rule #1: Prospects aren’t always prospects.

2. Buying is systemic. People won’t become buyers until they have: the full set of facts that caused the problem and maintain it (or they can’t know the extent of the problem); a fair exploration of workarounds or internal fixes so they can resolve the problem themselves; an understanding of the downside of bringing in something new that must be implemented, learned, accepted, used. Until then they’re just people with a problem they want to resolve. Themselves.

Rule #2: Need has little to do with who is a buyer.

3. People with a problem won’t be researching your information unless it’s to learn from as they attempt their own fix – not to buy. While they will certainly seek out information once they become buyers, you’ve got that market covered with your site and your marketing. That’s the low hanging fruit – your 5% close.

Rule #3: Your content, your marketing, your emails, your requests for appointments will only be noticed by folks ready to buy now and be ignored by the much larger segment of folks who are on route but could be made ready much more quickly with your knowledge (not of your solution, but of your industry or environment).

4. Until or unless the entire stakeholder group is on board and buys in to any change that will occur once they implement the new purchase, they will never buy.

Rule #4: Buying is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.

5. 40% of the folks you’re prospecting will buy your solution (maybe from a different provider) within about two years: the time it takes them to figure out how to figure it out is the length of the sales cycle.

Rule #5: Sales concentrates on placing solutions to the exclusion – to the exclusion – of facilitating change management portion of the buying decision process which is systems and change related, not product/purchase related.. This restricts sales to those ready now. The change process can be accelerated, but not with sales.

You can see now why you’re not closing more than you close. Seeking need isn’t working or you’d close more. Creating a trusting relationship isn’t working or you’d close more. Generating terrific content isn’t working or you’d close more. Finding the right demographic isn’t working or you’d close more. All of those tools will uncover those who are specifically seeking your solution now. That’s it. They will not expand your audience because people who aren’t yet buyers won’t pay attention.

So what parts of Carnegie are viable now? The solution placement part. Content management; pitching and presenting. Negotiating and closing.

CONSIDER HOW BUYERS BUY

It’s time to facilitate people through the change management end of the Buying Decision Path. I’ve been talking about this for decades and have successfully taught Buying Facilitation® to global corporations since 1987. It’s time to shift, to add a front end before you sell, and then sell only to those who are going to buy.

1.    Change the goal of your prospecting calls. Stop trying to find someone with a need or whom you can sell your product to. Stop trying to pitch, present, offer solution content until they are ready for it – after they’ve lined up their buying decision criteria.  Find folks considering change and problem solving in the area your solution handles –  easy to find if you stop trying to push your product or ask biased questions.

The time it takes them to figure this out is the length of the sales cycle. So help them figure it out. Then you’re already there when they become buyers.And THEN you can pitch to the full set of stakeholders who now know exactly what they need to buy.

2.    Facilitate potential buyers through the steps to change they they must go through (I’ve coded 13 steps involved in the Buying Decision Journey) before they become buyers. An overview of the steps they must traverse:

a. recognize the full extent of the problem, possible by assembling, and extract data from, the complete set of stakeholders (which you can never know);

b. attempt to fix the problem internally (which you can never do);

c. manage any disruption an outside fix would entail (which you can’t do for them).

I can’t say this enough times: a purchase is NOT about ‘need’; and no purchase will be made if the cost of the solution is higher than the cost of the problem/status quo regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. And an outsider, a seller, can never, never make any of those determinations – so long as the focus is on placing a solution.

3.    Stop posing biased questions. I invented Facilitative Questions which do NOT gather information, but point the client in the direction they need to consider on route to change.

Many folks in the sales field misuse my term Facilitative Questions (which I invented in 1993). Let me clear this up for you: If you haven’t studied with me, you’re using ‘susan’s questions’, or ‘joe’s questions’, not Facilitative Questions. Facilitative Questions take some training. They use brain function to lead people down their unconscious path to change and decision making. They do NOT attempt to gather information! They contain NO Bias. They are NOT a sales tool. And they use brain science: They contain very specific words in a very specific order, often with a time element involved, and always pulling data points in a very specific sequence from one memory channel to the next. The formulation of these took me 20 years to perfect. If you want to discuss, email me: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. If you want to learn, take a look at this learning accelerator.

The problem with using conventional questions, regardless of your intent, is that 1. They’re biased by your need to know and most likely overlook vast bits of knowledge; 2. They are restricted in scope by your outcome and languaging; 3. They cannot be heard as intended due to the bias that your communication partner listens through; 4. There’s a high probability that the real answer to what you want to know either doesn’t exist, or isn’t fully formed yet; 5. they’re used as sales ploys to extract just enough data to make a pitch ‘obvious’ and the Responder feels manipulated when answering.

So don’t use conventional questions until these folks are at the end of the change steps and have real answers to your curiosity. Facilitative Questions enable change. Conventional questions try to gather data – unnecessary until folks are already buyers and you both need specifics that can be elicited through normal questions.

4.    Stop trying to make an appointment. All you’re getting is folks who are either using your content to craft their own pitch to their team, or to compare against their internal, or historic, vendor. No one wants to waste their time to hear what YOU want them to hear unless they’re getting something out of it. And given the percentage of prospects who DON’T buy after you visit, you know you pitched to folks who wouldn’t buy. I’m not saying don’t visit. But only visit those who are real buyers, and the whole Buying Decision Team is present. That’s a great use of sales.

CONCLUSION

The sales model is great for people who have become buyers – the low hanging fruit. Unfortunately, it does nothing at all to engage or facilitate folks still in the process of trying to resolve a problem themselves and who have a good shot at becoming buyers when who have a good shot at becoming buyers when they’ve discovered they need outside help and have buy-in to make a purchase.

Why not find those who are in the process of becoming buyers and facilitate them through their Buying Decision Journey. You’re already sending vast amounts of product content to a wide audience, hoping to ensnare new folks who have no interest because they’re not yet buyers. You’re already spending time following up vast numbers of people who will never buy; why not find those who WILL become buyers (possible on the first call) and speed up their change process. You can even shift your content marketing tactics to address each one of their decision steps.

In summary, save selling until you’re communicating with actual buyers, and start by facilitating folks through their Buying Decision Path. Then you can sell! Not to mention the facilitation process takes a lot less time than pitching, trying to get an appointment, and following up.

Sales is a necessary model to introduce solutions and services beyond what’s possible on the internet. It’s just illogical to use as a prospecting or qualifying tool.

With 8x more real buyers on your lists, stop wasting time on those who will never buy, find the ones who will once they figure it all out, and help them figure it out. Then sell.

For those interested in learning about Buying Facilitation®, here’s a link to some articles. You should also considering reading at least two sample chapters in my book that explains this process: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. I’ve also got gobs more on Sharondrewmorgen.com.

What is Buying Facilitation®?

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

Prospects Aren’t Always Prospects

Steps Along the Buying Decision Path

How, Why, and When Buyer’s Buy

Recognize Buyers on the First Call

Don’t You Realize Selling Doesn’t Cause Buying?

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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.

May 11th, 2020

Posted In: News, Sales

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