By Sharon Drew Morgen

Training Your Team, Training In BusinessDid you ever wonder why training fails more often than not? When important material, meant to improve or educate, is not learned or acted upon? Why perfectly smart people keep doing the same things that didn’t work the first time? The problem is the training model.

Current training models are designed to offer and present data, not help folks learn. Let me explain.

Current training models successfully educate only those who are predisposed to the new material. Others may endeavor to learn during their classroom study but may not permanently adopt it. The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner: It’s a problem with both the training model itself and the way learners learn. It’s a systems/change problem.

HOW WE LEARN

We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility

Because anything new is a threat to our habitual and carefully (unconsciously) organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted.

The design of most training programs poses problems for learners, such as when

– learners are happy with their habitual behaviors and don’t seek anything new,
– fear they might lose their historic competency,
– the new material unconsciously opposes long-held beliefs
– the new material may butt heads with a learner’s long-held beliefs, ego, or knowledge base.

Our brains are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new regardless of the efficacy of the required change. Much like a sales pitch, training offers good data – and learners, like buyers, may not know they need it or be able to congruently make the change the new information requires. But there is another way to go about training that incorporates change. Let’s begin by examining the beliefs inherent in the training model itself.

HOW WE TRAIN

The current training model assumes that if new material

  • is recognized as important, rational, and useful,
  • is offered in a logical, informative, interesting way,
  • allows time for experience and practice,
  • offers enough experiential learning,

it will become accepted and habituated. But these assumptions are faulty. At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign into a closed system (our status quo) that is perfectly happy as it is: it might be adopted briefly, but if it opposes our habituated norm, it will show up as a threat and be resisted. This is the same problem faced when sellers attempt to place a new solution, or doctors attempt to change the habits of ill patients.

Until or unless the unconscious system that holds our beliefs and values and habits in place is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material, any change will not be permanent and learners will resist. Effective training must change beliefs first. And beliefs can only be changed by the learner making internal shifts, separate from the new information provided.

LEARNING FACILITATION

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. buy-in from the unconscious system of beliefs, habits, rules and history;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change

before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. Learners would have to first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones.

My training design is called Learning Facilitation. I’ve used this model successfully for decades. (See my paper in The 2003 Annual: Volume 1 Training [Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer]: “Designing Curricula for Learning Environments Using a Facilitative Teaching Approach to Empower Learners” pp 263-272). Here’s how I design courses:

  • Day 1 helps learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Once they learn exactly what is missing among their current skill sets, and they determine what, specifically, they need to add to achieve excellence, then they are ready to learn.
  • Day 2 enables learners to create a route to supplement their current skills then tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then do new behaviors get introduced and practiced.

Course material is designed with ‘learning’ and belief change in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities.

 __________

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

Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller ‘Selling with Integrity’ and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help Others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 articles that help sellers help buyers buy. Sharon Drew has recently developed 3 new programs for start ups.
She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com  512-771-1117

July 22nd, 2019

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Imagine being in a strange country where you don’t understand the mores – and aren’t aware you don’t understand them. Say, waiting for scrambled eggs to show up for breakfast in Tel Aviv (They eat salad for breakfast.), or saying a friendly “Hi” to young indigenous men in the jungles of Ecuador, wondering why they then followed you in a pack (Looking into a man’s eyes means a woman is ready for sex.).

The events can be interpreted by both cultures. But in the case of Aspies, we’re sort of stuck: you Neuro Typicals (NTs) make the rules. And they are crazy.

DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS

As an Aspie, my internal rules, my assumptions, my responses, are different from a NTs. My perception of what’s going on is in a different universe. I hear metamessages primarily, content secondarily, and I respond according to what the Speaker intended rather than what my (biased) ears interpret. I think in systems and experience the world in wholes, in circles, in patterns so I experience entirety, not segments of sequences.

From my vantage point, NTs – largely thinking sequentially, in a horizontal world that compares everything against a biased norm – make rules that fit a standard I cannot fathom. Yet somehow, with the majority of humans on the NT scale, there’s agreement that those rules make sense. They don’t.

Why should I reply “Fine, thanks. How are you?” when someone asks how I am? It’s a real question, right? Does that mean they don’t want to know? If they don’t care, why did they ask in the first place? And how did it get agreed that a meaningless exchange is an authentic greeting? I’ll never understand.

Why am I labeled inappropriate when I respond to something differently than ‘expected’? Who says NTs are the ones who understand accurately? Maybe my references and responses are the correct way of seeing and NTs are just following herd thinking. Maybe my references and responses are a great ‘add’ to a conversation that expands the scope of the subject.

Why am I the one being too direct? Why aren’t you being more honest?

Why am I the one who’s deemed too intense? Why are you so superficial?

I recently watched my 7 year old friend throw a small toy across the room where his four younger sibs played on the floor. Stop throwing that, said Dad, afraid the little ones might get hurt. My friend again threw the toy. Stop, or I’ll take it away, said Dad. Again, the toy went across the room. Give me that. No more toy.

I said to my young friend, “Your dad was afraid the toy might hurt your brothers and sister. What were you hoping to accomplish by throwing that toy?”

“I wanted to understand how it was spinning.”

“So next time, tell Dad what you want to do and he’ll let you go outside to throw it.”

THINKING IN SYSTEMS LEADS TO MORE CREATIVITY

My Aspie brain perceives a wholly different culture from the world of NTs, with expectations, referents, assumptions, thinking systems, rules, and different interpretations. I personally have a wholly different understanding of what’s happening – a difference that enabled me to develop new models for conscious choice, so different from making unconscious decisions from long-held biases and assumptions. Indeed, I have devoted my life to unraveling, (de)coding, each step of unconscious systems to make them conscious so everyone can make congruent choices – and then making the new thinking understandable and usable by others in books and courses.

  • I recognized that the sales model merely places solutions, overlooking the change issues involved when anyone seeks to resolve a problem but faces the challenges of the status quo. I invented Buying Facilitation® 35 years ago to enable sellers to lead people through what happens when they want to fix, and possibly buy, something (13 stages), changing the process from placing solutions to the real focus of helping buyers buy. (Note: I realized that selling doesn’t cause buying.) Obviously I annoyed the hell out of the conventional sales folks who fight to find and engage buyers when my model does it in 1/8 the time while using values of Servant Leadership.
  • Because of the way I listen I clearly recognize the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. I developed a road map so people can hear each other without bias and wrote a book on it. Annoyed the hell out of conventional communication specialists and those pushing Active Listening (only based on words, ignoring intent).
  • It was obvious to me that people made decisions via their unconscious patterns and habitual neural pathways, without being able to get their conscious to recognize their full set of choices. To resolve this – a problem for coaches, sellers, doctors, parents, etc. – I developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that facilitate others through to conscious, values-based, permanent change. Sure irritated a whole bunch of coaches who truly believe that their questions (based on their ‘intuition’ – little more than biased judgment), assumptions, and information sharing choices are accurate while wondering why their clients don’t call back.
  • I noticed that people seeking to change behaviors and end habits effecting their health, had trouble keeping their changes because they tried modifying historic synapses (not possible, but easy to generate new ones) that merely directed them down well-worn rabbit holes. So I isolated the elements in the brain that can be consciously managed to generate wholly new synapses/pathways to generate real change. I then developed an online learning model for learners to create new synapses and consciously generate new behaviors during the program (i.e I eschew habit change based on behavior change.). Boy, that bothered conventional change agents, doctors, coaches, who pose questions based on ‘habit change’ and Behavior Modification – neither of which can possibly work given the way the brain is structured: it’s not possible to change behaviors by trying to change behaviors.
  • Seemed obvious to me that pitching information to new learners would only reach those already in agreement with the information, as no brain pathways/synapses agree to something new – especially as it’s presented per the biases, word choices, communication patterns of the speaker, possibly eluding the beliefs of another. So I designed a wholly new way to train that enables learning, according to the learner’s own unconscious rules and values. Certainly annoyed folks teaching presentation skills and sales folks.

Thinking in systems has made my life rich with creativity. I have the ability to translate, and develop models to scale, how brains make decisions and how systemic change occurs. And while I’ve trained my models to sales folks and leaders in global corporations for decades with highly successful results, I continue to be judged negatively against the norms of the NT world. One noted neuroscientist said my thinking, my models are not possible, although he never asked what they’re comprised of. Somehow, ‘different’ goes with ‘aberrant’ or ‘eccentric.’

How, I wonder, does the world change unless the outliers like me instigate radical change? You can’t do that from the middle. And if more NTs were willing to be curious, look through a different lens, it wouldn’t take people like me decades to instill productive ideas.

RIGHT VS WRONG

So that brings me to my question: How do Aspies end up being the ones who are wrong or on the wrong side of normal? I’ve been shunned at invitation-only conferences of author-colleagues (when I was the only one with a New York Times bestseller), ignored at parties, thrown out of events (by very, very famous people), not invited to an event every other person at the table was invited to – and invited in front of me, while I was the one person obviously, meticulously, excluded.

Why? Because my ideas, my speaking patterns, are different? Because they challenge the norm? Why isn’t that exciting? Or fun? Or interesting?

Geesh – I show up in nice clothes, I’ve got a respected professional reputation, I speak well, wrote a bunch of books and train global corporations in my original models. So I guess I’m a bit smart. I don’t harm anyone, have a decent personality, am generous and supportive. I’m even funny.

And yet. And yet, I say ‘wrong’ stuff, and tell unseemly stories when my brain references something that others don’t reference. And instead of going ‘Cool Beans!’ ‘That was interesting!’ Or ‘That was weird, SD. Where did your brain go on that?’ My work gets overlooked, although it can make an important difference in several fields – sales, healthcare, coaching, management, leadership. What rules am I breaking that aren’t worthy of curiosity? Or kind acceptance? Or humor? Or excitement?

I heard a comic once ask why men were the ones in the wrong for leaving the toilet seat up. Why wasn’t the woman wrong for leaving it down? Same toilet seat. Up. Down. What makes one wrong?

The good news about Aspies is that we’re often pretty smart. Because we think in systems and can see all aspects of something (NTs think sequentially and miss whole swathes of real data – the reason Aspies often think NTs are dumb.), we often are the innovators, the visionaries, who notice, invent, code stuff decades before academics or scientists. Yet folks like Tesla, and Cezanne die without their work having relevance. I read that the only painting Cezanne ever sold was to Matisse who wanted to study the painting to learn how Cezanne did what he did. Why didn’t others recognize Cezanne was to be learned from rather than derided? Why is the easiest route the one that ignores, avoids, derides?

I was running programs for internal sales folks at Bethlehem Steel. After a year of working successfully with Dan at their Sparrows Point, MD group, I was being handed over to the Burns Harbor MI group. Dan invited the new manager to lunch to meet me as a hand over. We all spoke for a bit of time, and as I got up to go to the restroom, I heard the Burns Harbor manager say to Dan, “Is she always like this??” to which he replied, “Oh yes! And you’ll learn to love her.”

In these days of more openness and a real desire to accept minorities, to communicate and live without bias, maybe it’s time that Aspies are acknowledged as well. Maybe when NTs hear someone say something that’s a bit off the mark, or rattle on about a topic that’s interesting albeit a bit long winded (We get SO excited by our topics!), maybe they can just say, ‘Hm. Sounds like an Aspie. I wonder what I can learn here. I wonder if I can be curious about something new.’ Then we, too, can have a voice. And just maybe we can become a welcome addition, add our two cents, and maybe make the world a better place because of our differences. Just sayin’.

_____________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation®, Facilitative Questions, 13 steps of systemic change, and the HOW of change. Author of the award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com and  9 books including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty 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 trains, coaches, speaks in several industries, including sales, healthcare, communication, change, Servant Leadership. She lives on a houseboat in Portland OR and can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

July 15th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, News

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questionsAs professionals a big part of our jobs is to influence change. We assume we know the appropriate means to get where we want to be. Certainly we think we know the right questions to get the data we think we need.

But sometimes our questions miss the unconscious drivers, and the incomplete data we collect as a result skews our outcomes. Or we unwittingly cause resistance even when our solutions are important and well-conceived.

WHAT ARE QUESTIONS AND WHAT DO THEY DO?

The questions we use aren’t achieving what we want them to achieve. Here’s why:

  1. Questions seek to extract information, usually for the benefit of the questioner or to enhance the questioner’s outcome. Due to the restrictions in the wording and intent, they can miss the real answer.
  2. Conventional, or information-based, questions are biased: biased by the Questioner who seeks a specific type of response; biased by the Responder who: is led by the bias in the question to find a ready answer, make up an answer, fails to answer accurately, or some combination of all.

Information-based questions are the standard, but because the focus of the Questioner may not address the full fact pattern or cirumstances of the Responder, they unnecessarily bias outcomes, activities, and data accuracy. What if it were possible to formulate a question that would:

  • influence change,
  • promote efficient implementations, buy-in, and sales cycles,
  • avoid resistance and bias, maintain personal integrity,
  • lead the Responder to discover their own possiblity unconscious – but accurate – answers?

Questions, posed with the goal of enabling Others to change themselves and discover their own answers, can be a vehicle for true leadership, change and discovery. But not the conventional information-based ‘pull’ questions (based on curiosity and needs of Asker) we are accustomed to.

INFLUENCING CHOICE

Since I’ve been a teenager I’ve studied the brain for ways to impact our own unconscious choices, so difficult to influence because of the elusive nature of the unconscious and the problem with subjective bias that can skewer results. I was particularly curious if it were possible for an outside influencer to help us make good decisions that would maintain our integrity by helping uncover and re-weight our unconscious criteria.

In 1988 I read Roger Schank’s The Creative Attitude. The book discusses how the unconscious biases all decisions. I was most interested in his ideas about how our brains store data in memory indices. The idea that inspired me to action remains with me: the only way to get to these hidden bits of memory is through questions. Hhmmm. I found that interesting. Was it possible to use questions to unlock everything in the indices – including the unconscious drivers, the beliefs, the values, the emotions? How could they be used without causing resistance, given the biased nature of questions?

I began experimenting with new forms of questions that would uncover unconscious drivers and weight the hierarchies in each of us that create our status quo, in hopes it might be possible to help others change from the inside out. I finally came up with a model that enables an outsider to facilitate unconscious choices.

[I’m going to walk you through an overview of how I came up with the solution I’ve been teaching in corporations for 25 years. It’s a bit different than you’re used to, so hang with me. And I’m always available to discuss it. At the end of the article I’ve linked to ways  you can learn more. For this article, I’m introducing the concepts.]

I recognized two main factors that offer the foundation to thinking of questions and decision making differently: information and systems.

Information: because the focus of the Questioner may not address the full fact pattern or cirumstances of the Responder,

  • Sellers gather and pitch information they believe would be relevant to influencing a sale – i.e. outside-in – without any real capability of enabling systemic change or eliciting new decisions;
  • Coaches, consultants, facilitators and leaders seek to cause change from the outside (i.e. outside-in). To that end, they pose biased questions, share advise, stories, research, plans, etc. all based on the data they think would influence the Other.
  • Decision analysts gather, weight, and analyze information to compare choices.

But information-gathering is a biased endeavor – biased by the beliefs/needs/goals of the Questioner –  and avoids engaging core beliefs; without addressing the gooey, human stuff that makes up the foundational beliefs, system, status quo that has created, and maintains, the status quo and are in effect to ensure each person remains congruent onto themselves. Given the inherent bias in the Asker’s content-based questions, it’s not possible for conventional questions to discover the full array of possible data points, or encourage change.

Systems: To understand the difficulty of influencing unconscious choice – necessary for success in any sort of change (buying, change management, decision facilitation, etc.) – we must recognize it as a systems problem: since change involves some sort of insult to our internal and unconscious system/status quo, any change must include buy-in of everything within the system that will touch the final solution or the system will resist. It’s the principle of homeostasis – systems maintain equilibrium, and change without buy-in puts the system out of balance. We are all familiar with the repercussions of what happens when unconscious issues rear their ugly heads during implementations or group decisions. No change can happen until all of the systems elements that will touch a new solution knows how to continue functioning well despite the change. The system is sacrosanct.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

Eventually I developed a new type of question: Facilitative Questions 1. assume that only the system (person, group) itself has knowledge of the accurate answers to their own questions, 2. are used as directional devices to parts of the unconscious that will clarify and capture the appropriate, most relevant decision criteria (sometimes unconscious) from a Responder’s memory indices and make their appropriate systemic drivers conscious. These questions enable people to illuminate their own criterial issues necessary to include in new choices for Systems Congruency. We are shifting the onus of responsibility from the Asker wanting the answers to the Responder being the only one that has the answers. In other words, outsiders – sellers, coaches, therapists, friends, clients – are facilitators who enable Others to discover their own Excellence.

Facilitative Questions:

  • open new choices within the unconscious of the Responder to unlock the means to fix whatever issues stand between the Responder and his own excellence;
  • construct new decisions to act based on unconscious belief/values-based criteria;
  • are non-manipulative;
  • offer change agents a new skill to engage the right people, address the right problem, and manage change without resistance;
  • eschew information exchange for systems intervention within the unconscious of the Responder to unlock the means to fix whatever issues stand between the Responder and her own excellence;
  • eliminate resistance by eliciting commitment and buy-in at the very beginning of any project or initiative or buy cycle; 
  • enable Responders (facilitated by sellers, change agents, negotiators, or coaches) to simultaneously uncover the unconscious core of the problem and create the necessary change.

Here’s a simple example of the differences between conventional questions and Facilitative Questions:

Information-based question (conventional question used by a questioner to extract information or gather data for the questioner’s purposes): Why do you wear your hair like that? This is a biased question which extracts historic data from the responder’s memory according to the needs of the questioner, and may cause her to defend past decisions as the query might bump against underlying beliefs. The responder might have no idea of the reasons behind the question but certainly already knows the answer from a previous decision made. The question might feel invasive and her response will be commensurately biased.

Facilitative Question (sequential navigational question used by a facilitator to help responders discover unconscious belief-based criteria): How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? This question neutrally brings together several indices that might make the responder curious without resistant, offers him the curiosity to examine choices and change possibilities, and compares current choices with past and future choices – all without manipulation, bias, or data gathering, and with no potential threat to the current system. The questioner as the facilitator becomes the change agent/servant leader.

In the example above, the question How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle the words ‘how’ ‘know’ ‘if’ ‘time’ ‘reconsider’ are all carefully placed and chosen to be resistance-avoidant, and directed to prior decisions while considering change and obligations. And most important, it doesn’t attack current or previous choices.

THE COMPLETE MODEL

Using Facilitative Questions, and incorporating my historic knowledge of systems, I then developed a decision facilitation model (called Buying Facilitation® as its initial use was in sales) that offers Influencers (sellers, coaches, leaders, management, marketing, doctors, etc.) the ability to help Others sequentially traverse their unconscious indices and design creative answers that discover their OWN answers and maintain Systems Congruence. Used and formulated most effectively, Facilitative Questions use specific words, posed in a specific order, and follow a specific sequence that makes change comfortable and resistance-free. In other words, buyers can recognize issues that would cause them to recognize the need to buy (or not); coaching clients can recognize their best path to change and eschew resistance; doctors can elicit behavioral change in patients rather than push to try to cause change, etc. By enabling Others to discover their own unconscious path we not only help them find their own best answers but act as Servant Leaders to permanent change and decision making.

Think of Buying Facilitation® as a GPS system that knows the (systems) coordinates and can navigate people to their exact destination without needing to know the type of function the car is headed. It’s a systems thinking model that initially ignores the information we are so accustomed to and believes that all change is systemic and must be driven by, and within, the system that would need to change. So a facilitator, seller, or coach would first be neutral navigators that unwrap the unconscious and achieves buy-in, then uses conventional questions to gather and introduce specific data points.

The skills necessary for Buying Facilitation® include those people don’t normally possess or deliberately use together:

Listening for systems: we naturally listen for content and information. To formulate Facilitative Questions, it’s necessary to listen neutrally for the underlying meta messages where the unconscious lie and eschewing content. Later in conversations, listening for content is imperative. I’ve written a book on this topic: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? is about the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, and teaches Disassociative Listening.

Presumptive summaries: people often don’t consciously recognize the import of what they are saying. By offering a type of summary statement that delineates the underlying meaning behind the words – what is meant vs what is said – the responder gets help unwraping unconscious drivers.

Decision sequencing: there are 3 stages to all decisions. Asking Facilitative Questions in the order of the stages enables people to face change without resistance and include the criteria necessary for congruency.

My clients have achieved great success with the model: buyers buy in half the time as they are led to immediately enlist the proper Buying Decision Teams and uncover their personal buy-in criteria; teams go through change implementations with collaboration and creativity and avoid resistance; leaders get buy-in and participation for initiatives easily; facilitators find the core of issues quickly. It’s a Servant Leader model: people are self-motivated to find their own best answers, and become learn exactly how and where in their unique system to make congruent changes in a very short time. Change with integrity: no external coercion, persuasion or advocacy.

FACILITATING CHANGE

The big idea here is the switch from seeking or pushing specific data to being a neutral navigator or Servant Leader to lead a responder through her own values and systems structure toward a potential willingness to change while maintaining Systems Congruence. After all, there really is no way for an outsider to ever know the full extent – the connections, history, values, complications, etc. – of how someone’s internal system is set up. The differences are important:

  • from seeking and pushing content to achieve the influencers goals to facilitating the person’s own discovery of beliefs, values, identity issues and systemic drivers and eliciting (not causing) permanent change;
  • from manipulation to Servant Leadership and neutral navigator;from pushing into a closed system to being accepted into a foreign system as a change agent;
  • from bias and resistance to participation and creativity;
  • from directing change and creating resistance to discovery, buy-in and participation.

To use Facilitative Questions and Buying Facilitation® requires a different sort of thinking and a different level of control. It requires that your outcome be to truly serve the other, to help her initiate and manage change from within – not with any content or directive from you, but true buy-in from her. Obviously your intent will shift as will your success: your sales, initiatives, implementations, and projects will be easier, shorter, and less costly. You’ll just have a different type of control: from attempting to have the answers to being the true leader that elicits congruent answers.

What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to add a new questioning technique to your already superb questioning skills? How would you know that adding a new skill set would be worth the time/effort/cost to make you – and your clients – even more successful?

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity  and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets  and What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  She is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® which she’s trained to sales people and coaches worldwide since 1985. Sharon Drew is an original thinker, thought leader, keynote speaker, coach, and consultant.

For those interested in learning more about Buying Facilitation® or Facilitative QuestionsSharon Drew wrote about this extensively in Dirty Little Secrets. For those wishing to learn how to use this material, visit her store at sharondrewmorgen.com and look up the Guided Study material. Or contact her directly: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

June 24th, 2019

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buyers 3A participant at one of my onsite Buying Facilitation® trainings took me to his desk where he scrolled through pages of names of one-contact prospects who’d ignored his follow up attempts. “What do I do with all of these names? They’re buyers. How can I get them to take my call?”

I scrolled through the hundreds of names, noticed the many dates of attempted follow up after each name, and told him to give me his finger. “My finger?” “Yes”, I said. “Use it to press the delete key. You’re wasting your time.”

NEED DOES NOT EQUAL SALE

Doing what sales professionals are supposed to do, this salesman sought out potential prospects with a ‘need’ his solution could resolve, assuming need = prospect. With pages of names and untold wasted hours calling, calling, calling them back (time he could have used to find real buyers), valiantly seeking a sale among those he assumed most likely, there was something he wasn’t understanding: just because it seemed to him there was a fit, didn’t mean these people were buyers.

Walk this back with me: Sales professionals have been taught that a prospect is someone with a ‘need’ that matches the benefits of their solution – someone who SHOULD buy, or likely to be a candidate to buy – and with the ‘right’ course of action, they can convert this prospect to a buyer. But after years of coming up with ‘new’ sales methods, closing techniques, e-tools, etc. etc. that employ the ‘right’ approach to target prospects, introduce the content in the ‘best’ way with the most efficient messaging, and finding hundreds, thousands, with a supposed need who don’t buy, we know ‘need’ does not equal Sale.

The mystery to me is why we keep doing it and telling ourselves that, even with a 5% close rate, what we’re doing is working. Has it never occurred that just maybe we’re doing something wrong? The truth is, selling doesn’t cause buying. Yet we keep doing the same thing and accept as normal the low close rates and silence from those we deem buyers. Nothing in this process works efficiently. We

  • obviously can’t recognize a real buyer;
  • don’t know if we’re reading the situation accurately and maybe this person isn’t, and will never be, a buyer;
  • assume that we position our pitch/presentation/marketing using the ‘right’ approach;
  • have little indication if our skills cause a sale to close – or even who might be the most effective recipients to target;
  • sit and wait and hope for call backs, continually moving the dates on our pipeline forward;
  • don’t know who will finally show up and buy.

Sellers can’t even identify prospects who will buy from their pipeline. After asking hundreds of sellers who among their current prospects will definitely buy, no one, in my entire 35 years of sales training and consulting, ever has more than a guess. But that’s because it’s not possible to know who will be a buyer on the first call using the current sales focus of seeking people with ‘need’.

And herein lies the problem: by entering prospecting calls with goals, expectations, and listening patterns that assume we can recognize a real buyer, or when we find someone with a ‘need’ we’ve got a prospect, or by sending out content marketing cleverly introducing features and functions, we not only chase those who may never buy (the majority), but overlook an entirely different set of criteria for finding those who CAN buy: people who are willing and able to change. That’s right: the criteria for finding someone who will/can buy is wholly dependent on whether they are willing and able to change. For those of you who find this concept unusual, I’ll lead you through this.

CHANGE IS THE CRITERIA, NOT NEED

Did you buy a gym membership (or get coaching, or lose weight, or…) when you first recognized a ‘need’ or when you were (finally) ready to make a change? How long did you have the ‘need’ before you actually did something about it? When you finally took action, it had nothing to do with the gym membership or the coach; you were ready and willing to change, to take action now (yes, now), find the time, develop new habits, make it a priority over something else you were doing with that time, have the funds, etc. ‘Need’ may inspire a consideration to do something different, but does not constitute the action to do it.

When we enter a conversation believing that someone with a ‘need’ is a buyer, we ignore

  • how our biased questions (based on discovering ‘need’) cause responses that may seem to imply a need, or
  • how our biased listening assures we can confirm we found someone who SHOULD buy, very often missing the full range of meaning, overlooking those who CAN/WILL buy but aren’t quite ready yet, or
  • the vast difference between ‘need’ and ability/willingness to undertake the change process inherent in a purchase.

Think about it: why would anyone spend time listening to a stranger (yes, you’re a stranger) or reading content, unless they want something? Here’s the rule: if someone is in the early stages of scoping stuff out and hasn’t yet realized they might need to buy something, or haven’t yet adjusted for how making a purchase would affect their status quo, they have no reason to spend time with you, regardless need, or the efficacy of your solution. Therefore, with our solution placement outreach methods we merely attract:

  1. people doing research for solutions to create themselves or give to their current vendors;
  2. folks examining differences between features of your solution vs how they’re handling the problem internally;
  3. people with the same buying patterns as your selling patterns (those willing to read an article, or speak to a stranger, or go to an intro meeting, for example);
  4. those with a real need who will be buyers once they have all their ducks in a row.

Even if we’re connecting in response to a request for more information or a referral, we’re entering as a solution seeking a problem without considering the range of activities (the internal change management elements) necessary before someone can buy. We forget that between recognizing a problem and taking actions to resolve it (adopt something new), essential steps must occur (I wrote a book on this. Take a look: www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com) to

  • determine that, indeed a change is necessary (or retain the status quo if change isn’t feasible);
  • to get agreement that the problem can’t be resolved with familiar solutions and needs an external fix;
  • to know how to manage the disruption that will ensue (any additions or subtractions to the status quo causes disruption);
  • to facilitate the buy in of everyone involved.

In other words, sales shares data prematurely, before people even know what to listen for; listens for ‘buying signals’ that don’t exist; overlooks those who WILL become buyers but don’t yet understand they need us. Our prospects are restricted to the low hanging fruit who already know they need us, ensuring we play a numbers game as everyone fights to close the same pool of ready buyers. If they were fully cognizant of what they needed AND had the internal buy-in to make a purchase AND knew how much discombobulation they’d face, they would have gone online and contacted us already. To find real buyers on the first call, we need a different listening bias and goal to recognize those who are willing to change.

THE SALES MODEL RESTRICTS DISCOVERY

I’ve been told the ‘million dollar question’ is knowing who is a buyer on the first call. And yet, it’s simple. Here are two examples of me making a cold call to a Sales Director. I entered both conversations with the same Facilitative Question (FQ – a new form of question I developed that facilitates discovery without biasing choice or attempting to gather data): How are you currently adding new sales skills to the ones your folks now use for those times you seek to augment specific outcomes? Just from the responses to my opening question, it’s easy to recognize which person is a buyer.

Responder A: Every year I read 6 sales books. I then buy copies of my favorite one for each sales person, and ask them to meet once a month to discuss how to incorporate the ideas into their selling.

Responder B:  Good question. I’ve certainly tried, but I haven’t been successful. I keep training my folks with the newest sales methods, and it hasn’t seemed to make a difference. Not sure if I’m using the right training methods, or I just need to fire all of my sales folks and start all over. Or maybe something we’re doing internally that’s causing the results. I sure wish I knew the answer.

Which one is the prospect? B, of course. Do they both have a need? Probably. But it’s clear who’d be willing to change. Notice I entered the conversation to help the prospect start thinking about change, not to try to find a match between my solution and a need, or find someone (um, the ‘decision maker?’) who would listen to a pitch (why do we assume that our glorious pitch and content will rule the day, after thousands of people ignore us?). Different from conventional sales approaches that enter to discover a ‘need’ or attempt to ‘gather information’, my opening FQ used vocabulary that restricted the conversation to where change would occur, while providing me information on their willingness to change.

And it’s quite important to understand that by entering the conversation with an entirely different focus, the rest of the conversation and the resultant human connection, the ability to find a real buyer and make a sale, is quite different from a seller entering to sell their solution.

The problem has never been our solution or their need. The part we’ve left out of sales is change. Every purchase, every add-on involves shifting the status quo in some way – assuredly causing some form of disruption; unless a prospect knows how change with minimal disruption they can’t buy anything regardless of their need or my solution. I ask you: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two distinctly different activities. And we’re only focused on the selling – all the while ignoring real buying opportunities that require some change facilitation rather than solution placement bias.

RECOGNIZING AND FACILITATING CHANGE BEFORE SELLING

Do you know what an exchange sounds like with a real buyer? Training Buying Facilitation® to small business bankers at Wachovia, we opened with a Facilitative Question that produced great results:“How are you currently adding new banking resources for those times you need additional support?” This question

  1. focused on having clients consider their status quo.
  2. assumed they had some sort of banking relationship (which all small businesses have).
  3. offered add on support (so much less disruption to ‘add’ rather than ‘change’).
  4. got them to begin thinking if change were a viable activity.

Of course the discussion involved further facilitation, but this FQ opened the dialogue and, importantly, positioned the seller as a facilitator enabling Excellence rather than a sales person pushing solutions. Using this process, the results were profound: the control group, asking for appointments to present their new small business banking services, got 10 appointments out of 100, closing 2 in 11 months. Using Buying Facilitation® and starting with the above Facilitative Question (and no pitch!), my group got 39 appointments; they closed half in the first 2 months, then half of the remainder in the next month. So in 3 months, they closed approximately 30 prospects. Same list, same product. But by starting from a change consideration, we found – and then efficiently facilitated – real buyers. The other group merely uncovered those who recognized a willingness to seek a new banker but still weren’t in a position to change (i.e. notice the difference in closing times). The most interesting thing was how little time it took to close those willing to change once the seller facilitated the prospect through their change and buy-in determinants.

A buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue. Making a purchase or choosing a vendor is the last thing – the last thing – a prospect will do. If we eschew a ‘selling’ focus as an entry, and instead focus on change, we can find those willing and able to consider change and facilitate them through their steps of change – enlist buy-in; design a way to maintain what’s working while adding new solutions to ensure continuity; manage people issues and internal politics – changing with minimal disruption. But it demands an entirely different skill set and entry point.

My Buying Facilitation® model has coded every step buyers must go through to discover how, when, and if, to make a change and leads them through the non-buying, systems-focused steps necessary without the bias of sales; different from sales, and used as the first step before a solution is actually introduced (although the questions are posed around the area my solution can resolve) it operates as a change facilitation approach that consists of different skills from sales – Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, and Presumptive Summaries to facilitate discovery and manage change.

Buying Facilitation® can be employed in a fraction of the time it takes to pitch to a stranger; it reduces the failed follow up attempts to ensure we’re only following up with those who WILL buy, and teach them how they CAN buy. And then, employ our brilliant sales approach to the right buyers. It’s win win. What would you need to know about the learning process to understand how Buying Facilitation® would enable you to close more, waste less time, and serve more clients efficiently? Call me. I’ll teach you how to do it.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the inventor of Buying Facilitation®, the generic Change Facilitation model that offers influencer the tools to enable Others to make congruent changes to find their own excellence, without fallout. She has trained this in sales, coaching, leadership, and management to Fortune 500 companies globally since 1985. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Amazon bestseller’s Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? which explores the gap in understanding between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew lives on a houseboat in Portland OR.

May 13th, 2019

Posted In: News, Sales

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coding-3I wasn’t diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder – NLD, similar to Asperger’s – until I was 61. For most of my life it’s felt like I live in a quarantined room with glass walls, watching people live seemingly normal lives on the other side, but unable to touch them. But my world, although far less social, is rich; every day I awake filled with curiosity and visions of possibility, with ideas to write about and share so others can use; every day my heart aches with the need to use my abilities to make a difference and help everyone have the tools to be all they can be.

Since I was a kid I’ve had to navigate social situations that render me confused and obnoxious: expected social norms are often incomprehensible to me (I’ll never understand why strangers ask “How are you?” when it’s such a personal question.). My listening skills, apparently, aren’t conventional either: I hear, and respond to, the meaning behind words rather than those spoken. [Note: Like many Aspies, I hear whole circles/systems when spoken to, and often respond to the metamessage intended instead of the words spoken. It gets to the heart of any communication quickly. Clients love it, friends tolerate it, strangers mock it or call me ‘rude’.]. The world’s just different for me.

As a kid my grades suffered until someone figured out I should be given essays instead of multiple choice tests (Then I got A’s). I couldn’t make friends (no sleepovers, or parties, either in high school or college!) even though I was a cheerleader, the school pianist, and editor of the school paper. And everyone, including my confounded parents, tried to make me ‘normal’ when I did something ‘odd’ or ‘bad’. [In those days there was no diagnosis]. Why couldn’t they see/hear/feel me and appreciate my ideas and heart? Why didn’t anyone just accept and encourage me? I knew I was smart and kind. It confused me that others couldn’t see me because I was different.

I prayed to be normal, to understand what responding ‘appropriately’ meant. I longed to join the world, to fit in when I wanted to, but didn’t want to lose my authenticity or ideas. I was determined to figure out how Others made choices, how I made mine, and note the differences. I remember telling myself that since I was in trouble all the time anyway I might as well be in trouble for doing what I thought was right, so long as I knew the difference. This formed the foundation of my life’s work: figuring out how people could make new, congruent choices. In retrospect, I cannot imagine what made me think I could accomplish this. But I did. I just did it my way.

HOW DO WE CHOOSE WHAT WE CHOOSE?

Starting at age 11 I stole away to a large, flat rock in a nearby reservoir to think. From 1957 – 1963 I filled notebooks with ideas, drawings and doodles, and fantasized possibilities: how do people choose? What exactly, is choice, and how do people know when to choose to do something different? Do one thing over another? These questions have filled my entire life. [No Google, no computers, no neuroscience or behavioral science or Daniel Kahneman. Just me, a rock, some paper and pen, and intense curiosity.] It became my ‘topic’: What caused people to think, and act, differently from each other, sometimes with the same set of ‘givens’? Could people be taught when, if, or how to make different choices? Could I change? Could anyone?

I also wrote down conversations – with my parents, and those I overheard – noting similarities and differences in words, responses, and intent; I noted when Others’ behaviors and dialogues were confusing, and when I got in trouble for not making the right choices. I wrote down my own internal dialogue when I was apparently out of step, and noted the social situation when I noticed others said something different than they meant.

It was obvious that people reacted differently to the same stimulus. Seemed everyone’s subjective experience (I call it a system of unique rules, norms, beliefs, experience, history etc.) creates the unconscious biases that cause their habitual choices.

1. Everyone’s choices come from their unique, historic, subjective internal realities (their ‘system’) and are largely unconscious.

I collected data in my jobs: From 1975 – 1979 I ran pre-discharge groups and family therapy in an in-patient state psychiatric center giving me an invaluable opportunity to learn about group communication, hidden agendas and veiled meanings, and the vulnerability of maintaining the status quo. 1979-1983 I was a stockbroker on Wall Street. From 1983-1989 I founded a tech company in London, Hamburg, and Stuttgart and had the opportunity to negotiate and have clients/staff from different countries and cultures. I’ve run Buying Facilitation® training programs in 5 of the 7 continents. I founded a Not-For-Profit around Europe that helped kids with my son’s disease get the resources to lead functional lives. Then, and to this day, I have mapped communication, choice, and belief-based decision making.

HOW WE MAINTAIN OUR STATUS QUO

One of my persistent bewilderments was why people behaved in destructive ways even when they had relevant data suggesting they try something else. As I got better at mapping the elements behind my own decision making process and matching it to what I noticed in Others, I realized the complexity of the problem: there’s a broader set of considerations involved than just ‘fixing’ it, or weighting choices. Seems there are iterative, sequential steps that must occur internally before any system is ready for change (Read Dirty Little Secrets for a complete discussion.) including:

2. A. assembling the full, unique data set that comprises the status quo. Includes rules, values, goals, relationships/people, history, events, etc.;
    B. a recognition of anything and everything missing in the status quo that might lead to a problem or a lack [omitting anything causes incomplete, possibly inaccurate data; attempting to push anything in prematurely causes resistance to avoid system destabilization.].

Given the subjectivity and sophistication involved in this process, any change we each to through obviously must be initiated, defined, and accepted from within our indvidual systems; change being pushed from outside gets resisted because it potentially offends the system. Our human systems are sacrosanct.

3. Change must come from within the elements of the system that created the problem to ensure the status quo is maintained.
4.  Any potential change must be agreed upon (i.e. buy-in) by the system of rules, experiences, history, people, values (etc.), that hold the initiating problem in place.

Here is the question that has ruled my thinking for decades: How could I, or anyone (given we’re each operating from unconscious subjective biases), facilitate change in Others if their change factors are unconscious and fight to maintain the status quo?

PUSHING CHANGE VS FACILITATING CHANGE

In the mid-1980s I discovered NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP – the study of the structure of subjective experience) and studied for three years (Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and a unique Beyond/Integration year) because I found their unwrapping of human systems cogent and important. While it’s not scientifically accepted,  NLP is quite important as a way to unpack how/why we do what we do and is the most important communication tool of the twentieth century. I loved the depth of the discovery process through their codified systems of human criteria. Unfortunately, like other influencer models (sales, leadership, coaching, healthcare etc.) the NLP practitioner is trained to use this knowledge to push change from outside, when it’s far more consistent, relevant, accurate and integrous to enable Others to traverse, repair, and integrate the route of their own change; NLP practitioners, like doctors and sales folks, attempt to cause change (obviously using their own personal biases), rather than trusting that people must elicit their own change to remain congruent.

5. Until the system determines how to garner buy-in and consensus in a way that’s congruent with its own rules, and make room for something new in a way the system won’t face disorder, change will be resisted rather than threaten the status quo.

In the late 1980s I discovered the books of Roger Schank who said questions could uncover unconscious criteria. Really? Conventional questions were biased, restricting responses to the bias of the Asker. Since change is an inside job, how could questions enable choice?

I played with this problem for a year and eventually developed a new form of question (Facilitative Question) that uses specific words, in a specific order, in sequenced steps, as an unbiased directional device (much like a GPS, with no bias), giving Outsiders (influencers) the ability to efficiently and congruently help Others traverse the route to change, and make quick decisions and shifts in ways that their system deems tolerable. In other words, a form of question that can be used by doctors, sellers, coaches, leaders – anyone who seeks to enable change in others. An example:  ‘How will you know if it’s time to reconsider your hairstyle?’ instead of ‘Why do you wear your hair like that?’ – leading Others  directly to the route down their own unconscious change criteria, rather than manipulating the change sought by the Questioner. After all, an Outsider can never fully understand the makeup of someone else’s unique, unconscious system. Why not lead them through to their own change steps?

6. As neutral navigation devices, Facilitative Questions direct the Other’s unconscious down the sequence of change without bias, enabling consensus from the system, congruent to their own norms. In others words, influencers can help people make permanent, congruent change, so long as they eschew leading from their own biases.

Used in sales, coaching, negotiating, leadership, healthcare, decision making, and management, these questions help the Other get straight to the heart of their own decisions, enabling influencers to quickly determine how – or if – to proceed with integrity, collaboration, and authenticity. {In sales, Facilitative Questions quickly eliminate those who would never buy, discover and teach those with a need (initially recoznized or not) AND an ability to buy, and close sales in half the time. Buyers need to take these steps (Pre-Sales) prior to any buying decision anyway, and usually make them behind-the-scenes while sellers wait.}

In the 80s and 90s, I found the books of Benjamin Libet and Maurice Merleau-Ponty who confirmed my early theories that behavior comes from subjective experience. I’ve met with, and read close to a thousand books and papers from, communication experts, behavioral scientists, neuroscientists. I even interviewed for a PhD in Behavioral Sciences, but was told my work was 20 years ahead of the current research at the time so I couldn’t use my own work as my PhD thesis. I did begin an experiment at Columbia with a behavioral scientist on the criteria people used to make decisions with (behavioral vs belief), but our funding got cut as we were set to begin. And in all of my sales/Buying Facilitation®  training programs, we have a pilot group compared with a control group.

THE BIRTH OF BUYING FACILITATION®: WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Putting all of my learning and ideas together, it presents a very different picture than the one we currently use to influence, lead, or serve others. Here’s a recap.

1. Everyone makes decisions based on their own unique, unconscious subjective biases. External data will be resisted, accepted, misunderstood accordingly, regardless of the need or efficacy of the information.
2. Everyone, and every team, exists within a system of idiosyncratic rules that create and maintain the status quo, and will resist change (buying anything, shifting behaviors) until the system has bought-in to shifting congruently.
3. Conventional questions are biased by the Questioner, and lead to restricted data collection and responses. Facilitative Questions lead the system through it’s own path to assembly, and change management so it can make its own best decisions and discover its own type of Excellence. 
4. People can only hear/listen according to the parameters of their internal biases, and will misunderstand, mishear, forget, filter any data that is not aligned. I wrote a book on this: What? Did you really say what I think I heard?
5. Change can only happen from the inside, regardless of the external ‘reality’ or need.
6. Information cannot teach anyone how to make a new decision; all change/choice comes from shifts within the existent, systemic beliefs. Information is only useful once all elements of change are in place; otherwise it gets misheard, misinterpreted, or ignored.
7. Until a system knows how, if, when, where to change congruently, no change will occur regardless of any external reality.
8. It’s possible to facilitate Others through congruent change, be part of their decision making process, potentially expand their choices, and work with those who are ready, willing, and able. This enables influencers to truly serve rather than depend on ‘intuition’ or their own biases.

I know we spend billions creating pitches, rational arguments, data gathering, questionnaires, training, Behavior Modification, etc. But this only captures the low hanging fruit – those who have gotten to the place where new ideas, solutions, training’s fit. People who

  • think differently,
  • have rules, expectations or beliefs that run counter to the offered information (but can be recalculated), or
  • have not yet reached the realization that they need what you’ve got on offer (but do need it)

will either mishear, misunderstand, or resist when presented with any outside push or data. That means we’re offering our solutions before the system is set up for change, finding only the low hanging fruit who have already determined their route to change. Conventional models that push/offer/pull information – rational or otherwise – cannot do better than be there when the fruit’s ready to fall. But by adding some skills that first facilitates change readiness, it’s possible to become part of the decision process and a place on the Buying Decison Team.

My core thinking remains outside of conventional thinking because it’s not academic (although it’s more accepted these days). But after 60 years of study and mistakes, 35 years of training clients and running control groups, I’ve accomplished my childhood goal. My generic facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) has been taught globally since 1985; it does just what I always wanted to do: offer scalable skills to anyone seeking to truly serve others by facilitating their own brand of excellence. In other words, I can teach influencers to help Others know how, when, if to make new choices for themselves. It’s an unconventional model, and certainly not academic. But it’s been proven with over 100,000 people globally.

These days, I continue to learn, read, study, and theorize. Should anyone in healthcare, sales, leadership, OD, or coaching be interested in learning more, or collaborating, or or or, I’m here.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen has been coding and teaching change and choice in sales, coaching, healthcare, and leadership for over 30 years. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic decision facilitation model used in sales, and is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew’s book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? has been called a ‘game changer’ in the communication field, and is the first book that explains, and solves, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her assessments and learning tools that accompany the book have been used by individuals and teams to learn to enter conversations able to hear without filters.

Sharon Drew is the author of one of the top 10 global sales blogs with 1700+ articles on facilitating buying decisions through enabling buyers to manage their status quo effectively. To learn Buying Facilitation® contact sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512-771-1117 and visit www.newsalesparadigm.com

 

April 29th, 2019

Posted In: Change Management, Listening, News

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By any standards, I’m considered successful. A NYTimes bestselling author of 9 books, an inventor and thought leader, I’ve trained a very large number of people globally in a change facilitation model I invented (Buying Facilitation®), started up a successful tech company in the 1980s and a non-profit that helped thousands of people walk again, and had my picture on the cover of magazines. But unless I’m referred, unless people have followed my work and know me, I’m patronized, condescended to, ignored, and dismissed in most settings. Why? Because I have Asperger’s, and I relate and respond differently.

I’m told I’m intense, challenging, in your face. And I bet that’s all true, although I can’t tell because it all seems normal to me. And then, maybe because I don’t conform to the norm, or because I’m a woman, people feel they have the right to disrespect me. As a result, my important ideas about facilitating others through their own congruent change – so necessary in healthcare, leadership, sales, coaching – get ignored, misinterpreted, stolen, or ridiculed. And it’s a shame, as these concepts are not only revolutionary, but important and would serve a vast number of people.

And sometimes the people who unwittingly disrespect or ignore me are the same people who fervently believe in equality, diversity, and #metoo. How do these folks forget their values when they actually come face to face with someone like me who is merely ‘different’? Where do their values go?

WE ALL SEEK TO BE KIND

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

Given our vantage point from the culture we identify with – with inbred norms and accepted behaviors – we sometimes unwittingly wound others from unfamiliar cultures because we don’t understand our differences. Obviously we can’t stand in their shoes, try as we might. Sometimes we don’t have the knowledge to automatically behave correctly or recognize a misstep. Sometimes we unknowingly bias how we listen. And sometimes we don’t know for certain the correct action or communication approach.

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

Kindness. While our intent is usually to be kind, sometimes we unwittingly harm. How can we determine if our action will be experienced as hurtful or kind? For openers, we could stop making assumptions and begin dialogues by asking our communication partners for guidance on best communication styles, or ask to be told when/if we misstep. Personally, I hear what’s said differently than neurotypicals, and respond accordingly – which often confuses others. When I see a quizzical look on someone’s face I immediately ask them what they heard me say. I wish I had the ability to avoid the misstep, especially when people walk away rather than discuss it with me to find a common language and acceptance.

To mitigate this problem I’ve learned to introduce myself thus: “I have Asperger’s, and sometimes my responses are too direct and can cause hurt. Please accept my apologies in advance. And please let me know if I’ve confused or annoyed you so I can make it right. I have no intention to harm you. Help me make it right so we can be connected.” This usually works, and the incidents of miscommunication have drastically reduced. I understand that that few people intend to be unkind, and don’t realize it when they are. But it begs the question: how can we all just show up as kind people and accept differences as merely interesting instead of challenging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Willingness to be wrong and apologize. This is a hard one. So many people need to be right.The only thing they get from that is staying in place, finding friends just like them, and restricting anything new that might cause disruption. We need to be humble. And yet we staunchly defend our ‘rightness’ rather than be wrong. This serves no one.

Humility. What a concept. As an Aspie, I have no choice but to be humble. As soon as I see a quizzical look, or an annoyed face, I assume I’ve done something wrong. It’s about my brain, and I hate harming anyone, but I’ve primed myself to notice so I can take responsibility. Unfortunately, the people who need to be right, better-than, and smarter-than assume I have an agenda, or I ‘have no humility’ or ‘who do you think you are anyway’ syndrome. Feeling superior feeds their ego I suppose so they can continue telling themselves they’re wonderful. Unfortunately, this restricts their own lives and potentially harms others. Who would you be if you lived each moment with humility?

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

Equality. One of the things I’ve learned as a Buddhist and practicing Quaker is that we’re all the same, but responsible for different things. We all want health, happiness, respect, love, friends, a roof over our heads, safety, success for our children, enough money to live comfortably and eat, good work and a little bit of fun every now and again. I used to date a FedEx driver. I earned in a day what he earned in a year. Our professions, life experiences, education, cultures, certainly didn’t match. But he was a brilliant woodcrafter, had the kindest heart I’ve ever experienced, and a knowledge of music that was encyclopedic. I learned a lot from him. We were equal. Humans, each doing the best we can. What would each of us need to believe differently to see worth and value in all others?

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

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

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

____________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, and inventor. She is the author of the NYTimes business bestseller Selling with Integrity, 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 developed the Buying Facilitation® model that she trains to sales teams in corporations globally, for use with the sales model to facilitate Buyer Readiness. She also runs one day listening programs to enable team members, consultants, and customer-facing folk to hear others without bias. Sharon Drew is a keynote speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach. Sign up for her award winning blog,with original articles on buying, decision making, change and listening sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

April 15th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, News

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When researching my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I was surprised to learn how little of what we hear someone say is unbiased, or even accurate. Seems we hear what we want to hear, and not necessarily what’s been meant; too often we don’t know the difference. There are several elements that conspire against accuracy. And sadly, it’s largely out of our control.

THE PROBLEM WITH LANGUAGE

Let me begin with my definitions of ‘language’ and ‘communication’:

In dialogue, language is a translation process between a Speaker’s thoughts – translated and verbalized into a delivery system of ideas, words, voice (tone, tempo, pitch), and the unspoken goal/bias of the outcome sought – and the Listener’s filtering system.

A completed communication is a circle – Speaker -> Listener -> Speaker: the Speaker translates an internal thought/idea through language to their Communication Partner (CP) who listens through their own unique and subjective filters, and responds to what they have interpreted. Until or unless the Speaker’s message has been received accurately, the communication is not complete.

Language itself is one of the problems we face when attempting to accurately understand what a Speaker means:

  • We speak in one unbroken stream of words (Spaces appear only between written words.) that can be differentiated only by those familiar with the language and vocabulary (Have you ever asked a question from a language book in a foreign country and get a response in a continuous stream of sounds that can’t be isolated to allow you to look up words to translate?) Since everyone speaks in word streams, our ears have become subjectively habituated to listen for patterns within them; our brains continue down those pathways even if the Speaker’s intent isn’t matched.
  • Words have uniquely nuanced meanings for each of us. The words a Speaker chooses that impart understanding may not be the best word choices for our Listener whose subjective filtering process may not match, or indeed instigate the wrong interpretation.
  • Our brains only remember spoken words for approximately 3 seconds. By the time our brains separate the individual words to glean meaning, we’re lagging ‘behind’ the speaker, so we rely on our unconscious habits and thinking patterns to bridge, or fill in, gaps in understanding. Obviously, it’s easiest to accurately understand people we’re similar to.

Arguably the largest detractor of accuracy for understanding our CPs intended message are the cultural, experiential, belief, education, and intimacy gaps that create subjective and unconscious filters in us all. These filters – biases, assumptions, triggers, habituated neural pathways, and memory channels – unconsciously and automatically sift out or transform what our CP says that’s uncomfortable or different from our beliefs, our lifestyles, etc., or aren’t in line within the goal of what we’re actively seeking in the exchange.

While we each assume that what we ‘hear’ is an accurate representation of what’s been said, often it’s not. With our subjective listening filters uniquely interpreting what others say, we can’t help but

  • bias their intended message subjectively,
  • make inaccurate assumptions, miss important ideas, requests, and emotional cues,
  • follow established memory channels and neural pathways that lead us to wrongly interpret what was meant,
  • mishear directions, rules, warnings, nuance, names etc.,
  • take away mistaken comprehension,

and on and on. As sellers we ‘hear’ that people are buyers; as coaches we ‘hear’ people complain of stuff we know how to fix; as leaders we ‘hear’ our teams convey they’re on-board (or not) with our ideas; as change agents we ‘hear’ rejection rather than alternate approaches or shared concerns; as parents we ‘hear’ our teenagers making excuses.

OUR BRAINS TRICK US

Simplistically, here’s our unconscious listening process:

  1. We first listen through a hierarchy of historic and habitual filters, unconsciously seeking a match with our biases, beliefs, and values– and delete or alter what seems incompatible.
  2. With what’s left from the initial round of filtering, our brains seek a match with something familiar by sorting for a similar memory, which could focus on just a term or one of the ideas mentioned, or or or, and throws away what doesn’t match without telling us what’s been omitted or misconstrued! We might accurately hear the words spoken, but unconsciously assign a vastly different interpretation from the intended meaning.

And because we’re only ‘told’ what our brains ‘tell’ us has been said, we end up ‘certain’ that what we think we hear is actually what’s meant. So if someone says ABC we might actually hear ABL, without knowing what our brains added, subtracted, or muddled. I once lost a business partner because he ‘heard’ me say X when three of us sitting there, including his wife, confirmed I said Y. “I was right here! Why are you all lying to me! I heard it with my own ears!” And he walked out in a self-generated rage. His brain actually told him I said something I never said and he never questioned it, even though three people told him he misheard.

I know this is disconcerting but it’s important to understand: Listeners always assume what they (think they) hear is what has been said. And where this diverges from the Speaker’s intended meaning, we end up responding to an inaccurate understanding, blaming our CP for miscommunicating, and never consider that just maybe we unwittingly got it wrong.

It all happens automatically and unconsciously, and we end up involuntarily misunderstanding without realizing, until too late, that there is a problem. Indeed we have no conscious ability to tell our brains what to search for when we’re listening, causing us to potentially hear a fraction of a fraction of what’s meant; we then compound the problem by responding according to what we THINK has been said. So we might get self-righteously angry, or perceive we’re forgiven; we hear people as racists or healers or sarcastic or buyers; we feel slighted or complimented or ignored; we think ideas are stupid and opinions absurd. And in each instance, we miss the possibility of a partnership, or a new concept, or a conversation or relationship that might have been.

In summary: the structure of language itself causes confusion when listening to Others; our subjective filters – biases (of which there are hundreds), assumptions, and triggers – are unconscious impediments to what we think we hear; our neural pathways, habitual associations, and memory channels automatically, and subjectively, get triggered by a word or phrase and go down their own well-travelled path to seek a match, potentially eschewing more relevant or accurate routes to understanding; our brains don’t tell us what it’s omitted or transformed, leaving us potentially misunderstanding – without question – what our CP meant to impart.

And it’s all unconscious. According to Sarah Williams Goldhagen in Welcome to Your World, our unconscious (or ‘nonconscious’ as she calls it) is approximately 90% of our attention, and only 10% “…patterned and schematized in a way we can interact with others.”(pg 59) So misunderstanding is virtually built into our communication.

LISTENING FOR METAMESSAGES INSTEAD OF WORDS

Unfortunately we have no automatic capability to hear a Speaker’s intended message accurately, regardless of the Speaker’s word choices or the Listener’s commitment to listening ‘carefully’, regardless of the costly wordsmithing done in many industries to lure Listener buy-in. But as Listeners can take an active role in consciously managing our listening filters to encourage greater understanding. For this we must circumvent our biased listening; we must learn the skill of avoiding listening for meaning solely from the words.

From birth, we’re taught to carefully listen for words (and Active Listening has a part to play in this predisposition), assuming, falsely, we’ll translate them accurately. We can, however, circumvent our normal filtering process by shifting our attention from listening to words to listening for meaning; listening for what’s meant, rather than for what’s said; listening less to the words and more for the Speaker’s underlying intent.

Let’s walk this back. Remember that Speakers speak to impart an underlying thought (I call this the Metamessage) and then unconsciously select the most precise words – for that situation, for that Listener – to do so. But these word choices might not be the best ones to garner accurate understanding in that particular Listener. Certainly, a Speaker has no idea how a Listener’s filters will interpret the sent message. This becomes more obvious when speaking to a group and some members understand, others misunderstand. To circumvent misunderstanding, to have a greater chance of hearing what’s meant and eliminating the factors causing misunderstanding, we must take filters out of the listening process.

There’s a higher probability of hearing others accurately if Listeners bypass the normal filtering process and instead focus on the Speaker’s intended meaning. I learned the basic concept while studying NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming – the study of the structure of subjective experience) and expanded it in my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? When listening we can actually go beyond the brain and experience a broad view (not intimate details) of what’s being meant.

To avoid our listening filters, to get the broader meaning behind the idea intended, we must go ‘up to the ceiling’ and listen as a Witness/Observer. A very simple example would be if someone said ‘I wish you would be on time more often’, the Metamessage might be ‘I hate that you’re late again. And I’m getting tired of waiting for you all the time!’ We do this naturally when speaking with a small child, listening with for what they mean to tell us, rather than focus on their possibly unskilled wordsmithing. Or when we overhear a conversation in a Starbucks. In both instances we’re Observers.

We don’t know how to consciously choose; the problem is we don’t know how to consciously choose to do so. To choose the Witness/Observer viewpoint, think of a time when you’re aware you were listening without any personal agenda and break down how you did that – how you knew when it was time to disengage from the words, what you noticed that was different, how it shifted your communication exchange. If it’s something you want to learn, I’ve written an entire chapter on this (Chapter 6) in What?.

LISTENING FOR MEANING VS WORDS

Here are two cold call interactions that exemplify the difference between listening for words vs for Metamessages. The first is a dialogue of a coaching client in which I was teaching him how to sell with integrity. He started out fine, but then dissolved into his old push technique when he interpreted the prospect’s words according to his own filters:

BROKER: Hi My name is Jeff Rosen. I sell insurance and this is a cold call. Is this a good time to speak?

CLIENT: Hi Jeff. Thanks for calling but I’m just walking out the door.

BROKER: “IonlyneedtwosecondsIwouldliketocomeandseeyounextweek.”

The prospect hung up.

SDM: What was that????? You started off great! And he responded kindly.

BROKER: I had to talk really fast because he said he was busy.

Listening for the spoken words through his filters, my client only heard a time constraint and didn’t ‘hear’ that the prospect stayed on the line and didn’t hang up. Listening from a Witness/Observer position he would have heard that the prospect was polite and hanging in with him, and made another choice: “I’ll call back when it’s convenient.” Or “Thanks. What’s a better time?”

In a very similar situation, I made a cold call to the Chief Training Officer at IBM; you’ll notice that both of us listened for the Metamessage instead of the words:

NANCY: [The world’s fastest] HELLO!

SDM: You sound busy. When should I call back?

NANCY: Tomorrow at 2.

And we both hung up.

This continued for 3 days with the exact same dialogue. Finally we had this exchange on day 4:

NANCY: HELLO!

SDM: You still sound busy.

NANCY: Who are you?

SDM: Sharon Drew Morgen, and this is only a cold call. I can call you back when you’re not so busy.

NANCY: What are you selling?

SDM: Training for a facilitated buying model to use with sales.

NANCY: I’ll give you 5 minutes.

SDM: Not enough.

NANCY: 10 minutes.

SDM: Not enough.

NANCY: OK. I’m yours. But I want to know how you just did what you did. How did you get me to speak with you? How do I feel so respected when you’re cold calling me? How did you get me to give you so much time? And can you teach my sales team how to do that? Can you come next month? [Note: I ended up training with them for two years. I didn’t even have to pitch.]

Both of us listened with our Witness hats on. Nancy heard my Metamessage: by immediately hanging up after getting a time, she ‘heard’ me say that I respected her time. Calling back at the requested time told her I was responsible. Telling her it was a sales cold told her I was honest and wasn’t going to manipulate her. And by me abiding to her time frame she abided to mine. Indeed, I ‘said’ none of those things in words; the meaning was the message I intended to send. My goal was to connect if possible and serve if able. To connect, I’d have to value her time, not push; to serve I’d be honest and responsible. So she ‘heard’ me, beyond the words. It was win/win.

So here’s a suggestion: For those times it’s important to understand the underlying meaning of another’s communication, and you cannot risk biases and assumptions that might significantly alter the outcome, I suggest you go up to the ‘ceiling’ and listen from Witness/Observer.

This is a great tool for those of you who are Active Listening proponents. When listening to correctly capture the words spoken, understand your brain will bias how you interpret them and you may not achieve clarity as to the intent of the message. In my experience, AL doesn’t ensure understanding and too often puts the ‘blame’ of misunderstanding on the Speaker.

Try listening from the ‘ceiling’ from Witness/Observer. It might make a difference. And if that’s not comfortable at least clear a way to understanding in each important conversation:

Before we continue, I just want to make sure I understand what you mean to say.

Here’s what I heard…. Is that accurate?

Communication is delicate, as are relationships. Take the time to ensure you and your Communication Partner are on the same page. And delight that a shared understanding inspires possibility.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, and author of 9 books, including the New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She is the developer of Change Facilitation, used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, and management – any influencing situation in which integrity, ethics, and collaboration are involved. Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach for sales and listening. She can be reached at: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com; her award winning blog has thoughtful articles on change, systems, decision making, and communication. www.sharondrewmorgen.com

April 1st, 2019

Posted In: News

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cash-in-hand

Your important nonprofit or exciting startup helps the world be a better place. But now you’ve got to raise money. You’ve created a terrific pitch deck, have a highly competent management team and terms, and have identified donor prospects with major gift potential. You’ve designed a multi-channel approach to build relationships with small investors to excite them to becoming large investors. Why aren’t you raising all the funding you deserve?

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

Somehow your investors must choose between investments that seem equally promising.

CRITERIA VS. CONTENT

Ultimately, investors choose opportunities based on their own idiosyncratic choice criteria; your marketing efforts may be entering the wrong way, with the wrong goal, offering the right data and asking the right questions at the wrong time.

Investor funds are not sitting there waiting for you to show up, no matter how compelling your information or terms. You may be requesting funding that

  1. is earmarked for something else;
  2. needs stakeholder buy-in;
  3. may be outside their internal goals, relationships, strategy, or agreements.

Sadly, as an outsider, you have no access to their hidden or historic arrangements or political mind-fields. And asking them about their criteria will only get you the obvious answers. The more successful choice is to first, collaboratively, discern their values-based, unique decision/choice criteria and then offer the exact pitch to match it. After all, most pitch decks and requests for funds will sound somewhat similar. If nothing else, your ability to facilitate a collaboration will set you apart from the competition.

ALIGNMENT CRITERIA FIRST

Decades ago I realized the difference between choice criteria (personal, idiosyncratic) vs content (data). As a sales professional on Wall Street I was frustrated with the seeming gap between what I thought prospects needed (my solution, of course) and their willingness to buy. Once I started up a tech company in London and became The Buyer I realized the problem: before any decision to buy or fund, investors use an idiosyncratic set of choice factors familiar only to them.

As a Buyer, before I bought anything, I had to align my values-based criteria with my team’s often divergent and – conventional choice benchmarks aside – subjective, criteria. Whether we met before a vendor meeting or afterwards I learned to never ignore this team alignment: our vibrant conversations always brought more considerations to the table than I would have considered myself; sometimes we discovered as-yet-unforeseen fallout that needed to be handled prior to any action.

And then the problem with marketing materials. As a sales professional they were a tool to exhibit the data I believed relevant; as a buyer they were biased by the facts the presenters wanted me to know, but often missed my unique buying criteria.

I used this realization to change the course of my own selling and fundraising; I first uncovered and discussed decision criteria and then matched my pitch content accordingly. Rather than designing pitch material based on what I thought they wanted to know, I designed flexible materials that made it easy to fit my content into their choice criteria.

BUYING FACILITATION®

As a result of my findings, in 1985 I developed a decision facilitation model and guidelines for designing presentation materials for my sales staff. With my new realization as a buyer, my Asperger’s systems- thinking brain, and some testing, I coded the path of internal/group decision making and invented Buying Facilitation®, a generic, ethical, facilitation tool that expedites decision making and choice.

I’ve been teaching and writing books on Buying Facilitation® as a front-end to the sales model ever since. Used in fundraising, Buying Facilitation® helps investors determine all aspects of their choice criteria while encouraging win/win collaboration.

NOTE: Investors and buyers go through this process anyway – with you or without you. You can either use Buying Facilitation® to facilitate choice more efficiently (even during your presentation) or just keep smiling and dialing until you find the low hanging fruit who have finally gotten their ducks in a row.

Buying Facilitation® works on the following assumptions:

  1. Outsiders (sellers, fundraisers, etc.) can never understand the behind-the-scenes, idiosyncratic criteria used to decide. Each group has their own unique sets of rules, beliefs, values, vision they choose from;
  2. Until the idiosyncratic choice criteria are factored, no decision to buy or invest will be made;
  3. Information is only relevant when it fits into defined idiosyncratic initiatives and parameters.

Using Buying Facilitation® first enables collaboration through the full range of systemic decisions necessary for buy-in and choice; THEN customized content must meet their specific criteria.

PRESENTING WITH BUYING FACILITATION®

Here are a few tips:

Your first job is to be a consultant (even on cold calls or group meetings) to facilitate decision making. Otherwise, you’re offering data into a black box of unknowns. Stop trying to have a ‘relationship’ or gather and share data up front; money goes to those opportunities that first match their hidden criteria regardless of how likeable you are.

  1. On your first calls, use Facilitative Questions to help whomever you speak with (yes, even the associates and gatekeepers) recognize how they choose, and achieve consensus for, new investments. This is not a simple Q/A session, as much of their decision making criteria is unconscious. Even if they usually fund projects like yours, they still need agreement to choose which of the available choices to give their finite dollars to.
  2. Still on the phone, use Buying Facilitation® to help your Communication Partner figure out how to help his/her team prioritize areas such as management, industry fit, partnership issues, and communication. If you have a great solution but don’t meet other criteria you may not get funded. Or you might. It’s a roll of the dice. And again, asking about these rather than facilitating the Other’s answers will get you biased answers from the person you’re speaking with which may not represent the entire group.
  3. Work toward getting the full Stakeholder group to your presentation if possible, or your data will be ‘lost in translation’ when they discuss it later with the absent associates.
  4. Face-to-face visit: Pitch/present in accordance with what was discovered prior to the meeting. Marketing materials must be developed to cover any possibilities and used appropriately. So if the group deems Communication a #1 criteria, you’ll have a slide on Communication ready to go.
  5. Collaboratively discuss how your situation matches the investor’s criteria; where it’s lacking see if you can figure out, together, how to mitigate the fallout.

NOTE: if you’re in a group pitch situation, do #1-3 as your opening gambit. It still must be done before you proceed with your pitch.

Ultimately, there is one important question to ask yourself: Do you want to pitch your solution? Or help investors give you money? Two different activities. And you need both.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader, an original thinker, trainer, consultant, and speaker. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® and author of 7 books on the subject including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. She is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach. Sharon Drew also is a communication expert; she’s authored the bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Visit Sharon Drew’s award winning blog to read her latest thinking. www.sharondrewmorgen.com. Contact her at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

 

February 11th, 2019

Posted In: News, Sales

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How to Listen to be successful

The problem with accurately hearing what others mean to convey is not that we don’t hear their words accurately. The problem is in the interpretation. During the listening process, our brains arbitrarily filter out, or reconfigure the uncomfortable, unknown, or confusing, to make what’s been said match something we’re more familiar with. And it fails to inform us of its creative editing.

As a result, we’re left understanding some fraction of what our Communication Partner(CP) meant to convey. So if I say ABC and your brain tells you I’ve said ABL, you not only have no way of knowing that you’ve not understood my intended message, but you’re thoroughly convinced you heard what I ‘said’. Obviously, this interpretation process puts relationships and communication at risk.

CASE STUDY OF PARTNERSHIP LOST

While at a meeting with co-directors of a company to discuss possible partnering, there was some confusion on one of the minor topics:

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

As our brains haphazardly and unconsciously interpret for us, we naturally respond according to what we think we heard rather than what’s meant, restricting creativity, collaboration, and relationships.

How, then, do we have unrestricted conversations? Find ways to expand possibilities? Hear what others mean to say? Know how to take appropriate action, or negotiate creatively? I found the topic so interesting that I wrote a book on the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, the different ways our brains filter what’s been said (triggers, assumptions, biases, etc.), and how to supersede our brain to hear accurately (Read First 2 chapters of What Did you really say what I think I heard?).

CASE STUDIES OF PROSPECTS LOST

One way our brains restrict our conversations happens when we enter with a preset agenda and unconsciously tell our brains to ignore whatever doesn’t fall outside the category. So when sellers listen only for ‘need’ they miss important clues that would exclude or enlist the CP as a prospect. A coaching client of mine had this conversation:

Seller: Hi. I’m Paul, from XXX. This is a sales call. I’m selling insurance. Is this a good time to speak?

Buyer: No. it’s a horrible time. It’s end of year and I’m swamped. Call back next week and I’ll have time.

Seller: ok.iwanttotellyouaboutourspecialsthatmightsuityourbusinessandmakeyoumorerevenue.

And the prospect hung up on him. Because the Seller used the traditional Buying Facilitation® opening for a cold call which welcomes prospects into a collaborative conversation, the prospect was willing to speak. But he lost interest when the Seller ignored his invitation and switched to taking care of his own needs with a pitch.

SDM: What happened? He told you he’d speak next week. And why did you speak so quickly?

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

And this is a very simplistic example. Here is another one:

Halfway into a sales call, my client got hooked on his own agenda and didn’t hear reality:

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

Seller: I’d love to stop by and show you some of the features of our new CRM technology. I’m sure you’ll find it very efficient.

And that was the end of the conversation. He should have heard his intent and replied:

Wow. Sounds like a difficult situation. We’ve got a pretty efficient technology that might work for you, but obviously now isn’t the time. How would you like to stay in touch so we can speak when it’s closer to the time? Or maybe take a look at adding a few bells and whistles now to help out a bit while you wait?

By hearing and respecting the prospect’s status quo the seller would have created a ‘We Space’ where they both shared the same goals, and kept them speaking over time. Not to mention it would have been respectful. But the sellers, in both instances, only listened for what they wanted to hear and misinterpreted what was meant, and followed their own agenda at the cost of a real prospect.

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

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

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

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

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

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy, including Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at
sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 771 1117 www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

December 3rd, 2018

Posted In: Listening, News

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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.

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

Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller ‘Selling with Integrity’ and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy (Dirty Little Secrets). She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 articles that help sellers help buyers buy. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512-771-1117

October 2nd, 2018

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