By Sharon Drew Morgen

Early this morning I went to my favorite ‘big box’ supermarket, WinCo. If you’re not in one of the 5 states where it operates (Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Oregon), you may not be familiar with it.

WinCo is an employee-owned food-supply chain that cares as much for its employees as it does for its customers. As a result, the customer service and store care is personal: the stores are spotless, well-stocked, and employees are easy to find if you have a question, not to mention always kind, informed, and personal. And it’s always a surprise to find items I purchase in more specialty stores – even Amazon! – at least 40% cheaper! Who knew my favorite Roasted Salsa Verde (Herdez) was available at half the price! I love this store and am willing to drive out of my way to shop there.

As I was walking down an aisle I noticed a tall woman and young man walk over to a much older man as he was cleaning the floors:

Woman: We’d like to give you a gift (She handed him an envelope – I assume it was a check.) for all the hard work you do and how well you take care of us all. You always go the extra step to make this store even better. We deeply appreciate you and all do you for us. We all thank you.

I must admit I stopped in my tracks and began crying a bit. I had never heard this in any store, nor have I been aware of supermarkets gifting and thanking employees for their service. I sought the woman (his manager?) out.

SD: Do you choose an ‘employee of the month’ each month and hand out checks to the winners?

Woman: No. It’s on an individual basis. Sometimes we hand out a few in one month, sometimes only a few a year. It depends. When we notice someone doing a great job we reward them and let them know they’re important to us. It’s pretty simple. We take care of each other and show our appreciation when one of us shines.

‘We take care of each other’. So simple! When was the last time you let an employee, one of your staff or team, know how much s/he was appreciated? Went out of your way to take care of her?

OUR EMPLOYEES ARE OUR FIRST CUSTOMERS

When I started up my tech company in 1983 in London I had never run a business before. But even without knowing ‘the rules’ I knew it was as important to care for my team as well as I cared for clients. To that end I put in place some initiatives to make sure they felt taken care of.

Every year I gave the management team a fully paid week off and a $3,000 check for tuition and travel to take any type of course they wanted (Photography? Pottery?), even if the subject matter had nothing to do with their jobs. The goal was to help them keep their brains creative and curious. Certainly a way to let them know I appreciated them.

I also didn’t give them vacation time per se but told them to take off whatever time they needed (so long as they covered their responsibilities) when they felt they weren’t operating on all cylinders. I told them I trusted them to know when they needed rest – it wasn’t about the time.

Surprisingly I had to force them to take time off. I would call their wives – and in those days (1980’s) the team was mostly men and the women were usually at home doing child care – tell them to give the kids to the grandparents for a few days, and keep them in bed. To make sure they had plenty of time to relax, I had restaurants deliver food to them so no one had to cook or shop. My folks would return rested with a happy faces.

Because it was quite important to me that we all meshed even though in scattered locations, I took my inside and outside folks to a pub once a month for beer and darts. I always lost (I never figured out darts in all my years in London!); out of pity, I suspect, they then bought the next round.

To keep abreast of the field folks (the techies) and make sure they felt like part of the company, I called each of them once a month to check in. Sure, I only had 40 people in the field so it was doable (My secretary would schedule the calls to make sure we connected).

One of the pluses of my check-ins was they would tell me when our client was preparing to upgrade the program/package we supported. I knew the vendor had a team that installed it, but that would have taken business away from us and we could easily do the installation.

I would then call my client before they hired the vendor. Of course they were happy to have us do the work, given my staff’s excellence. This factor alone caused my business to explode. I once even got a call from the vendor: “You’re killing me. Clients order the upgrade and then we don’t hear from them because you’re already handling it. How do you find out so fast?”

My colleagues chided me: “Are you running a spa?” they’d ask. “Don’t you think your folks will take advantage?” I think they were jealous, but that didn’t stop them from trying to hire my staff away from me. I would hear grumbles at conferences, gossip that they were offering big bucks to lure my folks away. But nope, I never lost an employee to anything other than relocation in four years. They were happy.

Together we grew the business from zero to almost $5,000,000 in under four years – with no internet (1984 -1988), no websites, no email, no Twitter, no LinkedIn. Just me – a rookie entrepreneur – and my team dedicated to caring for our clients and each other.

WHO IS YOUR CLIENT?

I believe our employees are our first customers – happy staff happy clients. Why do we forget this? How is it possible that some of the larger companies are known to have high turnover, low pay, and very strict hours with rules designed to minimize variance and kill the creative spirit rather than maximize kindness and respect?

Why are companies willing to harm employees, to be disrespectful and unkind, just to save a buck? When did money become more important than values, or humanity? What are they saving, anyway?

When I did consulting work at KPMG I noticed a bravado about working all night, or 80 hour weeks. No surprise that many of the partners were on their third marriages – almost all on their second. Working that hard – hard enough to ignore sleep, relationships, food – was a highly valued part of the culture. Why?

Why don’t we take care of our employees better? Trust them and their ideas? Take time to listen to them? Make them understand that without them we can’t be successful? How did people become expendable to save money at all costs?

I know a very large, successful multinational that forces all levels of management to spend an hour in meetings begging for funds to support their employees – even $200! – to buy an online course or get them needed coaching. It’s a misuse of time, disrespectful, and not even rational. Why not give managers a slush fund to have on hand when someone needs something and trust their judgment!?

We all put so much energy into our clients and customers so we can make money. Why don’t we offer our staff the same respect? We ‘carefully’ hire the ‘right’ people and then create rules and restrictions so we can monitor ‘success’, and treat them like chits, like cogs in a wheel and make them replaceable, ‘things’ without value. And yet we want them to deliver for us and complain about turnover.

What we lose is not only ideas and loyalty, but the spirit of a man, the heart of a woman. We too often make our employees objects. I’ve interviewed middle managers in large corporations who tell me they’ve stopped bringing in new ideas because they don’t get heard, or live only for their vacation time because they’re so miserable and stay only because they’re getting paid so well.

Let’s take as good care of our employees as we do our clients and customers. Let’s make sure everyone is given the time, the respect, the remuneration, to lead fulfilled, exuberant, satisfying lives so they can’t wait to come to work each day. Let’s treasure each of our employees. They are, indeed, special. That’s why we hired them.

What’s the cost? What’s the cost if we don’t? 

_________________________

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

April 19th, 2021

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Most of us believe we don’t have listening biases accurately hear what’s been said. But given our brain’s inability to accurately hear incoming messages due to our historic circuits that translate them subjectively (and out of our awareness), it’s difficult to be certain that what we think we heard is accurate. But it’s possible to at least know what our tendencies are.

I’ve developed an assessment tool to get a greater understanding of your unconscious listening biases. Let’s get a baseline knowledge of your current assumptions and unconscious, habitual choices of how you typically hear others in conversations. Once you understand these, you’ll know what areas to pay specific attention to and where, or if, you need to add new skills.

PART 1: When do you take extra steps to ensure you accurately hear what your Communication Partner (CP) intends?

Directions: Check off any that apply.

Relationship-related

_When I’m with my partner/spouse (i.e. all the time).

_When I’m having a disagreement with my partner/spouse.

_When I’m trying to clean up a problem/misunderstanding.

_Only when it’s someone I care about.

_I don’t take extra steps. I just assume I hear the message as intended.

Circumstantial

_When something important is at stake in my life and I need to know the Other’s takeaway.

_When I’m aware I don’t understand someone.

_When I have a message I want to impart and want to make sure I’m being understood as I prefer.

_When communicating with someone of a different culture, background, and I’m not certain we’re mutually understanding each other. But I sometimes do nothing about it because I don’t know what to do differently.

Are there times it’s especially important to ensure you hear what your CP intends to convey?

_When the conversation is going badly.

_In all business-related, profit-related conversations, or where I’m getting paid.

_ In all/some conversations related to my spouse or family.

_No. I prefer to accurately understand what’s said in every conversation and am usually successful.

_I prefer to accurately understand all of my CPs but not sure that I do.

Take a moment to think about your responses in all of the above and answer the following questions, in writing, as a summary.

  •  Are there specific times you regularly take responsibility, take extra steps, to make sure you hear your CP accurately?
  •  Why are you more comfortable with your natural listening skills in some situations than in others? Are there patterns to when you have misunderstandings?
  •  Are you fully aware of the outcomes of all of your conversations, and generally assume that everyone understands each other accurately?
  • How do you know if you’ve accurately understood someone?

PART 2: Do you know your communication biases?

Directions: assess your predispositions as a communicator on each of the following. Check off the ones that apply:
Bias Choices
When I enter into a conversation, I enter with

_An ‘ear’ that listens according to my history with that person.

_An unconscious/conscious agenda of what I want from the conversation.

_ A need to be perceived in a specific way or to impart the message I want.

_An ability to enter each conversation without bias, with a mental ‘blank slate’.

_The needs of the Other in mind at the expense of my own.

_My beliefs about what this person might need from me given his/her background.

_An understanding that my unconscious biases might keep me from fully understanding so I regularly check that me and my CP are on the same page.

_ No conscious thought. I just assume I’ll hear what’s intended and respond appropriately, regardless of how different my CP might be from my own cultural experience.

During a conversation I

_Might get annoyed by something said due to my own preconceptions and history.

_ Assume I have the skills to recognize when there’s a misunderstanding and make things right if there is a problem.

_Notice when my CP is responding differently than I intended and say something to get us on the same page.

_Notice when my CP is responding differently than I intended and I say nothing.

_Don’t notice if my CP is responding differently from the message I’m sending and don’t know if I’ve hurt/annoyed them.

_Work hard at maintaining a ‘blank slate’ in my brain to listen through.

_Just be me, because I know I’m not biased and I listen accurately.

_Am aware I may not be speaking, listening, or responding in ways that regard the differences of my CP but don’t do anything to speak, listen, or respond differently than normal.

_Would prefer I’m not saying anything disrespectful, or hearing with unconscious biases, but I’m not sure if I know how to do this.

_Would prefer I’m respecting my CP but have done nothing to learn new skills to be able to speak or listen to match another’s unconscious cultural assumptions.

PART 3: Do you have the choices you need for an unbiased communication?

Directions: Please write down the answers to these:

If you don’t consider how accurately you hear what others intend to say (as distinct from what you think you hear) during a conversation, what you would need to know or believe differently to make this part of each communication? To think specifically if responses are congruent, if communication lines are balanced, if both CPs speak about the same amount of time and follow the same topic?

If you don’t know for certain if you’re hearing without bias, or if you’re listening with a ‘beginner’s mind’ to lessen your unconscious biases, what has stopped you until now from taking steps or learning new skills to listen without bias?

If you don’t know for certain if something you think you heard is inaccurate, what do you do to check? What stops you from stopping the conversation and asking?

How can you tell if your CP is understanding YOU accurately and without bias? Do you have the skills you need to monitor and manage this?

PART 4: Whose responsibility is a shared understanding?

Directions: Answer Yes or No for each of the following:

Beliefs
_I believe it’s the Sender’s responsibility to send her message properly to match the needs of the Receiver.

_I believe there’s a shared responsibility between CPs to understand each other; both are equally at fault if there’s a misunderstanding.

_I believe it’s the Receiver’s responsibility to hear what the Sender is saying, and tell the Sender when there is confusion or misunderstanding.

Responding
_I formulate a reply as soon as I hear something that triggers a response in my head, regardless of whether or not the person has finished sharing their ideas.

_I know I’ve been heard when someone responds according to my expectation.

_I know I’m hearing another’s intended message accurately when I feel comfort between us.

_If I disagree with my CP’s dialogue, I interrupt or show my disagreement without asking for an explanation.

_If I disagree with my CP’s dialogue I allow her to complete her message before sharing my disagreement.

_I try to listen without my biases and respond to what has been said, but I’m aware I probably can’t understand because of our differences. But I’ve not taken steps to learn how to listen without biases.

_If I have an idea to share that’s different from my CP’s topic, I just change topics.

_When I don’t understand my CP’s response to what I said, I just keep going or try to say something better.

_My responses conform to what I think I heard and I don’t check.

_I respond to what I think was said and don’t consider I might have biased and misinterpreted what I heard.

Understanding the message

_When I don’t understand someone, I can tell immediately and ask for clarification.

_I rarely think it’s me when there is confusion during a conversation and take no action, assuming it will work itself out.

_I can tell I’ve misheard/misunderstood when I get a negative reaction or a confused look.

_I can tell I’ve misheard only when I hear my CP say ‘WHAT?’ or ‘I don’t understand’ after my response.

_I cannot tell if I’ve misunderstood or misheard, and respond according to what I think I heard.

_I don’t know how to listen differently to people who are different from me and just respond like I do in any conversation.

_I assume I understand Others who speak English, regardless of our differences.

Communication problems

_As soon as I realize I have misunderstood someone, I ask her to repeat what she said so I can understand her message.

_When I realize I’ve misunderstood, I assume they aren’t being clear.

_When my CP tells me I misunderstood him I know it’s not my issue because I know I hear accurately.

_When my CP tells me she thinks I misheard, I ask what I missed so I can get it right.

_I can’t tell if I’ve misunderstood someone, and aren’t aware if there are negative consequences to my repsonses.

_I use my normal communication skills in all conversations regardless of cultural differences.

When you’re done, please write a paragraph on what you discovered.

Now, write a paragraph on this whole assessment experience. What did you take away? What do you need to do differently? Write down a plan to move forward in a way that will help you hear what others say with the least possible bias.

How did you do? Are you willing to make changes where you need them? Do you know how to make changes? Did you find areas you’d like to have more choice? Were you able to notice your predispositions?

It’s important to notice where you find yourself resisting change as those are the exact areas in which you might occasionally mishear or misunderstand. Determine if you want to continue your current patterns and don’t mind the cost of being wrong some of the time.

For those of you seeking more understanding on how our brains hear, check out my book: What? Did you really say what I think I heard?

_______________

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

April 5th, 2021

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I’ve decided to start an Institute for Facilitation to offer coaches, leaders, managers, and influencers a Servant Leader-based set of skills to guide excellence without bias. I began my passion for ‘facilitation’ quite some time ago.

In 1989 I named my company Morgen Facilitations. Back then folks suggested I choose a different name. “Facilitation is just too big a word,” I was told. In 2000, when I got a registered trademark on my new sales paradigm named Buying Facilitation®, I was told no one would understand what ‘facilitation’ meant, that the term should be “short and snappy, like SPIN, or Sandler.” Thankfully, times have changed.

WHAT IS FACILITATION?

I’ve always been in the Facilitation business, with little interest in trying to convince others its importance as a way to conduct business. It’s my brand, and thankfully, over the past decades, many folks have used my services in sales and leadership to help move my ideas forward.

As Facilitators we care about others, using our hearts, kindness, and skills to help both personal and corporate clients achieve their goals. With ears primed to listen and hearts ready to open, we work at lessening our biases to help effectively manage any proposed change using the Other’s criteria.

I believe:

Facilitation is the commitment to enable others, without bias, to discover and navigate their best routes to their goals in a way that represents their beliefs and values.

However, I believe that using conventional Facilitation skills may not achieve that outcome. Let me explain.

MISSING SKILLS

Using conventional skills, even as we seek to serve, we sometimes inadvertently end up gathering insufficient or erroneous data, possibly causing resistance and impeding change. Of course we don’t do this purposefully. And it’s not our fault.

For the last 50 years I’ve been studying, and developing facilitation models to address, how brains are configured to enable change and decision making, and boy, are we restricted. Because our brains are set up to automatically experience all incoming sensory data (what we see, hear, think, feel, etc.) according to our historic synapses and pathways, we are restricted by our history and have little conscious choice.

It seems our assumptions, beliefs and mental models, history of past communications, and habituated brain circuits cause automatic, and very subjective, interpretations of all incoming content regardless of the reality.

If/where incoming messages differ substantially from our past experiences, we may not have similar-enough neural pathways to translate the messages accurately and end up unable to fully understand, act on, or even make proper sense of them.

With such a huge possibility of mistranslations on both the Facilitator and client end of this issue, there’s obviously a problem for Facilitators as we try to understand, serve, and lead clients. To get the full picture of the problem so we can figure out how to manage it, I’ll give you a more complete, though simplified, explanation of how our brains interpret for us.

A BRAIN THING

Sounds, including incoming words, enter our brains as puffs of air without meaning, as vibrations that our brain turns into signals, and get sent down the nearest, most well-worn neural pathways, to ‘close-enough’ synapses that are ‘similar-ish’, for interpretation.

In other words, our brains don’t recognize words or meaning, just electro-chemical vibrations that get matched in hundreds of a second to synapses and circuits that most likely don’t exactly match; where they don’t, our brains kindly discard the differences automatically – without telling us!

In other words, once we hear someone speak our brain converts the incoming sound vibrations into signals, sends the signals down the most habituated – not necessarily the most accurate – pathways for action/interpretation, discards the signals that don’t correspond with what’s already there, and fails to inform us of the deletion.

So let’s say someone says ABC and our brain determines ABL is a close-enough match. It then discards D, E, F, etc. without even offering a warning sign that stuff was discarded! We have no choice but to assume ABL is accurate.

Given this process occurs for both speakers and responders, we all assume our communication partner will translate what we’ve said accurately – and our assumptions may not be accurate!

Obviously, that’s potentially problematic as clients end up translating what we’ve said into what’s automatic for them; and we, in turn, translate what we believe they’ve said into what’s automatic for us.

This, unfortunately, is how we end up misunderstanding, and the exact reason our conventional skills need a bit of updating.

Of course we have no choice but to believe what our brains tell us, leaving us with no idea how disparate what we think we hear is from what’s actually been said (and meant) unless we specifically ask.

HOW WE ALL RESTRICT OUR WORLDS

What this means during the Facilitation process is profound: all that we hear, all that we say, is restricted according to existing electro-chemical brain configurations and translated idiosyncratically according to our history and any nuance, or unrecognized, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable concepts may get deleted or misconstrued.

As an example, think of something you have a very strong belief about, and remember a time when someone tried to change your mind or discuss options. Politics? Your diet? Exercise? Most likely you’ll reject it regardless of its efficacy.

Unwittingly, we bias every interaction we have. And herein lie the problem for Facilitators:

  • How do we Facilitate outside of our own, and our client’s, historic beliefs and biases, our automatic, historic brain circuitry?
  • How can we Facilitate others to change if they don’t already have circuits for it?
  • How can we go beyond brain biases to promote meaning and change?
  • How can we help Others create new circuits and pathways to discover new answers?

Sadly for us, there’s no conventional way into another’s brain. How, then, do we serve?

WHAT IS FACILITATION

Now that we know it’s not as simple as Speak + Listen = Understand, or Think = Commit + Act, as Facilitators we must add new skills to override the brain problem.

I believe the job of a Facilitator is to help Others develop new brain connections so they can discover answers that might not arise automatically. I believe:

Facilitation is a leadership process, but not leadership.

Facilitation instigates discovery, but never asks why.

Facilitation uses the values of the facilitator, but never the biases.

Facilitation uses questions to instigate clarity, but has no answers.

Facilitation aims to reach goals, but doesn’t define them.

I’m sure many of you agree with me. But in case your brain translated my comments differently than I intended and still believe that your current skills can accurately interpret what’s been said or meant, let’s check.

Do you pose conventional questions?

Conventional questions are meant to gather data but prove to be rather problematic. They

  • are posed using the intent and goals of the Asker,
  • emanate from the curiosity of the Asker,
  • use the natural words and sentence structure of the Asker,
  • are translated according to the Responder’s assumptions and idiosyncratic neural circuitry (i.e. limited and subjective).

I bet you don’t think of questions that way, but that’s what they do. So when you’re posing questions out of your own curiosity, or believe clients need to consider something specific, your words and thoughts may be mistranslated or misunderstood. It’s the same problem when your client speaks to you – it’s a problem on both ends as we all

  • interpret,
  • translate,
  • guess,
  • assume
  • respond

subjectively, based on the responses we think we’ve heard.

This biases what we think our clients want to achieve, or how accurate the data is we’re trying to collect. In other words, conventional questions are unwittingly biased and will collect some unknowable subset of accurate data, or translate incoming messages in some unintended way, given the potentially flawed baseline assumptions of all parties.

What are you listening for?

When we listen to understand and collect data as per our goals, we’re listening through ears biased and restricted by a lifetime of our own subjectivity – our mental models, training, history, beliefs, and experience. Indeed, because of the way our brains listen we can’t know if what we’re hearing is what was meant to be conveyed. Again, as with questions, when we think something has been said or meant, we’re just hoping, guessing, and assuming.

I spent three years writing a book on this topic that explains precisely how our brains misinterpret and misunderstand based on neurology (i.e. not intent) and what can be done to mitigate it. Take a look at sample chapters: www.didihearyou.com.

Note that by the time we’ve carefully, attentively listened (through historic, unconscious neural pathways that are some degree off the intended message spoken) and posed questions, we’ve already biased the conversation and may inadvertently be collecting incomplete data and sending incomplete, or flawed messages. That’s how people walk away from a meeting with different thoughts on what happened.

But there’s more! That’s just questioning and listening. I’ll continue.

Are you facilitating using your own goals?

We generally enter each situation with a goal in mind. I contend there’s no way for an outsider to have a goal that captures the full set of unconscious criteria held by a client.

Since it’s so difficult to ask questions or listen without our own biases, it’s pretty hard to appreciate the complete set of criteria clients need to meet. Indeed, clients often begin with the most conscious awareness of a problem to be resolved, but ultimately end up – much later! – realizing the unconscious criteria involved that may get in the way of a resolution. This costs time and frustration on both sides.

Obviously the deck is stacked against us, we aren’t always able to Facilitate a change initiative to the fullest extent possible. Hence I developed new skills oriented around brain change and choice.

NEW SKILLS FOR UNBIASED FACILITATION

As facilitators deeply wanting to serve, we want to get it right, certainly without bias. The new skills I developed work with the brain to create and guide brain circuits to discover solutions that match their historic integrity.

I actually spent 10 years creating a new form of question I’ve called a Facilitative Question that sequentially, consciously, leads the brain to specific channels to discover unconscious criteria; I spent three years developing a way to listen that enables hearing accurately.

I will teach these skills in my proposed Institute for Facilitation and will invite others to offer additional skill sets I believe necessary when facilitating others through change:

*Change Management *Storytelling *Coaching *Power/control management *Buy-in *Servant leadership *Influencing *Negotiating *Questioning *Listening

If you’re interested in becoming part of the Institute, please let me know. I look forward to offering a foundation where facilitation is elevated to a Servant Leader skill set.

___________________________

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

March 22nd, 2021

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Did you ever wonder what happens behind the scenes with prospects after you’ve made a connection, given a great pitch, or delivered an engaging presentation? Why they don’t return your calls or call with an order? The silence has nothing to do with your solution.

Indeed, after you’ve pitched, the prospects return to the team to share your ideas. Some might like it. But maybe some don’t like what they’re hearing (or the way your pitch has been interpreted), or argue about using your solution instead of a different one, or discuss a new workaround to try. Some might think it’s not time.

Without group consensus for what criteria a solution must include, they do nothing because the risk of disturbing what’s working is too great. It’s the difference between selling and buying: You’re using the sales process to place your solution; they’re using their (buying) decision process to figure out how to resolve their problem with the least disruption.

Selling and buying are two different things. The sales model too often introduces solutions before the prospect has gotten buy-in for change and they’re just not ready to buy.

Unfortunately for sellers, you’ve got no control over what buyers are doing because the change they must consider is idiosyncratic to their environment and beyond the purpose of sales. It’s possible to facilitate them through their change decisions, but not with the sales model as it is now.

THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

When sellers start off with a goal to sell a solution (and yes, ‘gathering information’ merely poses biased questions that give you a platform to pitch), it’s a solution looking for a problem. Obviously this narrows the buyer pool to only those who seek THAT solution at THAT moment, those who have already

  • understood exactly what something New should do that they can’t do for themselves;
  • assembled the full set of stakeholders who have already agreed and bought-into what something New should look and act like and their roles in managing implementation;
  • tried several workarounds that don’t work out and an external solution is the only option;
  • recognized the ‘cost’ of bringing in something New and know how to manage it;
  • have figured out how to manage the change with the least disruption.

Buying occurs only after a prospect has tried everything else and there is wide-spread agreement for change.

Since every environment is a system and includes the history, rules, goals, norms, relationships and Beliefs held within that culture, bringing in anything New must match or the system will be compromised. Nothing, nothing is ever purchased in isolation; a system will ignore, procrastinate, deny, defend, and resist if something is pushed in beforehand.

If you think you want a new car, getting a pitch about a Tesla will only be welcome if you’ve decided on an electric car in a specific price range. Rejecting a Tesla pitch isn’t a testament to the car, merely a commentary on the buying (or buy-in) decision criteria.

BUYERS BUY IF THE ‘COST’ OF CHANGE IS LESS THAN MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO

Let’s think more about the buy side. People don’t want to buy anything, merely solve a problem with the least ‘cost’ to their system. Sometimes they sound like they have a need but are merely in their research phase; sometimes they are seeking workarounds when they connect with you and are comparing alternatives; sometimes they take an appointment to learn more from you so they can develop their own solution; sometimes they want to bring back new ideas to the team.

When you’re speaking with someone who seems like a ‘prospect’, you may be right and they have a need. But until they understand and address the full set of internal issues involved with solving their problem, they can’t fully define the best route to a fix.

Until or unless the criteria for change is known and a plan in place to manage it effectively, people aren’t buyers; the ‘cost’ of any potential disruption is just too high and the status quo has been good-enough. One more thing. Before people are buyers, they must be absolutely certain they can’t fix the problem themselves.

All of these issues explain why you’re closing only 5% – the low hanging fruit actually ready, willing, and able to buy.

SELLING IS TACTICAL, BUYING IS STRATEGIC

A purchase is systemic and strategic – a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution. Sales is tactical, solution-placement driven, and doesn’t address the complexities and criteria of the hidden buying environment or their specific buying patterns.

I got a cold call once in which the salesman began by telling me he had a great way for me to save money on a phone provider.

A View from the Buy Side, by Sharon Drew Morgen

Did you ever wonder what happens behind the scenes with prospects after you’ve made a connection, given a great pitch, or delivered an engaging presentation? Why they don’t return your calls or call with an order? The silence has nothing to do with your solution.

Indeed, after you’ve pitched, the prospects return to the team to share your ideas. Some might like it. But maybe some don’t like what they’re hearing (or the way your pitch has been interpreted), or argue about using your solution instead of a different one, or discuss a new workaround to try. Some might think it’s not time.

Without group consensus for what criteria a solution must include, they do nothing because the risk of disturbing what’s working is too great. It’s the difference between selling and buying: You’re using the sales process to place your solution; they’re using their (buying) decision process to figure out how to resolve their problem with the least disruption.

Selling and buying are two different things. The sales model too often introduces solutions before the prospect has gotten buy-in for change and they’re just not ready to buy.

Unfortunately for sellers, you’ve got no control over what buyers are doing because the change they must consider is idiosyncratic to their environment and beyond the purpose of sales. It’s possible to facilitate them through their change decisions, but not with the sales model as it is now.

THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

When sellers start off with a goal to sell a solution (and yes, ‘gathering information’ merely poses biased questions that give you a platform to pitch), it’s a solution looking for a problem. Obviously this narrows the buyer pool to only those who seek THAT solution at THAT moment, those who have already

  • understood exactly what something New should do that they can’t do for themselves;
  • assembled the full set of stakeholders who have already agreed and bought-into what something New should look and act like and their roles in managing implementation;
  • tried several workarounds that don’t work out and an external solution is the only option;
  • recognized the ‘cost’ of bringing in something New and know how to manage it;
  • have figured out how to manage the change with the least disruption.

Buying occurs only after a prospect has tried everything else and there is wide-spread agreement for change.

Since every environment is a system and includes the history, rules, goals, norms, relationships and Beliefs held within that culture, bringing in anything New must match or the system will be compromised. Nothing, nothing is ever purchased in isolation; a system will ignore, procrastinate, deny, defend, and resist if something is pushed in beforehand.

If you think you want a new car, getting a pitch about a Tesla will only be welcome if you’ve decided on an electric car in a specific price range. Rejecting a Tesla pitch isn’t a testament to the car, merely a commentary on the buying (or buy-in) decision criteria.

BUYERS BUY IF THE ‘COST’ OF CHANGE IS LESS THAN MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO

Let’s think more about the buy side. People don’t want to buy anything, merely solve a problem with the least ‘cost’ to their system. Sometimes they sound like they have a need but are merely in their research phase; sometimes they are seeking workarounds when they connect with you and are comparing alternatives; sometimes they take an appointment to learn more from you so they can develop their own solution; sometimes they want to bring back new ideas to the team.

When you’re speaking with someone who seems like a ‘prospect’, you may be right and they have a need. But until they understand and address the full set of internal issues involved with solving their problem, they can’t fully define the best route to a fix.

Until or unless the criteria for change is known and a plan in place to manage it effectively, people aren’t buyers; the ‘cost’ of any potential disruption is just too high and the status quo has been good-enough. One more thing. Before people are buyers, they must be absolutely certain they can’t fix the problem themselves.

All of these issues explain why you’re closing only 5% – the low hanging fruit actually ready, willing, and able to buy.

SELLING IS TACTICAL, BUYING IS STRATEGIC

A purchase is systemic and strategic – a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution. Sales is tactical, solution-placement driven, and doesn’t address the complexities and criteria of the hidden buying environment or their specific buying patterns.

I got a cold call once in which the salesman began by telling me he had a great way for me to save money on a phone provider.

SD: But saving money isn’t one of my buying criteria!

Rep: Well, it should be. [Wait, he’s telling me I should buy using his selling criteria?]

SD: Great. Then you buy it.

Until people know the rules, roles, and relationships they must maintain, the specifics of your solution are moot. When you’re pitching before people have all their ducks in row, they can’t even hear the details you proudly offer. 

You’ve got nothing to sell if they have nothing to buy, regardless of the need or the efficacy of your solution. And unfortunately, because their internal considerations are so idiosyncratic, you can’t ever understand them. But you can know the areas they must handle so you can facilitate them through their uncertainty.

WHAT BUYERS MUST KNOW

Here is a list of what folks must figure out before they can buy anything, regardless of how well your solution matches or how great their need. And the time it takes them to do this is the length of the sales cycle. Indeed, they can’t define what they need until this is completed:

  • Stakeholders: Have all stakeholders who have been part of maintaining the status quo been assembled? Have those who will be part of the solution been included and driving the initiative? Have they reached agreement on the specific modifications needed? Do they know, and have agreed to, their roles within the processes of the New? Are they aware how their responsibilities will change? Is there supervision or leadership in place to facilitate them through change? Do they all – all – believe the New will maintain the team’s values and goals and offer more efficiency? Have the stakeholders had a say in any transition and had their voices and ideas added?
  • Workarounds: Have all possible workarounds been tried so it’s obvious to everyone something New is necessary?
  • Users: Have the users asked for this and have a say in the specifics they need? If not, how will management help them buy-in to using something they didn’t ask for or won’t do what they want it to do? Will they need training for the New? Will their habituated use behaviors need to change? How will the adoption of the New affect their workload or jobs? Have they agreed to a learning curve and to less-than-optimal output when they won’t be so efficient?
  • Old vs New: How will something New fit with the old? Must the old be removed or is a ‘both/and’ possible? Must the old be retrofitted to work with the New? How? Who will do this?How many of the old practices are needed to maintain work flow? What’s a plausible time frame on this?
  • Implementation: Does everyone understand the downsides – the labor, costs, time, output issues – of the New and how to mitigate them? Are all – all – on board with New procedures and willing to take on the new activities without resistance? Who is responsible for managing the overall implementation and downsides?
  • Creativity: Does the team have the opportunity to add ideas? Will they be able to add what they need so they’re part of the solution and won’t resist?
  • Brand: Will the New change the brand and require different kinds of marketing? Will the new potentially change the finances? The audience? Is it worth it? How will they know before they try?

Bringing in something New or different requires group buy-in, discussion, debating, questioning and idea-sharing. Imagine coming home for dinner and announcing to your family that you just purchased a new house and moving next week! The fact that last night your spouse mentioned s/he’d love an extra room is not the point.

No one buys anything unless workarounds have been tried, research has been done, possibilities are discussed, options are considered, and stakeholders have bought into, and added to, the process of change.

Because sales focuses on ‘need’ and placing solutions, it only closes those at the tail end of their change management process and expends far too much resource trying to drive a decision with folks who aren’t yet real buyers.

Why not begin selling by seeking those going through the change process at that moment and help them facilitate the change first then leading them through their systemic decisions and selling to those who are ready? It will take far less time, and if you’re like the large numbers of sales reps I’ve trained globally, you’ll close 40% instead of 5%.

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

Selling and buying are two different activities. Start on the buy side, discover those who WILL be buyers and then facilitate buying. Then you can sell because they’re ready to buy. By then you’re on the Buying Decision Team, can target your pitches and presentations, be a real trusted advisor, and your price discussions will be minimal. You will also have saved a lot of time, closed a lot more sales, and have real relationships.

For those of you wanting to learn how to do this, I invented a model called Buying Facilitation® that uses the 13 steps all people go through on route to buying. It involves a wholly different facilitation skill set: Facilitative Questions, Presumptive Summaries, and Systems Listening. I suggest you visit www.sharondrewmorgen.com and read the articles I put up on change, buying, and decision making. And if you’re committed to helping buyers buy, read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Or just contact me and we can chat. www.sharondrewmorgen.com

_________________________________

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

March 1st, 2021

Posted In: News

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training

Did you ever wonder why training fails so often? 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.

Using conventional training models, only those who are predisposed, only those who have beliefs aligned with the new material will learn. 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 Learning is a systems/change problem.

HOW WE LEARN

We all live our lives, stabilized and congruent because of our unique, internal systems, ruled by our mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits.

Indeed, 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. Obviously, without shifting my beliefs, I would resist information about guns.

Because anything new is a threat to our unconscious, habitual and carefully organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter.

I have spent decades unpacking change and the learning change entails. I’ve realized that learning doesn’t start from outside, from knowledge or information. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted – not because it’s wrong or bad, but because there is no ‘system’ in place in our brains to make sense of it.

And here is where current training models fail to engage learning. Our brains are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new regardless of the efficacy or importance of the new material. Much like a sales pitch, training offers good data – and learners, like buyers, may not be able to congruently make the brain change the new information requires.

But there is another way to go about training that incorporates real, systemic change. Let’s begin by examining 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.

LEARNING FACILITATION

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. buy-in from the belief/system status;
  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. To accomplish this, I developed a learning model to begin the process of changing core, unconscious, beliefs.

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 areas where new skills would be necessary for greater excellence. Once they recognize 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. I do not begin by offering the new information; I begin with facilitating brain change. After all, if learners don’t have a place, don’t have neural pathways and circuits to adopt anything new, they won’t learn new information.
  • Day 2 enables learners to create a route in their brains – a new neural pathway – to congruently supplement their current skills, then tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then does new knowledge get introduced and practiced.

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

February 15th, 2021

Posted In: Listening, News

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Have you ever wondered why people don’t buy, even when it seems your solution is perfect for their needs? Have you considered that maybe your Selling Patterns don’t match their Buying Patterns? Or that they don’t have the ‘need’ you think they do?

With a focus on finding people with a need that is resolved by your solution, sellers overlook two very important factors in the buy/sell equation:

    1. people don’t become buyers until they’ve determined they cannot resolve a problem themselves and
    2. the ‘cost’ of a purchase must be equal to, or less than, the ‘cost’ of staying the same.

A purchase is a change management problem well before it’s a solution choice issue. And ‘need’ may have little to do with a purchase.

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

As they seek to resolve a problem, people go through an internal, systemic process of managing change that determines whether or not they can buy anything. Sales doesn’t address this to their detriment, connecting with people only once they’ve determined they’re buyers.

By overlooking the possibility of facilitating folks to first manage their change, we not only omit the possibility of connecting with the people who WILL buy when they are ready, but restrict our pool of prospects to those who show up. The problem is until they’ve addressed their change they aren’t yet buyers and can’t hear or heed your message, even if they need it.

Think about this: instead of trying to motivate a sale by pushing content, or lowering the price; or wondering why your prospect isn’t returning calls or in the pipeline for so long; or thinking they’re in pain; help them do the Pre-Sales work they must do before they become a buyer. You’re waiting (and calling, and calling) anyway. Might as well use a different skill set and help them where they most need help.

Here’s the takeaway idea: Enter as a change facilitator, help the folks who will be buyers (easy to spot with a change hat on rather than a sales hat) manage their change, and then you’re part of their team once they’ve become buyers.

Helping people who may become buyers is a very quick process, far quicker than trying to sell those few who are ready and wasting time pushing out content to the rest.

In this article I will introduce you to the steps, the Buying Patterns, people go through en route to buying anything, regardless of need or the efficacy/size/price of the solution.

I’ve spent years unpacking these buying decision steps after I personally went from a seller to a buyer. There is a sequence of 13 steps people take between discovering a problem and choosing/buying a solution. But first let me explain why the sales model doesn’t facilitate buying.

WHY PAIN & NEED ARE IRRELEVANT

There are two approaches sellers operate from that actually limit success: seeking folks with a ‘need’, and believing they have pain.

Let’s take a look at the fallacy of a ‘need’ criteria. Do you need to lose, say, 10 pounds? You have a need, yet you haven’t resolved it. What about getting more organized? Or exercise more?

People don’t buy based on need. They may have a need they’re not ready to resolve, or circumstances make it difficult, or colleagues that have different ideas or or.

If adding an external/new solution causes too much disruption they will not buy regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. They must weigh all the issues involved – most of which are historic and unique – and get buy-in from the stakeholders before any action is taken or not. And using the sales model, there’s no way to get inside the mind of a would-be buyer to help them.

Now let’s look at pain.

I don’t understand why ‘pain’ is so often paired with why/how buyers make buying decisions. Indeed, the ‘pain’ issue has been invented by sellers who assume potential/targeted buyers would function better if they bought the seller’s solution, and by not buying they’re obviously in pain. This is bogus.

As outsiders we have absolutely no idea what’s going on in someone’s environment. It might not be pain at all, but a very cogent decision that works for them and we’ll never understand.

David Sandler called me in 1993 to buy me out before he died. He said he’d made an error stating that ‘buyers are liars’ and saying ‘buyers are in pain’. Once he understood my thinking he realized that the problem was in the tenacious focus of placing solutions and the ommission of facilitating the necessary buying decision/change management process.

“I thought I had gone outside the box with Sandler Sales; I realize now I was still considering sales from a solution placement perspective. I didn’t understand how far outside the box I needed to go to include the buying decision process. Good job, Sharon Drew.”

CASE STUDY

Here’s a simple story to explain what’s going on behind the scenes, and how little it’s got to do with what a seller is selling, need, or pain.

In 1995 I was running a Buying Facilitation® training at IBM. One day my client asked me to help enlist a new Beta site for one of their new systems. There was a small ‘Mom & Pop’ shop (i.e. family run business) located nearby, and from their records they knew this company was using a system far too small for the growth they’d incurred over the past years, causing very slow response times.

Letting them have a free new system in exchange for IBM having them close by to test would be a win/win. But even after two sales folks had visited them with the promise of a new, free, system that would substantially speed up their response times, the company had no interest. Could I get them to become a beta site? Here was our conversation:

SDM: Hi there. I’m a trainee calling from IBM and have a question for someone who is using your computers.

SON: Hi. I’m Joe. I’m one of the owners. Maybe I can help.

SDM: Thanks. I wonder how your current system is running?

SON: It’s ok.

SDM: I know our folks were out there offering you a faster system to beta and you weren’t interested. I’m curious now what’s stopping you from upgrading your current system to be better than OK?

SON: Dad.

SDM: DAD? I don’t understand.

SON: I know our system is very very slow. But my father is in charge of the technology here, and he’s 75 years old. He’ll be retiring in a year or so, and I don’t want to overwhelm him with learning anything new. So I’ll make whatever changes necessary after he leaves.

SDM: Ah. So what I hear you saying is that your main criteria is not to overwhelm Dad and don’t mind how slow the system is in the meantime.

SON: Right.

SDM: You already know we want to give you an upgrade in exchange for being a beta site for us. From what I know about it, they’ve made it very simple to use and easy to learn. Maybe you and Dad could visit another beta site here in Rye to see if Dad likes it and finds it easy to use? I’d be happy to pick you up and take you there. And if Dad is happy, then maybe you’d be comfortable accepting it to beta test for us?

SON: Oh. I wasn’t aware we could do that. Your colleagues were trying to sell me on the features of the new capabilities, and that wasn’t my main problem. Sure, Dad and I would be willing to go to the beta site. Thanks. Having a quicker response time would be great for us if we could make that happen and Dad is comfortable with it.

The sellers used ‘features, functions, and benefits’ as their Selling Pattern; there was no way an outsider could guess that Dad was the problem that had to be solved. Offering a needed product or cheap price (free) details were moot. And so long as the seller focused on the sale, on the need, on the pain, there was no buy.

A BUYING DECISION IS SYSTEMIC AND STRATEGIC

A buying decision is a change management problem well before it is a solution choice issue. People don’t want to buy anything; they want to resolve a problem in the least disruptive way.

Indeed people only become buyers when they’re certain they cannot resolve the problem using familiar resources, and explore every avenue to fixing the problem themselves first. Buying anything is the very last thing people do.

Think about it. Before you buy a new CRM system, for example, you don’t begin by buying a new system: you begin by meeting with the managers and users to determine why the current system is problematic; trying to get the current one fixed; finding workarounds to try to resolve the problem easily; and making sure that there’s a process in place to manage any user, technology, training, time disruption that might come with bringing in new technology.

Again, buying anything is the very last thing that happens. By overlooking Buying Patterns, sellers automatically restrict their full set of prospective buyers.

Obviously when it’s time to buy, buyers take very specific actions as they choose one solution over another, choices based on price, reputation/brand of the solution, decision makers, etc. This is when the conventional sales model kicks in. But selling doesn’t cause buying.

STAGES OF BUYING PATTERNS

Here are the Pre-Sales stages folks go through as they become buyers:

What’s the status quo? Whats’ missing: until or unless every element of the status quo is understood, buyers cannot identify exactly what’s missing. In the Dad example, what was missing was not the computer issue, but the ability to have Dad learn how to support a new one; a delay in purchasing new software is most likely not a technology issue, but might be a recent reorganization, or a merger, or a change in leadership. And an outsider can never, ever understand because they’re, well, outsiders. This stage includes meetings, research, identifying stakeholders.

RULE: a seller can facilitate someone through the process of recognizing the full fact pattern of givens within their status quo, including the people, culture, and rules, to help them learn what is keeping them from having an optimal environment. Guesswork is detrimental because it’s such an idiosyncratic process. Using these steps, sellers can get out of the guessing game and merely facilitate the change.

Gather the full set of stakeholders: until or unless everyone involved with creating the problem and touching a new solution is brought in the full problem set cannot be understood. Everyone’s voice must be included – Dad, and Joe in accounting. This stage includes meetings to determine who will touch the final solution and agreement as to how to involve them.

RULE: a seller can facilitate a prospective buyer through a discovery. Until all folks who will touch the final solution are included, there is no way for them to understand their needs. Speaking with anyone about needs before this is a waste of time (i.e. all those names on your call back list and pipeline].

Try to fix the problem with workarounds: until it’s fully understood that the problem cannot be resolved with anything that’s already been accepted by the culture – other departments or items, familiar vendors or products – and all workarounds have been tried, they will never consider buying anything as it will be disruptive to the culture. This stage includes internal research, and delegating folks to outreach for familiar resources: can our old vendors fix this? Can the other department help? Until a workaround is dismissed, there will be no initiative to make a purchase.

RULE: people always begin by trying to fix the problem themselves. Sellers can help here: What’s stopping you from using the vendors you used last year? Have you tried getting help from other departments? Either you help them through this, or sit helplessly while they do it themselves as you continue to think they’re prospects and put them in your pipeline. In reality, this is the simplest stage.

Managing change to avoid disruption: once folks agree

  1. They have a problem that all stakeholders have fully defined;
  2. They cannot fix it themselves;
  3. The ‘cost’ of a purchase is manageable;

then it’s necessary to go ‘outside’ for a solution.

The cost of the new must be calculated against maintaining the status quo. When they figure this element out, they’re ready to choose a solution. This stage includes lots of research within the group/company/family to ferret out problems that change would incur, and figuring out the human, time, money, strategic, costs.

RULE: facilitate people to recognize what might be in jeopardy if something new is brought in. Until they weight the risk between the status quo vs a fix, and can calculate that bringing something new is has a lower cost than maintaining the status quo, they cannot buy anything as the risk is too high.

Choose a vendor/solution: This is the last stage – where sales now enters! Once it’s calculated that it will cost less to bring in a new solution than maintaining their status quo, AND there is buy-in from the stakeholders, AND they know how to integrate the new with minimal disruption, they become buyers. This is the low hanging fruit. These folks are ready for a pitch! This stage involves sellers pitching, content marketing, website design, etc.

SALES VS FACILITATING BUYING PATTERNS

I always ask sellers: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. Buying has nothing to do with pain, or the marketing efforts, or the pitch deck, or the product. You’re products are great.

The problem is you’re only focusing on those who already show up as buyers and ignore managing the full set of Buying Patterns of the far larger group of real prospects. My clients close 40% against the control group that closes 5% selling the same solution. But not by starting with the sales model.

As a frustrated sales person, I developed a new model called Buying Facilitation® to identify and facilitate steps of change, choice, and buy-in as a servant leader. Following these steps it’s possible for sellers to assist people in navigating the journey first with no bias, before trying to sell anything.

This sequence – Buying Facilitation® first, sales second – ensures you’ll find (and quickly close) a much larger number of people who WILL buy (rather than those who SHOULD buy) and keep you from wasting time on those who will never buy (but you think they ‘should’ because you think they’re ‘in pain’). My clients who use Buying Facilitation® close, on average, 40% selling the same product as the control group that closes 5%.

People who will become buyers must go through this process anyway, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. But they do this without us, as we wait, hope, push, and pitch, and lose an opportunity to both serve and differentiate ourselves.

Instead of the time and resource we use pushing content, why not use a different skill set (i.e. Buying Facilitation®, or some form of facilitation model that manages change) first to help them become buyers.

_____________________________________

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

February 1st, 2021

Posted In: News

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I recently got a call from a noted venture capitalist of healthcare apps.

DH: I heard you have a model that facilitates permanent behavior change. I wonder if it would work with any of the 15 healthcare apps I’ve invested in.

SD: I do have a model that does that. And it certainly could be used as a front end to conventional behavior change apps to enable users to develop permanent habits. What are you using now to help folks change behaviors permanently?

DH. Behavior Modification, but it doesn’t work. There’s no scientific evidence that it works and our analysis concurs. But there’s nothing else to use. Can you help?

It’s a known fact that Behavior Modification has a 3% success rate over time. Sure, people initially lose weight with a behavior-based plan to eat differently. Certainly people stop smoking or get to the gym for a few weeks. But because these new behaviors haven’t been accepted by, or made permanent in, the brain, they cannot succeed over time. And repeating the new in hopes that THIS time it will stick obviously doesn’t work.

Permanent change is a very achievable goal. But not the way we’re going about it; we’re approaching the problem from the wrong angle. In this essay I will explain what a behavior is, what change is, how our brains govern them both, and introduce the steps needed to form habits. Believe it or not, it’s mechanical.

THE PROBLEM WITH BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION

Lately I’ve heard several Behavioral Scientists on the radio, all offering Behavior Modification techniques to habituate new behaviors by, well, habituating new behaviors. They ‘remove barriers’, suggest ‘momentum’, offer ‘promoting forces/restraining forces’, and propose ‘behavioral interventions’ such as keeping weights at your desk so you can ‘lift’ during Zoom calls. All meant to motivate behavior change – through behavior change. I suspect Einstein might have something to say about that.

The problem is the premise. Behavior Mod’s core assumptions are actually contrary to brain science. It assumes that by merely repeating a behavior over and over (and over and over), permanent brain change will result that can be maintained over time. But it doesn’t. And it can’t.

Certainly we’ve all tried. Gone on a ‘different’ diet that we’d get ‘serious’ about this time. Or promised ourselves we’d always write up a schedule for the next day before ending work so we’d be up and running in the morning. But we’ve failed.

We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t lose weight permanently by trying to lose weight. Or stop smoking by trying to stop smoking. Somehow we forget that we have to remember to keep doing it, so we promise ourselves we’ll be disciplined ‘this time’. But we don’t. And we don’t know what else to do.

DIFFERENT THINKING REQUIRED

The reason it’s not possible is pretty simple once you understand what a behavior is and how our brains generate them. The problem isn’t our lack of discipline. We’re ignoring the brain chemistry and neural pathways that prompt behaviors to begin with.

I’ll start with an analogy. Let’s say you purchase a forward-moving robot, use it for a while, then decide you want it to move backward. You tell it why a ‘backwards’ functionality would enhance it, show it slides and presentations of other robots that move backwards, and attempt to push, cajole, and offer rewards for days on end. Nope. It won’t move backward. But if you program it differently, it will.

What about changing a chair into a table. You put red plastic into a machine that is programmed to spit out a red plastic chair. Once the chair is produced, you can’t make it a table. But you can create a table if you program the machine appropriately at the start.

Changing habits by trying to change habits is merely attempting to change the outcome, what’s already occurred – the output, the habit, the behavior – but failing to reprogram the brain with different instructions.

Sounds obvious. But that’s not what behaviorists are trying to do: Behavior Mod tries to get the robot to move backward by pushing it (and pushing it and pushing it) on a regular basis assuming the repetition will cause permanent change. It’s just not possible to maintain over time without changing the core input instructions to the brain.

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

To understand the full scope of the problem it’s helpful to understand what, exactly, a behavior is. They don’t just arise haphazardly, like coincidences that seem to occur by chance, or stand-alone features.

Behaviors are merely the activity, the output – the forward-moving robot – of our brain’s signaling system, the response to input instructions that travel down a fixed neural pathway and hook up with a set of circuits that generate a behavior.

Where do behaviors originate? Behaviors are Beliefs in action, tangible representations of our core identity factors. Our politics represent our Beliefs. The way we dress, talk; the professions we choose; where we travel and who we marry. Everything we do represents who we are. As the foundational factor, Beliefs determine our actions and must be factored in when considering change or forming a new habit. Current Behavior Mod approaches try to circumvent Beliefs and therein lie the problem.

There is actual science on how behaviors get generated and why we automatically repeat behaviors even when we don’t want to. Here’s a quote from noted Harvard neuroscientist Richard Masland in We Know It When We See It to set the stage:

Our brain has trillions of cell assemblies that fire together automatically. When anything incoming bears even some of the characteristics [of operational circuits], the brain automatically fires the same set of synapses. (pg 143)

I’ll now offer a simplified version of the specifics of how to convince the brain to make the changes that lead to new habits: the science, the neurology, of how messages travel through the brain to become a behavior. It’s only slightly wonky, so hang with me. Once you ‘get it’ you’ll understand how behaviors occur and where change comes from.

NEUROLOGICAL PATHWAY FROM INPUT TO OUTPUT

Generally, each behavior starts off as an input – an idea or command, thought or story – that enters our brains as a meaningless puff of air, an electrochemical vibration (a ‘message’). To keep us congruent, the input gets evaluated against our Mental Models and Beliefs before going further. Is this input a risk? Is it congruent with values?

If the idea goes against who we are, it gets rejected or resisted and does not end up becoming a permanent pathway. Did you ever try to convince someone of a different political persuasion, regardless of the strength of your argument? Nope. We’re not talking rational here, we’re talking electrochemical neurology.

If the vibration is accepted, it gets turned into signals that then seek out similar-enough circuits that translate them into action or output – a behavior. So:

  1. Receive input vibrations (from conversations, thoughts, reading, ideas) and
  2. Compare/test against foundational Beliefs, norms, and history
  3. Get turned into signals that get
  4. Matched with the closest, habituated brain circuits
  5. That translate them into output/action/behavior.

In more scientific language, it looks like this in our brains:

Data/Input -> Risk/Congruence check -> CUE creates signals -> CEN (Central Executive Network) generates/chooses circuits -> Output/behavior.

Or simply stated: Input -> Relevance check -> Programming -> Output

The time it takes a message to go from an input to an output takes 5 one-hundredths of a second. It’s pretty automatic.

THE NEED FOR VALUES-BASED CONGRUENCY

The next important piece is why repetition won’t cause new (permanent) habits. To understand this, it’s important to understand the strength and responsibility of the neural pathway between the input and the output.

All outputs, behaviors, are initiated by signals that trigger them in the first place. Since input messages become signals only AFTER a relevance check and found to be risk free, any potential new habits must go through the same safeguards. There’s a reason why.

One of our brain’s guiding principles is Systems Congruence, or the need to be stable. This need for stability creates our habits that enable us to brush our teeth when we get up in the morning, and take a left turn without major thought. For this reason, our brains seek well-traveled pathways – doing what we’ve always done – regardless of their current efficacy, because they matched our Beliefs at some point and are now habituated and unconscious.

If our Beliefs change and new outputs are required, our system just needs to go back to the drawing board with new inputs, new relevancy check, new signals and new circuits. Otherwise there is no reason for our brains to consider changing. Remember that we’re dealing with brain activity, vibrations, that offer no good/bad judgment on their own. If it was ‘good to go’ at one point, and the brain has no reason to reconsider this, it just keeps on keepin’ on.

Sadly – and the reason new activity fails when Behavior Mod is attempted – if anything tries to change the status quo without being checked for relevance, our brain discards the new input because it may carry risk! The new isn’t sustainable. Ultimately, trying to create new habits without sending wholly new belief-based input instructions – i.e. new programming – cannot cause permanent change because there are no new circuits to administer it!

The good news is that the brain is always willing to create new circuits for new behaviors. It’s called Neurogenesis.

CREATING NEW PROGRAMMING, NEW SIGNALS, NEW BEHAVIORS

To change behaviors permanently, start with new, Belief-based input messages that result in wholly new circuits and outputs:

  • create a new belief-based input/message that
  • generates new signals which
  • create or discover a different arrangement of (existing) circuits
  • leading to new/different behaviors.

Let me tell you a story. A friend said, “I’ve been telling myself I’m a Fat Cow recently. That means it’s time for me to go on another diet.” Obviously this input would lead her to the same circuits (and results) that it used for past diets that she failed at. But if she changed her input signal and told herself instead:

‘I am a healthy person who will research best nutrition choices for my body type and lifestyle and have the discipline to eat the best foods for the rest of my life.’

she would end up with a different set of circuits and different output/behaviors.

Our outputs, our behaviors, are merely responses to inputs that our brain has checked out as congruent with who we are. So change the incoming messaging to one that is Belief-based and takes into account all the elements (Mental Models, history, norms, experience) that might cause risk to the system. Once it’s approved, it will automatically generate new circuits and new, habituated, behaviors.

THE HOW OF CHANGE

I’ve been studying, unpacking, and writing about Choice and Change for over 50 years. It’s been exciting and frustrating: exciting because I continue to learn as new discoveries in brain science emerge, frustrating because science largely studies outputs without curiosity re where, how, or why a signal gets created or chosen to begin with. The concept of Beliefs, or Systems Congruence, is omitted. And yet science now says it understands change comes from Beliefs – but doesn’t know how to get there. I do. It just takes different thinking.

In 2019, I spent a full year unpacking the science of neural pathways and adding some of my understanding about change and congruence into the mix. From this, I developed a 5-hour program program to guide folks through the step-by-step activity of consciously designing permanent habit formation. I’ve trained it to a few hundred people who have had great results. Here you can watch me deliver the first, introductory, hour of the How of Change™ program.

I am passionately interested in enabling people to consciously design new signaling instructions for their brains to output any new habits they seek. My wish is to work with healthcare providers and apps for exercise, healthy eating, meditation and decision making to aid folks seeking to achieve greater health and success. It’s quite possible to add the How of Change capabilities to the front end of Behavior Mod apps so users first change their brains to be ready for permanent change.

If you want to collaborate, or have questions, contact me to discuss ways we can engage those seeking permanent change. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

_______________________

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

January 25th, 2021

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Ever since the serpent convinced Eve to eat the apple there’s been someone trying to sell something. The original idea was fairly simple: find folks with a problem, then create and sell a product that will fix it.

For centuries, companies worked hard to understand customer needs then create good products to fill those needs. With limited reach and communication tools, early sellers went around to neighbor’s homes and showed their wares; those with money advertised in the most prestigious magazines (TIME, LOOK, LIFE). Sellers closed 25 – 40% back in the day.

Forward a few decades to Silicon Valley that began creating products because they could, with little concern for need, assuming ‘if they build it they will come.’ Using technology to covertly track and gather huge swaths of data, sellers used their new marketing metrics, human behavior predictors, and an ‘understanding’ of sales demographics to reach high-probability buyers.

Theoretically it became possible to cheaply find those who might need a solution after it was already created, and sell by sending ‘possible buyers’ some ‘targeted messages’ and play the percentages. Given the low cost per touchpoint, sellers only needed a small percentage to take the bait for the investment to pay for itself.

INSANITY

So did it work? Did more sales close? During this new era of using technology, of creating solutions first and then finding potential buyers, sales fell. Here are the actual numbers: according to numbers averaged out from my own clients (Fortune 1000 companies), email marketing closes 0.0059%; sales professionals close less than 5%.

But those numbers don’t seem to matter to the field as it continues to use the same thinking that caused the numbers to begin with. Sales just pushes harder, always assuming they only have to find buyers. Build it and they will come indeed.

To me, those numbers matter. They tell me the industry is failing: A 5% close rate means a 95% failure rate! There is no other industry that finds a 95% failure rate acceptable. No one would even go to a hairdresser with a 95% failure rate. Imagine getting on a plane with a 95% failure rate!

Yet this hasn’t caused a re-think; it’s merely caused sellers to seek more targeted prospects, use more technology, gather more private data, all with the assumption that with better data, sellers can pitch better and close more. And yet, with all the expenditure and brilliant minds working on the problem, the numbers continue to go down as the field continues to attempt to place solutions.

At no point has the sales industry wondered why their sophisticated technology doesn’t close more sales. Well, there’s been a bit of movement: When I began writing about internal buying decisions and decision makers (starting with my first book Sales on the Line in 1992 on facilitating buying decisions) the sales industry fought back (“I know how my buyers decide!!”). Eventually the field took decision makers into consideration (“Yup. A great way in! Let’s include them because they’re smart enough to buy when they hear the facts and how they need us.”), but only as a way to prompt sales.

At no point has the industry realized there might be something going on within a prospect’s environment that causes and maintains the problem the sellers want to fix. At no point has the system, the environment, that prospective buyers live in been a real consideration.

And so it continues. The thinking has remained steadfast: It’s all about the sale. Just find the eyeballs, predict and influence the behavior, and you’ll sell whatever.

SALES USES INCOMPLETE THINKING

Take a moment and think with me, given I suspect that if ‘need’ were the criteria for a purchase, more folks would be buying. And they’re not. Why? Maybe the problem isn’t about what you’re selling.

The industry recognizes that over 40% of a buying decision is based on internal change criteria (i.e. nothing to do with buying anything) and occurs before sales gets involved. So why aren’t sellers doing anything about this? Trying to ‘understand’ to get in and sell misses the point.

Let’s look at the facts. You’ve hired good professional folks, successful, with good instincts. Your marketing materials are great. You’ve learned how to pitch and present your material perfectly. And yet you’re closing less sales than occurred decades ago, when you didn’t have all the technology.

Obviously the problem is not your product or solution. The problem is on the buying decision end and more complicated than the sales model has tools for. There seems to be a gap between the moment people consider themselves buyers and seek solutions, and what and how sellers are selling; the push for eyeballs and understanding don’t address the Pre-Sales, non-buying portion of a buyer’s journey that is focused on change.

But you’re doing nothing about it. With a continued focus on placing solutions, it’s a different mind-set to think about change facilitation as a first step in finding a home for your products.

That’s where the bulk of real buyers are. And you’re ignoring them. They don’t heed your solution data, don’t want appointments, don’t read your marketing materials. They’re just not ready. But they will be. And they can be.

Think with me about the changes in decision making and leadership. Businesses have become sophisticated, as employees and customers and partners are global; leadership is no longer top-down and more inclusive and collaborative.

Given the complexity of environments and their increasingly multifaceted dynamics, and the issues that come up when a problem arises that needs resolving, it’s just not possible for anyone to purchase a new solution on their own. There are just too many consequences with relationships and job functions, chains of command and responsibility to other business practices and partners.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT FUNCTION

To address the complexity, a buying decision has become a change management function before reaching the stage of a solution choice problem.

And the sales industry hasn’t kept up. Instead of helping facilitate the change issues first, it’s still trying to sell, to place solutions, to find buyers, almost at any cost (hacking, spam, false advertising…), insuring they only close the 5% who have already completed their change process on their own.

But the answer is so much cheaper and simpler (and has integrity and far greater success): It’s possible to find those who will seek change in the area your solution can help by putting on a change facilitator’s hat and leading them through the changes they must address before seeing their way clear to buying. And then selling.

By then you’ll both agree to the need, and the sale will be based on values and a real relationship.

Walk with me now through the history of buying decisions.

LET’S LOOK AT BUYING

Originally if there was a need, whoever was in charge would just make a purchase. Now, there are complex decisions to be made even for simple purchases: the days of a single-person purchasing decision are gone; everyone must be involved to fix problems or find workarounds or manage change before any purchase can be considered.

Indeed, all purchases involve some sort of change. It’s a systems problem. You can’t just wake up one day and decide to buy something and ignore everyone else who has a stake in maintaining the status quo.

  • If you’re a member of a family and considering moving to a larger house when the kids get older, you don’t begin by calling a realtor. You begin by discussing everyone’s problems and needs, first figuring out if it’s possible fix your house to avoid the disruption of a move. It’s only when the full fact patterns emerge from everyone – needs, fears, current responsibilities, future plans – does the group come up with a solution. It’s not about the house.
  • What about buying a CRM app? I bet you don’t read about a new one on Monday, buy it on Tuesday, then tell everyone it’s arriving to be implemented on Wednesday. Why not? Because whoever uses the CRM needs to be consulted; tech folks need to give a heads up; and then users would have to buy-in to any changes. You’d probably first try to fix what you’ve been using to avoid the downtime or cost. It’s got nothing to do with the new CRM app.

People who need to fix a problem must not only rearrange some of the status quo, but also must have the buy-in and implementation procedures in place before they buy anything. It’s imperative: they must do this anyway, with you or without you. Might as well be with you. You wait (and push, and lower price) while they do so.

But you’ll need to begin with a different thinking and skill set. Rather than pushing pushing pushing product data at someone you guess might have a need, just learn to recognize someone who WILL buy once they’ve managed their change and facilitate them through the steps of change that lead to a purchase.

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

Why continue to build your strategies on selling solutions when the sticking point is in the buying? People don’t really want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the lowest cost to the system. And change is the key at this early stage. Regardless of need or the brilliance of a product or the efficacy of a new solution, nothing will be bought, no solution will be purchased, if the new disrupts the system.

A buying decision is a change management problem well before it’s a solution choice issue. Making a purchase is the last – the last – thing anyone does. Indeed, among the 13 stages of a buy cycle buying is stages 10-13 and the decision/change process stages 1-9 (See my book on these stages.).

This is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of new buyers. And they really, really need help, as figuring out all the stakeholders and the downsides of the change takes them quite a long time… it’s the length of the sales cycle.

Why has the sales industry overlooked this? It’s where the real decisions get made. Nothing, nothing, nothing, to do with your solution and the reason folks still in their change stages don’t heed your marketing or pitches or don’t return calls.

When they’re considering their change issues, they are not yet buyers. Maintaining a working system is their highest criteria: they people will not buy if the ‘cost’ of the fix is greater than the cost of the status quo.

Here are a few bullets to think about:

  1. Without the ‘buying’ the ‘selling’ doesn’t have a role. Yet sales continues to think of ‘buying’ through the lens of ‘selling’. It’s wrong. The ‘buying’ should be looked at through the lens of ‘change management’ first.
  2. Sellers can’t understand buyers. They’ll never know the weight of influence of ‘Joe in Accounting’, or the history of two feuding teams who have to share budget to buy a new solution, or the relationship shared between their old vendor they’d need to get rid of to buy your solution. People who might become buyers must manage all this before looking for outside solutions. It has nothing to do with sales, solutions, needs or selling.
  3. Sellers can never know what that that a prospective buyer’s change configuration is as outsiders can’t know or assess the variables that capture the ‘cost.’ The current state has been good-enough for now; it can continue if the cost of change is too high.
  4. Just because someone has a need doesn’t mean they’re a buyer.
  5. The time it takes all stakeholders to
    1. know they must seek an external solution because their workaround doesn’t help,
    2. change with the least disruption,
    3. manage the implementation with the least fallout,
    4. get buy-in from all who will be effected by bringing in something new,

6. By focusing only on finding folks with ‘need’, sales reduces the number of potential buyers down to the low hanging fruit (i.e. a 5% close), those who show up after having completed their change.
7. By entering with a change management hat on and focusing first on facilitating change it’s possible to find 8x more prospects – those in the process of becoming buyers but haven’t yet completed their change management – and facilitate them down their decision path. My clients using my Buying Facilitation®method close 40% against the control groups that close 5.2%.
8. It’s possible to find those who will become buyers on the first call – but not with a sales hat on.

It has nothing to do with need, seller, or solution. I can’t say this enough.

It’s time for sales to begin the sales process by facilitating buying decisions as an add-on to their approach. I am not taking away selling from the equation, just adding new thinking to help people buy. After all, without buyers, what are you doing anyway?

________________________

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

December 21st, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

WE ALL SEEK TO BE KIND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 16th, 2020

Posted In: Listening, News

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I recently heard a project manager in a software services company mention a ‘very important’ book on persuasion that she passed on to her team. I was curious why she liked it.

S: It’s vital we persuade our clients. My team must learn to use the right words to convince them they’re wrong, and get them to change their thinking so we can do what we need to do.

SD: You convince your clients they’re wrong and want to change their thinking so they’ll agree for you to do what you want, even if they don’t agree? And use persuasion strategies rather than maybe facilitate them through a collaborative decision making process and find ways to meld ideas and agree together?

S: They don’t want to agree and we don’t want them to collaborate. They start off wanting it their way. From years of working with these sorts of problems, we know what they need better than they do. That’s why we need to use the best persuasion techniques to change their minds.

I found the conversation unsettling.

WHAT IS PERSUASION – AND WHY IS IT DISRESPECTFUL?

When I looked up persuasion, seems Aristotle defined it with the terms Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Google defines it as an ‘act of convincing’ ‘to put his/her audience into a state of conflict’. The concept has been around a long time – probably since God persuaded the Serpent to eat the apple.

Sales strategies employ persuasion to convince people they consider prospects to buy; doctors and healthcare professionals employ biased stories and facts to encourage patients to act, or behave, in ways the docs consider beneficial; coaches use influencing strategies to persuade clients to make the changes the coach recommends.

But these strategies are largely ineffective: Not only will people not do what the influencer wants them to do, but they’ll most likely desert, if not distrust, the influencer even if it turns out the influencer is accurate. By persuading another to do what you want them to do (even if in their ‘own best interests’), you’re taking away their agency, their personal power, and usurping it for your own need to be right. Not to mention preventing a more robust, and dare I say more creative, outcome to emerge.

My definition is a bit different: persuasion is an influencer’s attempt to get another person to do what the influencer wants, regardless of its efficacy, regardless of the omission of a potentially more creative solution, and even when it goes against the person’s wishes.

PERSUASION BREAKS SPIRITUAL LAWS

For me, trying to convince another to do what you want them to do breaks a spiritual law: everyone has the right to their own opinions, beliefs, choices, and actions, and the right to behave according to their own self-interest and values. I believe it’s disrespectful and an act of hubris, even if I think – especially if I ‘know’! – I’m right. No one, no one, can be ‘right’ for another person. Not to mention being ‘right’ is subjective and not necessarily ‘right’.

I looked up ‘persuasion strategies’ to learn what ‘experts’ suggest. They all include finely honed tactics and subliminal convincer strategies:

* Find common ground! * Use their names often! * Prepare for arguments! * Make it seem beneficial to them! * Be confident! * Flatter them and appeal to their emotions! *Motivate action!

Ploys to manipulate, to influence at all costs.

But what’s the cost? A disgruntled, resentful buyer. A client or patient who won’t use your services again or is resentful. The loss of collaboratively thinking together that can discover an outcome that’s win/win for both and potentially even more effective over time than the influencer’s suggestions.

Regardless of the outcome, win/lose just doesn’t exist. It’s either win/win or lose/lose. If everyone doesn’t win, everyone loses. By using force instead of real power to enable the Other to discover her own route to excellence, you’re disrespecting them.

Why, I ask, would anyone want to persuade another to go beyond their own beliefs, or choices, or intentions? Maybe because it’s the only way they can get what they want? Maybe because they believe the other is harming themselves? Maybe because of a political, or scientific, argument? Whatever the case, persuasion is not only disrespectful, but ineffective.

  1. An ‘I’m right so you should listen to me’ framework operates from win/lose, disrespect, and distrust (‘I obviously know better than you’).
  2. Persuasion uses judgmental language based on an ‘I know/you don’t’ framework, making the other person ‘stupid’ or ‘unaware’ – certainly ‘less-than’.
  3. Persuasion ignores another’s needs, feelings, and considerations, and offers no room for a more robust solution based on the knowledge the Other has of their own environment.
  4. Persuasion assumes only one person understands the full fact pattern of what’s going on, thereby ignoring the Other’s knowledge and reality that can never be fully understood by an outsider. Indeed, the only person who understands the full fact pattern is the Other.

Persuasion is one-sided and makes false assumptions when influencers believe their suggests are the best options; that the internal relationships, politics, values, history, of the Other are not worthy of consideration; that the persuader ‘should’ be heeded because they’re ‘in authority’; or – worse of all – that the person isn’t capable of figuring out their own route forward.

CASE STUDY

My neighbor Maria came to my house crying one day. Her doctor had told her she was borderline diabetic and needed to eat differently. He gave her a printed list of foods to eat and foods to avoid and spent time persuading her to stop eating whatever she was eating because his list of foods was essential to her health.

She told me she’d been trying for months, lost some weight, but finally gave up and went back to her normal eating habits and gained back the weight. But she was fearful of dying from diabetes like her mother did. She’d tried to listen to her doc, she didn’t want to be sick, but she just couldn’t do what the doc requested. She asked if I could help, and I told her I’d lead her through to finding her own answers. Here was our exchange.

SDM: I know your doc wants you to change your eating habits for health reasons. I’ll ask you some questions that might lead you to ways to help you figure out how to eat healthier. I’ll start at the very beginning. Who are you?

Maria: I’m a wife, mother and grandmother.

SDM: As a wife, mother and grandmother, what are your beliefs and values?

Maria: I believe I’m responsible for feeding my family in a way that makes them happy.

SDM: What is it you’re doing now that makes them happy?

Maria: My family all live nearby. Every morning I get up early and make 150 tortillas. When they go to work and school in the morning, they stop by and I hand them out to each for their breakfast and lunch. I always make enough for me and Joe to have for breakfast. The doctor says they’re bad for me with all the lard in them and that I must stop eating them. I’ve tried to stop, but they’re a big part of my diet. When the doctor said to stop eating them, I felt he doesn’t want me to love my family.

SDM: So I hear that tortillas are the way you keep your family happy. Is there any other way you can keep your family happy by feeding them without putting your own health at risk?

Maria: Hmmmm… I could make them enchiladas. They don’t have lard, and my family loves them. And my daughter Sonia makes tortillas almost as good as mine.

Then we figured out a terrific plan. Maria invited her entire family for dinner and presented Sonia with her tortilla pan outfitted with a big red bow. She told her family she couldn’t make tortillas any more due to health reasons, but Sonia, the new “Tortilla Tia,” would make them tortillas every day just like Maria did, and she’d make them enchiladas once a week instead. Maria then proceeded to lose 15 pounds, kept the weight off, and is no longer pre-diabetic.

WHAT PERSUASION MISSES

In this case study, the doctor attempted to persuade Maria to do what he thought best with a conventional one-size-fits-all food plan. Yet with the proper questions, an intent to facilitate collaboration and discovery, he could have led her to figure out for herself how to solve the problem her own way, using her own history and values. The diet the doc gave her went against her lifestyle, but he was so intent on doing what he thought ‘best’ he overlooked Maria’s own power to figure out her own solution. Ultimately, she didn’t need persuasion, she needed a facilitated conversation that enabled Maria to discover her own best choices.

Imagine your job is to facilitate folks through their own route to Excellence.

Persuasion tactics seek to meet the needs of the persuader, without accounting for the Other’s discovery through their personal beliefs and lifestyle realities:

  • the questions persuaders pose are biased by their own needs and omit/ignore large swathes of potentially applicable, and certainly private, data points that are important to the Other;
  • listeners interpret what they hear as per historic matches in their brain circuits (see my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) causing a limited and biased understanding, regardless of what influencers are trying to share;
  • persuaders work from subjective criteria and don’t take into account the values, beliefs, lifestyles, of the Others, unwittingly causing the Other conflict that the persuader cannot know, and overlooks more creative and workable options that they could discover together.

Regardless of how ‘right’ you or your solution might be, if the Other feels like you’re pushing, or forcing, or manipulating; if you’re asking biased questions based on YOUR need to know so you can use it against them; it’s pretty hard to persuade anyone without there being resentment. Not to mention can you truly believe that YOUR way is the BEST way for another person, and they have no agency to figure out their own route?

COLLABORATIVE CONVERSATION

Here are a few tips to guide an unbiased conversation that eventually leads the Other to discovering a path forward using their own values.

  1. Goal: your goal is to help the Other discover their own criteria and actions for change, NOT to get the Other to do what you want!
  2. Intent: your job is to facilitate another through to their own discovery by directing them down their own trajectory of change, not toward the result the influencer seeks.
  3. Understanding: you can never, ever, understand what’s going on for Another. Ever. But you can lead them to understand themselves through facilitated discovery.
  4. Questions: I invented a form of question called a Facilitative Question that walks Others down the trajectory of their own self-discovery with NO bias from you. They are based on the steps people go through when deciding to change and NOT based on your need-to-know, assumptions, or curiosity. Properly formulated, they have no bias but enable bias-free discovery in a way that the Other’s system will not reject.

Instead of trying to persuade, why not try collaborative conversation and facilitated questioning so you both can discover, together, a win/win that serves you both. Instead of it being either/or, why not both/and? Why not trust Others to discover their own answers.

_____________________________

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

November 2nd, 2020

Posted In: News

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