By Sharon Drew Morgen

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. She can be reached at

December 21st, 2020

Posted In: News

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By any standards, I’m considered successful. A NYTimes bestselling author of 9 books, an inventor and thought leader, I’ve trained a very large number of people globally in a change facilitation model I invented 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?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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. She can be reached at

November 2nd, 2020

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Why does it seem so hard to change a habit or a behavior? Why do we drag our feet when buying a replacement appliance or car? Why do our teams go through disruption when going through a merger? Why do we resist changing our diets or adding exercise to our day when we know it’s good for us?

The oft-repeated myth claims people hate change, that change is hard. But that’s not true. People like the results of change; they just fear the process, the disruption and disorientation that change seems to cause. But the problem isn’t the change; it’s the way we’re approaching it.

The very skills we use to instigate change cause the resistance, struggle, failure to change, and conflict that occur when we initiate doing anything outside of our habituated norm. With a different skill set we can not only avoid resistance altogether, but change in a way that’s pain free, creative and expansive. In fact, change can be a pleasure.

In this article I’ll briefly discuss the topics necessary to consider painless change, and link to five 30-minute podcasts I taped a while ago with Nathan Ives of Strategy Driven Magazine. Since I recorded these podcasts, I’ve since developed a How of Change program that actually teaches how to isolate the exact elements in the brain to consciously generate new neural pathways to stimulate easy change. As always, I’m here to discuss.


Change means doing/thinking something different than our status quo – our internal system that has been accepted, habituated, standardized, and normalized through time – potentially replacing it with something unknown, untried, and therefore risky.

And therein lie the problem: because our change methods don’t take systems into account, anything we do to effect change potentially causes a destabilizing effect and puts our system at risk. This fact alone causes disruption, pain and confusion. We’re trying to push an as-yet unaccepted element into a fully/long-functioning stable system that hasn’t agreed to alter itself, and it’s defending itself.

To do anything different, we need approval and a route forward from our unconscious system; to change congruently, we must consciously facilitate our normalized, unconscious internal structure to design new and acceptable rules for any additions.

Once the ‘new’ is acceptable, seen to be nonthreatening, recognized as having the same rules, norms, values as the status quo, it will be easily adopted. Note: regardless of the efficacy of the new, or the problems inherent in the status quo, change is not acceptable until the status quo, the system, the group of norms and beliefs that have been good-enough, recognizes a way to normalize itself with the new included.

#1 What is Change? and Why is Change so Hard?


Historically, we have approached change through information sharing, traditional problem-solving methods, personal discipline and behavior modification, and strong leadership, assuming by pushing new information – new activities, new ideas, new rationale, requests for different behaviors – into the status quo it will be sufficient. But it’s not. We’re ignoring the system, causing it to resist to maintain itself.

Why are systems so important? Systems are our glue. Our lives are run by systems – families, teams, companies, relationships. Each of us individually is a system. Systems are made up of rules and norms that everything/everyone buys in to and that maintain the beliefs and values, history and experience, that make each system unique and against which everything is judged against.

And each system holds tightly to its uniqueness as the organizing force behind the activities, goals, and output of our behaviors. Change any of the elements and we change the system; try to push something new into the system, and it will defend itself. We learned in 6th grade that systems seek homeostasis (balance), making it unlikely we can pull one thing out of a system and shove something else back in without the system resisting.

Currently, our attempts at change (sellers, coaches, negotiators, or diets, exercise programs, etc.) are little more than pushing a new agenda in from the outside and assuming compliance will follow because the new is ‘better’ or ‘rational’. But because the new most likely doesn’t match the unique, internal norms already in residence, we get implementation problems in teams, closing delays in sales, resistance to changing eating and exercise habits, modification problems in healthcare and coaching. Indeed, all implementations, all buying decisions, all negotiations, all new behavior generation, are change management problems.

It’s possible to introduce change in a way that does not cause resistance – from the inside out, by teaching the system how to reorganize along different lines, in accordance with its own rules and values.

For lasting change, it’s necessary to enlist buy-in from the system. Any reasoning or validation for needed change will be resisted because the system fears disruption. Hear how systems are the organizing principle around change – and what to do about it.

#2 What are Systems and How Do They Influence Change


The universally held concept is that resistance is ubiquitous, that any change, any new idea, will engender resistance. University programs teach it how to manage resistance; Harvard professors such as Chris Argyris and Howard Gardner have made their reputations and written books on it; consultants make their livings managing it. Yet there is absolutely no reason for resistance: we actually create the resistance we get, by the very models we use to implement change.

The underlying problem is, again, systems. As per homeostasis, a system will fight to continue functioning as it has always functioned, regardless of how impractical or non-efficient it is or how compelling the new change might be. And by attempting change without an agreement from the system, without designing any implementation of the new around the inherent beliefs, values, and norms of the status quo, we’re causing imbalance.

Systems just are. They wake up every day maintaining the same elements, behaviors, beliefs, they had yesterday, and the day before. They don’t notice anything as a problem – the problems are built in and, well, part of the givens. When anything new attempts to enter a system and the system has not reorganized itself to maintain systems congruence, it is threatened (Indeed, we are threatening the status quo!) and will defend itself by resisting. Hence, we always define and create our own resistance.

It’s possible to avoid resistance by beginning a change process by first facilitating the system to re-think, re-organize, re-consider its rules, relationships, and expectations, and garner buy-in from all of the elements that will touch the final solution, while matching the introduction of the new accordingly. Believe it or not, it’s not difficult. But we do need a new skill set to accomplish this.

#3 If Decisions Are Always Rational, Why Are Changes Resisting?


As sellers, change agents, coaches, doctors, parents, and managers, we seek to motivate change. Whether it involves a purchase, a new idea, a different set of behaviors, or a team project, all successful change requires

  • matching the new with the values and norms of the status quo,
  • shifting the status quo to adapt to something new,
  • facilitating buy-in from everyone who will touch the new addition,
  • working from inside out by aligning with the core values and norms of the system.

[Note: I teach this change process as Buying Facilitation® to sellers to facilitate Pre-Sales buying decisions, and coaches as a tool to generate permanent change.] Until this is accomplished, resistance will result as the system attempts to defend itself.

#4 Why is Buy-in Necessary and How to Achieve It


Until now, we have approached change by starting with a specific goal and implementation plan and seeking buy-in to move forward successfully. While we take meticulous steps to bring aboard the right people, have numerous meetings to discuss and manage any change or disruption possibilities, our efforts are basically top-down and outside-in and end up causing resistance and disruption.

Starting from the inside begins with an explicit goal that everyone agrees to, but leaving the specifics – the Hows – up to the people working with the new initiative, an inside-out, bottom-up/top-down collaboration. While the result may not end up exactly like imagined, it will certainly meet the objectives sought, and include far more creativity and buy-in, promote leadership, continue through time, and avoid resistance and disruption – and potential failure.

#5 A Radical Approach to Change Management, Real Leadership

Change need not be difficult if we approach it as a systems problem. I’ve developed models for sales, leadership, coaching, and healthcare that facilitate systemic, congruent, values-based change. I’m happy to help you think this through or implement it. To learn more about systemic models for decision making, change, and sales, go to or contact Sharon Drew at

Here’s a link if you wish to have copies of the entire series Making Change Work.


Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, author, and the inventor of the Buying Facilitation® model, a decision facilitation and change management model often used in sales to help sellers facilitate the change issues buyers must address before they can make a buying decision. She’s written 7 books on the topic including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew has trained many Fortune 500 hundred companies to help people become buyers, to help staff change and be motivated, to give leaders the tools to lead effectively without resistance.

Sharon Drew also tackles listening, and closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her book on how to hear others without bias, What? Did you really say what I think I heard?, is used by several organizations to enable them to hear each other, and clients, accurately.. See for a range of articles on change, buying decisions, and hearing others. She can be reached at

October 26th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously, both assumptions were false.

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

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


Secretary: Hello. This is the technology support group.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SD: I didn’t know you had one.

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

SD: Are you set up for that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

October 12th, 2020

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 5th, 2020

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

September 28th, 2020

Posted In: News

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

SDM: How’s your current sales training working?

PAT: (Branch Manager): It’s fine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next day, Pat called me.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

September 14th, 2020

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Man: I hear you have a complaint?

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

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

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

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

SD: Wait, what? No ‘sorry’?

Man: I understand your frustration.

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

Man: I’m sorry you feel that way.

And then he hung up on me.

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


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

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

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


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

August 24th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BP: Oh. I could have done that.

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

August 17th, 2020

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