I recently heard yet another excuse as to why a buyer didn’t buy. This one was a hoot – seller/buyer misalignment. Seriously? Because the seller didn’t close a sale (That was expected by the seller? In the mythical pipeline?) there was a relationship problem? Because the buyer didn’t buy (according to the expectation of the seller) there was a bonding problem? No. The problem stems from sellers not understanding what a buyer is. In this case, there was no buyer to be ‘misaligned’ with.
FROM PERSON TO BUYER
A decision not to purchase has very little to do with the seller, the solution, the relationship, or the need. In fact, a purchase is the very last thing a buyer wants. Just because a situation seems like a perfect fit with your solution does not make it a buying/selling opportunity; just because someone really needs your solution does not mean they are ready, willing, or able to buy.
Let me begin by defining ‘Buyer’: a person (or group) who has
and decides to purchase an external solution as their only option.
1. A buyer isn’t a buyer unless they’ve bought something. Until then they are people with a problem that may, if all else fails, require an external solution.
2. People first recognize a problem that keeps them from the type of Excellence they require. They may or may not decide to fix it. It never begins as a decision to make a purchase (unless a small personal item).
3. There are usually a range of ‘fixes’ available for problems. Workarounds are always the first option, a purchase the last.
4. All people (buyers, groups, individuals) live in a unique unconscious, human system (rules, relationships, beliefs, experience, goals, etc.) that created the problem and maintains it as part of their status quo. The system exists AS IS, with problems factored in. If an element is recognized as problematic, the system would need to agree on possible forward routes. Any change would need to end up as an integrated part of the core system.
5. A purchase means something new will enter the system and replace or reconsider what’s already there without leaving a mess. It’s only when there’s agreement from all elements that created the problem that
* it can’t be fixed with known resources or workarounds,
* the cost in resources/change is lower than the cost of fallout,
* a path forward is defined by everyone who will touch the final solution,
that the full scope of a solution is understood. Until then ‘need’ isn’t fully defined. Here is where sellers often get caught thinking there’s a ‘need’ before there is one.
6. There is a defined series of 13 (generic) steps that all systems traverse (often unconsciously) to decide if, when, why, how, what to change. Until they’ve agreed they can’t fix the problem with familiar resources AND developed a plan for congruent change, (step 10), there is no willingness to seek an external solution. In other words, people become buyers at step 10; before that they’re merely people trying to fix a problem themselves.
7. During the steps of change, people within the system do research to find a variety of ideas that could possibly help them fix their problem themselves. If they have contacted a solution provider during their research phase (and have not yet gotten group buy-in) they’re not buyers regardless of their apparent need and the efficacy of a seller’s solution.
8. Making a purchase is first a change management issue, last a solution choice problem; the first question people ask is how they can achieve Excellence without leaving an internal mess; the last question they ask is what solution they’d need from ‘outside’. Using the sales model, only solution placement criteria and activities are considered and any questions posed are biased to inspire agreement, admission of need, ‘relationship’ – all with an intent to sell something (i.e. steps 10-13); there is no element of the sales model that facilitates systemic change to enable sellers to enter earlier.
9. Until any disruption caused by a purchase (i.e. all purchases are ‘foreign’ elements) is understood, planned for, and agreed to, no purchase will take place. The existing system is sacrosanct; keeping it running smoothly is more important to them than fixing a problem that’s already been baked into the system.
10. Everyone and everything who created the current problem and would potentially touch a new solution must agree to any modification (possible purchase). Until then, they won’t, they can’t buy and they are not buyers.
11. The time it takes people/buyers to discover their own answers and know how to manage change in the least disruptive way, is the length of the sales cycle. It has nothing to do with selling, buying, need, relationship, content, or solutions until the route to congruent change is defined and agreed to. It’s change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue.
12. The last thing people want is to buy something. With their only criteria of ‘solution placement’, sellers often enter at the wrong time in the buying journey, ask the wrong questions, and offer the wrong data – and sell only to the low-hanging fruit (the 5% who have planned their route to change already).
13. Buyers buy using their own buying patterns, not a seller’s selling patterns. Using a specific type of sales effort further restricts the population of those who will buy.
14. There is a difference in goals, outcome, capability of changing, and level of buy-in between those who CAN/WILL buy (based on congruent change) vs those who sellers think SHOULD buy (based solely on need/solution match) and hence waste a helluva lot of time.
15. The time it takes people to come up with their complete set of buy-in and change-based answers is the time it takes them to make a decision to seek an external solution – i.e. become a buyer. It has nothing whatsoever to do with their need, your solution, or your relationship until they are certain they will end up with Systems Congruence. And THEN they are ready to discuss the full complement of needs, criteria for buying a solution, and seek a compatible relationship with a seller.
By only listening for clues that lead you to assume a ‘need’ for your solution, by entering into ‘relationships’ based on what you’re selling, by only asking questions to ‘prove’ a need/solution match (too often with only one or two members of the full Buying Decision Team [BDT]), you’re not only biasing the interaction, but limiting your sales to closing those who have gotten to the point when they’re ready, willing, able to change – the low hanging fruit; you’re missing the opportunity to enter earlier, develop a real relationship, and facilitate the path that people who CAN buy must take before they are buyers. The sales model does not facilitate systemic change issues; buyers can’t buy unless this occurs and sellers aren’t helping them, merely waiting for them to show up rather than doing the real job of relationship managers and facilitating through their necessary change issues.
HOW SALES RESTRICTS POSSIBILITY
Because we’ve restricted selling to placing solutions, people with problems we could resolve slowly figure out their own path to change while we sit and wait for those who have completed their process to show up. Prospective buyers, facing confusing choices, would be happy to have help navigating through their Pre-Sales systemic decision/change process and adding a true facilitator onto their BDT.
Right now, you’re seeking out those people you’ve determined SHOULD buy (and getting ignored, misaligned, dropped, etc.) and ignoring ways to facilitate those who CAN buy but haven’t yet become buyers. If you enter with a Change Facilitation focus, it’s possible to find those who CAN buy on the first call, and use your relationship and knowledge to facilitate them through the steps of the change management process first, and THEN be there as they determine the need for your solution.
By adding a Change Facilitation processes to your upfront tools (seller-, marketing-, or software-led) you can enter at any step along the Buying Decision Path and be part of the BDT to help them get their ducks in a row. Then you’ve gotten ahead of the competition, reduce your sales cycle by half, only connect with those who WILL buy, close a helluva lot more sales (my clients close 5x more than the control groups using the same lists), and truly serve the people who need you.
I’ve developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that uses wholly unique skills (Listening for Systems, Facilitative Questions, etc.) to facilitate the discovery of a congruent route to Excellence. A generic model used for coaching, management, leadership, healthcare, I’ve been quite successful teaching it to global corporations ( i.e. IBM, Kaiser, Wachovia, KPMG, etc.) to increase their sales. Currently you’re now wasting 95% of your time running after those few who have finally arrived at step 10 – the low hanging fruit – ignoring the much larger pool of those who are on route, and fighting for a competitive advantage.
By adding new functionality to your sales model, you can enter earlier, be a Servant Leader, and facilitate congruent change and THEN be on board and accepted as a provider as they go through their buying decision process. It’s NOT sales; it’s NOT selling/purchase-based; it IS change-based. Right now you’re waiting while buyers do it anyway (or merely running after those you THINK have a need but end up fixing the problem in other ways). Why not add a skill set, stop wasting time/effort, and close more. Then you’ll never be ‘misaligned.’
Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader in two industries – sales and listening. Her original thinking on facilitating congruent decisions is the basis of apps and experiments.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader. As the originator of Change Facilitation, she invented Buying Facilitation® for the sales industry; she’s trained over 100,000 sellers globally to diverse industries and cultures. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew works with individuals and teams as a coach, speaker, trainer, and consultant, in sales, change implementations, healthcare, technology. Her work on listening without bias has been called ‘game-changing’ and is used by corporations globally. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Drew Morgen October 15th, 2018
Posted In: Sales
I moved to London in 1983 to start up a tech company after spending years as a successful sales person. After years of ‘understanding’ and ‘qualifying’ prospects, getting appointments and networking, presenting and following up, I thought I understood buyers well-enough to become one. But I was wrong. My new role taught me the differences between selling and buying: I hadn’t realized how the complexity of my Pre-Sales activity determined whether or not I’d buy:
As a sales professional my ultimate job was to place solutions; as a buyer, my main focus was to create and maintain Excellence.
As a sales professional I struggled to say/offer the right thing, at the right time, to the right prospects, in order to close; as an entrepreneur and potential buyer I had to continually manage change using the most efficient, integrous, and least disruptive route to success to maintain happy employees and clients, and a great product.
As a sales professional, I sought to influence those who needed my solution; as a buyer, I couldn’t fully define my needs, make adjustments, or resolve problems, until all voices and impediments to change were factored in.
Selling and buying were different: different goals, different behaviors, different communication and thinking patterns. And before becoming a buyer myself, I hadn’t fully appreciated how severely the sales model limits itself to seeking and finding only the low hanging fruit – those who have gone through their internal systems checks and realized they cannot fix their problem themselves and know, precisely, the sort of solution that would be acceptable and cost effective.
As a buyer, the very last thing I needed was to buy. But when I did buy, it was based on my ability to manage change without disruption, not on my need. Even though I had needs, my vendors didn’t close me until almost a year after they met me; if they had entered to first help me address my change I could have closed/bought months earlier.
THE JOB OF A BUYER
As a buyer, my problem was not having needs but in addressing any disruption I’d face in addressing the needs: before bringing in anything new in, I had to first enable congruent change along a murky path between the status quo, and Excellence and respect
The challenge was to be better without losing what worked successfully, to ensure
– everyone involved agreed to a common solution,
– I had consensus and a route through to congruent change,
– I was absolutely certain I couldn’t fix the problem with something convenient or familiar,
– I managed a range of idiosyncratic decision factors that involved my investors, my Board, my staff,
– I had all my ducks in a row and considered any needs in terms of systems congruence, and
– I made sure any change or purchase maintained our status quo or created a new one congruently.
Even though I was the Managing Director/Founder, it wasn’t totally up to me how, if, or when to resolve problems. I had a well-oiled machine to consider, one that had a few problems, but did a lot successfully; I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I had to discern how to reach Excellence in the most efficient way and create the least disruption to the employees, company and investors. And the last thing – the very last thing – I needed was to buy anything.
– Who did I need to get agreement from? And how would their combined voices shift the thoughts on the needs, the outcome, and the process? What was the fallout if I forgot some of the voices?
– What would be the inflection point between the risk of change and the reward of Excellence?
– How could we fix the problem ourselves? At what point would we realize we couldn’t?
– How could we be certain that the people, policies, rules, and goals we had in place would fit comfortably – would buy-in – with anything new we might do? And was it possible to know the downside?
Once I realized that my needs were not the driving factors, and the change issue was a problem of Systems Congruence (I had to maintain what worked and find a way to expand the status quo to adopt the new) I used my Asperger’s systems-thinking brain to code the 13 steps from problems to Excellence and design a change facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) so my sales staff could sell more:
The change process we all went through was idiosyncratic and iterative (My book Dirty Little Secrets describes the process.). No outsider would ever understand what was involved during our change process; even I didn’t understand what would be involved when I began. What surprised me most was that only the last 4 steps were involved with making a purchase. And my journey to a purchase was defined by my Buying Decision Path. Indeed, I coined this entire process the Buyer’s Journey.
A WALK THROUGH THE BUYER’S JOURNEY
Initially, like all buyers, I didn’t know what I didn’t know: I didn’t know WHO really needed to be involved (It wasn’t obvious due to the hidden influence from some of the folks peripherally involved.); I couldn’t know if we could FIX THE PROBLEM OURSELVES (Once we reached consensus as to the nature of the problem, we needed to attempt to use our most familiar resolutions.); I didn’t know IF I needed to buy anything (I merely wanted excellence. A purchase is disruptive and couldn’t be considered until all else was proven lacking.); and it wasn’t until there were no other options, did we consider seeking an outside solution.
In other words, even though we had needs, buying anything was not the objective nor the first thought. When I had an idea of something that needed improvement I needed to hear from the appropriate folks to flush out their issues before we’d have a complete fact pattern; we all had to agree to the goals, direction, outcomes, results, risks, and path to change – confusing because every voice and job title had different priorities, needs, and problems. It was a delicate process, and there was no clear path forward until we were almost at the end of the path. Every buyer goes through some form of this; they never begin at the end where sales enters.
This is where buyers go when they’re silent. They’re not dragging their heels or seeking lower prices; they need to traverse their entire Buying Journey to get to the point of even becoming a buyer. And the process of navigating through the people and policies within the status quo to garner consensus for a potentially disruptive change is a confusing process. It certainly can’t be driven by knowing about, or considering, an external solution.
As a seller I recommended my prospects include the ‘right’ people; I even attempted to help them make good decisions. But I was an outsider. And I was biased by my directive of wanting to sell, or understanding how my solution would fit; no one from outside the system could ever understand the internal politics and relationship issues to be managed. As an entrepreneur there was no one to guide me through this; not schooled in systems thinking, I had to figure out how to navigate this minefield on my own.
This is the Buyer’s Journey – the route from the problem recognition, to the assembling of the appropriate people (idiosyncratic; not obvious), to the research and trials and workarounds to fix the problem with known resources, to the change management issues, to the point of defining the type of solution that will resolve the problem with least disruption.
The act of selling, I realized, does not create buying. But with a different hat on, by entering first as Change Facilitators, sellers could enter the Buyer’s Journey at the beginning and efficiently help prospects navigate through the confusion first, to enable those who will buy, end contact immediately with those who cannot, and then gather data, pitch, and sell with very specific data and a familiar buyer.
NAVIGATING THROUGH THE ENTIRE JOURNEY: THE JOB OF BUYING FACILITATION®
My own sellers used Buying Facilitation® as their first tool even when prospects would call in to us, to guide buyers through their own 13 steps, and then sell to the ones who had all their ducks in a row (We had an eight-fold increase in sales). The time it takes buyers to navigate these steps is the length of the sales cycle. And buyers must do this anyway – so it might as well be with us. Sellers wait (and wait) while buyers do this and then hopefully be there to pick off the low-hanging-fruit. Might as well start at the beginning, be Servant Leaders, and find/close more buyers.
As part of Buying Facilitation® I coined the terms Buyer’s Journey, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Path, Buying Patterns, Buying Decision Team, and Helping Buyers Buy between 1985 and 1993:
Buying Decision Path represents the set of 13 steps from problem recognition and garnering consensus, through to recognizing and managing change in a way that enhances the status quo – all before getting to the stage of purchasing anything. It’s possible to facilitate and discover those who could buy and efficiently help them navigate the steps to purchase and get into the Buying Decision Team. A buying decision is a change management process.
Buy Cycle represents the time it takes from recognition to Excellence, from seeking internal solutions to making a purchase. It’s a change management process, not a solution choice process.
Buying Patterns explains the unique and idiosyncratic actions each buyer takes along their journey to Excellence.
Buyer’s Journey includes the full fact pattern and set of decision and change issues between discovery and decision to buy anything and manage change. This is not merely a journey to a purchase. It’s a journey to Excellence.
Buying Facilitation® is a generic change facilitation model for influencers (sellers, coaches, leaders, managers) that helps buyers traverse and uncover their hidden path to change with Systems Congruence and consensus. It includes a unique set of tools that includes Listening for Systems, a Choice Model, and Facilitative Questions. Buying Facilitation® demands a systems thinking brain and eschews trying to sell anything until or unless the buyer knows exactly what they need and how they need to buy – the first 9 steps of their Buying Journey. After all, you’ve got nothing to sell until they have something to buy. And all the information you share isn’t relevant until then.
All buyers – even individuals buying a toothbrush, as well as complex sales – go through some sort of internal change management before they’re set up to buy. It’s about the buying, not about the selling – two different activities. Do you want to sell? or have someone buy? By putting on a consulting/coaching/
BUYING FACILITATION® FACILITATES THE BUYER’S JOURNEY
Here’s what we don’t know as sellers when we first reach out to buyers to understand need or find a prospect:
The sales model does a great job placing solutions, but expends too much energy seeking those few who have completed their completed Buyer’s Journey and are at the point of being ready/able to buy. Sales believes a prospect is someone who SHOULD buy; Buying Facilitation® believes a prospect is someone who CAN buy and has the tools to invest in efficiently facilitating the Buyer’s Journey from the first moment of the first call, and THEN selling. to those who are indeed buyers.
For less time and resource, we can actually lead buyers down their own change route and recognize who will, or won’t, be a buyer. In one conversation we can help them discern who they need to include on their Buying Decision Team; if we wish an appointment, the entire Decision Team will be eagerly awaiting us. On the first call we can find buyers at different stages along their journey who need our solutions but aren’t yet ready to buy. We just can’t use the sales model until after it’s established who is actually a buyer.
The differentiating factor is that we start out not trying to sell, or qualify, or determine needs (You’re now only closing less than 5%, so obviously that approach isn’t so successful.) but as Change Facilitators, with the goal to help Buyers manage their OWN Buying Decision Path; we trust that our buyers have their own answers, and our solutions may be a part of their solution. We’re outsiders; we can never know the intricate politics and history of a buyer’s environment.
Let’s enter earlier with a change consultant hat on, to actually facilitate buyers to the point where they could be ready to buy – and THEN sell. We will find 8x more prospects, immediately recognize those who can never buy, and be true Servant Leaders. Otherwise we’re merely wasting over 95% of our time and resource seeking the low hanging fruit, and missing a vital opportunity to find, and close, those who WILL buy.And more will buy, and quicker.
I know that some of the recognized sales models (Challenger) talk about ‘buying’. But they are using ‘buyer-based’ terms in service to placing solutions, of finding ways to influence, persuade, or manipulate buying. But buyers don’t buy that way. They first need to navigate through their entire Buyer’s Journey. Help them. Then sell.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the the original thinker and visionary behind Buying Facilitation®. She has trained the model globally to over 100,000 people world-wide in sales, coaching, leadership, and change management. Sharon Drew is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller Dirty Little Secrets, and other books on how buyers buy. She is also the author of the game changer What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and teaches listening and communication to ensure we all hear each other accurately. Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, consultant, coach, and author. email@example.com
Sharon Drew Morgen September 17th, 2018
Your solution is great. You know the narrative of the type of buyers who buy. You’re writing appropriate content and getting it out to the right demographic. But you’re still closing less than 5% from first contact and spending a ton of resource finding different ways to touch the same people as your competition touches – in hopes that you’ll have the right message that catches them at the right time, or just grind them down.
Why aren’t more buyers buying? Do you know why your well-executed sales outreach programs – salesperson, social media, digital media, marketing – don’t elicit more closed sales?
DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?
You’re not closing more because you’re messages target a restricted audience, those who have already
and then you and your competitors work tirelessly to grab from that small pool of ready buyers. Seeking those you believe are probable buyers (those who SHOULD buy) limits your spectrum of buyers to those at the end of their decision path (beginning at step 10 of 13 steps. See steps below.) and concluded they not only need to buy something, but are prepared for any change a purchase will cause.
We forget that a buying decision is primarily a change management problem, not a solution choice issue (Indeed, the last thing buyers want is to buy anything. Literally: the last thing.). By acting as if selling causes buying, we disregard the internal, private, idiosyncratic, systemic change management work buyers must do before they’ve got their ducks in a row and are ready; until then, they can’t buy regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution.
The sales model only handles the solution choice/buying portion of the complete Buying Decision Path targeting those you believe have a probable ‘need’ – the low hanging fruit – and have completed their journey to Buyer Readiness. But this is merely a fraction of those who will eventually buy.
Here are the problems you face when targeting probably buyers who don’t yet have all their ducks in a row:
Sure, you’re making great information available for those who know what to look for and are ready to engage. But by adding a new component, you could be entering earlier and facilitating the full range of steps along the buying decision process – those that are not acessible with the sales model. The problem has never been your terrific solution but in closing all the sales you deserve to close. It’s because sales is solution-placement driven, seeking optimal ways to get to probable buyers but ignores the much higher pool of real prospects who aren’t far enough down their buyer’s journey to commit or engage.
SELLING DOESN’T CAUSE BUYING
As a solution placement model, the sales model is great for when buyers have determined they cannot resolve their solution on their own and have gotten the appropriate buy in for change. But for those buyers who SHOULD buy but haven’t yet determined if they CAN buy, sales doesn’t have the intent, skills, or focus on facilitating the Systems Congruence steps buyers must take first. Sales wasn’t created to do that.
The ‘modern’ sales model was developed by Dale Carnegie, introduced in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People (1937). He promoted relationships, face-to-face visits, finding folks with a need, and developing great pitches. Think about it: while there are certainly a helluva lot more bells and whistles in 2017, the basic skeleton of need/relationship/appointment/
If prospective buyers might need a new CRM system, for example, they cannot buy until their tech guys, users, time frames, vendor relationships, current software etc. are in agreement, recognize they can’t fix their problem themselves, and have assembled everyone who will touch the final solution to integrate the ‘new’. It’s not merely about the need; making a purchase means change and until all ‘givens’ are known and handled, the cost of a purchase is too high and they’ll maintain their status quo. And the time it takes them to manage all this is the length of the sales cycle. Having some good conversations with your sales guy, reading some good articles, and liking/needing your solution are necessary later, once they’ve finished their Pre-Sales change work.
The early portion of the decision path is based on managing internal shifts in the status quo, existent rules, internal politics, and relationships, and is decidedly not concerned with buying anything; the sales model is not the appropriate tool for this. Buyers don’t want to buy anything. They just want to resolve a problem with the least disruption and the most efficient use of resource.
All prospects/buyers must do this anyway, with you or without you. It might as well be with you. It’s what they’re doing (inefficiently, and in confusion) as you sit and wait and hope they’ll call and buy. Why not use your industry knowledge to help them figure out how to traverse their steps efficiently? With a different hat on and a new skill set, you can facilitate them quickly through their process and be right there with them as they decide. You want to seek/find those exact ones who CAN/WILL buy.
STAGES IN THE BUYING DECISION PATH
To design messaging to find buyers earlier in their Buying Decision Path, recognize the steps buyers take to be ready and able to purchase:
1. Idea stage: Is there a problem?
a. Does it need to be solved? When? How?
b. What’s the fallout?
c. Is the cost of a fix lower than the cost of the status quo?
d. Who needs to be involved?
2. Brainstorming stage: Idea discussed with colleagues.
3. Initial discussion stage: Colleagues discuss the problem, posit who to include on Buying Decision Team, consider possible fixes and fallout. Action groups formed. Research begins. New team members invited.
4. Contemplation stage: Group discusses:
a. Known resources to fix the problem (workarounds) and acceptable/fallout from each;
b. People who would need to buy-in.
5. Organization stage: Group collects all internal issues that need consideration, including finding more folks to invite into process; research into the elements of the status quo; fallout to change. Begins to assess the entire scope of problem, resolution possibilities, cost of change/no change.
6. Change management stage: Group to determine:
a. Types of research necessary (and who will do it),
b. If all appropriate people are involved (and who else to invite),
c. A review of all elements of the problem and solution options,
d. How much disruption and change management would be required,
e. The pros/cons/possibilities of external solutions vs current vendor vs workaround.
7. Coordination stage:
a. Review needs, ideas, issues of new members invited aboard and how their voices affect choices, goals, and implementation problems;
b. Incorporate change considerations;
c. Delineate everyone’s thoughts re goals and change capacity;
d. Appropriate research responsibilities.
8. Research stage: Specific research for each possible solution; seek answers to how fallout and change would need to be managed with each solution.
9. Consensus stage: Buying Decision Team meets to share research consider their givens: downsides per type of solution, possibilities, outcomes, problems, management considerations, changes in policy, job description changes, HR issues, etc. General decisions made. Buy-in and consensus necessary.
10. Action stage: Responsibilities apportioned to manage the specifics of Stage 9. Calls made to several vendors for interviews and data gathering.
11. Second brainstorming stage: Discussion on results of data gathering, calls with vendors and partners, and fallout/benefits of each. Favored vendors pitched by team members.
12. Choice stage: New solution agreed on. Change management issues delineated and put in place. Leadership initiatives prepared to avoid disruption.
13. Implementation stage: Vendor contacted. Purchase made. Everything put in place.
For those who want to explore these stages and all elements of how buyers buy, see my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it (www. Dirtylittlesecretsbook.com).
A NEED ISN’T ENOUGH
Instead of only targeting probable buyers and ignoring the much larger pool of real buyers who are merely too early in their decision process to consider buying anything (but will, once they get to that point in their process), add a new target market and new messaging: Code the off-line process your buyers traverse, and use your new messaging to help the right ones get ready. Note: you can’t use your current messaging as that’s the wrong tool for this because it’s not information, need, solution, or sales driven. You need a new skill to facilitate change. To manage this Pre-Sales work, and as an adjunct to the sales model, I’ve developed Buying Facilitation® to
Buying Facilitation® is a generic change management, decision facilitation model that can help buyers traverse that part of their journey that sales doesn’t handle. Using unique skill sets not involved in sales (Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, change sequencing) it was designed to optimize the change/decision process. By adding some new messaging and Buyer Persona targets, you can find those who aren’t touched by your sales messages but are in the process of becoming buyers.
By adding new messaging to target those who CAN/WILL buy rather than those you’ve determine might have a ‘need’ (probable buyers), by understanding the Pre-Sales (change management) steps all buyers take, by including messaging that teaches them how to address their internal resistance areas, disparate voices and needs, you can facilitate the Pre-Sales decision path of those who CAN/WILL buy and enable them to ready themselves for a purchase – and your sales messaging. Here are two examples of success after learning Buying Facilitation®:
Kaiser Permanente initially made 110 visits and got 18 closed sales, wasting too much time traveling to those who COULDN’T/WOULDN’T buy. Adding Buying Facilitation® to their sales, they made 27 visit and got 25 closed sales. They still needed to sell – but only to those who were ready/able to buy. And saved a ton of time/money only traveling to those who were real buyers.
Working with Wachovia small business bankers, they went from 100 calls, 10 appointments, and 2 closed sales over 11 months, to 100 calls, 37 appointments, and 29 closed sales in 3 months. The sales folks’ opening Facilitative Question taught prospects how to do an immediate ‘sort’ for change, rather than need, and got invited to visit and meet all (all) the team members for their first appointment:
How are you adding new banking services to the bank you’re currently using for those times you need additional resource?
Know all – all – of the elements (most are hidden, personal and idiosyncratic) of your buyer’s Pre-Sales decision/change steps so you can design messaging to help them traverse their steps (Note: offering information about your solution here is irrelevant)to change and consensus – and THEN sell. We wait while they do this anyway and run after the ones who have completed this journey. Why not add a new criteria and skill set to what you’re already doing and expand your focus to find those who WILL buy.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader, the author of 1700 articles and 9 books including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling With Integrity and two Amazon bestsellers: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell , and the game changing What? Did you really say what I think I heard? that explains, and fixes, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew is the inventor of a Change Facilitation model that gives influencers a unique set of tools to facilitate congruent change for buyers in sales (Buying Facilitation®), leadership, coaching, and management. She is an inventor, speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach. Her award-winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com carri
Sharon Drew Morgen April 30th, 2018
Because of your sophisticated tracking and targeting, you know who’s reading your content. But do you know why they’re reading it? And how are you accessing those who could/should buy but are ignoring the articles your sending them?
Content is written with different reasons in mind: for Buyer Personas to learn about your solution as early along their decision path as possible; for brand recognition; to gain followers; to make a sale. We write with a narrow focus to reach our target market and use every means at our disposal to distribute and track it, hoping that it will help us make a sale or find more followers.
DATA VS DECISIONS
But how do you know if this content, with these ideas and these words, written in this style, will enable those seeking a new solution to recognize they need you? Not only are you seeking a reader you can’t fully know (Why are they reading the content? No. Really. Why? And how many possible buyers reject it because they’re not ready yet?), you’re hoping, guessing, tracking, targeting, and crossing your fingers in hopes it will get into the right hands at the right time to take action.
But your glorious content – sometimes little more than a thinly veiled advertisement – may not be getting you all the success you deserve. You have a ceiling of a 5% success rate (less than 1% for content marketing) because you’re limiting your readership to those who have already decided on their next actions. By sticking to data push, you’re missing an opportunity to make your content an interactive experience that enable the act of decision making. With a few adjustments, you can create content that can be used to facilitate a sale and expand and enlist your audience.
The problem starts with the use of content marketing as part of your sales/solution placement toolkit. Certainly content marketing is great for explaining, pitching, writing about, introducing, and presenting data about our solutions. But this usage limits our target audience to those who are ready to buy, and are also perusing competitive data.
When you think about the early activity within the act of buying – the Pre-Sales, change management, decision issues that include 13 steps to consensus/action (9 of which are Pre-Sales and not ‘needs’ or ‘buying’ related) – there’s a huge swath of prospective buyers who aren’t reading your content as it is because they’re not ready, but could easily be made ready with content that fits into the route of their Pre-Sales change management decisions. You can develop different types of relevant content so you’re with them each step of the way, even before they’re aware they might need you.
See, prior to deciding on a solution, buyers have some change work to do that’s systemic in nature and vital to them maintaining Systems Congruence – the rules, initiatives, relationships, and history of their culture and environment. They can’t just wake up one day, see your content, and drop everything and everyone mindlessly to do what you want them to do. No one buys like that.
Thinking that a prospective buyer ‘needs’ your content, or will be convinced or influenced to take action before they’re ready, is magical thinking and needlessly restricts your audience. Obvious, no? Before anyone buys anything they do research, get input and alternate ideas from friends/colleagues, discern the potential fallout, trial different possibilities, and ultimately get agreement to move forward. You content is only relevant when they’ve handled all of this. By pushing your message, you’re restricting buying. You can use content marketing to facilitate the process.
When it was time to begin marketing my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I had a problem. Known for my Buying Facilitation® material in the sales industry, I had no obvious audience in communication or listening. I had to attract a new audience: find new readers AND shift from being a ‘sales’ expert to a ‘communication’ expert. My goal was to offer corporate teams a one-day Listening Without Bias training. To do that I needed readers to first buy my book.
Realizing I’d need buy-in to run an in-house program, I wrote an article that would attract the largest population of readers because of the universal problems involved: meetings. I wrote a very helpful article on meetings that offered both a clear description of the inherent problems and offered very creative, tough, usable solutions to make them creative, collaborative, and results-oriented. I never mentioned anything to do with listening. There was no manipulation or commercial overlay in the article, no links to listening/book links appeared only in the footer.
I got dozens of ‘Thank You’ notes from readers I’d never heard of, saying they’d sent/shared my article among hundreds of employees, friends, and colleagues. Many, many people shared the article on social media, bringing me new readers and subscribers outside my natural market. The article was ranked as one of my best-read articles, with thousands reading it the first few days. And my book sales went through the rood: I had a 51% conversion rate.
So yes, content is vital. But it can be read by more prospective buyers, earlier in their decision path. Start by understanding each of the Pre-Sales issues (i.e. systemic changed-based, not ‘need’ based or solution-based) your buyers must address with their colleagues and partners, and then write articles that will help them along their normal route to making the internal decisions they’d need to make before they can buy. Then you’ll have proven your worth and be familiar to them. By the time they’re ready to buy and have all their internal ducks in a row, they’ll seek out your content.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and visionary in systemic change in sales, coaching, leadership, collaboration, and listening. She is the author of 9 books, including Selling with Integrity and What?, as well as 1700 articles on buyer readiness, decision facilitation, and collaboration on her award-winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com.
Sharon Drew is the developer of the Servant Leader change model Buying Facilitation®, that gives sellers the tools to help buyers (and clients, and patients, etc.) manage their Pre-Sales/Pre-Change decisions. Sharon Drew has worked with many Fortune 1000 companies such as IBM, DuPont, Kaiser, Bose, and GE. She is a speaker, coach, consultant, and original thinker. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen April 16th, 2018
I’ve recently heard sales folks complain that the status quo was the ‘enemy’ of buyers buying. Nonsense. It’s just another element along the buyer’s decision path that must be addressed, and can be directed, codified, and influenced – but not with a sales hat on. Let’s consider the, um, status quo: When does a buyer buy? When they’re ready – regardless of their need. When is a buyer ready? When their stable status quo recognizes it cannot fix any problems with known resources and is prepared to change in a way that won’t cause irreparable disruption. A buying decision (any decision, frankly) is a change management problem. Here are the basics:
Ready: Ready means that
In other words, even if buyers need your solution, they can’t buy if the cost of disruption is higher than the cost of the solution implementation. And here is the frustrating part for us: Any change must be initiated, managed, and maintained from within the system because no outsider can understand the nuances of a status quo they are not part of. Here is a rule: until they know how to manage any change that would be incurred as a result of a purchase, prospective buyers cannot buy regardless of need.
Status quo: The status quo is
The status quo keeps us operating congruently every moment of every day. It doesn’t judge right or wrong; it doesn’t recognize good or bad. It’s just ‘what is’. To become a different ‘what is’ it would have to change. And change means disruption, potentially a breakdown or interruption of normal operating. Although a natural occurrence – we move house, make new friends, take a new jobs, buy new clothes – we won’t substantially change unless we are assured we avoid disruption, confusion, and uncertainty.
THE PROBLEM WITH CHANGING THE STATUS QUO
The norms and values within a status quo have been normalized; right or wrong, good or bad, we function in a pre-ordained way day after day. Anything – anything – threatening this habitual functioning will be resisted. I remember sitting on the floor of a hut in the Ecuadorian Amazon, sharing a meal with an indigenous family. My women travel friends were warned not to smile at the local boys who showed up to stare, as a smile was an invite to bed. After imbibing liberally on the local and highly fermented ‘chi cha’, everyone was drunkenly smiling – a cultural imperative for Americans – and the boys surrounded us like bees in a flower garden. Our host had to usher the swarming, eager boys out, offering a frustrated glare at us en route. The rules of our cultural status quo included being friendly to strangers; the rules of their status quo included avoiding women unless invited.
As individuals, our status quo has been formed by our subjective life experiences: the rules, beliefs, and thinking that we learn from our parents and grandparents, our schooling and birthplace, our education and work life, our friends and family. Our life choices, our communication patterns, our choice of mates and jobs all maintain our status quo. Doing anything different threatens our very core.
As members of teams, groups, or relationships, our status quo has more moving parts, including individual needs, rules for collaboration and communication, politics, corporate regs, and the historic relationships. For our clients, it’s imperative they maintain their status quo or they cannot get up day after day and run a business.
At the point we meet clients they are a walking bouquet of normalized elements that make no sense to anyone outside the group (or even inside the group sometimes). When we try to push change, the offered information is seen as foreign and will be resisted regardless of its efficacy. Until or unless the status quo knows how to add something new in a way that conforms to its baseline (and unconscious) rules, and understands that no permanent damage will occur, it won’t be willing/able to shift behaviors, learn new habits/patterns, or accept new ideas or solutions. In other words, no change can happen.
SALES, BUY-IN, CHANGE, AND THE STATUS QUO
Changing the status quo is a challenge of Systems Congruence; the new must fit comfortably with the habitual so the person or team can continue functioning normally.
For buyers, the time it takes them to figure out how to do this is the length of the sales cycle. It’s a systems/change thing, not a purchase/fix thing. But facilitating congruent change hasn’t been part of the sales skill set: with our solution-placement agenda, we limit our prospect population by seeking those who may be ready now or soon; too often we wait (and wait and hope) while those we deem appropriate complete this. We don’t take into account that sellers (or any influencers) are outsiders who can never understand how the status quo is kept in place, or add something to it.
Offered too early our data, or pitch, or ‘rational argument’ is not seen as a reason to buy but as threats to the balance of the status quo when it may not be prepared to change. Sometimes our solution is not recognized as being needed because the Buying Decision Team hasn’t yet been fully assembled and needs haven’t been fully elicited. Sometimes they know they have a need but haven’t determined how to change congruently yet, or tried out all of the internal workarounds that might offer a resolution.
It’s certainly possible that at the time we’re getting “No’s” our prospects are merely at a stuck stage and can easily move beyond it once they get understanding or internal agreement. When I hear sellers say that the status quo is ‘the enemy’ I know they are attempting to push against it with data, contacts, media. As I said above, nothing – not our brilliant pitches or presentations or charming personalities – from the outside will sway this stable beast.
But there is a way to help our buyers facilitate the 13 steps to congruent change as part of our initiative. Instead of spending so much resource seeking only those who are ready (the low hanging fruit), we can recognize, and enter earlier, with those who will buy, and help them shift their status quo from within, using their own values and rules to seek and accept new solutions. It will require, however, an addition to the status quo of the selling model.
HOW THE STATUS QUO CHANGES
Let’s begin by understanding how the status quo adopts change (I wrote a book on this. Read two free chapters: www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com
Rule: status quo must recognize rules, beliefs, norms, that must be maintained before considering change to avoid resistance and systems incongruence.
To add anything foreign from the outside, the new must get buy-in from any people, policies, rules, and politics that would be affected. All change must be accompanied by a re-weighting of the norms of the status quo. The status quo itself must know exactly how it will be effected by anything new, and if it’s worth it to spend the energy mitigating itself to adopt. For this, everyone involved in maintaining the status quo must have a hand in defining the elements and understanding how change would effect it.
Rule: assemble everyone/everything that makes up the status quo to determine how, if, why, when any change would be required or accepted.
Once the status quo is coded, everyone/everything has bought in to change, the fallout from change must be considered and strategized. Change must be systemic and based on the values and rules that maintain it. Certainly no one from outside can cause the change.
Rule: every element within the status quo must understand the potential fallout to change, and be willing to consider ways to adapt to, or align with, the new, or it will resist change regardless of the rewards.
Unfortunately, the sales model doesn’t include this level of change facilitation; it occurs privately within the buying environment, during what sellers call the Pre-Sales, hidden, and highly personal portion of a pre-buying decision. I developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that gives sellers a new tool kit to use with sales to manage systemic change and buy-in. I’ve trained it with terrific results for decades. But make no mistake: it’s not a normal part of the selling process.
The question is whether or not you want to change: to continue seeking those who have already accomplished this change management, or seek those you can lead through it as a change consultant first. You’d need to avoid gathering data and stop pitching until this has occurred and instead, begin by listening for systems and facilitating change. But then you’d have approximately 40% more real prospects who are ready, willing, and able to buy.
Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. To facilitate buying, you must enter earlier as a Servant Leader and be willing to first be a change agent. Then you’d find and facilitate the journey with those who really need your solution but haven’t completed shifting the status quo yet. Potential buyers must first do this, with you or without you, as we sit and wait, or miss the opportunity entirely. Instead of seeking those who have already finished this and are in the 5% you can sell to, why not find those who WILL buy, facilitate them through their change, and become part of their status quo. It actually takes less time and closes more. So much easier, kinder, and more profitable than chasing the low hanging fruit. You’d just have to change your status quo.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Buying Facilitation® – a generic change management model for influencers that facilitates the journey through the status quo to enable congruent, systemic change. It includes Listening for Systems, formulating Facilitative Questions, and enabling choice. She has trained the model to 100,000 sales folks in companies such as KPMG, IBM, DuPont, Clinique, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, FedEX, GEIS, HP, Wachovia, Morgan Stanley, and Bose. Sharon Drew is the author of 7 books on this including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller Dirty Little Secrets. Sharon Drew’s most recent book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? breaks down the gap between what folks say and what is heard. She is an original thinker and visionary who trained, speaks, consults, and coaches. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen March 26th, 2018
BIG IDEA: Buyers can’t buy until they’ve handled all of their internal stuff and everyone involved agrees they’re ready, willing, and able to bring in something new. With a solution-placement focus, sales and marketing limit us to finding only those who have completed those tasks and deem themselves ready to engage – the low hanging fruit.
PROBLEM: The problem is not in getting our solution sold; it’s in getting our solution bought. Buyers have Pre-Sales work to do that doesn’t involve the content we spend a lot of resource trying to push on them. Our sales and marketing efforts are set to seek ways to ‘get in’, get read, or determine ‘need’, ignoring the buyer’s need to figure out how to do their real change work: to assemble the most appropriate people, get consensus, try workarounds, and manage change. Because of the selling biases in our listening and questioning, we extract partial data, from people who don’t have the full fact pattern yet; promised dates get ignored; people disappear; there is no buy-in. We waste our time pushing content and waiting, hoping they’ll buy, instead of entering earlier to facilitate the change with them.
PROBLEM: The flaw in the sales model: designed to place solutions, sales starts selling before buyers are ready/able to buy, restricting success to those who deem themselves ready- the low hanging fruit (5%). Indeed, buyers don’t want to buy anything: they just want to solve a (business) problem with the least disruption.
PROBLEM: The status quo is preferred and is the basis of decision making. Regardless of a buyer’s real need, or the relevance of our solution; regardless of relationship or pitch/content/price; it is only when there is buy-in for systemic change, and an action plan that manages disruption, will buyers investigate the most agreeable solution. This holds true regardless of type or price of solution.
SOLUTION: Buying Facilitation® is a unique consulting model that facilitates change and decision making. Used with the sales model, it enters the buyer’s buying decision process to facilitate excellence, teaching buyers how to manage all the systems/change stuff they must do: recognize and manage all of the back-end, idiosyncratic, internal issues they must address before they can consider a change in the area our solution can help in (i.e. you’re not helping them determine if they need new software if you sell leadership training.). It can be used with small personal products, cold calls, help desks, complex sales, and marketing.
A non-biased change management model, BF uses a new form of listening (Listening for Systems) and a new form of direction-driven/non-biased question (Facilitative Question) to facilitate our buyer’s journey through the steps of change only they can make – change that would include our solution for those ready. Once BF has supported buyers through the steps of their decision making, we are already in place, on their team. Makes it much easier to sell.
A buying decision is a change management problem. Buyers must handle stuff, with us or without us: we’ve always sat and waited (and called, sent, called, pitched, prayed, waited) while they do this themselves. If we can collaborate with them as consultants (change facilitators, not solution providers – and this is an important distinction), we’ll serve them from the beginning, making the process more efficient for those who are the real prospects, eliminating the rest immediately, and being on board when they’re ready. [Read my book on this: www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com
CASE STUDY USING BUYING FACILITATION®
Let me lead you through one simple case study from a group of small business bankers I trained for one of the 3 major US banks. Their numbers after the training were quite impressive compared to the control group:
A. Control group Sales: 100 calls, 10 appointments, 2 closed sales in 11 months.
B. Buying Facilitation®: 100 calls, 37 appointments, 29 closed sales in 3 months.
While this might sound high, remember: interactions proceed differently using Buying Facilitation® because the focus isn’t to sell/push product/find a buyer (A) but to facilitate the entire buying decision path (B). We began immediately by helping them determine how they’d add a resource such as ours when they needed it:
“Hi. My name is John and I’m a small business banker from X bank. This is a sales call. I’m wondering: How are you currently adding new banking resources for those times your current bank can’t give you what you need to keep your business operating optimally?”
Here’s the thinking: Given all small businesses have some banking relationship, the only businesses who would want to meet to discuss new banking services were; 1. those who weren’t happy with their current bank, or 2. had bankers who might not be able to provide what they might need. Attempting to get an appointment because ‘we want to understand your needs’ or ‘show you our new solutions’ etc. to prove we’re “better”, or to try to convince them to change suppliers, meant we would seem to be attacking their current vendors and current relationships. Not to mention pitching into a closed environment, leaving us hoping that the spaghetti would stick somewhere. That approach got a 90% refusal to even meet. Nope. No need to meet. We’ve got a bank, thank you.
By focusing on helping them determine how they’d manage if they needed more than their current providers could supply, and by helping them figure out where they could add a new resource without disrupting current working relationships, we vastly expanded the field of possible buyers and instantly eliminated those who would never buy. It proved a winning tactic: 37 made appointments just from that opening question (up from 10). During the field visit we helped them get buy-in and consensus to bring in an additional vendor – us. Win/win. Collaboration. True facilitation.
CONCLUSION: Buying Facilitation® is not sales, not a solution placement tool, not an information gathering tool, and not a persuasion tactic. It’s not content-driven, and sellers don’t try to understand a buyer’s needs until the time when the buyers 1. have the complete set of ‘givens’ they need in order to consider all of the elements of change (including, but not limited to, buying something); 2. are ready to adapt to change and there is consensus. There’s no manipulation, no persuasion, no influencing. It’s a win/win collaboration, servant leader model: we actually facilitate buyer readiness. I can’t say this enough: buyers go through this anyway, without us. We can push stuff at them while we wait for them to show up, or we can facilitate them through the length of it. It can be your competitive edge.
We can teach people how to change/buy; we can shorten the time to buy by making their change process efficient; we are helping them determine how, and when, they need us. It’s a facilitation, not a push. And we end up with real prospects who we’ve helped get ready to buy. Not to mention the collaboration, trust, respect, and integrity built into the interaction creates lasting relationships when used throughout the relationship.
The good news is that you can still sell – but use your time to sell to those who are indeed ready willing and able, rather than waste 90% of your time trying to manipulate, pitch, persuade, push, ‘get through the door’, network, write content, etc. You can help those who CAN buy get their ducks in a row and quickly eliminate those who will never buy because it will become obvious to you both. I’m not suggesting you don’t sell; I’m merely suggesting you spend your selling time only on those who WILL buy, and set that up by first facilitating prospective buyers down their own buying decision path.
Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities. Change your focus and sell more with a lot more collaboration and integrity Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Buying Facilitation®. She’s been training and licensing it world-wide since 1983 to companies such as DuPont, IBM, Kaiser, Bose, Morgan Stanley,Wachovia. Sharon Drew is the author of 7 books on the topic, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? that explores the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, coach, and business consultant. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen December 22nd, 2017
A participant at one of my onsite Buying Facilitation® trainings took me to his desk where he scrolled through pages of names of one-contact prospects who’d ignored his follow up attempts. “What do I do with all of these names? They’re buyers. How can I get them to take my call?”
I scrolled through the hundreds of names, noticed the many dates of attempted follow up after each name, and told him to give me his finger. “My finger?” “Yes”, I said. “Use it to press the delete key. You’re wasting your time.”
NEED DOES NOT EQUAL SALE
Doing what sales professionals are supposed to do, this salesman sought out potential prospects with a ‘need’ his solution could resolve, assuming need = prospect. With pages of names and untold wasted hours calling, calling, calling them back (time he could have used to find real buyers), valiantly seeking a sale among those he assumed most likely, there was something he wasn’t understanding: just because it seemed to him there was a fit, didn’t mean these people were buyers.
Walk this back with me: Sales professionals have been taught that a prospect is someone with a ‘need’ that matches the benefits of their solution – someone who SHOULD buy, or likely to be a candidate to buy – and with the ‘right’ course of action, they can convert this prospect to a buyer. But after years of coming up with ‘new’ sales methods, closing techniques, e-tools, etc. etc. that employ the ‘right’ approach to target prospects, introduce the content in the ‘best’ way with the most efficient messaging, and finding hundreds, thousands, with a supposed need who don’t buy, we know ‘need’ does not equal Sale.
The mystery to me is why we keep doing it and telling ourselves that, even with a 5% close rate, what we’re doing is working. Has it never occurred that just maybe we’re doing something wrong? The truth is, selling doesn’t cause buying. Yet we keep doing the same thing and accept as normal the low close rates and silence from those we deem buyers. Nothing in this process works efficiently. We
Sellers can’t even identify prospects who will buy from their pipeline. After asking hundreds of sellers who among their current prospects will definitely buy, no one, in my entire 35 years of sales training and consulting, ever has more than a guess. But that’s because it’s not possible to know who will be a buyer on the first call using the current sales focus of seeking people with ‘need’.
And herein lies the problem: by entering prospecting calls with goals, expectations, and listening patterns that assume we can recognize a real buyer, or when we find someone with a ‘need’ we’ve got a prospect, or by sending out content marketing cleverly introducing features and functions, we not only chase those who may never buy (the majority), but overlook an entirely different set of criteria for finding those who CAN buy: people who are willing and able to change. That’s right: the criteria for finding someone who will/can buy is wholly dependent on whether they are willing and able to change. For those of you who find this concept unusual, I’ll lead you through this.
CHANGE IS THE CRITERIA, NOT NEED
Did you buy a gym membership (or get coaching, or lose weight, or…) when you first recognized a ‘need’ or when you were (finally) ready to make a change? How long did you have the ‘need’ before you actually did something about it? When you finally took action, it had nothing to do with the gym membership or the coach; you were ready and willing to change, to take action now (yes, now), find the time, develop new habits, make it a priority over something else you were doing with that time, have the funds, etc. ‘Need’ may inspire a consideration to do something different, but does not constitute the action to do it.
When we enter a conversation believing that someone with a ‘need’ is a buyer, we ignore
Think about it: why would anyone spend time listening to a stranger (yes, you’re a stranger) or reading content, unless they want something? Here’s the rule: if someone is in the early stages of scoping stuff out and hasn’t yet realized they might need to buy something, or haven’t yet adjusted for how making a purchase would affect their status quo, they have no reason to spend time with you, regardless need, or the efficacy of your solution. Therefore, with our solution placement outreach methods we merely attract:
Even if we’re connecting in response to a request for more information or a referral, we’re entering as a solution seeking a problem without considering the range of activities (the internal change management elements) necessary before someone can buy. We forget that between recognizing a problem and taking actions to resolve it (adopt something new), essential steps must occur (I wrote a book on this. Take a look: www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com
In other words, sales shares data prematurely, before people even know what to listen for; listens for ‘buying signals’ that don’t exist; overlooks those who WILL become buyers but don’t yet understand they need us. Our prospects are restricted to the low hanging fruit who already know they need us, ensuring we play a numbers game as everyone fights to close the same pool of ready buyers. If they were fully cognizant of what they needed AND had the internal buy-in to make a purchase AND knew how much discombobulation they’d face, they would have gone online and contacted us already. To find real buyers on the first call, we need a different listening bias and goal to recognize those who are willing to change.
THE SALES MODEL RESTRICTS DISCOVERY
I’ve been told the ‘million dollar question’ is knowing who is a buyer on the first call. And yet, it’s simple. Here are two examples of me making a cold call to a Sales Director. I entered both conversations with the same Facilitative Question (FQ – a new form of question I developed that facilitates discovery without biasing choice or attempting to gather data): How are you currently adding new sales skills to the ones your folks now use for those times you seek to augment specific outcomes? Just from the responses to my opening question, it’s easy to recognize which person is a buyer.
Responder A: Every year I read 6 sales books. I then buy copies of my favorite one for each sales person, and ask them to meet once a month to discuss how to incorporate the ideas into their selling.
Responder B: Good question. I’ve certainly tried, but I haven’t been successful. I keep training my folks with the newest sales methods, and it hasn’t seemed to make a difference. Not sure if I’m using the right training methods, or I just need to fire all of my sales folks and start all over. Or maybe something we’re doing internally that’s causing the results. I sure wish I knew the answer.
Which one is the prospect? B, of course. Do they both have a need? Probably. But it’s clear who’d be willing to change. Notice I entered the conversation to help the prospect start thinking about change, not to try to find a match between my solution and a need, or find someone (um, the ‘decision maker?’) who would listen to a pitch (why do we assume that our glorious pitch and content will rule the day, after thousands of people ignore us?). Different from conventional sales approaches that enter to discover a ‘need’ or attempt to ‘gather information’, my opening FQ used vocabulary that restricted the conversation to where change would occur, while providing me information on their willingness to change.
And it’s quite important to understand that by entering the conversation with an entirely different focus, the rest of the conversation and the resultant human connection, the ability to find a real buyer and make a sale, is quite different from a seller entering to sell their solution.
The problem has never been our solution or their need. The part we’ve left out of sales is change. Every purchase, every add-on involves shifting the status quo in some way – assuredly causing some form of disruption; unless a prospect knows how change with minimal disruption they can’t buy anything regardless of their need or my solution. I ask you: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two distinctly different activities. And we’re only focused on the selling – all the while ignoring real buying opportunities that require some change facilitation rather than solution placement bias.
RECOGNIZING AND FACILITATING CHANGE BEFORE SELLING
Do you know what an exchange sounds like with a real buyer? Training Buying Facilitation® to small business bankers at Wachovia, we opened with a Facilitative Question that produced great results:“How are you currently adding new banking resources for those times you need additional support?” This question
Of course the discussion involved further facilitation, but this FQ opened the dialogue and, importantly, positioned the seller as a facilitator enabling Excellence rather than a sales person pushing solutions. Using this process, the results were profound: the control group, asking for appointments to present their new small business banking services, got 10 appointments out of 100, closing 2 in 11 months. Using Buying Facilitation® and starting with the above Facilitative Question (and no pitch!), my group got 39 appointments; they closed half in the first 2 months, then half of the remainder in the next month. So in 3 months, they closed approximately 30 prospects. Same list, same product. But by starting from a change consideration, we found – and then efficiently facilitated – real buyers. The other group merely uncovered those who recognized a willingness to seek a new banker but still weren’t in a position to change (i.e. notice the difference in closing times). The most interesting thing was how little time it took to close those willing to change once the seller facilitated the prospect through their change and buy-in determinants.
A buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue. Making a purchase or choosing a vendor is the last thing – the last thing – a prospect will do. If we eschew a ‘selling’ focus as an entry, and instead focus on change, we can find those willing and able to consider change and facilitate them through their steps of change – enlist buy-in; design a way to maintain what’s working while adding new solutions to ensure continuity; manage people issues and internal politics – changing with minimal disruption. But it demands an entirely different skill set and entry point.
My Buying Facilitation® model has coded every step buyers must go through to discover how, when, and if, to make a change and leads them through the non-buying, systems-focused steps necessary without the bias of sales; different from sales, and used as the first step before a solution is actually introduced (although the questions are posed around the area my solution can resolve) it operates as a change facilitation approach that consists of different skills from sales – Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, and Presumptive Summaries to facilitate discovery and manage change.
Buying Facilitation® can be employed in a fraction of the time it takes to pitch to a stranger; it reduces the failed follow up attempts to ensure we’re only following up with those who WILL buy, and teach them how they CAN buy. And then, employ our brilliant sales approach to the right buyers. It’s win win. What would you need to know about the learning process to understand how Buying Facilitation® would enable you to close more, waste less time, and serve more clients efficiently? Call me. I’ll teach you how to do it.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the inventor of Buying Facilitation®, the generic Change Facilitation model that offers influencer the tools to enable Others to make congruent changes to find their own excellence, without fallout. She has trained this in sales, coaching, leadership, and management to Fortune 500 companies globally since 1985. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Amazon bestseller’s Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? which explores the gap in understanding between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew lives on a houseboat in Portland OR.
Sharon Drew Morgen December 11th, 2017
Comcast: Hi Sharon. I’m Pete from Comcast, wanting to help you sort through your options with your TV programming since your current package expires in December.
SDM: Pete, my first name is Sharon Drew, never Sharon. Always both names, ok? Thanks. I was going to call you anyway. My free HBO and Showtime are expiring. Can you tell me how much will it cost me once they go up? Is there a different 2 year plan I can sign up for that would keep my rate about the same?
Comcast: Well, Sharon, I…
SDM: Excuse me, Pete. Sharon Drew. My first name is Sharon Drew.
Comcast: Um, ok. Well. I’m glad you asked. Given what you’ve got now, I think I can actually upgrade your programs and still save you money. We have a package that does X. It will give you XYZ, similar to what you have now with two added channels, but costs less.
SDM: What’s the downside? What do I gain? Lose?
Comcast: Everything is exactly the same, except you’ll get two more channels and pay less.
SDM: Exactly the same? Cheaper? More programs? Cool.
Comcast: Yup. Exactly the same and cheaper. I can send you the paperwork, and you can see for yourself.
He then texted me a link to a contract to pay; within the contract was another link to details. I clicked and noticed inconsistencies.
SDM: This is more expensive! You’ve unbundled each feature and charged separately, so I’d pay $45 more than if I just let my current deal expire in December.
Comcast: Everyone pays for those things. You couldn’t have Comcast if we didn’t offer those features.
SDM: That’s not what I said; and you’re making the argument murky. You said it would be the same and cheaper with two new channels. But it’s not cheaper; services are unbundled and charged out individually on top of the quoted rate, causing me to pay more than I would with my next contract. Sounds like you’re lying to me or at least trying to muddle the facts so it just appears that I’d be saving money. What am I missing?
Comcast: Silence. Silence. Click.
As my provider, as the company/behemoth to whom I give thousands of dollars annually, Comcast owes me honesty, no? And aren’t they big enough to not try to dupe customers who would have pressed ‘Pay’ without reading the ‘fine print?’ Surely lying can’t be the preferred avenue to successful upselling, although I’m sure sometimes sales folks ‘do whatever it takes’ to get the commission without the sanction of their supervisors. In this case I actually redialed Comcast and said I wanted to renew my plan. When the seller looked up my account, she did exactly what the first guy did – same promise, same spiel, same text/link. Sadly it seems Comcast is training their reps this way.
WHY BUYERS BUY UPSELLS
As vendors, our job is to serve our clients and customers; our products are the path to serving, so we’re a ‘customer service company that provides web design services,’ or a ‘customer service company that provides financial services.’ As such, answering questions and solving problems are part of the promise implicit in a purchase. [PERSONAL NOTE: Any time we betray our clients’ trust and don’t deliver on the promise inherent in their purchase, and any time we lie to our customers, they have the right to choose another provider who will be honest.]
One of our services is letting customers know when we develop an upgrade; our success at upselling depends on how we connect to inform them.
Who is a suitable buyer? There are two inbuilt problems:
The fact that they will be ‘better’ with an upgrade is most likely accurate, but beside the point. We each ‘know’ we’d be better if we stopped smoking/lost weight/jogged/meditated/were kinder, etc. But knowing isn’t the point. The problem is the change – the time, disruption, confusion, political or relationship risks, etc. – involved in altering an established pattern. (Note: I’ve coded the steps to congruent change to help you understand what buyers must do before they can buy.)
When we introduce and describe our new solutions, when we focus on introducing and pitching the value of our solution, we ignore the biggest factor that inhibits buying: as outsiders we can’t know how the purchase would affect the buyer’s environment and use routines – the relationships, politics, time factors, etc. – which may change, or might be perceived to change, with an upgrade. Before they buy, they must understand the extent of any disruption to determine if it’s worth it to them: a trouble-free working environment and nominal cost supersedes need. Remember: they find the current version ‘good-enough’ as it is; they have people and policies in place and have factored in the costs and resource. Habit and status quo may supersede benefits.
I’ve got a story. IBM was seeking local users of an old OS to place a new Beta test version, with a goal of visiting, testing, questioning, etc. There was a possible user right down the road and IBM was eager to enlist them. But three different sales reps tried to engage this user to no avail. Nope, we’re happy. Yes, our current OS is very slow and we understand this new, free, one would make our jobs easier and workflow faster. Nope. We don’t want the beta.
Since I was already there running a Buying Facilitation® training they asked me to try. The phone call follows:
SDM: My name is Sharon Drew Morgen and I’m calling from IBM. Is this a good time to speak?
CUSTOMER: Sure. How can I help you? [Note: I was fascinated that just about everyone took a cold call from IBM.]
SDM: I am following up from my colleague’s call re giving you a free beta OS, and I heard that you’re really happy using the OS you’ve got in place now. Seems it’s working really well for you and you don’t seem to mind its speed.
CUSTOMER: It is slow. But we like it.
SDM: What’s stopping you from considering adding more speed to the one you’re using now?
SDM: Excuse me? Dad? What does that mean?
CUSTOMER: We’re a Mom and Pop shop. My dad is the Pop. He’s 75, and will be retiring next year. He’s in charge of the technology, and he’s not as sharp as he once was. We’re not going to add anything to his plate, and wait til he retires to upgrade whatever we need to.
SDM: Ah. That makes sense. I wonder how hard our new OS is to learn or use. I could find out. What would you and Dad need to know to be willing to experience whether or not the new OS would be simple enough, just in case there came a time when you wanted to accommodate all your new users?
CUSTOMER: I’d need to know that Dad would have no difficulty or confusion, and it would be easy and seamless to implement with no glitches.
SDM: We happen to have a functioning beta site for this product right down the street from you. Would you and Dad be willing to join me and visit them to try it out? Then, if Dad likes it and you find it more efficient, we could then discuss you being a possible beta site for us?
It all went well, IBM got a new Beta test site and the customer got a free upgrade. It’s not about an upgrade; it’s about their readiness for change. And as outsiders, we can never know where a ‘Dad’ is and have no opportunity to lead them through a different decision.
Convincer and information strategies close the low hanging fruit. Each customer has unique ‘givens’ that have created and maintained their status quo; they’re not ‘stupid buyers’, they just must manage their own internal integrity. And the conventional sales approach assumes that the features, functions, and benefits will convince them to buy, ignoring the ‘how’ or ‘if’ or ‘why’ or ‘when’ to handle any disruption caused to their system by addiing a new element to their status quo with no route to address change for what’s already in place.
What is the suitable vehicle? There are certainly several ways to facilitate upselling with integrity. When customers call in, ensure an integrous connection with someone or something in your company; provide a wonderful opportunity to exhibit respect and care. Each vehicle requires a different approach but includes the goal of facilitating change and managing the change-over to new routines.
Cold Calling with Integrity: Happy customers have more of a willingness to take a call. Use this as an opportunity to serve them by facilitating change. I designed Buying Facilitation® to specifically facilitate the buyer’s steps of change and decision making; or design your own unique Change Facilitation model that quickly helps them think through routes to managing any disruption, and adds product pitch once the customer is ready. Remember: unless a prospect can positively address their change, use, and habituation issues, they will not buy regardless of need or the strength of your solution.
Email outreach: Current email blasts focus on introducing reasons to buy the upgrade. It’s possible to add ‘implementation features’ or ‘ways to get your cell phone recycled’, or ideas to mitigate whatever change your particular solution might incur. For this I recommend you research the routines and issues current customers face when using your solution. When researching this for my clients, I call several existing happy customers and ask the ‘how’ of their routines, and I include the Facilitative Question: What would keep you from adding an upgrade to what you’re currently doing successfully?
Help desk: Currently, help desks suck. With a focus on time rather than service, we get customers enraged and frustrated. This is a wasted opportunity. When working with Quest years ago, we taught the reps to help customers figure out how and if an upgrade would serve them; we brought the help desk upgrade rate from $300 a month to $2100 a month per rep.
Tech support: See above: this is a great opportunity to serve. You’re wasting it by keeping people on hold and passing customers from pillar to post. Have ONE person own the incident to minimize the annoyance factor and use a Change Facilitation approach while on the phone. A great venue for upselling.
On-line chat: Reprogram responses to avoid the disrespect and annoyance that keeps customers from using this feature. Again, it can be a great opportunity for upselling if used correctly.
These are merely an introduction to ideas for more robust upselling. It’s possible to upsell a lot more than you’re now selling. Good luck.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Change Facilitation models, including Buying Facilitation®, an addon to sales that leads buyers through their Pre-Sales steps to a purchase to enable Buyer Readiness. As an original thinker, she has written 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew trains, speaks, consults, and coaches in the areas of sales, coaching, leadership, communication, change, buy-in, and influencing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her award winning blog has original articles and essays. www.sharondrewmorgen.com
Sharon Drew Morgen November 6th, 2017
In 1993, when my first book came out and before he died, David Sandler called to buy out my Buying Facilitation® model. We couldn’t agree on terms, but he was excited by my differentiation between the sales model and the buying process: “I recognized that the problem was on the buy side, and thought my Sandler method was thinking out of the box. Reading your stuff, I now recognize my focus is still on getting solutions sold,” he said. “I hadn’t realized that ‘outside the box’ meant to shift the focus first to facilitate buying. Well done.”
And yet, after all these years, the problem remains: we’re limiting success and wasting an untold amount of resource seeking those few who are ready, willing, and able to buy: we’re missing a much larger, untapped market of potential (but real) buyers we ignore because our sales outreach doesn’t affect them. By broadening the goal to include facilitating change with those in the process of becoming buyers, by recognizing that a buying decision is a systemic, change management issue before it’s a solution choice problem, it’s feasible to engage earlier (albeit in a different way) and find a much larger population of real buyers.
HOW SALES RESTRICTS SELLING
The sales industry has a singular goal of placing solutions. It’s an industry with solutions looking for a problem. And the paltry results of a 5% close rate have been baked into the system: you accept low closing ratios as the best you can do, hire more sales people than you need, suffer from a sales cycle that is months/years longer than necessary, and lose buyers that will need your solution but don’t yet need or notice the information you provide.
Have you never asked yourself why, with all the capability of finding prospective buyers at your fingertips, you still close only 5% – down from 7% a decade ago (and with much less technology)? And why you continue to waste untold bazillions on staff, technology, and time, chasing folks who will never buy. Have you not recognized that
the people you target aren’t necessarily buying or buyers,
you’re expending too much resource on those who will never buy,
you don’t know the difference between those who will and those who won’t buy?
With the best technology available, the most professional branding and marketing, great content, and a good solid product, you’re losing far more sales than you need to. This much should be obvious: No matter how much new technology, or how many sales methods available to you – regardless of all the ‘new new’ things at your fingertips – you’re still merely closing the low hanging fruit (those 5% who have determined they are ready, willing, able to buy).
A buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue. By adding a few bells and whistles to your sales efforts you can find people who will be buying but aren’t yet buyers and facilitate their strategic Pre-Sales, non-solution-based decision path that concludes with them buying. Then you’ll close far more than you’re closing now with half the staff and half the time. But it needs different thinking.
SELLING VS BUYING
People become buyers only when there are no other options and a purchase is their last hope for problem resolution. They can’t even accurately define a ‘need’ until the full complement of stakeholders are involved and the scope of any resultant change is recognized. Sales ignores this group because their touch points are different and they are definitely not yet buyers. Yet it’s here they’re more open for support and connection: their path to congruently resolving a problem is confounding; they may forget to bring in “Joe from accounting”, or can’t recognize the full scope of issues until they’ve falsely started down one path to resolution and must start all over.
You’re a subject matter expert in the area of their problem resolution and could really be a support here – so long as you avoid trying to sell and focus on facilitating change first. This is where they will be eager to connect. By only focusing on selling/placing your solution, you ignore 40% of real buyers who haven’t gotten there yet but will.
Ask yourself this: Do you want to sell – or have someone buy? They are two different activities with different rules, needs, and behaviors. Sales is tactical. Buying is strategic. Your tactical focus on placing solutions with Buyer Personas, Opportunity Management, content differentiation, and yes, even Sandler, SPIN etc. offer biased questions and content focused on those few who have defined, and understand, their need and change issues, overlooking those people in the midst of strategic decision efforts who will develop into buyers once they get their ducks in a row. Sellers actually sit and wait while prospects do this anyway. Why not help them! Here what sales ignores:
A buying decision includes a 13 step change management process, the first 9 steps of which are systemic change (not purchase or need) focused; they aren’t ‘buyers’ until step 10 when all of their systemic/change management stuff is worked out, and there is agreement that a purchase is their only option.
A problem doesn’t equal a need; a ‘need’ doesn’t equal a purchase. It might turn out that maintaining the status quo is a better option for them; as an outsider, you can never understand why.
People aren’t buyers until they’re out of options to fix their problems themselves AND they’ve gotten buy-in to bring in a ‘foreign’ element. The last thing they want to do (precisely, the last thing) is to buy anything. The buyers you seek/find are already at the end of their decision path.
Your terrific content isn’t being noticed by people who haven’t yet determined, defined, agreed upon a ‘need’ even though they may become buyers later, or even really need your solution.
Your content/selling push assumes that with the right content and message, offered to the right demographic, at the right time, focused on the right need -> purchase scenario, you’ll get in/close – but you’re only reaching those few who are ready OR those in the midst of their research (who may never buy but may call you with questions or take an appointment). They won’t even read or heed your outreach.
You’re using a ‘need’ and ‘solution-placement’ filter which restricts your results 95% of the time, causing you (beyond all logic) to push push push push harder or better, against a closed system of people and policies that’s not ready, willing, able to buy.
The problem is not your solution (It’s great. And people can find the content they need on line when they’re ready.); the problem is that the sales model places solutions with people who need them, but does nothing to help facilitate the change elements people traverse en route to becoming buyers and are not buyers yet. Here are the main stages people execute as they seek to resolve a problem (The full set of steps are laid out in my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.):
Assemble the full set of stakeholders (including “Joe in accounting”) who spend time understanding the scope of the problem, how it got initiated, and how it maintains itself;
Once a problem is defined by all stakeholders, the group tries to resolve the issue with familiar resources to minimize fallout. (This is where they might contact you with questions. They’re doing research, not buying.)
Once it’s decided to seek an external solution, they must find a route to resolution that maintains Systems Congruence. So if your users refuse new technology, or your teams function well as they are, you might find a way around a purchase if the disruption is too great. An Outsider can never understand the unique nature of internal dynamics. Can I ever really understand why you don’t stop smoking, or stay in a dysfunctional relationship, or stay in a job/relationship that makes you miserable? Change is always personal.
Notice how these stages are change- and systems-focused, and not accessible to Outsiders with a ‘sales’ hat on. And until they are addressed, there’s no ‘need’ and no ‘buyer’. Btw, I developed these stages decades ago; they apply to anyone making a decision including coaching clients, patients, and employees, and all buying situations regardless of the size of the change/purchase. Whether you merely need to buy a new phone, or go through a merger, the steps of change must be traversed in a way that maintains the status quo (even when it’s unconscious) regardless of need. You wait while people do this anyway; why not find those who CAN become buyers (rather than ‘should’), facilitate their change quickly, and be there with them as they buy – and be with them as they figure out their own unique strategies for change – so long as you avoid trying to sell anything as they’re not buyers yet.
Is it sales? No. It’s a Change Facilitation process I call Buying Facilitation®. By first enabling people to facilitate their buying decision path, you’ll have less competition, close more, stop wasting time selling to those who can never buy, and be true Servant Leaders; you can use your technology, your content marketing, your sales efforts as you are now, but with an additional focus.
WHY AREN’T THEY BUYING? SDM ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS
Using the above thinking, here’s a ‘Q&A’ to help you better understand why you’re getting the results you’re getting.
What’s wrong with seeking buyers to place our solutions? Isn’t that what sales is?
Why do they keep talking to me if they’re not going to buy?
Until the entire scope of change is understood and integrated, people don’t understand the perimeters of their need (and when you ask biased questions, the flawed answers you receive often cause you to chase those who will never buy). Before becoming buyers, people must recognize that the cost of change (buying) is less than maintaining the status quo: their ‘system’ is sacrosanct. Would you buy a new car if your spouse would divorce you? Would you bring in a new CRM system if half of your user team would quit, or refuse to use it, or until the tech folks have the time to implement? You know you have to go to the gym more, and eat/drink less. You’ve got a need. Have you signed up for the gym? Stopped drinking beer?
Why are we still getting such a low close rate when we’ve got so many terrific tools at our disposal to introduce our features AND find the right demographic?
Because only a small percent of people you focus on are buyers. Until they’re out of other options AND determined they must bring in something from outside AND have all of their internal ducks in a row, AND have buy-in (Buyer Readiness), your tools aren’t recognized.
Why do they keep talking to me if they’re not going to buy?
During their change process, people research all possibilities. Your solution may be one of them; they’re actually using you for reference to report back to their team, or to figure out their own workarounds, or mention to their current vendor. It’s possible to know on the first call who will be a buyer and who is merely seeking data that will never lead to a purchase – but not with a solution-placement focus.
Why don’t buyers realize they need our solution when it seems so obvious?
It’s only ‘obvious’ to you. The best content, the most relevant solution, will be ignored until they reach step 10 when they become buyers.
Why is the sales cycle so long when there is a solid need/solution match?
The time people take to figure out how to manage change congruently is the length of the sales cycle. As Outsiders, we can never understand the depth of the change management issues: Who is fighting with who? What is the tech schedule? Who will need to be let go? How do internal politics show up? How does their history/future factor in?
The system that holds the problem in place is much more powerful than any solution you can offer. They need buy-in from EVERYONE and EVERYTHING that created the status quo and will touch the new solution. You’ll never recognize “Joe from accounting” who is an unsung influencer, or the fight going on between the sales and marketing folks who need to share budget. It’s not about their need – until it is. And they can’t tell you because they don’t know, or they won’t have found the nut of the problem yet, or you’re asking the wrong questions biased by your need to sell.
Why do buyers make promises they don’t keep? Are all buyers liars?
Buyers don’t lie. The one person you’re speaking with is responding to your biased questions, getting out of the thrust of your sales push, and is giving you the best data they’re willing to give you, or as much data as they have at that point in their 13 step change path. Whatever data they offer is limited by their access to the full Buying Decision Team, and the stage they’re at in their change management. You are, after all, strangers approaching them with a solution placement hat on, asking the wrong questions to the wrong people at the wrong time. As an Outsider you can never, ever have a clue as per the political, personal, strategic decision issues they face. But you can understand they system they decide in, a per your expertise in your field.
Why isn’t our great content being read or acted upon by the larger audience who really needs it?
Needs it according to who? Your research? Your biased questions? Your focus on placing solutions limits your audience and keeps you from getting into the decision path earlier. Are they at the point of seeking workarounds? Is there a team buy-in problem? Have they forgotten to assemble some of the appropriate stakeholders? Are they finding a glitch (political, personal, management-based, etc.)? Your sales, marketing, content, and technology restricts your target market to the low hanging fruit who have clearly defined their need, know they cannot fix their own problem, and have a route to congruent change.
When I gather info about a need, and it seems obvious there is one, what am I missing?
You’re merely asking biased questions to elicit the data YOU want to elicit from one person or a few research visits to your site, to find people who SEEM like they have a ‘need’ and spend a lot of resource chasing after them whether they are real buyers or not. Plus, because someone has a need doesn’t mean they are ready, willing, or able to buy; because the one person on the team you’re speaking with does NOT seem to have a need, doesn’t mean they don’t have one. You’re a solution looking for a problem. Enter first with a Facilitator hat on, help those that CAN/WILL become buyers traverse the route to change, and THEN sell.
It’s not as hard as you think. I developed a new form of unbiased question (Facilitative Question) to facilitate change (part of the Buying Facilitation® process) and pose these down the Pre-Sales steps to help the ‘right’ people become buyers. Here are two examples of responses to a Facilitative Question used on a first call. I bet you can tell which one CAN buy:
SDM: How are you currently adding more tools and capability to your sales team for those times you seek to reach an expanded market?
SALES DIRECTOR #1: I read a couple of sales books annually. If I like them, I’ll pass them on to my sales managers and tell them to get the sellers to read them, and run meetings to discuss their takeaways [Note: this was a real response.]
SALES DIRECTOR #2: I’ve had a helluva time trying to find new tools to use. I’ve tried several, and keep getting the same results. I’d be glad to use something new if I could be assured it was really new, and it would work.
My opening FQ, different for each situaltion, begins by shining a light on the system the person is operating in, and provides an invaluable insight into the state of possible change. It also begins making the person a Coach/Witness to her own status quo by asking for an overview of the system. This particular FQ helps #2 take an unbiased view of how she’s managed change until now. Buying Facilitation® then proceeds down her change steps so she can address each step efficiently, with me by her side. Director #1 had a need, but wasn’t a buyer.
When I form a wonderful relationship with a potential buyer with a need, where does he go? He seems to take calls and stay in touch, and then disappears. Where does he go?
He was never a buyer. He either couldn’t get the buy-in from the Buying Decision Team (BDT), or came up with an alternative solution, or decided not to move forward because the cost of disruption was too high. He stays in touch as long as there is a possibility he needs to buy something (he hasn’t yet gotten team agreement or become a buyer), or so long as the data you’re offering is useful to their ultimate decisions. 80% of our prospective buyers will buy a solution similar to ours within 2 years of our connection. That means they had a need but couldn’t figure out how to congruently manage the change.
When I’m months into a sale, and everything that was going well suddenly stops, where did it go?
See above. The person wasn’t really a buyer yet or the team wasn’t bought-in to change.
Are buyers spending a lot of time trialing and speaking to other providers before they choose us?
Possibly. People research the best alternatives to managing change with the least disruption.
Why aren’t we more successful when we check that they’ve brought in all stakeholders and help them achieve buy in? That’s managing Buyer Readiness, no?
You’re an Outsider. You’ll never understand what’s going on; the questions you pose and the direction you offer are solution placement based; you listen with a biased ear, etc. (Seriously: Read Dirty Little Secrets then call me and I’ll teach you how to do it.) Did they bring in “Joe from accounting”? How are they managing the fight between sales and marketing? Oh – one other big reason: you’re merely speaking with one, at most two, people; you have no reach through the sales model to facilitate change. I can’t say this enough: you’re an Outsider.
If you start as a Neutral Navigator, listen for systems and facilitate them through their OWN decisions with NO BIAS to selling, you can quickly find and serve those who WILL become buyers and help them efficiently manage change. Using Buying Facilitation® KPMG went from a 3 year sales cycle to a 4 month sales cycle with a $50,000,000 solution; Wachovia small business bankers went from a 2% close over 11 months to a 29% close over 3 months; Kaiser went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales. By adding BF to their dummy terminals, Barclay’s helped customers define, and buy, the exact solutions they needed. Help them traverse their change path and sell to those who will buy.
Why don’t more people show up at appointments? Why are so many buyers reluctant to take appointments?
All of the stakeholders aren’t involved yet so they don’t even have a clear, complete description of ‘need’. Those who take appointments are doing research (and do WHAT? with your content) and haven’t gotten team buy-in, or the full decision team isn’t on board yet;
They know from the first moment of a call that you’ll be pushing YOUR solution and not facilitating them in discovering THEIR own solution. It’s only if you can be an asset to them that they’ll be willing to see you.
What’s wrong with trying to place a solution by ‘understanding need’, or creating a need, or selling?
You can do that, for those who are already buyers understand their need.
I’ve paid a fortune for technology, research into demographics, opportunity management software, scripts, and experienced sales folks – but I’m still not closing all I deserve to close. Why?
Because your efforts are focused on ‘buyer’ ‘need’, and neither of those necessarily correlate with buying anything for those who aren’t yet buyers.
How does Buying Facilitation® find, and close, more real buyers?
Buying Facilitation® is a Change Facilitation model that works with sales (and coaching, etc.) and includes Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, Presumptive Summaries – wholly different skill sets than sales, and includes no bias. It traverses the first 9 steps of change management, in the ares your solution operates in, beginning with immediately ascertaining who is set up to be able to buy, or has a possibility of systemic change and then teaches them precisely how to discover their path to change. By adding BF you not only find the right buyers, but teach those who may not have been able to buy how to facilitate change.
With Director #1 above, it would take so long to convince him that his plan was flawed, and then get the other managers who have complied with his plan to acceded to change, that it’s not worth the effort. BF progresses down the change steps and teaches them how to bring in the right people, discover if workarounds are worthwhile, and why they haven’t worked until now. Then it helps them determine how change would need to be addressed – and with BF you can do this on the first call. It will ignore the ones who will never buy, and help the real buyers be ready to buy. So much easier than finding those relative few who have already done this. And it’s much easier than it sounds: you’re just not used to it yet.
Here is a rule: as long as the sales model tries to ‘find buyers’ and ‘place solutions’, you’ll never sell to anyone other than those who have determined they’re buyers, leaving you continuing to push your solution into their closed system. You can
discover who is, or will be, starting down the journey that will lead to a decision to purchase something,
figure out, with a change management hat on, what the journey in your industry, and among your buying market, looks like (or call me and I’ll help),
then enter with those few on their change journey as they quickly (with your help) figure out how to manage stakeholders, buy-in, workarounds, etc. and become buyers.
By adding outreach, vocabulary, content, that first focuses on facilitating the buying decision path earlier you’ll enlarge your range of buyers by 5x. After all, people must do this anyway before becoming buyers; we might as well join them where they are and facilitate the right ones.
Call me. Together, we can create content, software, scripts to find the right ones – those who WILL become buyers – and facilitate them down their decision path toward effective change and buying.
For more reading on the subject, here are some ideas: Practical Decision Making, Questioning Questions, Buyer’s Journey, Do You Want to Sell? Or Have Someone Buy? , Influencers vs Facilitators. Or contact me to discuss. Am happy to share what I know. email@example.com
Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader and original thinker, as well as the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She has designed a Change Facilitation process for sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, health care, leadership, change management, and influencing, training it to such companies as DuPont (8,000 people), KPMG (6,000 people), Wachovia, Kaiser, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, IBM, P&G, Sandler Sales, ATT, Bethlehem Steel, Sandia Labs. Her blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com is recognized as one of the top business blogs, with articles on decision making, listening, questions, sales, coaching, etc. She is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and coach. Sharon Drew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Drew Morgen September 11th, 2017
The hot new sales tool is Opportunity Management automation. Just another in a long list of New New Things that seem like THE answer to THE way to efficiently close more sales. But is it? Over the past 10 or so years you’ve tried Buyer Personas, Understanding Need, marketing automation, Relationship Management, Trusted Advisor, Challenger, Sandler, SPIN, and lots of technology to push content. All hoping hoping hoping that THIS is ‘the one’ that will help you close more. But you’ve ended up with the same 5% close rate you’ve had for decades (It used to be 7%, remember?), regardless of the approach or the way an opportunity is managed.
Don’t get me wrong: opportunity management apps help sellers optimize their time and track results. But to what end? The tools can’t close more sales if the opportunity itself is flawed. What if you could find more viable opportunities by expanding your definition of ‘opportunity’?
WHAT’S AN OPPORTUNITY?
As I’m sure you’re aware, an ‘opportunity’ is often not an opportunity at all, or has only a small chance of being one. What if buyers aren’t your target audience? What if the larger opportunity is in a different place along the buying decision journey?
With the sales model based on entry points of ‘buyer’, ‘need’, Buyer Personas, and ‘need/solution’ match it’s impossible to close anyone but the low hanging fruit – buyers seeking a solution. This definition
and restricts you from finding those who WILL close, aren’t quite ready, and could use your help efficiently getting there. The confusing part for sellers is that these folks – these real, potential buyers – are off your screen: they aren’t buyers, aren’t seeking a solution, haven’t determined they want to buy anything yet, haven’t yet fully determined the scope of their need, aren’t attracted by your content.
And therein lies the rub: before people become buyers they merely want to resolve a problem in the most efficacious way and their route to competence is initially not directly related to what you’re selling. Before people become buyers, before there is a sales opportunity, they must first conclude there is absolutely no route to resolving their problems with known resources AND have a route through to congruent change – internal adoption, buy-in, Systems Congruence, and change management. The last thing they want to do is go outside their system to buy anything – they never start out as buyers until they run out of options to fix a problem themselves. By putting on a wholly different hat, we can find and facilitate the ones who will BECOME buyers and vastly increase our pool of opportunities. But we can’t use a ‘sales’ hat to find them.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT PRECEDES BUYING
A buying decision is a change management problem first before it’s needs- solution-based. Buyers are merely people who have gotten to the point in their change management procedures when an external solution (i.e. making a purchase) is their only viable alternative to Excellence. The fact that people have a ‘need’ that your solution can resolve does NOT mean they are, or will ever be, ready, willing, or able to buy. There is a 95% chance that those who seem like buyers aren’t buyers at the point where your content finds them. And sadly, your content won’t get them there: they won’t even notice it because they’re not yet looking for it even though they may eventually seek it.
It’s possible to shift the ‘opportunity’ criteria to people who WILL be buyers but aren’t ones yet – and know how to recognize real buyers from ‘tire kickers’ on the first contact; there are far easier entry points into a buyer/seller dialogue than what might seem to the outsider like a ‘need’.
Before becoming a buyer, or having a fully defined need, people traverse a specific path (I’ve spent decades coding and defining, training and testing, the 13 steps in a buying decision path, as explained in www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com
In other words, there are 9 non-buying change management (Pre-Sales) steps people take as they figure out how to congruently solve their problem and manage the change an external factor will cause. Using a Change Facilitation lens, with a bias toward the steps of congruent change, we can enter earlier to efficiently facilitate real prospective buyers and be part of their system as they begin the buying process. It’s possible to expand your criteria and tool kit to connect along different stages of the decision journey and recognize/facilitate exactly who WILL become buyers but aren’t there yet. But your initial focus must be systemic change, not selling. Different questions, different listening.
Using ‘need’ and ‘solution placement’ criteria, the only way to attract an opportunity is to find those relative few who have gotten to the point of recognizing they cannot resolve their own problem. Until then, they cannot buy: they haven’t fully defined a ‘need’, don’t have their full Buying Decision Team (BDT) in place, haven’t gotten buy-in, and aren’t actively seeking to buy anything. Selling is tactical: buying is strategic.
WHO IS A BUYER?
Think along with me for a moment. A person or group doesn’t become a buyer unless they’ve determined they cannot fix their problem themselves with familiar resources AND they are set up (environment, culture, technology, implementation, buy-in) to manage any fallout from having a foreign element (a purchase) enter their system. Maintaining Systems Congruence is vital; the last thing, literally, that a person wants is to buy anything due to the possibility of disrupting their status quo that is functioning ‘well-enough’. Indeed until they
they’re only ‘people’ meandering through a confounding route to Excellence, facing political issues, personnel/personal issues, buy-in issues, tech integration issues, etc. They’re not buyers regardless of what you consider to be an ‘opportunity’, how many appointments you make, or how well the folks like you. And the way sales is implemented and biased toward solution placement, the questions posed, the answers sought, you’re only seeking and attracting those who have already reached step 10 and consider themselves buyers.
What’s the difference between an ‘opportunity’ and one that’s NOT an opportunity?
Your identification of an ‘opportunity’ is currently based on your biases, assumptions, conversations with a fraction of the full BDT, assessments, research, etc. based on the fit that YOU perceive between what YOU’VE determined (or that one outlier from the BDT) they need – and your solution. What you think is an opportunity most likely isn’t. Otherwise you’d be closing more than 5%. Data collected from my control groups when I train show it’s possible to close about 5X more than you’re closing now by entering earlier along their change path and using a Change Facilitation skill first. More on this in a moment.
WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY SOUNDS LIKE
Here’s what you’ll hear when there is a real opportunity (and yes, even on the first call, using a Change Facilitation skill set focus):
When you make an appointment with only one or two people you don’t have a real opportunity. If the person you’re speaking with thinks s/he has a need but hasn’t gotten team buy-in yet, or doesn’t know the complete set of potential disruptors that need managing, there’s no opportunity. If your prospect is going to take your information back to the boss/manager, there’s no opportunity. If a prospect calls you for information, there’s most likely no opportunity (although you can use this time to begin the Change Facilitation process).
I don’t consider a 95% failure rate success; you’ve just convinced yourself that this is the way it is for your industry. Let’s change it to be more successful. Instead of running after people once they become buyers, why not find those who are already en route to buying, use a different focus and new skill set such as Buying Facilitation® (the model I’ve developed to handle Pre-Sales Change Facilitation) or some change management tool to enter earlier in their change/decision journey, quickly facilitate them through their change, and THEN sell.
It’s not rocket science. You’re current selling/solution-placement modality restricts you to fighting for those who have defined themselves as buyers. People really need help determining how to change congruently. But the time it takes them to do so is the length of the sales cycle. You’re wasting your time chasing the 5% and ignoring the 80% of prospective buyers who WILL buy within two years of connecting with you but can’t until they’ve got their ducks in a row. But you can hasten their journey by first becoming Neutral Navigators doing a Change Facilitation process and THEN wear a ‘seller’ hat. Then you’ll stop wasting time and resource with those who aren’t buyers and truly serve those who WILL buy become buyers much quicker. But no amount of content, relationship, or Opportunity Management will force those who aren’t, or who will never be, ready. You’re waiting while people do this anyway. Help them. Close more. And have more opportunities to manage.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of a Change Facilitation model used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, healthcare, and management. She’s been running Buying Facilitation® and How Buyers Buy training programs in global corporations since 1985. She is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell,and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has trained over 100,000 sales people globally, and is currently running Listening programs to facilitate unbiased listening. Her blog is consistently ranked in the top 10 of all sales/marketing blogs. Sharon Drew is considered an original thinker and thought leader, doing keynotes, coaching, and consulting to enable servant leader skills. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen August 28th, 2017