By Sharon Drew Morgen

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

SALES IS THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT’S CHANGED?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

D.   A purchase was tactical

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

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

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

NEW RULES FOR NEW TIMES

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

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

Rule #1: Prospects aren’t always prospects.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONSIDER HOW BUYERS BUY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Buying Facilitation®?

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

Prospects Aren’t Always Prospects

Steps Along the Buying Decision Path

How, Why, and When Buyer’s Buy

Recognize Buyers on the First Call

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

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

May 11th, 2020

Posted In: News, Sales

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Whatever you’re selling, your regular sales tools won’t work now. There’s no one buying, regardless of what they might have needed before the pandemic. It’s not even time to forecast, as buyers now live in confusion and the unknown, with no idea what the norm, or their needs, will look like whenever ‘after’ happens. Until companies are up and running and things settle, there’s no way of knowing upfront what the priorities, people, or policies will be; needs they once had may not be needs now, or there may be others when the dust settles.

So trying to sell can’t work because the sales model needs buyers to buy. And there are no buyers. Any pitching, pushing, or convincing attempts are moot.

Obviously, you must do something different. As a bridge between your company and a client, you can play a very pro-active role in your company’s future and engage real prospects who will buy later – and truly serve them in the process.

TIME TO STOP SELLING

By pinpointing people who will most likely need your solution (and these folks may be outside your current target market right now), you can offer the one thing they need more than anything: managing the confusion; and helping them strategize and organize when ‘after’ occurs as they tackle their new normal. With your knowledge of how your solution operates in a user environment, you’re in a prime position to help them transcend the unknowns and organize around their future needs.

Will this make a sale right now? Nope. But it will enable you to serve someone as a representative of your company; will give you a fine reputation as a possible vendor going forward; and just maybe, you can really help them think through their confusion and put you on the Buying Decision Team going forward. Then, if it turns out they still need your solution, they’ll choose you.

This takes divergent thinking. Sales focuses on placing solutions, using market research, pitches, demographics, information gathering, content marketing to find probable buyers with a ‘need’. Right now, no one knows what they need; they certainly have no idea what Tomorrow will look like. But if you replace your ‘seller’ focus with a ‘facilitator’ attitude and serve customers, you can still grow your business and be in a position of trust and respect on the Buying Decision Team going forward.

There’s a huge difference between selling and facilitating. Sales places solutions; facilitating leads change. Sales is tactical; facilitating strategic. Sales resolves a problem; facilitating uncovers and organizes the elements that seek resolution.

The differences lie in the trajectory of change management. Buyers start off as people who want to resolve a problem in the easiest way at the lowest cost to the status quo. The last thing they want is to bring in something new that might upset the apple cart.

It’s only when they cannot resolve their problem on their own AND they get buy-in for change and a new purchase, they become buyers – i.e. their delay in making a purchase has nothing to do with your solution. They never start off as buyers – only folks trying to resolve a problem. In truth, a buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue. And unfortunately, the sales model overlooks this entire portion of how buyer’s buy.

So until or unless people know how to bring in something new in a way that doesn’t ‘cost’ as much as the status quo, they aren’t buyers, regardless of what their ‘need’ looks like to you.

WHY BUYERS DON’T BUY

Right now, there’s no way to know anything. Everyone’s status quo is shifting; the cost of the changes they’ll face is a mystery. But there is a way you can enter and be a vital component in the necessary strategizing going forward. It’s the one thing you can do now to serve them.

As a successful sales professional for many years, I figured it out by the seat of my pants when I became an entrepreneur of a tech startup in 1983 in London. My business took off quickly; to handle the hiring and team development, I contacted vendors to help me with recruitment and leadership training. The lovely, smart, charming, professional sales folks who showed up gathered info about my ‘needs’ and gave me presentations. As they spoke and questioned, I found myself resisting.

While they offered terrific solutions, my underlying issues were systemic: I couldn’t buy until I got buy-in from the team, and we had to figure out how bringing in new solutions would affect us all. With a new company and a series of new hires, I had to carefully support the newly-forming management team and add new skills and new members carefully.

So yes, I most likely had a need, but I didn’t know how – or even what! – to buy until I figured it out. While I bet the folks trying to sell me had the knowledge to lead me through all the decision factors I’d need to consider, they didn’t. If they had, I could have been saved months of trying to figure it all out myself — and made a sale.

I realized then, after all my years as a seller, the reason my buyers (who appeared ‘stupid’ to me at the time) weren’t buying. It had nothing to do with my solution and everything to do with the other considerations, the steps that had to be taken (later called Pre-Sales steps) before even becoming a buyer and the sales model overlooked.

The piece I was missing was systems thinking: my team, my company, was a system; and like in all human systems, people seek to maintain the status quo. Whatever problem they face is embedded within a myriad of people, policies, and relationships that keep it in place (The sales model overlooks these issues to seek out only those who have already figured it all out).

Optimally, a solution to a problem should come from within the system so there’s less disruption. But if they can’t fix it themselves, it becomes a cost issue: the ‘cost’ of something new (risky) needs to be weighed against the cost of leaving the problem in place. So buyers don’t want to buy anything, just fix something. And if they have no choice but to buy something to reach their goal, they’ll become a buyer.

One more thing I realized about the sales model: it ignores these Pre-Sales steps and focuses on only those who have finally become buyers (This occurs on step 10 of 13 steps!). This restricts a sale to the low hanging fruit who already have their ducks in a row, and overlooks a much larger group of people who WILL become buyers once they’re ready (and can be made ready). It’s certainly much easier to find and support those who WILL be buyers on the first call than trying to push solutions onto those who SHOULD buy. But you can’t do this with a ‘need’ focus.

DEVELOPING BUYING FACILITATION®

I decided to figure out the steps I was using en route to becoming a buyer, and use them to lead prospects through these steps BEFORE I pitched or gathered information. I developed Buying Facilitation® to easily find potential buyers with problems in the area my solution can resolve, lead them through their internal decisions without bias, and help them become buyers or at least serve them.

This saved me time following up those who would never buy (When I train Buying Facilitation® in organizations, we consistently have a 40% close rate against the control group with a 6% close.); brought me referral business; shaved about 50% off my usual close time (I only sold to those who were buying); and I truly served them all. Many who didn’t buy during our connection called months and years later to buy from me.

Here are the stages I delineated that all people traverse en route to solving a problem (and possibly end up as buyers):

1. Is there a problem? Can we live with it? Who and what would be involved with fixing it?

  • Why haven’t we fixed it already before? What’s been involved in maintaining it, and how long are the tentacles that keep it in place?
  • How will we know if it’s worth the cost of fixing? Who needs to be involved in this discussion?

Until everyone who touches the problem is involved, there’s no way to know if anything is missing, the full extent of the problem, or if a fix is viable.

2.    How can we fix the problem with known resources? Can our old vendors help us? Is there a fix that a different department has that would work for us? What are our workarounds?

  • Do we know enough to recognize if we can fix it ourselves? Can we keep this in house?
  • How much risk can we tolerate when considering fix or stay the same?

Before we can go outside to make a purchase we must know for certain that we’ve done all we can to resolve it ourselves. That limits the stress on our otherwise overwhelmed environment.

3.    What sort of disruption will occur when we bring in something unfamiliar?

  • Everyone (or departments) who will be effected by the new solution must understand and agree with the changes, the disruptions, the differences, that the new will bring.
  • The cost of the solution/change must be less than the cost of the problem, otherwise they might as well keep the problem.

Until it’s clear to all stakeholders the exact ‘cost’ of a new solution – people, rules, policies, outcomes, organizational changes – no decision will be taken. None. Regardless of the need or the efficacy of your solution, they cannot buy until they can calculate the cost of change. The change must ‘cost’ less than maintaining the status quo.

Obviously, there’s no way to even get to #3 in our Covid19 environment since no one knows how our lives and businesses and jobs will be altered. But imagine if you now use your efforts to help them discover their answers to 1 and 2. Then you’d have served them, and if they cannot resolve any ultimate problems, you’ll be the only one they’ll call.

NEW SKILLS

To facilitate buying prior to selling, to engage folks who will be potential prospects (and give up selling for now) you’ll need a wholly different skill set as the current skills focus on discovering needs and introducing solutions – both necessary, once they’ve determined they need to buy something and are in the market for a fix.

Questions: I developed new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that facilitates folks down their steps of discovery. They are opposite to normal sales questions which are used to qualify, determine need, and gather data, and instead lead the route through discovery and change, through to purchase, which product knowledge on its own could never do.

Listening: A sales professional’s listening is biased to hear signs, words, that could be misconstrued as a ‘need’ causing sellers to follow up people for months mistakenly thinking they might be buyers. I developed a new way to listen (I wrote a book on this called What?) to hear the underlying meta messages and recognize those folks who might be seeking change – a real prospect – in my knowledge area, which I couldn’t hear with biased ears. People who are satisfied with their status quo have no agenda to change, and wouldn’t be buyers. Again, hearing what I think might be a ‘need’ doesn’t mean this person would buy.

Find prospects on a first call: Believe it or not, folks who will become buyers, people seeking change, are easy to recognize on the first call so long as you stop seeking someone with ‘a need’. By prospecting-by-need,

  1. You’re most likely only speaking to one person. How can that person know exactly what the rest of the Buying Decision Team thinks they need? Is that person representing the entire team, or just their personal views? You have no idea, but if it sounds like a possibility you unfortunately use it as an opportunity to pitch and follow up (and keep calling).
  2. Do you have any idea how this one person will share your data (if it even gets that far) with others? Will they use your data to compare against their current vendor? Again, you have no idea, and again, barrel forth pitching.
  3. Are you just listening for needs? Are your questions based on extracting data so you can pitch – and possibly ignoring some important data that would give you a broader understanding of the status quo?
  4. You have no idea where, or if, this person is along their Buying Decision Path. Are they in early stages of discussing how to resolve their problems and using your ideas?
  5. People who may need your product and aren’t yet ready to buy aren’t interested (yet) in speaking with you or reading/hearing about your product. Need has nothing to do with it.

One of the problems you’ll need to overcome when seeking prospects is using a telephone to have these conversations. Obviously you can’t visit; no one wants to make an appointment; and you can’t spend your time trying to get agreement for a Zoom call when no one is a buyer.

So do the following on the phone. Begin a call with voice rapport and a different sort of beginning:

This was going to be a sales call, but certainly you can’t buy anything now. I’ve been in the X field for many years. Maybe I can help you think through the issues you’ll need to consider as you go through this chaos now so when we come out the other side, you’ll know more about strategizing going forward. Is this a good time to speak?

Then, go down the stages above, helping them find answers to the questions at each stage.

I know you certainly are risk sensitive given what has been going on. I wonder if there are areas of my expertise that could lead you through the criteria you need to consider now. It would probably start with you getting a group of decision makers or leaders together to begin to figure out where you’re at.

Remember: you’ve got nothing to sell if they’ve got nothing to buy – and right now, they’ve got nothing to buy. Your entire approach must be based on something else: You’re not ‘gathering data to uncover needs’ (i.e. YOUR need to sell) or pitching (what YOU want to sell). You’re facilitating change and decision making. And when the environment goes back to ‘after’ – whenever that might be – and you have chosen the folks who will most likely be buyers, they will want to buy what you’ve got to sell.

Your new job is not to sell but to make a prospect. Help them figure out where, how, when, if they will be managing the new issues they’re facing. With your new goal you’ll be welcomed. And going forward, using this Buying Facilitation® approach will immediately ferret out those who are happy in their status quo and wouldn’t be prospects, regardless of whether or not they need your solution.

Everyone now is faced with change management, both in their current environment, and whatever the hell it will be once we’re back to work. Believe it or not, once you take your ‘sales’ hat off, people will recognize you’re helping them design their new fact pattern for going forward; when they arrive they’ll choose you when it’s time for a purchase. Not only is it win/win, but you’ll be a true Servant Leader.

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

April 20th, 2020

Posted In: Sales

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Sales folks make a few incorrect assumptions about who a buyer is, including: 1. the name on the marketing automation or prospecting system is the name of the buyer; and 2. a receptionist or secretary isn’t a buyer. Not only is there rarely only one ‘buyer’, but whoever responds – yes, even secretaries and receptionists – might actually be on the Buying Decision Team (BDT). Indeed, if you ever attempt to ‘get through’ a receptionist or secretary, you’ll know for sure this person is a major decision maker.

OUR FIRST JOB IS TO FACILITATE CHANGE

Before anyone buys, they need buy-in from the full set of stakeholders – the BDT – who include those playing a role in managing any change a new solution generates. Each decision team member will face different hurdles: one team member might need to reorganize their team; one might need to fire someone or facilitate user compliance.

As outsiders we cannot know any of this, especially if we’re entering with a focus on placing a solution. But make no mistake: anything new brought into an environment causes some sort of irritation, and someone is responsible for resolving it; these issues need a plan for resolution before a purchasing decision is made.  And as outsiders we can’t know what’s involved or who on the BDT is handling it.

NEED ISN’T THE ISSUE

Entering to find someone with a ‘need’, or someone specific to sell to, limits sellers to seeking/finding those who are ready to buy at the moment the seller connects – the low hanging fruit. It ignores all those in the process of becoming buyers and those still figuring out how to manage the change who can be facilitated through to Buyer Readiness.

We can expand the group of possible buyers by a factor of 8 if we enter as change facilitators first and help them do whatever they must. Indeed, this large group doesn’t respond to the conventional sales tools and goals we employ: they can’t yet know the full complement of their need, and aren’t yet interested in any of our content.

By starting off with the goal of finding those still on their buying decision journey and not yet buyers, and lead them through the steps necessary to manage the change, it’s possible to recognize who will be a buyer on the first call. Indeed, by helping them traverse their route, they will become buyers quickly. Your pipeline will actually include real prospects, not suspects. But the definition of who is a buyer will need to change.

For knowledge on this subject, I’ve written articles on the model I developed to facilitate the elements of the buying decision path that differ from sales: Buying Facilitation®, the real buyer’s journey, and help buyers shift their status quo. In this article, I offer three case studies on how to sell by going beyond what the sales process considers ‘buyers’. One shows how I sold more than anticipated by not assuming the listed name was THE buyer; one tells how a receptionist got me business; one shows how I instigated a prospect to enlist the Buying Decision Team and become a buyer.

CASE STUDY: DON’T RESTRICT YOUR CONTACT

Years ago, I was training Buying Facilitation® to a sales group within a call center selling three of IBM’s software packages. In those days, sellers prospected using the names on coupons sent from folks requesting information (old school!). During the training, I suggested that participants not ask for the folks whose names were on the coupons, as there was no way of knowing who was actually on the BDT or who filled out the coupon.

During my one-on-one coaching session with John Megatz (one of the participants…. I’ll never forget him!) he called a small construction company to sell an accounting package, assuming they’d need one. He asked the woman who answered for Louis, the name listed on the coupon. “Not in” she said. “Please call back Monday.” I then called the number back. Here was the call.

SD: Hi. My name is Sharon Drew Morgen, and I’m calling from IBM in response to a coupon. Can you tell me how you’re currently handling your accounting, and if you’re seeking any additional tools to help? [Note: I always assume everyone is part of the BDT. I do this on all cold calls.]

Kathy: I’m doing the accounting. Me. It’s me. All me. Since May. Me. I was the one who filled out that coupon. I’m trying to convince my husband to buy an accounting package within the next week, or I’ll not only quit, but I’ll divorce him. We’re a Mom & Pop shop here, and I took over the accounting when our accountant left last May (it was December). It takes up too much of my time and I hate doing it. Louis promised me I’d only have to do it for a month. So if I can buy a package now, it would save my marriage.

Kathy: Oh. Louis just walked in. Hey Louis! Pick up the phone, will you? It’s IBM with a solution to save our marriage.

Louis: Hi. This is IBM? Do you have an accounting package we can buy? I need to buy one today or she’ll divorce me.

SD: Hi Louis. Yup. We’ve got one. We need to check if our package fits your needs. But before I discuss it, I’m wondering if you also could use a Project Management package. It’s pretty cool. The project managers on client sites could log hours and create client invoices from the field. Or a Payroll package that would automatically write checks electronically. I see you’re a small construction business and can’t tell if anything we’ve got is anything you need.

Louis. Wow. I need all three! Can you tell me about them?

SD: Since I’m just a trainee, can we wait until Monday when the product managers for each package would be available to discuss the packages with you? I’m only the one with the mouth; they’ve got the brains. [Note: I really said this. I had no idea how to pitch any of the products.]

Louis: No. Is there any way we could do it today? [Note: It was 5:00 Friday afternoon.]

SD: Give me fifteen minutes. I’ll call you back.

John and I ran up two flights of stairs. Ran (and somehow I lost a very expensive Tiffany pen during the trot). We got to the sales group as they were walking out the door for the weekend. John grabbed the two sellers from the Project Management and the Payroll packages, and we ran back downstairs and called Louis back. To be honest, I knew almost nothing about the products.

Turned out, they bought all three packages. Right there and then. But they might not have if John had waited until Monday for Louis, or hadn’t assumed the woman answering was a secretary instead of co-owner. And John was set to restrict his sales effort to the accounting package.

CASE STUDY:  ASSUME EVERYONE IS A BUYER

I once made a cold call to an engineering firm. The receptionist answered. I used my Buying Facilitation® model on her as I do with every person who answers a phone; I can never know who is part of the BDT, how their buying decisions get made, or even if they’re in the process of seeking new skills. You’d be shocked to know how much information these front line people have and how helpful they’re willing to be when respected:

SD: Hi. My name is Sharon Drew Morgen, and this is a sales call. I wonder: how are you folks adding new skills to the ones your sales folks currently use, for those times you want to shorten the sales cycle?

Susan: Wow. Cool question. Could you teach our folks to do that?

SD: Sure. That’s what I do. And I know you’re at the front desk and it’s probably busy. But I’m happy to see if what I offer and what might enhance your business would be a fit. Is this a good time?

Susan: No. It’s mayhem around here always. Would you mind sending me some sort of a packet and I’ll get it to the sales director? I promise I’ll do it. I like what’s going on in this conversation.

So I sent her a packet. She called me a week later.

Susan: Hi Sharon Drew. Thanks for the packet. I put it on our Sales Director Joe’s desk. But he was fired an hour later. I went into his office after he’d gone and he’d cleared everything out, including your packet. Sorry to ask you this, but would you send me another one?

I sent her a new packet. A week later I got a call from Gary.

Gary: Hi Sharon Drew. I’m sitting here with Susan who says I have to call you because whatever it is you’re doing sounds like we should be teaching our sales folks. This is my first day as Sales Director, and Susan has made sure this is my first act at my new desk. In fact, she’s standing here right now. You must have made quite an impression on her. Is this a good time for us to discuss?

I ended up training their company, not only in Buying Facilitation®, but in change facilitation. And even though she wasn’t an obvious stakeholder, Susan was on the Buying Decision Team and brought in other team members without me having to look for them.

CASE STUDY: THE IDENTIFIED PROSPECT NEEDS THEIR STAKEHOLDER GROUP.

I once got a call from the Director of Training at KPMG. He had just read one of my books, and said he intuitively believed his team needed Buying Facilitation®. With a 3 year sales cycle and only 1000 possible companies large enough to spend $50,000,000 to buy their tax minimization service, he wanted to stop blowing through his limited number of prospects and shorten the sales cycle.

“What has stopped you from figuring this out on your own until now?” said I.

Steve didn’t have an answer, but said he’d think about it and call back. Next time he called, he had 2 others on the phone. I posed another question about how they could resolve the problem internally and get the buy in that any change would require. We’ll think about it and call back, Steve said. This process continued for two months; each time Steve called back he had more people on the phone and more answers, until one snowy day at 7:00 a.m. while I was on a client site in Rochester NY (in winter!), he had 15 people on the phone from 4 countries.

We did our normal thing of me asking a question that no one had an answer to. During the silence of ‘no answer’ one of the participants started this conversation:

Man: Hey Steve. What’s she selling?

Steve: I have no idea. Hey, Sharon Drew, you haven’t pitched me anything yet. Why not?

SD: I had nothing to sell if you had nothing to buy. Now there’s a larger percentage of your stakeholder buying team present; you have more knowledge of what’s stopping you from having a more effective selling process; you understand the issues that will come up when you add my facilitation system; and who needs to buy in moving forward. Now you’re ready to hear my content.

Then, for the first time mentioning what I was selling, I pitched to the group who was ready to buy. They brought me in, and I trained the global team for 2 years. With my help, they reduced their sales cycle to 4 months.

Remember: until or unless the entire BDT is present (which might be more complex than obvious); until they know if they can/cannot fix any problems themselves or how to manage the change an external solution will bring with it; they’re not buyers.

Trying to sell to one person who you THINK might be a buyer because they were in the right demographic, or because they responded in a way to your manipulative questions that caused you to assume they had a need, or because you attempted to be their ‘best friend’ or ‘relationship manager’ won’t get you more than your 5% close – the low hanging fruit. Not to mention wasting 95% of your time hoping and waiting, asking the wrong questions, to find those who SHOULD buy, and don’t.

DON’T TRY TO GET TO THE TOP

For those of you who spend hours/days/months attempting to get to the person at the top, stop. That person has probably delegated the responsibility to the appropriate team, and more importantly, even if s/he is one of the decision makers, there are several on the BDT. During the time you spend trying to get to THE person, you could have been speaking with one or more folks on the BDT who will then bring the rest of the team into your discussion, so long as you use your time with them to help them facilitate their change to excellence and not try to pitch or pose manipulative questions.

It’s time for us to stop assuming that there is only one person who is THE person we need to speak with. You’re losing business, wasting time trying to find that ‘one’ person, and (when trying to get around or through a receptionist or secretary) not realizing the number of people who must be involved in making a buying decision. Remember: a buying decision is a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, so there are many folks who must be included. That will expand your audience of potential buyers by a factor of 8.

____________________________________

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

March 2nd, 2020

Posted In: News, Sales

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What if most of our viewpoints, interpretations and assumptions are so unconsciously biased that we unwittingly restrict our ability to accurately understand, or act on, incoming information? And what’s accuracy anyway?

Usually, we don’t question what our brains tell us, what seems to be reasonable or wrong. Responding from our personal norms and beliefs, we instinctively assume our perceptions, actions, interpretations, are based on reality. But what if we’re actually restricting ourselves to what’s comfortable and acceptable, and not accounting for our deep seated biases?

Our subjectivity maintains us. At all costs.

SUBJECTIVITY VS OBJECTIVITY

Subjectivity is based on personal, unique, and idiosyncratic beliefs, assumptions, and norms. We’d think we’re making good choices when we choose or consider one thing vs another, when we easily reject something because it makes no sense or annoys us. Or worse, when it’s ‘obvious’ to us that one thing should be valued differently than another.

We like to think we’re able to be objective. I’m here to tell you, we’re not.

The Wikipedia definition of objectivity is “… the elimination of subjective perspectives and … purely based on hard facts.” And “a lack of bias, judgment, or prejudice.” But is this possible? What are ‘hard facts’ when our brain rejects them as faulty? I suggest that objectivity is only slightly less biased than subjectivity. It’s our brain’s fault.

Indeed, it’s pretty impossible to experience or interpret most anything without bias. We act, make decisions and choices, communicate with others, raise children and have friends, all from a small range of favored, habitual mental models that we’ve spent a lifetime culling and assume are accurate.

  • We hear and understand through our brain’s existent neural pathways, causing incoming information (incoming via electrical and chemical signals devoid of meaning) to flow down historic brain routes developed through a lifetime of beliefs, norms, experiences. Regardless of how ‘factual’ it is, when incoming data doesn’t jive with our existing beliefs, our brains ‘do us a favor’ and resist and re-interpret whatever falls outside of what we ‘know’ to be true. Obviously, anything new has a good chance of not being understood accurately. Bias is just cooked in; we don’t even think twice about trusting our intuition or natural reasoning.
  • Whether we’re in a conversation, listening to media, or even reading, we listen through biased filters, and hear what our brains tell us was said – likely to be X% different from the intended message. Unless we develop new neural pathways for the new incoming data, we will only hear what our brains are already comfortable with.

Indeed, our worlds are very tightly controlled by our unconscious and habituated biases, making it quite difficult to objectively hear or understand new idea-based incoming information that is different. It takes quite a bit of work to act beyond our perceptions.

WHY CAN’T WE BE OBJECTIVE?

Each of us interpret incoming messages uniquely. Have you ever spoken with folks who believe that ‘9/11’, or the moon landing, was a hoax or conspiracy? What about people who smoke, and interpret the health data uniquely, believing that because their grandfather smoked until he died at 95 that it’s not going to happen to them? Objectivity is not, well, objective. Here’s what happens: Sometimes

  • the way the new info comes in to us – the words used, the setting, the history between the communication partners, the distance between what’s being said and our current beliefs – cause us to unconsciously misinterpret bits of data;
  • we have no natural way of recognizing an incongruity between the incoming information and our unconscious thoughts;
  • our brain deletes some of the signals from incoming messages when they are discordant with what’s already there, without giving us the deletions to let us know what we missed (My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?explains and corrects this problem.);
  • our beliefs are so strong we react automatically without having enough detachment to notice;
  • what we think is objective is often merely a habitual choice.

We each live in worlds of our own making. We choose friends and neighborhoods according to our beliefs and how our ears interpret ‘facts’, choose professions according to our likes and predispositions, raise our kids with the same norms and beliefs that we hold. In other words, we’ve created rather stable – certainly comfortable – worlds for ourselves that we fight to maintain regardless of how our biases may distort.

When communicating with others, ‘objective facts’ might get lost in subjectivity. In business we connect with different viewpoints and attempt to convince other’s of our ‘rightness’, and either they don’t believe us or they feel we’ve made them ‘wrong’. Our children learn stuff in school that we might find objectionable regardless of its veracity, or we might disagree with teachers who have different interpretations of our child’s behavior. What about the ‘fake news’ claims these days? What, exactly is true? I contend the difference between ‘fake news’ and factual reporting is in our perceptions. Either can be objective or subjective given our underlying biases, and separate from the ‘reality’ of facts.

And of course, most scientific facts we deem ‘objective truth’ may just be opinions. Folks like Curie, Einstein, Hawking, and Tesla were considered to be cranks because their ideas flew in the face of objective science that turned out to be nothing more than decades and centuries of perceived wisdom/opinions.

The problem shows up in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes there’s no way to separate out objective fact from subjective belief, regardless of the veracity.

I remember when my teenage son came home with blue hair one day. Thinking of what his teachers would say (This was in 1985!) or his friend’s parents, I wanted to scream. Instead I requested that next time he wanted to do something like that to please discuss it with me first, and then told him it looked great (It actually was a terrific color!). But his father went nuts when he came to pick him up, screaming at both of us (“What kind of a mother lets her son dye his hair blue!!!”), and taking him directly to the barber to shave his head. For me, it was merely hair. Objective reality.

CASE STUDY IN OBJECTIVITY VS SUBJECTIVITY

I once visited a friend in the hospital where I began a light conversations with the elderly orderly helping her sit up and eat. During our chat, the orderly asked me if I could mentor him. Um… Well, I was busy. Please! he begged. Not knowing what I could add to his life and having a bias that folks who asked me to mentor them just wanted me to give them money, I reluctantly, doubtfully, said ok.

He emailed me and invited me to dinner. Um… well, ok. I’d donate one night. He lived in a tiny room in a senior living center, on the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. It was very clean and neat, and he had gone out of his way to prepare the best healthy dinner he knew how to offer. Shrimp cocktail. Nice salad. Hamburger and beans. Ice cream. During dinner he played some lovely music. Just lovely. I was transfixed. Who is that playing, I asked.

“It’s me. I wrote that piece, and I’m playing all the instruments. I have several CDs of music I’ve composed and self-produced. Can you help me find someone who might want to hear it and do something with it? I’ve never met anyone who could help me.” I helped him find folks who helped him professionally record at least two of his compositions.

By any ‘objective’ measure, using my own subjective biases and ignoring the objective truth that we’re all equal and everyone is capable of having talent, I didn’t initially consider that someone ‘like that’ (old, black, poor, uneducated) had the enormous talent this man possessed, regardless of my advocacy of non-bias and gender/race equality.

Unwittingly, we seriously restrict our worlds by the way we process incoming data. We live subjective lives that restrict us. And as a result, we end up having arguments, misunderstandings, failed initiatives; we end up having a smaller pool of ideas to think with and don’t see a need for further research or checking; we make faulty assumptions about people and ideas that could bring benefits to our lives. I personally believe it’s necessary for us to remove as many restrictions as possible to our pool of knowledge and beliefs.

HOW TO COMPENSATE

To recognize bias and have a new choice, we must first recognize the necessity of noticing when something we believe may not be true, regardless of how strong our conviction otherwise. It’s quite difficult to do using the same biases that caused us to unconsciously bias in the first place.

Here’s a tip to help expand your normalized perception and notice a much broader range of givens, or ‘reality,’ to view an expanded array of options from a Witness or Coach or Observer position on the ceiling:

  1. Sit quietly. Think of a situation that ended with you misinterpreting something and the outcome wasn’t pretty. Replay it through your mind’s eye. Pay particular attention to your feelings as you relive each aspect of the situation. Replay it again.
  2. Notice where your body has pain, discomfort, or annoyance points.
  3. As soon as you notice, intensify the feeling at the site of the discomfort. Then impart a color on it. Make the color throb.
  4. Mentally move that color inside your body to the outer edges of your eyeballs and make the color vibrate in your eyes.
  5. When you mentally notice the color vibration, make sure you sit back in your chair or stand up. Then move your awareness up to the ceiling (i.e. in Witness or Observer position) and look down at yourself. From above you’ll notice an expanded range of data points and options outside your standard ones, causing you to physiologically evade your subjective choices.

Since the difference between subjectivity and objectivity is one of perception, and in general our brains make our determinations unconsciously, we must go to the place in our brains that cause us to perceive, and make it conscious. Only then can we have any objective choice. And next time we think we’re being objective, maybe rethink the situation to consider whether new choices are needed.

___________________________

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

February 10th, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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With untold millions of sales professionals in the world, sellers play a role in any economy. While our jobs are nominally to place solutions, we are uniquely positioned to make a difference: as the intermediary between clients and providers, we can make sales a spiritual practice and become true facilitators and Servant Leaders (and close more sales).

WHAT’S WRONG WITH SALES?

The current sales model is a time-waster, restricts success, and is horribly inefficient. We close 5% of our sales and waste 95% of our time (approximately 130 hours a month per seller); our product data is well-represented online so pitches based on product details may be irrelevant; we connect with only those who are ready to buy, and ignore the possibility of facilitating and serving people en route to becoming buyers.

Until people have tried, and failed, to fix their problem themselves, and then figured out how to manage any disruption that a new solution might cause their environment,  they aren’t buyers. It’s only when:

  • they know exactly how to manage and recognize any change that bringing in something new creates,
  • they’ve calculated that the cost of bringing in something new is lower than the cost of maintaining the status quo,

will they seek help through a purchase. Indeed, buying is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.

People don’t want to buy anything, they merely seek excellence and will buy something only if that’s the only way to achieve it, and they are absolutely certain they cannot fit it themselves. And the sales model, using eyeballs, content, price, and needs assessments seeks to place solutions, ensuring that the only people they find are the low hanging fruit – those who have already gone through their process of determining they need an outside solution.

Because sales focuses on only the final steps of a buying decision, and overlooks the change process necessary to get to that point, it’s only possible to attract interest from those who have ended up there. Others who may need us eventually won’t even heed our messages, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. As a result, we end up closing 5% and wasting a helluva lot of time being ignored and rejected.

It’s not what we’re selling that’s the problem – our solutions are just fine. It’s the process of pushing solutions rather than first helping those who will become buyers facilitate their necessary change process that’s misplaced, mistimed, and misguided, leading to the win-lose quality of sales: sales becomes a product/solution push into a closed, resistive, private system, rather than an expansive, collaborative experience between seller and buyer wherein both attain a win-win.

And we end up seeking and closing only those ready to buy at the point of contact – unwittingly ignoring others who aren’t ready even though they may need our solutions, and just need to get their ducks in a row before they’re prepared to make a decision.

Imagine having a product-needs discussion about moving an iceberg and discussing only the tip. That’s sales; it doesn’t facilitate the entire range of hidden, unique change issues buyers must consider – having nothing to do with our solutions – before they could buy anything. Failure is built in.

But when we begin our conversation at the point where people are considering change in the area our product resolves, and lead them through their change management before selling, we are in a position to truly facilitate them through all of the issues they must resolve (even those that aren’t obvious), have all stakeholders in the loop from the start, and help them figure out how to address the disruption of bringing in a new solution. Then we are true servant leaders.

IS SELLING PREDATORY?

Seller’s restricted focus on placing solutions, the listening for needs rather than for ability to serve, all but insures that kindness, respect, and true facilitation are unwittingly overlooked as we focus on selling instead of facilitating buying. A major factor is our one-sided communication:

  1. Prospecting/cold calling – driven by sellers to gather needs/information and offer solution details (all biased by the need to place solutions). It ignores the full unique fact pattern of the buyer’s environment and change issues and enlists only buyers seeking THAT solution at THAT time at THAT period of readiness, omitting those who could buy if ready or knew how to include the solution congruently into their current plans.
  2. Content marketing – driven by the seller to push the ‘right’ data into the ‘right’ hands at the ‘right’ time according to their biased interpretations of ‘right’, but really only a push into the unknown and a hope for action. Wholly seller-centric.
  3. Deals, cold-call pushes, negotiation, objection-handling, closing techniques, getting to ‘the’ decision maker, price-reductions – all assuming buyers would buy if they understood their need/the solution/their problem, all overlooking the real connection and service capability of addressing the person’s most pressing change issues. Wholly seller-centric.
  4. Real communication involves each communication partner, in this case a buyer and a seller, being equally served; sellers can facilitate buyers through their private change management issues first as they travel towards a purchase (rather than try to extract a purchase from those who have gotten to the point of buying), thereby facilitating Buyer Readiness, AND developing a win/win connection, AND closing more sales. Win-win.

I’ve been a seller, trainer, consultant, and sales coach since the 1970s, been a buyer as founder of a tech start up 1983-1988, and have personally worked with dozens of global corporations and untold thousands of sellers. I see sales as a near-predatory job: sellers spend their time seeking and following, pitching and positioning, networking and calling to find those few set up to buy something, and ignoring a large population of potential buyers who merely aren’t ready, but could be with true facilitation.

The model is fraught with guesswork and hope, manipulation and persuasion, white lies and exaggerations – not to mention highly ineffective when the time spent vs sales closed ratio is examined. Not only are we wasting time pushing/chasing folks we’ve deemed prospects (A real prospect is one who WILL buy, not someone who SHOULD buy; the current sales model doesn’t know the difference.), but the global nature of staffing patterns and decision makers in our client’s environments causes closing to take 30% longer. And the very nature of the web makes most pitches and presentations moot. In fact, buyers often know more than sellers.

Sales unwittingly ignores the real problem: it’s in the buying, not the selling. The sales model’s focus on placing solutions keeps us from using our positions as knowledge experts and Leaders to facilitate buyers down their own path to excellence.

Truth is, as outsiders we can never know all the elements that have created and maintained their status quo, or what needs to happen internally for them to be ready to make a purchase. We might ‘know’ how our solution would make a difference, but we can never know how they will buy. And here is where we can truly serve.

SALES IS SHORT-SIGHTED

Indeed, the job of ‘sales’ as merely a solution-placement vehicle is short-sighted.

  1. Buyers can find our products online. They don’t need us chasing them.
  2. Our solution isn’t the problem – it’s the buyer’s behind-the-scenes timing and change management process that gums up the works.
  3. 80% of prospects will buy our solutions (but not necessarily from us) within two years of our connection.
  4. The lion’s share of the buying decision (9 out of the 13 step decision path) involves buyers traversing internal change with no thoughts of buying anything until there’s consensus.

But we can truly serve clients AND close more sales, by adding a Change Facilitation capability that expands our entry points into the buy cycle, makes the buying decision process much more efficient and makes sales a spiritual practice (that closes dramatically more sales in a fraction of the time). Here’s my definition of ‘spiritual’:

  • the whole is greater than the parts;
  • we’re all here to serve each other;
  • everyone has their own unique excellence;
  • no one has an answer for someone else.

Different from sales, which

  • purpose to be win/win but often is ‘win-lose’,
  • believes the parts might be greater than the whole,
  • causes buyers to feel pushed with content and contacts,
  • considers their solution the ‘right’ answer,
  • only addresses the tail end of a larger (and unknowable to outsiders) system of rules, internal politics, relationships, and status quo.

To elaborate:

Aspiring to a win-win

Win-win means both sides get what they need in equal measure. Sellers believe that placing product or resolving a problem offers an automatic win-win but that’s not wholly accurate.

Buying isn’t as simple as choosing a solution; buyers first must resolve the entire system that created and maintains their problem (problems never occur uniquely). The very last thing they want is to buy anything, regardless of their apparent need. As outsiders we can’t know the tangles of people and policies that hold their problem/need in place. The time it takes them to design a congruent solution that includes buy-in and change management is the length of their sales cycle. Buyers need to do this anyway; it’s the length of the sales cycle. They will do this with us or without us, so it might as well be with us.

If we enter first as Change Facilitators and help buyers efficiently traverse their internal struggles (that we can never be a part of per se), we can help them get to the ‘need/purchase’ decision more quickly and be part of the solution – win-win.

We’re wasting a valuable opportunity to share this process with them by only wanting to sell – and then wait and hope, while competitively chasing after those who show up after they’ve completed their internal work without us.

If we enter earlier, work with them as Change Facilitators (with wholly different skills and goals) to help them facilitate their change, we can spend our time capturing and serving more real prospects, and spend less time seeking out the low hanging fruit. We can use our time more profitably to develop real buyers and simultaneously serve them, rather than fighting to find those who are ready. Let’s shift gears and enter earlier with a different hat on.

Believe it or not it becomes a very efficient process and great time saver: no more chasing those who will never close; no more turning off those who will eventually seek our solution; no more gathering incomplete data from one person with partial answers. We can enable those who can/should buy to buy in half the time and sell more product – and very quickly know the difference between them and those who can never buy. Win-win. [All the change issues buyers must address are in my book Dirty Little Secrets].

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

There are several pieces to the puzzle here.

  • The buyer and the system the buyer lives in, including people, policies, job titles, egos, relationships, politics, layers of management, rules, etc. that no one on the outside will ever understand and are focused on excellence, not on buying anything. It’s never as simple as just changing out the problem for a new product; their focus is to have the best situation possible and will buy a solution only when they’re certain they can’t fix their own problem.
  • Resolving the problem needs full internal buy-in from the system before being willing to change (i.e. buy) regardless of the efficacy of the fix. A purchase is not necessarily their best solution even if it looks like a fit to a seller.
  • The ability of the buyer to manage the disruption that a new purchase would incur on the system, people, and policies. A fix, or purchase, might be worse than the problem.
  • The seller and the seller’s product may/may not fit in the buyer’s environment due to idiosyncratic, political, or rules-based issues, regardless of the need.
  • The purchase and implementation and follow up that includes buy-in from all who will experience a potentially disruptive change if a new solution enters and shifts their job routines.
  • The sum of these parts is the whole; seller and buyer can work together to facilitate systemic change first. Surprisingly, this is a very quick process, uncovering real prospects almost immediately. Win-win for all.

We are all here to serve each other

Sellers understand enough about the systems in our areas of expertise to help buyers traverse their change route that could lead to a sale. With an entry point of systems excellence rather than solution placement, buyers immediately recognize the benefits from a collaboration with the seller and are happy to invite sellers onto their decision team and not seek other competitors. Win-win. The Facilitative Question I developed for Wachovia’s Small Business Banker’s cold calls helped prospects immediately realize a problem they had to resolve rather than say ‘No’ to an appointment request:

“How are you currently adding banking resources to the bank you’re currently using for those times you seek additional support?”

With no disrespect, no push, no information gathering or asking for an appointment, this Facilitative Question above (as one of several asked in a specific sequence, using specific words) merely pointed to the problem they might have to resolve over time. [Note: I invented Facilitative Questions to lead brains through to change, rather than conventional questions that elicit biased data.] The results were astounding: against 100 prospecting calls and a control group: 10% appointments vs 27%; 2 closes in 11 months vs 19 closes in 3 months; we facilitated discovery immediately and served: we actually helped folks figure out their own configuration for change. And we only visited those who could close.

One more note: people are happy to buy in a short time frame once they know, and figure out how to manage, the full set of change issues they’ll have to deal with (Fire a team? Retrain users? Get rid of software they’ve used for years?). As I’ve said above, they must do this before they can buy. And we’re not helping them. But we could. And truly serve them in the process.

There is no right answer

Sellers often believe that buyers are idiots for not making speedy decisions, or for not buying an ‘obvious’ solution. But sales offers no skills or motive to enter earlier where buyers are not at the point of even knowing if – let alone what – they might buy. We must expand the definition of a buying decision as the route down the 13-step path from the status quo through to congruent change. Includes the people, policies, relationships, and history – the systems issues that insure Systems Congruence – that maintain the status quo and must be addressed before they consider buying anything.

Once buyers figure out their congruent route to change, they won’t have objections, will close themselves, and there’s no competition: buyers are the ones with the ‘right answer’; sellers facilitate change management first and then sell once everything is in place. No call backs and follow up and ignored calls. Win-win.

No one has anyone else’s answer

By adding decision facilitation, everyone focuses on uncovering the right questions. Collaborative decisions get made that will serve everyone.

Let’s change the focus: instead relegating sales to a product/solution placement endeavor, let’s add the job of facilitation to first find people en route to becoming buyers, then lead them through to their own type of ‘excellence’ through their internal change process first, and then using the sales model when they’ve become buyers. Then buyers make better, quicker, more congruent decisions – with more/quicker sales, less tire-kickers, better differentiation, and no competition, and sales close in half the time.

THE NEW WAY

As a seller and an entrepreneur (I founded a tech company in London, Hamburg, and Stuttgart in 1983), I realized that sales ignored the buying decision problem and developed Buying Facilitation® to add to sales as a generic change management to be used as a Pre-Sales tool.

Buyers get to their answers eventually; the time this takes is the length of the sales cycle, and selling doesn’t cause buying. Once I developed this model for my sellers to use, we made their process far more efficient with an 8x increase in sales – a number consistently reproduced against control groups with my global training clients over the following decades.

With Buying Facilitation® we can add a new capability and level of expertise and be a part of the decision process from the first call. Make money and make nice.

We no longer need to lose prospects because they’re not ready, or cognizant of their need. We can become intermediaries between our clients and our companies; use our positions to efficiently help buyers manage their internal change congruently, without manipulation; use our time to serve those who WILL buy – and know this on the first contact – and stop wasting time on those who will never buy. Let’s stop merely trying to place our solutions, and use our knowledge and care to serve our buyers and our companies in a win-win. Let’s make sales a spiritual practice.

____________

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

February 3rd, 2020

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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Change - Selling Solutions

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

  • the status quo has carefully determined (through trial, error, and agreement) that it cannot fix recognized problems with anything familiar (current vendors, current software, other departments, different people),
  • there has been systemic buy-in and the status quo is ready, willing, able to incorporate something new into the current operating procedures,
  • a new solution can fit without major disruption (or it will be rejected regardless of the need or the efficacy of the new),
  • the ‘new’ matches the rules, values- and systems-based criteria that identifies it.

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 established conglomeration of elements that define our unique, largely unconscious, human operating system,
  • made up of idiosyncratic rules that determine the habits, patterns, agreeable behaviors, and organizing principles that enable us to get up every day as the same person/team we were yesterday,
  • a representation of the beliefs, values, history, assumptions, moral structure, cultural/educational standards it embodies,
  • stable, unique, idiosyncratic, complex, and mysterious (especially to outsiders).

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). And, regardless of the size or complexity of the problem, the path to congruent change is the same for all systems. It begins when something within recognizes something awry. It must then find a path to congruent change that includes consensus and change management. Knowing what needs to shift, having ‘good’ data on why the shift is necessary, or having a few elements willing to shift (without complete buy-in) does nothing to create change. There must be a thorough understanding of all the moving parts (i.e. you can’t get where you’re going until you know where you’re at).

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.com. 1700 articles appear on www.sharondrewmorgen.com

 

 

January 6th, 2020

Posted In: Communication, News, Sales

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communicate

As a Buddhist, I don’t understand why anyone would want to take another’s life or how it’s even an option. Yet so many in our country are feeling disempowered and ignored, targeted and disenfranchised and we haven’t yet created a dialogue to heal. In fact, we don’t even know how to hear each other. During this time of racial, class, political, gender, and education divide, of distrust and blame and victimhood, of killing and guns and violence, our inability to deeply hear each other is heartbreaking and costly.

I’m not going into the moral issues of Right/Wrong here. But I can offer my bit to make it possible to find solutions.

THE PROBLEM: HOW OUR BRAINS LISTEN

During the 3 years researching and writing a book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I learned how ubiquitous our challenge is: the distance between our subjective experiences and cultures makes it almost impossible to accurately hear others outside of our own ingrained biases, assumptions, and triggers. Indeed, words can’t be correctly translated when the intended meaning gets lost in another’s unfamiliar mind-set, culture, and history; the possibility of finding collaboration and reconciliation gets lost in our communication.

Heartfelt intent and tears aside, we’ve not been taught how to listen without bias. From the individual spots we each stand in, with our restricting viewpoints and hot-buttons, we pose biased questions and make faulty assumptions, overlooking the possibility that our Communication Partner (CP) may have similar foundational beliefs that we just don’t know how to recognize.

Unfortunately, our brain causes the problem. It translates what’s been said into what’s comfortable or inflammatory or habitual or or… and doesn’t realize it has misunderstood, or mistranslated the Speaker’s intent. So we actually hear ABL when our CP said ABC and we have no reason to think what we we’ve ‘heard’ is faulty. I lost a partnership this way. During a conversation, John got annoyed at something he thought I said. I tried to correct him:

“That’s not what I said.” I told him.

“I know what I heard! Don’t try to get away with anything here!

“But I didn’t say that at all!

“John, I was sitting right here. She’s right. She never said that,” said his wife.

“You’re both lying!!! I’m outta here!!” And he stomped out of the room, ending our partnership.

It’s pernicious: our brains select a translation for us, reducing whole conversations and categories of people to caricature and subjective assumption. But to distinguish what’s meant from what we think we hear, to experience what others want to convey when it’s out of our experience, we must recognize when it’s time to make a new choice.

HOW TO DO HOW

We need a way forward to choose behaviors that maintain our Beliefs, Values, and Identity AND find common ground to listen to each other and come to consensus with action steps to help us all heal. I’m going to offer some steps for us to dialogue and reach win/win consensus. But first I’ll a few foundational truths:

  • Everyone’s experience and history is valid, unique, and guides their choices.
  • Others cannot see or feel what you see or feel.
  • Everyone has a right to the same basics: health, a living wage, good work, safety for our families, education.
  • All change, including adopting new ideas, is threatening to the status quo and will cause resistance unless there is buy-in at the level of beliefs.

We must

  • recognize common beliefs and values we can buy-in to without impairing our individual values,
  • feel safe in conversations when it feels like we’re speaking with enemies,
  • override our resistance and biases to find common intentions, compassion and outcomes,
  • be able to hear another’s intended message without overlaying our biases, assumptions, and habits.

I’ve put together a few action steps to begin to dialogue with those we’ve historically sat in opposition to. I also recommend that our conversations must work toward win/win. I call this a We Space.

Get agreement for a dialogue: It’s likely that you and your CP have different goals and life experiences. Begin by agreeing to have a conversation to do nothing more than find common ground.

  • “I’d like to have a dialogue that might lead to us to an agreeable route forward that meets both of our goals. If you agree, do you have thoughts on where you’d like to begin?”
  • “I wonder if we can find common goals so we might possibly find some agreement to work from. I’m happy to share my goals with you; I’d like to hear yours as well. ”

Set the frame for common values: We all have similar foundational values, hopes and fears – they’re just different. Start by ‘chunking up’ to find agreement.

  • “I’d like to find a way to communicate that might help us find a common values so we can begin determining if there are places we can agree. Any thoughts on how you’d like to proceed?”
  • “It seems we’re in opposite mind-sets. What might be a comfortable way forward for us to discover if there is any agreement at all we can start from?”

Enter without bias: With limiting beliefs or hidden agendas, there’s no way to find commonality. Replace emotions and blame with a new bias, just for this conversation: the ‘bias’ of collaboration.

  • ‘I’m willing to find common ground and put aside my normal reactions for this hour but it will be a challenge since I’m so angry. Do you want to share your difficulty in this area, or are you ok with it and can help me? How do we move forward without bias?’

Get into Observer: In case you have difficulty overcoming your biases and filters, here’s a physiological ‘How-To’ that comes straight from NLP: in your mind’s eye, see yourself up on the ceiling, looking down on yourself and your CP. It will virtually remove you from the fray, and offer an unbiased view of your interaction – one step removed as it were. One way to do this is to walk around during the conversation, or sit way, way back in a chair. Sitting forward keeps you in your biases. (Chapter 6 inWhat? teaches how to do this.)

Notice body language/words: Your CP is speaking/listening from beliefs, values, history, feelings, exhibited in their body language and eye contact. From your ceiling perch, notice how their physical stance matches their words, the level of passion, feelings, and emotion. Now look down and notice how you look and sound in relation to your CP. Just notice. Read Carol Goman’s excellent book on the subject.

Notice triggers: The words emphasized by your CP hold their beliefs and biases. They usually appear at the very beginning or end of a sentence. You may also hear absolutes: Always, Never; lots of You’s may be the vocabulary of blame. Silence, folded arms, a stick-straight torso may show distrust. Just notice where/when it happens and don’t take it personally – it’s not personal. Don’t forget to notice your own triggers, or blame/victim words of your own. If their words trigger you into your own subjective viewpoints, get yourself back into Observer; you’ll have choice from the ceiling. But just in case:

  • “I’m going to try very hard to speak/listen without my historic biases. If you find me getting heated, or feel blame, I apologize as that’s not my intent. If this should happen, please tell me you’re not feeling heard and I’ll do my best to work from a place of compassion and empathy.”

Summarize regularly: Because the odds are bad that you’ll actually hear what your CP means to convey, it’s necessary to summarize what you hear after every exchange:

  • “Sounds to me like you said, “XX”. Is that correct? What would you like me to understand that I didn’t understand or that I misheard?”

‘I’ statements: Stay away from ‘You’ if possible. Try to work from the understanding that you’re standing in different shoes and there is no way either of you can see the other’s landscape.

  • “When I hear you say X it sounds to me like you are telling me that YY. Is that true?”
  • “When I hear you mention Y, I feel like Z and it makes me want to get up from the table as I feel you really aren’t willing to hear me. How can we handle this so we can move forward together?”

Get buy-in each step of the way: Keep checking in, even if it seems obvious that you’re on the same page. It’s really easy to mistranslate what’s been said when the listening filters are different.

  • “Seems to me like we’re on the same page here. I think we’re both saying X. Is that true? What am I missing?”
  • “What should I add to my thinking that I’m avoiding or not understanding the same way you are? Is there a way you want me to experience what it looks like from your shoes that I don’t currently know how to experience? Can you help me understand?”

Check your gut: Notice when/if your stomach gets tight, or your throat hurts. These are sure signs that your beliefs are being stepped on. If that happens, make sure you get back up to the ceiling, and then tell your CP:

  • “I’m experience some annoyance/anger/fear/blame. That means something we’re discussing is going against one of my beliefs or values. Can we stop a moment and check in with each other so we don’t go off the rails?”

Get agreement on the topics in the conversation: One step at a time; make sure you both agree to each item, and skip the ones (for now) where there’s no agreement. Put them in a Parking Lot for your next conversation.

Get agreement on action items: Simple steps for forward actions should become obvious; make sure you both work on action items together.

Get a time on the calendar for the next meeting: Make sure you discuss who else needs to be brought into the conversation, end up with goals you can all agree on and walk away with an accurate understanding of what’s been said and what’s expected.

Until or unless we all hold the belief that none of us matter if some of us don’t; until or unless we’re all willing to take the responsibility of each needless death or killing; until or unless we’re each willing to put aside our very real grievances to seek a higher good, we’ll never heal. It’s not easy. But by learning how to hear each other with compassion and empathy, our conversations can begin. We must be willing to start sharing our Truth and our hearts. It’s the only real start we can make.

___________

Sharon Drew Morgen has been coding and teaching change and choice in sales, coaching, and leadership for over 30 years. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic decision facilitation model used in sales, and is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity. Sharon Drew’s book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? has been called a ‘game changer’ in the communication field, and is the first book that explains, and solves, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her assessments and learning tools that accompany the book have been used by individuals and teams to learn to enter conversations able to hear without filters. Sharon Drew is the author of one of the top 10 global sales blogs with 1700+ articles on facilitating buying decisions through enabling buyers to manage their status quo effectively.

She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com or 512 771 1117.

December 9th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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teamwork-2198961_960_720

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

  • tried all familiar resources and workarounds to fix their own problem and came up short,
  • decided their only route to a problem resolution is to make a purchase,
  • gotten appropriate buy-in and managed any disruption that a purchase would bring

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 first a change management problem, before it’s a solution choice issue. Indeed, the last thing buyers want is to buy anything. Literally: the last thing. People don’t want to make a purchase, they merely want to resolve a problem with the least disruption/cost, and try everything they can to first fix the problem themselves.

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. You don’t buy a house before organizing a whole bunch of stuff with your family and getting buy-in from all the stakeholders. It’s not about the house.

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:

  • Once prospects have determined a need, you’re already in a competitive situation and have to find ways to be better/cheaper/more branded.
  • You’re wasting over 90% of your time finding, following up, meeting with, and in several ways trying to connect with, those who appear to need your solution but turn out not to be buyers.
  • You ignore the high percentage of those who would/will buy but aren’t yet ready to (but could easily be gotten ready).
  • You overlook the possibility of connecting with and serving, real buyers early along their change management/decision path
  • and reduces the number of possible entry points onto the Buying Decision Team/buying decision.

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 accessible 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 are 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 completed their internal steps and have gotten the appropriate buy-in for change. But for those buyers who haven’t completed their buy-in and change issues, and haven’t yet determined if they CAN buy, sales don’t have the intent, skills, or focus. Sales wasn’t created to do that. It’s only meant to place solutions. And it’s possible for us to add a first step to sales and first facilitate people through their internal change work so they become buyers.

The sales model we’ve been using is based on a model 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, placing solutions, for which he recommended developing great pitches.

Think about it: while there are certainly a helluva lot more bells and whistles in 2020, the basic skeleton of need/relationship/ appointment/ pitch, remains the same. It shouldn’t be. The buying environment has changed dramatically over the past 100 or so years, far more complex than merely choosing a vendor or solution; the sales model hasn’t. It’s time for new thinking. Let’s join buyers where they really have their real ‘pain’ and facilitate Buyer Readiness earlier in their buy-in/systemic change process.

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.

Buyers don’t want to buy anything. They just want to resolve a problem with the least disruption and the most efficient use of a resource. And until they figure out that they cannot resolve their problem themselves, and everyone has agreed to bring in something new, and they know how to avoid any disruption that something new invariably brings with it, they cannot buy. Indeed, they’re not even buyers until everyone agrees. [Hence the reason they don’t heed our content outreach].

All prospects/buyers must do this anyway, with you or without you. It might as well be with you. 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 WILL buy. And you can find them on the first call. You’ll just need a different hat on.

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?

        *Does it need to be solved? When? How?

        *What’s the fallout?

        *Is the cost of a fix lower than the cost of the status quo?

        *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:

        *Known workarounds and acceptable/fallout from each,

        *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:

        *Types of research necessary (and who will do it),

        *If appropriate people are involved (and who else to invite),

        *A review of all elements of the problem and solution options,

        *How much change management would be required,

        *How much disruption is acceptable.

7. Coordination stage:

        *Review needs, ideas, issues of new members invited,

        *Incorporate change considerations,

        *Delineate everyone’s thoughts re goals and change capacity,

        *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.

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 focus: seek out folks who want to change, and facilitate them through to becoming buyers. Note: your current messaging is the wrong tool for this part of their process because it’s not information, need, or buying 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

  • work with sales to enter the Buying Decision Path between Steps 1-9 above (Pre-Sales),
  • seek/find those who CAN buy (those who’ve recognized a problem in the area your solution serves, but aren’t set up to buy anything yet),
  • find the large pool of real buyers who can be facilitated efficiently through to Buyer Readiness,
  • collapse the time from problem recognition to discovery of need to purchase,
  • enable sellers to be servant leaders and real consultants, and be part of the Buying Decision Team when buyers get to the point they’re ready to buy.

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 currently used 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 targeting those who seek change rather than those who might have a ‘need’, by understanding the Pre-Sales (change management) steps all buyers take, by changing your messaging to enable the collection of the full stakeholder group, enable buy in from the disparate voices, and needs, you can find and facilitate the Pre-Sales decision path of those who WILL buy and enable them to ready themselves for a purchase. 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 WOULDN’T buy. Adding Buying Facilitation® to their sales, they made 27 visits 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.

Using Buying Facilitation® outcomes are quite different. It begins by entering as a true consultant, seeking folks who seek change in the area of the seller’s solution. The conventional ‘need’ and ‘solution placement’ mind set not only misses those who are en route to becoming buyers and don’t (yet) have interest in content, but has the potential of alienating folks not already seeking to buy. Not to mention it’s a huge time waster.

Using Buying Facilitation® as a preliminary skill set,

  • Sellers can tell who will be a buyer on the first call and only visit people once they’ve completed their change process and have become buyers – a highly shortened process as the Facilitator makes the buying decision process much more efficient (half the time) and when a solution is finally discussed, it’s relevant to the buyer’s actual needs, timing, buy in, and stakeholder criteria;
  • Appointments are made only when representatives of the entire Decision Team are onboard [And note: this can take just one or two calls.];
  • By entering at the beginning of the Decision Path instead of trying to enlist the low hanging fruit who’ve already become buyers, it’s possible to close 8x more sales (as per 35 years of control group/pilot testing);
  • A seller’s first job is to facilitate the Pre-Sales steps, then add the solution placement component when they’re ready.

It sounds impossible if compared with the sales process of prospecting, qualifying, and pitching and ultimately only closing 5%. But the entire process is different. With the focus on first facilitating the complete Decision Path from beginning to end (focus on change, not on selling), Buying Facilitation® expands the possible target audience by a factor of 8, to include those in the buying decision process, not just those who have completed it (the low hanging fruit). It’s a true Relationship Management tool, and saves time as sellers only sell to those who WILL buy.

Once people know all – all – of the elements (most are hidden, personal and idiosyncratic) of their Pre-Sales decision/change steps and have realized they cannot resolve a problem without outside help, they are buyers and seek a solution. By this time, they’ve gone through their steps and are have recognized that bringing something new in will ‘cost’ less than maintaining the status quo.Design messaging to help them traverse their steps (Note: offering information about your solution until this occurs is irrelevant) to manage 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 a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

August 12th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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sucesss

Would you consider a baseball player with a 95% failure rate Successful? Would you choose a surgeon with a 95% failure rate? Can you think of any field but sales, with an industry-standard close rate of 5%, that considers 95% failure ‘Success’? Using targets, commissions, hiring, and profits based on a 5% close rate, the field of sales colludes in perpetuating the lie that failure is Success. Why hasn’t anyone ever said, “Gee. Maybe a 5% close rate is 95% failure. Maybe it’s a sign something’s wrong? Maybe it’s not a solution-placement/content/pitch/buyer/marketing/technology problem.”

It’s possible to have much, much higher close rates. But that would demand the industry admit a problem. By colluding that a 5% close is industry standard – indeed, all that’s possible with the current Solution-Placement focus! – there’s no need to change.

THE MYTH OF SALES

When I began selling in 1979 the average close rate was 8%. Now, with our new electronic capability, sophisticated on-line marketing software, and ‘new new’ sales models, it’s down to 5%. Why? Because our current buying/selling environments are far more complex; consensus and change management are now necessary elements for buyer-readiness; and our Solution-Placement focus is designed to find only the 5% who are ready to buy.

By starting at the end of a buyer’s decision process, hoping beyond hope to convince buyers they need our great solution, sellers get push back from a buyer’s good-enough-functioning system not equipped for change, and finding only those who have completed their comprehensive decision making – the low hanging fruit (5%). That’s right: Sales pushes and pitches, presents and proposes, hopes and waits, using activity developed to find the 5% who are ready. Sales has never questioned its assumption that

  • buyers will be persuaded by ‘good’ content that differentiates/explains/convinces of benefits;
  • buyers will know what to do with our brilliant content;
  • with good marketing and sales outreach, and a prospect with a need to match, we just need to find the button that will get them to buy.

It’s never recognized that prospects can’t even hear what we’ve got to say or know how it’s relevant before determining their readiness to change and buying anything; it’s never mentioned that with all the marketing, all the outreach, all the never-ending attempts to ‘get in’, nothing we’ve done for decades has significantly shifted our close rates. It’s because we’re pushing in from the back end and getting resistance, rather than entering at the beginning. More on this in a moment.

Look at this this way: we’ve got nothing to sell if they’ve got nothing to buy, and doing what we’ve been doing hasn’t produced appreciably different results – and we can’t use the problem to fix the problem [Remember Einstein?]. The issue demands new thinking, new biases, new goals, and new skill sets. Let me share what I did to fix the problem with my tech start up in London in the 80s.

LEADING BUYER-READINESS

Going from a sales person to an international entrepreneur, I recognized the low close rate problem as one of focus: sales focuses on placing solutions; buyers focus on solving (business) problems with minimal fallout. And since buyers can buy only when there is appropriate buy-in for change, management of fallout, and consensus among users (all steps necessary in some form regardless of the size or price of the solution), our efforts to find buyers or prospects is like seeking a needle in a haystack.

I figured out a solution to help my sales teams enter buyer interactions as change facilitators who nurture buyer-readiness first: I developed Buying Facilitation® as a facilitation/leadership tool to help buyers recognize and achieve their most efficient change processes without biasing them or being purchase/product focused. We ended up with a 35% close rate (up from 9%) from first call, regardless of the size of the sale (all buyers/prospects go through some form of this, even if unconsciously).

In 1987 I began teaching the model to clients, then left my business to teach the model full time to global corporate clients. Yet my results – all with control group studies – were largely ignored by the mainstream: I repeatedly came up against the collusion that perpetuates failure and the status quo, even in the face of obvious success. Here’s an overview of some of the resistance:

Working with Morgan Stanley in the 1990s, we achieved a 25% increase in one month over the control group. Follow on: the MD sent someone to Chicago to check on a man who purportedly had a similar buying-based model (turns out he didn’t). Why not just hire me to train everyone? Because I was a woman. He actually said that to the person he sent to Chicago.

A group at William Blair & Co. (brokerage house) went from a $400 million revenue to $1.3 billion in just under four years. Colleagues wondering how Jim achieved those spectacular numbers got a copy of my book Dirty Little Secrets from a carton he kept under his desk. Invariably they said the book was ‘Nuts’ and that Jim was just ‘lucky’. With a near-miraculous success happening before their eyes, this group preferred to devalue the results and continue failing rather than even trying to change.

Working with Boston Scientific, we achieved a 53% increase over the control group. During the ‘Thank You’ call from my client, I asked if we’d be training the entire team. “No, the model is “too controversial.”

Kaiser Permanente went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales (7% close rate) to 27 visits and 25 closed sales (600% increase). They fired my client, saying that training their 1500 sales folks in the new material would create a major disruption; they disbanded and re-assigned the folks I trained so the new skills would be subsumed.

Proctor and Gamble had a 15% increase in one month (huge in a behemoth company of this size). They said it would cost millions of dollars to change the systems that maintained their status quo – the manufacturing, delivery, billing, etc. all maintained a much slower sales cycle. They didn’t do further training.

I could go on and on. Crazy stuff. Incontrovertible proof that adding different skills and shifting the focus closed more sales and wasted a lot less time (in vastly shortened sales cycle, creating more ready buyers, and early dismissal of those who would never buy). They’d prefer to maintain failure? Build and compensate sales forces on 4-6% close rates? Lose market share, hire 9x more sales staff with high turnover, pay more in training and travel? Yet the sales industry is doing what all systems do: eschew greater success to maintain ‘good enough’ and the ‘known’. That’s right. Like the sales industry, my clients preferred lower revenues than change.

HERE’S THE REAL DEAL

Here are the underlying ‘givens’ that we ignore using the sales/Solution-Placement approach alone:

  • Buyers only buy when all of the idiosyncratic change management and people issues buy in and reach consensus. Buyers MUST do this anyway – with you or without you. It might as well be with you; you just need an additional skill as a sales is inadequate here.
  • Buyers don’t want to buy anything; they just want to resolve a problem. They’ll buy something only when all else fails.
  • Buyers buy using their own buying patterns, not a seller’s selling patterns. If the sales approach goes against the grain, buyers will choose a different vendor or solution.
  • A buying decision is a change management problem: the Current State must shift in unknown ways to adopt something new, or face offending the entire system that will then resist.
  • There is no way to ‘gather information’ from one person when it’s not clear that s/he is speaking on behalf of a complete Buying Decision Team who have determined how a solution would need to match their buying criteria (only a small part of which is a solution).
  • Conventional information gathering is biased by the needs of the seller to ultimately place their solution and overlooks important data about decision making, buying patterns, group assembly.
  • Buying involves a 13-step series of idiosyncratic, sequential, systemic, personal change decisions that an outsider can never be privy to but can facilitate. Selling and buying are confined to steps 10-13 and with that focus, there is no need for buyers to invite us in earlier. I’ve written extensively about this. www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com
  • The length of the sales cycle is the time it takes buyers to get buy-in for organizational, job, and personal change and fallout. It’s got nothing to do with a purchase, or a price tag, or even a need. Maintaining systems congruence is sacrosanct.
  • When we get to an appointment to gather data and introduce ourselves, and only one or two people are present, we have no idea what stage of decision making they’re at or what they’ll do with our information after we’ve left. And we often pitch something the Buying Decision Team hasn’t agreed they need yet. Not to mention only those in steps 10-13 will see us and by then sellers are in a competitive situation.
  • Making Step 1 ‘Getting the appointment’ discards about 40% of buyers who will buy once their change issues have been sorted out.

Believe it or not, there is only one issue causing the entire set of problems above. Only one. Sales pushes solution data at the wrong time, starting at the end of the Buying Decision Path, and finds only that group, that person, that shows up at that time, with everyone else ignoring or resisting. You would never buy a computer without doing research, talking to friends to help you gather and recognize all necessary criteria. Lots of personal decisions. As a team member in a company, you would never bring in training without the team’s input, or an attempt to try to fix the problem on your own first, or talking to current vendors, or getting referrals from colleagues. Lots of group decisions.

Research is showing the deterrent to sales success is our difficulty getting in to The Pre-Sales Process. While sales has attempted to resolve this issue by creating clever ways to get in from the outside (Buyer Personas being one) and is trying new tools to lead customers through to their buy cycle, it’s all taking place with a Solution-Placement bias. So long as the intent is to sell, an outsider will get resistance: there’s no way an outsider can ‘understand’ prospects during their change/decision/systems activities as they lie deep within the buyer’s culture. Before any purchase, buyers must figure out how to manage the resultant change and disruption congruently and until they do, theyre just not ready to attend to our needs to sell.

But as outsiders, we can still understand how systems change and serve by helping prospects discover their own steps to Excellence; if what you’re selling matches their buying criteria once they’re ready (much more quickly than if they do this on their own), you’ve made a very quick sale with little competition. Think about it. You don’t buy the way you sell. The sales model is a solution placement model never meant to facilitate consensus, buyer readiness, or systemic change.

It’s fixable once we stop colluding and perpetuating the myth of success; instead of redefining failure to convince ourselves that what we’re doing is optimal, let’s just concede that what we’re doing is Failure and do something different. Put together a strategy to add some sort of leadership/coaching/consulting practice based on facilitating change (not based on manipulating a sale). Do this consistently in marketing and content, cold calls, prospecting, telemarking, presentation meetings, and your large sales. The question is: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? We need both for success; they each demand a different skill set.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Buying Facilitation® that includes a unique form of systemic, non-biased question (Facilitative Questions), a new form of listening (Listening for Systems), and a coded change sequence that incorporates all levels of change. Morgen has trained this model to global corporations for solutions of all sizes. She is a NYTimes Business Bestselling author of 7 books on the topic of facilitating buying decisions, including Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets; she is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and trains collaborative communication and unbiased listening to sellers, coaches, and leadersMorgen consults, coaches, speaks, and trains; her blog ranked one of the top 10 sales/marketing blogs.

Contact Sharon Drew with questions: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 771 1117

July 1st, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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Customer buying decision pathI 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 rules and brand of the company,
  • the well-being of the employees and staff,
  • the integrity of the product or service provided,
  • the congruence and integrity of the status quo,
  • the needs of the customers.

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:

  • Assemble all the right people – decision makers and influencers of all types – to get consensus for any change at all. This proved to be challenging and not obvious to discern all – all – of the people who had to be included;
  • Enable a route of discovery through collaboration so all voices, all concerns, were added into the mix and get approved for action by a consensus. This was a systems-change issue, not a solution-choice issue;
  • Find out if there was a cheap, easy, risk-free way to fix problems with groups, policies, technology we already had in place;
  • Discover the risks of change and how we’d handle them;
  • Realize the point where there was no route to Excellence without bringing in a new/different solution;
  • Manage the fallout of change when bringing something new in from outside, and determine how to congruently integrate a purchase into our status quo.

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.

buying-facilitation-sales-enablement - Copy

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/facilitation hat, it’s possible to discover and enable real buyers quickly.

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:

  1. Where buyers are along their decision path.
  2. How many, or if, the requisite Buying Decision Team is in place, and ALL appropriate voices have been heard so a full evaluation of the upsides and downsides to change can be considered.
  3. Until ALL voices have been heard, there is no way to recognize or define ‘need.’
  4. Who is a real buyer: only those who know how to manage change, and get consensus that they cannot fix the problem internally are buyers. Need doesn’t determine ability to buy.
  5. The fallout of the risk factors, and the ability for any group to withstand change.
  6. The types of change management issues that a new solution would entail.

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.

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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 Integrityand 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. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

June 17th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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