By Sharon Drew Morgen

buying-decisionsBecause of your sophisticated tracking and targeting, you know who’s reading your content. But do you know why they’re reading it? And how are you accessing those who could/should buy but are ignoring the articles your sending them?

Content is written with different reasons in mind: for Buyer Personas to learn about your solution as early along their decision path as possible; for brand recognition; to gain followers; to make a sale. We write with a narrow focus to reach our target market and use every means at our disposal to distribute and track it, hoping that it will help us make a sale or find more followers.

 

DATA VS DECISIONS

But how do you know if this content, with these ideas and these words, written in this style, will enable those seeking a new solution to recognize they need you? Not only are you seeking a reader you can’t fully know (Why are they reading the content? No. Really. Why? And how many possible buyers reject it because they’re not ready yet?), you’re hoping, guessing, tracking, targeting, and crossing your fingers in hopes it will get into the right hands at the right time to take action.

But your glorious content – sometimes little more than a thinly veiled advertisement – may not be getting you all the success you deserve. You have a ceiling of a 5% success rate (less than 1% for content marketing) because you’re limiting your readership to those who have already decided on their next actions. By sticking to data push, you’re missing an opportunity to make your content an interactive experience that enable the act of decision making. With a few adjustments, you can create content that can be used to facilitate a sale and expand and enlist your audience.

The problem starts with the use of content marketing as part of your sales/solution placement toolkit. Certainly content marketing is great for explaining, pitching, writing about, introducing, and presenting data about our solutions. But this usage limits our target audience to those who are ready to buy, and are also perusing competitive data.

When you think about the early activity within the act of buying – the Pre-Sales, change management, decision issues that include 13 steps to consensus/action (9 of which are Pre-Sales and not ‘needs’ or ‘buying’ related) – there’s a huge swath of prospective buyers who aren’t reading your content as it is because they’re not ready, but could easily be made ready with content that fits into the route of their Pre-Sales change management decisions. You can develop different types of relevant content so you’re with them each step of the way, even before they’re aware they might need you.

See, prior to deciding on a solution, buyers have some change work to do that’s systemic in nature and vital to them maintaining Systems Congruence – the rules, initiatives, relationships, and history of their culture and environment. They can’t just wake up one day, see your content, and drop everything and everyone mindlessly to do what you want them to do. No one buys like that.

Thinking that a prospective buyer ‘needs’ your content, or will be convinced or influenced to take action before they’re ready, is magical thinking and needlessly restricts your audience. Obvious, no? Before anyone buys anything they do research, get input and alternate ideas from friends/colleagues, discern the potential fallout, trial different possibilities, and ultimately get agreement to move forward. You content is only relevant when they’ve handled all of this. By pushing your message, you’re restricting buying. You can use content marketing to facilitate the process.

CASE STUDY

When it was time to begin marketing my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I had a problem. Known for my Buying Facilitation® material in the sales industry, I had no obvious audience in communication or listening. I had to attract a new audience: find new readers AND shift from being a ‘sales’ expert to a ‘communication’ expert. My goal was to offer corporate teams a one-day Listening Without Bias training. To do that I needed readers to first buy my book.

Realizing I’d need buy-in to run an in-house program, I wrote an article that would attract the largest population of readers because of the universal problems involved: meetings. I wrote a very helpful article on meetings that offered both a clear description of the inherent problems and offered very creative, tough, usable solutions to make them creative, collaborative, and results-oriented. I never mentioned anything to do with listening. There was no manipulation or commercial overlay in the article, no links to listening/book links appeared only in the footer.

I got dozens of ‘Thank You’ notes from readers I’d never heard of, saying they’d sent/shared my article among hundreds of employees, friends, and colleagues. Many, many people shared the article on social media, bringing me new readers and subscribers outside my natural market. The article was ranked as one of my best-read articles, with thousands reading it the first few days. And my book sales went through the rood: I had a 51% conversion rate.

So yes, content is vital. But it can be read by more prospective buyers, earlier in their decision path. Start by understanding each of the Pre-Sales issues (i.e. systemic changed-based, not ‘need’ based or solution-based) your buyers must address with their colleagues and partners, and then write articles that will help them along their normal route to making the internal decisions they’d need to make before they can buy. Then you’ll have proven your worth and be familiar to them. By the time they’re ready to buy and have all their internal ducks in a row, they’ll seek out your content.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and visionary in systemic change in sales, coaching, leadership, collaboration, and listening. She is the author of 9 books, including Selling with Integrity and What?, as well as 1700 articles on buyer readiness, decision facilitation, and collaboration on her award-winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com.

Sharon Drew is the developer of the Servant Leader change model Buying Facilitation®, that gives sellers the tools to help buyers (and clients, and patients, etc.) manage their Pre-Sales/Pre-Change decisions. Sharon Drew has worked with many Fortune 1000 companies such as IBM, DuPont, Kaiser, Bose, and GE. She is a speaker, coach, consultant, and original thinker. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

April 16th, 2018

Posted In: Communication, 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

 

 

March 26th, 2018

Posted In: Communication, News, Sales

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upsellingI recently took a cold call from Comcast – the first cold call I’ve ever taken. With my two year contract just about up, I was interested in finding cheap deals moving forward. Here was the call:

Comcast: Hi Sharon. I’m Pete from Comcast, wanting to help you sort through your options with your TV programming since your current package expires in December.

SDM: Pete, my first name is Sharon Drew, never Sharon. Always both names, ok? Thanks. I was going to call you anyway. My free HBO and Showtime are expiring. Can you tell me how much will it cost me once they go up? Is there a different 2 year plan I can sign up for that would keep my rate about the same?

Comcast: Well, Sharon, I…

SDM: Excuse me, Pete. Sharon Drew. My first name is Sharon Drew.

Comcast: Um, ok. Well. I’m glad you asked. Given what you’ve got now, I think I can actually upgrade your programs and still save you money. We have a package that does X. It will give you XYZ, similar to what you have now with two added channels, but costs less.

SDM: What’s the downside? What do I gain? Lose?

Comcast: Everything is exactly the same, except you’ll get two more channels and pay less.

SDM: Exactly the same? Cheaper? More programs? Cool.

Comcast: Yup. Exactly the same and cheaper. I can send you the paperwork, and you can see for yourself.

He then texted me a link to a contract to pay; within the contract was another link to details. I clicked and noticed inconsistencies.

SDM: This is more expensive! You’ve unbundled each feature and charged separately, so I’d pay $45 more than if I just let my current deal expire in December.

Comcast: Everyone pays for those things. You couldn’t have Comcast if we didn’t offer those features.

SDM: That’s not what I said; and you’re making the argument murky. You said it would be the same and cheaper with two new channels. But it’s not cheaper; services are unbundled and charged out individually on top of the quoted rate, causing me to pay more than I would with my next contract. Sounds like you’re lying to me or at least trying to muddle the facts so it just appears that I’d be saving money. What am I missing?

Comcast: Silence. Silence. Click.

As my provider, as the company/behemoth to whom I give thousands of dollars annually, Comcast owes me honesty, no? And aren’t they big enough to not try to dupe customers who would have pressed ‘Pay’ without reading the ‘fine print?’ Surely lying can’t be the preferred avenue to successful upselling, although I’m sure sometimes sales folks ‘do whatever it takes’ to get the commission without the sanction of their supervisors. In this case I actually redialed Comcast and said I wanted to renew my plan. When the seller looked up my account, she did exactly what the first guy did – same promise, same spiel, same text/link. Sadly it seems Comcast is training their reps this way.

WHY BUYERS BUY UPSELLS

As vendors, our job is to serve our clients and customers; our products are the path to serving, so we’re a ‘customer service company that provides web design services,’ or a ‘customer service company that provides financial services.’ As such, answering questions and solving problems are part of the promise implicit in a purchase. [PERSONAL NOTE: Any time we betray our clients’ trust and don’t deliver on the promise inherent in their purchase, and any time we lie to our customers, they have the right to choose another provider who will be honest.]

One of our services is letting customers know when we develop an upgrade; our success at upselling depends on how we connect to inform them.

Who is a suitable buyer? There are two inbuilt problems:

  1. The only customers who will buy an upgrade are happy customers who already trust us and have taken us into their daily lives and habits. [Customers who don’t like our solution or don’t trust us will never buy again and aren’t prospects for upselling. Remember that, when designing customer support programs like help desks and call centers.]
  2. In the homes and offices of happy customers, our solution/service has become habituated; clients have developed a system of people, policies, behaviors, or habits that are in place when using the product and they’re doing very well, thanks.The problem is not in convincing them to buy a bigger/better add-on because it’s, well, bigger/better, but to help them figure out how to manage whatever change and disruption the upgrade would require.For example, if users are happily using the software they bought from you, they’d need to… to what? Take additional training and incur downtime? Face disruption that would carry a cost? Maybe buying newer services could cause more downside than upside. By merely focusing on features and functions, the real problem is overlooked: the focus of their objection is change.

The fact that they will be ‘better’ with an upgrade is most likely accurate, but beside the point. We each ‘know’ we’d be better if we stopped smoking/lost weight/jogged/meditated/were kinder, etc. But knowing isn’t the point. The problem is the change – the time, disruption, confusion, political or relationship risks, etc. – involved in altering an established pattern. (Note: I’ve coded the steps to congruent change to help you understand what buyers must do before they can buy.)

When we introduce and describe our new solutions, when we focus on introducing and pitching the value of our solution, we ignore the biggest factor that inhibits buying: as outsiders we can’t know how the purchase would affect the buyer’s environment and use routines – the relationships, politics, time factors, etc. – which may change, or might be perceived to change, with an upgrade. Before they buy, they must understand the extent of any disruption to determine if it’s worth it to them: a trouble-free working environment and nominal cost supersedes need. Remember: they find the current version ‘good-enough’ as it is; they have people and policies in place and have factored in the costs and resource. Habit and status quo may supersede benefits.

I’ve got a story. IBM was seeking local users of an old OS to place a new Beta test version, with a goal of visiting, testing, questioning, etc. There was a possible user right down the road and IBM was eager to enlist them. But three different sales reps tried to engage this user to no avail. Nope, we’re happy. Yes, our current OS is very slow and we understand this new, free, one would make our jobs easier and workflow faster. Nope. We don’t want the beta.

Since I was already there running a Buying Facilitation® training they asked me to try. The phone call follows:

SDM: My name is Sharon Drew Morgen and I’m calling from IBM. Is this a good time to speak?

CUSTOMER: Sure. How can I help you? [Note: I was fascinated that just about everyone took a cold call from IBM.]

SDM: I am following up from my colleague’s call re giving you a free beta OS, and I heard that you’re really happy using the OS you’ve got in place now. Seems it’s working really well for you and you don’t seem to mind its speed.

CUSTOMER: It is slow. But we like it.

SDM: What’s stopping you from considering adding more speed to the one you’re using now?

CUSTOMER: Dad.

SDM: Excuse me? Dad? What does that mean?

CUSTOMER: We’re a Mom and Pop shop. My dad is the Pop. He’s 75, and will be retiring next year. He’s in charge of the technology, and he’s not as sharp as he once was. We’re not going to add anything to his plate, and wait til he retires to upgrade whatever we need to.

SDM: Ah. That makes sense. I wonder how hard our new OS is to learn or use. I could find out. What would you and Dad need to know to be willing to experience whether or not the new OS would be simple enough, just in case there came a time when you wanted to accommodate all your new users?

CUSTOMER: I’d need to know that Dad would have no difficulty or confusion, and it would be easy and seamless to implement with no glitches.

SDM: We happen to have a functioning beta site for this product right down the street from you. Would you and Dad be willing to join me and visit them to try it out? Then, if Dad likes it and you find it more efficient, we could then discuss you being a possible beta site for us?

CUSTOMER: Sure.

It all went well, IBM got a new Beta test site and the customer got a free upgrade. It’s not about an upgrade; it’s about their readiness for change. And as outsiders, we can never know where a ‘Dad’ is and have no opportunity to lead them through a different decision.

Convincer and information strategies close the low hanging fruit. Each customer has unique ‘givens’ that have created and maintained their status quo; they’re not ‘stupid buyers’, they just must manage their own internal integrity. And the conventional sales approach assumes that the features, functions, and benefits will convince them to buy, ignoring the ‘how’ or ‘if’ or ‘why’ or ‘when’ to handle any disruption caused to their system by addiing a new element to their status quo with no route to address change for what’s already in place.

In summation:

  1. The target audience consists only of those who are happy using the solution they purchased (and that those who don’t would most likely never buy anything more);
  2. Conventional sales merely closes the low hanging fruit – those ready, willing, and able to manage any change inherent in an upgrade. Do blanket outreach with questionnaires, surveys, contests, prizes, to find these ready buyers, or find creative ways to target them specifically.
  3. It’s possible to facilitate buyers through their change process, as in the Dad story above, and broaden the buyer base.

What is the suitable vehicle? There are certainly several ways to facilitate upselling with integrity. When customers call in, ensure an integrous connection with someone or something in your company; provide a wonderful opportunity to exhibit respect and care. Each vehicle requires a different approach but includes the goal of facilitating change and managing the change-over to new routines.

OUTGOING UPSELL:

Cold Calling with Integrity: Happy customers have more of a willingness to take a call. Use this as an opportunity to serve them by facilitating change. I designed Buying Facilitation® to specifically facilitate the buyer’s steps of change and decision making; or design your own unique Change Facilitation model that quickly helps them think through routes to managing any disruption, and adds product pitch once the customer is ready. Remember: unless a prospect can positively address their change, use, and habituation issues, they will not buy regardless of need or the strength of your solution.

Email outreach: Current email blasts focus on introducing reasons to buy the upgrade. It’s possible to add ‘implementation features’ or ‘ways to get your cell phone recycled’, or ideas to mitigate whatever change your particular solution might incur. For this I recommend you research the routines and issues current customers face when using your solution. When researching this for my clients, I call several existing happy customers and ask the ‘how’ of their routines, and I include the Facilitative QuestionWhat would keep you from adding an upgrade to what you’re currently doing successfully?

INCOMING UPSELL

Help desk: Currently, help desks suck. With a focus on time rather than service, we get customers enraged and frustrated. This is a wasted opportunity. When working with Quest years ago, we taught the reps to help customers figure out how and if an upgrade would serve them; we brought the help desk upgrade rate from $300 a month to $2100 a month per rep.

Tech support: See above: this is a great opportunity to serve. You’re wasting it by keeping people on hold and passing customers from pillar to post. Have ONE person own the incident to minimize the annoyance factor and use a Change Facilitation approach while on the phone. A great venue for upselling.

On-line chat: Reprogram responses to avoid the disrespect and annoyance that keeps customers from using this feature. Again, it can be a great opportunity for upselling if used correctly.

These are merely an introduction to ideas for more robust upselling. It’s possible to upsell a lot more than you’re now selling. Good luck.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Change Facilitation models, including Buying Facilitation®, an addon to sales that leads buyers through their Pre-Sales steps to a purchase to enable Buyer Readiness. As an original thinker, she has written 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew trains, speaks, consults, and coaches in the areas of sales, coaching, leadership, communication, change, buy-in, and influencing. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Her award winning blog has original articles and essays. www.sharondrewmorgen.com

November 6th, 2017

Posted In: Communication, Sales

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Buyers 2In 1993, when my first book came out and before he died, David Sandler called to buy out my Buying Facilitation® model. We couldn’t agree on terms, but he was excited by my differentiation between the sales model and the buying process: “I recognized that the problem was on the buy side, and thought my Sandler method was thinking out of the box. Reading your stuff, I now recognize my focus is still on getting solutions sold,” he said. “I hadn’t realized that ‘outside the box’ meant to shift the focus first to facilitate buying. Well done.”

And yet, after all these years, the problem remains: we’re limiting success and wasting an untold amount of resource seeking those few who are ready, willing, and able to buy: we’re missing a much larger, untapped market of potential (but real) buyers we ignore because our sales outreach doesn’t affect them. By broadening the goal to include facilitating change with those in the process of becoming buyers, by recognizing that a buying decision is a systemic, change management issue before it’s a solution choice problem, it’s feasible to engage earlier (albeit in a different way) and find a much larger population of real buyers.

HOW SALES RESTRICTS SELLING

The sales industry has a singular goal of placing solutions. It’s an industry with solutions looking for a problem. And the paltry results of a 5% close rate have been baked into the system: you accept low closing ratios as the best you can do, hire more sales people than you need, suffer from a sales cycle that is months/years longer than necessary, and lose buyers that will need your solution but don’t yet need or notice the information you provide.

Have you never asked yourself why, with all the capability of finding prospective buyers at your fingertips, you still close only 5% – down from 7% a decade ago (and with much less technology)? And why you continue to waste untold bazillions on staff, technology, and time, chasing folks who will never buy. Have you not recognized that

  • the people you target aren’t necessarily buying or buyers,

  • you’re expending too much resource on those who will never buy,

  • you don’t know the difference between those who will and those who won’t buy?

With the best technology available, the most professional branding and marketing, great content, and a good solid product, you’re losing far more sales than you need to. This much should be obvious: No matter how much new technology, or how many sales methods available to you – regardless of all the ‘new new’ things at your fingertips – you’re still merely closing the low hanging fruit (those 5% who have determined they are ready, willing, able to buy).

A buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.  By adding a few bells and whistles to your sales efforts you can find people who will be buying but aren’t yet buyers and facilitate their strategic Pre-Sales, non-solution-based decision path that concludes with them buying. Then you’ll close far more than you’re closing now with half the staff and half the time. But it needs different thinking.

SELLING VS BUYING

People become buyers only when there are no other options and a purchase is their last hope for problem resolution. They can’t even accurately define a ‘need’ until the full complement of stakeholders are involved and the scope of any resultant change is recognized. Sales ignores this group because their touch points are different and they are definitely not yet buyers. Yet it’s here they’re more open for support and connection: their path to congruently resolving a problem is confounding; they may forget to bring in “Joe from accounting”, or can’t recognize the full scope of issues until they’ve falsely started down one path to resolution and must start all over.

You’re a subject matter expert in the area of their problem resolution and could really be a support here – so long as you avoid trying to sell and focus on facilitating change first. This is where they will be eager to connect. By only focusing on selling/placing your solution, you ignore 40% of real buyers who haven’t gotten there yet but will.

Ask yourself this: Do you want to sell – or have someone buy? They are two different activities with different rules, needs, and behaviors. Sales is tactical. Buying is strategic. Your tactical focus on placing solutions with Buyer Personas, Opportunity Management, content differentiation, and yes, even Sandler, SPIN etc. offer biased questions and content focused on those few who have defined, and understand, their need and change issues, overlooking those people in the midst of strategic decision efforts who will develop into buyers once they get their ducks in a row. Sellers actually sit and wait while prospects do this anyway. Why not help them! Here what sales ignores:  

  1. A buying decision includes a 13 step change management process, the first 9 steps of which are systemic change (not purchase or need) focused; they aren’t ‘buyers’ until step 10 when all of their systemic/change management stuff is worked out, and there is agreement that a purchase is their only option.

  2. A problem doesn’t equal a need; a ‘need’ doesn’t equal a purchase. It might turn out that maintaining the status quo is a better option for them; as an outsider, you can never understand why.

  3. People aren’t buyers until they’re out of options to fix their problems themselves AND they’ve gotten buy-in to bring in a ‘foreign’ element. The last thing they want to do (precisely, the last thing) is to buy anything. The buyers you seek/find are already at the end of their decision path.

  4. Your terrific content isn’t being noticed by people who haven’t yet determined, defined, agreed upon a ‘need’ even though they may become buyers later, or even really need your solution.

  5. Your content/selling push assumes that with the right content and message, offered to the right demographic, at the right time, focused on the right need -> purchase scenario, you’ll get in/close – but you’re only reaching those few who are ready OR those in the midst of their research (who may never buy but may call you with questions or take an appointment). They won’t even read or heed your outreach.

  6. You’re using a ‘need’ and ‘solution-placement’ filter which restricts your results 95% of the time, causing you (beyond all logic) to push push push push harder or better, against a closed system of people and policies that’s not ready, willing, able to buy.

The problem is not your solution (It’s great. And people can find the content they need on line when they’re ready.); the problem is that the sales model places solutions with people who need them, but does nothing to help facilitate the change elements people traverse en route to becoming buyers and are not buyers yet. Here are the main stages people execute as they seek to resolve a problem (The full set of steps are laid out in my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.):

  1. Assemble the full set of stakeholders (including “Joe in accounting”) who spend time understanding the scope of the problem, how it got initiated, and how it maintains itself;

  2. Once a problem is defined by all stakeholders, the group tries to resolve the issue with familiar resources to minimize fallout. (This is where they might contact you with questions. They’re doing research, not buying.)

  3. Once it’s decided to seek an external solution, they must find a route to resolution that maintains Systems Congruence. So if your users refuse new technology, or your teams function well as they are, you might find a way around a purchase if the disruption is too great. An Outsider can never understand the unique nature of internal dynamics. Can I ever really understand why you don’t stop smoking, or stay in a dysfunctional relationship, or stay in a job/relationship that makes you miserable? Change is always personal.

Notice how these stages are change- and systems-focused, and not accessible to Outsiders with a ‘sales’ hat on. And until they are addressed, there’s no ‘need’ and no ‘buyer’. Btw, I developed these stages decades ago; they apply to anyone making a decision including coaching clients, patients, and employees, and all buying situations regardless of the size of the change/purchase. Whether you merely need to buy a new phone, or go through a merger, the steps of change must be traversed in a way that maintains the status quo (even when it’s unconscious) regardless of need. You wait while people do this anyway; why not find those who CAN become buyers (rather than ‘should’), facilitate their change quickly, and be there with them as they buy – and be with them as they figure out their own unique strategies for change – so long as you avoid trying to sell anything as they’re not buyers yet.

Is it sales? No. It’s a Change Facilitation process I call Buying Facilitation®. By first enabling people to facilitate their buying decision path, you’ll have less competition, close more, stop wasting time selling to those who can never buy, and be true Servant Leaders; you can use your technology, your content marketing, your sales efforts as you are now, but with an additional focus.

WHY AREN’T THEY BUYING? SDM ANSWERS YOUR QUESTIONS

Using the above thinking, here’s a ‘Q&A’ to help you better understand why you’re getting the results you’re getting.

What’s wrong with seeking buyers to place our solutions? Isn’t that what sales is?

Sales is perfect for finding and educating buyers with a need, but not for facilitating the buying decision path. There’s a 13 step decision path between recognition of a problem and a purchase. Sales only handles the limited portion (steps 10-13) that occurs once people reach the point where a purchase is their only option AND they have buy in from the full complement of stakeholders for non-disruptive change (step 9) (Think about it. You won’t buy a new car, or a new X, until you’ve tried to fix the one you’ve got, AND you have the funds now, AND your spouse/team agrees, AND you’ll still function as well with the new item.). No Outsider can make these determinations, they’re not based on buying anything, and your content is irrelevant until then.

Why do they keep talking to me if they’re not going to buy?

Until the entire scope of change is understood and integrated, people don’t understand the perimeters of their need (and when you ask biased questions, the flawed answers you receive often cause you to chase those who will never buy). Before becoming buyers, people must recognize that the cost of change (buying) is less than maintaining the status quo: their ‘system’ is sacrosanct. Would you buy a new car if your spouse would divorce you? Would you bring in a new CRM system if half of your user team would quit, or refuse to use it, or until the tech folks have the time to implement? You know you have to go to the gym more, and eat/drink less. You’ve got a need. Have you signed up for the gym? Stopped drinking beer?

Why are we still getting such a low close rate when we’ve got so many terrific tools at our disposal to introduce our features AND find the right demographic?

Because only a small percent of people you focus on are buyers. Until they’re out of other options AND determined they must bring in something from outside AND have all of their internal ducks in a row, AND have buy-in (Buyer Readiness), your tools aren’t recognized.

Why do they keep talking to me if they’re not going to buy?

During their change process, people research all possibilities. Your solution may be one of them; they’re actually using you for reference to report back to their team, or to figure out their own workarounds, or mention to their current vendor. It’s possible to know on the first call who will be a buyer and who is merely seeking data that will never lead to a purchase – but not with a solution-placement focus.

Why don’t buyers realize they need our solution when it seems so obvious?

It’s only ‘obvious’ to you. The best content, the most relevant solution, will be ignored until they reach step 10 when they become buyers.

Why is the sales cycle so long when there is a solid need/solution match?

The time people take to figure out how to manage change congruently is the length of the sales cycle. As Outsiders, we can never understand the depth of the change management issues: Who is fighting with who? What is the tech schedule? Who will need to be let go? How do internal politics show up? How does their history/future factor in?

The system that holds the problem in place is much more powerful than any solution you can offer. They need buy-in from EVERYONE and EVERYTHING that created the status quo and will touch the new solution. You’ll never recognize “Joe from accounting” who is an unsung influencer, or the fight going on between the sales and marketing folks who need to share budget. It’s not about their need – until it is. And they can’t tell you because they don’t know, or they won’t have found the nut of the problem yet, or you’re asking the wrong questions biased by your need to sell.

Why do buyers make promises they don’t keep? Are all buyers liars?

Buyers don’t lie. The one person you’re speaking with is responding to your biased questions, getting out of the thrust of your sales push, and is giving you the best data they’re willing to give you, or as much data as they have at that point in their 13 step change path. Whatever data they offer is limited by their access to the full Buying Decision Team, and the stage they’re at in their change management. You are, after all, strangers approaching them with a solution placement hat on, asking the wrong questions to the wrong people at the wrong time. As an Outsider you can never, ever have a clue as per the political, personal, strategic decision issues they face. But you can understand they system they decide in, a per your expertise in your field.

Why isn’t our great content being read or acted upon by the larger audience who really needs it?

Needs it according to who? Your research? Your biased questions? Your focus on placing solutions limits your audience and keeps you from getting into the decision path earlier. Are they at the point of seeking workarounds? Is there a team buy-in problem? Have they forgotten to assemble some of the appropriate stakeholders? Are they finding a glitch (political, personal, management-based, etc.)? Your sales, marketing, content, and technology restricts your target market to the low hanging fruit who have clearly defined their need, know they cannot fix their own problem, and have a route to congruent change.

When I gather info about a need, and it seems obvious there is one, what am I missing?

You’re merely asking biased questions to elicit the data YOU want to elicit from one person or a few research visits to your site, to find people who SEEM like they have a ‘need’ and spend a lot of resource chasing after them whether they are real buyers or not. Plus, because someone has a need doesn’t mean they are ready, willing, or able to buy; because the one person on the team you’re speaking with does NOT seem to have a need, doesn’t mean they don’t have one. You’re a solution looking for a problem. Enter first with a Facilitator hat on, help those that CAN/WILL become buyers traverse the route to change, and THEN sell.

  It’s not as hard as you think. I developed a new form of unbiased question (Facilitative Question) to facilitate change (part of the Buying Facilitation® process) and pose these down the Pre-Sales steps to help the ‘right’ people become buyers. Here are two examples of responses to a Facilitative Question used on a first call. I bet you can tell which one CAN buy:

SDM: How are you currently adding more tools and capability to your sales team for those times you seek to reach an expanded market?

SALES DIRECTOR #1: I read a couple of sales books annually. If I like them, I’ll pass them on to my sales managers and tell them to get the sellers to read them, and run meetings to discuss their takeaways [Note: this was a real response.]

SALES DIRECTOR #2: I’ve had a helluva time trying to find new tools to use. I’ve tried several, and keep getting the same results. I’d be glad to use something new if I could be assured it was really new, and it would work.

My opening FQ, different for each situaltion, begins by shining a light on the system the person is operating in, and provides an invaluable insight into the state of possible change. It also begins making the person a Coach/Witness to her own status quo by asking for an overview of the system. This particular FQ helps #2 take an unbiased view of how she’s managed change until now. Buying Facilitation® then proceeds down her change steps so she can address each step efficiently, with me by her side. Director #1 had a need, but wasn’t a buyer.

When I form a wonderful relationship with a potential buyer with a need, where does he go? He seems to take calls and stay in touch, and then disappears. Where does he go?

He was never a buyer. He either couldn’t get the buy-in from the Buying Decision Team (BDT), or came up with an alternative solution, or decided not to move forward because the cost of disruption was too high. He stays in touch as long as there is a possibility he needs to buy something (he hasn’t yet gotten team agreement or become a buyer), or so long as the data you’re offering is useful to their ultimate decisions. 80% of our prospective buyers will buy a solution similar to ours within 2 years of our connection. That means they had a need but couldn’t figure out how to congruently manage the change.

When I’m months into a sale, and everything that was going well suddenly stops, where did it go?

See above. The person wasn’t really a buyer yet or the team wasn’t bought-in to change.

Are buyers spending a lot of time trialing and speaking to other providers before they choose us?

Possibly. People research the best alternatives to managing change with the least disruption.

Why aren’t we more successful when we check that they’ve brought in all stakeholders and help them achieve buy in? That’s managing Buyer Readiness, no?

You’re an Outsider. You’ll never understand what’s going on; the questions you pose and the direction you offer are solution placement based; you listen with a biased ear, etc. (Seriously: Read Dirty Little Secrets then call me and I’ll teach you how to do it.) Did they bring in “Joe from accounting”? How are they managing the fight between sales and marketing? Oh – one other big reason: you’re merely speaking with one, at most two, people; you have no reach through the sales model to facilitate change. I can’t say this enough: you’re an Outsider.

If you start as a Neutral Navigator, listen for systems and facilitate them through their OWN decisions with NO BIAS to selling, you can quickly find and serve those who WILL become buyers and help them efficiently manage change. Using Buying Facilitation® KPMG went from a 3 year sales cycle to a 4 month sales cycle with a $50,000,000 solution; Wachovia small business bankers went from a 2% close over 11 months to a 29% close over 3 months; Kaiser went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales.  By adding BF to their dummy terminals, Barclay’s helped customers define, and buy, the exact solutions they needed. Help them traverse their change path and sell to those who will buy.

Why don’t more people show up at appointments? Why are so many buyers reluctant to take appointments?

  1. All of the stakeholders aren’t involved yet so they don’t even have a clear, complete description of ‘need’. Those who take appointments are doing research (and do WHAT? with your content) and haven’t gotten team buy-in, or the full decision team isn’t on board yet;

  2. They know from the first moment of a call that you’ll be pushing YOUR solution and not facilitating them in discovering THEIR own solution. It’s only if you can be an asset to them that they’ll be willing to see you.

What’s wrong with trying to place a solution by ‘understanding need’, or creating a need, or selling?

You can do that, for those who are already buyers understand their need.

I’ve paid a fortune for technology, research into demographics, opportunity management software, scripts, and experienced sales folks – but I’m still not closing all I deserve to close. Why?

Because your efforts are focused on ‘buyer’ ‘need’, and neither of those necessarily correlate with buying anything for those who aren’t yet buyers.

How does Buying Facilitation® find, and close, more real buyers?

            Buying Facilitation® 
is a Change Facilitation model that works with sales (and coaching, etc.) and includes Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, Presumptive Summaries – wholly different skill sets than sales, and includes no bias. It traverses the first 9 steps of change management, in the ares your solution operates in, beginning with immediately ascertaining who is set up to be able to buy, or has a possibility of systemic change and then teaches them precisely how to discover their path to change. By adding BF you not only find the right buyers, but teach those who may not have been able to buy how to facilitate change.  

           With Director #1 above, it would take so long to convince him that his plan was flawed, and then get the other managers who have complied with his plan to acceded to change, that it’s not worth the effort. BF progresses down the change steps and teaches them how to bring in the right people, discover if workarounds are worthwhile, and why they haven’t worked until now. Then it helps them determine how change would need to be addressed – and with BF you can do this on the first call. It will ignore the ones who will never buy, and help the real buyers be ready to buy. So much easier than finding those relative few who have already done this. And it’s much easier than it sounds: you’re just not used to it yet.

IN CONCLUSION

Here is a rule: as long as the sales model tries to ‘find buyers’ and ‘place solutions’, you’ll never sell to anyone other than those who have determined they’re buyers, leaving you continuing to push your solution into their closed system. You can

  • discover who is, or will be, starting down the journey that will lead to a decision to purchase something,

  • figure out, with a change management hat on, what the journey in your industry, and among your buying market, looks like (or call me and I’ll help),

  • then enter with those few on their change journey as they quickly (with your help) figure out how to manage stakeholders, buy-in, workarounds, etc. and become buyers.

By adding outreach, vocabulary, content, that first focuses on facilitating the buying decision path earlier you’ll enlarge your range of buyers by 5x. After all, people must do this anyway before becoming buyers; we might as well join them where they are and facilitate the right ones.

Call me. Together, we can create content, software, scripts to find the right ones – those who WILL become buyers – and facilitate them down their decision path toward effective change and buying.

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For more reading on the subject, here are some ideas: Practical Decision Making, Questioning Questions, Buyer’s Journey, Do You Want to Sell? Or Have Someone Buy? , Influencers vs Facilitators. Or contact me to discuss. Am happy to share what I know. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

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Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader and original thinker, as well as the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She has designed a Change Facilitation process for sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, health care, leadership, change management, and influencing, training it to such companies as DuPont (8,000 people), KPMG (6,000 people), Wachovia, Kaiser, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, IBM, P&G, Sandler Sales, ATT, Bethlehem Steel, Sandia Labs. Her blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com is recognized as one of the top business blogs, with articles on decision making, listening, questions, sales, coaching, etc. She is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and coach. Sharon Drew can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

September 11th, 2017

Posted In: Change Management, Sales

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opportunityThe hot new sales tool is Opportunity Management automation. Just another in a long list of New New Things that seem like THE answer to THE way to efficiently close more sales. But is it? Over the past 10 or so years you’ve tried Buyer Personas, Understanding Need, marketing automation, Relationship Management, Trusted Advisor, Challenger, Sandler, SPIN, and lots of technology to push content. All hoping hoping hoping that THIS is ‘the one’ that will help you close more. But you’ve ended up with the same 5% close rate you’ve had for decades (It used to be 7%, remember?), regardless of the approach or the way an opportunity is managed.

Don’t get me wrong: opportunity management apps help sellers optimize their time and track results. But to what end? The tools can’t close more sales if the opportunity itself is flawed. What if you could find more viable opportunities by expanding your definition of ‘opportunity’?

WHAT’S AN OPPORTUNITY?

As I’m sure you’re aware, an ‘opportunity’ is often not an opportunity at all, or has only a small chance of being one. What if buyers aren’t your target audience? What if the larger opportunity is in a different place along the buying decision journey?

With the sales model based on entry points of ‘buyer’, ‘need’, Buyer Personas, and ‘need/solution’ match it’s impossible to close anyone but the low hanging fruit – buyers seeking a solution. This definition

  • restricts your close rate to those people or groups who have gotten themselves ready to bring in an outside solution (5% with sales outreach; 0.00059% of online marketing outreach) and are ready, willing, and able to buy;
  • assumes that those with a seeming ‘need’ is a prospect (They’re not. ‘Need’ does not equal ‘Buyer’ – but you know that by now);
  • focuses questions, content, and relationship-creating skills with a bias toward placing a solution (ignoring the vital non-solution, systemic, change management, Pre-Sales steps that have no relevance to, but precede, buying anything);
  • doesn’t sort for differences between someone who is strategically en route to becoming a buyer vs someone you’ve determined SHOULD buy and has a 95% chance of NOT buying;
  • uses tools to pushpushpush what YOU want to sell (into a prospect’s private, personal, closed system of cultural norms and givens that outsiders aren’t part of), and closing merely 5%;

and restricts you from finding those who WILL close, aren’t quite ready, and could use your help efficiently getting there. The confusing part for sellers is that these folks – these real, potential buyers – are off your screen: they aren’t buyers, aren’t seeking a solution, haven’t determined they want to buy anything yet, haven’t yet fully determined the scope of their need, aren’t attracted by your content.

And therein lies the rub: before people become buyers they merely want to resolve a problem in the most efficacious way and their route to competence is initially not directly related to what you’re selling. Before people become buyers, before there is a sales opportunity, they must first conclude there is absolutely no route to resolving their problems with known resources AND have a route through to congruent change – internal adoption, buy-in, Systems Congruence, and change management. The last thing they want to do is go outside their system to buy anything – they never start out as buyers until they run out of options to fix a problem themselves. By putting on a wholly different hat, we can find and facilitate the ones who will BECOME buyers and vastly increase our pool of opportunities. But we can’t use a ‘sales’ hat to find them.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT PRECEDES BUYING

A buying decision is a change management problem first before it’s needs- solution-based. Buyers are merely people who have gotten to the point in their change management procedures when an external solution (i.e. making a purchase) is their only viable alternative to Excellence. The fact that people have a ‘need’ that your solution can resolve does NOT mean they are, or will ever be, ready, willing, or able to buy. There is a 95% chance that those who seem like buyers aren’t buyers at the point where your content finds them. And sadly, your content won’t get them there: they won’t even notice it because they’re not yet looking for it even though they may eventually seek it.

It’s possible to shift the ‘opportunity’ criteria to people who WILL be buyers but aren’t ones yet – and know how to recognize real buyers from ‘tire kickers’ on the first contact; there are far easier entry points into a buyer/seller dialogue than what might seem to the outsider like a ‘need’.

Before becoming a buyer, or having a fully defined need, people traverse a specific path (I’ve spent decades coding and defining, training and testing, the 13 steps in a buying decision path, as explained in www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com) between recognizing a problem, assembling the proper stakeholders to buy-in, managing any negative consequences of change, and deciding to make a purchase; they become buyers only at step 10 once they agree that making a purchase is their best option.

In other words, there are 9 non-buying change management (Pre-Sales) steps people take as they figure out how to congruently solve their problem and manage the change an external factor will cause. Using a Change Facilitation lens, with a bias toward the steps of congruent change, we can enter earlier to efficiently facilitate real prospective buyers and be part of their system as they begin the buying process. It’s possible to expand your criteria and tool kit to connect along different stages of the decision journey and recognize/facilitate exactly who WILL become buyers but aren’t there yet. But your initial focus must be systemic change, not selling. Different questions, different listening.

Using ‘need’ and ‘solution placement’ criteria, the only way to attract an opportunity is to find those relative few who have gotten to the point of recognizing they cannot resolve their own problem. Until then, they cannot buy: they haven’t fully defined a ‘need’, don’t have their full Buying Decision Team (BDT) in place, haven’t gotten buy-in, and aren’t actively seeking to buy anything. Selling is tactical: buying is strategic.

WHO IS A BUYER?

Think along with me for a moment. A person or group doesn’t become a buyer unless they’ve determined they cannot fix their problem themselves with familiar resources AND they are set up (environment, culture, technology, implementation, buy-in) to manage any fallout from having a foreign element (a purchase) enter their system. Maintaining Systems Congruence is vital; the last thing, literally, that a person wants is to buy anything due to the possibility of disrupting their status quo that is functioning ‘well-enough’. Indeed until they

  • have a plan to manage their strategic, idiosyncratic, private activities and are convinced they will end up with Systems Congruence;
  • have assembled their full complement of stakeholders and understand their full complement of buy-in and change issues (including ‘need’);
  • are congruently ready to seek purchasing options;

they’re only ‘people’ meandering through a confounding route to Excellence, facing political issues, personnel/personal issues, buy-in issues, tech integration issues, etc. They’re not buyers regardless of what you consider to be an ‘opportunity’, how many appointments you make, or how well the folks like you. And the way sales is implemented and biased toward solution placement, the questions posed, the answers sought, you’re only seeking and attracting those who have already reached step 10 and consider themselves buyers.

What’s the difference between an ‘opportunity’ and one that’s NOT an opportunity?

  1. There’s no opportunity to place a solution with a prospect until they’vea. fully assembled their entire BDT including ‘Joe’ in the back office who you never get to speak with but who’s a huge influencer,
    b. tried workarounds to fix the problem themselves with familiar resources,
    c. fully recognized the change management issues that would potentially cause a breakdown should they bring anything in (buy something) without appropriate change management and
    d. determined that the cost of a purchase is less than continuing their status quo.
  1. With a bias toward placing a solution, you try to ‘get in’, ‘find a need’ and ‘have a relationship’  based on your desire to sell, gathering biased, wrong or incomplete data, leading to false assumptions of Buyer Readiness. Until they’re buyers, they haven’t fully defined their need or what it would take to fix (although BDT members might research your solution or reach out to you to gain knowledge).
  2. When you make an appointment to ‘begin a relationship’ and the full BDT is not present, you are neither connecting nor starting a relationship. What portion of the BDT does the person you’re meeting with represent? Where are they along their decision path? How do you know the rest of the full BDT agrees with that assessment?  How will they use, or convey, the data you present? Are you pitching what THEY need to hear to address their internal change problems?
  3. Until the prospects recognize they cannot fix their problem with known resources AND have a strategic plan to implement any necessary change that a new solution might cause (even for a cheap, or personal, or small, item), they’re not buyers. Just because you think there’s a need doesn’t mean they will end up buying anything.
  4. On route to fixing a problem with known resources, people often have a plethora of choices that you’re not familiar with that may provide them with a congruent outcome that does NOT include a purchase. I can’t say this enough; the last thing people need is to bring in an unfamiliar vendor/product: the cost of disruption may not be worth the price of a fix.

Your identification of an ‘opportunity’ is currently based on your biases, assumptions, conversations with a fraction of the full BDT, assessments, research, etc. based on the fit that YOU perceive between what YOU’VE determined (or that one outlier from the BDT) they need – and your solution. What you think is an opportunity most likely isn’t. Otherwise you’d be closing more than 5%. Data collected from my control groups when I train show it’s possible to close about 5X more than you’re closing now by entering earlier along their change path and using a Change Facilitation skill first. More on this in a moment.

WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY SOUNDS LIKE

Here’s what you’ll hear when there is a real opportunity (and yes, even on the first call, using a Change Facilitation skill set focus):

  1. All stakeholders are on board already. When you speak with someone who still needs approval, or hasn’t assembled the full complement of stakeholders yet (and even your prospects often don’t know the full complement of stakeholders). Note to sellers: you cannot ask someone specifically if their BDT is fully on board – they won’t know , and can’t offer, an accurate answer until near the end of their journey. But you can help them assemble the right people quickly – just not with the sales model. They always forget ‘Joe’ and HR, for example, and then must go back to the beginning;
  2. All change management elements are recognized with a plan to move forward. I.e.: the users are developing their criteria for a new piece of software, and the techies have a specific integration and implementation plan; participants for a training program are ready to interview you to see if you meet their criteria, etc. In other words, they’re aware of their stumbling points and are already in the process of handling them;
  3. The prospect wants to set up a meeting with you and the rest of the Buying Decision Team to discuss their expectations and criteria for choosing you.

When you make an appointment with only one or two people you don’t have a real opportunity. If the person you’re speaking with thinks s/he has a need but hasn’t gotten team buy-in yet, or doesn’t know the complete set of potential disruptors that need managing, there’s no opportunity. If your prospect is going to take your information back to the boss/manager, there’s no opportunity. If a prospect calls you for information, there’s most likely no opportunity (although you can use this time to begin the Change Facilitation process).

I don’t consider a 95% failure rate success; you’ve just convinced yourself that this is the way it is for your industry. Let’s change it to be more successful. Instead of running after people once they become buyers, why not find those who are already en route to buying, use a different focus and new skill set such as Buying Facilitation® (the model I’ve developed to handle Pre-Sales Change Facilitation) or some change management tool to enter earlier in their change/decision journey, quickly facilitate them through their change, and THEN sell.

It’s not rocket science. You’re current selling/solution-placement modality restricts you to fighting for those who have defined themselves as buyers. People really need help determining how to change congruently. But the time it takes them to do so is the length of the sales cycle. You’re wasting your time chasing the 5% and ignoring the 80% of prospective buyers who WILL buy within two years of connecting with you but can’t until they’ve got their ducks in a row. But you can hasten their journey by first becoming Neutral Navigators doing a Change Facilitation process and THEN wear a ‘seller’ hat. Then you’ll stop wasting time and resource with those who aren’t buyers and truly serve those who WILL buy become buyers much quicker. But no amount of content, relationship, or Opportunity Management will force those who aren’t, or who will never be, ready. You’re waiting while people do this anyway. Help them. Close more. And have more opportunities to manage.

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Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of a Change Facilitation model used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, healthcare, and management. She’s been running Buying Facilitation® and How Buyers Buy training programs in global corporations since 1985. She is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell,and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has trained over 100,000 sales people globally, and is currently running Listening programs to facilitate unbiased listening. Her blog is consistently ranked in the top 10 of all sales/marketing blogs. Sharon Drew is considered an original thinker and thought leader, doing keynotes, coaching, and consulting to enable servant leader skills. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

August 28th, 2017

Posted In: Change Management, News, Sales

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businessman-2606507_960_720I recently heard yet another excuse as to why a buyer didn’t buy. This one was a hoot – seller/buyer misalignment. Seriously? Because the seller didn’t close a sale (That was expected by the seller? In the mythical pipeline?) there was a relationship problem? Because the buyer didn’t buy (according to the expectation of the seller) there was a bonding problem?  No. The problem stems from sellers not understanding what a buyer is. In this case, there was no buyer to be ‘misaligned’ with.

FROM PERSON TO BUYER

A decision not to purchase has very little to do with the seller, the solution, the relationship, or the need. In fact, a purchase is the very last thing a buyer wants. Just because a situation seems like a perfect fit with your solution does not make it a buying/selling opportunity; just because someone really needs your solution does not mean they are ready, willing, or able to buy.

Let me begin by defining ‘Buyer’: a person (or group) who has

  • assembled all people, causes, and elements that created their problem AND
  • recognized they cannot fix the problem with familiar resources, AND
  • gotten buy-in from everyone/everything involved with the changes a fix would affect, AND
  • met a collection of personal/group criteria that assures eventual stability, AND
  • decided that the cost of a fix is lower than maintaining the status quo,

and decides to purchase an external solution as their only option.

As the thought-leader behind how buyers buy (programs developed, books written, modelsinvented, steps defined, terms coined, since 1985) I’d like to offer some thoughts:

1.  A buyer isn’t a buyer unless they’ve bought something. Until then they are people with a problem that may, if all else fails, require an external solution.
2.  People first recognize a problem that keeps them from the type of Excellence they require. They may or may not decide to fix it.  It never begins as a decision to make a purchase (unless a small personal item).
3.  There are usually a range of ‘fixes’ available for problems. Workarounds are always the first option, a purchase the last.
4.  All people (buyers, groups, individuals) live in a unique unconscious, human system (rules, relationships, beliefs, experience, goals, etc.) that created the problem and maintains it as part of their status quo. The system exists AS IS, with problems factored in. If an element is recognized as problematic, the system would need to agree on possible forward routes. Any change would need to end up as an integrated part of the core system.
5.  A purchase means something new will enter the system and replace or reconsider what’s already there without leaving a mess.  It’s only when there’s agreement from all elements that created the problem that
* it can’t be fixed with known resources or workarounds,
* the cost in resources/change is lower than the cost of fallout,
* a path forward is defined by everyone who will touch the final solution,
that the full scope of a solution is understood. Until then ‘need’ isn’t fully defined. Here is where sellers often get caught thinking there’s a ‘need’ before there is one.
6.  There is a defined series of 13 (generic) steps that all systems traverse (often unconsciously) to decide if, when, why, how, what to change. Until they’ve agreed they can’t fix the problem with familiar resources AND developed a plan for congruent change, (step 10), there is no willingness to seek an external solution. In other words, people become buyers at step 10; before that they’re merely people trying to fix a problem themselves.
7.  During the steps of change, people within the system do research to find a variety of ideas that could possibly help them fix their problem themselves. If they have contacted a solution provider during their research phase (and have not yet gotten group buy-in) they’re not buyers regardless of their apparent need and the efficacy of a seller’s solution.
8.  Making a purchase is first a change management issue, last a solution choice problem; the first question people ask is how they can achieve Excellence without leaving an internal mess; the last question they ask is what solution they’d need from ‘outside’. Using the sales model, only solution placement criteria and activities are considered and any questions posed are biased to inspire agreement, admission of need, ‘relationship’ – all with an intent to sell something (i.e. steps 10-13); there is no element of the sales model that facilitates systemic change to enable sellers to enter earlier.
9.  Until any disruption caused by a purchase (i.e. all purchases are ‘foreign’ elements) is understood, planned for, and agreed to, no purchase will take place. The existing system is sacrosanct; keeping it running smoothly is more important to them than fixing a problem that’s already been baked into the system.
10. Everyone and everything who created the current problem and would potentially touch a new solution must agree to any modification (possible purchase). Until then, they won’t, they can’t buy and they are not buyers.
11. The time it takes people/buyers to discover their own answers and know how to manage change in the least disruptive way, is the length of the sales cycle. It has nothing to do with selling, buying, need, relationship, content, or solutions until the route to congruent change is defined and agreed to. It’s change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue.
12. The last thing people want is to buy something. With their only criteria of ‘solution placement’, sellers often enter at the wrong time in the buying journey, ask the wrong questions, and offer the wrong data – and sell only to the low-hanging fruit (the 5% who have planned their route to change already).
13. Buyers buy using their own buying patterns, not a seller’s selling patterns. Using a specific type of sales effort further restricts the population of those who will buy.
14. There is a difference in goals, outcome, capability of changing, and level of buy-in between those who CAN/WILL buy (based on congruent change) vs those who sellers think SHOULD buy (based solely on need/solution match) and hence waste a helluva lot of time.
15. The time it takes people to come up with their complete set of buy-in and change-based answers is the time it takes them to make a decision to seek an external solution – i.e. become a buyer. It has nothing whatsoever to do with their need, your solution, or your relationship until they are certain they will end up with Systems Congruence. And THEN they are ready to discuss the full complement of needs, criteria for buying a solution, and seek a compatible relationship with a seller.

 By only listening for clues that lead you to assume a ‘need’ for your solution, by entering into ‘relationships’ based on what you’re selling, by only asking questions to ‘prove’ a need/solution match (too often with only one or two members of the full Buying Decision Team [BDT]), you’re not only biasing the interaction, but limiting your sales to closing those who have gotten to the point when they’re ready, willing, able to change – the low hanging fruit; you’re missing the opportunity to enter earlier, develop a real relationship, and facilitate the path that people who CAN buy must take before they are buyers. The sales model does not facilitate systemic change issues; buyers can’t buy unless this occurs and sellers aren’t helping them, merely waiting for them to show up rather than doing the real job of relationship managers and facilitating through their necessary change issues.

HOW SALES RESTRICTS POSSIBILITY

Because we’ve restricted selling to placing solutions, people with problems we could resolve slowly figure out their own path to change while we sit and wait for those who have completed their process to show up. Prospective buyers, facing confusing choices, would be happy to have help navigating through their Pre-Sales systemic decision/change process and adding a true facilitator onto their BDT.

Right now, you’re seeking out those people you’ve determined SHOULD buy (and getting ignored, misaligned, dropped, etc.) and ignoring ways to facilitate those who CAN buy but haven’t yet become buyers. If you enter with a Change Facilitation focus, it’s possible to find those who CAN buy on the first call, and use your relationship and knowledge to facilitate them through the steps of the change management process first, and THEN be there as they determine the need for your solution.

By adding a Change Facilitation processes to your upfront tools (seller-, marketing-, or software-led) you can enter at any step along the Buying Decision Path and be part of the BDT to help them get their ducks in a row. Then you’ve gotten ahead of the competition, reduce your sales cycle by half, only connect with those who WILL buy, close a helluva lot more sales (my clients close 5x more than the control groups using the same lists), and truly serve the people who need you.

I’ve developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that uses wholly unique skills (Listening for Systems, Facilitative Questions, etc.) to facilitate the discovery of a congruent route to Excellence. A generic model used for coaching, management, leadership, healthcare, I’ve been quite successful teaching it to global corporations ( i.e. IBM, Kaiser, Wachovia, KPMG, etc.) to increase their sales. Currently you’re now wasting 95% of your time running after those few who have finally arrived at step 10 – the low hanging fruit – ignoring the much larger pool of those who are on route, and fighting for a competitive advantage.

By adding new functionality to your sales model, you can enter earlier, be a Servant Leader, and facilitate congruent change and THEN be on board and accepted as a provider as they go through their buying decision process. It’s NOT sales; it’s NOT selling/purchase-based; it IS change-based. Right now you’re waiting while buyers do it anyway (or merely running after those you THINK have a need but end up fixing the problem in other ways). Why not add a skill set, stop wasting time/effort, and close more. Then you’ll never be ‘misaligned.’

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader. As the originator of Change Facilitation, she invented Buying Facilitation® for the sales industry; she’s trained over 100,000 sellers globally to diverse industries and cultures. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew works with individuals and teams as a coach, speaker, trainer, and consultant, in sales, change implementations, healthcare, technology. Her work on listening without bias has been called ‘game-changing’ and is used by corporations globally. Contact her at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

August 14th, 2017

Posted In: Communication, Sales

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wordcloud-679950_960_720Sales, marketing, and social marketing attempt to place solutions and create relationships by supplying great content, discovering likely prospects, and creating trust. Unfortunately sellers end up closing a small fraction – less than 5% – of those they reach, and marketers and social end up closing even less. Our products are terrific. So what’s causing our failure?

 

PROBLEMS WITH OUR CURRENT THINKING

Here’s a bit of flawed thinking that exacerbates the problems:

  • Sellers believe prospects are folks who SHOULD buy (those with a ‘need’) rather than those who WILL buy (those who achieve consensus and set up a way to manage any change a purchase involves, and are ready and able to buy regardless of urgency of need).
  • Marketers believe that content is king, that offering the right content at the right time enables a buying decision. But we don’t know the role the reader plays on the Buying Decision Team, how or when our content is being used, and if it’s making a difference in the buying decision (i.e. it might be just a resource);
  • Social believes that by engaging in relationships over time and developing trust, followers will come back when they are ready. But because we can’t know their decision path, or associates who need to buy-in to any change, or internal political issues, we can’t know if we are spending time wisely.

We can facilitate buying decisions by employing different thinking to avoid

1.       Merely guessing at, or manipulating, our conversations or offerings without knowing where along their decision path our buyers are, and how many of their Buying Decision Team are on board;
2.       Playing a numbers game to find and pitch those with a supposed ‘need’, assuming our content persuades buyers to buy or take action;
3.       Neglecting possible actions that can facilitate a buyer’s off-line decision steps.

It’s time to add some new thinking to what we’re doing.

WHAT I LEARNED IN THE TRENCHES

By focusing on placing solutions, we’re missing the first 9 specific steps in a 13 step buying decision path that have nothing to do with our solution:

  • People have complicated issues (personal, systemic, organizational, and all criteria-based) to handle before they can buy or change. They only buy when all issues are managed regardless of need (systems congruence trumps need);
  • Buying includes change; change means disruption; consensus helps manage the disruption before it’s a problem; each person involved brings unique criteria and voice and shifts the buying criteria (i.e. until the entire Buying Decision Team is formed, weighs in, and agrees, there is no way to accurately define ‘needs’).
  • Given politics, internal relationship issues, history and future, it’s challenging, but necessary, to design a route through to change (in this case a purchase) that includes the people, rules, relationships, and group outcomes to avoid resistance and fallout.

I learned this as both a sales person and an entrepreneur. When Merrill Lynch hired me a stockbroker in the 1970s, I became a million-dollar producer my first year. But I couldn’t figure out why everyone with a need (especially those I had a great relationship with) didn’t always buy what I thought they needed. Where did they go?

When I started up my tech company in London in the 80s I realized the problem: as a buyer myself, my direct needs were often superseded by the social, political, organizational, and relational considerations I had to manage. When sellers came to pitch they worked hard to understand my needs in the area their solution served, and gave fine pitches, but as outsiders had no way to handle or understand the fights I was having with the Board, or the issues the distributor was having with their sales force. Nor did anyone even try.

The sales model, I realized when faced with great pitches and lovely sales folks, was not designed facilitate the behind-the-scenes non-need-related issues I had to manage before I could buy anything. I realized that all the great content, all the lovely relationships, all the ‘needs’ I had that matched their solutions, were worthless if I couldn’t manage the off-line, ‘Pre Sales’ issues that would be involved if I purchased anything. So, “Yes” to need; “No” to Buyer Readiness. And the sales model has no skills that address this problem because it is personal, idiosyncratic, and systems-based, and lie outside of the focus of placing solutions. I’ve heard it said that 80% of buyers you’re following now will buy a similar product (not yours) within 2 years of your connection; that’s the time it took them to make decisions that wouldn’t disrupt – the time of the sales cycle.

I then developed a facilitation approach (Buying Facilitation®) for my own sales team to add to the front end of the sales model to first facilitate Buyer Readiness – the steps buyers would have to take internally anyway and without Buying Facilitation® take a helluva lot longer. My team then added a new focus, and entered conversations as change management facilitators first, then selling when/if buyers were ready (more were ready, and much, much quicker, with no chasing around and we were able to disengage very early from those who could never buy.). After all, until they were able to determine if they COULD buy (and still maintain systems congruence) they could never be buyers regardless of need (the reason folks with a real need don’t buy). I continue to pose this question: do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities, and the sales model only handles the sales end; the buying end is change management.

Rule: the time it takes buyers to manage their off-line, idiosyncratic change issues is the length of the sales cycle. We were then able to get onto the Buying Decision Team early, lead buyers quickly through their unique decisions, and became great relationship managers, not to mention servant leaders. Our sales tripled and the time to close was reduced by two thirds; our relationships with clients were cemented and we avoided competition and price issues.

The takeaway here for marketers and social is the recognition that we are largely ignoring the hidden, systemic issues going on within our buyers’ environments that are not available to outsiders yet fundamental for any change to happen. We keep pushing content, hoping and praying that it will reach the right people at the right time. So long as we continue to focus on solution placement, we lose sales that we needn’t. That is our Achilles Heel. And it doesn’t have to be.

WHAT’S THE ROLE OF CHANGE MANAGEMENT?

Buyers and followers don’t know their journey to change when they begin and hence take longer than necessary to figure it out. But figure it out they must. And we can help them, and make our value proposition our ability to be their GPS, so long as our focus is to facilitate change, not push or manipulate to make a sale. Plus, it’s an entirely different skill set.

There are two elements of Buying Facilitation® that can be added to create a ‘pull’ that’s change- and decision-focused.

1.     Enter as a change facilitator. Instead of coding, noticing, tracking details that will help us guess at who’s reading, who’s a decision maker, where they might be in their sales cycle, etc. let’s begin listening for, and designing, tools that facilitate each step of the movement along the decision path that change decisions goes through; let’s ensure they discover the right people to be involved (some not so obvious) and help them build the necessary internal consensus. Currently we now listen for what we want to hear rather than listening for issues with decision making, change or choice. I’ve developed a new way to listen (Listening for Systems) that is non-biased.

2.      Guide buyers through change management at the start of the sales process. Regardless of the type or size of the solution, buyers cannot buy until they are ready internally, and sales doesn’t have tools to focus to handle systemic change management without bias. Facilitative Questions are a type of criteria-recognition tool that facilitates thinking using Servant Leader thinking. Conventional questions are biased in favor of the seller; Facilitative Questions are biased in favor of the buyer.

It’s possible to develop assessments, questionnaires, intelligent contact sheets, CRM tools that enter in the right place along the decision path, provide the capability to lead buyers and followers through the full complement of steps they must take, making it possible to send out just the appropriate data at the right point in the cycle, and facilitate the consensus and buy-in asthey quickly ready themselves for change. We can add these to the sales, marketing, and social models to truly serve our buyers and followers and close more. It will be an addition, and the results will stronger relationships and more conversions.

The problem has never been your solution; the problem is that we overlook the idiosyncratic stages of Buyer Readiness that are not involved with using our solutions – helping buyers address their unknowable change issues (independent of need, and based on people, rules, relationships, history, etc.) so they can get their ducks in a row to buy anything. By adding a facilitation tool directed at managing change before we try to sell, we can find more clients, and sell more, faster. And we can become true servant leaders.

__________

Let’s connect. I can help you develop content, tools, training or questions that will enable a buyer’s buying decision process, as well as speak at your next conference. Or I can train or license Buying Facilitation® for your team to add to their sales skills.

Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of the generic change management/decision facilitation model that teaches Others how to buy, change, collaborate, negotiate, and implement with no resistance, with full systemic buy in. She has trained 100,000 people worldwide, in global corporations (IBM, FEDEx, Morgan Stanley) and consulting firms (KPMG, Unisys). She adds this model to the front end of sales, change, decision analysis, leadership, and influencing. Read more articles on:www.sharondrewmorgen.com

Read two free chapters of her book What? on how to hear others without bias:www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at 512 771 1117 or sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

August 22nd, 2016

Posted In: Communication, News, Sales

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why buyers don't buyDo you sit and wait for your buyer’s to close? They need your solution. They like you. They are OK with the price. What’s going on?

Here are the ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ of why buyers don’t buy, taken from my book of the same name:

  1. Sales focuses on solution placement and needs assessment, and has no skill set to help buyers maneuver through their off-line, personal, idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes planning and decision making that must take place in their environment before they can buy.
  2. Buyers will make no purchasing decisions until they get buy-in from the components (people, policies, initiatives, groups) that are in any way connected to, or will touch, a solution to their ‘need.’
  3. Until or unless there is buy-in, and the system is ready, willing, and able to buy-in to necessary change, buyers will not accept a solution no matter how great the need.
  4. Buyers live in systems that operate, as all systems do, from the law of homeostasis, and thereby must resist if something new were to threaten disruption. To insure minimal internal disruption, buyers face internal change management issues as they bring in something new (a solution).
  5. Until buyers understand and know how to mitigate the risks that a new solution will bring to their culture, they will do nothing. The system is sacrosanct; homeostasis is more important than fixing a need. New solutions can’t be purchased until a way is found to maintain internal balance. Includes internal politics and relationship issues.
  6. Until all of the Buying Decision Team members have added their voices and fully defined the criteria that a solution must contain, buyers can’t make proper use of  solution information (i.e. pitch, presentation).
  7. Sales, and the focus on solutions, enters the buyer’s decision path too early in a buyer’s decision cycle – usually before all of the Buying Decision Team is on board and has added their specific needs to the solution criteria.
  8. Helping buyers maneuver through their buy-in and systems issues require a different focus, and a different skill set, than the one sales offers. Buyers don’t buy using a seller’s selling patterns. And the sales model doesn’t have tools to influence non-solution-related decisions.
  9. Buyers buy on unique, idiosyncratic criteria that are agreed to by their Buying Decision Team – not on the strength of their need, your product, or their relationship.
  10. The type of relationship a seller has with customers/prospects is a buying feature only once the buyer has determine how, when, why, and if they are going to buy.
  11. Buyers seek a solution only after they manage their internal systems issues. Part of their decision/choice is the assurance that the new solution will maintain the ecology of the system.
  12. At the start, buyers don’t know all the issues they need to manage as they begin the process of resolving a problem and choosing a solution.

Your current sales skills do a great job understanding need and placing solutions. But they don’t work with the behind-the-scenes non-solution-related change management issues buyers go through privately.

How will you shift your skills to help buyers manage their buying decision issues?

If you want to help buyers facilitate their off-line, behind-the-skills decision issues, you may want to learn Buying Facilitation® – a set of change management/decision facilitation skills that are wholly different from (but work in tandem with) sales skills, designed to help buyers navigate through their decision path as they prepare to choose a solution. It speeds up their change management process: we sit and wait while they do it anyway.

Add Buying Facilitation® to your sales skills as a facilitation tool, and decrease your sales cycle, find the right prospects to spend time on, and close more sales. Here are some sample chapters to give you more data: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it and Buying Facilitation®: the new way to sell that influences and expands decisions.

In today’s business climate, decisions to buy are far more complex than they’ve been in the past, and your selling skills aren’t enough. What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to add a new skill set to enhance your success?

____________________

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.
To learn Buying Facilitation® contact sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512-771-1117 and visit www.newsalesparadigm.com

 

August 8th, 2016

Posted In: Sales

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confused-customer-250x165Do you attempt to follow up with prospective buyers because they haven’t contacted you when you thought they should? Do you know what is stopping them from contacting you? Or where they are along their decision path – their steps from idea to consensus, from change to choice, that buyers must address – while we sit and wait, hoping they’ll close?

With a focus on understanding need and placing solutions, you may have no idea what stage they are at: did you originally connect when they were first considering possibly fixing something? Or when they were comparing your solution to an internal workaround or their favorite vendor? Were they just seeking information to share at a planning session? I bet you don’t have all the data on this.

BUYERS DON’T WANT US EVEN WHEN THEY NEED OUR SOLUTION

We tend to think buyers need our solution, but that’s only a part of the issue. They don’t really want to buy anything, merely to solve a problem. And they always start out by trying to find a way to fix the problem themselves (When we think they are stalling, this is what’s going on that we don’t see.); it’s only when they realize that a workaround isn’t sufficient, or their internal folks can’t resolve the problem, or their regular vendors aren’t around, or or or… are they willing to buy.

But they have work to do before they are ready – and cannot not buy, regardless of how great a fit your solution is with their need, until these steps are completed (and all sizes/types of solutions require some form of these):

1.They must assemble anyone who will touch the final solution, (not obvious)
2. get buy in and consensus from both decision makers and influencers, (not easy)
3. manage any change a solution will bring. (complicated, even with a small sale).

Price is not the issue. Competition with other providers is not the problem. The problem is how they will manage the internal change your solution incurs (separate from the benefits of your solution). Read my article on the complete list of steps buyers must take before they can buy.

If you want to facilitate their decision making, and your prospect is aware they need your solution and they seem to be stalling, call with these questions:

  • What would you and your decision team need to address to manage the types of change that would be required by purchasing our solution?
  • How will you and the decision team know that an external solution might be more effective and efficient than an internal workaround?

I’ve developed Buying Facilitation® to use in conjunction with the sales model to give you the tools to help buyers manage the necessary steps to be ready to buy your solution. Use your follow up contact to help them figure out how to resolve any of these issues that might cause them to be stuck. Your solution is perfect for them; they just need help getting their ducks in a row so they can give you the order.

____________

See my new Entrepreneur Programs: Getting Funded; Creating a Selling Machine; Marketing to Buying Decisions

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

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

June 3rd, 2016

Posted In: News, Sales

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Sales Meetings AdviceAs business folk, we hold meetings regularly. Yet often we don’t accomplish what we set out to achieve. Why?

The Purpose

Meetings are held to accomplish a specific, beneficial outcome requiring the attendance of the right people with the right agenda.

The Problem/Pain

Often we end up with miscommunication, wasted time, incomplete outcomes, misunderstanding, lack of ownership and ongoing personnel issues – sometimes an indication of internal power and faulty communications issues.

The Possibility

With greater success we can: stimulate thinking; achieve team building, innovation, and clear communication; and efficiently complete target issues. Here are some problem areas and solutions:

People. When outcomes aren’t being met effectively it’s a people- and management problem including: fall-out, sabotage, and resistance; long execution times; exclusion of peripheral people; restricted creativity and communication; exacerbated power and status issues. Are the most appropriate people (users, decision makers, influencers) invited? All who have good data or necessary questions?

  • Rule: unless all – all – relevant people show up for the meeting, cancel it. It’s impossible to catch people up or have them collaborate, add creative thoughts, or discuss annoyances. Once it’s known that meetings aren’t held unless all are present, the frequency, responsibility, and motives shift.
  • Rule: unless all – all – of the people who will touch the outcome from the meeting’s goals are in some way represented, the outcome will not reflect the needs of all causing fallout later, with resistance, sabotage or a diminished outcome.

Agenda. No hidden agendas! Recipients of potential outcomes must be allowed to add agenda items prior to the meeting.

  • Rule: unless all – all – of the items of ultimate concern are on the agenda, the meeting will be restricted to meet the needs of a few with unknown consequence (resistance and sabotage).

Action. Too often, action items don’t get completed effectively. How do action items get assigned or followed up? What happens if stuff’s not done when agreed? How can additional meetings be avoided?

  • Rule: put a specific, consensual, and supervised method in place to ensure action items get accomplished as promised.
  • Rule: as meeting begins, get consensus on what must be accomplished for a successful outcome. This initial discussion may change agenda items or prioritize them, detect problems, assumptions, resistance before action items are assigned.

Discussion. How long do people speak? How do conversations progress? How do the proceedings get recorded? What is the format for discussions? How is bias avoided?

  • Rule: record (audio) each meeting so everyone who attends can have it available later. Folks who didn’t attend are not privy to this audio. (See People above).
  • Rule: design a time limit for speaking, and rules for topics, presentations, discussions, cross talk.
  • Rule: include periods of silence for thought, notes, reflection.

Understanding. Does everyone take away the same interpretation of what happened? How do you know when there have been miscommunications or misunderstandings?

  • Rule: unless everyone has the same perception of what happened for each topic, there is a tendency for biased interpretation that will influence a successful outcome.
  • Rule: one person (on rotation) should take notes, and repeat the understanding of what was said to get agreement for each item before the next item is tackled. This is vital, as people listen with biased filters and make flawed assumptions of what’s been said/agreed.

Transparency. Agendas should be placed online, to be read, signed-off, and added to.

  • Rule: whomever is coming to the meeting must know the full agenda.
  • Rule: everyone responsible for an action item must be listed with time lines, names of those assisting, and outcomes.

Accomplishments. Are items accomplished in a suitable time frame? What happens when they aren’t?

  • Rule: for each action item, participants must sign off on an agreeable execution. A list of the tasks, time frames, and people responsible must accompany each item, and each completed task must be checked off online so progress is accountable.
  • Rule: a senior manager must be responsible for each agenda item. If items are not completed in a timely way, the manager must write a note on the online communication explaining the problem, the resolution, and new time frame.

Meetings can be an important activity for collaboration and creativity if they are managed properly and taken as a serious utilization of time and output. Ask yourself: Do you want to meet? Or get work accomplished collaboratively?

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

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

February 22nd, 2016

Posted In: Sales

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