By Sharon Drew Morgen

For some reason, it’s an accepted norm that presenting details of an idea or solution will prompt action. It goes something like this: you want someone to buy or do something, or fund you; you want a team to organize in a certain way, or a teenager to change behaviors. In other words, you want someone to do something they’re currently not doing. You decide on a story, a pitch, a tactic, a presentation, that will influence them to change their current behaviors to do what you want them to do. So you

  • formulate the ‘right’ message, in the right way – according to their demographics or personal characteristics – that (you assume) represents their ‘needs’ and will motivate action;
  • develop the ‘right’ supplemental materials or stories;
  • pitch, present, tell a story, offer indisputable research and superlative references that prove your value.
  • You then assume your ‘relationship’ with the listener – your status, brand, assumed expertise, history – offers you authority to be granted what you ask for. And then you wait. And then…nothing.

In case you’re wondering why you’re not getting the results you deserve, it’s because it’s all based on you.

WHAT – PITCHES CAN’T BE HEARD

Just because you may be ‘right’, have the essential information and capability to fix a problem, your message won’t be heard unless the listener recognizes they want to change, that they cannot resolve their own problem using familiar resources, and they’re ready to seek an external fix.

Indeed, until they know precisely when, why, what, and how to change their current thinking and behaviors, until they recognize that the ‘cost’ of adopting a solution from outside the status quo is lower than the cost of maintaining the problem, there’s a case to be made that your suggestions will be ignored or resisted.

Here’s the problem. Your pitches and stories:

  1. try to persuade others according to your needs and goals (As a listener, if don’t think I have a need, why should I listen?);
  2. are misunderstood and mistranslated as per unconscious listening biases (As a listener, if I misinterpret what you’re talking about, what is my takeaway? And how will I know what I think I hear isn’t what you’re saying?);
  3. provide an answer according to what you believe is needed (As a listener, I’m offended when you think you know more than me about what I need.);
  4. use biased verbal and graphic forms to represent the message you think will be effective (As a listener, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t think that way.);
  5. reflect your need for them to take action NOW (As a listener, I haven’t figured out if I need to change anything. So why are you pushing me to take action?);
  6. probably don’t resolve the potentially broken internal rules and historic choices that created and maintain the problem (As a listener, I know I need to resolve this, but it’s always been this way and so many things are dependent upon it. What will break if I try to do something different?).

Notice it’s you and your biases determining:

  • the information you’re sharing – which may not be the best set of facts for that listener;
  • the particular words, graphics, presentation used – which may not be the best for the listener’s understanding;
  • the assumption that the problem needs to be fixed – and fixed the way YOU think it should be fixed;
  • that YOU are the one (an outsider with no true knowledge of the full data set of what’s going on internally) who has THE content to fix them – and aren’t recognizing any possible avenues for them to fix themselves;
  • the intended outcome YOU believe needs to be met – which may not be the same outcome or agenda the listener condones.

In other words, with no accurate idea of how your information is being received OR the actual underlying fact pattern that has both created and maintained the status quo, with no ability to understand the historic, systemic issues that keep the status quo functioning well-enough to not have considered change, you’re trying to tell folks to do what you want them to do using your own criteria for them to change.

You certainly have no control. You have no way of knowing the rules, relationships, background, of what you can only see parts of from outside the system. You have no idea how you’re being heard, or if your chosen languaging and presentation is what the Other will respond to. Indeed, you have no way of knowing that your message is ‘right’ for that person at that time.

I contend that by entering a conversation fraught with your own biases, goals, needs, and limited understanding, you’ll only succeed with those who already believe the way you do, are seeking change, and are looking for exactly what you’re presenting. And those who really might need your message will ignore it if it’s mistimed, runs counter to the current operating rules or agreements, or uses the wrong languaging.

This can be amended. You can prepare listeners to accurately hear and be motivated to act on what you want to share; you can language your information according to the best chances to be heard, at a time when the listener is ready, willing, and able to hear. But you need to add a new mindset.

WHY – CAN’T YOUR PITCH/STORY BE HEARD?

Right now it seems your listeners are ignoring you, or resisting; that they misinterpret or forget on purpose. But that’s not the case. They just cannot respond to what you are telling them. The way they hear you is a big part of the problem.

Simplistically, brains take in spoken words through your ears as chemical and electrical signals devoid of meaning. These signals

  • travel down neural pathways
  • seeking similar-enough signals
  • that match with the incoming signals
  • to an unknowable (greater or lesser) degree,
  • and may have a different meaning
  • that’s some degree ‘off’ the incoming message,
  • but matches historic decisions and beliefs
  • that have been built in to current choices, status quo, and accepted norms.

In other words, there’s a high probability your intended message will be misheard, misunderstood, or mistranslated as per the meaning attached to the neurons and synapses a listener’s brain automatically chooses to match with your words; you have no idea what others hear when you speak, your clarity, personality, and messaging aside.

Those with no interest at all, and regardless of your attempts to inspire attention, may notice only a fraction of what you offer and certainly won’t care if they’re getting it wrong. For those who are trying to listen, they don’t know what parts of your message they’re missing or misinterpreting. Their brains won’t tell them they’ve got it wrong.

In fact, people can’t know that they DON’T accurately hear what you’re saying. As per above, their brains don’t tell them which words or concepts were omitted or mistranslated during their normal brain/listening process. So if I say ABC, you might actually hear ABL and your brain won’t tell you it haphazardly discarded E, F, G, etc. during its signal matching process. I actually wrote a book on this called WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard?.

In other words, even if people try to hear you, even if you’re messaging is terrific, all listening is unconsciously biased by your listener’s brains regardless of what you say. And using normal conversation, or pitching/storytelling, you have no control. When you merely pitch

  • what you want them to hear
  • AND your listener has not heard what you intended them to hear
  • AND your listener is not in agreement or doesn’t know how what they think they heard relates to their situation,

there’s a good likelihood you’re unwittingly fostering resistance and resentment.

But when listeners have agreed they want new knowledge, when they know how to manage any disruption that would result from bringing in something new, their brain will connect with the correct neural pathways to listen through and accurately hear what you’ve got to say.

Your first job is to get them ready to hear you. I can’t say this enough: regardless of how much Others need to hear what you’ve got to say, no matter what problem it will resolve, no matter how urgently they need the information you have, they cannot, cannot hear you accurately unless they unconsciously match what you’re saying with their unconscious listening biases.

WHEN – SHOULD YOU SHARE INFORMATION?

Begin by getting on the same page as your listener. That means your normal pitch, your normal presentation materials or deck, may need to be amended to include factors on THEIR side of the table. Do research with current clients. Come at this from the standpoint of the listener, the buyer, the funder:

  1. recognize it’s your responsibility to help the listener hear you accurately; their brains won’t know what’s accurate.
  2. create the path to ensure listener buy-in before mentioning your idea.
  3. assume you will be resisted if what they hear doesn’t match their current beliefs and historic rules about the subject.

I continue to be shocked that I rarely meet a marketer OR a seller who knows exactly how their buyers buy: the types of internal change issues they must manage before they can do anything different; the possibilities they have of fixing their own problems; the relationship and power and buy-in issues going on amongst stakeholders that influence (in)action. Or folks seeking funding: what criteria will funders use to choose you over the competition? It won’t be based on your pitch – they’ve heard it before. Or influencers: what historic actions or cultural norms are fixed in the status quo that would need to shift for them to buy-in to change?

Until you know this, there’s no way for you to be certain the proper technique to use to pitch, and you’ll only be successful with the low hanging fruit. I wrote a book on this that will teach you all of the stuff going on behind the scenes: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. But make sure you do research. Or let me know and I can help you gather the right data and give you a report.

Once you understand the ‘lay of the land’ behind the scenes, your conversation must begin by engendering trust so they’ll begin to turn off their guarded ear and open up a bit. And the only way you’ll engender trust is to really care about them. They will have no need to care about you unless you do. Something like this:

For some reason, it’s an accepted norm that presenting details of an idea or solution will prompt action. It goes something like this: you want someone to buy or do something, or fund you; you want a team to organize in a certain way, or a teenager to change behaviors. In other words, you want someone to do something they’re currently not doing. You decide on a story, a pitch, a tactic, a presentation, that will influence them to change their current behaviors to do what you want them to do. So you

  • formulate the ‘right’ message, in the right way – according to their demographics or personal characteristics – that (you assume) represents their ‘needs’ and will motivate action;
  • develop the ‘right’ supplemental materials or stories;
  • pitch, present, tell a story, offer indisputable research and superlative references that prove your value.

You then assume your ‘relationship’ with the listener – your status, brand, assumed expertise, history – offers you authority to be granted what you ask for. And then you wait. And then…nothing.

In case you’re wondering why you’re not getting the results you deserve, it’s because it’s all based on you.

WHAT – PITCHES CAN’T BE HEARD

Just because you may be ‘right’, have the essential information and capability to fix a problem, your message won’t be heard unless the listener recognizes they want to change, that they cannot resolve their own problem using familiar resources, and they’re ready to seek an external fix. 

Indeed, until they know precisely when, why, what, and how to change their current thinking and behaviors, until they recognize that the ‘cost’ of adopting a solution from outside the status quo is lower than the cost of maintaining the problem, there’s a case to be made that your suggestions will be ignored or resisted.

Here’s the problem. Your pitches and stories:

  1. try to persuade others according to your needs and goals (As a listener, if don’t think I have a need, why should I listen?);
  2. are misunderstood and mistranslated as per unconscious listening biases (As a listener, if I misinterpret what you’re talking about, what is my takeaway? And how will I know what I think I hear isn’t what you’re saying?);
  3. provide an answer according to what you believe is needed (As a listener, I’m offended when you think you know more than me about what I need.);
  4. use biased verbal and graphic forms to represent the message you think will be effective (As a listener, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t think that way.);
  5. reflect your need for them to take action NOW (As a listener, I haven’t figured out if I need to change anything. So why are you pushing me to take action?);
  6. probably don’t resolve the potentially broken internal rules and historic choices that created and maintain the problem (As a listener, I know I need to resolve this, but it’s always been this way and so many things are dependent upon it. What will break if I try to do something different?).

Notice it’s you and your biases determining:

  • the information you’re sharing – which may not be the best set of facts for that listener;
  • the particular words, graphics, presentation used – which may not be the best for the listener’s understanding;
  • the assumption that the problem needs to be fixed – and fixed the way YOU think it should be fixed;
  • that YOU are the one (an outsider with no true knowledge of the full data set of what’s going on internally) who has THE content to fix them – and aren’t recognizing any possible avenues for them to fix themselves;
  • the intended outcome YOU believe needs to be met – which may not be the same outcome or agenda the listener condones.

In other words, with no accurate idea of how your information is being received OR the actual underlying fact pattern that has both created and maintained the status quo, with no ability to understand the historic, systemic issues that keep the status quo functioning well-enough to not have considered change, you’re trying to tell folks to do what you want them to do using your own criteria for them to change.

You certainly have no control. You have no way of knowing the rules, relationships, background, of what you can only see parts of from outside the system. You have no idea how you’re being heard, or if your chosen languaging and presentation is what the Other will respond to. Indeed, you have no way of knowing that your message is ‘right’ for that person at that time.

I contend that by entering a conversation fraught with your own biases, goals, needs, and limited understanding, you’ll only succeed with those who already believe the way you do, are seeking change, and are looking for exactly what you’re presenting. And those who really might need your message will ignore it if it’s mistimed, runs counter to the current operating rules or agreements, or uses the wrong languaging.

This can be amended. You can prepare listeners to accurately hear and be motivated to act on what you want to share; you can language your information according to the best chances to be heard, at a time when the listener is ready, willing, and able to hear. But you need to add a new mindset.

WHY – CAN’T YOUR PITCH/STORY BE HEARD?

Right now it seems your listeners are ignoring you, or resisting; that they misinterpret or forget on purpose. But that’s not the case. They just cannot respond to what you are telling them. The way they hear you is a big part of the problem.

Simplistically, brains take in spoken words through your ears as chemical and electrical signals devoid of meaning. These signals

  • travel down neural pathways
  • seeking similar-enough signals
  • that match with the incoming signals
  • to an unknowable (greater or lesser) degree,
  • and may have a different meaning
  • that’s some degree ‘off’ the incoming message,
  • but matches historic decisions and beliefs
  • that have been built in to current choices, status quo, and accepted norms.

In other words, there’s a high probability your intended message will be misheard, misunderstood, or mistranslated as per the meaning attached to the neurons and synapses a listener’s brain automatically chooses to match with your words; you have no idea what others hear when you speak, your clarity, personality, and messaging aside.

Those with no interest at all, and regardless of your attempts to inspire attention, may notice only a fraction of what you offer and certainly won’t care if they’re getting it wrong. For those who are trying to listen, they don’t know what parts of your message they’re missing or misinterpreting. Their brains won’t tell them they’ve got it wrong.

In fact, people can’t know that they DON’T accurately hear what you’re saying. As per above, their brains don’t tell them which words or concepts were omitted or mistranslated during their normal brain/listening process. So if I say ABC, you might actually hear ABL and your brain won’t tell you it haphazardly discarded E, F, G, etc. during its signal matching process. I actually wrote a book on this called WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard?.

In other words, even if people try to hear you, even if you’re messaging is terrific, all listening is unconsciously biased by your listener’s brains regardless of what you say. And using normal conversation, or pitching/storytelling, you have no control. When you merely pitch

  • what you want them to hear
  • AND your listener has not heard what you intended them to hear
  • AND your listener is not in agreement or
  • doesn’t know how what they think they heard relates to their situation,

there’s a good likelihood you’re unwittingly fostering resistance and resentment.

But when listeners have agreed they want new knowledge, when they know how to manage any disruption that would result from bringing in something new, their brain will connect with the correct neural pathways to listen through and accurately hear what you’ve got to say.

Your first job is to get them ready to hear you. I can’t say this enough: regardless of how much Others need to hear what you’ve got to say, no matter what problem it will resolve, no matter how urgently they need the information you have, they cannot, cannot hear you accurately unless they unconsciously match what you’re saying with their unconscious listening biases.

WHEN – SHOULD YOU SHARE INFORMATION?

Begin by getting on the same page as your listener. That means your normal pitch, your normal presentation materials or deck, may need to be amended to include factors on THEIR side of the table. Do research with current clients. Come at this from the standpoint of the listener, the buyer, the funder:

  1. recognize it’s your responsibility to help the listener hear you accurately; their brains won’t know what’s accurate.
  2. create the path to ensure listener buy-in before mentioning your idea.
  3. assume you will be resisted if what they hear doesn’t match their current beliefs and historic rules about the subject.

I continue to be shocked that I rarely meet a marketer OR a seller who knows exactly how their buyers buy: the types of internal change issues they must manage before they can do anything different; the possibilities they have of fixing their own problems; the relationship and power and buy-in issues going on amongst stakeholders that influence (in)action. Or folks seeking funding: what criteria will funders use to choose you over the competition? It won’t be based on your pitch – they’ve heard it before. Or influencers: what historic actions or cultural norms are fixed in the status quo that would need to shift for them to buy-in to change?

Until you know this, there’s no way for you to be certain the proper technique to use to pitch, and you’ll only be successful with the low hanging fruit. I wrote a book on this that will teach you all of the stuff going on behind the scenes: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. But make sure you do research. Or let me know and I can help you gather the right data and give you a report.

Once you understand the ‘lay of the land’ behind the scenes, your conversation must begin by engendering trust so they’ll begin to turn off their guarded ear and open up a bit. And the only way you’ll engender trust is to really care about them. They will have no need to care about you unless you do. Something like this:

I have something I’d like to share. But I’m not sure if you need to hear it. How are you currently thinking about X right now?

This lets the listener know they have their own valid viewpoint and you won’t foist your beliefs on them; pushing your data too soon encourages resistance and resentment. Continue with some of these:

I hear you currently believe X? Did I hear correctly?

If there is a time when you consider change, how would you plan on handling X?

I notice that you didn’t mention X. Do you have any thoughts on how you might incorporate any needed new choices? I have a solution/idea that would offer new thoughts on this subject should you want to consider new choices.

The hard part is to keep yourself from talking if their responses seem to naturally lead to them adopting your solution: until they have agreed to add something new or consider change, until they realize they might be missing a piece, you’ve got nothing to say.

How many times have you walked through booths at conferences and heard folks wasting their breath pitching pitching pitching, hoping hoping hoping their message will be heard by someone?!?! Well, there’s a good chance you’re doing the same thing. Stop wasting your breath; save it for those who want to hear it and then language it according to their listening patterns.

Wait until you’re certain your listener wants to learn/do something different before pitching. Even for you folks seeking funding: before you pitch, help them determine the criteria they’ll use to choose someone to fund and then match that criteria. For parents seeking to change a teen’s habits: what’s stopping them from implementing what they promised? For sellers: what do they need to do internally to get the buy-in for any proposed change? How will they determine if an outside fix is less costly than maintaining the status quo? What can they do to fix the problem themselves first?

Until people know if they’re ready/able to do anything different, that the ‘cost’ of change is manageable, they aren’t available to listen to what you have to say. When you begin with a pitch, you’re restricting your audience to those who have already decided to change – the low hanging fruit. Until people know how to listen without bias you can’t be heard accurately. Sorry.

HOW – SHOULD YOU PITCH?

Of course it’s necessary to share specific details when needed:

  • to take action (The space for the desk is 8 feet long.);
  • to recognize a fit between items (We will be serving fish, so bring white wine.);
  • to explain penalties (If you come home after midnight, you’ll be grounded.);
  • when someone seeks you out to answer their curiosity (How do you cook that?)
  • to know what to do when an action has been agreed upon (Our first action will be to…);
  • to know content details (I now recognize I cannot solve a problem myself, know how to manage the fallout from bringing in something new, and have the buy-in to learn, buy, think, add something new).

It’s necessary to language your pitch so you’re understood when information is needed. Once the listener has shared what they already believe to be true about the topic you’re discussing, use their words, their beliefs, and what they think is missing, to populate your pitch. Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re selling email organization software.

You: How are you currently organizing your email?
Prospect: I use my folders in my email software.
You: I assume that’s working fine for you or you would have added new capability before now.
Prospect: I know I should do it, but I can’t get my head around adding any new software than I already have. I’m overwhelmed.
You: I know. All of us are. I sell an email organizing product that’s simple to install and seamlessly works with most existing software. If you want, we can discuss it if your stakeholders would consider adding the organizing capability to what you’ve got now.

Notice when it was time to speak I focused my pitch to only the comments my listener mentions. If I used my entire pitch, I’d be breaking trust.

I’ve spent decades training sales folks, another decade as a life/business coach, and more recently as the developer of a unique change model that enables folks to generate congruent behavior change. I developed an entire generic change management model (Buying Facilitation®) that teaches sellers how to facilitate any buying decision, coaches to facilitate congruent change, and helps leaders and parents expedite requests and promises. And I also developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions (above) that help others discover their own answers with no bias from the questioner other than a facilitated direction for brains to find answers.

I understand how difficult it is instigate change in others. Remember that when you’re pitching, or sharing a story to initiate another to take action, you’re asking them to change. Please consider the problem from a different angle. Help your listeners change by helping them change their brains. Stop thinking your brilliant content will be enough; serve them by helping them figure out how to use what you’ve got to say to become better.

_______________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation® and Facilitative Questions, trainer, coach, and consultant. She is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business bestseller Selling with Integrity. Sharon Drew can help you develop, perfect, and present your message for optimal success.

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November 4th, 2019

Posted In: News

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