09 Feb

The How of Heart

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Sharon-Drew Morgen

Collaboration. Empowerment. Win/Win. Integrity. Authenticity. We’re finally recognizing the efficacy of acting with humanitarian values! But how do we DO it? How do we know when, or if, to change our comfortable communication patterns? How do we modify any unconscious behaviors to make new habitual choices and recognize when what we’re doing no longer is sufficient?

WHY BEHAVIOR CHANGE ISN’T GOOD ENOUGH

DOing kindness, collaboration, and authenticity isn’t as easy as wishing it to happen. It takes a change in our behaviors; it means we have to change our habits and status quo. And that means we must do more than merely knowing we ‘should’. The problem is that our behaviors occur unconsciously and systemically, and won’t necessary accede to our desire to change. Here’s how it happens.

Our brains unconsciously choose our behaviors from our cache of lifelong subjective experience, values, and unconscious rules that forms our unique status quo. I call this our system – a well-oiled machine that keeps us ticking congruently every moment of the day. Our viewpoints, our styles, our behaviors are all pre-determined and habitual, and represent us consistently so we maintain our individual, unique systems (Systems Congruence) according to our own personal rules. I realize we all think we have unrestricted choice; we don’t. We follow our personal ‘company line’ in every action, every communication. We remain who we are in everything we do.

The problem arises when we wish to do anything different: our unconscious system will resist anything new because it is seen as a threat even if it’s something we’re nominally in agreement with. For any change to occur, our brains must first align the new with the old/habitual so we remain congruent. We know we should go to the gym more often, or eat healthy; we know we should allow our relatives to have disparate political viewpoints. But try as we might, we hard-pressed to permanently change our behaviors. This is the problem with conventional training and Self-Help books. We cannot change just because we seem to want to.

Why can’t we just DO something different? Because before we do, we must figure out a way to bring in the ‘new’ in a way that garners buy-in from the rest of our system so we can continue to be congruent. It’s a belief issue, not merely a behavior change problem. And our behaviors are merely the action, the outward manifestation, of our beliefs. The 400-pound man walking down the street will not heed an offer of a half-priced gym membership – not because he hasn’t looked in the mirror lately or because he’s ignoring his doctor’s warnings, but because his eating and lack of exercise are habitual and match the rules he’s already got in place: to make a permanent change, he’d have to ‘chunk up’ as they say in NLP, and go beyond the ‘What’ or the ‘Why’ to change his beliefs about who he is. He’d have to become a healthy person.

‘What’ to do is behavioral. ‘How’ is structural, systemic, and unconscious. Here’s an example of the difference: ZDNet has an article on transforming an organization on the principles of collaboration. They say it’s necessary to “Empower staff”: “To accomplish this goal it is important to train, support, and mentor staff to help them work more collaboratively. Staff must also practice their new collaboration skills back in the workplace so it becomes the new daily business and not just the latest management fad.”

Great. But HOW does one accomplish this? Everyone will interpret these words subjectively, according to their own beliefs about their skills. Obviously there can’t be organization-wide consistent adoption with just the What; information doesn’t cause change, and ‘What’ doesn’t address how to reconfigure our brain’s automatic choices. ‘How’ demands that we

  • add automatic unconscious choices to our habitual behaviors to comply with our new goals;
  • recognize the difference between what we think we’re doing and what we’re actually doing and notice there is a gap that prevents excellence;
  • install the change we seek without offending what’s been working well;
  • facilitate internal systemic buy-in to ensure our Status Quo is ready and able to change;
  • override habitual behavior choices and replace them with the new as appropriate;
  • maintain systems congruence.

It’s far more complicated than just understanding What to Do. It’s actually How to Be.

CHANGING BELIEFS CAUSES CHANGED BEHAVIORS

The problem with seeking to act with authenticity or empowerment, etc., is that we attempt to make behavioral changes without shifting the underlying system that holds our current behavioral choices in place. To enact any internal changes, to take on new habits or change behaviors, we must shift our core Identities and Beliefs, with new Behaviors the enactment of these shifts.

All of us have unique Identities; our Beliefs are the operating manuals; our Behaviors exhibit our Beliefs in action. Every day, in every way, we ACT who we ARE. I, for one, work out at the gym 9 hours a week. I hate it. But because I have determined that I AM a Healthy Person, I need my Behaviors to carry out my Identity accordingly: I eat healthy, exercise, and meditate. And on the days I would prefer to stay in bed, I ask myself if I’m a Healthy Person today and almost always, get my lazy self up and go to the gym.

This dependence on our Identities and Beliefs is foundational: we will do nothing – nothing – unless there is buy-in. When anything seeks to change us – when we receive training, or get told to ‘do’ something, or when coaches ‘suggest’ or sellers ‘recommend’ or leaders promote a new change – it shows up as a threat and will be resisted unless it’s accepted and adopted by our Identity and given a value set in our Beliefs. Once we ARE the change we seek, our new Behaviors will be natural and permanent.

To act with compassion, to have empathy, to lead with values, to design collaborative environments, we need a set of core Beliefs (I am a Kind Person; I Care About Collaboration With Colleagues) that get translated into new habitual choices; we need to inform our system to match the Doing to the new Being. We cannot congruently act the Doing if it’s incongruent with our Identity. It’s the most difficult aspect of change – creating consistent, habitual actions – because it’s unconscious, systemic, and resistant. It is possible, however, but not simple.

Working, speaking, acting with Heart is not behavioral. We must first Be the people with heart; Be kind, collaborative, authentic people. Organizations need to shift their corporate identities and manage behavioral adoption; we must become Servant Leaders and compassionate Leaders. We just need the Skills of How to accomplish this.

I’ve spent my life coding and designing models that create habitual, unconscious change. Although my work often shows up in the field of sales, it’s a generic model that is used by leaders, coaches, managers, doctors, and teachers, to lead Others (buyers, patients, clients, employees) through the necessary changes to shift their status quo congruently and embrace real change; it’s the ‘How’ of Excellence. After 35 years of teaching this material, I’m well aware of how difficult real change is. But if we begin by aspiring to Collaboration, Integrity, and Authenticity, we can become the change we seek.

_______________

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 512 457 0246. www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

 

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29 Jun

DOing vs. BEing: creating rules that put customers first

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenI recently purchased dysfunctional products/services from three vendors who were unwilling to go outside company rules to fix the problems they caused. How can we take part in the Trust Economy if our corporate rules preclude us from taking care of customers? Too often there’s a divergence between company rules and customer needs. I’ll use my vendor issues as a starting point:

  1. Wheaton International Movers. After researching a big cross-country move, I picked Wheaton. But it was a nightmare: their driver was drunk on both ends of the move; boxes were lost; an expensive sculpture was broken by their packer. Getting reimbursed was a 4-month nightmare: I was ignored, lied to, and finally only paid a fraction of what I deserved even though they accepted responsibility. I was regularly told: “Well, unfortunately Ms. Morgen, that would go against our rules.” No one ever apologized; I’m still missing a favorite painting and important office paperwork; my sculpture is gone.
  2. CVS online pharmacy. These folks sent a bottle with crushed pills. I fought for weeks to get the pills replaced but I was told I should send them the offending bottle first (the post office is in a different town). “I understand your concern, but we must operate according to company rules.” Rules before my health?
  3. Fitbit.  I purchased a broken Fitbit from an online vendor. Fitbit said they’d send a replacement I never received; the replacement from the online vendor was also broken. Reps at Fitbit actually said they received hundreds of calls a day about the problem but weren’t allowed to do anything about it until their ‘fix’ was ready. What?

As a consumer, I trust I’ll receive what I pay for, and be cared for if there’s a problem. Yet each company above took care of their rules before taking care of me. They put the DOing before the BEing.

RULES

When companies construct internal rules that are juxtaposed with customer needs they ignore the consequences

  • Without customers, there’s no need for rules.
  • Customer’s complaints go viral.
  • Hurting, cheating, disregarding, and ignoring customers always, always loses business.
  • For each customer who doesn’t feel fairly treated, companies lose unknown-hundreds of prospective clients for an uncertain time moving forward.

Too often companies confuse their rules [the DOing – regulations, results, performance] with a customer’s needs [the BEing – values, feelings, requirements]. Too many companies make it binary – company rules OR customer criteria – rather than Both/And. How do we design customer service scripts and training, how do we instill a primary focus on serving customers, to achieve Both/And and win/win?

The difference between DOing and BEing is Heart – heart, being one of those ‘soft’ ‘feminine’ words that assumes it’s not possible to make money and make nice (While training Buying Facilitation® at Morgan Stanley I heard they were conducting ‘closing’ training the following week. What? Why do you need both training programs? “Because BF is ‘soft’ and we need ‘hard’ skills to close.”). Isn’t it time to meld heart and head and DO-BE-DO-BE-DO? To make money AND make nice? All research shows the BEing is more profitable.

HOW TO PUT CUSTOMERS FIRST

There’s a way to put customers first AND take care of corporate rules. A few examples:

  1. Use an impossible customer request as a means to create a life-long partner.

“I hear you’d prefer if we were able to X. Unfortunately we aren’t able to do that, but we want you to be happy. Is there anything else I can do to get you what you deserve? Let’s see if we can get creative.”

Years ago while working with Bethlehem Steel during a trucker’s strike, I had my clients actually purchase steel retail from Pittsburg Steel to make sure Mazda wouldn’t have expensive downtime. We took the hit on cost to keep the customer happy. Well – to keep the customer!

  1. Use customer’s feelings to exhibit your dedication to them. During month 4 of my Wheaton ordeal, someone said “If you don’t stop shouting I’ll hang up on you!”  Seriously? The rep should have been taught to grow a pair and not take it personally:

“Wow. Sounds like you’re really upset. I can imagine how annoyed you must be. I’m so sorry.”

  1. Make sure each Rep owns the problem. Nothing makes customers more angry than having to call back again and again (and be on hold forever) to find someone to help them, or having to repeat repeat repeat the same complaint to each new Rep. Assign the first Rep to own the problem to resolution.

MAKING MONEY AND MAKING NICE

To operate effectively in this new world of connection, workarounds, visibility and competition, your main differentiator may be how you take care of employees and customers.

  1. Design company rules that put customers first. So, instead of ‘Send us the damaged pills first [so we can fix any internal problems here]’ it would be, “That prescription is important to your health. I’ll send you an entirely new bottle and include a return mailer so you can send the bad ones back at your convenience. I’m sorry.”
  2. Trust that customers aren’t your enemies: they pay your bills.
  3. If you broke it, it’s yours. If you send a bad bottle of pills, a bad Fitbit (twice), or break a sculpture, fix it easily. Don’t take your costs out on the customer.
  4. Make sure that every customer is happy by the end of each interaction. An unhappy, screaming customer cannot be passed on.
  5. Create a vision statement that includes the words ‘Customer Service’. So: We are a Customer Service company that designs CRM software.
  6. Employees are customers. Happy employees take care of customers. I’ve never heard of a company that’s loving, kind, and respectful to their employees and mean to their customers. It’s that BEing thing again. I want to share a story that embodies the Truth of this.

Years ago a client sent a new employee to one of my Buying Facilitation® public training programs to get him caught up with the team I already trained in-house. This man, call him Glen, was angry, rude, mean, and dismissive of everyone around him. I called my client: Who is this mean person? He’s making everyone cry. Why did you hire him? “Do whatever you have to do to break him. I hired him because he’s got potential.” So I went into action on Day 2 and facilitated Glen through the outcomes he was causing. On Day 3 he came to class like a saint – supportive of others, kind, gentle, fun. What happened? Here’s what he said:

Every day, I’ve had to leave my house for work and put my ‘mean’ suit on. I was told I had to convince prospects, push closes, bias discussions about our products to promote a sale. I hated it: I had to shift my personality to ‘Do’ this manipulative, insensitive person. I told myself I had to become a shark. I’ve been miserable and my family has suffered; I didn’t know any other way to keep my job except to follow their rules and be miserable. Now I’m learning it’s possible to make money AND make nice; now I can be my real self and do my job successfully.

As a testament to his change, he got a huge – huge – tattoo of a shark on his back the evening he had his realization. He came to class the next day with the tattoo stating “I’ve put the shark behind me.”

To determine if you need to rethink your rules, to be part of the Trust Economy, consider these questions:

How will you know that the rules you have in place are customer-centric? If you need several layers of customer service to handle angry customers, or you regularly read negative Tweets or Yelp comments about you, there’s a problem.

How can you tell if you’re putting employees first? High turnover might be an indication.

How often do customer problems get escalated? Have you trained every level of staff to seek win/win results?

If you put people first, how would your rules change? And what beliefs would you need to reconsider?

What skills do employees have to achieve win/win when a problem occurs? Remember the mythical customer service rule Nordstrom was famous for? “Use your best judgment.” Of course that changes your hiring criteria. So be it.

I realize regulations are necessary to run a company. But so are customers. It’s possible to do the DOing and the BEing in a way that promotes income and care. What’s stopping you?

_______________

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 512 457 0246. www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

 

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10 Jun

Content Marketing that Converts

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew Morgen“Content is king”. I’ve heard that phrase for years. But what does it mean? Does it mean that by offering thought-provoking, useful, creative information buyers will be motivated to contact you at the right time along their complete (including pre-sales) decision path? By sending out veiled advertising in the form of ‘articles’ to random email addresses you can convert readers to action? How is ‘conversion’ defined – opening the email? Making a purchase that can be directly tracked back to the email? Let’s look at the problems.

  1. Wrong Time: Content is useful only at the time it’s needed and won’t be opened otherwise, even if your solution is needed later. Even when offering options, research, or educational benefits, your content currently targets the activity of product/vendor selection; you miss key opportunities to enter earlier, during the buyer’s necessary pre-sales activities – assembling the correct Buying Decision Team members, sorting out change issues and responsibilities, getting consensus, etc. – to become a true trusted advisor and support partner. Imagine offering the type of content that drives buyers during every decision and pre-sales activity. Then you’ve part of the solution, every step of the way, as they approach a final purchase. And they trust you.
  2. Wrong People: You get a 1% (or less) conversion rate because your missive connects with only those whose email addresses you have and, even if they might eventually be part of a Buying Decision Team, who consider it spam. It’s possible to offer content that readers seek out because it’s vital to their path toward excellence.
  3. Wrong Focus: Content is often merely an ad vaguely concealed as an ‘article’. Buyers know this. It’s possible to use content to facilitate the non-solution-focused consensus and change issues readers must attend to as they ready themselves to make a purchase.

The way you’re doing it now

  • neither attracts nor retains a specific audience,
  • ignores ways to enter and influence buyers early in their pre-sales decisions,
  • doesn’t drive customer action unless they are at the specific point of readiness,
  • merely annoys.

You’re finding the low hanging fruit who would have found you anyway. Content marketing can help prospective buyers dispense suitable information 1. into the hands of the right people 2. at the time they need it while 3. coaching them to get their ducks in a row to move forward.

It’s possible to write content on important relevant topics that readers WANT to read – i.e. the pros and cons of concrete over glass for housing, or how we can hear others without bias – and will help them go from an idea to a purchase through linking to your site, reading and saving other articles, and using them to help traverse their action route.

CASE STUDY

I get anywhere from 40-51% conversion with my content marketing. My readers take action from my articles: click on linked articles or sites; download free books/chapters; buy a product; share/RT/Like daily. Here’s what I do:

  1. I write well-written, provocative, 750-word articles that may have little to do with my services or books specifically but are of real interest to that population who may ultimately be buyers. (You found the title interesting enough to read this far, right?) I offer links that tie in to my books /services: I’ve written about diversity, leadership, collaboration, questions. Yet my services focus on facilitating buying decisions and bias-free communication.
  2. I only send articles to subscribers, and Friends, LinkedIn, and 15 ezines,  such asHR.com, Sales and Service Excellence, StrategyDriven, who often publish them to vast readerships. (Sometimes 3 or more of my articles appear each week.)  I have 3 blogs that often get onto best lists, such as top innovative content, top sales blog, top business blog. Net, net, I’m getting large distribution in really targeted fashion: those folks most likely to read and potentially need my services/products. Sort-of ‘hot leads.’ No spam.
  3. Like you, I let social media splash my content to enable interested folks to find it and start conversations. I get many new subscribers and ‘friends’ weekly. My lists grow with interested folks. Daily, I get Thank You notes that begin conversations and sell products.

Questions:

  • Why would people open your content if they consider it spam?
  • How can you compose true thought pieces that people want to open?
  • How can you use your content to facilitate each stage of the pre-sales and buying decision path?
  • Seriously: are you willing to try something different to get a higher ‘conversion’ rate? Seriously.

What you’re doing now only converts the low hanging fruit. It’s possible to enter earlier by offering valuable intelligence that will encourage curiosity; introduce, explain and target the full set of decision stages; and keep your name topmost in buyer’s minds. You’re currently taking the lazy route: throwing spaghetti on the wall hoping enough of it will stick. Do you want to write? Or enable real business opportunities?

__________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a writer/author of one NYTimes Business Bestseller and two Amazon best sellers, 7 books on Buying Facilitation® and how buyers buy, and 1500 articles (www.sharondrewmorgen.com). She is a trainer, speaker, coach, thought leader, and content writer. Sharon Drew is also the visionary thinker behind What? – her new book on how to avoid the gaps between what people say and what is heard. (www.didihearyou.com for free download and online assessment tools). She can be reached at www.sharondrewmorgen.com.

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05 May

Guest Blog: When Should a Seller Gather Information or Understand Needs?

Part 2: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew Morgen

Part 1 redefines buying thus: The process a buyer goes through to get their ducks in a row to manage all of the factors involved prior to, and including, making a purchase.  It explains why the sales focus of seeking appointments, gathering information, offering solution data, and understanding needs doesn’t lead to a higher percentage of closed sales:

  • you’re asking biased solution/problem-focused questions
  • based on what you want to sell, and listening for problems you can resolve,
  • that probably captures partial or incorrect data
  • about problems that may not may not be recognized by the prospect,
  • (someone who most likely doesn’t know or trust you) and
  • may not represent the group of people who may or may not be the ultimate buyers
  • who may only have partial knowledge of, or authority over, the final situation
  • and may only partially represent a larger group
  • who may not have officially assembled or reached consensus yet
  • to seek answers they don’t yet have questions for.

You’re connecting with potential buyers who aren’t at a point where they can buy: regardless of your skill set, or the validity of the solution, questions or need, buyers can’t have useful data to share until

– whoever touches the final solution (Buying Decision Team) assembles and
– agrees to resolve a problem
– with an effective route to managing any change issues with minimum disruption.

Otherwise, even those who need your solution won’t take a meeting, speak with you, or possibly even know they have a need: the adjustments/consensus/change management necessary for making a purchase is so much bigger (regardless of the prize, size, or type of solution) than choosing a solution. To understand this better, read Part 1.

CASE STUDY

Sellers currently waste over 90% of their time trying to understand needs or gathering data (or seeking an appointment or presenting to ‘decision makers’) before a buyer would even know how to accurately respond to their questions. It’s like trying to guess a picture on a jigsaw puzzle with only 2 pieces visible.

Here’s a Case Study in which I used Buying Facilitation® (a model I developed to facilitate the pre-sales processes) with a global bank. Note: even though the buyer was the ‘The Decision Maker’ with the budget, there was a complex set of behind-the-scenes issues that needed resolution and wouldn’t have been uncovered had I begun by trying to understand his need or gathering information. In this scenario – as in most, even in a small sale – until the full Buying Decision Team was formed (many of whom my client hadn’t thought of including) and discussed their unique problems, the full set of needs couldn’t have been defined. And I would have wasted about a year and possibly never made the sale.

BANK: I’m the head of Commercial Banking at B Bank. I wonder if you can help. Our tech guys are creating a program for customers in our 4,000 branches so they can choose the most appropriate of our 200 products. Is there a way to add Buying Facilitation® to help them?

SDM: Sure. But what’s stopping your techies from wanting to do it themselves?

BANK: Nothing. They’re reading two or three of your books and trying to get the essence of Buying Facilitation® into their programming.

SDM: So how would your decision team know that working directly with me would give them a different capability than working with the tech guys using my books?

BANK: They wouldn’t. They would prefer to use the in-house guys.

SDM: So how would they know which route would best get their goals met effectively?

BANK: I would have to put together the Buying Decision Team so they could determine what they need to figure out. Would you be willing to have a conference call with them?

SDM: Sure. Who do you think should be involved?

BANK: We only need the Head of Technology I think.

SDM: Well, with 4000 branches [represents at least 40,000 employees] I bet HR might want to be involved.

BANK: Oh! We always forget her, and when we finally bring her aboard she creates havoc because she demands so many changes. Good to bring her in in the beginning!

SDM: And do you have user groups to represent the 4000 branches?

BANK: Ah. Let’s bring in the representatives of the two user groups.

Four days later we had a conference call that included: the heads of HR, Branches, Technology, Retail Banking, Commercial Banking, Training, Internal Consulting, and Marketing. During introductions the President of the bank got on the phone! He wasn’t a decision maker; he didn’t have a budget; he wasn’t part of the project.

BANK: What are you doing on the phone, Mr. X?

PRESIDENT: I saw all you heavy hitters on one call and wanted to find out what kind of trouble you were getting into.

During the call the President kept objecting: “I’m not letting you folks do that!” “What a mess that will cause!” I intervened with Facilitative Questions that got them to collaboratively think about how to manage that issue and move forward. At the end of the call I was firmly on the Buying Decision Team. I had not mentioned my solution; there was not enough consensus among them for them to understand their needs. I helped my prospect assemble the right people in 10 minutes (might have taken him a year), and then help them recognize the issues they needed to contend with before they could consider buying or changing anything.

FACILITATING THE CHANGE AND CONSENSUS FIRST

For a month emails went back and forth. I kept posing Facilitative Questions to help them figure stuff out. Within the month, they had consensus, decided what they needed and how they would move forward – with the blessing of the President. They then paid to bring me to the UK – and THEN I gathered information from the right people – all of whom were present and understood their needs – and THEN I made a targeted sales pitch to all of the decision makers! Without my expertise, the buyers would have been bogged down with their change issues and internal objections and the sales cycle would have taken more than a year. If they were ever going to buy, they needed to do this anyway: This is the stuff buyers do outside of our purview; we’re just not usually there when it happens.

I facilitated and expedited their change in the area that my solution would fit. It would have been inappropriate to pitch during the month-long decision facilitation process – they had no idea what they were going to buy, if they could buy, or if they couldn’t do it themselves. I would have missed the opportunity to help them get ready to buy, earn their trust, and understand the full complement of needs they didn’t initially know they had. I had nothing to sell until they had something to buy.

My job – which took me just a few hours for a 6 figure engagement – was to first facilitate their ability to change, and then buy.

I’m not suggesting you give up information gathering or understanding needs, although starting here gives you a paltry close rate and wastes 95% of your time. I am suggesting that you first facilitate the complete decision path (some folks call this pre-sales) – and then use sales. Buyers have to do this anyway, with you or without you. You might as well learn a new skill and stop chasing the low hanging fruit.

__________

I’ve developed Buying Facilitation®, which is an add-on to the sales process to help buyers understand and collect their pre-sales decision factors. It includes a different set of skills than sales, including Listening for Systems, and uses a new form of question called a Facilitative Question. Contact me to discuss training, coaching, and consulting: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Or read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell at www.dirtylittlesecrets.com or Buying Facilitation®. Or read my newest book What? on how to hear others without bias: www.didihearyou.com.

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28 Apr

Guest Blog: Do You Want to Sell? Or Have Someone Buy?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew MorgenPart 1 of a 2 part series on understanding a buyer’s needs.

Do you know the difference between how you sell and how buyers buy – and why the difference matters? After a conversation with my colleague Erik Luhrs (we’re developing a Lead Facilitation pilot http://guruselling.com/) I’d like to expand the definition of ‘buying’. But first, a question:
Would you like to enter, influence, or understand your buyer’s buying process earlier in their process?

To do so, it will be helpful to better understand the differences between how you sell, and how buyers buy.

SELLING VS BUYING

Let me start with a made-up story:

Background: Pretend you’re a sales person selling smartphones in a big box store. You know your product well and are great at selling it. When buyers come in you carefully pose questions to understand their problem and need, and then position your answers accordingly to help them choose their solution.
A buyer comes in. She has performed some or all of these by the time she meets you:

  1. She thought long and hard about replacing a phone she loved, and somewhat reluctantly decided it might be time to buy a new one; she had been resisting due to her comfort with the (limited) functionality she enjoyed.
  2. She called friends to find out the upsides and downsides of what they liked about their phones and providers, to add to her list of considerations and comparisons.
  3. She went online to gather data from what she learned from friends and ads she’d seen.
  4. From her thinking and online research, she put together her list of buying criteria she’d need to have before being fully comfortable with any change: the pluses and minuses of changing phones, functionality, models, and/or providers; the ease of learning a new phone. Also, she included the trust factors she’d need to consider for new providers.
  5. As per friends’ advice she contacted her current provider to learn of any deals for the models she was considering; she looked up prices on Amazon, Best Buy, etc. to compare prices and functionality. She weighed all of her criteria and made a decision.
  6. Choice/decision made, she went to the store to purchase the phone with the help of the seller.

Until Step 5 this buyer had not fully defined her problem or her complete set of needs (some of which having nothing to do with a specific solution). Understanding the specifics of her problem or one phone over another was only a portion of her many decision criteria.

Until Step 5, her activities were idiosyncratic, criteria-driven, not fully formed, and independent of a specific solution, and included other ‘decision makers/influencers’ (her friends).

If a seller had entered before Steps 5, asking about needs would ignore some of her most important decision factors and not address her ability to define her personal criteria, not factor in her friends’ recommendations, or her ease and resistance to anything new as per her current phone.

To summarize, by the time this customer shows up to buy, she has

  • gone through an idiosyncratic, personal discovery process
  • to  understand and get comfortable with the range of criteria she wants to meet
  • to decide whether or not to buy a new phone and
  • researched and considered all angles of  all types of solutions and providers
  • before finally deciding to buy.

To clarify jobs and roles:

Seller: meticulously understands the product he is selling; differentiates his solution and brand from the competition; works with buyers to gather data, understand needs and underlying problem, place the appropriate solution. THIS CONSTITUTES SALES.
Buyer: figures out her emotional- and values-based criteria for buying something and for making a change; figures out what, when, if to buy; gets references from friends on several possibilities; does research; contacts current vendors; compares prices and solutions. THIS CONSTITUTES BUYING.

THE BUYING DECISION PROCESS IS ONLY PARTIALLY SOLUTION-DRIVEN

You do some of the same things during your buying decision process. We all do. Our prospects and clients do also. No one begins at the end – the point of choosing a solution. No one (especially the more complex B2B sales) begins by knowing their full landscape of considerations. Usually others are involved with defining the full range of unique criteria. Always, there are hidden aspects of historic considerations that come into play. And all this must happen well before defining solutions. That means buyers cannot know the full complexity of the problem or need at the point sellers usually attempt to gather information.

I would hereby like to (re)define the term Buying Decision (a term I coined in 1985) to mean: The process a buyer goes through to get their ducks in a row to manage all of the factors involved prior to, and including, making a purchase.

Is there a case to be made for assuming all buyers – regardless of the solution they seek – go through some form of ‘Pre-Sales’ decisions? That Steps 1-6 (there are 13 steps in B2B sales) are part of the Buying Decision Path – and not just step 6 in which the sales person and specific solution are involved?

Is there something to be gained by entering and influencing the Buying Decision Path before buyers have clearly defined their problem? If so, the sales process is not the best way to begin: it limits sales people to finding those buyers who have gone through their pre-sales processes already.

Part 2 (next week) explains what happens when we sell too early, and introduces a way to facilitate each stage of the pre-sales, criteria-based buying decision path. Right now, sellers close approximately 5% of their prospects (starting with first call) because the sales approach is directed toward understanding problems and placing solutions before they have been fully formed. But we can get much better results by entering earlier. We just can’t do it with the sales model alone.

Go to Part 2

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I’ve developed Buying Facilitation®, which is an add-on to the sales process to help buyers understand and collect their pre-sales decision factors. It includes a different set of skills than sales, including Listening for Systems, and uses a new form of question called a Facilitative Question. Contact me to discuss training, coaching, and consulting: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Or read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell at www.dirtylittlesecrets.com or Buying Facilitation®. Or read my newest book What? on how to hear others without bias: www.didihearyou.com.

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08 Feb

Waiting for better times?

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THE most common objection our sales executives (that’s the two of us) receive from a potential customer is:

I know what you’re going to say (nervous ha ha) because it doesn’t really make sense (nervous ha ha), but we don’t have the time to do this right now even though we realize how much time it will save us. (uncomfortable smile with eyes staring at shoe laces)

One thing is clear: 95% of the time, that’s not the real reason. (But not to worry dear potential clients; we understand that you are not beholden to us to explain your real reasons – though that would be much more helpful for all of us)

Another thing is also clear: 95% of the companies we contact need our services like a fish needs water. This is not as subjective as one might think. But before we tackle that, let’s focus on where we fail when we fail.

There are five main reasons why we get the “We don’t have time” response:

1) Our value proposition was not clear enough

2) Our value proposition was not focused directly on their current needs

3) Our value proposition did not reach the right decision-maker

4) We strayed from our value proposition

5) Some or all of the above

So it’s not that we’re dumb, we just need to improve. Of course, knowing what to improve upon helps a great deal.

I can say that I know this with great confidence because, on average, we return one hour per day per employee back to the organization we provide our services to – with just one of our services. AND we do it in two to four hours.

Every company has their own priorities, and I can’t go around changing those. But if we look at it squarely and do the math, one would be very hard-pressed to find anything on the market that can save a company 10-12% or more of its knowledge worker cost for under $500 and within half a day. Time-savings is just one of the value propositions (the easiest to illustrate quickly), but I do not wish to digress.

This means for less than the cost of a day’s work an organization can save over 20 days – per year!

And so what?  Maybe I should have pitched increased efficiency or 46% decrease in stress or the 95% adoption rate after 6 months, or something else that THAT Particular customer wanted to hear.

So let me cut to the quick and offer my two cents about what I believe to be true in service selling:

It’s not price.

It’s not time.

It’s not budget-timing.

It’s not whether you wear a red tie or a blue tie or no tie at all.

Most of the time.

(By the way, I’m assuming that you show up on time and have an outstanding service etc.)

It’s about understanding the value proposition from the perspective of every individual decision-maker.

If you’re good, you can sell tea to a coffee drinker, wine to bud man, Mahler to a Boss fan at exactly the wrong time for them to buy (according to someone who doesn’t understand the value proposition the way she or he does).

In the end, it’s knowing your customer’s dream; figuring how your product fits in to their dream; collaborating with them on understanding the dream of their team or their superior(s); figuring how your product fits in to their collective dream; getting them all to nod their heads in unison with the thought of having their dream fulfilled and knowing when to close. That is sales.

It’s not about waiting for the merger to be complete or the next budget period or the 17th reorg.

And I learn it all over again every day.

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25 Jan

Atrendia Friday Video 8 – Tom Peters – LEADERSHIP: Building Success

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In this short but important Youtube video, Tom Peters, the author of the best seller: In Search of Excellence, relays some important advice about how leaders should view their employees.

Tom Peters

It’s only a couple of minutes long, but I hope that it resonates with you.

Click here to start the video

Link to the Atrendia Executive Leadership Coaching Program

Happy Friday!

 

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