19 Nov

Prospects Aren’t Always Prospects

by Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

Sharon-Drew MorgenAs sellers, we’ve been taught that someone with a need that our solution fulfills is a prospect. But that’s not true or we’d be closing a lot more business and wasting a lot less time following the wrong prospects. Just because we see a need does not mean they A. want it resolved, B. want it resolved now, C. have the buy-in to bring in an external solution rather than using their own internal fix or beloved vendor, D. are ready to give up the work-
around they have in place that resolves the problem well-enough. So rule number #1: need does not a prospect make.

Unfortunately, the sales model has no capability to go behind-the-scenes to facilitate buy-in from the within the buyer’s culture/system – the other people who don’t see a need or don’t want to share budget, the tech group that wants to do it all themselves, or the President who has her own agenda and hasn’t informed everyone yet. But, and here’s rule #2: until everyone and everything that will touch the new solution buys-in to bringing it on board, there will be no purchase, regardless of a need.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEM

Buyers have change management problems, not solution choice problems; a solution purchase (or any sort of change) is merely the last element in a chain of events – assembling the right Buying Decision Team members, getting buy-in, maintaining the status quo to avoid disruption – that must manage any change (and a purchase represents change) to enable the status quo to maintain it’s comfort. Rule #3: the status quo is sacrosanct, regardless of the need or the efficacy of your solution.

Here are two situations in which I failed miserably (and lost quite a bit of money), prior to understanding that buyers (in companies and individuals) must manage internal change before they can buy.

I did a pilot for an iconic multinational. Using Buying Facilitation® the group had a 400% increase in sales over the
control group (we shortened the sales cycle from 7 months to 4 weeks). They chose not to role out my program because the problems caused by increased revenue and cash flow issues, shifts in the manufacturing schedules, etc., would cost many millions to fix. They eschewed the increased profit to maintain the system.

I trained a large insurance group that got a 600% increase in sales over the control group (they went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits and 25 closed sales). After the test month, the trained team handed in their resignations because they said they were ‘field sales’ reps and would rather quit then be ‘inside sales’ reps, regardless of how much money they made. They liked handing out donuts and schmoozing.

From my point of view this is nuts. But from theirs it made sense. The status quo must be maintained at all costs – at all costs – regardless of the benefits of our solutions. Indeed, if they had known how to change without disrupting the status quo, they would have already. Companies prefer excellence, so long as they maintain stability. And when we think they are excellent prospects, their purchase of our solution might butt up against their needs for stability. Unless they can figure out how to address this, they are then not prospects regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution.

THE SALES MODEL IS SOLUTION-BASED; BUYING IS SYSTEMS-BASED

Philosophically the sales model is accurate: as sellers we clearly see needs that our solutions will resolve. But it’s not a prospect until or unless the Buying Decision Team – everyone who will touch the final solution – is ready, willing, and able to:

          * bring in our solution and knows how to manage any changes in people, rules or job descriptions,
* bring in new technology without downtime,
* ensure the disruption won’t cost more than the problem it’s resolving,

they cannot buy. Indeed: a prospect is someone who WILL buy (and knows how to manage their change), not someone who SHOULD buy.

I developed Buying Facilitation® in 1983 to manage the issues my own sales team faced in my tech startup. As a sales professional, I never understood why ‘prospects’ weren’t buying as often as was logical. When I became an entrepreneur, I realized the problem buyers have when I needed to purchase solutions myself: how could I buy new software when the new programs weren’t working yet? When would be the right time to add new folks since the last new batch wasn’t fully trained yet? How would a new manager work with the current team when the current team had been working so effectively as unit for so long? When potential vendors came in to pitch new solutions to me, I understood the curiosity I had as a seller: the problem was not my need, but about managing my status quo effectively, and the sales model merely focuses on placing solutions and ignored the change management issues I had to deal with as part of my buying decision process.

So I developed my Buying Facilitation® model to add to sales the capability of beginning our prospecting by first facilitating the prospect’s ability and desire to seek excellence. Then, together (even on a prospecting call), we determined and addressed their tolerance for bringing in a new solution. I even taught my techies how to facilitate their users to make sure they got the buy-in for their programmers and project leaders and get the right people and the right data at the right time.We learned to enter each sales call as a facilitator rather than as a detective seeking a need/solution match or ‘qualifying’ a prospect immediately according to some specious standard we originally thought might have meaning.

Help prospective buyers determine how to change, how to get buy-in, how to bring in your solution. Along the way, you both will determine next steps, who needs to be included, and how to get everyone on board – with you! – to move toward the remedy will provide – even on a prospecting call! And then you can sell. Buying Facilitation® first, then sales. You need both. Then you can help buyers decide to be prospects – and they will buy.

_______________

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

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
23 Jun

Get the Yes: Winning Funding, RFPs, and Grants

by Guest blogger Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

Sharon-Drew MorgenWith my systems-thinking brain I asked her:

  • How will they choose you over other worthy requests?
  • What personal and professional criteria will members of the funding team consider before dropping others to fund you instead?
  • How do political in-fighting or long-term client/colleague relationship preferences factor in to the decision process?
  • How does your request fit in with their annual strategic plan? The commitments to their funding sources?

She had no answers, but resolutely believed that importance of her mission would rule the day. She has a 10% success rate, even though in many instances she knows people on the committee. That means she wastes 90% of her valuable time. Her strong appeal, great writing, and the importance of her message are lost because the criteria of those who might fund her driven by more than merit.

DECISION MAKERS DRIVEN BY UNCONSCIOUS, UNSTATED CRITERIA

Unfortunately, there are no ready answers to the above questions, even if they are posed. Here’s why:

  1. There’s no ‘one’ person on the committee who can convey the personal and political communication patterns that are largely unstated.
  2. An outsider can never understand the non-verbal, implicit, historic criteria being applied that’s most likely different in each situation.
  3. The funding group itself doesn’t always have a consistent, conscious understanding of why it does what it does.
  4. The questions an outsider asks to ‘understand’ are biased, gleaning biased data – not to mention that Responder most likely isn’t speaking for the entire group.

Using conventional practices of submitting a well-written, compelling, and provocative grant or proposal, or making a professional presentation, it’s a crap shoot. But it’s possible to have more success by facilitating the decision makers through their unconscious, mysterious process and helping them recognize, before they begin, the issues they will need to address to succeed.

CASE STUDY

My clients in large corporations (naively) believe they win on either price, relationship history, or quality/brand. Here’s a real story.

A global consulting client received an RFP from a Fortune 50 company – the company historically used Company X as their consulting provider. My client, delighted at the chance to win new business, assembled a large team to respond to the multimillion dollar RFP.  When I asked them what’s stopping the Fortune 50 company from using Company X now, my client went silent. They called the Fortune 50 company and asked:

CONSULTING CO: What’s stopping you from using Company X again this time?

FORTUNE 50: Nothing. We’re going to use them again. We just needed a second bid.

True story. Since we now knew we wouldn’t win the RFP, we chose a different route. We offered a cover page and a couple of pages of Facilitative Questions [a new type of question I developed that enables Responders to assemble/recognize unconscious, systemic criteria – in this case, regarding implementation, buy-in/consensus, resistance issues that would be a natural fall-out from a project of this size]. We wrote a note:

“We are interested in winning your business, and we’ve included an overview of the types of services we provide. However, since you will be using Company X, we’ve decided not to respond to the RFP but instead offer you a real service. We’re sending along some important questions to answer before you begin your project to ensure a successful implementation. We hope you find these valuable. And if the time comes you would like to have a conversation around how we can serve you in projects such as these, we look forward to putting our best team together to help you be successful.”

I spent some time understanding the human systems that would show up during this project and formulated about 40 Facilitative Questions to help the client uncover answers to problems that would come up but were not included in the RFP, such as:

How will you know when you have assembled the appropriate group of people to give you the full set of correct data before you begin, to ensure you won’t use faulty or incomplete data moving forward?

What would you need to set up at the very beginning of the project to ensure continuing communication among all involved, at each stage of the project, to ensure there is no time or resource wastage due to insufficient information being circulated?

By answering these questions, the client would have 1. Knowledge of potential problem areas that didn’t show up on the RFP, 2. Knowledge that we knew how to achieve successful implementations, 3. Knowledge we were professional, focused on their success, and eager for the business. We didn’t hear back for two months. Then they called and hired my client because their chosen providers didn’t address any of the buy-in/consensus/resistance issues we highlighted, and they realized there would be costly (in the millions) implementation problems. My client won the business with no proposal, just the two pages of Facilitative Questions that helped their prospect put their ducks in a row and avoid potential problems.

WHY DOES EXCELLENCE TO OCCUR?

  1. If you merely offer a good proposal or presentation, you will never know how funders or clients will choose you.
  2. Groups who send out RFPs or offer funding only offer data points of what they think they need. They, themselves, most likely don’t know the idiosyncratic values-based, personal criteria each decision member will use when a vote is taken.
  3. Groups sending out RPS or funding sources seeking clients to back don’t know all the consensus or implementation issues that will occur during the implementation.

It’s possible to override these problems by helping funders/clients recognize what they need with by teaching them how to uncover and manage the hidden issues necessary for excellence to occur with minimal disruption. To differentiate yourself, use the opportunity of seeking business (i.e. doing a presentation), funding, or responding to a proposal to show them you can help them address their systemic shifts and give them the knowledge that you are a knowledgeable partner.

For my clients, I have created a decision facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) that produces about 30% more success with proposals and presentations. You can create your own consensus/implementation model to add to your proposals and presentations, so long as they include the ability to help the clients manage the steps they’ll need for success.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a decision strategist, an original thinker, and author of 9 books: one NYTimes Business Bestseller, and two Amazon Bestsellers. She has just published her newest book on how we can close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard (What? Did you really say what I think I heard? – free download at www.didihearyou.com). Sharon Drew is a consultant, trainer, coach, speaker, and inventor. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

 a

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
29 May

Meetings: The Purpose, The Pain, The Possibility

by Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

Sharon-Drew MorgenAs 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?

__________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? (free download at www.didihearyou.com) and NYTimes Business Bestsellers in the area of sales, decision facilitation, change management, and helping buyers buy. She is developer of Buying Facilitation® and a recognized thought leader in communication and decision making. She is a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant. For those in sales, coaching or leadership want to communicate better Sharon Drew Morgen has the tools to help make improvements with online learning, group coaching, or on-site training. Sharon Drew can coach and train your sales teams or license trainers to prospect and get more appointments by finding real buyers on the first call. She can be reached at: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

a

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
19 May

What Makes A Decision Irrational?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

Sharon-Drew MorgenAfter spending 30 years deconstructing the inner processes of how people decide, and training a decision facilitation model used in sales, coaching, and leadership, I’m always amused when I hear anyone deem a decision ‘irrational’.

Only outsiders wishing for a different outcome designate a decision as ‘irrational’. I doubt if the decision maker says to herself, “Gee! I think I’ll make an irrational decision!” I could understand her thinking it irrational after reaping surprising consequences. But not at the moment it’s being made.

We all make the best decisions we can at the moment we make them. It’s only when someone else compares the decision against their own subjective filters and standard, or using some academic/’accepted’ standard as ‘right’, or judging the decision against a conclusion they would have preferred. But outsiders don’t have the same criteria, beliefs, or life experiences the decision maker uses to evaluate.

Indeed, there is no such thing as a decision maker making an irrational decision. The decision maker carefully – partially unconsciously – weighs an unknowable set of highly subjective factors including 1. Personal beliefs, values, historic criteria, experience, future goals; 2. Possible future outcomes in relation to how they experience their current situation. There is no way an outsider can understand what’s going on within the idiosyncratic world of the decision maker, regardless of academic or ‘rational’ standards, the needs of people judging, the outcome as viewed by others.

CASE STUDY OF AN ‘IRRATIONAL DECISION’

I recently made an agreement with a colleague to send me a draft of his article about me before he published it. Next thing I knew, the article was published. How did he decide to go against our agreement? Here was our ensuing dialogue:

BP: I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was only a brief article.

SDM: It was a big enough deal for me to ask to read it first. How did you decide to go against our agreement?

BP: You’re a writer! I didn’t have the time you were going to take to go through your editing process!

SDM: How do you know that’s why I wanted to read it first?

BP: Because you most likely would not like my writing style and want to change it. I just didn’t have time for that.

SDM: So you didn’t know why I wanted to read it and assumed I wanted to edit it?

BP: Oh. Right. So why did you want to read it?

SDM: My material is sometimes difficult to put into words, and it has taken me decades to learn to say it in ways readers will understand. I would have just sent you some new wording choices where I thought clarity was needed, and discussed it with you.

BP: Oh. I could have done that.

While a simple example, it’s the same in any type of personal decision (vs. those decisions that get weighted against specific academic or group criteria – such as coordinates to drill a well): each decision maker uses her own subjective reasoning regardless of baseline, academic, or conventional Truths. In our situation, my partner wove an internal tale of subjective assumptions that led him to a decision that might have jeopardized our relationship. I thought it was irrational, but ‘irrational’ only against my subjective criteria as an outsider with my own specific assumptions and needs.

And, although I’m calling this a personal decision process, anyone involved in group decision making does the same: enter with personal, unique criteria that supersede the available academic or scientific information the group uses. This is why we end up with resistance or sabotage during implementations.

STOP JUDGING DECISIONS BASED ON OUR OWN NEEDS

What if we stopped assuming that our business partners, our spouses, our prospects were acting irrationally. What if we assume each decision is rational, and got curious: what has to be true for that decision to have been made?  If we assume that the person was doing the best they could given their subjective criteria and not being irrational, we could:

  1. ask what criteria the person was using and discuss it against our own;
  2. communicate in a way that enabled win-win results;
  3. ensure all collaborators work with the same set of baseline assumptions and remove as much subjectivity as possible before a decision gets made.

Of course, we would have to switch our listening skills for this. We’d need to become aware of an incongruence we notice and be willing to communicate with the ‘irrational’ decision maker. I have written a book called What? (free download www.didihearyou.com) that explains why we hear with biased ears, and how to hear others to understand their intent. Because if we merely judge others according to our unique listening filters, many rational decisions might sound irrational.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including one NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and one Amazon #2 bestseller Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Her latest book What? is about how we can hear each other without bias. She is available for training, speaking, coaching, and consulting on helping buyers buy, Buying Facilitation®, and listening collaboratively. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

a

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
13 May

Guest Blog: Why do we listen to each other?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

Sharon-Drew MorgenWhat if it were true that we only understand a fraction of what others say to us? And if true, what can we do about it?

As someone who has taken great pride in accurately hearing what others say, I was annoyed to discover that it’s pretty impossible for any listeners to achieve any consistent level of accuracy. The problem is not the words – we hear those, albeit we only remember them for less than 3 seconds and not in the proper order (Remember the game of Telephone we played as kids?). The problem is how we interpret them.

OUR BRAINS RESTRICT ACCURACY

When researching my new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I learned that our brains arbitrarily delete or redefine anything our Communication Partners (CPs) say that might be uncomfortable or atypical. Unfortunately, we then believe that what we think we’ve heard – a subjective translation of what’s been said – is actually what was said or meant. It’s usually some degree of inaccurate. And it’s not our fault. Our brains do it to us.

Just as our eyes take in light that our brains interpret into images, so our ears take in sound that our brains interpret into meaning. And because interpreting everything we hear is overwhelming, our brain takes short cuts and habituates how it interprets. So when John has said X, and  Mary uses similar words or ideas days or years later, our brains tell us Mary is saying X. It’s possible that neither John nor Mary said X at all, or if they did their intended meaning was different; it will seem the same to us.

Not only does habit get in the way, but our brains use memory, triggers, assumptions, and bias – filters – to idiosyncratically interpret the words spoken. Everything we hear people say is wholly dependent upon our unique and subjective filters. It’s automatic and unconscious: we have no control over which filters are being used. Developed over our lifetimes, our filters categorize people and social situations, interpret events, delete references, misconstrue ideas, and redefine intended meaning. Without our permission.

As a result, we end up miscommunicating, mishearing, assuming, and misunderstanding, producing flawed communications at the best of times although it certainly seems as if we’re hearing and interpreting accurately. In What? (free download) I have an entire chapter of stories recounting very funny conversations filled with misunderstandings and assumptions. My editor found these stories so absurd she accused me of inventing them. I didn’t.

It starts when we’re children: how and what we hear other’s say gets determined when we’re young. And to keep us comfortable, our brains kindly continue these patterns throughout our lives, causing us to restrict who we have relationships with, and determine our professions, our friends, and even where we live.

HOW DO WE CONNECT

Why does this matter? Not because it’s crucial to accurately understand what others want to convey – which seems obvious – but to connect. The primary reason we communicate is to connect with others.

Since our lives are fuelled by connecting with others, and our imperfect listening inadvertently restricts what we hear, how can we remain connected given our imperfect listening skills? Here are two ways and one rule to separate ‘what we hear’ from the connection itself:

  1. For important information sharing, tell your CP what you think s/he said before you respond.
  2. When you notice your response didn’t get the expected reaction, ask your CP what s/he heard you say.

Rule: If what you’re doing works, keep doing it. Just know the difference between what’s working and what’s not, and be willing to do something different the moment it stops working. Because if you don’t, you’re either lucky or unlucky, and those are bad odds.

Now let’s get to the connection issue. Here’s what you will notice at the moment your connection has been broken:

  • A physical or verbal reaction outside of what you assumed would happen;
  • A sign of distress, confusion, annoyance, anger;
  • A change of topic, an avoidance, or a response outside of the expected interchange.

Sometimes, if you’re biasing you’re listening to hear something specific, you might miss the cues of an ineffective reaction. Like when, for example, sales people or folks having arguments merely listen for openings to say that they want, and don’t notice what’s really happening or the complete meaning being conveyed.

Ultimately, in order to ensure an ongoing connection, to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and feelings and ideas are properly conveyed, it’s most effective to remove as many listening filters as possible. Easier said than done, of course, as they are built in. (What? teaches how to fix this.) In the meantime, during conversations, put yourself in Neutral; rid yourself of biases and assumptions when listening; regularly check in with your Communication Partner to make sure your connection is solid. Then you’ll have an unrestricted connection with your CP that enables sharing, creativity, and candor.

__________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 7 books on sales/Buying Facilitation® including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets. Her new book What?(offered as a free download at www.didihearyou.com) is considered a game-changer in the field of Listening, and is useful in all business and personal conversations. Sharon Drew has created online learning material that corresponds with What? and is available for coaching, training, and speaking.

a

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
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

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

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.

a

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
28 Apr

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

by Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

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

__________
a

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.

a

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
21 Apr

Guest blog: Do you want to lead? or have someone follow?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

Sharon-Drew Morgen

I’m a dancer. When I studied the Argentine Tango there was a foundational rule that I believe is true for all leaders: The leader opens the door for the follower to pass through, and the leader then follows. If anyone notices the leader, he’s not doing his job. The goal is to showcase the follower.

Much of what is written about leadership falls into the category I call ‘trait-centered leadership’: someone deemed ‘at the top’ who uses his/her personality, influence, and charisma to inspire and give followers – possibly not ready for change – a convincing reason to follow an agenda set by the leader or the leader’s boss. Sounds to me like a mixture of Jack Welch, Moses, and Justin Bieber.

What if the leader’s goal overrides the mental models, beliefs or historic experiences of the followers, or the change is pushed against the follower’s values, and resistance ensues? What if the leader uses his/her personality as the reason a follower should change? Or has a great message and incongruent skills? Or charisma and no integrity? Adolf Hitler, after all, was the most charismatic leader in modern history.

IF YOU CAN’T FOLLOW, YOU CAN’T LEAD

Whether it’s for a group that needs to perform a new task, or someone seeking heightened outcomes, the role of leadership is to

  1. Facilitate congruent change and choice,
  2. in accordance with the values, skills, and ability of the follower,
  3. enabling them to shift their own unique (unconscious) patterns,
  4. to discover and attain new behaviors congruently and without resistance,
  5. within the parameters of the required change.

It demands humility and authenticity. It’s other-centered and devoid of ego, similar to a simple flashlight that merely lights the existent path, enabling followers to discover their own excellence within the context of the change sought. It’s an inside job.

Being inspirational, or a good influencer with presence and empathy, merely enlists those whose beliefs and unconscious mental models are already predisposed to the change, and omits, or gets resistance from, those who should be part of the change but whose mental models don’t align.

This form of leadership has pluses and minuses.

  • Minuses: the final outcome may look different than originally envisaged because the followers set the route according to their values and mental models.
  • Pluses: everyone will be enthusiastically, creatively involved in designing what will show up as their own mission, with a far superior proficiency. It will more than meet the vision of the leaders (although it might look different), and the followers will own it with no resistance.

Do you want to lead through influence, presence, charisma, or rationality? Or facilitate the unique path to congruent change? Do you want people to see you as a guide? Or teach them how to congruently move beyond their status quo and discover their own route to excellence – with you as a GPS system? Do you want to lead? Or enable real change? They are opposite constructs.

POWER VS. FORCE

Here are some differences in beliefs between trait-centered leadership and more facilitative leadership:

Trait-centered: Top down; behavior change and goal-driven; dependent on power, charisma, and persuasion skills of a leader and may not be congruent with foundational values of followers.

Facilitation-centered: Inclusive (everyone buys-in and agrees to goals, direction, change); core belief-change and excellence-driven; dependent on facilitating route between current state and excellence, leading to congruent systemic buy-in and adoption of new behaviors.

Real change happens at the belief level. Attempting to change behaviors without helping people change their beliefs first meets with resistance: the proposed change pushes against the status quo regardless of the efficacy of the change.

New skills are necessary for facilitation-centered leadership:

  1. Listen for systems.This enables leaders to hear the elements that created and maintain the status quo and would need to transform from the inside before any lasting change occurs. Typical listening is biased and restricts possibility.
    2. Facilitative Questions. Conventional questions are biased by the beliefs and needs of the Questioner, and restrict answers and possibility. Facilitative Questions enlist the unconscious systems and show them how to adopt change congruently.
    3. Code the route to systemic change. When asking folks to buy-in, build consensus, and collaborate, they don’t know how to make the necessary changes without facing internal resistance, regardless of the efficacy of the requested changes. By helping people move from their conscious to their unconscious back to their conscious, and facilitating buy-in down the line, it’s very possible to avoid resistance.

If you seek to enable congruent change that captures the passion and creativity of followers, avoids resistance, and enables buy-in, open the door and follow your followers.

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard?  She has developed facilitation material for sales/change management, coaching, and listening. To learn more about her sales, decision making, and change management material, go to www.sharondrewmorgen.com. To learn more about her work on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com. Contact Sharon Drew for training, keynotes, or online programs at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Sharon Drew is currently designing programs for coaches to Find and Keep the Ideal Client, and Lead Facilitation for Lead Generation

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
13 Apr

Guest Blog: We Don’t Really Hear Each Other

by Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

Sharon-Drew MorgenWe are not always able to accurately hear what others mean to convey. Sometimes we hear only a fraction of what’s been said and our brains misunderstand or bias the rest – and we might not realize it until it’s too late, causing us to believe we’re right and others are wrong, or moving to action using the wrong assumptions. We’re left with restricted communication and creativity, failed relationships, and lost profit. And none of it is our fault.

We try to attend carefully to what’s being said. Yet our pesky brains do some pretty sophisticated stuff, all without our conscious consent: they

  • Delete or misconstrue or filter out what sounds wrong or goes against our beliefs or is unfamiliar, then
  • Matches what’s left with a historic memory of a ‘similar-enough’ conversation and
  • Throws out what doesn’t match that memory.

Whatever is left is what we believe has been said.

In conversations with familiar folks, there is less of a gap; with folks we don’t know, in dialogues that are outside of our habitual knowledge base, or when we enter conversations with a rigid goal, we accurately understand far less of what was actually meant. A problem occurs when we are convinced – certain – that what we heard is accurate, and don’t know when, if, or how, to take measures to fix a problem we don’t believe we have. As a result we unwittingly compromise relationships, business, partnerships, creativity, and success.

With little control over what our brains tell us we’ve heard, we’re left with the fallout:

  • Misunderstandings that remain unresolved because we believe – we’re certain – we’re right;
  • Bad feelings and take-aways caused by misheard communication;
  • Biased assumptions that cause inadequate responses and failed initiatives;
  • Misheard facts that lead to inaccuracies in business, technology, relationships;
  • Restricted creativity, laps in leadership, therapy, coaching, and medical advice.

We misunderstand doctors, make assumptions with our teenagers and vendors, bias communications with family members and colleagues, set up filters before conversations with historic relationships. Our lives are influenced by how accurately we hear what others mean to convey.

But a new book is out that will resolve these problems. What? Did you really say what I think I heard? not only describes how, exactly, our brains create the instinctive actions that limit our ability to hear others without bias or misunderstanding, but also shows how to intervene our automatic behaviors and hear others as they intend to be heard.

Different from books on Active Listening which merely enables listeners to hear words, What? focuses on understanding intended meaning. Using exercises and assessments, funny stories and authentic appeal, author Sharon Drew Morgen has written a game changer, a book that thoroughly breaks down every aspect of how we interpret what others mean to tell us, how the understanding gap between Sender and Receiver is created, and the skills to avoid any misinterpretation or bias at all. It’s a book that will be the foremost communication book for decades and the book is being offered for free (no opt in).

Go to www.didihearyou.com where you can get the book, and peruse the learning tools that accompany the book for those wishing to recognize any obstacles with their listening habits (Assessments) or learn how to overcome any bias and misinterpretation issues (Study Guide) that occur during conversations.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather
07 Apr

Guest blog: Training vs. Learning: do you want to train? Or have someone learn?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinyoutubeby feather

Sharon-Drew MorgenTraining successfully educates only those who are predisposed to the new material. Others may endeavor to learn during class but may not permanently adopt it. The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner: It’s a problem with both the training model itself and the way learners learn. It’s a systems/change problem.

HOW WE LEARN
We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility.

Because anything new is a threat to our habitual and carefully (unconsciously) organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted. It similarly effects selling/buying, coaching/clients, doctors/patients, leaders/followers.

A training program potentially generates obstacles, such as when

  • Learners are happy with their habitual behaviors and don’t seek anything new
  • Fear they might lose their historic competency
  • The new material unconsciously opposes long-held beliefs.

We are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new unless our beliefs/mental models recognize that the new material will align with our status quo regardless of the efficacy of the required change.

HOW WE TRAIN

The training model assumes that if new material

  • Is recognized as important, rational, and useful
  • Is offered in a logical, informative, interesting way,
  • Allows time for experience and practice

It will become accepted and habituated. But these assumptions are faulty. At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign into a closed system (our status quo): it might be adopted briefly, but if it opposes our habituated norm, it will show up as a threat and be resisted. This is the same problem faced when sellers attempt to place a new solution, or doctors attempt to change the habits of ill patients. It has little to do with the new, and everything to do with change management.

Truly experiential learning has a higher probability of being adopted because it uses the experience – like walking on coals, doing trust-falls with team members – to shift the underlying beliefs where the change takes place. Until or unless there is a belief change, and the underlying system is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material into the accepted status quo, the change will not be permanent.

One of the unfortunate assumptions of the training field is that the teach/experience/practice model is effective and if learning doesn’t take place it’s the fault of the learner (much like sellers think the buyer is the problem, coaches thinks clients are the problem, and Listeners think Speakers are the problem). Effective training must change beliefs first.

LEARNING FACILITATION

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. Buy-in from the belief/system status.
  2. The system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. Learners would have to first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones. I called my training design Learning Facilitation and have used this model successfully for decades. (See my paper in The 2003 Annual: Volume 1 Training [Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer]: : “Designing Curricula for Learning Environments Using a Facilitative Teaching Approach to Empower Learners” pp 263-272).

Briefly: Day 1 helps learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Day 2 enables learners to identify skills that would supplement their current skills to choose excellence at will, and tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then do new behaviors get introduced and practiced.

Course material is designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities.

——–

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and What?. Did you really say what I think I heard? She has developed facilitation material for sales/change management, coaching, and listening. To learn more about her sales, decision making, and change management material, go to www.sharondrewmorgen.com. To learn more about her work on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com. Contact Sharon Drew for training, keynotes, or online programs at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Sharon Drew is currently designing programs for coaches to Find and Keep the Ideal Client, and Lead Facilitation for Lead Generation.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather