Information, when used to influence or sell, has cost us untold loss in business and relationships. It actually causes resistance.
Information Causes Resistance
For some reason, we maintain a long-standing belief that if we offer the right people the right information at the right time, presented in the right way, those it’s intended to influence will be duly impressed and adopt it. But that’s erroneous. Just think how often we
- patiently explain to our kids why something is bad for them,
- present a well-considered idea to our boss,
- offer great data as rationale to lead change initiatives,
- offer brilliant pitches to prospects to explain our solution
and how often our brilliant delivery and logical (and probably accurate) argument is not only ignored but rebuffed. Certainly the ineffective behaviors continue regardless of the logic of the information we offer. Are they just stupid? Irrational? We’re ‘right’ of course: we’ve got the rational argument and data points.
But do we?
We don’t. And we’re wrong. We’re actually creating resistance, losing business, destroying relationships, and impeding change.
Here’s why. When we present rational data, or make arguments based on logic or wisdom or knowledge, and hope it will sway an opinion or get a new decision made, we’re putting the cart before the horse. While the data itself may be terrific, the timing we use to present it stinks. You see, until there’s internal buy-in for change people have no place to put the information.
As outsiders – leaders, sales professionals, coaches, managers – we are engaged to amend the status quo of clients, prospects, or staff, using information as the rationale for change. But information does not teach someone how to change: information is a knowledge issue, not a behavior choice. Change is a systems problem, not a misunderstanding problem.
Let me explain. People and teams, companies and families, are each unique systems with components that buy-in to agreed-upon rules -idiosyncratic beliefs and maps of the world – and determine our behaviors. So someone, or a company, with ‘green’ beliefs won’t adopt non sustainable activities, and who/whatever is uncomfortable with these accepted beliefs aren’t admitted into the system.
Offer Information Only When System Ready For Change
It is only when parts of the system seek a new level of excellence and can figure out how to change without disruption will any sort of change be considered, regardless of our initiatives as outsiders to influence the change. If the system had recognized the need to change and knew how to fix it congruently they would have fixed the problem already.
At the point the need for change is considered, even by a small part of the system, the system must get buy-in from everything and everyone that will touch the new solution and knows how to change its underlying rules in a way that insures minimal disruption. In other words, no buy-in/no agreed-upon safe route forward = no change considered = no information accepted: the information doesn’t fit anywhere, can’t be heard, can’t be understood. We end up pushing valid data into a closed system that doesn’t recognize the need for it.
Telling kids why they should clean their rooms, telling prospects why your solution is better, telling managers to use new software doesn’t create the hoped-for change, regardless of how cogent the information except where the kids, buyers, managers were already set up to/seeking change and know how to move forward congruently (i.e. the low hanging fruit).
Here are a couple of simple examples.
- As you run out the door to get your daughter to school your spouse says, “I think we should move.” Huh! “We’ll speak more tonight,” you reply. On your way home you notice a great house for sale and you buy it. Do you think the information about the house is relevant to your family at that point (even if it’s the perfect house)?
- You and your team are getting ready to launch a new product you’ve been developing for two years. Your boss tells you the company has been bought out and it may affect the launch, certainly effects next year’s budget, your work location, and the team. Then a sales person calls selling team building software. Do you think the information about the software is relevant at this point (even if it’s a perfect solution)?
- You’re a consultant hired to lead a team through a reorganization. The team is stable, has been working successfully together for three years and enjoys great productivity and camaraderie. Do you think the information about the rationale of reorganization will be adopted effortlessly and effectively?
It’s not about the need or efficacy: change cannot happen until the system knows who or what:
- will be affected by the new solution;
- an acceptable solution should be that considers all;
- the criteria that must be met;
- the parameters for change to ensure minimal disruption;
- the level of buy-in or change necessary;
- the new rules and norms that must be adopted.
As I say in Dirty Little Secrets: the system is sacrosanct. We learned about homeostasis in 6th grade: anything that is seen to be pushing the system out of balance will create resistance. Giving information to any part of the system before everything is managed first merely causes resistance as the system fights for balance.
And so, our brilliant, necessary, cogent information gets ignored, resisted, objected to, or misunderstood and we must handle the ubiquitous objections and resistance. Hence long sales cycles and implementation problems.
Conventional sales, marketing, training, coaching, and leadership models use sharing and gathering information at their core. I’ve developed a model called Buying Facilitation® which is a generic decision facilitation model that enables a system to manage change and manage all of the behind-the-scenes elements needed to garner buy-in first; information is offered once there is agreement for adoption. If you’re a coach, negotiator, seller, purchasing agent, leader, doctor, or implementer add it into your current skills. Then when it’s to offer information, your clients will be ready for it and eager to accept it.
About the Author
Sharon Drew Morgen is a visionary, original thinker, and thought leader in change management and decision facilitation. She works as a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant, and has authored 9 books including the NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling with Integrity. Morgen developed the Buying Facilitation® method www.sharondrewmorgen.com in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? www.didihearyou.com explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at [email protected]