Sharon Drew Morgen

Buying Decisions, Buying Decision Path, Buy Cycles, and Pre-Sales

I’d like to set the record straight. In 1985 I coined terms that I’ve written extensively about in best selling books, magazines, and hundreds of articles. Unfortunately, when finally adopting them, the sales field defined them differently than originally intended, causing important concepts to be lost. This article presents the intended definitions and explains how I came to coin the terms.

In 1979 I became Rookie (stockbroker) of the Year at Merrill Lynch with 210 accounts (the market was 777). I couldn’t understand why prospects who ‘should have’ bought didn’t buy. When I started up a tech company in London in 1983 and became a ‘buyer’ I realized the problem and developed a new skill set to migrate it. Here’s how I figured it out.

HOW SALES IGNORES BEHIND-THE-SCENES BUYER’S REAL ISSUES

As an entrepreneur with needs, I invited sellers in to pitch me. But regardless of their professional skills or my potential need, I couldn’t decide what or if to buy before

  • the people involved shared their thoughts and concerns, and bought-in to any changes a new solution would involve,
  • we discerned any fallout to the company, relationships, people, policies etc. that change would incur and figure out ways to minimize it,
  • we tried workarounds and determined we couldn’t fix the problems with known resources.

Even though we were only a $5,000,000 company, I had a closely knit team and flourishing business to consider before bringing in anything that might rock the boat with my employees, investors, clients, company strategy, bottom line, brand, daily routines and systems. With a focus on placing solutions and ‘understanding’ needs (impossible to answer accurately until we all comprehended the scope of the givens) the sellers pitched solution data I didn’t know how to consider responsibly and potentially lost me as a buyer. That’s when I realized the problem I had had with buyers not closing:

The sales model focuses on placing solutions (seeking folks with a ‘need’ who ‘should’ buy) and ignores the confounding human-, policy-, and system-specific issues buyers must handle before a purchase could even be considered (folks who ‘will’ buy). By entering only during the final element of choice (vendor, solution), sellers squander the ability to influence the major portion of a buyer’s decision process which has little to do with needs or purchase.

Indeed, the sales model promotes the cart before prospects even know if they have a horse or have mapped out a destination, ensuring only those who have their cart ready to go (knew the obstructions, route alternatives, and danger signs) would buy. Promoting solutions, and asking questions in service of a sale, merely captures the low hanging fruit – those ready, willing, and able to buy – and ignores the possibility of influencing, enabling, and serving the early, Pre-Sales components in the decision-making path (whether selling/marketing online or through customer contact) – not to mention loses untold amount of business.

I realized all buyers must do this; and as I seller I had been sitting and waiting while buyers did this on their own, without me. Indeed, the time it took them to complete this was the length of the sales cycle. I figured if I could facilitate the buyer’s decision path, I could accelerate their decisions to ‘buy’ or ‘not buy’, stop wasting time, close more sales (quickly) and really serve. So I coded the entire change/decision arc (13 Steps, 9 of which [70% of the decision process] are outside the scope of how/what we sell), learned how systems make decisions to change, coined some new terms and developed some new models for questioning and listening without bias, and built this into a front end to sales so I could enter, facilitate/serve, and influence, earlier. I named this process Buying Facilitation® to denote the difference in focus between ‘selling’ and ‘buying’ and help buyers do the initial stuff they had to do anyway, but without sellers:

  • assemble all appropriate stakeholders ((Buying Decision Team) to get their input;
  • get consensus for types and levels of change manageable;
  • research options;
  • discover easy, economical workarounds where possible;
  • decide how to identify handle any disruption a new addition would cause;
  • weight risks with stakeholders to discern the efficacy of buying anything (Buy Cycle);
  • choose solutions and vendors.

To be fair, the sales job has never been about facilitating change, using a restrictive ‘solution-placement’ model since its inception without recognizing the low close and enormous time wastage is anything more than a problem finding buyers. This singular focus has been so endemic that sales hasn’t accounted for either the idiosyncratic issues buyers must address prior to buying anything (even for inexpensive items) or the opportunity to influence and serve buyers much earlier than the final point they might reach to buy, believing that if they find creative ways to offer content earlier it will mitigate the problem. But it doesn’t.

The industry close rate of 4% has always been an indication of a problem: the centuries-old bias toward placing solutions (How can we accept a 96% failure rate [from first contact] as standard?) ensures all sales models, including Challenger, create resistance, potentially turn off real buyers who need your solution (80% of prospects buy a similar product within 2 years of your interaction), and ignore the ability to influence 70% of the Buying Decision Path.

Indeed, buyers don’t want to buy anything, they just want to resolve a problem congruently, without major disruption to that which works well. Indeed a purchase happens only when there is no alternate resolution; and we haven’t had a skill set that blends with the sales model to help: except for visionary areas within the global companies I’ve trained over the last 30 years, the sales field found my ideas and newly coined terms pointless. But sellers who added Buying Facilitation® to their sales activities experience upward of a 6x increase in sales as they truly facilitate buying decisions. My dream has always been that Buying Facilitation® be taught as part of sales training for all sales professionals.

Buying Facilitation® Facilitates 70% of Buyer’s Decisions

I taught my sales team how to add Buying Facilitation® to their current sales skills; we quickly experienced a 40% increase in sales (from first call) and I only needed half the sales staff. My tech team used the material to involve all the right people immediately and extract the most vital information quickly, making programming and implementing more efficient, and insuring early project completion and no ‘user errors’. I began teaching the material to clients, coaches, and managers.

Approximately five years ago my terms began entering the sales field. But, as happens when a new idea enters mainstream, the terms were not defined as I defined them, but re-defined to be a part of the very concepts I was fighting against.

Terms Defined

I have no illusions that the mis-definitions will continue and some mainstream sellers will think they ‘do this’ already. Hopefully some folks will seek to learn the material (and training is required as the model employs entirely different thinking and skills). But just for my own piece of mind, I’m offering the definitions of the terms I coined in 1985. They include some form of the word ‘buy’ to denote the disparity between the act of buying and the process of selling. And the underlying belief is that as sellers we should be using our unique positions as corporate representatives and knowledge experts to be servant leaders and truly serve buyers to discover their own path to excellence, hopefully, ultimately, with our solution (But if not, we end quickly and gently. Otherwise, we close in half the time.).

Buying Facilitation®. A generic change management model for coaches, sellers, managers, etc.) that enables efficient, congruent change, that employs a specific type of listening (Listening for Systems), and new form of question (Facilitative Questions – not information gathering), used in a specific, coded sequence, for facilitators to enable excellence through congruent change. It manages all of the unconscious, upfront, endemic change issues that would have to accede for change to happen. Until buyers (or anyone) know how to manage this, they cannot agree to change/buy, hence the length of the current sales cycle.

Helping Buyers Buy. The term comes from the first Buying Facilitation® training I delivered in 1988 to KLM. By ‘helping buyers buy’ we facilitate the full Pre-Sales Buying Decision Path.

Buying Decisions/Process. The outcome of resolving all of the change/decision issues into an action: consensus of all stakeholders who will touch the new solution; the route forward to change without disruption or resistance; deciding to move beyond their workaround; AND THEN the solution/vendor choice issues. The term is being misdefined by sales to merely include vendor/solution choice issues.

Buying Decision Path. 13 steps that traverse the elements of change management: starting with an idea (Step 1) through to a purchase (Step 13). It includes people, systems, implementation, resistance, workarounds, relationships – and comes well before any decision is made to buy anything, and quite separate from any ‘need’. The sales field uses this term erroneously to denote how buyers choose one vendor/solution over another, line up the funds, etc. – a usage dynamically opposite to the original definition.

Buy Cycle. The entire set of givens necessary for buyers to end up with excellence (either internally or with a purchase). Again, it’s not only the solution/vendor choice issues.

Buying Decision Team. The full set of stakeholders – some not obvious, some not ‘decision makers’ – who will touch the final solution and need to add their ideas, concerns, knowledge, and feelings to the discussion. Usually sellers (or change agents) aren’t privy to the internal machinations necessary before a purchase (or any change) can happen. Hence the 4% close rate.

Buying Patterns. The way the buyer has traditionally bought/changed in the past. Do they always use known vendors? Will they never take cold calls or meetings with sellers? Sellers traditionally use their comfortable selling patterns and cannot connect with buyers with divergent buying patterns.

Marketers currently use the term Buyer Persona to denote ‘influencers’ who will enable a sale. This ignores most of the early decisions buyers make and keeps marketing from entering effectively much earlier. Using different types of content it’s quite possible to influence different points along the Buying Decision Path.

Time for Change

Think about it. Are you happy with your low close rate? Your horrific waste of time and resource running around after people who will never buy (and who you could know on the first call weren’t buyers) or responding to RFPs that fail? The time waste seeking prospects who will take an appointment only to have one person on a data gathering mission show up – and then you never hear from them again (not to mention the hours planning for the meeting!)? Have you never wondered where buyers go when YOU think they have a need?

The current sales model closes a fraction of people who need your solution, and costs much more than necessary on wasted resources (large sales forces, presentations, proposals). The problem isn’t finding the buyers; the problem is facilitating those who can buy. As an example, using Buying Facilitation® at Kaiser, sellers went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales in a month, to 27 visits and 25 closed sales, an increase of 600%, not to mention the time saving.

I go back to the original question I posed decades ago: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. And I’ve developed terms that help sellers think through the steps that help buyers buy. Maybe it’s time to begin learning the ‘how’ of helping buyers buy, the ‘what’ of the buying decision path, and the ‘who’ of the buying decision team. Let’s begin using the terms properly and stop ignoring such a large piece of the puzzle.


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. (www.newsalesparadigm.com). She is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation®, the decision facilitation model that enables people to change with integrity. A pioneer who has spoken about, written about, and taught the skills to help buyers buy, she is the author of the acclaimed New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

To contact Sharon Drew at [email protected] or go to www.didihearyou.com to choose your favorite digital site to download your free book.

Don Maruska

4 Beliefs that Lead to Bad Decisions

All great leaders have one thing in common – they know how to make great decisions. But many people find making great decisions difficult because of common yet avoidable pitfalls. These pitfalls are caused by wrongly held beliefs. Here are 4 assumptions that can get in the way of making great decisions.


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About the Author

Don MaruskaDon Maruska founded and was CEO of three Silicon Valley companies and venture investor in startups that became public companies. He’s now a Master Certified Coach and author of How Great Decisions Get Made with Foreword by Margaret Wheatley (American Management Association, 2004) and co-author with Jay Perry of Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life with Foreword by Jim Kouzes (Berrett-Koehler 2013) serving high-growth firms and Fortune 500 companies. He earned his BA magna cum laude from Harvard and his MBA and JD from Stanford and previously led projects for McKinsey & Company.

Sharon Drew Morgen

Collaborative Decision Making for Successful Implementations

I’ve read that there are leaders and project managers who prefer not to collaborate, when engaging in an initiative, because of needs for control. And decision makers who start their information gathering before fully involving those who will implement. What sort of success is possible when one source is driving change and

  • may potentially sabotage a project because of their own biases,
  • restricts outcomes and creativity to a specific set of possibilities,
  • potentially gathers biased or insufficient data from a restricted set of sources,
  • risks alienating those involved with the ultimate fulfillment because there’s insufficient buy-in?

Without:
* real collaboration * gathering data from the best set of sources * consensus and buy-in procedures in place * understanding the full impact from a proposed decision * front-loading for change management (to avoid failed implementations)

we risk falling far short of excellence in our decision making and subsequent execution.

Why Collaboration is Necessary

To ensure the best data is available to make decisions with, to ensure all risk issues managed, to ensure consensus throughout the process, we must have these questions in mind:

  • How will we share, collect, and decide on the most appropriate ideas, choices, and alternatives? How will we know we are working with the most relevant data set?
  • How can a leader avoid prejudicing the process with her own biases?
  • How are collaborators chosen to ensure maximum representation? Are some stakeholders either absent or silent? How can we increase participation?
  • How can we recognize if we’re on the path to either a successful outcome, or the route that sabotages excellence? What markers should we be looking for along the way?

Let me define a few terms (albeit with my own bias):

  1. Collaboration: when all parties who will be involved in a final solution have a say in an outcome:
    • to offer and share ideas and concerns to discover creative solutions agreeable to all;
    • to identify and discern the most appropriate data to enable the best outcome.
  2. Decision making:
    • weighting, choosing, and choosing from, the most appropriate range of possibilities whose parameters are agreed to by those involved;
    • understanding and agreeing to a set of variables or decision values.

I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on “understanding needs or managing an implementation”) and ‘low collaboration’ (defined as “putting time or control before people and possibility”, and leading from the top with prepared rules and plans). Since I don’t believe in any sort of top-down initiative (i.e. ‘low collaboration’) except when keeping a child safe, and believe there are systems issues that must be taken into consideration, here’s my rule of thumb: Collaboration is necessary early in the process to achieve accurate data identification and consensus for any sort of implementation, decision, project, purchase, or plan that requests people to take actions not currently employed.

The Steps of Collaboration

Here are the steps to excellence in collaborative decision making as I see them:

  1. Assemble all representative stakeholders to begin discussions. Invite all folks who will be affected by the proposed change, not just those you see as obvious. To avoid resistance, have the largest canvas from which to gather data and inform thinking, and enhance the probability of a successful implementation, the right people must be part of the project from the beginning. An international team of Decision Scientists at a global oil company recently told me that while their weighted decisions are ‘accurate,’ the Implementation Team has a success rate of 3%. “It’s not our job. We hand them over good data. But we’re not part of the implementation team. We hear about their failures later.”
  2. Get buy-in for the goal. Without buy-in we lose possibility, creativity, time, and ideas that only those on the ground would understand. Consensus is vital for all who will touch the solution (even if a representative of a larger group lends their voice) or some who seem on board may end up disaffected and unconsciously sabotage the process later.
  3. Establish all system specifics. What will change? Who will manage it? What levels of participation, disruption, job alterations, etc. will occur and how it be handled? What are the risks? And how will you know the best decision factors to manage all this? It’s vital to meld this knowledge into the decision making process right up front.
  4. Specify stages to monitor process and problems. By now you’ll have a good idea of the pluses and minuses. Make a plan that specifies the outcomes and probable fallout from each stage and publish it for feedback. Otherwise, you won’t know if or where you’ve gone wrong until too late.
  5. Announce the issues publically. Publish the high-level goal, the possible change issues and what would be effected, and the potential outcomes/fallout. Make sure it’s transparent, and you’re managing expectations well in advance. This will uncover folks you might have missed (for information gathering and buy-in), new ideas you hadn’t considered, and resisters.
  6. Time. Give everyone time to discuss, think, consider personal options, and speak with colleagues and bosses. Create an idea collection process – maybe an online community board where voices are expressed – that gets reports back to the stakeholder team.
  7. Stakeholder’s planning meeting. By now you’ll know who and what must be included. Make sure to include resisters – they bring interesting ideas and thinking that others haven’t considered. It’s been proven that even resisters are more compliant when they feel heard.
  8. Meet to vote on final plans. Include steps for each stage of change, and agree on handling opposition and disruption.
  9. Decision team to begin gathering data. Now that the full set of decision issues and people/ideas/outcomes are recognized and agreed to, the Decision Making team is good to go. They’ll end up with a solid data set that will address the optimal solution that will be implemented without resistance.
  10. Have meetings at each specified stage during implementations. Include folks on the ground to weigh in.

These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’ if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have preferred to spend more time following the steps above.

Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not collaborating. And then do the math.


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. (www.newsalesparadigm.com). She is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation®, the decision facilitation model that enables people to change with integrity. A pioneer who has spoken about, written about, and taught the skills to help buyers buy, she is the author of the acclaimed New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

To contact Sharon Drew at [email protected] or go to www.didihearyou.com to choose your favorite digital site to download your free book.

Sharon Drew Morgen

Decision Makers vs. Influencers

I’ve heard there are 5.7 decision makers for each sale, and ‘unknown’ influencers. Yet there is no difference between ‘decision makers’ and ‘influencers’.

  • If you want to move and your daughter is in her last year of high school and prefers to stay behind to finish the year, is she a decision maker or an influencer?
  • If your tech group isn’t available to implement an important new program until they finish their current work, would the tech director be an influencer or a decision maker?
  • If your company is going through a merger and the teams haven’t been merged yet, would the director of the groups that need training be an influencer or a decision maker?
  • If you think some of your folks need coaching, would these folks be influencers or decision makers?

See what I mean? ‘Decision Maker’ and ‘Influencer’ are arbitrary delineations. Until everyone who will touch the final solution buys-in, and any ensuing change is managed, no buying decision will happen, regardless of how well your solution matches their need. Think about that when you ask for ‘The Decision Maker’ or believe that the one person who showed up to your appointment is ‘The Decision Maker.’ There is never just one unless it’s a small personal item. And by focusing on this person as ‘The Decision Maker’ you’re actually delaying your sale.

Years ago, when technology was new, a coaching client selling golf carts with new type of visual GPS systems once bet me $20 that his prospect, the owner of a golf course, was the sole decision maker. They’d been having lovely, personal, conversations once a month for a year and my client believed he would eventually close due to the strength of their phone ‘relationship’. He knew they had a need that his golf carts could address. I disagreed: it was obvious to me there was another decision maker in the background that hadn’t been brought in to the conversation. With permission, I placed a call to the owner. Here’s how the conversation went.

SDM: I’m training with William. Seems you two sort of love each other but I’m confused. William tells me you love his carts and find them quite revolutionary. And you’ve been speaking for a year. What’s stopping you from buying them?

O: I do love your carts. But my grounds-keeper would kill me if I bought any. He’s afraid that if the GPS system breaks down we’d run out of carts for the golfers. So it’s not my call.

My client put his $20 into my lap. He’d ignored the fact that that until everyone whose job would be effected as a result of bringing in a new solution became part of the buying decision, no purchase could be made. (BTW, following the above exchange, I used the Buying Facilitation® process and facilitated bringing the grounds keeper into the conversation. Two weeks later the sale was made. But as long as the grounds keeper was not being brought into the conversation, he wouldn’t have. Buyers only buy when they can solve a business problem without causing internal havoc, not because your solution is terrific.)

It’s possible to facilitate the buying decision process by helping buyers recognize all of the people who must buy-in to a purchase. It’s not always obvious to them. And this must happen before buyers can buy. Having a need is merely one aspect of their problem set. And as an outsider, you’ll never know who all of the decision makers are or what sort of internal decisions must be made that fall outside your purview.

Remember that a buying decision is a change management problem; the sales model does not offer the skills to facilitate the sort of non-solution-based systemic change buyers go through (behind-the-scenes politics, relationships, timing, etc.) Pre Sales, and their process delays/stops your sale.


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]

Sharon Drew Morgen

Steps Along the Buying Decision Path

As sellers we are taught to find prospects with a need that matches our solution and then find creative, professional ways to pitch, present, entice, push, market, or somehow introduce our solution to enable them to understand how our solutions will fix their problem.

Unfortunately, we fail to close over 90% of the time (from first contact) regardless of how well their need matches our solution. And it’s not because of our solutions, our presentations/pitches, or our professionalism. It’s because the sales model does not include the skills to facilitate the larger part of buying decisions – those idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes, change-management-driven processes that are private and we can’t be part of. Yet until they go through this process and walk through each stage of decision making and change management they cannot buy. They will do this with us, or without us. It takes much longer without us, hence a protracted buying decision and closed sale.

Facilitating Change Is Not Selling

I’ve spent the last few decades coding and designing new tools to help sellers facilitate the pre-sales decision path that buyers go through without us. Using Buying Facilitation® with sales, sellers get onto the Buying Decision Team, facilitate the time to decision making/close, and eschew competition. Here are the steps I’ve discovered are what buyers – all change – need to address. As you read them, note that facilitating change includes some unique skill sets (Listening for Systems, formulating Facilitative Questions/Presumptive Summaries, etc.), goals, and outcomes. Remember to ask yourself: do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities, necessitating two distinct skill sets. Sales merely handles one of them.

  1. Idea stage. Fred has an idea that something needs to change.
  2. Fred discusses his idea with colleagues.
  3. Fred invites colleagues to meet and discuss the problem, bring ideas from online research, consider who to include, possible fixes, and fallout. Groups formed.
  4. Consideration stage. Group meets to discuss findings: how to fix the problem with known resources, whether to create a workaround using internal fixes or seek an external solution. Discuss the type/amount of fallout from each.
  5. Organization stage. Fred apportions responsibilities, or hands over to others.
  6. Change Management stage. Meeting to discuss options and fallout. Determine
    • if more research is necessary (and who will do it),
    • if all appropriate people are involved (and who to include),
    • if all elements of the problem and solution are included (and what to add),
    • the level of disruption and change to address depending on type of solution chosen (and how to manage change),
    • the pros/cons of external solution vs current vendor vs workaround.
  7. Add needs, ideas, issues of new members; incorporate change considerations.
  8. Everyone researches their portion of the solution fix (online research—webinars, etc., call current vendors or new vendors etc.). Discussions include managing resultant change.
  9. Consensus stage. Buying Decision Team members meet to share research and determine the type of solution, fallout, possibilities, problems, considerations in re management, policies, job descriptions, HR issues, etc. Buy-in and consensus necessary.
  10. Choice stage. Action responsibilities apportioned including discussions/meetings with people, companies, teams who might provide solutions.
  11. Meet to discuss choices and the fallout/ benefits of each.
  12. New solution chosen. Change management issues incorporated with solution choice.
  13. New solution implemented.

The sales model handles steps 10-13. Marketing, marketing automation, and social marketing may be involved in steps 3 and 8, although it’s not clear then if the decision to choose an external solution has been made, the full fact pattern of ‘needs’ has been determined, or if the appropriate decision makers and influencers are included. Buyers muddle through this but we can enter earlier to help by adding new skills of facilitation.

I started up a tech company in London 1983-89 and developed Buying Facilitation® to teach my sales folks to navigate buyers through their decision path, change management, and buy-in BEFORE they began selling. We increased sales 5x within a month. I’ve been teaching this model (and coaching and consulting) since 1989 with similar results.

My book Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it discusses these steps and how Buying Facilitation® can work with sales and marketing to enter the buy path earlier. Note: adding the above stages to typical sales/marketing thinking, outcomes, and skills, will not benefit either sellers or buyers. This model is solely for the benfit of the buyer. It’s truly a change management skill that makes a seller a real consultant, and needs/solutions are irrelevant until buyers understand how any change will affect their status quo. Read the book 🙂


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]