The Heart of Sales

Sales could easily become a spiritual practice, bring in far more revenue, and make sellers Servant Leaders.

For decades, I have been a proponent of, and keynoter in the field of, Spirituality in the Workplace. In my work life, I have focused on the sales profession, as I believe (as the very foundation of business), it offers the capability of making each person, each interaction, and each company, based on true service.

Unfortunately, with the focus on profit, solution placement, timelines, and commissions, the potential for true servant-leadership has been overlooked. Indeed, it’s possible to make money AND make nice.

Selling and Serving

The sales job focuses on needs assessment and solution placement. Of course this is necessary – but only as the final stage of issues buyers have to address. Sales overlooks the off-line, behind-the-scenes decision issues that buyers must face privately before they get the buy-in to make a purchase.

But this is where the true servant-leader connection is: imagine having the capability to serve folks by first helping them discover all of the internal, values-based decision issues they must address, and being a support for them in the process. And once this is done (and it makes the sales process about 600% more efficient), then we can sell.

But we can’t continue to use our positions merely to influence others. Let’s look at what we’ve been doing until now.

Sellers, unfortunately, have a belief that if by offering the right data, in the right way, to the right demographic, or use the right incentives/push/pitch/influence, that people will buy, or acquiesce, or agree. Yup: I’ve got the important data that you need – now let me tell you about it and explain to you why you need it.

But that premise is false: sales only closes 5% of prospects. And that’s an average. What makes the sales model so unsuccessful? Because it’s based on information push, the needs of the seller to make a sale, and biased conversations meant to convert buyers it ignores the buyer’s underlying values and internal systems issues – the people and policy issues that comprise the status quo and have been in place for some time – that people must manage before they are willing or able to make a purchase.

People don’t require data to make decisions until their internal values/criteria/beliefs have been considered and there is a willingness to buy-in to change. There is no such thing as an emotional decision, even if it looks that way to an outsider. We do not choose to do something that goes against our values, so all behavior is a rendition of our beliefs in action, even thought it might be unconscious. And the sales model ignores this primary piece of the puzzle.

When we create data-driven vehicles for marketing and sales, we have no idea if the mode, the message, the presentation, or the verbiage might go against a buyer’s internal criteria – regardless of whether or not they need our solution. We also have no idea where along the change management/decision path they are in their buy cycle. As a result, we have no idea how our message will be received. That means, we’re either lucky or we’re unlucky. Bad odds: with the best solution in the world, we are dependent on luck for our results. Not to mention that we are missing opportunities to connect with, and serve, another person.

There is a Way to Influence with Integrity

But there is a way to help buyers discover how to make the decisions and manage the change (and every purchase – indeed every decision – is a change management issue) by using their own values.

It’s possible to help buyers:

  1. assemble the appropriate Buying Decision Team members.
  2. define the criteria they must ultimately meet.
  3. explore every opportunity to resolve their issues with familiar resources (like current vendors or by fixing current.
  4. get necessary buy-in from whoever, whatever touches the final solution.
  5. operate with the new solution without facing major disruption.

Buyers need to accomplish all of these things anyway, with us or without us. Sellers sit and wait while they do them. We can continue to wait to make a sale, or become a true Servant Leader and lead our buyers through these decision points. It’s not sales – it’s change management – but it will afford an opportunity to serve, and buyers will fold the seller in to the decision, with no objections.

I’ve developed a new type of question (Facilitative Question) to help people uncover their unconscious criteria to make new decisions, address the necessary systemic change and fallout that a new solution would entail, or re-weight old beliefs. It works alongside my Buying Facilitation® model as a decision facilitation tool to manage change. Questions like:

  • How would you know when it was time to add a new skill set to the ones you’re already using successfully?
  • What would you need to trust to recognize that by facilitating buying decisions and entering the buying journey earlier that you can close more deals and make more money?
  • How would you know that adding a change management skill set would be good for business, and enable a true collaboration of trust and respect?

Until or unless people choose to reconsider all of the elements within their status quo, and can find a way forward that doesn’t disrupt their status quo irreparably, they will do nothing.
Start the buyer/seller relationship by helping buyers manage the idiosyncratic Pre-Sales decision issues they must address internally. Then, once they’ve determined their route, you can sell. It’s a good way to help people get to the very core, the very heart of the matter and create real change. And it gives us the opportunity to truly serve by leading the change.

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 ( in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at [email protected]

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