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.


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. ( 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 to choose your favorite digital site to download your free book.

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article

“Wellth” is the New Wealth

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals ArticleWealth has historically been viewed as financial success in business that translates to success in life. Money, real estate, investments, and “stuff” like cars and expensive vacations – if you’ve got these things, you’re doing well for yourself… right?

Perhaps it’s time we recognized that the wealth game is changing. While money does matter, it’s no longer the foremost defining attribute of personal or professional achievement. Instead, a new focus on happiness and purpose is driving the common consciousness. This shift is due in part to the influence of millennials, whose priorities about work and life are reshaping everything from world economies to the business landscape as a whole.

The millennial mind looks at something like the price of real estate – the financial Everest they would need to climb to achieve some conventional form of “wealth” – and realizes that maybe there are more important things within their reach. Indeed, 53 percent of millennials say they value health more than any other priority besides family. Additionally, nine in 10 say they pursue health in order to be successful in other areas of life. It’s clear that, rather than wealth, this next generation of leaders prioritizes what I like to call “wellth.”

What is wellth? Wellth is the combination of physical, mental, and financial wellbeing that provides a foundation for each of us to strive toward success by living our best lives. Wellth redefines what it means to “arrive” by focusing instead on the journey; it’s about not being a slave to the daily grind; it’s making a conscious decision to live well. And while wellth may seem like some kind of New Age idealism, it’s not limited to vegan yoga students, boot camp evangelists, or spin bike enthusiasts queuing up to find inner strength at studios all over the world. In fact, there is a definite growing awareness among middle-aged professionals and corporate leaders that seeking wellness will help to accomplish larger goals.

Here are three trends that showcase how millennial-minded workers and businesses are switching their focus from wealth to wellth.

Fueling an Appetite for Ambition

It’s true: green is the new black. Just take a look at the many healthy eating gurus who are dominating Instagram feeds and building entrepreneurial empires on the foundation of wellness. Beyond the trendiness, though, this new focus on eating right underscores an emerging understanding and appreciation of how food affects all aspects of our lives.

The healthy food/happy employees connection has not gone unrecognized by most forward-thinking businesses. Research shows that employees with unhealthy diets are 66 percent more likely to experience a loss in productivity than those who regularly eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. This is something most people realize from personal experience without even needing the science to back it up. There are foods that increase focus, concentration, and alertness, just as there are foods that make you feel sluggish, uninterested, and tired—it’s the reason we all silently chide ourselves for reaching for that bag of chips when we’re stressed.

Not surprisingly, Google has spared no expense to ensure their cafeteria nurtures employees from the inside out. That’s because they realize that there’s an integral correlation between health, employee happiness, and the combined effect of both on business success. They value wellth!

Finding Focus in Action

Increasing your heart rate and physically pushing your body isn’t only good for your muscles and bones, it’s also great for your brain. This relationship is why many of the world’s most successful business leaders turn to fitness to help them stay centered. In fact, Sir Richard Branson cites daily exercise as his number one secret to staying healthy and productive.

But it’s not only physical action that makes a difference. In addition to building fitness and wellness programs into their cultures,top companies are also recognizing the impact of purpose on the emotional wellbeing of their employees (and, ultimately, their bottom line). Those that prioritize action in the form of corporate social responsibility and embrace the power of giving back are finding success, both in terms of profitability and in terms of employee motivation, retention, and engagement.

Taking Mindfulness to Work

Balance in life is necessary, and burnout at work can often tip the scales in the wrong direction. Burnout manifests as a lack of interest or motivation, depression, or even physical illness – and 69 percent of employees cite burnout as a key contributing factor to poor productivity.

Along with eating right and staying fit, being mindful of burnout is essential for keeping your wellth account full. This can be as simple as scheduling time to unplug or learn new skills. Even technology – the supposed enemy of peace and quiet – can help. For example, apps like Headspace can act as a personal trainer for your mind and help you achieve your daily 10 minutes of mindfulness.

Businesses that want to help their employees avoid burnout can provide unique experiences, such as sponsoring a company cycling team or organizing regular outdoor retreats. Oftentimes, just getting outside is enough to reset the balance, as research shows that time spent in nature can increase happiness and attentiveness.

Journeying Toward Wellth

These three trends represent the tip of the iceberg for the wellth movement. As the millennial mindset continues to shift wellness from a mere fad into the mainstream, traditional constructs of personal/professional achievement are actively being replaced with a new appreciation of life goals (and how we reach them). The basic tenets of wellth may focus on diet, fitness, and mindfulness, but this movement is about more than just working out and eating berries and kale; it’s a conscious choice to live well.

As motivational philosopher (and friend) Jay Shetty notes, “We are human beings but act more like human doings. Instead of a ‘to do’ list we need a ‘to be’ list. Rather than thinking what we should we do in situations we should think about who we want to be in situations.” Wellth is how many of us are bringing the act of being back into everything we do. It provides a holistic vision of what it takes for each of us to reach higher and go farther, which empowers us to build a solid foundation for attaining success in all aspects of life—including work.

So, how wellthy are you?

About the Author

Nick Goode is the Vice President Product Management — Cloud & Sage One, Sage’s cloud accounting and payroll solution for start-ups and small businesses. Goode is accountable for the commercial, channel, product and marketing strategy for Sage One worldwide. Goode is previously Head of Sage One for Sage UK, and prior to that, Head of Marketing for the Accountants Division at Sage. His LinkedIn can be viewed at and his Twitter handle is @nickgoode.

StrategyDriven Meetings Best Practice

Practices for Professionals – Meetings Best Practice 5: Agendas

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals - Meetings Best PracticeKey to running an efficient meeting is a well-structured agenda. Such agendas provide structure through the assignment of topic facilitation and time intervals. These documents, published before the meeting, help presenters and attendees prepare for the meeting and then support meeting facilitators ensure the meeting stays on topic and on time.

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StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article

How to Lead in High Turbulence – 5 Lessons from the Tunisian revolution

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership ArticleWhat would you do if you were offered a new job and were told you would be fired after one year but you weren’t allowed to quit during your mandate? That you would be paid peanuts compared to your old comfortable job, and you would be harassed and bashed in the media constantly. And you wouldn’t be allowed to complain. You would probably say “no thanks,” right?

I ended up with that job and found out what it really means to lead in a high turbulence environment.

I was Dean of a leading business school in Paris and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the top mobile telecom operator in Tunisia when the Arab Spring broke out, turning the already troubled Middle East and North Africa upside down.


It was a hopeful moment across the region and particularly in Tunisia. Even more surprising was that unorganized youth, impoverished people and Facebook played a huge part in toppling the Dictator Ben Ali, whose stifling reign lasted nearly a quarter century.

After a rocky start for the country after Ben Ali’s fall, the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize went to the Tunisian Quartet, composed of four civil society associations, which facilitated the country’s national dialogue. This dialogue reached a consensus among political parties stipulating that the incumbent Islamists hand over power to a technocratic transitional government.

This was the context when on Christmas day 2013, the then designated Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa offered me the aforementioned thankless and non-lucrative opportunity. I was asked to be Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Information & Communication Technologies. How could I refuse?

I tried. My family was against it and it was risky. I didn’t want to turn down such an honor over the phone, so I travelled from Paris to Tunis to meet Prime Minister Jomaa.

When I got there, he pointed out that I had never done my obligatory military service and that it was time for me to pay my dues with a one-year commitment to my country. That was the beginning. I would later become the first minister he hired for his government and a very close collaborator in his core team.


With the two political assassinations that took place in Tunisia in February and July 2013 being among the reasons our government was put in place, our team knew from the start we would be working in an extremely high turbulence environment. We were faced with the threat of being taken hostage; hostile mobs quite often waited for us outside our ministry; at times, we couldn’t go home; our own staff went on strike, and on and on.

How can you start each day being positive and ready to lead under these circumstances?

Despite all of the hardships, it was the experience of a lifetime! Here are five lessons I learned about leading in a high turbulence environment:

1. Build a team with a fresh perspective. When setting up the transitional government, Prime Minister Jomaa didn’t gather the usual suspects from the Tunisian political scene. Like any good leader should, he gathered the best people for the job from far and wide, bringing back countrymen from the US, Brazil, France, Switzerland, the UK, and other places. He picked people who he knew had the skills to do the job and particularly looked for experienced leaders who had an outside perspective without connections to the old regime.

2. Destroy silos. In order to get our monumental tasks done in the short time frame we were given, we had to create a network structure. It was important to collaborate across ministries and hierarchies to move forward. We leveraged the local knowledge and experience of ministers on the ground as a foundation for cross-silo collaboration. For the Prime Minister, it also meant that he had to empower his team to make autonomous decisions.

3. Separate the transformation or innovation team from the traditional part of the organization. Just like a technology company, we intentionally physically set up our “lab” on the opposite side of Tunis, far from the main body of government. Big problems need big solutions and you can’t come up with great ideas when you are bogged down with e-mails and day to day issues. Our job was to come up with innovative ideas to move our country forward and for that we needed the space to think and be creative.

4. Build bonds to strengthen trust. There is no way you can accomplish any major feat, let alone getting an entire country off to a new start, if you don’t trust, respect and have confidence in your team.

To strengthen our teamwork, we got out of the office and did outdoor team building exercises. We met each other during the weekend for social gatherings or to play soccer together. We went on learning expeditions and gathered insights into how challenges like ours have been approached elsewhere. All of this helped us be on the same page and have faith that we could succeed together.

5. Recognize your window of opportunity and set priorities. We had one year to get the job done. In that timeline and with the task of bringing an entire country back from the brink, you have to focus. We made it a priority to set up state institutions as outlined in the constitution, to prepare the ground for fair and internationally-recognized parliamentary and presidential elections before the end of our one-year mandate, to create an investment friendly environment and to resolve ongoing political conflicts. The situation was dire. A sense of urgency can help leaders reach goals. We couldn’t work on issues that weren’t of the most pressing importance.


So did we succeed? We redesigned the national subsidy system and put the country on a better economic path. We led the fight against terrorism, redesigned the higher education system in the country, formulated a five-year strategic plan for “Digital Tunisia,” created a “country chief information officer” role that reports directly to the Prime Minister. On our watch an SMS-based registration system for national elections was also created. I would say overall we harnessed technology to push the country toward the future.

But sadly Tunisia is now facing an unprecedented terrorist threat following three attacks in 2015 on the Bardo National Museum, on a major hotel in Sousse and on the presidential guard in Tunis. More recently an all-out military style attack by ISIS was carried on Ben Gardane, a Tunisian city on the Libyan border. Because of this, tourism, one of the country’s biggest income generators, has plummeted leaving it in an economically weakened state.

But that’s also how business is. Success one year, or even one week, doesn’t at all guarantee future wins.

Look at Volkswagen in 2015. The formerly top-selling brand experienced a scandal that put its future in danger.

So leaders in any types of organizations need to prepare themselves, mentally and otherwise, to face high turbulence, or else.

Do you have what it takes to lead in high turbulence?

About the Author

Tawfik Jelassi is IMD Professor of Strategy and Technology Management. He was the Tunisian Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Information & Communication Technologies during a transitional technocratic government in 2014-2015 following the Arab Spring revolution in the country. He is conducting a session on Leading in a High Turbulence Environment at Orchestrating Winning Performance taking place in Lausanne from June 27th to July 1st.

Laura Gibbons

Conscientious consumers or creatures of habit? A focus on our supply chains

We are all consumers, no doubt about that. And I think it’s safe to say that we are all creatures of habit…to an extent.

We buy the products we are familiar with, the products that we grew up with. This is definitely true for me. When I first left the family home and moved out into the real world on my own, I remember doing my first ‘big shop’ at the local supermarket. Without really thinking about it, my trolley was slowly but surely filling up with the products I recognised from the time of living with my parents.

Without even realising it, here I was buying the products that my parents had used because they were familiar to me. There was no other real reason behind my choice (apart from probably cost).

It got me thinking… how much thought do we really give to the products we buy?

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About the Author

Laura GibbonsLaura Gibbons is a driven and committed marketing professional with over 10 years’ experience. Working closely with Ideagen’s Marketing Executives and Partner teams, Laura is responsible for looking after the Ideagen brand across multiple sectors within the region.