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Why Pitching, Persuading, Guiding, and Influencing are Largely Unsuccessful – a thought paper for sellers, coaches, leaders, parents, and managers

You recognize what someone needs and offer just the right guidance, product data, or experience to help. Yet, except for occasionally, they don’t act on your brilliance. Why? Why would they prefer to keep doing what they’re doing when it‘s obvious, even to them, they’re less-than-effective? Because making the switch to behave differently is not as simple as desiring to do something different: your information, brilliant and well-intentioned as it is, is not heard accurately, nor do people know how to translate what you’ve offered into action. They’re not ignoring you: they just don’t know what to do with the information.

This article is about systems, Beliefs, change, and our status quo – a thought paper on why giving information (pitches, suggestions, rationale, directives, counselling) doesn’t necessarily produce changed behaviors. It’s a bit wonky; more conventional articles are on my blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com.

Our Status Quo Acts Habitually

Our information, our new ideas or implementation requests, our product descriptions and presentations are relevant of course. But they can only be heard accurately and acted upon when our audience has bought in to, and learned how to manage, any proposed change, and all relevant ‘systems’ are GO.

Adopting new behaviors challenges our ingrained, personal, habitual systems. Our status quo (that mysterious mix of unconscious elements developed over a lifetime that define us) does not shift easily: doing anything – anything – different means replacing a familiar choice with something unfamiliar, with no guaranteed results or precise outcomes.

How can we know up front whether any change is worth the risk? How can we keep our system – our habitual, historic, comfortable, and interconnected configuration of rules, relationships, beliefs, goals, etc. – congruent if we behave outside our proscribed standards?
Without answers to these questions, the risk is too high to change. The change itself isn’t the problem, it’s the disruption. So how can we promote change that a person is willing/able to consider? One way is to stop sharing information until the system has prepared itself to change. Or we can actually facilitate the change before offering information. Let me explain what’s going on.

Behaviors vs Beliefs: Why a System Changes

Whether it’s personal or work, our lives are defined by a set of Beliefs we’ve each developed over the course of our lifetime. We live in neighborhoods, work at jobs, and choose friends in accordance with our Beliefs. We even listen (see What?) according to our Beliefs. Everything we do (our Behaviors) emerges from our Beliefs.

Except when we’re incongruent, our Behaviors carry out our Beliefs. As a life-long liberal, I Believe I must contribute, care for the environment, treat others respectfully. My Beliefs inform my politics, my choice of city, my choice of friends; they are hard-wired, and make me me. And I happily bias my actions and decisions against them. This all happens unconsciously, of course. And therein lies the problem.

New input, and suggestions that require change, challenges the status quo which has been ‘good-enough’ until now. We’re asking people to change their Behaviors before they’ve managed buy-in or figured out how to maintain systems congruence: without knowing how to convert our Beliefs into new Behaviors we face incongruence and feel threatened, causing us to reject, sabotage, forget, misconstrue, or ignore what we’ve heard.

Buy-in is the problem because it means altering rules, changing expectations, or reconsidering outcomes like job descriptions, or timing, or relationships. Everything that will ultimately touch the proposed change must buy-in or the system will continue to reject the information.

Therefore, our information – our brilliant recommendations, thoughts, solutions, or leadership, even when directed by bosses or family – cannot even be heard even if the data is valid or important until the system itself knows how to prepare a new pathway to expected results, comfort, and congruence. We protect our system at all costs. (See Dirty Little Secrets for a thorough explanation of this topic.)

When Information is Applicable

Sales and marketing folks, managers, trainers, coaches, leaders – any profession that focuses on offering advice or promoting action – must stop trying to ‘pitch’ even if someone needs to hear it. Stop trying to lead according to your own vision of what needs to happen. Your job is to facilitate buy-in to promote Excellence. And it might not look like a set of actions you’re familiar with. Once you get agreement and the system creates a way to shift congruently so its Beliefs are upheld (in accordance with the foundational rules, expectations, relationships, etc.), then you’ve got a shot that you’ll be heard or followed.

I’ve developed a change facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) to manage this buy-in/conversion that I’ve been teaching to sellers, leaders and coaches for decades. But you can design your own model. Here is the relevant question you need to address: How can you design a way to help others find a route to their own excellence by helping them be willing to modify their status quo in a way that shifts congruently?

Once they have a route through to changing the status quo and know they’ll come out butter-side-up, they’ll know what they need to buy, and how and when they want to change. And THEN you can pitch, offer, suggest, or influence.


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]

Zombie Hunter Extraordinaire

On my business cards, I’ve often thought the titles under my name should read: Owner. CEO. Zombie Hunter. Handing them out and watching for the inevitable eye roll would be kind of fun. But make no mistake; I’m dead serious about zombie hunting. This is a skill that – if Owner or CEO is a title on your business card – you need to master. And fast.


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About the Author

Jamie GerdsenJamie Gerdsen, the CEO/Owner of Apollo Home, is a sought after speaker on leading and improving a traditional ‘Main Street’ business. His new book is Zombies Ate My Business: How to Keep Your Traditional Business from Becoming One of the Undead.

How To Be A Leader Who Gets Real

How much do I tell, how much do I withhold? When does self-revelation serve a conversation, when is it self-indulgent?

These can be tough questions for any leader to figure out. Here’s a recent case of somebody getting it right. Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, last November announced a bold initiative to better tackle mental illness in the city. His initiative features increased access to mental health services for all New Yorkers, in recognition of the causal link between mental health issues and homelessness in New York.

To drive home that mental health is everybody’s issue, de Blasio made the announcement surrounded by his immediate family. And in conversation with NPR’s Linda Wertheimer, his outspoken wife Chirlane McCray by his side, de Blasio explained his family’s very personal link to mental health.


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About the Author

Achim Nowak, president of Influens, is an international executive coach to Fortune 500 executives and entrepreneurs. He is the author of the new book, The Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World (New Page Books).

Anatomy of a Great Leader

What makes a great leader? While there is no cookie-cutter answer, there are certain characteristics that great leaders commonly exhibit. Not only do you need to be technically qualified, but you must be able to manage time, energy and staff efficiently. A great leader harnesses mind, body and soul, because leadership isn’t what you do, it’s who you are. Read more in the infographic, The Anatomy of a Great Leader, below.
Anatomy of a Great Leader


About the Author

BookPal is an Irvine-based e-commerce company that sells books in bulk to corporations, school districts, non-profits and government agencies.

6 Fundamentals That Underpin Engagement – authentic organizations are high-performing organizations.

We began our research by asking people to describe their dream organization—one that feels authentic and within which it is possible for one’s best self to emerge. We’ve synthesized these ideal organizational qualities and have shown how some workplaces are making the elements of the dream real, inspiring the rest of us in the process.

Put together these multiple benefits – commitment, creativity, understanding, personal development, trust, purpose, and freedom—and you have created the fundamentals that underpin engagement at work. And we know that engagement is correlated with performance.

Why Should Anyone Work Here?The dream organization, then, is also the high-performing organization.


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About the Authors

Rob Goffee is Emeritus Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, where he teaches in the world-renowned Senior Executive Programme.

Gareth Jones is a Fellow of the Centre for Management Development at London Business School and a visiting professor at Spain’s IE Business School in Madrid.

Rob and Gareth consult to the boards of several global companies and are coauthors of Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? and Clever, both published by Harvard Business Review Press.