Dirty Little Secrets on How to Shorten B2B Sales Cycle: Interview with Sharon Drew Morgen on Buying Facilitation

9 Dec
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The dirty little secrets in this article aren’t really dirty or little but they are sexy if making money turns you on. If you’ve always thought there’s got to be an easier way to make sales, or as a marketer you wanted to understand more about the mysteries behind the scenes of B2B conversions, or perhaps as an event manager you’re looking for someone to shake up and entertain an audience, Sharon Drew Morgen is uniquely qualified to deliver. An iconoclast and innovator, Morgen pioneered the Buying Facilitation® process which teaches salespeople how to help buyers manage their behind-the-scenes, non-need related issues necessary to get the internal buy-in they need to make a purchase. Author of seven books, Sharon Drew Morgen is one the most provocative and original speakers in the sales field today, and of course, she is represented by SocialAgenda Media’s speaker bureau.  😉

Olga Kostrova: In your books and training you suggest looking at the sales process from the standpoint of buyer’s journey rather than focusing on sales techniques. You suggest a sales person introduce Buying Facilitation™ questions very early in the process. Can it be as early as at the gatekeeper (while making a first call and speaking to a receptionist or an assistant)? Or do you mean when first getting the decision maker on the line? 

Sharon Drew Morgen: I teach not the sales process but the change management process that buyers all go through to get the necessary buy-in to proceed with a purchase. Sales usually just places solutions, but making the solution purchase is actually the buyer’s last action. First they must get all the folks who will touch the final solution to buy-in to the change, and to do that they must perform all the idiosyncratic, internal, and private change management activities necessary for the organization to make a purchase. The sales model is unnecessary and even inappropriate during these change management activities since each buyer’s environment is so unique and the activities are not really solution-related.

Salespeople ask ”why aren’t we closing more? Don’t buyers need our solutions?”.  But one of the issues sellers don’t realize is that everyone in a company is a decision maker, including a receptionist or an assistant. That’s why I use Buying Facilitation® from the first moment and all the way through the buying decision/change management path until they have the full buying decision team in place and all internal change factors are discovered and managed to fit everyone’s needs. It is only then they are ready to focus on a solution. I never use the sales model until the buyer’s organization is set up to make a purchase.

Olga Kostrova: In your opinion, what’s stopping sellers from selling faster, or in other words what stops buyers from making buying decision faster?

Sharon Drew Morgen: A buying decision is a change management problem. The sales model ignores the system, the environment that buyers live in, and merely attempts to place solutions. The time it takes buyers to recognize and manage all of the internal systems issues that will be shifted because of a new solution, and to bring together everything and everyone who will touch the new solution, is the length of the sales cycle. Buyers would be willing do this much faster if they knew how to change without disrupting anything. If sales folks added non-solution-related decision facilitation models to the front end of their sales process, more buyers could buy much faster. Instead the sales model merely pushes solution placement and focuses on ‘need’ rather than the importance of systemic change. As a result, sellers only close 7% of the time, the low hanging fruit.

Olga Kostrova: Why do closing rates seem to be generally the same regardless of the size of the solution, type or price of product, country of sale (well, except when our LeadGen Journalism® solution is used for lead generation  :-) )? You state that Buying Facilitation® consistently closes over 40%. What are you doing differently?

Sharon Drew Morgen: In the 25 years I’ve been training worldwide, on 5 continents, from small travel companies to behemoth global software companies, from $50,000,000 solutions to $15 face creams, from software to consulting services to banking to hospital admissions, the consistent close rate I’ve seen has been 7%. That’s because of the disparity between the job of sales and what buyers must do internally before they can make a purchase. My Buying Facilitation® model is a change management, decision facilitation skill set that organizes buyers around the types of change they must make and the people who must buy in. Since buyers must do this before they can buy, sellers either sit and wait for the low hanging fruit, or they can choose to add a new skill set and become neutral navigators to facilitate the change management that must take place to raise their closing rate to 40%.

Olga Kostrova: If buyers have a need, and sellers have a solution, why aren’t buyers buying, from your point of view?

Sharon Drew Morgen: Because bringing something new into their environment will cause some sort of disruption in their system and a solution is necessary or accepted only once there is buy-in and change management has made the organization ready.

Olga Kostrova: While readers will be able to learn all the “dirty little secrets” of Buying Facilitation® by reading your books and attending your trainings, let’s give readers some visibility into the beginning of the process. How do you suggest sales people open the conversation with a decision maker? 

Sharon Drew Morgen: This is a laddered, sequences process. Starting with one thing is like explaining how to bake a cake by starting with an egg, and then ending the conversation. I refuse to give a whole script but can offer a couple of basic concepts.

  1. Realize that since everyone is a decision maker each conversation is different. Is it an assistant? A receptionist? Each are decision makers. Each one stops or allows the conversation to continue. So treat every person you speak with as the decision maker, because they are.
  2. Stop trying to push solutions or discover need. Start all calls with “My name is X and this is a sales call. Is this a good time to speak? I’ve got a product that does X and wonder how are you currently managing x in your company right now? And how are you set up to manage Y for those times you need additional support?”

Every circumstance is different. But if you go to my blog, there are articles on gatekeepers, since that’s where you begin.

Olga Kostrova: What are 3 possible alternatives for opening the conversation that would allow a sales person to qualify the prospect and become a part of buyer’s buying decision team instead of prospecting for a solution placement?

Sharon Drew Morgen: I know it sounds like heresy and that I’m being difficult but we don’t qualify. No such thing. Qualifying only makes sense in sales solution thinking.

Everyone is a decision maker. Facilitative questions are necessary.

By entering calls as a neutral navigator rather than attempting to discover need or placing solutions, you can get each person you speak with to be a decision maker.

“How are you currently adding new banking resources to your company for those times your current bank can’t offer you what you need?” That’s is a good facilitative question to start a banking conversation. It starts the navigation process and can be asked to anyone who answers the phone.

I have a whole book on this. :) People want the “how’s” before understanding the underlying concepts. They unwittingly miss the main focus of Buying Facilitation® and because there is no reference for it in their brains, 90% of people try to fit it into their old thinking. I resist tactical tips before I’m sure someone understands the concept of Buying Facilitation® because even if I spent an hour giving stories and examples, people would still think of it in relation to traditional sales techniques. We should be helping them understand why they need to stop selling and start learning how to facilitate the buying decision.

Olga Kostrova: What are the 3-5 biggest mistakes sales people make while they are learning to sell based on the concept of facilitating the buying decision rather than using sales techniques designed for solution placement? 

Sharon Drew Morgen:

  1. They focus merely on placing a solution and don’t understand the prospect has a system in place and are identified with their “work around the problem”, and so salespeople end up pushing against what I call a closed system.
  2. They listen only in terms of how to sell solutions rather than to recognize systems issues.
  3. They don’t understand that until every single person who touches a solution buys into change, there won’t be a purchase, regardless of the need.
  4. All sales people throughout history, regardless of solution or country, merely close the low hanging fruit (7%) in situations where buyers have already gone through their internal change process.

Olga Kostrova: What are the main 5 things sales people need to understand about using the process of facilitating buying decisions? 

Sharon Drew Morgen:

  1. It’s not sales. It’s change management.
  2. Buyers have to do change management anyway. It’s what we sit and wait for them to do. So we can either sit and wait and lose 93% of them, or we can facilitate their change journey before we sell, and close 40% +.
  3. Selling doesn’t cause buying. Sales is merely a solution placement model and does not facilitate the internal, systemic change buyers go through; and until every person who will touch the solution agrees, there will be no purchase.
  4. Buyers already have a work around. Until the elements of the workaround are managed congruently, they will not buy regardless of need.
  5. The sales process itself creates the objections, the money issues and the lost business, and it prolongs the sales cycle. The time it takes buyers to manage buy-in from all who will touch the solution is the length of the cycle.
  6. Buyers are willing to buy quickly. They are not willing to create dysfunction and chaos in their system.

Olga Kostrova: What steps in the Buying Facilitation method have sales people not been able to learn on their own? Is there a discrepancy between those sales professionals who you’ve trained and those who rely only on your books?  How might the gap be bridged for those unable to invest in the coaching and training, or bring you as a speaker?

Sharon Drew Morgen: It’s not possible to learn on their own. They must learn how to use their brains in a wholly different way. Here are the skills for Buying Facilitation®:

  • Listen for systems
  • Formulate facilitative questions and offer presumptive summaries
  • Go back and forth between self and observer (i.e. Choice model)
  • Use the decision sequences the company needs to go through to become ready to buy

My book Dirty Little Secrets discusses the what’s and the why’s of a buying decision. Should readers want to immerse themselves and learn the ‘how’ they’d need training. Included in the training is material not conventionally taught in sales training, including how to formulate facilitative questions and presumptive summaries, recognizing and using the decision sequences necessary in all change management and listening for systems. Remember: Buying Facilitation® is not sales, although it works as a precursor to sales.

Olga Kostrova: How can understanding Buying Facilitation® show up in cold calling and leaving voice messages for prospects?

Sharon Drew Morgen: By using Buying Facilitation® the focus is directly on facilitating change rather than placing a solution. The opening of a cold call would sound like this: “Hi. My name is Sharon Drew Morgen and this is a sales call. Is this a good time to speak? I’m selling a new type of sales training that focuses on how buyers buy. I’m wondering how you are currently adding new skills to the ones you teach your sales folks to help them help buyers begin their buying decision and change management process?”

Olga Kostrova: Some readers will want to “save” relationships they started before learning about your work. Do you have any advice for the best way to introduce Buying Facilitation® into the conversation if it wasn’t established at the beginning of the process?

Sharon Drew Morgen: Yes. Say: I just learned a new form of question that will help you and the buying decision team determine how, or if, it’s time to change. I’d like to be able to walk you through some of these questions to help you help your team make the decisions you’ll need to make. Once they are all up to speed, then we can talk about my solution if it’s still applicable.

Olga Kostrova: How do you see communicating Buying Facilitation® showing up in business networking conversations? How could it be incorporated into one’s “elevator pitch”? 

Sharon Drew Morgen: Use the facilitative questions prior to pitching: “How will you know if/when you’re willing to add new X to what you’re already doing?”

Olga Kostrova: I understand you are not fond of lead scoring based on prospect’s interaction with solution related questions and content. What alternative lead scoring system would you propose that would reflect the specifics of Buying Facilitation approach?

Sharon Drew Morgen: I have designed an intelligent contact sheet that breaks down the early, middle, late stage of the buying decision. Lead scoring is absolutely irrelevant because regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution, buyers will never buy until their internal people, policies, rules, vendors, mergers, partners, or whoever will touch the final solution, are in agreement and know how to make the change comfortably. The intelligent contact sheet I’ve developed actually teaches prospects to understand where they are in the buying decision/change management process, and how to proceed to the next stages. It is only when they are at the end of their process and know how/what/when/where and with whom to buy will they seek a solution.

Intrigued? Want to learn more? Visits Sharon Drew Morgen’s speaker profile and get in touch with us to book her as a speaker for your next sales event. Happy selling… Or shall I say, happy purchase facilitation!

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