Thought Leadership Interview #5 - Sales Visionary Sharon Drew Morgen

Sales visionary and thought leader Sharon Drew Morgen, author of the remarkable and groundbreaking book Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it, sat down with the Fearless Competitor to answer a few questions about her book and her insightful ideas for facilitating change management for buyers and sellers.

In this interview she shares the real reasons why buyers don’t make the expected buying decisions, and how sales people can help potential buyers make good buying decisions much faster than as is typical.

I was struck by Sharon Drew’s book and her ideas.  Having been a VP of Marketing shopping for software, I was stunned by sellers looking only from their solution placement point of view.  All of their questions pertained to our business “needs” and their competitors, with no discussion whatsoever on our internal issues and challenges.

We had a Board of Directors divisions and internal questions and challenges (what Sharon Drew calls “behind the scenes” stuff) , yet not one of them picked up on this.  And these were experienced sellers in well-known software firms.

We wish to thank Sharon Drew for taking the time to share her remarkable insights with our readers.

What was the background for writing Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it?

I have been writing books on Buying Facilitation(R) since my first book came out in 1992 (Sales on the Line). In Dirty Little Secrets, I finally explain it in simple terms that make it easy to understand: sales only handles needs assessment and solution placement; buyers need to manage behind-the-scenes ‘stuff’ privately, and don’t always know the route they must take til they get there. Sellers can help if they learn a few new skills.

You expressly state in the book that this isn’t a sales manual. Why not?

Buying Facilitation(R) is a neutral navigation, decision facilitation model that leads buyers through their behind-the-scenes decision issues (such as relationships and company/family politics, feelings, rules, vendor or partner issues) that need to be addressed to get buy-in to make a decision. It’s systems based, and the goal is to help manage the private issues buyers go through internally that sales folks and outsiders cannot be privy to.

Sales manages the needs assessment/solution placement end of the buying decision. It has no capacity to help manage the behind-the-scenes buy-in issues. But because buyers have to do this anyway, sellers are left out and have no influence over the process.

That’s where buyers go when they say “I’ll call you back.” and then disappear. And this is why only 7% of sales close. Imagine! Sales has a 93% failure rate, and we build this in to our projects because this figure is endemic in the assumption of the sales model.

You make the provocative opening statement that both sellers and buyers are not very smart. What do you mean by that?

It’s a term the industry uses every moment: “Buyers are stupid.” I hear this every day. (Editor’s note — I’ve expressly heard CEOs say ‘Prospects are stupid.’) Sales folks assume that because THEY can see ‘the problem’ and THEY have the solution and the buyer does not do ‘what they are supposed to do’ that the only conclusion is that they are stupid.

The book shows what the seller is missing and how to address it with a different took kit. So I’m kinda throwing it back in their face: You say the buyer is stupid, but I’m saying you’re both stupid because buyers actually DON’T know how to go through the buying decision process because of all of the variables, and sellers DON’T know how to help them navigate through their decision issues because sales doesn’t handle that end of the buying process.

You state that the current sales model is incomplete. What is missing from the current sales model. How can it be made more effective?

Because the sales model is based on needs assessment/solution placement, I’ve added a decision facilitation model to the front end - an additional skill set - called Buying Facilitation(R) that helps buyers navigate through their off-line, behind-the-scenes decision issues that they must handle before they can make any decisions about a purchase. That makes it a one/two punch: first help buyers navigate through all of their decision issues and pull together a Buying Decision Team, and THEN sell.

Buyers have to do this anyway, and the time it takes them to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. They will do this with you, or without you. So you might as well add a new skill set and do it with them.

Why must sales techniques and ideas change?

Because sales only manages a very, very small percent of what a buyer needs to make a decision. And, the success rate of sales, across the board, averages 7% success. there is no other field that allows for a 93% failure rate. Imagine a doctor or even a baseball player, or an airline, with a 93% failure rate.

Love that point that sales fails most of the time.  How do buying decisions really get made?

First, Sales treats an Identified Problem as if it were an isolated event. It’s not: it’s part of a system that maintains it daily.

Buying Decisions get made only when the entire system lines up behind change - it’s really a change management situation. Buying Decisions get made when the people, policies, rules, relationships (the system), buy-in to change, and agree to do something different. This happens only when the ‘system’ recognizes it will remain in balance once something new enters. This is why the sales model has such a low success rate: sales pushes solution (i.e. ‘change’) into an existing system that fights back if it thinks it will be unbalanced.

How can sellers help buyers in their purchasing process and with decision-making to make better choices?

Buying Facilitation(R) is a decision facilitation model that leads buyers through all of the internal, off-line, behind-the-scenes decision issues that they must go through privately before getting buy-in to bring in a new solution. It’s based on systems thinking,and employs a form of question that I developed called a Facilitative Question that actually teaches folks how to consider and manage change - using their own values and criteria. These questions are used in a specific sequence of how decisions get made (the book explains each of the decision sequences and what happens in each).

An example of a Facilitative Question: How would you and your decision team know when it was time to bring in an additional resource for those times the ones you are using are insufficient?

Good point that Facilitative Question did pertain to a product or specific placement problem.  In the end, how can sellers and buyers help one another to become smarter?

Using Buying Facilitation(R), the seller becomes the servant leader to the buyer, helping them navigate their decision issues well before the act of sales even begins. The buyer becomes the neutral navigator; sellers help Buying Facilitator’s listen better, serve better, and think in systems. When sellers use BF, buyers can buy much quicker and more efficiently and include all of the right people with the right decisions. So sellers are helping buyers close the right business, with more prospects, and place their product into the most appropriate client situations. It becomes win-win.

Now that your ground-breaking book is out, what’s next for Sharon Drew Morgen?

I have been teaching this material since my first program in 1989. My goal is to start an institute and teach the material to coaches, teachers, doctors and other professionals, negotiators, etc. It’s a wonderful collaborative communication tool that has a universal application.

Join us every Thursday at 8pm ET/5pm PT for Twitter chat about b2b demand generation. Just go to and enter hashtag #b2bchat.

Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor, is President of Find New CustomersLead Generation Made Simple.” He’s also the author of two highly acclaimed white papers, How to Find New Customers and Definitive Guide to Making Quota, as well the ebook, Prospect Driven Marketing.  He’s been retained to pen a new white paper and holds a BBA in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame.

Find New Customers helps business develop and implement programs to improve the way they find and acquire new customers using best practices in lead generation.