How many times have we all noted that our products, ideas, or services will solve our prospects problems - and then the prospects don't buy our product, or do something different than what we think they should do?

Here's the deal: People do not make purchases outside of their own values. People have created their status quo based on criteria that encompasses their values, vision, and norms. And they are comfortable.

As sellers, we find prospects with a problem, and assume that because our product can fix their problem, they will buy it from us if we can get them to understand it/like us.

One of the most stultifying problems in the fields of sales, marketing, and advertising, is that we operate from the belief that people make decisions based on information. So we push, pitch, position, and present fabulous ads, direct mail pieces, product material or whatever, assuming that the buyer will know just what to do with the presented information. And when they don't, obviously it's an emotional decision, because rationally they should have known to choose our product.

But even the best-presented information will not find a home if there are ingrained beliefs or established systems that obstruct the intent of the message. In other words, we don't even hear what will offend our beliefs, or we ignore that which we don't relate to or that which will cause us to consider change - no matter how well presented.

It's time now for sellers to take on new roles beyond that of information suppliers; they must now help clients address all aspects of discovering their solution in their complex environments. Indeed, they must be facilitators, and help buyers manage decision and change. By operating a decision facilitators rather than product sellers, they can close their sales cycles by half, and become trusted advisors to their clients.

To become a facilitator you must first understand how people make decisions.


There is a specific decisioning sequence that all people (teams, couples, individuals, companies) go through in order to even get to the point of considering making a new choice. This could be called the 'pre-decision decision', but until people go through this sequence, they won't even consider doing anything different from what they are doing, whether they need to or not, whether they notice something is missing or not. It's important that the sequence be used in order, otherwise the brain can't see a reason to re-examine the status quo. Why would you need to hear about a new hair color product if you like your hair color? That's why pitching doesn't work.

Use the sequence, which I call the Buying Facilitation Method, to help your prospects discover what and how they need to make a buying decision. And remember that your job is only to support the discovery process initially - until your buyer designs an appropriate solution. Then it's time to offer them your product information.

1. What's missing, and how did it get that way?
People being people, they get comfortable with the way things are, and probably have had some part in creating the rules; a whole system of beliefs, rules, relationships, management and hierarchical roles, partnership agreements, etc., is in place that maintains the status quo.

When I am selling Buying Facilitation training, I ask my prospects the following:

What parts of your current sales approach would you need to maintain before you add something new? What would that look like? How will you decide which pieces of the current approach need to be maintained?

So the first part of the decisioning system is the element of discovery of all the aspects of the status quo: where are we, how did we get here,what's stopping us from getting where we need to be? What beliefs must be reexamined to be willing to add something new to what we are doing? How will we know when / if we are ready to do something different?

2. How can we fix it with what's familiar?

Before anything new is tried, before people purchase something that is unfamiliar as a fix, they will try to fix it with something known. Buying/bringing in an unknown product/vendor will mean that the current system will be at risk. Familiar resources are already built into the system; before trying something new, people will try the familiar. Just because you show up with the best fix doesn't mean they will choose you to fix it.

3. What are the systems elements that must be attended to?

The way things 'are' were created by what 'is'. Folks are comfortable with it, or at least have made some sense of it, and everything works together because of each other. When something new enters the system, the system gets discombobulated.

Shift one piece of a system and the system changes. Change the color of the room, you buy new fabric for your couch and drapes. Purchase new software, the existing software has to be reconfigured. Change doesn't happen in a vacuum.

When people finally do discover that they are not so effective as they can be, AND they realize they cannot fix it with something familiar, they've now got a problem: they must actively seek a fix.

But before they fix the problem, they must understand and account for all of the variables within their system to reduce discomfort and friction, or there will be chaos.

In consultative selling, sellers ask questions about the presenting problem - even, possibly, around some of the issues surrounding the problem. But having information doesn't manage those unique, idiosyncratic systems within the prospect's culture that will be affected by change. Indeed, the seller having answers doesn't matter: buyers just won't buy until or unless all of their ducks are in a row. And they could use help sequencing their thinking, and recognizing those issues that need to be managed that the seller (as product expert) can actually assist with.

Remember: no matter how wonderful your product is, how needed it is, how much 'pain' there is, how good a sales person you are, or how good the ad is, buyers will not buy your product until or unless they consciously understand there is something missing that they cannot fix themselves, that there will be no chaos when they bring in a fix, and that their current systems will flourish with their new choices.

About the author:

Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader, and the author of New York Times Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Sales on the Line, and Buying Facilitation: the new way to sell as well as over 400 articles. She is the pioneer behind the visionary sales paradigm the Morgen Buying Facilitation Method. As the architect of a wholly original sales model, Sharon Drew has provoked, inspired, and motivated thousands of sales professionals world-wide.