Human to Business Sales

Selling to people in businesses is hard for three important reasons:

  1. There are very few (or no) champions of your product or service offering because no one knows how good your product or service offering is inside the organization you’re selling to.
  2. There are no direct ways to influence the people who can make the decision to buy from you—today.
  3. There has been a massive shift in consumer behavior, but not a massive shift how businesses purchase from you based in the reality of shifting consumer behavior.

These are big problems and they’re getting bigger because the practice of creating buyer personas still dominates in a big way in almost every piece of advice available around advising organizations on how to sell to organizations.

While buyer personas are a fine shorthand for figuring out the profile in your head as a seller to businesses, the downfall of them is that they neglect each of the three areas above. In addition, they depersonalize the act of buying (or purchasing or procurement) and attempt to reduce it to a series of formulaic and discreet steps.

Which, of course, makes the three reasons above more problematic, not less.

Here are three ideas that may help when you’re selling (peace, consulting, freelance solutions, or even you’re next “gee-whiz” product to a skeptical procurement buyer):

Champions are easy to get (and even easier to lose), but require engaging with personality, care, and empathy.

Most of the people who are going to become your champions are the ones who have the power to say “no” but no power to say “yes.”

There are still gatekeepers in many organizations, and going where they are (in-person, online, emotionally, rationally, etc.) will go a long way toward engaging with them.

You must determine if buying today is all that matters, or if arbitraging the time to build a relationship today against the dollars that you are going to get tomorrow, matters more in the long run.

The short run will take care of itself.

Does your selling strategy include a 1,000-year long plan?

The reality of consumer behavior means that buyer personas are dead as predictors of selling success in the B2B space.

It also means that running after every social platform for sales is also dead.

This is a good thing.

In principle, this means that consumer behavior in business to business sales is the same behavior in business to consumer sales, but the volume of the connection is lower.

In practice, this means that targeted videos on a YouTube channel, embedded in an email campaign, direct to a buyer, matter more than the number of Facebook likes you happen to be cultivating that aren’t converting to sales.

In practice, this also means that providing value to the small number of businesses you work with as a selling organization, trumps the number of actual businesses that you work with.

Or that you think you should work with.

Champions, behavior, targeted engagement, and long-term strategy matter more for business success than just closing the sale and moving on to the next client.

[Strategy] Facilitating-as-a-Sales Process

The skills required to facilitate training for an audience with content that wasn’t developed by the facilitator, are the same skills sale people practice every day:

Persuasion: Since a facilitator doesn’t create the presentation content (or product) they are facilitating (just like the sales person doesn’t create the product they sell door-to-door), the skills of persuasion through using influence in the room, is critical for success. The facilitator must use all the skills of persuasion their fingertips to get the “customer” to buy the product. Yes, the audience already “bought” the product by being there physically. But just like children in school, you have to “re-earn” their attention caring and awareness, rather than taking it for granted.

Body language: Sales people know that confidence, body language, and silence combined with active listening (more on this one below), can help close the sale in a face-to-face encounter. Facilitators need to keep this in mind. Particularly, when facilitating content with which they are not familiar. A facilitator with none of those traits, just like a sale person with none of those traits, can stumble and fall in the room.

Active listening: Facilitators should listen more that they talk. This is easy when the facilitator has developed the product they are facilitating. It’s hard when facilitators haven’t developed the product they are facilitating. The problems compound when they don’t believe the content itself. The first person to listen and react to the content should be the facilitator. But not in the room. Not in front of the audience. And not when the audience pushes back and disagrees, asserts themselves, or engages in conflict with the content.

With all this being said, the facilitator should remember, above all else, that the work is on the line in the room, not the facilitator as a sales person.

[Advice] Evolving Cultural Sensibilities and ADR

As the economic, cultural, and spiritual forces that used to bind us together continue to refragment from overarching macro-cultures to indispensable micro-cultures, alternative dispute resolution practitioners must take notice.

Overarching macro-culture was driven by communal events, television, economic stability, and overarching cultural “norms” that allowed people to engage in conflicts and disputes with the same regularity they always have, but also allowed the impacts of those conflicts to be dampened.

Indispensable micro-culture is driven by technology, network connections that defy geography and notice, a dismissal of the status quo, and a strong identity component. People still have conflict in these micro-cultures (what used to be called “sub-cultures”). But the impacts of those conflicts are like wildfires that catch the masses attention for a moment, but without a “there” there, there is little sustained effort mounted to ameliorate the effects upon people in those micro-culture conflicts.

Conflict resolvers, conflict coaches, conflict engagers, mediators, arbitrators, and others have watched this evolution occur over the last fifty or so years, with greater acceleration, but the response to the evolution through providing access points to conflict resolution has not been as quick. This is mainly for three reasons:

  • Indispensable micro-culture is still seen as “niche” and not really enough to build a business model on by the entrepreneurial conflict resolver. This is a terrible fact, but except for some people doing some great work in resolving conflicts in specific areas with specific groups in conflicts (i.e. with parties in churches, with divorcing or separating pet owners, etc.) there is more focus by ADR professionals on how to gain credibility with the courts—still standing as the last guardians of a passing away overarching macro-culture.
  • There are still enough parties in conflict participating in the remaining civic life of a formerly overarching macro-culture. This is something that will pass away over time, but right now, there are enough of the “masses” left around that many professional conflict resolvers look at the problems and conflicts of that group and decide to address their issues first. Both as a way to make a “dent” in the universality of conflict, and to make money from a reliable income stream.
  • Refragmentation is still not understood—or accepted psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually—as an inevitable outcome of the erosion of the twin, post-World War 2 oligopolies of corporation and government. Now, this is not to say that government will disappear either now or later; but the fact is, that as conflicts and disputes between parties in indispensable micro-culture become harder and harder to understand, the overarching macro-culture responses from government entities (i.e. new laws, regulations, taxes, and fees) will be less and less effective. This is because indispensable micro-culture conflicts are driven by esoteric, identity based rules, that require conflict resolvers to engage in relationships with those cultures to resolve—and to go beyond the overarching macro-culture rubric of intercultural communication skill sets.

None of these three areas are that daunting to overcome. And once overcome, the business models to get ideas for resolution to people in conflict begin to overwhelm the entrepreneurial conflict resolver. All that is required to get there is the courage of conflict resolvers to act outside of the “box” they have been trained in.

[Advice] The Life Long Learning Myth…Busted

Implementation, coaching, mentoring, and supporting through experiences matters more to adult learning in a corporate setting, than sitting in a room for four hours listening to a facilitator.

The drop-off in retention after such an experience is 50% after participants leave the room, and without immediate changes, immediate implementation of the learning outcomes, coaching along the path of uncomfortability, and supervisory mentoring through the tough times, the retention drop-off is 75%.

So why do many organizations still offer corporate training opportunities in all kinds of topical areas, within a formalized “sit down, and absorb” learning structure, syllabi, certificates, and experienced trainers and facilitators who drone on and on for—at most—half a day?

There are three reasons:

Most organizations—whether corporations, training organizations, or higher education institutions—are unwilling (and many times unable) to do the hard work of challenging, breaking, and remaking the foundation of learning established through the last 150 years of K-12 schooling. Schooling which was designed in conjunction with corporate leaders and influencers, and codified with the support of intellectuals and educators, to produce compliant workers, who would sit (or stand) all day and do widget based, industrial work, while leaving the thinking and innovating to others up the chain. The kind of work that was hollowed out by those same individuals starting 40 years ago and now no longer matters much in America.

Many supervisors, managers, bosses, CEO’s, COO’s, and others in the hierarchical structure of many organizations, have come from a background of schooling that they either internally rejected because it was too rigid, or found comforting and conformed too. Such engrained mindsets around the value of learning (and education) do not advance and innovate organizations. Instead, they continue to produce leaders who believe that training (and life-long learning) is either a “nice to have” (rejection mindset) or a “necessary evil” (acceptance mindset). Either way, the mentality shaped through that rejection or acceptance, is reflected in buying, internally developing, or advocating for models of learning for employees based in an Industrial Revolution K-12 schooling model.

Trainers, facilitators, consultants, and others in the wide and deep field of corporate training (myself included) aren’t doing enough of the hard work, often enough, of breaking our own mindsets of how information, experiences, and content is delivered to audiences (online, F2F, etc.). We also aren’t engaging with the hard work of breaking institutional, corporate mindsets from the outside by creating offerings and client deliverables that will transcend the dying model of K-12 education. This means having the courage to stick to our principles around peer-to-peer learning, advocating to organizations that we serve for mentoring and coaching for our learners, encouraging accountability, and at the furthest end, treating adult learners like adults in the training room, rather than continuing to train them (i.e. treat them) in the K-12 learning mold they’re familiar with.

The feedback I always get when I write (or talk) in these three areas typically focuses around the inability of organizations to change, the unwillingness of employees to actually be motivated to do the hard work of working on things that are hard (i.e. engaging with emotional labor) and the inability of trainers, consultants, and others to feed their families based on selling what the market is not progressive enough to demand.

These are all legitimate concerns, but the facts of the 21st century are clear for anyone with two eyes to see:

The workplace, jobs, labor, and other tasks that people need to be organized into groups to accomplish, must still be done, or else there will be chaos in the world. Hard work—manufacturing work, “blue collar” work, etc.—will still be done in the world, but increasingly due to automation and algorithms, that work will be either outsourced or done by machines. And when it’s not, the people who will do it, will charge an even higher premium for it, to support their continued learning to become better artisans.

An acknowledgement that work matters, that tasks should be meaningful, rather than meaningless, and that employees should be treated like adults rather than like children in the workplace, is growing rather than going away. Calls from researchers, thought leaders, influencers, advocates, and others for more pay transparency, flexible family leave policies, and “flat” hierarchical structures, are only the tip of the iceberg.

The rewards to organizations in terms of prestige (Top 10 Best Places to Work), revenues (The World’s First $2 Billion Company), and public goodwill (Anyone See What Apple Made Today) in America, are drivers for success (or determinants of failure in a transparent media market) more now than ever. And these drivers become outsized to organizations that are willing to take risks, to supervisors that are willing to challenge the status quo, and to vendors who are willing to sell with courage.

Unrest will continue among employees who believe that they are not getting paid what they are worth, are increasingly mobile, and are calling the bluff of the industrialist mindset that has dominated every sector of life for over a century now. This unrest will grow in continued calls for a basic income, the cries against income inequality, and the accusations of a new “Gilded Age” of wealth and prosperity for some.

Wihout meaningful changes the conflicts that will arise if life-long, continuing, robust education is not increasingly, innovatively, and creatively integrated into the work lives of employees in all organizations in all sectors (from small businesses to the Fortune 1,000 companies), will be massive and unmanageable.

And bosses, managers, supervisors, shareholders, CEO’s, CFO’s, communities, civic leaders, politicians, business owners, corporate training organizations, and others will have to explain in plain terms to their constituencies, employees, followers, and others, the reasons (and their mindsets) for why they rejected or ignored the golden opportunity to implement, coach, mentor, and support in order to transform corporate learning into something meaningful and valuable, in the early 21st century.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Opinion] The Future of the MBA

Most MBA program curriculums educate students in the parts of managing, analyzing, and operating an organization that organizations have deemed important: accounting, finance, managerial economics, operations, strategy, and information technology.

All of these are great areas of focus, as well as areas of specialization, but with 4,000 programs at 454 institutions, graduating 157,000 students per year, you would think that all of the MBA programs (or at least a majority) would feature some sort of conflict resolution/conflict management concentration as part of their curriculums.

You’d be wrong.

The average cost of and MBA program is $7,400 per year. The job titles many MBA graduates end up with, vary from Senior Financial Analyst to Vice President of Operations to Marketing Director. But no matter if the average salary upon graduation is $89,000 per year or $150,000 per year, each job title is really focused on dealing with people, to get job tasks accomplished, and move organizational goals forward.

But the vast majority of MBA programs don’t feature negotiation, conflict management, conflict resolution, dispute resolution, peace studies, or any other type of alternative dispute resolution training for dealing with people in organizations. Even more striking, of the top 50 business schools in the United States, only around 5 to 10 of those institutions feature MS or MA programs in negotiation, conflict management, conflict resolution, dispute resolution, or peace studies in other areas, such as the social sciences or the law.

Which means that if you are an enterprising and energetic MBA student, and you are counseled appropriately that emotional labor and “soft” skills will matter more in that senior VP position you are seeking after graduation, than the spreadsheets you will be tasked with developing, you might head over to the social sciences department of your institution and sign on to another master’s program.

But, that’s doubtful.

The future MBA in America should begin featuring courses, specializations, and concentrations, for students in the areas of negotiation, conflict management, conflict resolution, dispute resolution, or peace studies.

The reasons for this assertion are endless, but the top three are:

The prestige of the MBA degree (in spite of its growing ubiquity among business students) has held up, unlike a law degree. Over time that prestige may fade (and that may already be starting), and the way to ensure that it doesn’t is to get the graduates of those programs focused on doing the only work that matters for the long-term sustainability of organizations of all sizes—emotional labor.

The Fortune 1,000 companies (from Google to Ingram Micro) that are fiefdoms and kingdoms the size of small countries, will need more competent and skilled negotiators, conflict professionals, and more alternatives to litigation if they are to survive, grow, and thrive for the remainder of this century. I know that the shareholders, VP’s, Presidents, CEOs, and CFOs, of those organizations don’t believe it now (or quarterly), but the coterie of lawyers they regularly employ to lobby governments and to write regulations, will fade in importance over the next 100 years. MBA graduates in high positions who understand and value a future of business, profit, and peace will guide them to success more often than the 40 to 100 corporate lawyers on retainer.

The MBA graduates are the ones who can save the business world. Arguments for engaging with conflict in healthy ways can be made from outside the walls of institutions (I make them all the time on this blog), influencers can go to fancy conferences and do TED talks that “go viral,” about the power of treating employees like adults rather than children, and books and articles can be penned about how to negotiate and communicate better (or about how to manipulate employees in savvier ways).  But at the end of the day, the MBA graduate with a focus in engaging with conflict effectively, hired into a Senior VP position, will do more to advance the cause of peace and prosperity than all of those resources combined. And that leader will do it ethically, on a daily basis, while moving the organization forward and saving the world at the same time.

The unenviable task of academic peacebuilders in the 8,400 professional programs in this country that focus on negotiation, conflict management, conflict resolution, dispute resolution, or peace studies, is to do the hard work of convincing their academic colleagues in the business schools to unite with them to create sustainable, economic futures for their graduates.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Opinion] The Candy Coated World

There is a lot of advice floating around about how to build a better world. Most of the advice though, is similar to that one M&M candy in every bag which when bitten into, collapses revealing nothing underneath the candy-coated shell.

The leaning on symbolism—the candy-coated shell—rather than focusing on the hard work of developing substance—the stuff inside of the M&M—creates confusion, frustration, miscommunication, and more conflict rather than less.

By leaning on symbolism rather than substance, authors direct audiences to bite into the candy-coated shell of nutrition less advice, based in rules and religion, rather than relationship and doing the hard work.

This can be frustrating and unsatisfying, particularly when audiences are looking for advice about how to address a conflict in their lives.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Opinion] The Data Driven Conflict Engagement Product

When people are searching for ways to resolve the conflicts in their lives, their workplaces, and even in their neighborhoods, they’re using Google to do it.

They’re reading blog content from the Huffington Post, watching videos on YouTube and talking to their friends and neighbors about the conflict, how to resolve it, or just venting about it.

But they aren’t searching for a mediator, a lawyer or even a conflict coach. They aren’t asking their friends for a referral, nor are they attending workshops and trainings to get resolution.

And, as frustrating as it may be for the accomplished peace builder, many people who could have used the services of a trained peace builder, come to them as a last resort, rather than as a “top of the mind” choice.

The solution to this is not to crank out more conflict coaches, conflict academics, conflict mediators lawyers, arbitrators and other professionals. The solution to this is not to develop another mandated, 40 hour certification process for training mediators, who will become volunteers, to address the needs of community mediation centers.

The solution to this is to build new, data driven products, that meet the consumers of conflict (who are searching, tweeting, reading, and examining at places other than where all the peace builders typically hang out online) where they are, rather than where the profession would like to them to be.

The data driven conflict engagement product, marketed to the right audience, based on their preferences and their searches, with data gathered from their requests, concerns, questions and issues, supported by content that informs, entertains and advocates for their concerns, could be the greatest product the field of peace building ever creates.

There are a few people working on this right now at Stanford, in Washington, DC, in Arizona and in Silicon Valley—but not nearly enough to meet the needs of people in conflict.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[ICYMI] Acting “As If”

When we first started in the working world—and by extension in the adult world—one of the salient pieces of advice we were repeatedly given by other working people was, “fake it until you make it.”

Now, in most contexts of the workplace, where things happen—projects, ideas, tasks, etc.—underneath the force of organizational inertia, this is perhaps wise advice.

But in the conflict entrepreneurship game, “Fake it until you make it” is terrible advice. So too is the advice to “act as if.”

If the conflict engagement consultant fakes knowing the answer, fakes being empathetic, or under delivers the goods as promised, the client will know immediately.

By the way, bait and switch doesn’t work either, because showing up as one thing, when you’ve advertised another, is a sure way to guarantee never being called again.

Here’s some better advice for the conflict engagement consultant: Being confident in yourself, your approach and your process, comes when you embrace the fear of not being confident. Embrace cannot become paralysis, and self-fulfilling prophecies are like a dose of nerve gas against the conflict consultant.

Walk through the fear, is much better advice.

It’s the only way for the conflict consultant, and her client, to walk out whole on the other side.

Originally published on  January 29, 2015.

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[Advice] The Wider World

“How are you planning to scale?”


“You’ve gotta have a plan to grow this thing.”

“I don’t see that as a viable business model.”

“You can’t scale that.”

“Consulting never scales.”

The savvy peace builder will have to get used to hearing all of these statements (and multiple other variations) when they take their project to the wider world, for three reasons:

  • The wider world tends to understand and accept things that relate to the experiences, thoughts, feelings and dreams that already experienced or that are already known quantities.
  • The wider world tends to be skeptical of progress, differentiation and innovative thinking, because the human brain favors the safety of the status quo, the known, the shortcut and the predictable.
  • The wider world isn’t always against the savvy peace builder (though it may feel like it). But they are sometimes lacking self-awareness while at the same time being incredibly self-focused.

The savvy peace builder has to build their “no” muscle. This is the muscle that comes into play, every time such statements (and many, many others) that reflect doubt, disbelief, or a lack of understanding about the project they have begun to build.

Using this muscle builds determination, persistence, grit and resiliency in the face of trial, error and even failure.

The wider world only understands what it already knows. It is up to the savvy peace builder to commit to doing the hard work of changing the frames and perspectives, so that something new can be seen.

Scaling is not the be all and end all. And once the savvy peace builder’s “no” muscle is strong, she will be able to answer the underlying, unstated doubts, concerns and critiques in order to truly bring her product to center stage when she is ready.

And not a moment before.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: