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.

[Opinion] It’s Up to MBAs to Save the World

Business students—modern day, Internet savvy, native users of the information superhighway we’ve all built for the last twenty or so years—can save the corporate world.

The unfortunate thing is that somewhere along the way to cashing out in a cushy consulting position, or advancing in organizations by whose culture they are troubled, someone forgot to tell them.

This is not unusual. Partially it’s due to the echo chamber of higher education—the faculty who teach from a worldview and frame set on preserving the world they teach in—and partially it’s due to a corporate world still focused (in spite of all the evidence of disruption to the contrary) on achieving cookie-cutter, command-and-control outcomes on a quarterly basis.

There are, of course, a range of types and varieties of business students, from undergraduate business majors, dutifully studying their work at second, third, and fourth tier institutions, all the way to community and junior college students “older-than-average” who return to business programs to either run a small business better, or to provide for their families.

Finally, there are the top tier, classic business school students from elite institutions who are studying to become the next masters of the universe. These are the ones that we traditionally think of as dominating the salaries and cultures of corporations and organizations where MBAs are hired.

Except, at all levels, the work that matters is shifting away from what a human used to do well toward what a computer can do better. Accounting, spreadsheet analysis, financial reporting, supply chain management, and on and on, really matter less and less as topical areas of focus and interest in a world where information is changing hands faster than the left to right swiping motion on a smartphone screen.

The work that does matter, in organizations, to individuals, and the work that is going to reshape the global paradigm of the next fifty years, doesn’t show up on spreadsheet, and can’t be open to analysis. And it never did; but, industrialists of the past century who built the old paradigm want MBAs and anyone in a business program of any kind to continue to believe otherwise.

Philosophically, there must be a change in how we teach bright, young, ambitious, people at all levels (from community college programs to the Ivy League) in order to succeed with outcomes that will be measurable, not in terms of dollars and cents (though that will come) but in terms of people, connection, and the continuing malleability of human nature.

But what would a two-year immersive, MBA experience look like?

Here’s a rough idea of how practically, an MBA program would look, one focused on getting bright, ambitious, Internet native, students to develop and nurture the kind of work that will grow organizations in the 21st century:

  • Year One:
    • Semester One:
      • Ethics
      • Sustainability
      • Conflict/Dispute Resolution Skills
      • Failure, Success, and Resilience
    • Semester Two:
      • People Management
      • Psychology of Supervision
      • Storytelling
      • Listening
  • Capstone Project: Peer Reviewed and Focused on Building a Functioning Business in the Real World
  • Year Two:
    • Semester One:
      • Finance
      • Accounting
      • Supply Chain Management
      • Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis
    • Semester Two:
      • Persuasive Writing
      • Digital/Virtual Leadership
      • Organizational Culture
      • Restorative Justice
  • Capstone Project: Go and Turn Your Peer-Reviewed Project from the 1st Semester into a Business

And after all of this, there must be follow-up. But not in the traditional sense of “Did you get a job?” and “How much does it pay?” which are questions that really only interest the federal student loan originators. Instead, follow-up with these students would be focused on the only metrics that matter: failure, success, long-term growth, and connection:

  • Did you fail in 5 to 7 years after the program?
  • Did you succeed in 5 to 7 years after the program?
  • What “dent” if any, did you make in the universe?

And that’s it.

With such a program, the MBAs we are turning out from all institutions would be prepared to save the world from the current troubles and hypocrisies, that have caused many corporations to collapse under the inability to change for the future that is here.


[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:

[Strategy] Bad Ideas

The equation is simple: Talents + Knowledge + Skills + Effort = Strengths

Talents are non-teachable. They are naturally recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that can be productively applied in a person’s life. Effort is also non-teachable. Effort is based on intrinsic motivation, as well as extrinsic influencers.

Knowledge is teachable. In the context of understanding what you’re good at, knowledge is simply “what you are aware of.” Knowledge is a combination of life experiences, plus academic knowledge, plus gut intuition. Skills are teachable. Skills are the capacity (not necessarily competency) to perform the fundamental steps of an activity—whether at work, at school, or at home.

That’s the academic part. Here’s the lived piece.

My strengths are in being contextual and looking backwards to the past in order to look forward to the future, gathering disparate information together from various resources, walking through life deliberately and carefully, analyze and solve problems, and think about how to find the shortest, best route to success for people.

In a list, they look like this

  • Context
  • Input
  • Deliberative
  • Restorative
  • Strategic

What this really means in practice is that I have a lot of bad ideas. A lot. With these five strengths, a combination of talents, knowledge, skills, and effort, I have been rewarded (not necessarily financially rewarded) in the space of many places. Without knowing where, and what, your strengths are—what you’re good at—you will have no idea what to do with all of your bad ideas.

The things is, in developing conflict engagement processes, services, and products, knowing your strengths and where your bad ideas come from, is critical for the market success of the savvy peace builder.

-Peace Be With You All-

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

[Advice] Cultural Competency

The following meme is shared around LinkedIn and it goes something like this:

“The worst phrase in business is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”

The Best Phrase in Business-

This has to come from somewhere. Not the meme, but the sentiment behind the meme.

The sentiment has to do with three areas that are critical to people becoming (and remaining) culturally competent in their organizations:

The presence of social proof: Whenever people get together, they begin to form tribes, cliques and in/out groupings. We can’t help it. Social proof allows some people to be “let in” to a culture, a way of doing things, or even a language–and encourages others to leave or get pushed out. Social proof is so strong, that when an individual violates it (either through ignorance or malfeasance), people in a group are more likely than not going to avoid confronting the behavior and wait for someone else to do something. This is why we have police officer and the Bystander Effect.

The need to be liked: Whenever people get together, there is an instant “shaking out” of the pecking order. Who is up, who is down and inside of those constructs, who is in and who is out. When people in the group don’t have an internal need to be liked by other members of the group, the group either ostracizes them or shames them into submitting to the group. This is why pre-school, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and Dr. Seuss matter between the ages of 4 and 6, and standardized curriculum, rigid conformity and social norming don’t.

The desire to obey authority: Whenever people get together, they automatically seek to assign power to one (or several) members of the group. In smaller groups, this may be based on skillsets, acquired knowledge, or even personal, physical power. In large groups, this desire to obey will be conveyed to people with titles, degrees, certificates and other pieces of paper that have been deemed to have social worth (there’s that proofing thing again). This is why a car mechanic has more authority carrying a clean overcoat and clipboard, than a car mechanic does with grease all over their hands and in their hair.

So what does all this have to with organizational culture?

Well, since culture in established organizations is driven by inertia and supported by social proof (“there’s evidence everywhere that the culture is working…we all still have jobs”), the need to be liked (“the culture can’t change because that would require someone to stand up and not be liked”) and the presence of an authority figure (“that guy over there in the suit and tie says ‘no’ so we’ve gotta follow him”), the idea that “we’ve always done ‘X’ this way…and we aren’t changing because that’s the culture” is a logical, rational, emotional statement.

But, it’s not an innovative one.

And it’s not a statement that’s going to disappear any time soon.

Better to distribute the meme around LinkedIn that goes something like this:

“The best phrase in business is ‘That person was a rebel, took a risk, changed things, and got fired for it.’”

Would that fit on a shirt?

-Peace Be With You All-

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

[Podcast] Earbud_U Episode #1 – Darren MacDonald

[Podcast] Earbud_U Episode #1 – Darren MacDonald, Corporate Consultant, Start-Up Investor, Web Commerce Guru

[Podcast] Earbud _U Episode #1 - Darren Macdonald


Occasionally, you get top start on a project that is the beginning of a new direction and my interview here with Darren MacDonald, is the perfect example of that beginning interview.

Darren is funny, engaged and a totally great guy overall. And whiplash smart.

He worked in the bottled gas field with a family business for almost twenty years, and knows a thing or two about conflict and engaging with it effectively and not ruffling feathers.

He’s involved in a ton of projects and it’s always a laugh riot when we get together. I loved talking to him and he’s the only guest on Earbud_U to get a “Director’s Cut,” which I will release…someday…soon…

Feel free to connect with Darren via LinkedIn

His website & blog:

His presence on Quora:

On Twitter:

Check out the interview above!

Or, link to Soundcloud here–>

Download the Latest Episode of Earbud_U!

[Advice] 3 Steps for Reframing Organizations

Many organizations still prefer to litigate—or lobby for legal changes—to protect their standing in the open market.


This includes not just external protections, such as market access, intellectual property protection and copyrights on branding efforts, but also, internal protections around hiring, recruiting, onboarding, and resolving internal employee disputes.

Organizations and businesses still handle conflict as a product rather than as a process. This comes with the perspective of conflict resolution—however they are resolved—as “the way we do things around here.” This leads to thinking of conflict resolution as just another method of gaining a favorable organizational outcome.

However, by focusing on the design of the architecture of their internal conflict resolution systems, organizations can evolve beyond merely protecting their place in the market and move toward innovating with people.

Here are three steps to accomplishing this:

  • Creating new design architecture requires unbundling every step in the hiring to firing funnel and reexamining all of the assumptions that are baked into your organization, particularly those around the idea of “who gets to work here.”
  • Developing new design architecture requires dissecting the culture of an organization and determining what the real purposes of the organization are, not just the purposes displayed on the masthead, or for stakeholders.
  • Embedding a new design architecture for resolving conflicts requires a transforming of organizational thinking around conflict—shifting from thinking of conflict as an unfortunate by product of another process to be resolved as quickly as possible and in the organization’s favor, to thinking of conflicts as a process to be engaged with as a a natural part of evolution, growth and innovation.

Unbundling, dissecting and transforming will take any organization toward building a conflict resolution system as a service working for employees and other stakeholders, rather than a service working against employees and other stakeholders.

-Peace Be With You All-

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

‘All right. All right. All right.’

We laugh at movies featuring the 35 or 40 year old who won’t leave the parents’ house and get a life.


We believe that the current Best Actor recipient once starred in a movie centering around such an animating theme.

But failing to launch (or even failing to recognize the oncoming signs of failing to launch) is not just the provenance of Hollywood scriptwriters and actors, it is a real occurrence in the real world of corporate boardrooms and small business back rooms.

Typically, this failure coalesces around an idea, an innovation or a project that doesn’t get enough organizational political support, organizational money or organizational time. This most obvious failure to launch shows up on the cover of the industry magazine, or as a hit piece on a blog or social media.

But failure to launch also happens quietly, under the radar, lurking like a submarine beneath the conflicts between people in the workplace. And it’s a moment that is so fleeting—so ephemeral—that it’s missed almost all the time.

The failure goes something like this:

Sharon and Bill have a disagreement about a project in which they are both invested. Sharon can’t see Bill’s point of view. Bill thinks Sharon is being obstructionist on purpose. But before Sharon and Bill can really get into it, they both pause—maybe at the water cooler in a conversation with another person, maybe in traffic on the way home—and they have a moment where the thought “Maybe I’m wrong here,” flits across their minds.

Like gossamer.

And just like that, it’s gone. Along with the twinge of regret and disappointment—as well as an oncoming sigh—accompanied by each parties’ resolve, hardening to “Do what is right. For the company.”

The question that makes consultants uncomfortable to ask—and employees and employers uncomfortable to ponder—is the question that on the face seems confrontational and too direct, but underneath is probing. Aiming at the dark heart of what happens in—and out—of the cubicle:

“Have you ever failed personally at resolving a business conflict?”

Or put another way, “When was the last time you failed to launch?”

-Peace Be With You All-

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

[Strategy] Active Listening as Post Modern Art

Paintings, music, stories, and speeches used to be considered artistic pursuits; but, in a world consumed with art as entertainment and media, listening carefully becomes an artistic effort on its own.

In a networking situation, the artistic dance to truly beginning to connect with another person, involves actively listening.

Words are like brushes and the canvas is the networking event. But the person at the event is the artist.

And in a world of shortened attention spans, artistic practice has to filter into everybody’s life, not just the vaunted few who have a TED Talk, or make a movie, or cut a “hit” record, or paint an image in a museum.

Our advice to you: Listen carefully.