Those of us who have been doing transformational work in its various shapes and forms have all faced the challenge of talking about paradigm-shifting, meaningful large-scale change and gut-retching existential reinventions in a way that people can comprehend. There are times when it is like we are speaking a foreign language that people don’t understand.
I have been offering “soft stuff” for the past 30 years, through my writings, my talks, coaching services and the various forms my conscious leadership work takes, most recently offering people the opportunity to commit to their own self-transcendence by joining a FutureShapers Roundtable as a Member or becoming certified to Host and lead Roundtables.
The soft stuff is difficult to quantify, something we all like to do in this materially-oriented society. It is hard to measure, another thing we love to do. In addition, the soft stuff requires deep personal introspection, which can often challenge previously unexamined assumptions which may be difficult to do for people, especially if they are not used to doing such an internal inventory.
More recently, I have come to know Brian Whetten, an enrollment coach who works with people who do meaningful work, many of whom are executive coaches or personal life coaches. Whetten has been coaching me and my FutureShapers partner Tom Eddington for several months, and we have learned much from him. As a result of more than ten years of research, Whetten has determined that only 10% of the value in a coaching relationship, for example, comes from what the coach does; 30% of the value comes from the coach’s presence – who they are and how they show up in the relationship - and a whopping 60% of the value comes from the client’s own commitment to the work. I found this to be a major news item! This also applies to people offering soul-nourishing, transformative products and services, not just coaches. He contends that enrollment is the primary tool we have for creating client commitment, where 60% of the client value comes from.
This finding is in stark contrast to selling breakfast cereal or computers where the buyer merely has to say “yes’ or “no.” In this enrollment process, the “buyer” has to meet the vendor half way and put some “skin in the game” themselves in order to receive the most value. At first take, this seems wrong because it goes against all the ideas we are used to as a result of being the target of mass marketers and advertising all our lives. Whetten writes: 'So while we tend to think of [enrollment] as some “yucky” thing we have to do in order to serve our clients, it’s actually one of the most important services we have to offer. And it’s not just about coaching. What we’re talking about is the ability to support people in creating any type of sustained, positive change. Whether you’re a manager looking to get more out of your people, a holistic practitioner wanting to support patients in developing new wellness habits, or a consultant seeking to add value to an organization, if you’re in the business of change, where you’re seeking to make an impact in the lives of others, enrollment is a big piece of your job.'
Enrollment as “one of the most important services we have to offer”? How’s this for a paradigm popper, a mental model-buster, a reframing challenge? Whetten points out that real change – such as that offered by transformational products or services – scares people. He adds that the deeper the changes we want or need to make, the more these scare us. How can we support people in addressing this resistance and creating the changes they most want to make? The most popular approaches to resistance, he tells us, are either “attack” or “avoid” – the former being slick and aggressive sales approaches and the latter being people giving away services and struggling to stay in business.
Whetten writes about a third way, and the way that is the most authentic and effective. He writes: 'The surest way to know if something is a great decision is when the voice of intuition says “Yes,” the voice of reason agrees, and the voice of fear says “Hell No! Run Away!” Our opportunity is to help our clients understand this, help them look for their “Yes, Yes, Hell No’s!” and then help them commit to creating the changes they most want to make. Our opportunity is to help our clients discern the difference between their truth and their fears. We want to listen to their fears and honor them. The voice of fear has a very specific job. That job is not to stop us from taking action. It’s to warn us of a potential danger. When we slow down and honor the voice of fear, without attacking it or avoiding it (which is really just fight or flight – meeting fear with yet more fear) the voice of fear feels that it’s given it’s warning and done its job, and so it quiets down and lets us get on with our goals. It’s the third way of enrolling clients, that’s both clean and effective. Mastering it allows you to turn “selling” into one of the greatest gifts you can offer – both to your clients and yourself.'
A big gap I’m seeing is between what people say they want and what they are willing to commit to; how much are they willing to be changed to attain the level of consciousness they claim to want? I addressed this in my Mini Keynote editorial in August. As vendors, we need to meet our clients and customers midway across the gap between what we are offering and what they want, transcending their fears and others bits of resistance they may be sitting on. If they want what we are offering they must be more engaged than the passive purchase process we use in buying produce, cereal or an automobile.
From my standpoint, the hard part of engaging people is breaking the pattern of “selling” I have learned after a lifetime of being exposed to mass marketing and advertising, and learning to have two-way exploratory conversations, not one-way sales pitches, reciprocal commitments by both parties in the relationship, not “overcoming objections” and tactical presentations.
Another lesson I learned from Whetten is that what we are offering isn’t for everyone. We are not selling cereal. Having a transformation shift is not for everyone! We are offering a transcendent experience that many people yearn for but most avoid. Our offering is for the people who really want it, who are committed to going through whatever they need to go through in order to achieve the level of consciousness they claim they want. They need to be engaged with us! They need to engage their fears as well.
About a year ago I was watching a TV special on Africa and recall the host talking with a Sudanese farmer about a local crisis in the community and the challenges of getting local officials to act responsibly. This uneducated elderly man told the host, “You cannot wake someone who is pretending to be asleep.” Some people are pretending to be asleep. Trying to enroll them is a waste of time; I and my colleagues need to focus on people who really want to be awakened and are not pretending.
NOTE: Here is another website with some of Whetten’s free offers: http://www.sellingbygiving.net/