Facilitation encompasses a core group of very specific skills, but they can be used broadly across so many different environments. Facilitators hold space for workshops, for team coaching conversations, for engaging panelists, and even for one-on-one dialogues. Taking the skills necessary to turn content into action is much more than just lip service. And those who have been bitten by the facilitation bug know that it’s quite an addictive practice once you get your feet wet. Facilitators are really good at giving other people the thinking work, which is great for self-discovery and learning, but terrible for growing your facilitation business.

Exploring Facilitation Styles: A Key to Sales Success

Today, I want to explore the five facilitation styles and how they show up as part of a consultative sales process. Learning how to flex your facilitation to close more sales will help you to earn more business and keep your sales cycle as short as possible.

Success with High Tides: Streamlining the Sales Process

At High Tides, we’ve been fortunate to nail down our sales process so that the majority of our corporate clients close within 45 – 60 days. If they’re an existing client, a new SOW (scope of work) may close in as little as two to three weeks. So how is it that your skill set as a facilitator informs your ability to close more sales as a business owner?

Understanding Facilitation Styles at High Tides

First, let’s explore the five facilitation styles at High Tides. We explore these themes in the High Tides Facilitator’s Certification Program through our style inventory assessment. (Note: We are a SHRM Recertification provider too!) You’ll find that there are five key facilitation styles that a facilitator will flex into to serve their clients and the communities they’re supporting.

1. Expert. “I have the knowledge”

This is someone who has desired skills and knowledge that others do not yet obtain. They have detailed background knowledge and they’re well informed in their field. This has advantages when new information needs to be related to a group of folks. The disadvantage of the style is that being overly expert can sometimes intimidate those who have less experience.

2. Authority. “I make the rules”

The authoritarian is the person who often holds a position that is meant to be respected in the room. Just by being the facilitator, you hold this position. This person sets the goals and expectations as well as the rules of conduct for how the rest of the conversation and relationship will go. The advantage of this is the authority of the person who holds boundaries. The disadvantage of flexing too hard into authority, is that it can lead to somewhat rigid or inflexible ways of managing a room of learners.

3. Personal Model. “I can relate”

This is someone who teaches by example. They tell stories and anecdotes that demonstrate that they can connect to the people and topics at hand. Some disadvantages of this style is that those who flex too hard into the personal model may not leave space for the experiences of others.

4. Facilitator. “What do you think?”

This style is the one that most facilitators (and coaches) lean into pretty hard. This is where we focus on the needs and goals of the participant. We allow them to explore their options. We hold the learners as an expert, fully capable of figuring out what they need to know on their own, with a few guardrails from us. Of course, the disadvantages of this is that facilitating is more time-consuming than giving someone an answer or directly instructing them on what to do.

5. Delegator. “You try”

In this style, the facilitator in the room is leaning into giving others an opportunity to try by setting up structured experiences. This is setting up a role play, opening a breakout room, assigning a reader, a writer, a summarizer, etc. Delegators are making sure that others have skin in the game and something to do that allows them to participate in their own learning.

Applying Facilitation Styles to the Sales Process

How does this relate to how you would close a sale? Now everyone knows that in a consultative sales process, there’s really four steps that you’re walking a prospect through. Here are those 4 elements, and how they relate to the 5 facilitation styles.

1. Earn the Right.

Build trust and rapport so that people want to do business with you. You need to demonstrate that you have the skills, knowledge, expertise, and cultural alignment that’s going to resonate with their needs and the needs of their people.

  1. Personal model – share banter and light hearted anecdotes to open the conversation
  2. Authority- set the parameters of the meeting. Let the prospect know how long you will meet, the agenda of the call and what outcome you will arrive at by the end. Take charge of the conversation so they know you are guiding the process from here
  3. Expert – share some relevant details from your CV or about your business, so people know the context with which you are having the conversation (how long have you been doing this? What’s your expertise? What is your team really good at?)

2. Understand the Need.

This is when we dive into your typical discovery questions. What’s the problem? The solutions they have tried? What does success look like? What is their goal and how are they trying to get there? By thoroughly understanding the need, you as a facilitator can actually write a proposal for what you recommend, which takes us to step three in the consultative process.

  1. Facilitator – Ask them to hypothesize what is causing the problem, what success would look like if it were solved. Let them be the expert of their environment
  2. Personal – Where appropriate let them know how you have related to other clients with similar experiences and have successfully supported them
  3. Expert – in reflecting what you hear them share, summarize in ways that highlight your knowledge and expertise so they feel you have the skills needed to elevate their problem state to a solution state

3. Make the recommendation.

This is when you tell folks a couple of things that you’re thinking about as potential solutions. This is where you get their feedback about the proposal you have drafted in your mind, before you do the hefty lifting of putting anything to paper.

  1. Expert let them know what they mentioned that has you making the recommendation you are. Get clear on reframing their problem statement in a way that is concise and framed by your knowledge and experience
  2. Authority – let them know what your next steps are (writing a proposal and sending it to them within xx days)
  3. Facilitator – ask them what other next steps they feel would be appropriate
  4. Personal – as needed, use examples from other successful clients you have worked with to speak to how you have used this recommendation with success in the past

4. Closing the Sale.

Get commitment for the next steps. If you’re in a discovery call, closing at this point means booking time for them to review your proposal. Your homework is to draft a proposal and get it to them.

  1. Authority – let them know when you will draft the proposal and how long it will be good for. Let them know when you would like to reconvene and what decisions will need to be made at the next meeting. You set the pace for what happens next.
  2. Delegator – request that they review your proposal when sent, invite other stakeholders to the proposal review meeting and reschedule in a timely fashion if necessary. So as you can see, you’ve also delegated the responsibility of discussing your recommendation and determining what fits for them right back to your prospect.

Conclusion: Flex your Facilitation to Close more Clients

Facilitators create a lot of space for others to find their own answers. But when it comes time to make a sale, we have to flex much more into our expert and especially authority model to make sure that our needs are met so we can show up in top form for a new potential client.

It’s also important to remember that discovery is the beginning of the client relationship. If they are not good with respecting the boundaries you have set around your time (crafting proposals, booking review conversations, etc.), it is good foreshadowing for what they will be like as clients. Are they able to keep their word? Their appointments? If your prospect cannot or will not show up in that way, that may not be the client for you.

If you found these tips helpful and would love to know more about ways to continue growing your facilitation business, I invite you to join us for one of our free monthly Facilitator Forums. Here we gather as a community of facilitators for skill sharing, networking, and resource support. We’d love to have you at a future session. Sign up for invites here.


Apply now for Facilitator Certification: Cohort 3 starts in 2024