The Reality of Selling

Fifty-one years ago I began to study selling — not just because I’m a curious, analytical type, but because I’ve always had a burning desire to succeed. When I was young I learned that big money can be made in sales and I wanted “my share.” Later, I realized that only a tiny percentage of the people who entered the sales profession ever make it big.


Getting my first college degree, majoring in Sales, I aced all my sales courses. In my first sales job, I quickly came to realize that what I learned in college about selling didn’t work for me. After taking many other sales courses, I learned most corporate and commercial sales trainers don’t teach effective selling, either.

So, I set out to find the best salespeople, in a wide range of industries, to see what they did that other salespeople didn’t do. Over the years, I’ve gone out on sales calls with hundreds of the best salespeople and learned that the top 1% of all salespeople don’t sell the way the other 99% sell. Nearly everything they do is different than how most experts believe selling is done.

Discovery – Honesty is the “Magic Bullet”

The most surprising thing I discovered is that most of the best salespeople are totally honest in their work. They’re honest with their prospects and customers, and they’re honest with themselves. Through intuition and experience, they’ve learned that deception, including self-deception, is the enemy of sales success.

Real Measurement – Real Results

You’ve often heard that “sales is a numbers game.” One of the big differences between the top producers and the other 99% is they know their numbers; their real numbers. Top salespeople keep records of their sales activities every day, and they analyze their statistics every day. They know exactly how and where to focus their efforts for the best results.

An Uncomfortable Reality

Most salespeople don’t know how to sell very well, but they often believe they do. One of their biggest barriers to success is that they don’t know their numbers, and they don’t want to know. That makes it easy to lie to themselves about what is working and what isn’t.

When asked, many salespeople report and really believe that their closing rates are at least twice as high as they actually are. If they really knew their numbers, they would have to face the truth about their skills and beliefs. Then, they would have to change what they’re doing and how they think.

Change can be very uncomfortable. Reality can also be uncomfortable. For many, it’s more comfortable to lie to themselves than to change what they do every day. That’s why most salespeople fail, and many of those who survive continue to struggle to make a good living.

False But Promising Prospects

Most salespeople spend most of their time on appointments with prospects that “have great potential,” but seldom buy from them. The average salesperson goes through all of the motions that look like selling, but fails to bring in much business. They often believe that more appointments are the solution, but are too busy to make that possible. Top producers know that just getting more appointments is not the answer.

Average salespeople seldom truly qualify their prospects. They rarely disqualify their prospects, either. If they did, they would need to find new prospects — but they don’t know how to prospect effectively, efficiently and enjoyably.

Real Relationships. Real Selling.

We’ve seen what top producers actually do when they’re selling. We know what works and what doesn’t.

“Building Rapport” does not work. It actually creates much of the resistance and rejection most salespeople have to live with, and suffer with, every day. Developing relationships of Mutual Trust and Mutual Respect works.

“Overcoming Objections” does not work. Preventing the resistance that makes objections necessary does work. Most top producers work in an objection-free zone. They practice total disclosure and are real with their clients about what they are offering. They respect the decisions that their prospects make.

We know how top salespeople get commitments dozens of times during each sales visit without any pressure on their prospects or themselves. They don’t use trial closes or other closing techniques. They don’t focus on the right words for getting people to move forward. In reality, it’s so much easier than that.

Read a Story About It

The essence of our book, “High Probability Selling,” is a story about how a salesperson learns how top producers actually sell. It’s about learning a selling process that makes it highly probable that you’ll close the majority of your prospects, by doing the opposite of what many salespeople believe about selling.

The first four chapters are available to read online here.

Real Estate Sales Success: With Integrity, Without Stress

by Jacques Werth, as told to Paul Bunn   (and posted by Carl Ingalls)

We were in a large meeting room in a nice hotel, in a suburb of Seattle. Twelve successful Realtors were attending a Real Estate Sales Mastery workshop. They were an unusually well-dressed group for a two-day offsite workshop.

At our request, one of the participants had borrowed a sample front door and door frame from a builder. It was in the front of the meeting room and it was braced to stand on its own. The outside of the door was to the right, and to the left of the inside of the door we had a kitchen table and some chairs. Those were the props that we needed to begin the first exercise.

One of the workshop participants was asked to role-play how she approaches a visit to a homeowner who wants to sell his house. The instructor played the part of the home owner.

The first Realtor walked up to the outside of the door and knocked. The instructor opened the door and said “Hello.”

The Realtor flashed a big smile, held out her hand and said, very cordially, “Mr. Smith, it is so good to meet you. I am Pam Jackson with XYZ Real Estate. How are you today?”

The instructor invited her in and offered her a chair in the “kitchen.”

“Your home is very lovely. I really like what you did with the kitchen,” said Pam with delight, while looking all around.

The instructor stopped the role-play at that point and thanked Pam. He asked her to switch roles. She would now play the homeowner and the next participant would play the Realtor. He was even more effusive than Pam. Each successive Realtor tried to out-do those what went before them in their attempts to impress the “prospect” with their enthusiasm, charm and likeability.

During those role-plays, the other Realtors watched intently and remained very quiet. Several preened their clothing and hair before it was their turn.

For the second part of the role-play the instructor played the part of the Realtor, with Pam playing the homeowner. The instructor knocked on the door, and the Pam opened it. “Yes?’ she said.

“I’m Joe Instructor with HPS Realty. Are you Pam Jackson?

“Yes, I am,” she said, reaching to shake his hand. “Come in. I suppose you want to look over the house.”

“Before we do that, we need to get to know each other and determine whether we have a mutually acceptable basis for doing business.”

Homeowner: “Okay, we can sit in the kitchen, here.”

Realtor: “When we spoke on the phone we agreed this meeting would take about ninety minutes of uninterrupted time. Have you arranged for that?”

Homeowner: “Yes, I turned off my phone and put the dog out in the back yard.”

Realtor: “We agreed that the purpose of our meeting is to determine whether we have a mutually acceptable basis for selling your home. Is that your intention?”

Homeowner: “Yes.”

Realtor: “And, we agreed that if we can meet your conditions of satisfaction for the sale of your home, we will make a decision about that today. Is that still your intention?”

Homeowner: “Yes, it is.”

The instructor thanked Pam and asked her to rejoin the rest of the group. Then, he asked the entire group “What did you notice about the way I just approached Pam, the prospect?”

They called out their answers:

“You were very straight-forward,” “You were dignified,” You were very relaxed,” “You were authentic,” “You were not acting,” “You were in control,” “You asked for and got commitments,” Pam then capped it off with, “I felt privileged to be your prospect, I felt respected, and I felt respect for you.”

Then, the instructor explained exactly what he did, why, and how he did it, and asked all of the participants to replay both roles – doing it that way.

At the end of that exercise, they were offered a choice; continue to sell by out-charming, out-smiling, out-dressing, out-dancing and out-impressing their competition, or learn how to sell on a basis of mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual commitments. They all chose the latter.

What if the choice was yours?

What do you want to do?

Why Most Sales Tips Don’t Work

By Paul Bunn and Carl Ingalls

The Quest for the “One”

Many salespeople who contact us are looking for that one all-powerful sales tip or technique that will make them more successful.

Finding Buried Treasure

Many sales seminars are sold by promising to deliver a “new” tip or trick or a silver bullet
technique that will magically make all of your customers buy.  Enticed by the possible existence of a secret weapon that you haven’t heard about yet, you continually search for this buried treasure…based on the belief that one more elusive idea will catapult you to sales success.


Nearly all of these ideas that are presented as breakthroughs have been around since the beginning of recorded selling history.  From using a prospect’s first name over and over throughout your conversation with them, to using your charisma and charm to create a relationship so they’ll buy from you, to acting interested.  A recent Google search yielded hundreds of sites offering anywhere from 10 to 75 tips per site.

They Often Make Sense

How do you determine whether a sales tip or new idea will actually work?  Often, the effectiveness of the latest “killer tactic” is based upon folklore, or a singular success story.  The most popular ones make perfect sense, because they are very logical – at a superficial level.

The Reality, Part 1

It is when you actually try to apply these ideas that problems occur.  They don’t work as they are supposed to.  For example, you encounter unexpected sales resistance, and you think you just didn’t do it right.

The Reality, Part 2

It isn’t you…it’s the technique.  Techniques that are based on persuasion, whether overt or covert, no matter how sophisticated, actually prevent more sales than they generate.

An Alternative

Learn to sell using the opposite of persuasion.  Focus on what people want and don’t try to change that.  It’s not about technique; it’s about intention.

If you want to learn more about this, read Chapter One of the book High Probability Selling.

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