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.

Author: Carl Ingalls

Administrator for High Probability Selling Blog

2 thoughts on “The Reality of Selling”

  1. Sadly, as a CPBA (Certified Professional Behavior Analyst) I can assure you that being highly analytical is one of if not the biggest detriment to success in sales that there is.


  2. @ Ted, assuming we are defining being analytical for a salesperson as knowing your numbers, then you saying that is a detriment to success is like saying a business that knows what’s on its balance sheet is a detriment to the business’s success. That just doesn’t make any sense. A salesperson who isn’t analyzing their efforts isn’t going to be able to maximize their efforts and make adjustments when necessary. As humans we tend to make up this bias and fictions reality in our heads and often times analyzing the right numbers is the only way to clearly look at the facts.


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