We Need Your Help with a Marketing Question About a Call to Action

We need your help.  What would a Call to Action from High Probability Selling (HPS) look like and feel like?  We want to hear your thoughts, and even more importantly, we want to know how you feel.

Marketing experts tell us that every “pitch” should contain a clear Call to Action, something that we want the reader or listener to do.  But they live in a persuasive world, where marketing and selling is all about pushing or nudging or influencing people into buying something.  High Probability Selling is not in that world at all.

We don’t pitch.  Instead of trying to get someone to buy, HPS is about finding someone who wants to buy what we are selling, and then communicating with that person in a way that is completely consistent with this purpose.  So, what would a Call to Action look like in order to be compatible with High Probability Selling?

It can’t be pushy.  We’ve tried that.  Our website used to say “Get Started Now!” in big bold type on the home page.  It just didn’t feel right, and one of our readers pointed this out to us recently on Twitter.  So we changed it to something else.  We thought about it, and made a guess about what might work.

Our thinking went like this.  In the world of persuasion, a Call to Action is a push in a direction chosen by the seller.  In the world of HighProb, it’s replaced by a map, so that the potential buyer can make an informed decision.  People want to know what direction to go, but they don’t want to be pushed.  What we have now starts with “What’s next?  We offer the following suggestions”.  This is followed by our best guesses about what a reader might want.

High Probability Prospecting contains a good example of a High Probability version of a Call to Action.  Another Twitter friend pointed out that we are asking someone to make a decision (a type of action) when we are prospecting and we ask, “Is that something you want?”  When we do this, we make no attempt to steer the prospect toward a particular answer.  It’s a Call to Action without a direction.

We need to be creative.  High Probability Selling contradicts conventional wisdom about marketing and selling.  We want creative people to tell us what they think and feel.


We thank our readers, especially Linda Sgoluppi and Russ Thoman (@Linda_Sgoluppi and @RussThoman on Twitter), for calling us into action and for helping us clarify our thoughts on this.

Author: Carl Ingalls

Administrator for High Probability Selling Blog

24 thoughts on “We Need Your Help with a Marketing Question About a Call to Action”

  1. When I think of the phrase, “call to action”, the first thing that comes to mind is a tacky television commercial that tells me to call now so I can get the 34 things I don’t need, and 15 more of them for one low price, if I will only wait for more information, which will soon be spewing forth from the announcer’s mouth.

    And not being one who enjoys being told what to do, I tend to resist calls to action. Isn’t it nicer to be invited to act? If I knock on someone’s door, which in effect is what we do when we visit a website, I would expect to be invited inside, not commanded to enter.

    We use the phrase “explore your options” followed by an indicator as to where the visitor might click to do so, on the front page of our company’s website. From there, it’s up to human to human relations. At least that’s how I see it.


    1. “And not being one who enjoys being told what to do, I tend to resist calls to action. Isn’t it nicer to be invited to act? If I knock on someone’s door, which in effect is what we do when we visit a website, I would expect to be invited inside, not commanded to enter. ”
      Well said Andrea. I want it to feel like the option is mine. “Click For Tips” or “Enrolling Today” at least makes me feeling like I have the option to move on instead of give in.


  2. This is an interesting reflection, as I’ve had to fabricate exactly such wording (and had not fully realized until this moment that I was creating it from scratch *BECAUSE* it hadn’t been designed into our process during my HighProb training!)

    To add to the intrigue, an overwhelming percentage of my HP Offers are in writing, via email… rather than verbally… so I have had to learn to write in our uniquely taught “flat voice” modularity.

    The structure of my call to action is as follows;

    Is that something you want?
    If not, no offense taken, and all the best.
    If yes, these are the steps to proceed; (link provided to the data gathering form and checklist.)

    Thank you!
    David Donhoff, Advisor
    Leverage Planners


    1. Don,

      We don’t have much to say about prospecting by email. We’ve heard from a few people who have adapted some of the basic ideas of HighProb, and they tell us they are successful with it.

      Email seems like a very machine-like way of prospecting, and misses the advantages of personal contact. We have a lot to say about how important this personal contact is.

      Carl Ingalls


      1. I think email can be a good personal contact vehicle if you avoid using it to sell. You can share jokes, information articles of mutual interest, pictures, Youtube videos, news stories, etc. I avoid mentioning business at all. Basically, you can use email to establish trust and respect if you avoid discussing business.

        Merely put your web URL in your signature.

        When they eventually ask a question about your business, answer only their question. Do not educate them; do not say more than is necessary to answer their question; do not attempt to sell them; do not be passionate or enthusiastic about your business.

        If they ask three questions (this could be over several weeks or months), when you answer the third question, add “You have asked several questions about My Business. Are you just curious, or is xxx something you want?”

        Then the fun begins.


  3. From blog post: “People want to know what direction to go, but they don’t want to be pushed.” Why not use that.

    People want to know what direction to go without being pushed. Here are your options: 1.Order Here, 2.More Questions click here, 3. More info click here.

    That could be used/modified screen to screen, face-to-face, ear-to-ear.




    1. Mike,

      I appreciate your thoughts. Prompted by your comment, and by comments from others, I am leaning toward presenting something like a roadmap, something that identifies paths and where they go.

      I also appreciate your suggestion about presenting options. It gave me something concrete to think about, and more importantly, something to sense my reactions against.

      I hesitate to tell a reader or potential customer that they have only 3 options, and then present a list that seems to contain only the options that benefit me. Providing a limited list of options may not be pushing, but it is a lot like steering.

      Carl Ingalls


      1. Providing a list of options certainly has a steering feel to it. I suggest language like, “Here are some ways others have worked with us…list…If you have a different idea, we’d like to hear it. What do you want to do?”


  4. Thanks for asking. Like almost everything else in HPS, a call to action is probably unlike any traditional call to action.

    Instead of a command, a question: “Want to learn?”

    Instead of enthusiasm, easy-going: “Come on in.”

    Instead of optimism, pessimism: “You probably won’t make the next sale, but maybe the one after that.”

    Other possibilities:
    “When would ‘now’ be a good time to start?”
    “You can sell more with HPS. We’re ready when you are.”

    And of course, the best call to action of all: “Is that something you want?”


  5. You are right. Commands do not work in an SEO world where people are searching for what they want; annoyed with pushy self-serving companies; and ready to
    quickly “click off” you and onto somebody else (who is likely willing to offer more, cheaper).

    I advise my clients that the “killer combination” for response has three components on a website: an offer, an incentive AND a call to action. The call just tells them simply what you want them to do (usually you are tracking clicks and comments via your Analytics). The offer gives them something (cool, informative, helpful, etc.) and the incentive gives them a reason to act now (rather than forget about you).

    You don’t want the “Calls” to become stale and you don’t want them to be bossy. Lots of Internet marketers use “click here for access” which sounds like an invitation and a gift.

    Everyone’s suggested wording is great, but keep it very simple. Try not to use words like “we” and “our” and instead focus on second-person narration: “you”.

    Achieving all of these are best planned out with a content strategy and an editorial calendar. You need to plan the offers, the calls and the incentives with your audience’s interests (and often, your competition’s approach) in mind so your website becomes a hub of qualified traffic.


    1. Alysha,
      I am very new to these concepts of HPS, however I do have enough of a familiarity with subtle influence and persuasion to know that your suggestion is leading, steering, or however else you want to say it, it is not direct. Saying “click here for access” may in fact sound like a gift and invitation, but subconsciously it is causing “commitment and consistency”(see”Influence the psychology of persuasion by R.Cialdini) which is a driver of behavior simultaneously creating a perceived authority by your assuming the mantle of teacher or narrator for once they gain “access”. I could be wrong, have been before, but that it how it sounds to me.


  6. There are some great suggestions here : ) My experience is that there are links within the body that offer them the opportunity to go specifically to the place that is grabbing their attention—so they can get immediate targeted info about that point.

    I am not familiar with HPS but it seems like a kinder, gentler way of selling. Maybe something as simple as: “In what ways would this product serve your needs?” followed by a menu of applications that would apply. You could invite communication by asking, “What else do you need to know?”

    I was taught that if someone follows a link within text that they may miss something valuable on the page they left. So covering info, without sounding too repetitive, on the pages linked to would be helpful for the potential client to get the whole picture.

    This HPS interests me as I have heard many times that people want to be encouraged to buy and that most people respond to hype and “rah-rah”. The people I have studied with in Internet Marketing have tried both approaches and the results showed that “nice guys finish last”.

    I will definitely look into this sales method more.

    Huge success to you,


    1. Sam,

      The High Probability Selling Forum was closed in 2009 due to technical problems. Also, dealing with the spammers had become extremely time-consuming. So when it crashed, we did not attempt to restore it. There may be new options available to us now, and we may reconsider the question of supporting an online HPS Forum. If we do, we will announce it on our blog. Thank you very much for your comment.

      Carl Ingalls


  7. I believe that the “call to action” comes directly from Jacques Werth lips. After determining that the person may be the kind of person that I want to do business with, I ask the question:
    “Do you want to make an appointment?”
    I consider this a call to action.


  8. I guess my answer would be, “Why don’t you ask current customers?” They know what they would have wanted to see there. And you may find (because it usually happens this way) that what they suggest is completely different from what you were thinking. They know the next logical step in their buying process, and what they would consider helpful/non-pushy. They may even tell you that they don’t want to click through to a next step, that they want to be able to complete the entire transaction on one screen.

    Interestingly, however, I have found that if they are already convinced that they want to take the next step, they are more than happy to take that next step, whatever it is. And they’d be bothered by soft, vague phrases such as “learn more,” when, for example, they are ready to contact you. So the trick is to know what next step they want to take at that point, and the language takes care of itself.

    However, having said all this, I wasn’t quite sure from your description here what you are trying to sell. The book? Courses? Consulting? So I went to the HPS site. I was still confused.

    Example: When I click on the courses link at the bottom of the home page (in your call-to-action section), or the Courses link up on the top right, I go immediately to a workshop schedule page. But I’m not ready to schedule yet. I want to learn more about the workshops. I then realize that there are links to the descriptions, above the schedule, but that’s not obvious when I first get there. The eye doesn’t see those links at first.

    What you need here is a description of the workshops, and testimonials from people who have taken the workshops, and some audio/video clips so people will hear/see what they will be getting when they go to a workshop. Only THEN will they want to see the schedule. You are leaving all that out of the process – those steps in their buying process – and jumping right to the commitment vehicle (the schedule) before they are convinced they even want to do this.

    This is why we build buying process maps (as I describe in my Roadmap book) for our clients, then design their websites accordingly.

    Anyway, hope this is helpful.

    Kristin Zhivago


  9. Kristin,

    Based on your post above, and thoughtful suggestions from other respondents, we are now working on a complete revision of our website, starting with our home page.

    Your expertise shines through your ideas and the way you present them.

    Hopefully, others will also learn from you, too.

    Thank you,


  10. Jacques and Carl –

    Could you build in a waterfall (cascade) series of options? For example:

    1. Provide information about a product.

    1A. Is this what you want? Click takes you to a buy page.

    1B. Need more information? Click takes you to next information page.

    2. Provide more information about a product.

    2A. Is this what you want? Click takes you to a buy page.

    2B. Need more information? Click takes you to next information page.

    And so on throughout the web site.


    1. That could be a long process. It reminds me of the situation where you want to know where a person was born.

      “Were you born in Boston?”
      “Were you born in Kansas?”
      “Were you born in Singapore?”
      Etc., until you guess it.

      Or, duh, “Where were you born?”

      The equivalent in the website business is to show a menu.


  11. While reading some of these posts from a few months ago, I am reminded of the most famous classified ad in history. It was placed in the Times of London in early 1914.

    for hazardous journey, small wages,
    bitter cold, long months of complete
    darkness, constant danger, safe re-
    turn doubtful, honor and recognition
    in case of success.

    Ernest Shackleton 4 Burlington st.

    Marketing is nothing more than introducing the benefits (and detriments) of your product or service to as many people in your target market as possible. As long as you give equal time to the detriments, you can say whatever you want and still adhere to High Probability principles. So, in the spirit of Ernest Shakleton and Jacques Werth, I submit the following idea for your home page.

    “High Probability Selling can help you prospect effectively and enjoyably and eliminates most sales resistance. It will also outrage your sales manager; and you will probably get fired. If this is something you want, click the link below.”


    1. Also inspirational. Calls out to the best within us. Shackleton quoted Browning “For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave”.


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