by Jacques Werth
Our office manager rang me and said “John Richardson is on line 5. He took our workshops several months ago and he has a problem. Can you talk to him now?”
I said, “Sure” and picked up the call.
“What’s the problem, John?”
He said, “Since I did your courses I’ve increased my average monthly sales volume by over forty-percent and it’s still climbing. So, when I was talking to my sales manger last week I told him that he should have all the salespeople take your workshops. He told me to describe how High Probability Selling works, so I did. He listened, took notes, and said he would think about it.”
I said, “I can guess what happened next.”
John said, “He called me today and said that what I’ve been doing can’t possibly work and he wants me to stop immediately. He insisted that I to go back to using the company’s standard sales process.”
I said, “We always tell salespeople who participate in our workshops that they should never try to convince anyone to use High Probability Selling, and especially not their boss. Trying to convince people creates resistance.”
He said, “I thought he would love the idea of everyone increasing their sales the way I have.”
I said, “First, it’s not true that all the salespeople will increase their sales – some can’t or won’t.
“More importantly, most sales managers have a big personal investment in having everyone do whatever they believe in. It’s very hard for them to change, especially if they don’t discover it themselves. That’s why we ask everyone not to tell their mangers what they’re doing, but wait until they are asked. Then, you should just say “It’s too complicated for me to explain, but I’ll give you the book if you want to read it.”
He said, “I was so excited about the results I’ve been getting, I forgot all about that.”
8 thoughts on “Don’t Try to Sell High Probability Selling to Your Boss”
Jacques’s sentence “Trying to convince people creates resistance,” should be engraved in gold for sales people. I find that “un-convincing” them is more likely to lead to business.
For example, they find out that I run a small hedge fund – usually from someone else.
“What percent did you make last year?
“Our clients made about 30% ROI after all costs.”
“Wow! How can I get into your fund?”
“I’m not sure you can. I’d like to say ‘yes,’ but I wouldn’t want to get your hopes up. It’s too risky for most people, and besides, you could lose all your money. We can’t accept everyone. The laws are pretty tight about hedge funds.”
“I’ve got some money I can risk. It wouldn’t change my life if I lost it. What do I have to do?”
At this point, I have already raised the major objections, and they still want to do business.
No trying to convince anyone; no education; no persuasion; no resistance.
Reverse psychology, which is the basis for the old-as-dirt takeaway close, is a powerful technique when used skillfully. However, whether you are trying to be convincing or un-convincing, the process is still manipulative: the traditional salesperson creates a high pressure zone and overwhelms the prospect; the reverse-psychology salesman, in contrast, creates a vacuum and sucks in the prospect.
The key to High Probability, I think, is to dispense with all that and just be neutral. Jacques teaches the absence of persuasion, not its Bizarro-like opposite. In the absence of persuasion, it really doesn’t matter if the prospect buys or not: the only thing left to do is simply determine if there is a mutually beneficial basis for doing business together. It has to be a mutual fit. If the client doesn’t meet your standards, disqualify him. If you can’t deliver something he wants, tell him. If you take on a client just for the money, both you and the client will regret it: buyer’s remorse is bad for business, and taking on a bad client will drain you.
As for the prospect who asked, “What percent did you make last year?” it might be advisable to be artfully vague and say, “We had an above average year, but we’ve had some down years, too. Are you considering investing in a hedge fund?”
If he says “Yes,” then reply with something like the following:
“It will take about an hour to determine if the fund is a good fit or not. Do you want to make an appointment?”
If he presses you a second time for an answer, then respond. However, in High Probability Selling, every benefit must be counter-balanced by a detriment; so list both the benefit and the detriment and ask whether it is something he wants. For example:
“We were up 30% last year after fees. However, the fund uses leverage, and returns can be volatile. Is this the kind of investment you want?”
This approach is cool and professional. Providing the detriment builds credibility. Omitting detriments creates mistrust. Again, ask if he wants to make an appointment to determine if it makes sense for you and him to do business together. When the client commits to the appointment, ask the following:
“If this hedge fund satisfies your investment criteria, what will you do?”
If he says, “I’ll invest!” then you’ve got yourself a true High Probability Prospect.
P.S. If you haven’t taken the course, consider signing up. Your return will be much higher than 30%.
Reverse psychology is covert manipulation, and people can “smell” it. Covert pressure creates covert resistance.
However, the example Steve gave was not reverse psychology. He was careful to tell the truth about a real potential detriment. This is full disclosure.
Similarly, there are detriments to High Probability Selling. For instance, we cannot promise that everyone will see an increase in sales after taking our training, because we know that some will not. This is disclosure of a real risk, not reverse psychology.
I have always felt uncomfortable whenever I have strongly advocated a certain product or course of action, and now I think I understand why. Every product or service has detriments, limitations, and opportunity costs. In Steve’s example the risk is pretty obvious: you can lose your money. But even small purchases have a downside. Looking at one’s offering in a neutral, objective way means understanding that your product or service might actually do harm if misused or if purchased by the wrong person for the wrong reasons.
If the product is not a good fit, or if the customer overpays for features that he really doesn’t need, all trust will evaporate; and the customer will never buy from the salesperson again. Worse, he might demand a refund, complain to his friends, or even go online and tell the world about his horrible experience.
When we say that the purpose of the meeting is to determine if there is a mutual basis for doing business together, it’s a very serious statement. Perhaps it’s useful to take on the mindset of a doctor prescribing a drug: there are possible side effects and not everyone will see results.
My job as a salesperson is to sell only to those people who understand and accept the tradeoffs. I am reminded of a lunch meeting in which a product wholesaler was describing one of his offerings. It sounded terrific, but I was suspicious. When I asked him to explain the downside of a particular feature, he said, “There is no downside.”
I remember how insulted I felt when he said that. I was angry because now I would have to research the product myself in order to determine whether it would be a good fit for my clients. I gave up and have not sold any of it.
By explaining all the bad stuff up front, maybe we are actually saving the prospect the trouble of researching everything himself. If all the information is set before him, the prospect can more easily arrive at a decision.
Is that what is really going on when we go over the the Conditions of Satisfaction?
Thanks for your insights.
If you think your boss might feel offended when you tell him “it’s too complicated”, you can always say that you don’t know how to explain High Probability Selling.
If you do try to explain HPS, I recommend that you only talk about your own experiences, what you did and what happened. Never try to explain why it works. That just gives people something to argue about.
I wish I had read this blog post seven months ago! Not until a couple Aprils back had I attempted to fill a role overtly about selling, and so far, I’ve failed to deliver any significant sales results. Still, I see what a difference learning to sell could make in my financial well being. I’ve admired High Probability Selling for years but never felt I was doing well enough to invest in the courses, so I’ve tried a bootstrap approach just applying what I’ve learned from reading the book.
I’m currently doing freelance customer service/delivery work for an advertising startup. My clients gave me some opportunities to try selling, and I’ve landed all of two sales appointments with no closes. Unfortunately, I tried sharing with my clients what I’m trying to do following my best approximation so far of HPS. My client claims to be a low-key when it comes to selling. Still, I’ve heard him say that when he’s selling, he asks only questions that prospects can’t say no to, so clearly his approach is nothing like HPS. Can’t undo the wasted energy in trying to convince him of the desirability of HPS, but I can drop all efforts that way from now on—while seeking opportunities to sharpen my skills and keep looking for opportunities to set aside what I’d need to chance taking HPS training.
Thanks so much for providing an example of how sales can be done with total integrity.
Thank you for your comment Don.
The following description of High Probability Prospecting illustrates how radically different it is from conventional prospecting. It’s the culmination of a learned skill, and not very useful as a lesson.
The first thing we do is determine whether the prospects we call wants what we have to offer. Thus, we quickly describe our offering, in simple no-jargon terms, and ask “is that what your want?” If their answer is “No,” we say “Okay, good bye.” If their answer is “Yes,” we say “Why?”
It’s imperative that we understand why the prospect wants our product or service. So, we write down everything the prospect says. Then, we determine whether the prospect is ready, willing, and able to buy.