You Have to Get Personal

That’s what many of the top performing salespeople told Jacques Werth when he observed them asking very personal questions of their prospective customers.

“You have to get personal.”

Why?  “You need to see what makes them tick before you decide whether to do business with them or not.”

Jacques took careful notes on what these salespeople did when they “got personal” with their prospects, and he incorporated it into his sales process.

It’s an interview method, a way of asking personal questions.  A brief overview:

  1. Start by asking a simple question about something in the present, the here and now.
  2. Then, ask questions that go back in time, about the prospect’s past.
  3. Finally, ask questions to bring the prospect back to the present.

A few guidelines:

  • Ask questions that control the direction in time.  Start with the present, then move backward through time, then go back to the present.
  • Each question should be about something the prospect said when they first started answering your most recent question, and especially when going back in time.
  • Questions should give the other person as much latitude as possible in what they choose to say about their self.  What, How, When, Where, Who, Why.  No yes/no questions.  Nothing that steers them toward any particular answer.
  • Ask short and simple questions.  Be direct.
  • Keep all of your reactions neutral.  Nothing positive, nothing negative.  Keep calm and relaxed.
  • No comments, no opinions.  No “relating” to the prospect.
  • Listen and pay attention.

This is a discovery process, part of finding out whether we want to do business with someone, or not.  We are not trying to build a relationship, or get anyone to buy, or get someone to trust or like us.

It appears in the book, High Probability Selling, Chapters 7 and 12.  It has been called the “Relationship Inquiry” or the “Trust and Respect Inquiry” (abbreviated TRI).  We have taught it in our sales training workshops.

“Getting Personal” is a descriptive name for this process.  This name is about what we do, and not about a desired outcome (like establishing a relationship or building trust).

The Getting Personal process may be the most valuable part of High Probability Selling.  People who become proficient often talk about how it has changed their lives, in selling and everywhere else.

However, it is not for everyone.  It seems so strange and unconventional, and contrary to social conventions.  Many people feel so uncomfortable with this, that they are unable to follow the process well enough to get any benefit from it.

If you have questions about this, please put them in the comments for this blog post, so that other readers may see your questions and our answers.  If you prefer a private conversation, you are welcome to call or write.

Author: Carl Ingalls

Administrator for High Probability Selling Blog

7 thoughts on “You Have to Get Personal”

  1. absolutely agree – in particular because it’s what typical ‘salespeople’ don’t/won’t/can’t do and yet it’s what the client experiences as being in company with someone who is ‘bothered’ about them enough to ask questions – hence the trust aspect.


    1. Hello Paul,
      I agree. It’s an excellent book. I have a signed copy (on loan from Jacques Werth). I have worked with Richard Himmer, and learned a lot from him. He studied HPS under Jacques Werth, and has contributed to our own understanding.

      By the way, take another look at the beginnings of Chapters 6 and 9 [in Richard Himmer’s book].
      Carl Ingalls


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