When Is a Sale Considered Lost?

by Paul Bunn

A student recently asked us what they should do with a list of “lost deals”.  And at what point is a deal or sale “lost”?  In their case, a lost deal equated to a person who didn’t purchase what the student was selling, in the timeframe the student wanted them to buy.

This inquiry got me thinking about one of the fundamental parts of High Probability Selling that is often overlooked; the words and language we use casually that either enhances or detracts from an effective HPS mindset.  Discerning this fundamental part requires listening to ourselves, specifically the words we choose.

My thinking and intuitive feel on the subject of a lost sale, is that a real loss only occurs if that person at that company says they never want to hear from you again.  Everyone else who doesn’t want your service now falls into “not now”.

And although we commonly use “lost” in our sales language, there is really no such thing.  You can only lose something you actually had in your possession in the first place. 

And quite clearly, although our long-conditioned sales brain may initially say otherwise, when a person says “not now” it’s obviously not about losing a sale that we had in our possession.  A sale we had in our imagination, a sale that existed in our mental map of the future perhaps, but an actual completed transaction?  I think not.

Back in prehistoric days (the late 1900’s), I would drive past a McDonald’s and the sign would say over 10 million sold.  The sign did not say that 50 million drove past a McDonald’s that century and never stopped.

What they paid attention to, and yes I used to work at McDonald’s, was the interaction with those people who stopped and bought a burger or two and some fries and a coke.  A Quarter Pounder that nobody purchased was not a lost sale.  It’s only part of an ongoing equation.

Another consideration is that sales is a person to person activity.  Companies and businesses and organizations don’t buy anything.  People are the ones who buy, or make the sale.  And they do it for their own reasons in their own time.  The goal of a High Probability Salesperson is to be in communication with them as close as possible to whenever their reasons align with the outcomes that our products or services provide, during the timeframe in which they are ready to buy.

So, at what point is a sale considered “Lost”?  So infrequently, we never really measure them.

And what do we do with a list of “lost” deals?  Continue prospecting to them like anyone else on your list.

How Often Should You Call?

First, get rid of the word “should”.  High Probability Selling is something you choose to do, not something you are supposed to do.

Jacques Werth recommended 3 to 4 weeks between prospecting calls to each individual on the list.  Today, I recommend a 3 to 6 week spacing between calls to the same person.

The main advantage for the longer spacing is flexibility for the salesperson making the calls, and especially if they have a long list.  Also, it may be less irritating for the prospect, and they may be less likely to tell you not to call them again.

The main disadvantage of the longer spacing is that it will take longer to deliver multiple prospecting offers to each recipient, and we know that the probability of a sale increases with the number of offers presented.  Second, calling less frequently means that the prospect is less likely to maintain that “front of mind awareness” of what the salesperson offers.  Third, it increases the chances that another salesperson will be in contact with the prospect when they are ready to buy.

Remember.  It’s not a should.  It’s a choice.

2 Marketing Guiding Principles that make no sense

Here are 2 guiding principles that make NO SENSE to most but are absolutely fundamental to really doing work that matters.

The marketing “tough” guys and gals out there will flick it off like a used-up virtue-signaling bandaid.

But, for those who want to know, here they are.

1.) Instead of obsessing over the money your customers or clients may give you…why not “obsess over” the service you bring to the table?

Bring back the humanity to what you offer.

Get in their world by calling a cease-fire on using your over-the-moon “results” that may or may not be relevant to their market, list, offerings, etc.
&
2.) Our best prospects need to be discovered (period). Your main gig is to find them. And for your truest top prospects, they won’t be “molded”, “gotten”, or “pushed” into buying.

They’re already educated about their needs, wants, and budget.

They know their business…well.

They’re even aware of the problem(s) they see hence their desire to buy from the right person if their conditions of satisfaction are met. (this one very few know to do or do it consciously)

Maybe that’s you and maybe it ain’t.

That’s ok.

If you start with service on the mind over dollars, you gain both.

And how you get there friends – is by being a market listener, leading with empathy, & determining IF what you have is the answer or not.

Want more?

Actionable Tip: Think about how YOU buy something…is it at first sight?

Or does it take some time to mull things over after watching a video, listening to an expert opinion, looking up reviews, having a few website ganders, and all that?

Until next time, keep learning, keep growing!

Features, Benefits, Detriments

In High Probability Selling (HPS), we sell on features, not benefits.

In most other selling methods, it’s the other way around, and that makes sense.

If your job is to get people to buy from you, benefits are a lot more persuasive than features. Benefits are like bait on the hook.

If your job is to find and identify people who want to buy what you are offering, for their own reasons (without being persuaded), then features work better than benefits. No bait.

So what is the difference between features and benefits? According to Unbounce Academy, “A feature is a part of your product or service, while a benefit is the positive impact it has on your customer.”

I like to clarify that a bit further with some of my own thinking, based on what I learned from working with Jacques Werth and Paul Bunn and others.

A feature is concrete, definite, certain, and immediate. It comes with the product or service and may be an integral part of it.

A benefit is a potential positive outcome for the buyer. If that positive outcome were definite and certain, then it would be a guarantee, which is a feature, not a benefit. Also, the benefit might occur later, and it might be abstract or subjective.

In HPS, we also talk about detriments, which are potential negative outcomes for the buyer. We make certain that the prospect is clear on each of these before we proceed with the sale.

Features, benefits, and detriments all come together during the closing part of the sale, when we are going over the details of the prospect’s Conditions of Satisfaction.

Why are some people unwilling or unable to do High Probability Selling?

I think I have a couple of answers. 

  1. High Probability Selling (HPS) is scary, and more so for some people than others.  It’s easy to imagine a lot of things going horribly wrong, and those fears don’t go away until you actually do it.  I experienced that for a while, until I finally did the full Trust and Respect Inquiry (TRI) all the way through Level 3, and outside of a training situation. 
  2. Habits need to be changed, and especially in the way we interact with other people.  Some students don’t seem to be able to do this, and they keep on acting in ways that don’t work with HPS. 
  3. Change is uncomfortable. 
  4. Resistance to being pushed is a common reflex in a lot of people.  Trying to convince a student that they should do things in a different way can be counterproductive. 
  5. Some people believe that they need to be convinced before they are willing to try HPS.  They live in a world of persuasion, and it is particularly difficult for them to let go of that when selling to other people. 
  6. Small steps toward HPS can have very negative results, depending on what path you take.  A path of continuous improvement is difficult to find.  So much has to come together all at once, and this can be very discouraging. 

I’d love to hear ideas from readers and practitioners of High Probability Selling.

What If They Complain About the Price?

Suppose you sold an expensive dining room set for $3000, and suppose the customer calls you later and says that their cousin’s neighbor’s sister got exactly the same set for $700 less.

What do you do?

General Rule: Listen more and talk less. Ask questions that get the other person to talk. Don’t argue. Don’t explain or justify yourself any more than is necessary. Don’t try to change the customer’s mind about anything. Let the customer talk more than you do. 

The best thing for you to start with is to say, “Ok.  What do you want to do?”  Say it in a neutral tone, with a downward intonation at the end, and don’t rush it. Pause a bit after saying ok and before you ask what they want to do. Then listen.

Here is a list of some of the things that a customer might say to your question about what they want to do, and how you can reply.

  • Cust:  “I want you to give me $700 back.”
    You:   “That won’t work for me.  You can return the dining room set and receive a full refund of the purchase price, not including the delivery charges.  Or you can keep the set. What do you want to do?”
  • Cust:  “Why did you charge me $3000?”
    You:  “That’s what I sell it for.”
  • Cust:  “Why did someone else get it for so much less?”
    You:  “I don’t know.  You could ask them.”
  • Cust:  “I think it’s really unfair that I had to pay that much when someone else got it for less.”
    You:   “Ok.  What do you want to do?”
  • Cust:  “I want my money back.”
    You:   “Ok.  You can get a full refund of the purchase price of the dining room set, but not of the delivery charges.  Do you want to go ahead with that?”

The above is one example of how a practitioner of High Probability Selling might handle a situation like this, when following the Mindset of HPS.

Questions, comments, and ideas from readers are very welcome.

If someone says, “Why are you asking me all of these personal questions?”

How do you respond?

First, this almost never happens.  If you are being authentic and sincere, the person you are interviewing will rarely question your motives.

However, students of High Probability Selling worry about lots of things that almost never happen, and they need to have these “what-if” concerns answered before they can move ahead.

Here are two responses that are highly consistent with the principles and attitudes of High Probability Selling.

“I’m learning a new way of getting to know people.”

“This is how I get to know people.”

Do not say, “I’m just curious” or anything else that trivializes what you are doing.


Asking personal questions is what we do in the Trust and Respect Inquiry, which is one of the more advanced discovery tools of High Probability Selling.

This process is described in the book, High Probability Selling, in the chapter titled “Establishing a Relationship”.  For more on this topic, see earlier blog article, “Establishing a Relationship – Revisited

Comments and questions are welcome

Convince Me

What do you do when a prospect asks you to explain to them why they should buy from you?

If you follow a non-persuasive sales method like High Probability Selling, you would avoid getting drawn into that kind of a conversation.

Jacques Werth taught his students to say, “I’m not here to convince you,” and then get right back to the question of whether the prospect wants what is being offered, or not.  He might also say something like, “That’s not the way I work.

However, if the prospect has already said that they want the sort of thing you are offering, then it might be better to respond with the question, “What matters to you?”  And then, only address the things that matter to the prospect.  Keep it short and simple.  You either provide those things, or you don’t.

And then you ask, “What do you want to do?

No Magic Sales Closing Techniques – Just a Proven Selling System that Produces Dramatic Results

written by Jacques Werth in about 2006, and posted here by Carl Ingalls

High Probability Selling is a structured, linear, step-by-step sales process. At each step along the way, you, the salesperson, and the prospect both have the option of saying “Yes” or “No”. Prospects close themselves each time they agree to move forward in the sales process.

The Story Behind the Process

The High Probability Selling Process is based upon extensive research of the top 312 performers across 23 industries. They were an elite group—part of the top 1% in their respective industries—who typically out-produced the top 20 percent in their industry by a factor of 3 or 4. Over a period of forty years, Jacques Werth went out on sales calls with top performers, observing and recording everything they did.

The discovery? These sales stars had intuitively created a totally new selling system. They didn’t realize it was a different system. Jacques Werth did. He collected the data, analyzed it, and put it together in this simple yet powerful system—High Probability Selling.

Top performers are the best in the business. They know the difference between a true prospect and one who is merely ‘interested’ – and will hardly ever buy. They know that preparing elaborate proposals is usually a waste of time. They know that the only prospects worth their time are High Probability Prospects: Prospects who want, need, can afford your products and services, and are willing to buy—now.

Stop Wasting Time!

The most common mistake made by salespeople is that they waste time trying to manipulate, persuade and convince prospects to buy. A lot of time and energy is devoted to activities that will inevitably lead to nothing.

Learn to Focus Your Sales Efforts on Truly Qualified Prospects.

In High Probability Sales Training, we teach you selling skills that are proven and effective. We train you to close more sales by negotiating a series of mutual agreements – beginning with the setting of the very first appointment. We train you to consummate sales with dignity and professionalism – without stress or pressure.

High Probability Selling trains you to close more sales, enjoy selling more, and to earn more money—without compromising your ethics. Is that what you want? If it is, enroll in a HPS sales training course.


Note from Carl Ingalls, on 8 Feb 2022. I copied the above text from a webpage that Jacques Werth had created in about 2006. It is typical of the persuasive style he used when marketing (but never when selling). I prefer to use non-persuasive language in my own marketing efforts, because that is more consistent with what we do and teach in High Probability Selling, and also because I believe it is best to make marketing and selling more consistent with each other. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Conversation with a Long-Time Student of High Probability Selling

Jon Williams reached out to me (Carl Ingalls) on Facebook Messenger recently, with some questions about the application of High Probability Selling.

I am posting our conversation here with some minor editing, and with permission.


Jon: I wanted to ask you, have you ever been asked about how to sell things that aren’t as straight forward as a product per se. Like artwork, finery items like collectors stuff?

I heard this marketers take on it and she said you’ve got to look at what people want and “need” (manufacturing the need because they want it) and focus on that rather than the literal item.

I was thinking more about this and thought that’s definitely a decent start and to think about what the collectors want, the history of the piece or collection (as a feature), etc.


Carl: I have had several people inquire about selling something that is not very tangible. HPS is one example of that. I have also been asked about selling art. Collector’s items are fairly straightforward, at least on the selling side.


Jon: Gotcha. Ya I’ve always wondered about strictly non-tangibles.


Carl: If you see your job as one of influencing someone to buy, then HPS methods do not apply at all. The marketer person you mentioned recommends methods that are consistent with that. You really have to pick one or the other. If you flip back and forth [between influencing and not influencing], people won’t trust you.


Jon: Influencing or making offers based on what they want?

That’s what I took away from it as far as what they were saying. She walked us through her thinking and then applied that back to her style which I agree can certainly come off more “getting this or that” vs discovery.


Carl: If the people you reach out to do not have a clear picture of what you are offering, you need to have a good marketing system in place that educates them. Don’t try to do it during one-on-one selling. Extremely inefficient and unrewarding.


Jon: From what I’ve learned in marketing, it applies to everything, which is, truly know your audience and get real feedback from their perspective, the good the bad and the ugly.

If we have this and don’t add to it, then it becomes easier to “make offers”. 🙂


Carl: Making an offer based on what the other person wants is perfectly consistent with HPS, and is not an attempt to influence their decision.


Jon: Ya that’s what I focus on too 🙂

We’ve all had about enough of the internet hype and all this pressure to sell based on their need.

What about empathy?

Do we actually care about the human on the other side? Or are they just another dollar with a pulse?

That’s been made clear via high prob and very verrry few sales training does this well or at all. (Marketing training seems even worse because it’s so removed from the one-on-one)


Carl: In classical HPS outbound prospecting (one-on-one), we normally do not know what the individual wants. We may know something about the probabilities, based on the demographics used when purchasing a list. And the most efficient way of finding out if they want what we are offering is simply to ask them directly. The more specific [the offer], the better.

With the newer HPS Inbound prospecting (where a prospect reaches out to the salesperson), we listen to find out what they want, and we decide if we want to offer something based on that.


Jon: I do hear the better ones saying this method where they do interviews with their existing customers or clients, not to sell them anything new but to gain understanding from their perspective.

I do love this method of listening to them and going from there.

I think you shared this once, that when we start listening we may find they have a completely different want than what we thought at the beginning.


Carl: Some people call that marketing research [doing interviews with existing customers].

Most of the time, I’m a one-man operation. This means that I fill all of the roles. Market research, marketing, prospecting, selling, fulfillment, office manager, etc.


Jon: How have you found that to work for you?

I’m the same way. I only want about 2-3 really solid clients when I get there.


Carl: I like the variety of roles, a lot. However, going solo is a very lonely job, and I do have trouble with that.


Jon: Ya, I’ve heard that too, about the lonely part. For now I don’t mind but it may change later, lol


Carl: I’m looking forward to doing a 3-session workshop on the TRI, starting this Tuesday 11 Jan. That’s real connection with real people, and teaching them how to do it too. Of course, you already know about that.

By the way, I’d like to put our conversation on the HPS Blog. May I have your permission to do that? I’ll probably use just our first names. Any thoughts?

Probably some minor editing. I’ll send you a copy to review first.

This is an example of one-to-many marketing that educates.


Jon: Ya that’s perfectly acceptable with me. Thanks for asking ☺️


Carl: You are very welcome. And I really appreciate the thoughtful conversation.


Jon: Yes it’s helped me understand the differences too and to get clear myself.


Questions and comments on this blog are very welcome.

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