Frequent Repetition of the Same Sales and Marketing Messages

Salespeople and marketers use a lot of repetition when their intention is to persuade.  They push the same message over and over again, and very frequently.  It makes sense for them.

This does not fit with High Probability Selling.  When prospecting by phone, we use different offers, and we space them apart by 3 to 6 weeks.  This is one way that we demonstrate that we listen, and that we accept no for an answer.  Repeated and frequent messages would not demonstrate that.

So, what about prospecting by email?

The way a prospect says “no” to an offer can vary, depending on how the offer is delivered.  With a live, real-time conversation, we usually get an immediate answer.  With a delayed message (like email or voicemail), a prospect usually says no just by ignoring it and deleting it.  The salesperson often gets no feedback at all, and doesn’t know whether the prospect even saw the message.

When I apply the HPS mindset to leaving a prospecting offer as a message, I treat a No Response the same as an intentional No.  I wait a minimum of 3 weeks (usually longer) before reaching out to the same person again, and I make sure that future offers to that person are memorably different from past ones.  And, while continuing to follow HPS guidelines, I never mention the fact that I had sent any previous messages.

Comments and questions are very welcome.

Frequent Repetition of the Same Sales and Marketing Messages

Operating a Car vs Driving One – A Metaphor About Learning High Probability Selling

I learned how to drive on a tractor.  No, I take that back.  I learned how to operate a tractor on a farm, and from that, I learned how to operate a car.  That’s not the same as learning how to drive a car on roads that include other cars.

We lived at the end of a very long and narrow gravel driveway, and therefore the cars driving on the paved road at the other end of the driveway were not really visible.  Imagine if I had never seen anyone driving a car on a real road (nor ridden in one).  And further imagine that I believed that I knew how to drive, and was confident enough to take a car on the road.

To me, this scenario seems a bit like learning the how-to part of High Probability Selling (HPS), without learning the mindset of it.  The process without the understanding.

Jacques Werth preferred to teach HPS as a step-by-step process, a recipe or script.  He was very successful with a number of people.  For those people, understanding came after the doing.

However, focusing on the process as a recipe or script does not work at all for a lot of other people.  For some of them, it can create misconceptions about HPS.  Without the underlying understanding, many of them seem to have difficulties in remembering the details of the process correctly.

I prefer to focus more on the mindset of HPS and less on the process, both in my teachings of it and in my application.

I plan to offer a very short mini-course on the Mindset of HPS as a 39-minute webinar, sometime in January 2020.  It will appear on the HPS Google Calendar, and also as an announcement in this blog.

I also offer a 3-week workshop on the Mindset of HPS, which goes much deeper into the material.  Scheduling is based on demand.

Comments and questions are welcomed.

Operating a Car vs Driving One – A Metaphor About Learning High Probability Selling

“Convince Me” – What If a Prospect Wants to be Persuaded?

If someone asks you to tell them why they should buy what you are offering, you have a decision to make.  It’s time to decide if you want to do some persuasive selling, or not.

There are a number of reasons you might want to do this:

  • You might want to go back and try that other way of selling, just to remind yourself of what it tastes like.
  • You might be someone who loves persuading people, and you don’t get enough of that when doing High Probability Selling.  You just need to get it out of your system.
  • You really aren’t sure yet whether you want to do HPS or not, so you do what has worked well enough for you in the past.

If you decide that you do not want to get involved in convincing someone to buy, here is an example of what I would do, based on what I learned from Jacques Werth.

  • Prospect:  Convince me.
  • Me:  I’m not willing to do that.
  • Prospect:  Why not?
  • Me:  That’s not the way I work.
  • Me:  What do you want to do.

This article was prompted by a conversation I overheard recently in the HPS Private Discussion Group on Facebook.

Comments and questions on this post are very welcome.

“Convince Me” – What If a Prospect Wants to be Persuaded?

People Use the Telephone Differently Today, and How This Affects High Probability Selling

It used to be that people would pick up the phone just because it rang.  Today, people need more reason than that.

They need to know who’s calling and what it’s about.  And even if they do want to talk with that person, they will often choose to call back later, rather than interrupt what they are doing in that moment.

In the past, people were more concerned about missing something important on the phone.  It might be a friend in need, or it might be a new customer.

Today, a ringing phone is much more likely to be a nuisance call, and much less likely to be from someone we want to talk to.  If we don’t recognize the caller ID, we let the call go to the answering machine.  And, in many cases, we can hear the voice while it is being recorded, and we can pick up the phone if we decide we want to do so.

This is all bad news for people who use the telephone to make prospecting calls, and especially for those who make cold calls.

Even though the warm calling part of High Probability Selling gives salespeople an advantage over those who do only cold calling, we have still had to modify our methods.  Many of the details that worked 20 years ago don’t pay off well enough today.

Here are a few of the changes:

  • Prospecting offers are shorter and simpler.
  • We usually leave voice mail.
  • Marketing is even more important than before.
  • We handle more incoming calls.
  • We have less control of the conversation.
  • We use social media to reach out to people, and we sometimes use email.
  • We focus more on the principles and less on the process.
  • We use a special inquiry method for prospects who call us.

But most things remain the same.  We still take no for an answer.  We still work with, not around, the gatekeeper.  We still reach out again and again with different offers, at a frequency of 3 to 6 weeks.

For upcoming sales training events, please visit the High Probability Selling Calendar

People Use the Telephone Differently Today, and How This Affects High Probability Selling

Questions About High Probability Selling From Beginning Students

Here are some questions and comments submitted by students who were just beginning to learn High Probability Selling (HPS), plus responses provided by me (Carl Ingalls).

Syd:  The scenario is scripted and far from real life (in my experience).
Me:  Yes, it reads like a script.  And yes, the scenario is far from real life in most people’s experience.  Some people want that, and some do not.  Some people want something that is very different from their experience.  Others want something that fits in with what they have already learned.  High Probability Selling can seem strange and unrealistic to someone who is used to thinking of “selling” as something you do for the purpose of getting people to buy.

Syd:  Prospects do not have this much time to talk about their personal lives.
Me:  It depends on how you interact with them.

Magdalena:  What about “transferability” of the methods of HPS to situations where “selling” is not the main part of the job?
Me:  If you see “selling” as getting someone to buy from you, then HPS does not apply at all.  If you see “selling” in a much broader sense, where you include interactions where money is not involved, then HPS ideals and methods can be applied in almost every situation where you want to work with people.

James:  Have you any experience of a trained telemarketer doing this for the salesman or does it have to be done by the individual themselves?
Me:  Several companies use trained telemarketers to find high probability prospects, and make appointments that salespeople go on.  It can work very well when the prospector and the salesperson use compatible methods.  It can also work quite terribly when they don’t.

Jimmy:  I have to talk to Managers, Engineers and Supervisors in the Mechanical Maintenance Department.  How do I get their names?
Me:  If you “have to” do this because it is a necessary part of the sales process you use, and it is not working well enough, then a different sales process may work better for you.

Jimmy:  Salesmen are usually “yesmen”.  What happens when the prospects are asked tough questions; it could be something new to them?
Me:  There are a lot of yes-men, and they don’t get much respect.  Salespeople who act with self-respect do.  This can be a novel experience for a prospect.  Very few will comment on it, especially if done in a neutral, matter-of-fact manner.  If they try to “test” you, they might say something.

Jimmy:  What to do, if the answer to any question is No or Evasive during the process.  Do you walk away if the answer is an not an emphatic Yes?
Me:  It depends on the question, and where in the process.  If they say “no” to the prospecting offer, then we say, “Ok. … Goodbye”, and call them some other time.  If the “No” means that the prospect is not a High Probability Prospect, then we walk away (for now).  When we can’t tell, we find out by asking very direct questions.  Continued evasiveness is also a pretty clear signal that it’s time to leave.  If we do not get a “Yes” to the important questions, we walk away.  However, we teach our students to go light on the disqualification until they get more experience, but always ask the questions.

David:  What’s the definitive answer to dealing with leaving voicemails?
Me:  Leave a voicemail whenever possible, and make it very short.  Include a call-back number.  If you do get a return call, treat it like an inbound prospecting call.

David:  What if the prospect asks for further information via email before deciding if it is something they want?
Me:  If requested, send information by email.  Make sure that you have composed the email in advance, and that it was created specifically to go with that prospecting offer.  Don’t try to get away with a general pitch.

David:  What could be some red flags?
Me:  There are several.  Voicemail must be very short, probably shorter than the prospecting offer itself.  If you send an email, never ever mention the fact that you did so, unless the recipient brings it up first.

Michael:  Regarding “your procedure for a purchase order” if I am meeting with a married couple at their home, should I rephrase the question for individuals and not a company?
Me:  Each of the questions in the Discovery Disqualification list can (and should) be reworded so that they apply to the specific prospect you are talking with.

Michael:  Should I ask for the client’s list of conditions of satisfaction after question 13 and before question 14?
Me:  We never ask the potential client to give us a list of their Conditions of Satisfaction.  They probably could not put them all into words.  That’s why we use that phrase.  It is a lot more than just a list of known requirements.

You are welcome to ask more questions about HPS, and I will do my best to answer.

Questions About High Probability Selling From Beginning Students

Does High Probability Selling Work?

It depends on how you ask the question.  Here are some examples:

Does High Probability Selling (HPS) work for everyone?
No, definitely not.  It does not work for every individual, and it does not work in every situation.

Does HPS work for some people?
Yes, it does.  Extremely well in some cases.

Does HPS work for most people?
Probably not, and especially when we attempt to use the same methods to teach everyone.

Will HPS work for me?
Maybe yes, maybe no.  But this is probably the most important question for all of us, and the most difficult to answer.  Will it work for me, and also –

How can I find out?
We can’t answer that question with certainty, but we are getting better at estimating the odds.  We look for similarities in people who have been successful with HPS, and in people who have not.

Jacques Werth was most successful with people who had decided to try HPS out completely and precisely the way he taught it, and worry about understanding the why later (if at all).  His teaching methods were much less successful with people who were still trying to decide if they were going to do it or not.  He believed that all failures to succeed with HPS were due to not completely following the process, changing or omitting something important.

Today, we focus more on the Mindset of High Probability Selling.  This approach seems to work better for people who need to understand HPS more before they are ready to try it out.  Also, a person’s current mindset is an indicator of what kind of hurdles they will need to get over in order to be successful with HPS.

There are several related articles on this blog.

Comments are welcome.

Does High Probability Selling Work?

Beyond the Sale – A Consultant’s Story

For some people, closing the sale is the only thing that matters.  But for many of us, what happens after the sale is even more important in the long run.

A consultant’s success goes beyond getting paid to give advice.  If the client does not take the consultant’s advice, the client won’t get any value from it.  And if they don’t get any value, they are not likely to hire the consultant again.

Before I started learning about High Probability Selling, I always thought that I needed to work harder to convince my clients to accept my advice.  Stronger arguments, presented more enthusiastically.  But it didn’t always work, and that concerned me.

And then, as I learned more about the principles behind HPS, I asked myself, “What if I delivered my ideas with less push instead of more?  What if I presented them more objectively, more balanced, with both the negatives and the positives?  What if I didn’t try to tell my client what to do, but rather make it completely their decision?”

Ultimately, I am selling my ideas, and I need my clients to buy into them.  It’s a sale beyond the sale.  It’s not about money, because they’ve already agreed to pay me to tell them what to do.

So how do I use High Probability Selling to do this sale beyond the sale?  How do I deliver my advice?

I studied the process that Jacques Werth calls the Conditions of Satisfaction (in the book, High Probability Selling) and I adapted the principles behind it to deliver the details of consulting advice.  In place of the list of Features, I used a very complete list of choices that the client could take.  For each choice, I gave my opinions about the benefits and detriments (based only on my experience and judgment), and I also asked others to contribute their own opinions about outcomes.  I usually wrote this all down on a whiteboard or flip-chart.  And then, at the end, I asked the HPS Closing Question:  “What do you want to do?”

No matter what they choose, I win (and so do they).


Beyond the Sale – A Consultant’s Story

Open vs Closed Questions – Revisited

A closed question is one which restricts the ways in which it can be answered.  Yes or No.  This or That.

An open question gives the other person a great deal of freedom in how they choose to answer.  These questions often begin with words like what, why, when, who, where, and how.

In High Probability Selling (HPS), we ask a lot of questions, both open and closed, each in their own place and time.  It’s a discovery process.  There are a lot of things to find out.

When we ask a prospect anything about want, we always ask a closed question.  We want to hear a simple yes or no answer.  “Is that something you want?”

If a prospect says “yes” to our question about want, we ask, “Why?”  That’s a very open question.

After we set an appointment for our next meeting or phone conversation with the prospect, we ask an open question again.  We ask, “When we meet, if our packaging meets your criteria, what will you do?”  We leave this as open as possible, without suggesting an answer.  We never ask, “Will you buy from me?”

When we ask questions to find out what kind of person the prospect is, and what sort of relationship is likely to form, almost all of our questions are open ones.  We learn more that way.  (See Chapter 7 in the book.)

In the Discovery / Disqualification process (Chapter 8 in the book), most of the questions we ask are open questions.  Even the closed ones leave the other person some latitude in how they might choose to respond.

Near the end of the sale, when we review the details, we we ask a series of closed questions.  For each feature, we ask, “Will that work for you?”

And finally, at the close, we ask another open question:  “What do you want to do?”

Jacques Werth (co-author of the book, High Probability Selling) has written about using open questions in the context of needs-based selling (Questions: Open-Ended or Close-Ended?).   That article seems to suggest that HPS asks more closed questions than open ones.  However, the opposite is true.  We just use open questions for a different purpose than all of the “getting-people-to-buy” methods of selling.

Open vs Closed Questions – Revisited

Dealing with customer who realized that I called again – a question from a student

I recently received the following email from a student of High Probability Selling, who had some questions about prospecting.  I have edited the email slightly.  I replaced the sender’s real name with Tom Prospector, and the real company name with XYZ Company.  I am publishing the edited version here (with permission).  My response appears below the email.

I am an insurance agent from Singapore. I bought the HPS book from amazon and also downloaded the recording on “selling in financial services”. 

Some customer recognised that I called again after 3 weeks. Some reacted neutrally while recognising that I called. Occassionally some confronted me over the phone asking me why I called again while they clearly said no before. I then asked them if they want me to remove them from my list. They said yes and I removed. 

I understand that we want the familiarity but not the sense of creating a nuisance for them. I am a new guy in sales and I was a bit paranoid of getting a complaint, even though I checked through DNC religiously before calling. 

So my question is for HPS, is this part of the game, or am I doing it wrong-not tweaking the script enough?

First script: Hi I am Tom Prospector from XYZ Company. I am selling life insurance that can give you a million dollar coverage, for 20 years, for less than 200 dollar a month. Is that something you want?

Second script: Hi I am Tom Prospector from XYZ Company. I am selling affordable life insurance that can give you half a million coverage in death and total permanent disability. Is that something you want? 

My concern is am I commiting the mistake of having insufficient difference in the two messages. If I am not doing anything wrong, I should just focus on Complying with laws and regulations only and continue with what I am doing, understanding that such confrontation is part of the game?

Yes.  As you had guessed, your prospecting offers are far too similar to each other.  People are very likely to think they are the same, and especially if you call back as soon as 3 weeks.  The first thing to do is to make your prospecting offers sound very different.

A small amount of confrontation is unavoidable.  However, you can reduce it significantly by following our guidelines more closely than you have so far.  Study the HPS Blog post, “Guidelines for Creating a High Probability Prospecting Offer“.  Also, be sure to read the comments.

Here are some examples of what you can do differently:

  • We no longer say “Hi” or “Hello”.  We get better results by getting straight to business without trying to seem friendly.
  • If you are prospecting in English, say “This is [name]” instead of “I am [name]”.  If you are prospecting in Chinese, find the closest equivalent.  The intention is to sound the same, whether you are calling a stranger or a colleague that you have been working with (without relying on caller ID).
  • Use factual words.  Avoid words like “affordable”, anything that is a matter of judgment or opinion.
  • It is better to talk about what you offer in terms of what the customer receives than to talk about something that you do.  We call this The Get.  “I sell life insurance” is slightly better than “I am selling life insurance”, because the focus is a little more on the noun, and a little less on the verb.
  • Avoid using the words “you” or “your” as part of the prospecting offer.  The first time we say “you” is when we ask “Is that something you want.”
  • One way to make your prospecting offers different from each other is to be less complete in each offer.  Leave things out.  Focus on only one feature at a time.  For instance, one offer can focus on the death benefit, while ignoring the disability.  Another offer can focus on the disability aspect, while ignoring the death benefit.
  • Another way to reduce confrontation is to keep your manner neutral and businesslike.  No enthusiasm or high energy.
  • In English, it is normal to speak with a rising intonation at the end of a question.  Some people do that even when making a statement (and we call that uptalk).  In contrast, we are careful to end every statement, as well as every question, with a downward intonation.  We get better results that way.
  • The cost of life insurance depends on a number of factors, including age and health.  Is “less than 200 dollar a month” an accurate statement for every person on your prospecting list?  Find a way to be truthful.

Here’s another tip.  Instead of asking someone if they want you to remove them from your list, ask them if they want to be removed from the list.  It makes a difference.  We don’t ask people what they want us to do.  We focus on the get.

Thank you very much for your question, and for the opportunity to share with a wider audience.

Comments and questions are welcome.


Dealing with customer who realized that I called again – a question from a student

Don’t Say It – Be It

Saying you are honest is fast and easy, and you can shout it out to as many people as you want.  Being honest takes a lot longer for people to notice, but is far more believable.  The same is true for just about any other virtue we might want to advertise about ourselves.

Using words to impress can backfire.  It’s a shortcut, too often used by people in place of actually implementing the qualities that they want their words to imply.  And this can create doubt, the sort of doubt Shakespeare was talking about in the line from Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

Walking the Talk is not good enough.  Skip the talk.  Just walk.


Don’t Say It – Be It