On the first day of our High Probability Selling workshop we ask the participants some questions about selling.  After a few minutes of reserved responses people begin to shout out how they really feel.  The following is typical of what we hear.

  1. What is selling?
  2. Initial responses are pretty much textbook: “The fulfilling of needs, providing a service, pointing out benefits, the art of persuasion.”

  3. What is your objective when you sell?
  4. “Getting the prospect to buy, making money, closing the sale.”  The consensus objective ends up being getting the prospect to buy.

  5. What do you do to get the prospect to buy?
  6. This is when things start to get interesting.  At first, people say things like: “Educate them, promise them good service, get to know them, point out the benefits of dealing with me or my company.” Then it starts to get a little down and dirty: “Convince them, pressure them, put down the competition, act like I'm their friend.”

  7. What will you do to get the prospect to buy?
  8. This is where things really break loose.  Someone invariably yells out “anything” or “whatever it takes,” and then the dam opens: “Scare them, beg, manipulate, con, stretch the truth (eventually someone says lie), be insincere and unauthentic (pretend you like them, that you're interested in them and compliment them whenever possible), grovel, kiss ass, promise to be available at any time, turn myself inside out, be whatever they want me to be.”

  9. How do your prospects feel when they're being sold?
  10. By this point some basic truths about the selling process are starting to surface: “Resistant, suspicious, resentful, scared, confused, hostile, like their intelligence is being insulted, pressured, like a piece of meat, hunted, vulnerable, abused.”  Once in a while a participant says their prospects feel good during the selling process.  Those participants usually receive questioning looks from the other participants.

  11. How do you feel when you're selling?
  12. “Scared, vulnerable, like the prospect's in charge, like a supplicant, not good, lacking in self-respect, like I'm struggling, abused, violated, desperate, anxious, angry, pissed off.”  A minority say they feel good when they're selling, but as the workshop unfolds, most of them retreat from that position.

  13. How do you feel when you don't make the sale?
  14. “Lousy, hurt, rejected, frustrated, resentful, like a failure, angry.”

  15. How do you feel at the end of a selling day in which you've made no sales?
  16. “Like a failure, there has to a be a better way to make a living, less than..., vulnerable, stressed, beat-up, drained.”

  17. In our society is there a sense of trust or distrust of salespeople?
  18. (This is a “Who is buried in Grant's tomb?” question if there ever was one.)  Participants typically smile and reply, “Distrust, of course.”

  19. What causes sales resistance?
  20. Participants usually give a number of causes for sales resistance: “Pressure, past experience, insincerity, begging.”  Then eventually someone says, “Selling.”  It's called sales resistance because SELLING CAUSES RESISTANCE.  And every attempt to mask the selling objective causes more resistance.  What becomes crystal clear is that selling is a painful and difficult process for buyers and sellers.  So why is it like this?  Why is this the way it is?

    Because the objective of selling as it's currently defined (the current selling paradigm), is to get the prospect to buy.  Selling, by definition, is getting somebody to do something, usually something they might not otherwise do.  It implies any conduct that can produce a sale, including convincing, persuading or pressuring someone to buy from you.  We call this approach the paradigm of Traditional Selling.

    When you feel someone is trying to get you to do what they want you to do, the relationship, by definition, becomes adversarial and by reflex you try to protect yourself.  That's where resistance, suspicion and hostility come from.  Traditional Selling, regardless of how it's cloaked, is hunter versus prey.

    Fish exist in a paradigm called water.  Fish aren't aware of the water because the water is constant and always there.  There's never any “not water.” The water, however, shapes their universe; how they move, how they eat, how they breathe and how they act.  Traditional Selling is to salespeople what water is to fish.


We don't think about paradigms.  They're just there.  They shape what we think, what we do and even define what's possible.  A paradigm is the filter or lens you receive information through, the window you look through, without knowing you're looking through anything.  Here are examples of paradigm shifts.


At one time people lived in a paradigm called flat world.  No one talked about it being flat.  It just was flat.  And the paradigm, flat world, shaped what people thought and did.  That paradigm kept exploration of the world to a minimum.  Flat world defined what was possible and how it could be done.

Then, at some point, it was demonstrated that the earth was round.  All of a sudden the rules were different.  You could sail west and wind up back where you started.  Everything changed.  Geographical concepts were turned inside out, and new questions arose.  For example, if the earth is round, why don't people fall off?


At one time, state of the art medicine held that disease was caused by evil humors (vapors) in the air.  All medical thinking, including diagnosis and treatment, was based on this premise.

When it was later suggested that disease was caused by invisible microbes called germs, the medical establishment was resistant at best, and hostile at worse.  When the germ theory of disease was finally proven, all of a sudden all the rules were different.  The new paradigm turned every experienced physician into a beginner.


For many years Newtonian physics shaped scientific thinking and inquiry.  Einstein conceived the theory of relativity and the equation E=MC² which radically altered fundamental principles of viewing the universe.  Time, it turned out, was relative and space curved.


New paradigms are not logical extensions of existing paradigms.  They represent leaps of intuition.  Round world doesn't logically follow from flat world.  Germs don't follow from humors.  The theory of Relativity didn't follow from Newtonian principles.

Until now, the premise (paradigm) that the salesperson's objective is to get the prospect to buy has been largely unexamined.  As a matter of fact, paradigms, being generally invisible, rarely get examined.  But paradigms shape and limit activity.  As a result, efforts to improve sales techniques have consisted of devising new and better ways to get the prospect to buy and overcoming all the objections which arise in an adversarial environment.

High Probability® SELLING

High Probability Selling is a new paradigm for selling.

In High Probability Selling the paradigm shifts from getting the prospect to buy to determining whether there is a mutually acceptable basis for doing business.

As described above, when a paradigm shifts, everything shifts along with it.  When you replace an existing paradigm with a new one, everything has to be reexamined, from top to bottom.  You literally destroy the entire previous basis and all of its ideas and conclusions.  That's a very unsettling and disturbing process.  People have no place to hold a new paradigm because it doesn't fit inside the old one, and, in many cases, it invalidates it.  In the past this kind of problem was solved by burning the proponent of the new paradigm at the stake.  Now we just give them a real hard time.

The best way to get value from this book is to put aside every belief you have about selling.  Don't filter this information through what you already know (your beliefs).  Set those beliefs aside, especially those you are sure of, as you read this book.  Remember, what you know about selling may be true in the old selling paradigm, but all the rules are different in the new one.

What follows is a story about an intelligent, hard working, but frustrated salesperson who learns the basics of High Probability® Selling.