Frequently Asked Questions About High Probability Selling
Most of these questions were asked by students of High Probability Selling. Some of these questions are verbatim from people who were taking tele-courses in High Probability Selling. Others are paraphrased. Answers are provided by Jacques Werth, Carl Ingalls, and Neil Myers.
This is a very long webpage, with lots of questions, and some very long answers. I have divided it into topics (see below).
Here is a list of Topics on this Q&A webpage:
The largest list most people can handle is 1,000 names. Those are 1,000 targeted names.
In most situations, you should contact every name on the list every 3-4 weeks. Remember, you're presenting a different offer with each call.
The average salesperson using our system does 50 dials an hour. Remember, few dials will be answered on the other end. Organized and efficient salespeople can dial up to 80 times/hour.
Today, it takes longer to reach people by telephone. At home, people are less likely to answer when they do not recognize who's calling, and are more likely to let their answering machine pick up the call. At work, businesses often use an automated telephone system that requires the caller (the prospector) to go through a menu of choices, and that can consume a lot of time. In these situations, 30 dials per hour is more doable.
In High Probability Prospecting, there's no need to do that. State your offer, followed by “Is this something you want?” You'll get a yes or no, usually a no. The next time you call, just state a different offer. Continue on with the process and the calls, until you get a “yes.”
If you always demonstrate that you are willing to take no for an answer, without taking any more of their time and attention, the prospect is much more likely to “leave the door open” for you.
You should have something prepared and ready to transmit immediately the prospect should have it in hand in about 20 seconds.
I remember Jacques telling me that it is better not to interrupt your prospecting routine for something like this. Ask for the prospect's email address, record it, and send your standard literature later (or have your CRM system do that automatically for you).
The features and benefits are part of the Conditions of Satisfaction process. If they want or need a feature or benefit, make that explicit, and include that particular feature or benefit in the Conditions of Satisfaction for that prospect.
In the language of the listener, in their own terms. Avoid using industry acronyms and jargon. Avoid polysyllabic words. Usually, it's best to express an offer in language easily understood by a typical 17 year-old.
Even when you know that your prospect is very familiar with the industry acronyms and jargon, it is better to use plain language instead.
Present your offer to the gatekeeper. Ask if this is something that the prospect wants. When the gatekeeper replies, “I don't know”, ask the gatekeeper if he'll ask the prospect for you, or if you could be put through to ask the prospect directly.
Here's how we handle this common, and frustrating, situation in HPS (note that SP means salesperson and GK means gatekeeper):
SP: Joe Prospect, please.
GK: Who's calling?
SP: This is Miles Sonkin with High Probability Selling.
GK: Is Mr. Prospect expecting your call?
SP: No he isn't. Are you Mr. Prospect's gatekeeper?
GK: Well ... yes.
SP: I am calling Mr. Prospect to make a twenty second offer. Is it okay if I make the offer to you right now and you can determine if you are willing to put me through, or not?
SP: [Give Offer] ... Is this something Mr. Prospect would want?
At large companies, a high-level gatekeeper typically knows Mr. Prospect's business as well as he does, and can answer the question with a “Yes,” “Probably” or “No” answer. When you get a “Yes” or “Probably,” they'll do one of the following:
- Put you through to Mr. Prospect, if he's available.
- Specifically ask you to leave the message on Mr. Prospect's voicemail. (When this happens, leave the message, but start it with: “This is Miles Sonkin with High Probability Selling. I just spoke with Prospect Jr., your assistant, and after I told her why I was calling, she specifically asked me to leave you a voicemail message, because she thought it was something you might want.” Then give your offer and leave your phone number.
- Take as much time as needed to write your message down and commit to reading it to Mr. Prospect.
If the gatekeeper is not willing to put me through, I say, “OK, Goodbye”.
This type of conversation rarely happens because other aspects of the HPS prospecting method makes this type of conversation rarely necessary. There are a number of factors, such as calling with a new offer every 3-4 weeks, that make gatekeeper blocks an increasing rarity for the HPS prospector.
Most people feel they have made a *commitment* when they say they “want” something.
In most prospects' minds, the inclusion of the word “would” relieves them from any commitment. It's almost as weak as including the word “interested.”
Also, the word “would” makes the whole thing too tentative, and it weakens the answer.
Researching each prospect before you call them is generally a waste of time - if you have done your target marketing well.
You should be working from a prospecting list that has been selected based on the demographics of companies that are most likely to use your product/service. It should have the names and phone numbers of the people with the job titles most likely to buy your type of product / service.
Your “research” time is usually better spent on actually making offers. None of this “research” answers the fundamental question, which is:
Does the prospect want what I am offering now, and is he willing to pay for it?
Making prospecting offers will usually lead you to appropriate buying influences within an organization.
I have observed that a lot of “research” done by salespeople is a means of avoiding prospecting. This is mostly because the prospecting methods they use (unlike HPS) are too unpleasant and emotionally draining to use extensively. “Researching” is more fun and seems like productive work.
Research often finds lots of interested prospects who magically lose their interest when you ask them if what you are offering is something they WANT.
I remember Jacques telling me that one of the best salespeople he ever studied made it a habit to know the organization chart of each of his customers. He prospected those customers regularly, and kept his charts updated. However, Jacques never said that this salesperson ever researched any organization before they became a customer.
The answer to your question is strongly related to “information overload”, something that we are all subject to, and your prospect is, too.
At any one time in our minds, there is space for a certain number of “wants”. When you call a prospect, you should be asking if what you are offering is something they “want”. If what you are offering is the one of things that they want at that time, they will say, “Yes”.
The person that you sent information to, however positive or enthusiastic they may have sounded when you called them, was not yet a HP prospect. If they had been, they would have immediately known that they wanted what you were offering - they would not have merely wanted information.
The request for information, as long as it is not just a knee-jerk reaction to a telephone solicitation, is a sign the someone is moving up the decision-making pyramid. Call them back with another offer at another time.
When you call them back, your objective in making an offer is to open a space in their mind that enables them to honestly answer the question,
“Do I want what is being offered, now?”
If “Yes”, you have an HP prospect. If “no”, then just put them on the call list, and perhaps increase call frequency.
By contrast, consider this scenario. The prospect requests literature, you send it, and then follow up:
“Hi, this is Marilyn, I sent you information on the widgets that you were interested in. What did you think? Did you read our incredibly interesting sales literature? Aren't we wonderful?”
You have now become just another irritation crowding the prospect's mind, just another annoying salesperson, and he will probably lie out of habit, fear, and defense by saying something like,
“Ah, yeah (meaning he doesn't have a clue who you are)... it was kind of interesting (translation: it went in the garbage with all the other stuff I get that stops me getting on with what is important to me)... but we are not ready to do any thing just yet, (translation: I'm not a HP prospect yet) why don't you call me back in 6 months (translation: I don't want you to call but I may need you for more information in the future, so I don't want to blow you off entirely.)”
Done this way, the call is unproductive, is likely to generate an untruthful response, and may even tempt you to waste time in making a fruitless appointment, i.e. “Why don't you come in and show us what you've got?”
There are myriad influences that lead people to become HP prospects. It is monumentally arrogant and self-delusory of us to imagine that it must have been that last brilliant piece of sales literature that “convinced” them that they must have what we are selling.
Don't waste your time sending literature to “interested” prospects. Just make an offer. Don't be surprised if the prospect interrupts you, and starts telling you what they want, which may or may not be what you are offering, but may be something that you can sell them.
When selling insurance, I often called with an offer, for say health insurance, only for the prospect to say, “No, we don't want that, but do you sell life insurance, too?”
Then, I'd answer, (instead of disqualifying) and carry on disqualifying to see if there were potentially mutually satisfactory conditions for doing business, or enough to justify an appointment.
It's amazing what happens when you start to prospect regularly and correctly.
An inbound call is an interested prospect. In High Probability Selling, an interested prospect is not a qualified, high probability prospect. You still need to qualify them immediately, by making an offer, including the question, “Is that what you want?”
I disagree somewhat with Jacques regarding inbound calls. Today, we leave voice messages when prospecting, and some of those inbound calls are from people responding to the prospecting offers we included in our messages. We need to find out quickly what motivated the person to call, so that we can decide the most appropriate response, while still adhering to the principles of HPS.
“Interested” is the word salespeople use when they don't want to hear “No.” Interested is the word prospects use when they don't want to say “Yes.” There is no commitment in “interest.”
In High Probability Prospecting, you always make an offer - an offer that gives the prospect the option to say Yes or No. This puts you, the salesperson, in control. If a prospect answers an offer with, “Yes, I want that,” you're in a position to ask for a commitment - “If I do x,y, and z for you, what will you do?” Unless their answer is, “I'll buy it,” they are not a good, High Probability Prospect.
Hearing your offer, I'm not surprised at the results you're seeing. It's important to use language in your offers that people can immediately grasp and relate to. Remove the jargon. Remove the words that people don't usually understand like “probate”. People don't want something if they can't understand what it is.
I would add that most people prefer to do business with salespeople who are very easy to understand.
Remember, High Probability Prospecting is different than the methods you've used in the past. You are not seeking the masses in the middle of the typical bell curve. You're looking for the people on the fringes, at the ends of the bell curve.
High Probability Prospecting is a process. Typically, you'll get your worst results the first time you go through your list. Assuming that you have a good, targeted list, your results will improve each time you make offers to your list. Change your offer each time you contact a prospect. Your results will get better and better.
Getting more appointments is not an objective in HPS, because we do not use the appointment as an opportunity to get someone to buy. Therefore, going on more appointments does not create more sales. We only meet with High Probability Prospects - those who are very likely to buy.
You want a list of approximately 1,000 prospects in your target market.
If you make only 15 prospecting offers an hour, in 70 hours of dialing per month, you'll reach everyone on your list one time. You should be able to dial 80-90 times an hour. Remember, you're not leaving voice mail messages. When you reach a prospect, the entire call should only take 30-45 seconds. You'll get a Yes or No answer to your offer. Mostly No. In that case, say, “O.K., Good-bye,” and move on to the next.
People use the telephone differently today than they did when Jacques wrote that answer. Most of the time, you don't get a real live person these days. The phone rings longer, and then some sort of machine answers the call (voicemail or an automated telephone menu system). This all takes time, and slows the number of dials we can make in an hour.
When you are prospecting by telephone, and very few people are picking up the phone, it pays to leave a voicemail these days. Make it very, very short (shorter than the normal offer), and include a way for the prospect to reach you. If you do get a return call, treat it like an inbound prospecting call.
No. It's been proven repeatedly that you are 30% LESS likely to do business with people when you leave voice mail messages. We don't know why, but we do know that the statistics demonstrate this repeatedly. Theory: Voice mails annoy prospects.
Today, we recommend almost always leaving a voice message. People use the telephone differently today. To reduce the annoyance, make the messages very, very short and to the point.
If you leave voice mail messages, you are 30% LESS likely to ever do business with that prospect. We know that to be true, since we've repeatedly compared results among individual salespeople in the same organization. We don't know why that's true, but we speculate that leaving voice mails annoys your prospects and people are less likely to do business with people that annoy them.
Today, we almost always leave voice messages when prospecting by telephone. They have to be very short and to the point, even more so than when delivering a prospecting offer to a live person.
Benefits are best communicated in advertising and marketing communications. When benefits are articulated by an individual salesperson on a one-to-one basis, they often sound too good to be true. This breeds distrust, and is counter-productive. Trust is crucial to a successful business relationship.
Also, features are more concrete, certain, and immediate than benefits. Benefits can be vague, uncertain, and come much later (if at all).
When we do talk about benefits, much later in the process, we always balance them by also including detriments (potential negative outcomes).
We know that salespeople who thank prospects for their time attain lower results than salespeople who don't. We suspect that it's because thanking your prospects leads to the perception that you're in the one-down position the beggar syndrome. You don't want prospects to pity you; you want prospects to trust and respect you. Trust and Respect are the two most important factors for successfully transacting business.
Change the way you prospect and cold-call. Stop trying to sell appointments. This puts pressure on the prospect, and on yourself. Pressure creates resistance.
Keep checking in with prospects. Ask, “Is this somthing you want?” Eventually, many of them will say Yes.
Prospecting isn't really part of Selling. Prospecting is like sorting through a deck of cards, looking for the aces. It's when you find the ace that the Selling begins.
The goal in High Probability Prospecting is to find someone who wants what you're offering - right now. Marketing will create awareness of your product or service. It will not make people want what you have, now. Marketing can't elicit the commitment to buy that you're looking for in High Probability Selling.
Direct marketing may lead to inbound calls. When we do get an inbound call (which we sometimes call Inbound Telephone Prospecting), the first thing we do is find out why they called. If they say they want something that we offer, then we proceed as if they had just said “Yes” to a prospecting offer. We ask them why.
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.
There is a good example of how to do this in the book, High Probability Selling, on the first page of the final chapter “A Complete High Probability Sale”. Near the beginning of the prospecting call, the salesperson says, “I'd like to talk to the person in charge of packaging. Would you please connect me?”
Jacques always recommended going up as high on the chain of command as possible. In your case, I would ask for the person in charge of Maintenance. You are more likely to get a gatekeeper, and they can be very helpful if you make the effort to work with them instead of against them.
There are a lot of salespeople who are yes-men, and they don’t get much respect. Salespeople who have standards are more likely to be respected. 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 do comment on it, just accept whatever they say and move on.
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 again 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.
It doesn't matter whether a Yes answer is emphatic or not. We treat it the same. If it's about something they want, we ask why.
A good alternative to “Good-bye” is “Bye-now”.
If requested, send information by email. Make sure that you have composed the email in advance. It works best when the email was created specifically to go with that prospecting offer and is informative (not a pitch). An alternative is a FAQ (frequently asked questions) approach, but that can get rather wordy, and can sometimes contain questions that were never really asked by prospects.
There are several. Voicemail must be very short, shorter than the prospecting offer itself, and you do not ask, “Is that something you want” (just leave a callback number). If you send an email, never ever mention the fact that you did so, unless the recipient brings it up first.
Trust and Respect Inquiry (TRI)
The idea that prospects don't have much time may come from their impatience with salespeople who say more than they want to hear. If you listen without trying to get them to do anything, and if they want what you are offering, they are likely to decide they have time to tell you about themselves.
Before answering your question, I have one for you to consider: Do you want to do business with people whom you know to be vengeful, deceitful, grudge-bearing, unforgiving, corrupt, or unable to resolve conflicts?
The answer is obvious, of course! Our Trust and Respect Inquiry (TRI) weeds out such people, mostly very effectively.
The Trust and Respect Inquiry was developed over many years with the aid of some leading psychologists and a psychiatrist.
Here's the psychology behind the TRI, in a nutshell: We all experience traumas in life, including our childhoods. The way we respond to trauma between the ages of 6 and 9 usually influences how we feel and behave towards others who behave similarly, throughout the rest of our lives.
During the TRI, if your prospect reveals that they still bear a grudge, or fantasize revenge against someone who injured them decades ago, it is highly probable that they are untrustworthy, and probable that they will never trust you. Is this someone you want to do business with? Of course not - you want to DISqualify that prospect as quickly as possible.
Statistically, the TRI will weed out between 4% and 9% of your prospects. Only a handful of people out of one hundred will prove themselves untrustworthy.
It is imperative to understand that the TRI is NOT a bonding and rapport technique. Attempting to use it that way will have the opposite effect.
A positive by-product of the Trust and Respect Inquiry is that it almost always creates genuine mutual trust, paving the way for getting honest answers during the entire sales process.
More psychology in a nutshell: The extent to which you trust someone is usually reciprocal. Trust and Respect are the core values of High Probability Selling.
I have a lot to say about the purpose of the Trust and Respect Inquiry (TRI), and much of it is contrary to what Jacques wrote above.
Jacques is careful to say that the TRI should never be used for bonding or rapport. However, he is not careful enough, in my opinion, to warn people NOT to use this to make someone trust you. Trust may happen as a by-product of the TRI, but if that is one of your reasons for doing it, you are too likely to have the opposite effect. People can sense these things. For instance, how do you feel when a stranger says “Trust me”?
Although I believe that the TRI can be effective in discovering most of the people who might try to cheat you, I believe that this is not its most important purpose. I have never found a dishonest person by this method, and I have only heard Jacques tell of 2 or 3 cases where he actually discovered someone like that. And in one of those cases, he chose to ignore the danger (and regretted it).
I believe that the most important purpose of the TRI is to find out about people.
Why is it important to find out about people?
- High Probability Selling is a personal way of selling. Real decisions are made by real people.
- If we are going to work with people, we will do a much better job of it when we understand them well.
- The time to find out about what it will take to work with someone is before the sale, not after.
- The TRI is even more valuable when it is used outside of selling. In my opinion, the TRI is the most valuable thing we teach.
I recently discovered something people are talking about, called “Deep Listening”. The methods are extremely similar to what we do in the Trust and Respect Inquiry, but the stated purpose is much different.
Discovery / Disqualification
Yes. 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.
In the situation you mentioned, you might ask the couple how they usually like to pay for something like this.
No. In some cases, we may ask for their requirements, if they haven't already told us. However, 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. Thats why we use that phrase. It is a lot more than just a list of known requirements.
Yes, you want a conditional commitment - If you can provide X,Y,Z, then the prospect will buy.
Statistically, prospects will keep their word to purchase if you can do what you said you would do. High Probability Selling grads sell 74% of their prospects. They don't close 100% of their prospects because sometimes people do not honor their commitments. (Sometimes, the product and/or service turns out to be inappropriate for that particular prospect also). Contrast our average 74% closing rate with the 17% experienced by average salespeople; the results speak for themselves.
The Conditional Commitment Question is asked several times during the HPS sales process, in slightly different forms. The first time we ask it (which is after setting an appointment), we usually say, “When we meet, if what I show you meets all of your requirements, what will you do?”
Compared to Other Selling Methods
Yes, it reads like a script. And yes, the scenario is far from real life in most people’s experience, and that strangeness can make it uncomfortable. High Probability Selling works best for people who want significant changes in what they experience, and are willing to feel uncomfortable for the sake of that change.
The term “consultative” selling was coined about 20 years ago [during the 1970s]. SPIN selling and its variants are based on the precept that you'll close sales when you convince prospects that the only way to alleviate their “pain” is to purchase your product or service.
In High Probability Selling, showing customers how a product or service will fulfill their needs and relieve pain IS a part of the selling process, but it's a small part of the process. The fact is that most people who need what you're selling don't necessarily want it, or they do want it, but they don't want it NOW.
In HPS, prospecting is distilled down to “Is this something the prospect wants, and if so, how badly?”. Will they make a commitment to buy it? A prospect who has decided that they want what you're selling has already identified their own needs and has already determined that they want the benefits your product and/or service provides.
“Consultative Selling” is not entirely incompatible with High Probability Selling. There is a crucial difference, however. Some consultative Selling Techniques, designed to probe for needs and “pain,” result in salespeople manipulating and persuading prospects that NOT purchasing their product and/or service will result in more pain. Selling into the FUD factors (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) is antithetical to the core tenets of HPS.
When the fundamental purpose of Consultative Selling is to get someone to buy, it is not at all compatible with High Probability Selling. However, when that purpose is removed, then it can be modified to be very compatible with High Probability Selling.
When you call someone up and start asking questions, you're really trying to sell them something. You tell yourself that the purpose is to solve a problem, but really, you don't want to help that person, you want to sell them something.
One of the poison words in selling is “help”. Is your primary purpose to help that person? If not, you're straddling an ethical boundary. You want to sell, and the side effect is that your product/service is of benefit to the prospect.
As a side note, we've found that the top 1% of salespeople tend to be incredibly ethical. They will disclose the benefits and detriments of what they're selling. Full disclosure works, because if you only mention the positive, you're really lying by omission. People feel uneasy and suspicious hearing only the good - they'll assume you're lying.
It's similar to the ethical problem that financial advisers face when they earn a commission from a product that they have advised their customer to buy. Conflict of interest.
Miscellaneous and/or General
If you look up need, want, and desire in the dictionary, you'll find the definitions are almost synonymous. One of the ways to differentiate is to ask 200 people to give you a list of their wants and a list of their needs. We found that the average number of needs is 22, and the average number of wants is about 4.5.
“Wants” are the top priorities. This is why we ask, “Is this something you want?” If someone has gone past Need into Want, they are a High Probability Prospect.
The Conditional Commitment Question is asked several times during the HPS sales process, in slightly different forms. The first time we ask it (which is after setting an appointment), we usually say, “When we meet, if what I show you meets all of your requirements, what will you do?”
If it's worth it to take the time to meet with someone, it IS worth the time to go through the HPS process. In HPS, we ask for an hour of uninterrupted time. Keep in mind, also, that a single sale may not warrant the time involved in the High Probability Selling process, but the lifetime value of the customer may make it well worth your time.
With small sales, even Jacques took a few shortcuts here and there, but even then, he stayed true to the basic principles of HPS. If completing the sale will require any significant amount of effort on your part (or if that effort results in something the prospect will value), then I recommend that you do the complete Discovery / Disqualification Process. Also, if you are a consultant and might be putting in a lot of effort in working with the prospect after the sale, then it is very important to get to know that person, using the Trust and Respect Inquiry (TRI), before you agree to take on the job.
At least 99% of my selling, coaching, and consulting is by telephone and email. Almost no face-to-face interactions. I use the telephone for all aspects of the sale: all the way from prospecting, the appointment, discovery, the Trust and Respect Inquiry, through closing.
The utilitarian factor - someone who does what is necessary to get the job done.
People who are more theoretical often require a logical explanation before they are willing to try something new. It needs to make sense to them.
The problem is that explaining (and understanding the explanations) takes a great deal of time, and many of the concepts in HPS can only be believed by experiencing them. No amount of talking and thinking can make up for that.
I score very highly on the theoretical personality trait, and it took me about 10 years to get a good handle on this stuff, and I'm still learning. If you have that kind of time to spend, and appreciate learning as much as I do, then I can recommend this approach for you. Just remember that almost everyone learns a lot faster while doing.
If your intention is to GET someone to do something (by impressing them or by convincing them), then HPS methods are not appropriate.
However, the non-pushy methods of High Probability Selling can be applied very effectively in almost every situation where you want to work with other people, whether money is involved or not.
We start by finding people who actually Want to work on the thing that we want to work on, and we proceed from there.