Does High Probability Selling Need an Explanation?

by Carl Ingalls

Do you need to hear a plausible explanation for why something works before you are willing to try it out for yourself?  Or is it enough just to know that it has worked for others?

Most selling methods or processes are very logical, and they fit in very well with what most people believe about selling.  In fact, most of them are so logical and consistent with common belief, that I wonder if they were designed to be that way.  In other words, their primary justification may be that they make sense to salespeople and to sales management.

High Probability Selling was not designed to make sense.  It was designed to duplicate what the top performing salespeople actually do.  It was discovered completely through observation and careful documentation, followed by testing and measuring the results.  If “making sense” had been important, then much of what had been observed would probably have been rejected.

The people who are most successful with High Probability Selling tend to be those who learn by doing, rather than those who learn by thinking.  They are willing to try new things.  It doesn’t bother them that they don’t have a good reason why the new thing should work, as long as there is a way to try it out without risking too much.

The people who are not successful with High Probability Selling are often those who must hear a very plausible reason for why it should work, before they are able to try it out.  Sometimes they attempt to take only the parts they can make sense out of, and try to blend them in with their favorite selling method.  The results are often worse than if they had just stayed with the old method.

Most of our past marketing messages have been targeted to the first group, those who learn by doing.  Do you think we should also try to address the others, those who learn by thinking?

Do you think that we should try to provide logical explanations for why High Probability Selling works so well?

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Does High Probability Selling Need an Explanation?

17 thoughts on “Does High Probability Selling Need an Explanation?

  1. I’m not sure if your questions are rhetorical, but they sure bring up some great points of discussion.

    It seems that people who want the system proven before they try it, are often the same that want to prove it doesn’t work to justify their current methodologies.

    Rather than improving and going from good to great, they are satisfied with mediocrity and the status quo.

    It’s possible that some will grasp the concept, grow and improve their capacity, but does the change in approach allow you to deal with a greater number of High Probability prospects?

    On the other hand, for those who have used the system, it makes perfect sense. I’d like to think that I thought about the system and my thinker thought that HPS was a logical process.

    I think I need to think about it a little longer.

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    1. Richard Himmer,

      My questions are not rhetorical. I am looking for opinions about how to market High Probability Selling.

      I think I can provide some plausible explanations about why it works, but I really do not know if that would be a good idea or not. It is getting a little bit too close to “giving people a reason to believe”, and that is getting too close to some form of subtle persuasion. I think you already know what I think of trying to convince people.

      A different approach would be to focus on finding people who either already have the understanding, or those who don’t need an explanation in order to try High Probability Selling. People who use this system may go through a transformation of understanding, and all of a sudden everything makes perfect sense. However, they also seem to lose the ability to communicate this understanding with the people who have not yet gone through that transformation.

      Please do think about it a little longer. I really do value your thoughts.

      Carl Ingalls

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    1. Steve Alexander,

      I can offer some plausible explanations for why HPS works, but that is not the same thing as saying that I know why it works. Explanations are just theories, and theories are just carefully thought out guesses. These guesses may be useful, or they may not be.

      Since you sound like a practitioner of High Probability Selling, you may already know that we do not advocate expending resources on what people are merely interested in or curious about. If enough people want these plausible explanations, and if the explanations might make it easier for them to benefit from HPS, then we will find a way to deliver them.

      Thank you very much for your comment.
      Carl Ingalls

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  2. Mike Kraemer says:

    Let me give this a try, Steve.

    Taking persuasion out of the equation eliminates much of the need for “work” or energy expended to make a sale. This is because there is less “resistance” (caused by persuasion) to contend with.

    Because there is less “resistance,” a person’s can make the same amount of money or more, with less work or energy expended.

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  3. I’m jumping in here because you asked for comments on twitter.

    I read your question, ‘Do you need to hear a plausible explanation for why something works before you are willing to try it out for yourself?
    Or is it enough just to know that it has worked for others?’

    Your question made me think of the stage young children go through where they ask incessant questions about everything as they discover the world. After several weeks of this stage of childhood development, eventually even the most patient parent often ends up saying ‘just because it is that’s why.’

    As humans we are hard wired to ask the question ‘why’, It’s the shortest explanation of what has driven our civilization. It’s the question that leads us into belief systems and it’s the question that leads us out of them.

    So what happens if you ask someone not to ask the question why? What sort of situations ask us to suspend our question, why?

    To return to the child analogy, there are times when an adult is just so fed up with the child’s question that they no longer want to answer, or quite simply they do not have an answer. The child cannot accept that this significant all-knowing person in his/her life can’t (or more likely in the child’s eyes, won’t answer) and the child ends up bewildered by this ‘rejection’. Then there are times when there just has to be total trust and no questioning. When a child is in danger and needs to just do what the parent says, without asking questions first, in other words without an explanation. That trust is an extraordinary trust.

    Another time we are asked to suspend the word ‘why’ is in ideological belief systems, religions etc. or in perception management. Governments go to extraordinary lengths, including lying to us (as in weapons of mass destruction) to prevent us asking why. The central core of these systems is that we suspend our own thinking process.

    I may be incorrect here but it seems that High Probability Selling requires a particular type of communication, and if I understand correctly requires the question ‘why’ to be suspended in favour of ‘trust’.

    There is a difference between marketing and selling and it appears that your question might need to address that difference. If you attempt to explain why the system works when you are selling then maybe you are moving into persuasion. However if you are not going to give a some explanation of why the system works in your marketing then you are asking people to take it on trust. The question then becomes why should anyone suspend the essential question ‘why’.

    I don’t believe it is persuasion to inform, as long as it isn’t explained in persuasive language.

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  4. Though it was not designed to, High Probability Selling makes eminent sense because it is grounded in reality, rather than wishful, outdated, and otherwise false notions about sales. Whether HPS needs an explanation, depends on what you hope to accomplish by revealing the logic behind it.

    Which prompts the question: Is the second group – the learn-by-thinking group – worth explaining HPS, to? If what you say about their success rate is true, why would you want to engage LBT prospects, in the first place? It is self-defeating to court customers who are likely to be worse off, after doing business with you.

    Like beauty, logic is in the eye of the beholder. That makes sense, which conforms to our beliefs. As you noted in your post, other sales methods are very logical because they fit what most people believe about selling. In this respect HPS is illogical, because it is founded on a set of assumptions – or should I say observations – contrary to the majority view.

    As it see it, your can either try to change hearts and minds, or target prospects who already subscribe to the core principles of HPS. Those folks, and salespeople who are beginning to realize that everything know about selling, is wrong.

    Best of Success,

    Brad Simpson

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  5. I just returned after a week away from business in time to find this very interesting conversation.

    Twenty years ago, some of our best students commented that you could teach yourself High Probability Selling by just doing the opposite of everything that is done in Traditional Selling. That is fairly accurate.

    A more practical way to look at it is to outline traditional systems and ask these question about every part of the system.

    Does this step increase mutual trust and respect or diminish it?

    Do prospects participate in the sales process enthusiastically, openly and honestly?

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  6. Ken says:

    My need for a plausible explanation why something works depends on two factors:

    1. What is the amount and nature of statistical (not anecdotal) evidence that proves that it does work? I’m a sucker for testimonials and case studies BUT if I’m going to lay out real money I want to see more from a reputable unbiased source.

    2. This relates to the last sentence above. That is my other factor is price point. I don’t need a plausible explanation why something works for me to buy a mass market sales skills book. But I would probably have a much greater need for it if I’m looking into a higher ticket item such as training, coaching, seminars, expensive infoproducts etc.

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  7. Carl:

    I’m sorry to take so long replying, Carl. It’s been a busy week.

    You propose an interesting question.

    I prefer a brief, plausible explanation of why something works before I’ll try it.

    I can happily accept that the “something” may work well for others but it is the explanation that let’s me decide if it might work for me. That, and a brief try.

    I suggest you should provide an explanation, Carl, if possible.

    Your “High Probability Selling was not designed to make sense. It was designed to duplicate what the top performing salespeople actually do. It was discovered completely through observation and careful documentation, followed by testing and measuring the results,” together with a quick overview of HPS would probably do the trick for me, if I wanted to sell with a high probability of success.

    Clair

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  8. Another thought came to mind while reading the comments.

    Dr. Wayne Diamond teaches that the purpose of communicating is to share understanding. Put more simply, if you start your communication with an attempt to garner understanding, you have a higher probability of success and its not possible to be rejected.

    Likewise, if you seek to get agreement by using persuasive arguments or rhetoric, the most common response is push back (a euphemism for rejection.)

    Along with statistics and testimonials, I find self-testing to be a strong selling point. If I can run the concept through my head and visually test the premise, my paradigm will change if the results are in harmony with the claim.

    If I already want what is being offered and then self-test the process, then I’m more likely to become a High Probability Prospect if given the opportunity.

    Such opportunities are lost on many people and on me when the salesperson focuses attention on telling me what I need versus asking me what I want.

    One approach seeks agreement while the other approach seeks understanding.

    I can self-test this concept in a conversation with my teenager, my wife, or a stranger I meet in the supermarket.

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    1. Richard Himmer,

      Thank you again for your very thoughtful and very well expressed comment. This is a great help to us in deciding what directions to go in marketing High Probability Selling.

      I am also extremely grateful to everyone else who has left a comment on this blog post. In my opinion, the comments are even more valuable than the original post (which I wrote).

      Carl Ingalls

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  9. tom says:

    having logical explanations and rules are great as long as we are willing to do the actual work.
    it is like learning to wrestle from a book and thinking you know how to wrestle yet you have never been on the mat.
    my 12 year old son has been wrestling since he was 6 and last year our league put out a call for refs so I signed up and studied the rule book and took the test and read a lot and went to a lot of training classes. But to really learn how to do it I had to go to tons of matches and actually watch the other refs in action (as opposed to kneeling at mat-side and coaching my son). As Yogi said (paraphrase) “you can see a lot by just looking”. But then I finally had to get on the mat and do it and make the mistakes and take the lumps. I figured if my kid could wrestle then I could ref. There is no substitute for actually doing it since the job actually consists of actually officiating a match and not in just studying about it. How many of us can get paid for reading about a thing vs. actually producing a result assuming we are not simply reading for pleasure or research?
    However, on a related topic, my biggest challenge with HPS and sales has always been trying to do high prob in a company that doesnt use high prob but instead uses some “consultative” method which requires me to jump thru all the tracking hoops that follow the companies sales methodology while still using high prob to sell. It takes some extra work to filter thru all the marketing materials to find the key features and then to utilize the ever present and required CRM fields that need to be filled out with all the extraneous data we are required to collect that has little impact on the sale but satisfies some higher-up VP of sales who still believes that he was successful because he collected all that data when he was selling. But like the Freakonomics and the Outlier books talk about, the results we see are often completely unrelated to what we assume caused them.
    So we are required to sell using a method that didnt work to begin with and that he/she didnt really use anyway although they believe they did and that it worked and will work for anybody as long as they follow the “process”.
    But what I find even most shocking is the unbelievable hubris that attends the traditional “consultative” selling process. What does “consultative” actually imply? It implies that the consultant actually knows something significant and substantial about the business of the person they are talking with and has some specialized training or knowledge (like 6 Sigma or Herbie’s) and with the right information can make substantive suggestions after a lengthy analysis. So here we have a still-wet-behind-the-ears sales “pro” one month out of college with a weeks worth of “consultative” “sales” “training” under his/her belt who is told that they have to go out and ask somebody a series of questions about their business who has been in that same business for 40 years and his father before him so that this recent college grad can give him some advice about how to do things better? That would be laughable if it wasnt so painful and embarrassing to the new sales person and such a time and money waster for the prospect who has to sit thru the “consultative” sales process to find something in what this person is saying to see if what they are selling will actually meet their conditions of satisfaction. So high prob is perfect because it doesnt pretend to know much in real depth and detail about the customer’s business. It assumes that the customer must know a lot about their own business otherwise they wouldn’t be in that business (at least not for long). All we have to do is say we have this thing or this service that does this and this and which other businesses like yours have used successfully, is that something you want? All the onus is on that business person to know what it could do for them based on their intimate knowledge of their knowledge of their needs, business model, profit, cash flow, challenges, the new improvement or expense reduction plan from upper management, etc, etc. I need to know what my service/product actually does and to ask for their conditions of satisfaction (which they know of course and if they dont I shouldnt be sitting there anyway) and whether my service/product actually does enough of what they need/want/can afford in their opinion not mine. I hope this feedback is useful. Thanks. Tom

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  10. tom says:

    “based on their intimate knowledge of their knowledge” should read “based on their intimate knowledge”

    And when I say that the high prob sales person doesnt need to know “in depth” about the prospect’s company’s inner workings, I mean that we need to know enough to know if they are in our target market and who would typically be the appropriate group to start calling within that type of company for our particular product/service (unless the only one taking calls is the CFO’s administrator/exec secr which is usually a great place to start anyway).

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