Contrary to popular belief, a certain amount of paranoia is necessary for true success in sales. One of the problems with salespeople is that they aren’t paranoid enough. After listening to motivational speakers extoll the virtues of positive thinking, many salespeople have mastered optimism and positive reinforcement. However, one of the problems with this approach is a healthy lack of paranoia. To advance your career there must be an equilibrium within your mind, and optimism must be balanced with a dose of critical thinking. You must be able to consider all possibilities realistically, and remove the rose-tinted glasses of positive thinking and mitigate the different factors contributing to the success or failure of a deal.

Recently a client debriefed with me about participating on a tour of a facility. He had just submitted his proposal for the job. Also, included in the tour were the two engineers from competing firms. He returned all pumped up and said to me:

“I know I’m going to get this deal!”

I asked him:

“What are your metrics?”

“Well my client asked me more questions, and he spent more time looking at me and saying, ‘uh huh, uh huh, uh huh’ whenever I was answering the questions,”

“Did you give him long-winded answers? Did you give too much information? When he asked you what time it was, did you tell him where and how the clock was made?”

He said:


Few professional people know this, but clients who say, “Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh” when you’re talking to them are really communicating:

“Shut up! I’ve heard enough; you’re boring me.”

So, let’s look at the value of paranoia. If you are completely certain you will get the deal, then you have nothing to worry about. But what if it’s only a maybe? What if it’s only fifty-fifty? All the optimism in the world won’t help you eliminate that fifty percent risk. There are all sorts of other issues that can come to bear on your deal and stop it in its tracks. You must be able to have a somewhat paranoid conversation with your client and explore what could go wrong, otherwise the opportunity is at risk. Clients appreciate realistic, thorough approach and your chances of out-foxing the competition will greatly increase.

In Intensive Care units of any hospital, patients who have been admitted after accidents or serious illnesses, although the team works to keep the patient alive, they are also focused on keeping them from dying. These are two entirely different mindsets. When salespeople work to keep the client from dying, as it were, they look at all the other contributing factors that could come between them and the deal. This creates a balanced overview of the situation, and will increase the chances of pre-empting any problems that could arise. The one question you should always ask your clients to keep them from dying is this:

“What are three conditions that could come between us working together?”

It is likely that your competition doesn’t have the guts or the ability to have these tough but meaningful conversations with their prospects and clients, which means that you are going to be the one that stands out as the leader; someone to be reckoned with.

This article is an excerpt from my upcoming publication:

How the Top 10% Do It 3D front cover book

Receive a FREE digital copy of the book

How the Top 10% Do It: Sales Secrets of Elite & Top Performers

The first 100 people to request it will obtain a digital version of the book and be notified when the physical and e-book version are available.

Thanks for joining!

Shortly you will receive the digital copy of "How the Top 10% Do It: Sales Secrets of Elite & Top Performers".

Meet you at the top!

“My clients consistently win new business

and increase recurring revenues.”

Sara Haynes profile photo

Sara Haynes, P. Eng.
Sigma Solutions

“I took advantage of Alice Wheaton’s offer for a free 30-minute consultation…but we chatted for almost an hour, during which I had several epiphanies that have inspired and motivated me to move forward. These were ideas that I could immediately start working on to help me get new clients and increase recurring revenues. This is what I call Value on Steroids!”

Would you like a FREE 30-min consultation? Schedule a call

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *