Oren Klaff is one of the world’s leading experts on sales, raising capital, and negotiation. With more than 1,000,000 copies in print worldwide, his first book, Pitch Anything, is required reading throughout Silicon Valley and Wall Street, and Oren has been featured in hundreds of periodicals, podcasts, and blogs.
In this episode, he shares insights from his new book, Flip The Script, and explains how selling has changed over the past decade. Listen in as Oren explains how to hold people’s attention and stop interruptions throughout presentations, as well as what it takes to convert leads and close deals.
Learn how to negotiate and sell like a pro with @orenklaff, author of FLIP THE SCRIPT and PITCH ANYTHING. #sales #negotiation #persuasion Click To Tweet
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On Today’s Episode We’ll Learn:
- How selling has changed over the last decade.
- What it really takes to close on a deal.
- The importance of honesty and transparency.
- How Oren became a negotiation and sales expert.
- Whether meeting in person is necessary to close deals.
- Advice for converting leads.
- How to hold people’s attention throughout a presentation.
Key Resources for Oren Klaff:
- Connect with Oren Klaff: Website| Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook
- Amazon: Flip The Script: Getting People to Think Your Idea is Their Idea
- Kindle: Flip The Script
- Amazon: Pitch Anything
- Amazon: Friction
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Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to Brainfluence, where author and international keynote speaker Roger Dooley has weekly conversations with thought leaders and world class experts. Every episode shows you how to improve your business with advice based on science or data.
Roger’s new book, Friction, is published by McGraw Hill and is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores everywhere. Dr. Robert Cialdini described the book as, “Blinding insight,” and Nobel winner Dr. Richard Claimer said, “Reading Friction will arm any manager with a mental can of WD40.”
To learn more, go to RogerDooley.com/Friction, or just visit the book seller of your choice.
Now, here’s Roger.
Roger Dooley: Welcome to Brainfluence. I’m your host, Roger Dooley. I’ve wanted to get today’s guest on the show for years. I wrote a review of Oren Klaff’s first book, Pitch Anything, on my Neuromarketing blog. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes. That book became required reading from Silicon Valley startups to corporate boardrooms. Today there are more than a million copies in print. Oren is one of the world’s leading experts on sales, raising capital, and negotiation.
His writing has been featured in Harvard Business Review, Inc, Advertising Age, Entrepreneur, and many others. Today Oren is an investment partner at a $200 million private equity fund and the author of the new book Flip The Script: Getting People To Think Your Idea Is Their Idea. Welcome to the show, Oren.
Oren Klaff: Hey, I appreciate that warm welcome and nice introduction.
Roger Dooley: Yeah, Oren, I loved your first book, Pitch Anything, and Flip The Script too. How did you personally evolve into a negotiation and sales expert?
Oren Klaff: Oh, you know, like anybody does, a baptism by fire. I had a partner, and he was in originating the deals and we were using his money, and we were doing deals, buying companies, buying assets, improving them, and selling them. And so the economy started tightening up. He’d take $2 million of our money, go commit to an asset, a company that we would buy it, get the loan, and then tell me, “You have 35 days to raise six and a half million dollars. Go.” And that was not enough time to do that amount of capital raising or selling.
But because I had my own money at stake, I had to do it. I had to figure it out. And so I had to leave the old scripts behind because they didn’t work effectively enough to get the job done. And so I got pushed into this area, negotiation and putting together pitches that work, by absolute necessity.
Roger Dooley: Hmm, well, there’s no teacher like necessity. So, Oren, is selling different today than it was say five or 10 years ago?
Oren Klaff: Yeah. So I mean, that was the reason Flip The Script came out now. It’s changed completely. Buyers are in total control of the sales process. The sellers can’t even feign control today using the old scripts, right? So we define what the old negotiation or sales script is, you know, it was, hey, get rapport with someone. Hey, did you watch the game over the weekend? Yeah. The Cowboys preseason was great. They’re looking pretty good. I’d love to see the quarterback, you know, throwing deep down field.
Oh, your team is the Vikings? Yeah. I love the Vikings too. Right? You know, that sort of rapport. So the buyer feels like we’re friendly and nice and affable, create a safe space to sell. That was the old script, right? Then give the features of what it is we have because that’s nice and safe. No risk in telling people about the features, spinning the features into benefits, then rolling into a trial close.
So what do you think? What do you think Rogers, is something you’d be interested in? If we get the price right today, you know, would you be able to move forward? And then the objections come out? Well, Oren, I don’t know. You know, we’re not really ready to upgrade to a new accounting system this early in the year. We haven’t done budget for it. I’ve got to check with my partner, the CFO, the CEO, the board of the committee.
So objections come up. Overcoming the objections and then pushing towards a close, that does not work today.
Roger Dooley: Sort of Zig Ziglar one-on-one.
Oren Klaff: Was Zig Ziglar one-on-one, our IP buddy. But I mean, that had its place in time, and that time was called the 1950s right? Unfortunately, people are still writing about it and still teaching it, still coaching and still using it today. But that script can… So it used to work, right, like all right, we have 1,000 leads, we’ll get 10% into the pipeline and we’ll convert 2% of them. Put that in the revenue model.
But today you can convert 0% that is, I see companies not getting to 2% you can literally convert 0% and that’s because the buyer owns the story, owns the sales process.
Roger Dooley: Oren, why is that today? I mean how has that changed from in the past?
Oren Klaff: Well, I’ll give you a quick story. So I have a friend, by the way, do you do any sports or mountain biking or running or anything like that?
Roger Dooley: Basically yeah, spend a few days at the gym, go multiple times per week, but nothing too exciting. Just the usual staying in shape stuff.
Oren Klaff: Yeah. So I was doing that until about a year ago and I have a buddy Rick Steel, really interesting guy, started doing triathlons, starts texting me every morning. “I just ran 10 miles. I just ran 12 miles. I just ran 15 miles. I just rode 55 miles on my bike.” I got sick of having no response. Like, Oh, I just went to the gym and you know, bench press. So I started running and biking, right?
Well, where this goes is if you’re doing that much volume of endurance training, you need these things called NormaTec. Okay? And what they are their compression sleeves for your legs, help you get your legs back online. And so at NormaTec, they’re $2500, so no problem. I’m about to buy it. And then I go, you know what? Maybe it’s on Amazon. So I click over to Amazon and sure enough $2300. I’m about to click buy on Amazon, and I’m like, hmm, you know, I wonder if it’s on eBay. I’m very proficient in eBay. I have a lot of cars, motorcycles.
I hop over to eBay. There it is. $1900. Wow. I just made $600 in 25 seconds. Okay, I’ll get it on eBay. You know, used three times, stopped running, got an injury. You know, good seller. And then I just go, I wonder if it’s on locally on Craigslist, I can just go pick it up. Sure enough, $1700 on Craigslist. Just saved $800 in less than two minutes.
I don’t need $800 for sure. However, $800 in two minutes is a pretty… And so selling, or buying has been gamified. So no matter how much Roger, I like you, no matter how much I like the proposal and I think it’s a good price, we’ve just been trained buyers in the game of getting it cheaper or for free.
Roger Dooley: Right. Well I think one way, too, the power shifted is that it used to be the sales person knew more about the product than the buyer. I mean that was often why they came into talk to the buyer was to explain their product and its features and that sort of thing. But today, all that information is online and frequently the buyer is better formed about the particular product they need than the sales person is.
Oren Klaff: The way I think about it, you know, again, to go back to the running, my knee, because of the volume, my knee started hurting, right? So I went to the doctor and in the old days we’d gone to doctor and would’ve said, “Doc, my knee hurts. What do you think?” Right? So I walk in there and you know, she goes, “What seems to be the problem?” Right? And because running world has an article on the four kinds of knee pain and they go into, I go, “Doctor, it’s a subpatellar. It’s got translateral pain transducing up through the ankle and terminating here in the greater patella. It is circumventing the kneecap, and I think we just need to go to a cortisone injection,” like I’m a doctor. Okay?
And so today, buyers can know as much or more than you about the technical solutions for their specific product, and that’s the issue. If you’re treating them like not knowledgeable, you’re trying to educate them, you’re trying to ramp them up, bring them up to speed, you’re missing the opportunity to really talk to them in a language they’ve already familiarized themselves with.
I mean, no buyer today just goes, “I have this problem, a security patch, a accounting software problem. You know, I’m getting audited, we’re not in compliance with HR.” You know, whenever there’s a million problems, no buyer today has a problem that hasn’t familiarized themselves with the technical aspects of the problem, the potential solutions, who provides it, and they want you to take them further, right, which sort of gets into the book until somebody has certainty that you can solve their kind of problem.
They’re going to come up with objections. They’re going to come up with stalls. They’re going to say, “Send me a proposal,” and the thing is going to grind to a halt and you’re going to end up chasing. When you’re chasing a buyer, the chances today of getting them closed without heavy discounting is very small.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yup. So in the book you focus on the idea of inception and one analogy that you make and that I thought was really apt is the ideal sales process is a little bit like a detective show on TV. So can you explain that concept?
Oren Klaff: Yeah, so you know, I write it up, but the shows on TV, if you watch them, especially these crime procedurals, at some point you go, “Aha, I know who did it,” right? You’ve outsmarted the writers, the actors, the producers, the show, the whole concept. You figure it out what’s going on, right? And you feel at the top of your game.
The reality is you’re supposed to be able to figure it out. You’re supposed to feel good. They know that you’re going to figure it out exactly at that point, right, and so you feel in total control. That’s what makes those shows exciting, that you figured it out.
In fact, when those shows give you too many clues, and it’s too easy to figure out what is really going on, they become boring and uninteresting and don’t get good ratings.
Roger Dooley: How does that relate to the sales process?
Oren Klaff: When somebody feels like they’ve figured out that you’re the expert, you’re the best option, they feel like they’ve negotiated you, that they’ve got… they’re in control of the process, they’ve got the price. Then they say to you, “How do we get started?” When they have the feeling like they’re in total control, the reality is that they’ve gone through a process and they’re comfortable, and when they’re driving it, you’re not having to control the sale with discounts. You’re not having to chase the buyer around. You’re not having to compete against other firms. You’re not having to submit RFPs because they’re coming to you in a process that you’ve created and saying, “How do we get started?”
I’ll give you an example, right? My job or large part of it is to invest in companies, but we buy companies and you know, we buy and sell, so sometimes we help companies sell themselves. Guy comes in here, got a $30 million deal. We pitch him the idea of taking over the company and selling it for him. It’s not really a one-meeting close, right? You’ve got to pitch it. They’ve got to talk to their partner and the CFO, and there’s a process.
So the guy leaves, goes out to his car. We sit in the conference room sort of wiping our brows. “Yeah, that was a good pitch.” Doing a post-pitch recap. We hear the door open again. The guy walks back in. That is never good. Usually it means somebody has gone to the car, open the glove box and gotten a gun and they’re coming back. Not really, right, but it’s just not good when people… Unless they forgot their iPhone charger, it’s not good when people come back in.
So he walks back in the conference room, takes out a check, right? Writes a large check and hands it over. I have no idea what this check is for. We don’t have a scope of work. We don’t have an agreement. There’s nothing to sign. The check is it for a random, a large amount. And he says this, “I think this will get us started. Look forward to working with you next week.” That’s inception. We never pitched it in terms of yes or no, right? We outlined it, we took them to the process, we taught him how to buy from us, we gave him certainty that we’re experts in this particular thing that he needs done. And we showed him how to buy from us and we put a time constraint around it, and he gained back around and said, “Let’s get started.” That’s inception. And that’s what you want to create.
And that’s what this book is, is this is how our sales go. People say, “Oren, you’ve written two books on sales. Millions of salespeople use it. Hundreds, thousands of companies train on it. What’s your best close? And I say, “Roger my best close, well it’s no… I don’t really have a close. I don’t know how to close.” Right? Because we want a process now where the buyer says, “How do we get started?” That’s a close.
In fact, I can tell you this and it sounds amazing, but if you go through the book, you’ll see how it works. If a buyer says to me, “Yeah, you know, it sounds good. Why don’t we get started and you know, send over the paperwork and let’s get it going.” I will say, “No. That makes no sense to me.”
For most people they would say, “Oh my God, I got a buyer to say yes,” so they rush ahead. To me, “Hey, you know what sounds good, let’s get started,” is not enough certainty on their side that I believe we can get paperwork done, money wired and have it stick without renegotiation. So really, until somebody says, “I love you Oren, the way you do business, the things we’ve talked about, how you showed me that you can handle my problem and deal with it. I’m super excited. Let’s go forward with confidence.”
Until I hear that I know I haven’t created enough certainty about what will happen in the future in the buyer’s mind. We don’t really have a deal.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So what are one or two ways of getting to that point? Because, I mean, I think many people would say, “Wow, that’s really odd where we’re not, say, presenting the customer with a piece of paper to sign or like, okay, you know, here’s how we can help you. This is exactly what we can do and we need you to say yes now so we can get moving on this project.” You know, and that’s I think a natural tendency in sales, that sort of close.
And of course going back to a Zig, he had a 20 different ways to close a sale. You know, how do you get to that point where the customer is closing himself more or less?
Oren Klaff: Sure, and I love those old sales closes a lot today for their comedic nature. Roger, here’s the contract. Press hard, here’s a pen, press hard. The fifth copy’s yours to keep. Right?
Roger Dooley: Right. Oh, should we deliver that on Tuesday or Thursday of next week?
Oren Klaff: Roger, if I could get it to you in red, can we go ahead with this today? So, those are cool, you know, for comedic value. The reality is this, today, the second the buyer knows the features, the benefits, the ROI, the value proposition and the price, and you put that on a piece of paper, he will say, “Thank you very much. Got to show this to some mythical committee, partner, CFO that you never heard about before for their approval, and if I have any additional questions, I’ll get back to you.” Their next call is to China, right?
I mean I say that kiddingly but their next call is to some other firm that does something similar and says, “Hey, I can get this for $50,000. Can you beat it?” Right, as we talked about before. So I understand it is intuitive to put a contract and agreement, a proposal in front of someone. But today, the moment you do that, they’re going to put you in a box in our firm. We’ll let you make lots of mistakes, because I grew up with my partner in this process. He let me make dozens or hundreds of mistakes and that’s how I learned.
And so I let our people make lots of mistakes. The one thing that you may not do here at my firm that I’m in control of, is have the buyer put you in a box. I think you and I are both old enough to have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, right?
Roger Dooley: Oh, definitely one of my favorites.
Oren Klaff: Okay, so in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I don’t think I’m giving away-
Roger Dooley: Little late for spoiler alert I think.
Oren Klaff: Yeah, a little late for… Thank you. Well said. So at the end of the movie, they find the covenant of the lost ark, the thing that has the power to improve or save humanity, improve the living conditions and the political state and the world to where there could be peace and harmony and food and healthcare for the billions of people on earth.
And what does the U.S. government do? They put it in a box, in a crate, put it on a forklift and it goes into a warehouse with 10,000 similar boxes. They put it in a box and on a shelf. This is the vision I have. When the buyer says to you, “Sounds good. Send over the proposal. I’ll get it in front of our CEO and CFO and committee and partner. Get back to you in a few weeks if we have any other questions.” You’re being put in a box and on the shelf. Literally buyers, at least for our services and products will say to our business development executives, “Sounds good. Please send over proposal written up. Now we know that you’re an option that we can take, we’ll get back to you as soon as we need it.”
At that time, I don’t allow that, right? We are not an option that you keep on the shelf and take out when you want. Why? Because we’ve invested time and money and energy and effort and we have to understand who we’re doing business with. People who negotiate in authentically to get information and quoting and everything that aren’t moving forward in a methodical sales process or aren’t being authentic in their ability to buy, ability to make decision, aren’t good partners for us. So we don’t allow people to, but we say, We’re not an option by the way.” Right?
We’ll work with you a little bit longer. We want to do business with you. But this concerns us, this behavior. This is not how professional buyers act in some ways. So, if you’re looking for a modern script for that, I would say, “Roger, essentially, you know, you’re very sophisticated about accounting systems,” you know, if we’d sell accounting systems. You know, “You’re running a $30 million company. You’ve had four or five accounting systems up to this point. Your current system is failing you. You’ve had your CFO on. You’ve been on. You had your tech people on. You probably have 15 hours going through this with us. Likewise, we’re the number one expert in SAS, on-prem accounting software integrated into the IRS tax systems, and we’ve had three or four people, we probably have 20 hours in it. So between you and us, there’s 35 hours put into getting this proposal together, and now we’re at the point where none of us know what to do and are scratching our heads. That makes no sense to me. The two biggest experts in the world in your particular problem can’t figure out what to do. Huge red flag. Let’s not do this to each other. Let’s figure out either we have enough knowledge to go forward or it’s just not a fit. Is that fair?” Right.
So that’s a modern script for getting a sale unstuck and not allowing people to put you in a crate on a forklift into a warehouse on the shelf. So I’m not sure how I got off on that tirade, but-
Roger Dooley: No, that makes a lot of sense because I think the traditional scripts would never say go with something that sounds a bit like a take it or leave it. Now you aren’t saying take it or leave it, but you are offering leaving as one of the options compared to the more desirable option of the smart people figuring out how to do this thing together. But that’s great.
Oren Klaff: Well here’s what’s different today. When I think about these marketing tech, right? 7,000 companies provide marketing, tech, sales automation, CRM, ad management, ad placement, funnel hacking, phone management, sales management, and they’re in every corner of lead gen, there’s some software SAS company helping you out.
Companies, and I see hundreds, thousands of companies, they’re drowning in leads. I envision a hiker, you know that’s up on K2 in Nepal or wherever it is, you know, or Kilimanjaro and have gotten lost, and the winter has moved in and it’s freezing cold and they’ve used up all their supplies, they’re trying to find their way down and they’re hiking on ice, right? But they’ve run out of water. So they’re dying of thirst on a mountain of ice. And that’s how I view today what’s happening in lead gen.
Companies are drowning in leads, but conversion is dropping to near zero, right? And that’s because we’ve become very comfortable with this marketing technology. But for something that’s not a click and buy, more than $5,000, more than $10,000, $50,000, $5 million, that is zero tech. It is you and another person on the phone, on Skype, in a meeting room, on a Zoom, whatever it is, doing business together. The more tech you use on that call, in that meeting, the worst things will be, but we’re trained to use tech.
So the old scripts don’t work anymore. What is it that will work today, right? I think what’s replaced this sales methodology is the sense if you’re on Instagram or Facebook or YouTube or anything like that, is hustle. So tremendous amount of hustle pouring out there, right? Work hard, work harder, work harder than anybody else. To me, that’s the script that is trying to replace the sales scripts that are no longer working.
I don’t, you know, I don’t know how you are, but I have a five-year-old. I exercise, I have a spiritual life, my wife and I like to spend together. I like to, you know, I’m very involved in cars and motorcycles and my athletics. I have a whole round rounded life that I have to live. I can’t just work harder. In fact I’m going to work less.
So the answer that I think popular culture or sales culture has given in negotiation, business development, is if chasing isn’t working, chase harder. And I think you have to give up large portions of your life that are important to then work harder. And that’s the gap that I feel like Flip the Script fills, is how to not chase customers.
So where I was going to go with that is today because lead gen is so easy to do, you can take more risks with a a buyer. You can tell them the truth. So it’s not uncommon that I will say to a buyer who is sort of over negotiating and starting to fatigue us, fatigue me with the requests. Buyers sometimes think, hey, you never get something you don’t ask for, but, but you can fatigue a seller today, because I have a huge mountain of leads I need to get to.
I will say to a buyer, and I’m not talking about a consumer or retail buyer or some low power, you know, a guy worth $200 million, a $500 million company. I will say, “Guys, I confused you. This is how it works. We have it and you don’t. You have this problem. We don’t have this problem on our side. In order to get us to fix your problem, which we know how to do and have done a thousand times before so much that it’s almost boring for us to fix it, you actually have to take money from your bank account and put it in our bank account and sign the agreement. That’s how it works. We don’t have another way of doing business. So if we can get back on track here…” And so you may not want to say that to your customer, but that level of honesty and transparency is possible today, if you do a couple things a properly.
Also because of the lead gen capabilities, you may even have to say that because you’ve got other accounts to get to. In the past, you know, Glengarry Glen Ross, you sort of had the leads, right? And you had to convert the leads you had. Leads almost come to you no matter what business you’re in, you know, via LinkedIn or, or whatever, so you have to have the ability to convert leads and that is 100% in person, human-to-human.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay, well Oren, let me raise a question that our listeners might be wondering about. In the book, you talk about deals of pretty large scale magnitude where the interactions do take place face-to-face. These days with the technology we have, a lot of smaller deals that are still of size, we’re not talking about buying something on Amazon, but say something that requires negotiating a little bit. That takes place online via email. Perhaps the lead comes in via the website.
I know, even like my speaking engagements, they aren’t of a scale say of a Bill Clinton doing a keynote in Dubai or something, but often the first phone conversation we have is after we have worked out the details of the booking itself. I’m guessing that many of our listeners also conduct a lot of their business digitally.
Can some of these ideas be applied in that scenario or is it always better to say push at least to a face-to-face interaction via Skype or something of that nature?
Oren Klaff: No, not at all. So in the book I tell a lot of the stories are about face-to-face meetings because they’re interesting, right? There’s things happening.
Roger Dooley: The email exchange doesn’t have quite the dynamic of sitting in the office of a Russian oligarchy.
Oren Klaff: Roger there I was sitting in my office and an email came in, ding. I reached for my laptop. I mean, there’s just no, you know, it’s very hard for a compelling narrative arc, as you said, versus being in the highest tower in Moscow meeting with an oligarch who’s got armed security guards around him. It’s the same meeting, right, that comes in over Skype. It’s just the environs or the situation is interesting. That’s why I put those in the book.
But ultimately we have sold companies, I mean we’re talking $10, $20 million transactions, never having met in person the executives of the company or the buyers. So today you can transact large, high stakes deal online, phone, Skype, everything. So absolutely not necessary to meet in person. Many times meeting in person can be a negative, right, because for a lot of sellers, a lot of the executives we have, they’re just not used to meeting in person, almost are lost in in-person meetings and it can be awkward and almost a negative.
So online Skype, phone only, many, many transactions certainly in the size of 10 20 50, 100 million dollars can happen without a meeting in place.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Are there specific aspects to your techniques that work better in that totally digital communication?
Oren Klaff: Well, I’ll share with you something that’s not in the book. It’s probably my next book because you’re asking such good questions. I think about it like this, when you go to sell, pitch or work on a deal, there’s three layers that are on top of each other. The bottom layer is the content layer, right, and Pitch Anything addressed a lot of that.
The big idea, the problem that you saw, identifying the problem, suggesting other ways the problem could be solved, what your solution is, what it is, how it works, the value proposition, the KPIs or the assumptions or some of the details, a demo, what the competitive offerings are, what the deliverables are, what the timing would be, who your management team is or who will implement it and your track record and a proposal. That’s the content of a pitch, right, in the order it should be in.
You get any of those elements out of order, you don’t have a pitch for sure. Right. Something’s wrong. So just to work on that idea for a minute, when people say to me, “Hey, Oren, how do you keep people interested? How do you hold their attention? How do you stop them from looking at their phones? Or how do you stop from getting questions in the middle of a presentation?” I don’t get questions or interruptions and people don’t look at their phone or their laptop during my presentations because I’m giving the buyer the information they need, in the order they need it, with the amount of detail they can absorb in that setting. That’s phone or Skype or in-person.
That’s the content layer and many sales would be improved or happen if you just got that content layer right. Okay. Next on top of that is a performance layer, right? And that’s some of the stuff we’re talking about here and some of the stuff I cover in Pitch Anything and Flip the Script. That is, your charisma, your personality, the tone, the pace, the inflection, the stories, you know the things that supplement the ideas and the content that make them real. It’s the showing, not telling.
The showmanship of the content is the layer that goes on top of the content, and then there’s the control layer and that’s the stuff that I really get into and Flip the Script. So if you’ve got the content and you’ve got the performance, then you can layer on the control, right, letting the buyer feel like he’s in control while you are actually in control and leading them to the point where they say, “I love the content. The performance is terrific and how do we move forward? I want move with you.”
Those are the things that whether you’re doing it in person or on the phone, that can be consistent. Content first, then the performance layer and then the control layer. When you mash all those together or you can combine or unify them, then you become a master in negotiation at pitching and closing deals. When you have those three things put together, that’s when the buyers really go, “I’m in. How do we get started?”
Roger Dooley: Great. Well, let me just hit on one last topic, Oren. One thing that really surprised me was your assertion in the book that pessimism, not optimism, is the formula for success in sales. I guess most salespeople try to be optimistic. You know, they paint a rosy picture of how life will be after you do the deal, you know. You’re going to make more money, your company’s going to be more profitable, you’re going to be more attractive to other people and all these things. So how do you use pessimism?
Oren Klaff: So, I’ve got 5,000 people in an online training program, and it’s a great Petri dish, you know, maybe the world’s largest negotiation and sales experimental lab. What we’ve found is in almost no cases today, when the buyer comes up with objections, that you can overcome those objections to the satisfaction of the buyer such that they move forward and buy, all right?
So objection comes out. “Well, you know, I’m not sure we have cleared budget for this accounting implementation until later in the year.” I know what to do. I take out my objection wiffle bat and I start beating that objection until it goes away, right? What do we beat it with? Optimism. “Oh, don’t worry about that.” Right? “We have a financing program, and we have ways to solve that.” Or, “The accounting software will pay for itself so you don’t have to use any budget at all,” like the wall.
So the reality is if you want the buyer to decide in their own mind, like we talked about in the in the TV shows that they figured out that you’re the best option. Part of that figuring out that they want to work with you, is their mind moving through the idea that it could fail, that there are risks, that nothing is perfect. They have to be allowed to have those objections and to have pessimism. So much so that as I said in the book, pessimism is the key to closing a sale, not optimism or overcoming objections.
When you are overly optimistic to a professional buyer, I’m not talking about selling iPhones here in a AT&T store, you know somebody buying a $25,000, $100,000, $500,000 of service, whatever it is. When you are exceedingly optimistic to a professional buyer, it raises a red flag. They pick up on it. They know what’s going on. They have to be allowed to put themselves through to wiggle through a messy, pessimistic process and allow to feel that even though this could fail, there’s some things could go wrong. Something goes wrong in every project. They’re aware of the risks. Only then do they feel comfortable going forward.
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So allowing for the fact that things could go wrong, but also perhaps showing that your history and your expertise has taught you how to deal with those things that go wrong, could be a better solution than just saying, “Oh, that’s not going to happen.”
Oren Klaff: Yeah, I think so. I mean, ultimately when the buyer, as I’ve said before, has certainty that you’ve solved his kind of problem before, that you’ve done it a thousand times, it’s a not a pushup for you, and that he can look in the future and visualize a scenario where the things that you’ve promised really have happened on the budget you promised, on the timeline that you promised, in the way that you promised.
You know, we started talking about cars earlier, and you had that Alfa Romeo. Any interesting cars in your stable now?
Roger Dooley: Yeah, I’ve got a classic now 2008 Hummer H3 Alpha, which isn’t too exciting, but I enjoy it and it’s been remarkably trouble-free.
Oren Klaff: That’s pretty cool. I love big trucks. You know, I have a G550 Squared, which is the giant Mercedes G wagon. It’s out of control. So, I love big trucks and I’ve got a Defender 110 as well. We got it on an import from Europe.
So that’s an interesting vehicle. The reason I bring it up, it starts making a noise and you go, okay, I’ve got to take it to the shop. You drive it to a shop. I think like no GM dealerships really work on that vehicle, right? You don’t drive it there and they go, “Oh, it’s an H3. Be happy to work on it.” But anyway, you take it to a shop, it’s making a noise. And I know Roger, you probably work on your own vehicles or whatever, right? But go with me for this situation.
You take it to the shop and the mechanic comes out and you say, “Hey, it’s making a noise. Doesn’t sound good.” And he listens to and he goes, “Hey, listen. Yeah, it’s definitely making a noise. We should look into it. It’s $200. Leave it here. We’ll give you a call on Monday. Let you know what we found. If you decide to leave it here and have us do the work, the $200 can apply to the work done.” And you say, “Hmm, that sounds like I’m getting into a situation, but I don’t know how I’m getting out of it.” So you go, “Well let me think about it.” Then you take off.
You drive to another mechanic shop has been recommended. You pull up and sort of old grizzled mechanic with the proper tattoos on the left arm and his name on his shirt, you know, Dan. Comes out. He’s got his hands in his pockets leaning back, kicks a tire, tells you to rev the motor, it squeaks a little bit and he says, “Roger, let me tell you what’s going on here. See this drip of oil? That means the alternator coming loose because of the reduction gears in the transaxle. These things start to go wiggly after 60,000 miles. I can really hear that’s a 23-74C fan belt, which is probably installed correctly because when they built these Hummers, the Dearborn factory was shut down for three months and they used some replacements. We see it all the time. We actually keep in stock the 24-705 which is the correct replacement for the fan belt. That’s going to stop this oil drip. We’ll tighten up to the correct Newton metres, the reduction gears in the rear. Tell you what, if you leave it here, we’ve got a couple on the shelf, I’ll have it done by tomorrow morning. You can come by at 10:00 a.m. We’ll have it done for you. It’s 700 bucks. I get it done for you tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.”
Roger Dooley: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. Well the second person apparently knows what they’re doing.
Oren Klaff: In that narrative there’s no sale, but what he’s covered there is the certainty gap between the one. You know, obviously it’s an abstraction and an idealized situation. I don’t know that much about the H3, but he’s covered the certainty gap that if you leave it there and you spend money, he’s shown you that he has solved this kind of problem because he knows so much about it in such technical detail, can talk about it so rapidly in a way that’s almost nonchalant that you have certainty that on the other side of the work and the payment, your problem will be solved. That’s what we’re trying to create. That’s a simple example, but that’s what we’re trying to create.
The feeling for the buyer that there’s no certainty gap, that you have solved this problem. An expert, not an expert in the industry, not that you’ve won awards, not that Microsoft and Oracle and GM and all these big logos use you, right? That’s all helpful, not that you have a million likes or 50,000 likes on Facebook, those things are all helpful and pieces of data that support the case that you’re a good guy and honest and everything, but really showing someone that you have solved their problem before a thousand times closes that certainty gap and lets them move forward on their own without you having to push them forward.
You know, I might just say, now that were on cars, all major car manufacturers have moved away from pressure sales. Like does it still exist at individual dealerships? For sure. But at the car manufacturer level, that’s not what they want their salespeople to do. They want the car and the company to be so compelling and so comfortable and so honest and so transparent that you come in and you decide that you want the vehicle and you drive the sales process.
They don’t want to force the car on you because those ended up in discounting, the cars come back, the deals don’t close and people shop them. When you decide you want that car from that dealership and you’re happy, then the deal closes.
Roger Dooley: Let me remind our listeners that today’s guest is Oren Klaff, author of Pitch Anything and the new book Flip the Script. I recommend both of these titles to anyone who needs to pitch ideas, sell products, close deals, or perform any other kind of persuasive task. Oren’s ideas aren’t standard sales scripts. I love Zig Ziglar, but these aren’t your grandfather’s sales tactics, and there are lots of anecdotes that both illustrate key points and make for lively reading.
Oren, how can people find you?
Oren Klaff: Yeah, terrific. Thanks for asking. If you go to PitchAnything.com you’re going to get all the information in the world that you could possibly absorb on this stuff.
Roger Dooley: Great, well we will link there and to Oren’s books and to any other resources we mentioned on the show notes page at RogerDooley.com/podcast. Oren, thanks for being on the show.
Oren Klaff: Thanks, Roger. I really enjoyed it. Great questions and I know I ran long, but you’re very knowledgeable about this stuff and I greatly enjoyed it.
Thank you for tuning into this episode of Brainfluence. To find more episodes like this one, and to access all of Roger’s online writing and resources, the best starting point is RogerDooley.com.
And remember, Roger’s new book Friction is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and book sellers everywhere. Bestselling author Dan Pink calls it, “An important read,” and Wharton Professor Dr. Joana Berger said, “You’ll understand Friction’s power and how to harness it.”
For more information or for links to Amazon and other sellers, go to rogerdooley.com/friction.
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