Flip the Script: Getting People to Think Your Idea Is Their Idea

Flip the Script: Getting People to Think Your Idea Is Their Idea

by Oren Klaff


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Is there anything worse than a high-pressure salesperson pushing you to say "yes" (then sign on the dotted line) before you're ready?

If there's one lesson Oren Klaff has learned over decades of pitching, presenting, and closing long-shot, high-stakes deals, it's that people are sick of being marketed and sold to. Most of all, they hate being told what to think. The more you push them, the more they resist.

What people love, however, is coming up with a great idea on their own, even if it's the idea you were guiding them to have all along. Often, the only way to get someone to sign is to make them feel like they're smarter than you.

That's why Oren is throwing out the old playbook on persuasion. Instead, he'll show you a new approach that works on this simple insight: Everyone trusts their own ideas. If, rather than pushing your idea on your buyer, you can guide them to discover it on their own, they'll believe it, trust it, and get excited about it. Then they'll buy in and feel good about the chance to work with you.

That might sound easier said than done, but Oren has taught thousands of people how to do it with a series of simple steps that anyone can follow in any situation.

And as you'll see in this book, Oren has been in a lot of different situations.

He'll show you how he got a billionaire to take him seriously, how he got a venture capital firm to cough up capital, and how he made a skeptical Swiss banker see him as an expert in banking. He'll even show you how to become so compelling that buyers are even more attracted to you than to your product.

These days, it's not enough to make a great pitch.

To get attention, create trust, and close the deal, you need to flip the script.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525533948
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/13/2019
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 351,721
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Oren Klaff is one of the world's leading experts on sales, raising capital and negotiation. His first book, Pitch Anything, is required reading throughout Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the Fortune 500, with more than 1,000,000 copies in print worldwide. He has written for Harvard Business Review, Inc., Advertising Age, Entrepreneur and has been featured in hundreds of periodicals, podcasts and blogs. He is an investment partner in a $200 million private equity investment fund and in his spare time is a motorcycle enthusiast.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


Why You Need Inception


The truly rich in Russia are called oligarchs, a term that has come to mean control, power, and ruthlessness. And Viktor [last name redacted] definitely deserves the title. His luxurious office sits atop a high rise overlooking the Moscow River. Viktor sits behind a presidential desk, wearing a tourbillion watch that I recognize from a popular gear and gadgets website, list price $1 million. Every wall in this office is decorated with photos of oil rigs, factories, container ships, and cargo planes he presumably owns; over his desk is a massive and oddly beautiful painting of an oil refinery with a caption engraved in brass, novogrod #12. Viktor is heavyset, tall, and burly-in another life he might have been a rugby player. His smile isn't a smile at all. The executives of all his companies fear him, and I fear him too.


There are three things you need to know about doing deals with Russian oligarchs. Number one, they aren't interested in losing money-ever, under any circumstances. Second, they don't make emotional decisions; Russians are raised on a steady diet of math, physics, engineering, and electronics, and they analyze every decision ten different ways, then have a shot of vodka and analyze it one more time. Third, you simply cannot lose an oligarch's money and say, "Yikes, sorry it didn't work, but I tried really hard," like you can in Silicon Valley. Instead, you need to do whatever it takes to get their money back.


So, if there's a World Championship of Dealmaking, this is it.


Why would I ever leave my comfortable Los Angeles office to travel across the world to participate in this kind of stress-inducing meeting?


MicroGenetics, the company I represented, needed to hire a dozen or more PhD mathematicians, but in the United States, these are a very rare and expensive commodity. Competent mathematicians easily command a million dollars per contract on the global exchange, and that was way over the company's budget. In Russia, however, you can still find skilled but affordable mathematicians, but not without a powerful local sponsor. Viktor was a man who could wave his finger and get us whatever we wanted. Bottom line, my client needed both his money and his approval in order to navigate the layers of bureaucracy that come with any deal in Russia.


This is how I found myself standing on the fifty-ninth floor of a tower in downtown Moscow, in an office that felt more like an exhibit at the Getty museum than a place of business. I was flanked on each side by translators and analysts, eager to get rid of me and keep Viktor on his precise daily schedule.


My presentation was just getting underway, but I was already in serious trouble. At first, Viktor was listening to me with great interest, nodding his head in comprehension as I explained our genetic sequencing technology that we believed would save millions of lives and revolutionize health care. When I paused to take a quick breath, he jumped in to criticize my deal in perfect English: "Your software code has many syntax and computational errors." But when I countered that point, describing a rock-solid contract we had with a major US tech firm, proving the technology worked, Viktor stared at me blankly, needing his translator to explain each word, even then looking distant and lost.


Back and forth we went like this. Every question he shot at me was forceful and articulate and from the mind of a brilliant investor. Every answer I gave was met with a blank stare. Then Viktor would say, "Please you explain this more better," and translators would step in for a long, drawn-out exchange that went nowhere.


I had to explain our technology to him in the same way I might show my elderly neighbor how to send a text message. "Human genetic data is like millions of grains of sand," I said, using a weird analogy I had just made up. Next I was using gestures that looked like hand puppets to help make this point.


Viktor cut me off: "That makes no sense."


Oh god. He was right. It didn't. Now my mouth was saying things my brain hadn't approved of yet.


I was losing control of this deal. But I had to keep moving forward. So I launched into the most exciting part of my pitch, explaining the revolutionary new features that set us apart in the world of genetic data.


Just before I finished, Viktor turned away from me, ignoring what I was saying. With his back to me, he spoke in Russian to his team of advisers for a few minutes. I didn't know if I was supposed to leave, wait quietly, or perform a magic trick.


Finally, he turned back to me, a little surprised I was still there. His eyes narrowed in an unfriendly way; then, when I opened my mouth to say something, he smiled broadly, waving his hand to cut me off. "Yes, yes, we know all this," he said, and looked at me as if I were a boring commercial you have to watch before the real show begins.


Viktor had taken away all my usual control points. He was using his power and a supposed language barrier to put me into a low-status position. I was acting needy and anxious, and negotiating against myself. This was a dealmaker's nightmare. I knew he was going to make an offer, because I was still in the room, but I also knew the terms of the deal would be horrendous.


As this unfolded, I was watching myself fall back onto the classic sales approach, with its tired old script: First become likable and build rapport, then explain "features and benefits," next do a trial close, and then fight like an alley cat to overcome all the objections the buyer has come up with.


Russian oligarchs do not like being sold this way or argued with, especially by Americans. And Viktor is definitely no exception to this rule. He has a big mustache, which the President of Russia once suggested he shave off because it looked too "Soviet." He said nyet to that request, and nyet to virtually every other demand put in front of him before and since. If I tried to overcome his objections and push a deal, he would never go along with it. I knew it. So if I wanted to walk out of that room with a check-on fair terms-it was going to have to be his idea to work with me.


I took a deep breath. It was time to flip the script.


I had been working on a completely novel way of telling other people about an idea or product so that they would come up with the idea to buy without my even having to ask. It's called Inception, and it's based on the latest research in neuroscience and behavioral economics. I've uncovered a way to plant an idea deep in another person's subconscious so that they take ownership of it and propose it to me as if it were theirs.


This approach is needed because traditional sales methods get you stuck in arguments and logical stand-offs-which is where I was headed with Viktor. Inception relies on a completely new set of tools: the Status Tip-off, the Flash Roll, Pre-Wired Ideas, Plain Vanilla, being Compelling, and the Buyer's Formula. I'll show you all of these later.


Back in Moscow, Viktor was moving fast and he wasn't giving me a chance to use any of these advanced principles. I knew what I needed to say, but he would switch the conversation to Russian at the worst possible time, and I couldn't get him to listen or understand me-he was just too good at the game. My time was about done and I'd gotten absolutely nowhere.


Try to imagine this for a second. You've spent twenty-five minutes talking to your only prospect, and in that time you've been ignored, interrupted, misinterpreted, and told your state-of-the-art technology seems old and outdated. None of your persuasive points have found a home, and all the material you have left to deliver is no better than the stuff that's already been rejected.


The problem I was facing in that room is the same problem salespeople face in any industry: You know what decision you want the buyer to make, but the more you push in that direction, they more they dig in, slow down, and change the agenda. They want to make their own decision on their own timeline. Buyers buy how they want to buy, not how you want to sell.


This is why today most things are bought; they aren't sold.


I realized that Viktor had pushed me to act like an amateur salesman and I was trying too hard to pitch him on the merits of the deal. I reminded myself to stop selling and instead establish myself as an expert, because a smart buyer like Viktor would never do a fair deal with an amateur.


I was ready to create Inception but I was also nervous to try this new approach on such a powerful dealmaker. Hopefully Viktor couldn't tell how anxious I was feeling, but then I realized it didn't matter. Inception doesn't involve feelings. I steadied myself and went back to work, focusing on elevating my status and proving my expertise.


I delivered a Flash Roll-a sixty-second display of pure technical mastery designed to alleviate any doubts about your authority on a subject. When Viktor turned to his translators for help, I was ready.


"Viktor, I do not allow you to be confused about this," I said. "You're one of the best investors in the world. And I am offering a Plain Vanilla deal, nothin' fancy at all. This is easy stuff. And we are almost out of time, so for the moment, you have to accept what I'm telling you at face value."


He nodded in acceptance, and I could tell I had impressed him. By flipping the script on him, I'd taken him by surprise. "Continue, please," he said imperiously, as oligarchs generally do.


Finally, I had the chance to reveal something called a Pre-Wired Idea that I knew would act like a back door to his mind. The moment you deliver a Pre-Wired Idea, buyers suddenly understand everything they need to know about what they should do next, without you having to explain it or sell it or even say anything at all.


My time was nearly up. "Viktor, this deal is a great fit for your company," I said. "But you already know that. So let's figure out what we're going to do together. Just tell me one of these two things. First, if you don't want to work with me, just say, 'Oren, I don't want to do the deal.' It's OK-I allow you to say that to me, and we can easily part ways. Otherwise, the second option is for you to say, 'Oren, I like you and I like the deal-let's move ahead.' Those are the choices; I just need to hear one. Either one is fine with me. Just tell me which it is."


Then I waited.


It felt like a huge risk to say this, but it was no risk at all-because the alternative would be to ask for the sale, to which he would instantly reply, "Send us the information and we'll think about it." Translation: "Nyet."


The next three minutes were silent and stressful, and I finally drank the warm vodka that had been poured for me an hour earlier. The silence grew uncomfortable for Viktor, and I let him be uncomfortable. He scratched some numbers on a notepad only because he wanted to end our staring contest. No matter the pressure and risk, I was not going to chase him. He had to chase me, if only a little bit. And then, at last, the ice broke. "Can we see the data again, please?" he said politely. My method had worked. He was chasing me, ever so slightly. Did I jump with excitement at this moment, or pull out a bunch of charts and graphs and race to a close? No I did not. Instead, I pulled out my phone and began looking for an Uber. And while I did, I casually explained my Buyer's Formula to him, just to be helpful.


"I do these kinds of medical software deals all the time," I said nonchalantly, like I'm in an oligarch's office every day. "The tricky part is handling patient data." And then I explained how I would choose to invest or not invest in the deal I was offering him. "Anyway, from doing this so many times, that's just how I would look at it."


This was it-the moment it all comes down to. It was time to ask Viktor if he was "in." It was time to push him for a yes.


Except it wasn't.


With the Inception scripts, you never tell the buyer what you want them to do-you never pressure them for a yes. You let them tell you they want to buy. I looked Viktor in the eye and said, "I need to head out for another meeting across town."


And then I heard the magic words that come when you successfully take a buyer through the six steps of Inception. "I like this deal. We can work together, so thank you please, now stay," he said thoughtfully, this time in very good English.


An hour later I had a $10 million deal on fair terms, a plan to hire the needed mathematicians, and the endorsement of a Russian oligarch.


Where the "Old Script" Came From


In ancient times, life was short and dangerous; survival from sunrise to sunset was not a sure thing. For much of early civilization, at least a quarter of all human males on the planet were killed every year by war, famine, tribal infighting, and things that bite, sting, inject poison, or stomp.


Everywhere you turned, there was something that could easily kill you. Moving too slow or in the wrong direction meant the difference between life and death; there was no time to second-guess yourself. Nobody else could be trusted. To survive, you needed to trust your own judgment above that of all others, no matter what, acting on your own ideas without hesitating, and resisting the influence of risky outside ideas. Anything new and foreign is untested and, therefore, not to be trusted. The human brain is thus wired by evolution to distrust any information from the outside world and to greatly favor that which originates inside us.


Since childhood, others have been trying to smuggle their ideas into your mind. So naturally your mental defenses have gotten really good. It's as if you have a small team of cognitive security guards and bouncers who are trained to keep unfamiliar and confusing ideas away.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 Why You Need Inception 1

Chapter 2 The Dominance Hierarchy 17

Chapter 3 Creating Certainty 39

Chapter 4 Using Pre-Wired ideas 67

Chapter 5 The Power of Plain Vanilla 101

Chapter 6 Leveraging Pessimism 135

Chapter 7 How to Be Compelling 169

Chapter 8 Flip the Script, Go Anywhere, Try Anything, and Put It All on the Line to Win an Impossible Deal 197

Conclusion 233

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