8 Reasons I'm not Buying Flip The Script

Oren Klaff is not James Bond

Introduction

‘Drama Is Life with the Dull Bits Cut Out’ said Alfred Hitchcock and Oren Klaff knows this. That’s why he makes his every day sound like something from a James Bond movie.

Bolstered by the success of his first book Pitch Anything in 2011, Oren Klaff returns with his second book Flip The Script. It’s another series of stories from his life as a pitch hand for hire. Flying around the world he makes deals for people that have a problems and only Klaff can solve them.  

Klaff has meetings with hard nosed Russian oligarchs in very tall buildings. When he goes to a bar he goes with women locking him in their arms. You and I turn on a computer, he fires up a computer. When he parks a car, it’s not any old car, it’s a red 1971 Alfa Romeo Sprint GT and the valet appreciates his car before parking his car.

Flip The Script

Klaff has put pen to paper for a second time to warn us that today ‘most things are bought, they aren’t sold’. Information is so freely available argues Klaff, that buyers are educated to the point they can’t be sold to. (Dan Pink highlighted this in his book ‘To Sell Is Human’)

(Truth be told the buyer has been slowly educating herself since the printing press. Then came public libraries, free education and now digitization. This all means the buyer is more educated than ever.)

Klaff declares we should read his book because he has found a way around this quick moving, five hundred year change in buyer preferences. His answer is to get buyers to think your idea is their idea.

This idea is not a new idea. Perhaps Klaff has a new way of achieving this idea?

Should I read this book?

I have given Flip The Script two stars. These are awarded because Klaff’s tales of pitching are entertaining. He does big deals, dramatic deals and he leads a life Daniel Craig would approve of; combined with a super relaxed writing style, Flip The Script is a very easy read.

If there’s anything to be taken from Flip The Script it is Klaff’s ability to communicate through the medium of stories, he does it very well. This is ironic, his greatest value is the means through which he communicates yet he doesn’t once explain how he builds his narratives and how to apply them to a pitch (after all his book is a pitch to hire him).

Below are eight reasons why I’m not buying what Klaff says in Flip The Script.

About the Author

American Oren Klaff claims to be a former investment banker and now world expert in sales, raising capital and negotiation.

Classification

I have classified Flip The Script as ‘airport lounge appropriate‘ i.e. it can be read in a busy environment with the odd interruption and not lose your way. You can even make a last minute dash for your plane and you won’t mind leaving it behind.

8 Reasons I’m Not Buying Flip The Script

NB: For convenience I use the term investor/buyer interchangeably

 

1)  Pitches Aren’t That Important

Klaff assumes the pitch has primacy, deals stand or fall according to them. In my experience this is a far too simple a view of the world. The only times pitching is all important is when you are part of a beauty parade.

A beauty parade involves an educated buyer who has bought a product/service many times before. They’ve had time to perform due diligence and now need a way to split your deal from others, at which point they say ‘lets see who has the most compelling pitch’.

In reality many things aside from a pitch can determine the impact of a pitch, for example due diligence.

2)  What About Due Diligence?

This is where the buyer reviews the terms of any deal and performs checks, such as the seller’s track record, monies in place, provenance of assets etc. Due diligence can take months. In Klaff’s world due diligence takes less than an hour.

Pitching is an important driver in any deal but it’s naive to think it’s everything. Just look at Shark Tank or Dragons Den, where investors declare ‘I’m in’ but often investment isn’t made owing to ‘the numbers not stacking up’.

In the UK’s Dragons Den less than half of all money pledged is made into real investment owing to due diligence not being passed.

In the real world a buyer or investor who says ‘Yes’ means nothing more than ‘Yes….. but only if the deal passes due diligence’.   

3)  Klaff Says Nothing New

Flipping the Script suggests making the buyer believe they own the deal idea. The purpose of your pitch is to implant the deal idea in the buyers mind so they think it their own. Why is this valuable? Klaff says:

 ‘The Human Brain is thus wired by evolution to distrust any information from the outside world and to greatly favour that which originates inside us.’

I recall my grandmother suggesting a similar strategy to me when I was a child.

I prefer Behavioural Economist George Lowenstein’s approach:

‘Ask not what information do I need to convey but what questions do I want my audience to ask?’

 

4)  What Happened To Pitch Anything?

 In his first book Pitch Anything, Klaff builds his success formula around an acronym:

STRONG

>  Setting the frame

>  Telling the story

>  Revealing the intrigue

>  Offering the prize

>  Nailing the hookpoint

>  Getting a decision

There’s hardly any mention of STRONG or any content from Pitch Anything in Flip The Script. Should we abandon STRONG? Does Flip The Script build on Pitch Anything?

Klaff’s decision to ignore his first book suggests he’s inconsistent and could potentially write a third book that overwrites everything else he has ever said. This makes me unwilling to invest time in learning Klaff’s methods.

5)  Where Does Klaff Get His Ideas From?

 ‘In the family of ideas there are no orphans.’ John Yorke

Klaff suggests he has a research team with psychologists on his payroll. He’s ‘Spent years investigating … with my private research team’.

I’d like to know who are in his research team? Are his findings so hot that he refuses to share them with the world? Usually research is published so peers can review it, comment and work on improving it.

Without answers to these questions I consider Klaff to be a data point of one. He has interesting anecdotes but not enough to move me to change my methods. Being open and transparent builds trust, being opaque increases skepticism. As does a lack of attention to detail.

6)  I Don’t Trust Klaff

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’, Holmes famously says:

 “Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details”

If only Klaff read more Sherlock Holmes. 

I recall  Pitch Anything displayed poor grammar and in Flip The Script I found at least one example of fuzzy logic. For example Klaff says:

 “The goal of every sales presentation is to reduce the certainty gap in the buyers mind – improving the chance of getting to yes. 

Should this not say:

“The goal of every sales presentation is to reduce the uncertainty gap in the buyers mind – improving the chance of getting to yes.

We surely don’t want to reduce certainty, rather uncertainty. Lack of attention to detail undermines faith in a subject.  After all, details define the deal.

 

7)  Does ‘No’ Really Mean ‘No’?

Klaff claims:

 “When you ask someone to give you $10 million, it’s stressful for all involved; because the stakes are high no really means no.” 

However, in his excellent book Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss suggests you should actively seek out ‘No’ (read my book review here).

“People have a need to say “No”. So don’t just hope to hear it at some point; get them to say it early.”

Voss wants to hear ‘no’ because it can mean one of:

  • I am not yet ready to agree;
  • You are making me feel uncomfortable
  • I do not understand
  • I don’t think I can afford it
  • I want something else
  • I need more information; or
  • I want to talk it over with someone else. 

Who should I believe? Klaff who deals in dollars or Voss who deals in lives? 

8)  Flash Rolls Have Limited Value

Klaff highlights a film scene from My Cousin Vinny in which an expert witness convinces a skeptical courtroom of her value by displaying her knowledge of a Chevy. She speaks quickly, very matter of fact, with lots of technical language. 

Klaff says this display of domain knowledge reduces the certainty gap (or should that be uncertainty gap….). However, when I read to my IT expert brother one flash roll example given by Klaff’s cyber security expert he was not flashed or dazzled or impressed.

Flash rolls only work when you have an uneducated buyer.

Conclusion

Pitch Anything caused quite a stir when it was released. Though it had poor grammar and lifted ideas from NLP without attribution, it was easy to read, exciting and very sure of itself.

Flip The Script is not that different to Pitch Anything. Except, this time the reader is an educated reader and that’s why I’m just not buying Flip The Script.