Shut The Hell Up Already

I honestly tried to stay away from the latest round of The Apprentice. The Donald continues to remind me how easily money can turn you into a fuzzy-headed, sleazy jerk… and his ideas on business are almost absurdly infantile.

Hark unto this: He did NOT earn his wealth with savvy business decisions. He cheats.

Anyway, that’s what the latest best-selling expose of the man says. And Trump is suing the author for saying it… which not only boosts sales of the book and gets the author on all the talk shows (smart move, Donny), but also leads one to believe there must be at least some truth to the allegations to cause such an over-reaction.

And yet… I have been sucked into the pathos of the show once again.

It’s like junk. One glance, and you just gotta see who gets fired.

Tonight was yet another great unintended business lesson, as it turns out. If you didn’t catch the show (and really, I only perk up during the last half hour, when the blood-letting begins in earnest), the zaftig princess talked her way into getting the boot. Donald was working up a lather over the incompetence of the self-annointed “Mensa genius” boy wonder sitting next to her, so close to firing the twerp that the “f” was burbling in his throat… when the princess piped up, trying to wedge some not-very-clever back-handed compliment into the ring.

Donald told her to shut up. She persisted. He tried to quiet her again. She simply could not close her yap.

And so he fired her. Just to shut her up. Was pissed off she made him do it, in fact… and he snarled at the boy wonder on his way out, threatening him with future abuse. Trump really, really, really wanted to fire the boy… but the princess forced his hand.

The lesson is just a bit deeper than the old “Art of War” saw about not interupting the destruction of an enemy.

When I was coming up the ranks, I sought out older salesmen who had honed their chops in the street, doing door-to-door sales. These guys — a vanishing breed — understand human behavior better than most psychotherapists.

And here is what they taught me: The biggest problem rookies have is not saying enough to make the sale. My friend Jeff Paul is a natural salesman, and he tells a story about his own training — when he was sticking to a script during his first face-to-face sales session with a prospect… and his gut just insisted that he add a final piece of salesmanship to the pitch.

He said — after delivering the memorized script of the “standard” pitch for the product — this: “Now, got get your check book and a pen.” This almost caused his trainer to have a coronary. It was too ballsy for most salesmen.

Not for Jeff. He sensed, correctly, that the pitch needed just a bit more oomph. And he provided it. He got the sale, and used that line forever after.

Most rookie marketers are way too timid about asking for the sale. They clam up too soon, and hope the prospect will fill in the blanks of the pitch — or just take certain things for granted. But that’s a piss-poor way to make a sale.

This is why long copy works. It’s a sales pitch. You have to establish a lot of things, like credibility, proof, features and benefits, plus lots and lots of urgent reasons why you should buy this stuff right now.

Skip the critical stuff, and your prospect simply doesn’t have enough ammo in his brain to make a buying decision.

But there’s another part to this equation: Once you have covered all your main points… and countered all the large objections to the sale… shut up.

Even if the silence seems deafening.

Even if every nerve in your body squirms, and you have to choke back words.

Even if you think you’re “losing” the sale by remaining quiet.

Just shut the hell up.

Here’s why: No one buys because a salesman talks them into the sale. You can’t sell by arguing, or by badgering, or by overwhelming the prospect with information.

Ultimately, the decision to buy happens inside the prospect’s head. Beyond your control.

All you can do is make the best pitch you can, and present your case as powerfully and urgently as possible.

Then, you have to let your pitch percolate in his internal juices.

If he buys, it will be because your pitch answered the main questions in his mind. You cannot predict what those questions will be (which is another reason you need long copy, or a long sales pitch). Often, I’ve discovered that out of several dozen bullets I’ve put into a piece… just ONE made the sale with most folks.

It might be the price, which you’ve justified in a way that he knows his wife will understand. It might be the opportunity for him to show up an arrogant brother-in-law you don’t know about. It might be the vague sex appeal, or the dream of telling his boss to go stuff it, or any of a thousand other reasons.

And guess what? Even if you were clairvoyant and KNEW what that “clinch it” reason was… you still couldn’t use that knowledge to force your prospect to buy.

Because he’d still have to go through that inner conversation deep inside his noggin.

Tonight, the princess believed she had something to say that would force The Donald to do what she wanted.

It was a rookie mistake. All she needed to do was note the laser focus Trump had on his target, which wasn’t her. And shut the hell up.

She couldn’t pull it off.

Hey — it wouldn’t be a good lesson if most people intuitively understood it, and did the right thing.

In the real world, this is advanced salesmanship.

Live and learn.

Stay frosty…

John Carlton

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  • John Gilvary says:


    Yeah. She not only committed the crime of yappin’ when she should have been shuttin’ up (not a good idea in any context), but she showed how little she knew about her target market. (Trump) He fires people for the same mistake each season.

    Makes the Mensa look like a real genius. 😉 At least he knew when to shut up.


    PS. What do you think of their advertising medium? Would you advertise by blimp??

  • JP Maroney says:

    Yep… Read D’s books!

    He knows how to wheel and deal in the real estate world, dominate and overpower in negotiations… and as you say… “do whatever it takes” to WIN!

    Hmmm… can’t say I blame him. But, he sure catches a lot of heat for it. Which only further fuels his success.

    The thing I find funny — like you — is him handing out business advice. What he does in the boardroom and the way he handles that show IS NOT what real success in business is about. It’s the behind the scenes grind that you would never see.

    Read his books (the early ones) and you see how he “really got things done.”

    One area I respect him… his uncompromising quest to do things top shelf! That is his edge. In my opinion.

    Great blog post John C.

    Profitable “Pitbull” Regards,

    JP Maroney
    “The Pitbull of Business!”TM

  • Caleb says:

    Hi John,

    You’re so right about SHUTTING UP after you’ve clearly asked for the sale.

    That’s one of the mistakes, I and I would imagine every other rookie salesman made at the beginning of our careers…

    Then we learned the cold hard truth of: “The first one to talk buys”

    Great post.


  • Mark Pocock says:

    Hi John

    The UK version has just started its 2nd series. Week 3 this week. My children 14 & 11 love it.

    Sir Alan Sugar of Amstrad takes the Trump role. If you’re interested here’s the link.

    cheers mark

  • Joe says:

    I can’t see how you don’t think the “DONALD” isn’t the best old school salesman around. He believes his own bull shit along with the most important ingredinat in salemanship- “supreme self confadence”. Sure he comes off as a comic blow-hard but there ain’t nobody better… he is a shrewd, sharp as a tac businessman. Trump is direct so direct that its refreshing… “Say what you mean…and mean what you say.” This is the world of business, some cringe at his approach but he just says what other people think, but haven’t the balls to speak. I guess in some part it’s the New Yorker in him.

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