How closing The Certainty Gap can help you land more deals
This article was written for the Tony Robbins blog by guest contributor Oren Klaff, and is inspired by content contained in his new book, Flip the Script: Getting People to Think Your Idea is Their Idea.
Building a dream home is something many people look forward to for years. But the moment you’re ready to make it happen, the first thing you’ll realize – before you can get anyone to do a lick of work – is the number of people who start asking you to write checks. Very large checks. To start with, you’re going to need an architect, and it’s going to take a few bucks up front to get a good one. The architect wants you to pay immediately, and sends you an invoice for something like $50,000, due upon receipt. In other words, show me the money. Pay the whole thing up front? Are you crazy?
This is the classic transactional puzzle: In a given deal, how much financial risk should you accept? How much risk should you expect the other party to accept? To sort this out, you talk to the architect about payment terms and come to the following arrangement: You’ll pay 50% of the total in advance and 50% when the plans are delivered. Yes, he can harm you by taking your advance payment and not completing the work as agreed. But you can also harm him by not paying the final bill. So “half now, half later” is a very useful form of a “mutually assured destruction.”
Does this work? Absolutely. In the United States, this simple formula is responsible for at least $1 trillion of deals each year: 50% in advance and 50% upon receipt. What’s happening below the surface is that you and the architect are both seeking enough certainty to go ahead with the deal. You each want the sense of control – that you’re not at the mercy of the other party.
Our ancient ancestors didn’t have to deal with this problem because before the invention of money, they relied on a system of equal barter. But in today’s world, when you’re selling an idea, a company, or a service to be performed in the future, the buyer can no longer hold it in their hand and have it immediately when the deal is done. Today, almost every transaction has inherent uncertainty, which makes us uncomfortable because our brains are wired to expect the type of total certainty our species experienced for a million years in equal barter.
The Certainty Gap, explained
Whenever your mind desires 100% certainty about a deal but your gut says it’s got a 50% chance to work out, you’re mentally experiencing a Certainty Gap. The larger this gap gets, the more you will start to feel psychological anxiety and even physical distress – causing you to back away from the deal.
Every decision we face, every purchase we make, and every agreement we enter is a function of great uncertainty. When a buyer says, “I need to think about it,” at the end of a presentation (a common response), it means they don’t have enough certainty and confidence to move forward. Sure, what you’ve promised sounds good, but what if it doesn’t work out as you say? How can the buyer be sure?
The goal of every sales presentation is to reduce the Certainty Gap in the buyer’s mind – improving the chance of getting to yes.
How to close the Certainty Gap with the Flash Roll
One way to instill a lot of certainty in a short amount of time is a sales script called The Flash Roll. The Flash Roll is a linguistic fireworks display of pure technical mastery over a complex subject. It is specially designed so that no matter how skeptical your listeners are when you start talking, by the end they’ll be convinced you’re a total expert and you know your industry and your craft cold – down to the finest detail. The Flash Roll should take just 60 to 90 seconds to deliver – that’s about 250 words.
A good Flash Roll must locate a problem; it should take a point of view and it should arrive at a deductive conclusion about how to solve a problem. You need a Flash Roll with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
What you want to create is an action sequence delivered in highly technical language which does something special to establish you as an expert. There are no creative thoughts in a Flash Roll. There are no statements such as “then I noticed” or “and that made me start to wonder” or “I started to think.” You are not explaining your philosophy, you are not throwing out a few ideas for discussion, or passionately talking about your business or product.
In fact, a Flash Roll is told dispassionately, with no emotional content or display. It must be completely stripped of all editorial, emotional, and extraneous details; it is literally just a list of technical actions that can be taken to solve a very difficult problem. Without ego or pride or even charisma, it should explain exactly what you did to solve a specific problem and then what the outcome was.
You start a Flash Roll by making the problem seem simple, routine, or trivial – to you, it’s something so basic, you hardly think about it. For example, consider a time you showed your doctor a rash that wouldn’t go away. “Oh, yeah,” the doctor said, “we deal with these all the time. Had a guy in last week with a plant-induced contact dermatitis . . . had to give him furosemide to reduce the edema, and do a quick photorefractive laser pass; it was touch and go, but finally got him out of critical with an endovascular aortic aneurysm repair. But looking at yours, it doesn’t look half as bad as that – you probably just got a meningococcal septicemia and we can knock it out with a course of epinephrine and quick Z-Pak.” And even though you don’t have a clear idea what she’s talking about, you instantly relax.
How to write and deliver a flawless Flash Roll
To write your Flash Roll, describe the problem being faced, your assessment of it, your proposed solution, and the economics (how long it would take and what the results would be, or were the last time you did it). Freely use technical terms, writing exactly the way you talk to the technical people in your business when you’re one-on-one with them.
The manner in which you deliver the Flash Roll is of the utmost importance. You absolutely cannot be seeking validation or opinion of the buyer. You are the expert, not he. This Flash Roll assessment shouldn’t come across as something you are proud of. Instead, it should seem like it’s mundane and uninteresting to you. To end the Flash Roll, you can just shrug and say something like, “Anyway, based on what I’m seeing here, that’s what I would do.” Then leave it all behind and move on to the next part of the presentation.
ABOUT OREN KLAFF
Oren Klaff is one of the world’s leading experts on sales, raising capital and negotiation, having advised companies like Google, Xerox, and Cisco. 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, and 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.
Flip the Script: Getting People to Think Your Idea Is Their Idea by Oren Klaff, published by Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. (C) 2019 by Oren Klaff.
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