13 Sales psychology jedi mind tricks for “Inception”

Book Review of “Flip the Script” by Oren Klaff

Jonathan Roseland
9 min readFeb 26, 2024

Once upon a time, I was sitting in a cafe in Medellin, Colombia sipping the smoothest coffee you can imagine and just hoping that my internet connection would be fast enough for the call I had scheduled with a prospective client. I had just finished my second reading of Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. Via the shoddy wifi connection, I followed the simple formula I learned in the book to mix a cocktail of Serotonin and Norepinephrine — the anticipation of reward and motivating tension — in the mind of the prospect.

And about 30 minutes into the call, the guy I was pitching surprised me by sending $2000 before we signed a contract or agreed on specific terms — before I made any guarantees or had even told him what my PayPal address was! That was just the tip of the profit iceberg that resulted from my application of Oren’s persuasion Jedi mind tricks for entrepreneurs, negotiations, and sales professionals. So I dove into his follow-up book, Flip the Script: Getting People to Think Your Idea Is Their Idea.

The new paradigm for pitching

I don’t like being pressured into making a purchase. And I’m not alone. Over decades of being marketed, pitched, sold, and lied to, we’ve all grown resistant to sales persuasion. The moment we feel pressured to buy, we pull away. And if we’re told what to do or what to think, our defenses go up. In other words, buyers don’t put much trust in you and your ideas. However, everyone trusts their own ideas. (p.8)

A good point made by some of the reviewers of this book and Pitch Anything (which focuses on advanced frame control techniques), is that frame control is a more high-risk persuasion skill. The power frame-busting technique won’t always work and may be transparent to the powerful person you are pitching to, and you may be gruffly shown to the door of their office! While Inception, as described in Flip the Script, just makes you come across as more empathetic, you don’t have to worry about pissing off your prospect.

Status alignment

Status Alignment comes when you’re in front of a decision maker and you have perfectly raised or lowered your own status to match the decision maker’s view of himself. (p.31)

You cannot get the full attention of a decision maker to listen to your idea if they think you’re on a different level of the dominance hierarchy than they are. (p.8)

Influence, and particularly Inception, is most effective when the person you are speaking to feels like he or she is on the same level of the hierarchy as you. This is where Inception is strongest and works the best. Before you can implant an idea in someone else’s mind, you need to create a feeling of Status Alignment. (p.33)

People are most inclined to buy from their perceived equals. But status alignment isn’t accomplished by “faking it until you make it” or being dishonest. It’s accomplished with language, specifically the…

Status tip-off

In business, you need a specific type of Status Tip-Off, one that reveals a certain series of ideas that could only be known by an in-group member… The best way to find a Status Tip-Off is to interview three people who are the same level as the person you are trying to influence. What would they say to each other, to catch up on each other’s business, peer-to-peer? Memorize your Tip-Off and find an opportunity to deliver it to a decision maker. Then sit back and watch doors start to spring open for you — because you will have just separated yourself from all the other people trying to get this person’s attention. (p.38)

Three key elements that make up a successful tip-off

  1. Use Specific Industry Lingo
  2. Describe a Recent Action You Have Taken
  3. Mention a Real Situation Everyone in the Industry Cares About

In the midst of the status tip-off, bedazzled them with…

The flash roll

To instill certainty, on the other hand, you need to prove that you are a complete, absolute, undisputed authority in your field. (p.48)

This is accomplished by delivering…

a linguistic fireworks display of pure technical mastery over a complex subject. A Flash Roll 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 sixty to ninety seconds to deliver — that’s about 250 words. (p.52)

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… 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. And, of course, what makes the Flash Roll fun to perform is that you are going to purposely use dense, technical jargon that most people will tell you to avoid using. (p.53)

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. (p.55)

So for whatever you’re selling, write out a custom 250-word, jargon-rife flash roll and practice it every day until you know it like the back of your hand. Record yourself delivering your flash roll, listen back, improve, and hack away at the unessential. Memorizing the flash roll is a great place to use mnemonics and the SuperMemo app.

Verbal velocity for victory

Something that held me back for at least a decade in my career as a salesman, an entrepreneur, and a public intellectual was that I spoke slowly. Somehow a younger Jonathan Roseland got the idea that speaking slowly was mesmerizing and persuasive. It was not, as you can see here…

It was Jordan Belfort’s sales training course and books that convinced me to change my ways. Busy, important people speak fast (in general), while desperate amateurs speak slowly. If you want to sell and persuade, speak fast more than you speak slowly.

Winter is coming framing

This was key to the cocktail that made me that easy $2000 in that cafe in Colombia.

This is the Winter Is Coming narrative, and you can tell this story in any industry on any day of the week. Tell your listeners that everything they rely on to thrive today will soon be gone — and it’s happening faster than they think. Provide thoughtful examples showing why the way they run their business won’t work much longer. There’s an early winter coming, and if they don’t do anything to prepare, adjust, and adapt, they’ll get wiped out. In the meantime, others who do prepare will outlive them, step into their turf, and thrive — by taking their place in the industry, as well as their customers. (p.78)

This, by the way, is why relentless self-education really pays off for persuaders. Subscribe to some publications and newsletters for your industry and take careful notes of worrying trends on the horizon — AI, automation, outsourcing, shortages, supply chain disruption, regulation, Chinese competition, inflation, big tech monopolization, etc — these can be used to paint a chilling picture of the future.

Novelty chunking

A counter-intuitive takeaway is that your pitch shouldn’t paint your product as 100% new, novel, game-changing, innovative, or disruptive. Unless you’re pitching to someone on blow in a nightclub at 2 AM, totally novel is too risky.

The trick is to use a technique called Novelty Chunking to make it seem like your deal is different from “normal” in just one key way, while everything else about the deal is completely Plain Vanilla. Then you show the buyer that what’s normal is shifting, and the one key, different thing is really popular today. There is a new normal. (p.105)

As I’ve mentioned, this is the practice of grouping everything new and potentially scary about your deal into a single category and then telling the buyer that your deal is just like every other deal in your industry, except for one key aspect that’s totally new. (p.110)

Pessimism sells

Yes, really. The author explains…

I used to think a compelling person was made up of three elements: appearance, intelligence, and enthusiasm. And then I tried backing this up with research, only to find that, while those traits certainly make someone likable, enthusiasm doesn’t contribute to compellingness at all, and it can even cause salespeople to inadvertently scare away customers. (p.143)

Pure optimism — the kind that bubbles up from the emotional core of salespeople — actually creates stress for the typical buyer. Bursting enthusiasm and excessive positivity can disrupt the buyer’s decision-making process and violate his or her sense of autonomy — something you never want to do… It’s pessimism, not optimism, that is the formula for success in sales. (p.120)

So along with your prospect needs questionnaire, feature-benefit pitch, and flash roll you need a pessimism pitch. Makes sense right? We all start to get skeptical when we’re pitched something with “no” downsides or risks. But how do you strike the balance in making a persuasive case with a microdose of pessimism? In the book, he describes a 7-step Buyer’s Formula that defines two essential elements of your pessimism pitch.

Threaten their social ranking

While almost nothing works on everyone, you’ll be surprised how effective this can be to get someone’s attention: arousing their curiosity by threatening their social ranking and then offering a valuable secret. When these elements are combined, no one can resist at least taking a look. It’s as close to a universal curiosity formula as you can get.
When you imply that someone’s position in the dominance hierarchy and social order is changing, they snap to attention. (p.124)

Oren’s buyer’s formula keeps their objections “in bounds”

It’s a good idea to bring to the surface the most obvious flaws in your plan before the buyer does, although most people try to avoid any mention of negatives. You should move in quickly and acknowledge the possibility of failure and the obvious negative features — or he will do so but at the most inconvenient time. (p.133)

Superlative storytelling

What makes the book as readable as a Clive Cussler novel is its storytelling; the dealmaking vignettes peppered throughout the book will keep you glued, cover to cover. One story features this car…

1971 Alfa Romeo Sprint GT

BUT (this is the pessimism portion of my pitching you this book), one of the criticisms made of Flip the Script is that some of the illustrating stories are perhaps a bit fictionalized and exaggerated. There’s no way to confirm the veracity of Klaff’s Bondesque antics in the dealmaking world but they do a great job of illustrating the Inception techniques.

I rated the book five stars

Flip the Script gets a full-throated recommendation from me for its concise presentation of pragmatic tactics for master persuaders and deal makers. It goes in the Limitless Mindset reading list on sales, entrepreneurship, and social dynamics, along with Way of the Wolf, Never Split the Difference, and Oren Klaff’s original book Pitch Anything.

Originally published on LimitlessMindset.com. I’m not a doctor, medical professional, or trained therapist. I’m a researcher and pragmatic biohacking practitioner exercising free speech to share evidence as I find it. I make no claims. Please practice skepticism and rational critical thinking. You should consult a professional about any serious decisions that you might make about your health. Affiliate links in this article support Limitless Mindset — spend over $150 and you’ll be eligible to join the Limitless Mindset Secret Society.



Jonathan Roseland

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸