Dark Matter

In this Perry-Martel exclusive, managing partner David Perry interviews Oren Klaff the author of Pitch Anything on his concept of “Dark Matter”.   The Dark Matter interview was recorded by David as a bonus item for early purchasers of David’s latest book with Mark Haluska, Executive Recruiting for Dummies.

In the no-holds barred interview, Oren was explains Dark Matter and how recruiters can use its power to unlock a prospect’s mind and make them open to a ‘pitch’.

In typical Oren style it is a riveting interview full of practical advise which David thinks every recruiter and executive search consultant should read about how to stand out in a very crowded market and get a senior executive’s attention.  You can read the full transcript of the interview below.

TRANSCRIPT

David Perry:     

Anyone who’s ever tried to recruit a stellar candidate for their company knows that locating the ideal person is only part of the battle, because you then have

Dark Matter - interview with David Perry

Dark Matter interview with David Perry and Oren Klaff click the image to download.

to convince the candidate to leave their current job and come work for you. That’s not easy, because excellent people already have wonderful jobs. They get paid well. They do fulfilling work. Most of the time, they don’t even want to talk to you about the possibility of leaving, which is why Perry-Martel has started to write about it’s Inside-Out Approach.

Oren Klaff is the author of the international best-seller, “Pitch Anything”, and is considered to be one of the foremost authorities on pitching and sales alive today. He charges upwards of $50,000 to consult with people on their pitches, so it’s incredible to get his wisdom here for free as part of this special launch offer.  Oren, glad we could both find the time to connect.

Oren Klaff:     

Yeah, and it wasn’t easy. This is the third or fourth attempt, so here we go. Unless there’s a missile strike from the orange Mussolini administration …

David Perry:             

I’m not touching that… Let’s dive in, Oren.

You’ve worked with top executive recruiters in the past to help them to design their pitches for prospects, and you’ve told me that the secret has to do with something called ‘Dark Matter’. What is that and how does it work?

Oren Klaff:            

Sure. I think we … To drop back, maybe a couple inches and talk about the difference between pitching and selling. When we get into the deal-making world, which is really what I would call, in some ways, real estate, high-end real estate, in many ways, candidates, recruiting candidates, raising capital for your business, most people go into these as novices, or they rush into it saying, “I’m going to sell a candidate,” or, “I’m going to sell the investor.”

In my reality, having done this many, many times, you can’t sell investors. You can’t sell candidates. What you do is you have to attract them to what it is … You have to attract the capital or the investor to your company, or you have to attract the recruit to your company. It’s just too hard to sell somebody on another job. When they’re at a job, it’s happy, because there isn’t a need there. You can sell someone plumbing because they have to get the plumbing done. You can sell someone a car, they have to get a car, but investors don’t have to put money out and candidates who, frankly, are making good money and built a life in the community they’re in, have a good standing, have good social status, need to be attracted somewhere else, and the job of attracting is the pitch.

You got to show them something that they’re attracted to as opposed to selling something they don’t necessarily need. Does that distinction make sense to you?

David Perry: 

Absolutely crystal clear, and I’m laughing here on my end, and the reason it’s so crystal clear is, Wall Street Journal did an article on me eight or nine years ago, and one of the pieces they put in the article was the fact that I had called this one particular candidate 51 times and left 51 different voicemail messages, and they actually confirmed that, they checked with the candidate, before I finally got to talk to this guy.

If I think that I had Pitch Anything, if it had been around 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have experienced any of that grief. Fortunately, I was just persistent, but I like your style of doing business far more than having to be that persistent.

Oren Klaff:    

Yeah, I think I’d get rid of the need for persistence because you attract … In some ways, if you’ve ever had a dog or a cat, a god, you can train. A cat, you cannot train a cat to go to the litter box. You can only make the litter box the most attractive place for it to go, and in some ways, that analogy holds true. Then we have to question, “How do I attract someone as opposed to selling them?”

When you sell, you call them up and you say, “Hey, listen, I have an offer for you. Here’s the features of the offer. Here’s the benefits of the author. Here’s the value of the benefits, and what do you think? Is it something you’d be interested in?” That’s the traditional sales process, and you’re sort of stuck because once somebody has the features and you give them the benefits, they are forming a narrative or a story or the idea of what’s going on in their own mind.

You don’t have the opportunity to give them the big idea, the story, because out of the features, they form the story, so, “Hey, Mr. Jones, have a …” My business is attracting capital to companies, and so what you would typically see is somebody will call and say, “Hey, we have a business we’d like you to invest in. The business has been around for two years. These are the features. The business has been around for two years, it’s three million dollars of revenue, it’s going to do five million dollars of revenue in the following year, and we’re growing 10% month over month, we currently have a million dollars of cash in the balance sheet, but we feel like we need additional capital. Here’s the benefit of the business. We sell ball bearings to tractor manufacturers, and the demand for tractors is increasing, so the demand for ball bearings is increasing.”

It’s all very logical and analytical and you’re selling it. “What do you think? Is this an investment you’d be interested in making in? Does your company invest in our kinds of firms?” There’s a million things missing from that to make this a narrative arc or a story or have a centre of dark matter, a gravitational pull.

David Perry:        

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Oren Klaff:

It sounds very straight forward. What’s wrong with that? You might even say, “Hey, that sounds pretty good. I might write that down. Give me that pitch again.” In my mind, what’s missing is a big idea. What’s going on? What is changing in the world and what is truly an idea to anchor the conversation to?

Instead of saying, “Hey, Dr. Jones, we’re calling on behalf of the St. Louis Medical Centre, we’re looking for a leading position to head up a new department. The salary’s attractive, the benefits are better than you would have in the major metro of Boston, and it’s a great community to raise your children.”

Those are features, but I believe you missed the opportunity to form the narrative, which is saying, “Today, at major metros, including the one you’re in, the hospital systems are putting more and more regulations on departments, and across the country, the department heads feel like they have no choices they can make about patients. It feels like they’re repairing cars or farm equipment, and the human side of medicine seems to be getting lost in the bureaucracy, but there is one place, at least in the US, where the bureaucracy takes a second stage, or sits behind, the importance of doing the right thing for patients, doing things no matter what the cost, not having to clear it with your insurance, and taking care of human lives, and pushing the art of medicine forward.”

David Perry:   

Now I want to know more. You had me shaking my head, “Yup, yup, yup.”

Oren Klaff:  

It’s not my field, medicine, or … I’m just forming this. This is what I like to do. I form this intimately in something I know nothing about, because the framework works. It doesn’t matter whether it’s ball bearings, tractors, recruiting for medical devices shot to the moon. I could frame and put anything in a narrative immediately because of the framework that works, and that framework is, “What’s going on here? How are things getting worse in some areas and better in others? If you start conversations with that, then you’re bringing somebody into an idea, on not a sales pitch, and people are much more inclined to talk to you about ideas than they are about buying something.

I think that’s a good starting point, is recognizing that we want to attract people to what it is we have. We don’t want to push an opportunity. The second we start pushing, natural human resistance starts coming up, so what we want to do is bring a bold, interesting, intriguing, thoughtful idea to the table and pull someone into that idea in order to have a pitch, certainly.

It’s not about, “Oh, let’s just have a conversation with the buyer.” We’re pitching. We’re suggesting they buy someone, but the entry way into suggesting they buy is not the features of what it is we have. It’s the idea of something that’s big, high stakes, important, and that is changing. That is … I think if you say, “Hey, what’s the dark matter that a recruit would buy into?” It starts with a conversation that starts with an idea, if that makes sense to you.

David Perry:        

No, that makes perfect sense. In fact, in a way, what you’ve just said makes perfect sense and flies in the face of 98% of the advice that coaches that work with recruiters and try to build their practices and tell them how to get more business, actually preach. I find it ironic that I’m actually going to be bringing this kind of information to the forefront in the recruiting industry, because you’re not even in the recruiting industry but it makes perfect sense.

In fact, it lines up beautifully with those times I’ve gotten off the phone with a complete stranger, having “pitched” an idea as opposed to a job opening. Those have been the most successful times in my career, and it actually wasn’t until I … That’s why I’m laughing. It wasn’t actually until I read Pitch Anything that I had one of those “Aha,” moments, going, “Oh my God, here’s a guy that gets it,” because this has never actually been written down or taught by anybody anywhere ever before, as far as I know. Have you found anybody that’s approached it this way?

Oren Klaff:     

I get copycats. I think this would be a good time to send people over to, if they’re interested in this kind of idea, attracting as opposed to selling. When you’re selling, at the end of it, you feel sticky and sweet and cheesy, and feel like, “I need to take a shower. I need to clean myself off because why did I say these things?” “Hey, Mr. Jones, is this something you’d be interested in? We might be able to discount a little bit if you were interested. Listen, if we could get to the price you want, would you be willing to do a deal today?”

These are things you never want to find yourself saying, because they’re cheesy, it’s old-school selling, and really, it’s just relying on discounting, and if your sales mechanism relies on continuous discounting, really it hurts your business. You’re not making the most out of what you have.

I would send people over, if you don’t mind, David, to pitchanything.com.

David Perry:   

No, perfect.

Oren Klaff:     

Yeah, where they can really dig into this stuff and see how this stuff … pitchanything.com. What would be good is maybe you run by me a typical industry recruiting sales pitch and I can deconstruct it and reconstruct it in a way that I think users attraction and the elements of Pitch Anything that really bring investors in, make sales, make things a lot easier, smoother, faster.

David Perry:      

Actually, I can do that, because, ironically, my son, who’s just graduating from science and engineering from McGill, got his first call from a recruiter about three days ago, and the conversation … Sorry?

Oren Klaff: 

I’d love to hear it.

David Perry:    

He told me what it was and the conversation went something like this. “Hi, my name’s Jack, and I work for Lockheed Martin, and I’m looking for a junior or intermediate software engineer, and I’m wondering if you know of anybody that would be interested in talking to me or looking at a new job.” That’s pretty much exactly what this guy said.

Oren Klaff:                         

Yeah. I would go into that same call quite differently. “Hey, my name is Jack, I’m at Lockheed Martin. Today, what’s happening is graduating engineers can have the pick of any job. They can work for Google, they can work of what’s left of Yahoo, Hewlett Packard appeal to them. They can go to small firms or startups in Silicon Valley, but in reality, there is only one place that engineers can have an impact on the country that they live in, and that is in aerospace and defense. For engineers who want to make money, who want to buy a house and drive a Tesla and have an iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone 9, and live with the most contemporary furniture and have cool hipster friends and do these kinds of things, we encourage them to go to Google.”

“We encourage them to look for the absolute highest salary for their particular engineering skill set, but there is always some subset or some number of engineers, who, those things aren’t a priority. They want to make an impact. They want to work on a firm that their children … That will be around, and be a legacy for a lifetime. They want to work with professionals who have been to the moon, companies that have been to the moon, companies that are part of the defense infrastructure in the United States.”

“For those who want to leave a legacy, work in a part of engineering that affects the lives of everyday Americans, that is something at Lockheed and Martin that we do, and we’re one of few firms. It’s Boeing, It’s Lockheed Martin, and it’s [inaudible 00:15:05] or whatever it is, and out of those three or five firms that do this kind of engineering work, at the forefront, we would argue that we’re one of the best and we would like to open up a conversation with you if you are one of those people that values community, legacy, and country, but that’s up to you. You tell me where are you in your search for an engineering career, and whatever the answer is, I’ll give you my feedback, and if it’s something that we can help you with, we’ll be glad to say so.”

That’s different. It’s not perfect because I haven’t scripted it and I haven’t thought-

David Perry:                      

That is so much better than 99% of the pitches that I hear recruiters using, even recruiters that are friends of mine. More importantly, my son’s got an IQ of 185 so he’s a genius – off the charts – and he won the lotto, and looks, and everything else, and I didn’t, but he would actually have listened to that, because that’s a conversation. You’re inviting him to have a conversation. You’re inviting him in, and he’s already chosen, mentally, that he wants to participate because he wants to understand more rather than make a yes, no decision, which would get him off the phone.

Oren Klaff:    

I agree [crosstalk 00:16:32].

David Perry:          

Do you think you could actually … Go ahead.

Oren Klaff:   

What I was going to say is, recruiting firms that I’ve worked with came up with this idea of dark matter, because you can’t go to a brain surgeon or a cancer therapist or a leading physician in Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and attract them to a cursory third level market, whatever it may be.

Even to trade from Boston down to St. Louis or trade from St. Louis down to Wichita Falls, it’s very difficult, so they couldn’t come in and they can’t compete on salary. They can’t compete on benefits. The community that they’re trying to attract a physician or surgeon to doesn’t have anything near the kind of opera or arts and these kinds of things that a larger community has, so they really don’t have those things to offer and so they try and make it up with salary, and they just can’t get there.

What they said, “Hey, look, we’re not going to meet the salary,” and this is not the big idea but this is the underpinning towards how they would attract them in the strategy meeting to go attract a physician. “Look, we’re not going to offer the guy more salary. We don’t have more money. We can’t offer him more benefits, and we, frankly, don’t have a better community than Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, et cetera. We’re a small market.”

As you and I have talked before, underlying it is dark matter, and that dark matter is, what will attract a leading physician to a much smaller, tertiary, third, fourth, fifth market community? That is, “At Boston General, you are one, if not the, leading surgeon. However, in our community, we are building a system from the ground up and you will set the standard for all physicians in all departments on what it means to be in medicine, what it means to practice in the community. You will be the standard bearer, not a participant in a system that’s already setup. You will set up the hospital system. What are the value systems? What is its mission? What does it mean to be a physician or a surgeon in this community?”

“Secondly, you’ll choose the hiring. At Boston General, you work with the people that the management has hired. Some you like, some you don’t like. Those are your co-workers. Nothing you can do about it. You’re not building the culture. Here in Wichita Falls, we’re going to have a competing regional hospital system, but you’re going to be in charge of recruiting, staffing, and setting the culture that, for years to come, will be your legacy. You won’t go to room 233 or the Abraham Lincoln wing or the Washington room or that kind of thing in the hospital. This will be the Dr. Jones wing. You’ll be setting the culture. You’ll be setting the legacy for years to come, and finally, the new hospital is such an important part of the community. You will not only be setting the standard for the hospital, you will also be a critical part of a growing community.”

“That’s interesting to you. Set culture, build a legacy, set the standard for healthcare for years to come, have a legacy and be part of a community, and that’s something we can talk about, being a community leader.” David, if they can’t get them on that dark matter, there’s no getting them, because they can’t compete on price, so you have to find those things that are intangible that people will truly be willing to make less money for but increase quality of life, and it’s so important for people at this level to have their name last through the … I have, in my conference room, a sign that says, “Things of quality have no fear of time.”

I think if you’re a 58 year old surgeon in a large hospital system, your fear is you will have come and gone, and what will you have left? A bunch of repaired, broken bones, but the chance for these guys to leave a legacy is incredibly attractive dark matter.

David Perry:   

Wow, that’s powerful, and do you think … Sorry, I shouldn’t say, “Do you think?” Have you seen sales people, whether it’s in recruiting or other industries, who’ve got 10 or 15 years’ experience and are so used to pitching features and benefits, have you seen them come in and successfully make the transition to this system and format?

Oren Klaff:   

Yeah, because I get called into Fortune 200 companies and Fortune 100, and they say, “Hey, look, we got a problem with sales. We want to do some fixer-upper with our sales people. They’re too feature, benefit driven.” What happens is, you come in and you say, “Our server can move one petabyte of data every two hours and we’re the fastest server on the market and we have a lower power core with faster cooling and it draws less energy, and it’s easier to swap out the data core, so therefore it’s less money, uses less energy, and is safer to us for your data centre.”

“centre, how much is it?” “Well, you talk about price and installation, it’s really part of a large thing.” You say, “Okay, thanks for the information,” then we want to go look up on the internet what that device is, who competes with it and what the price is, and we want the sales meeting to end. Once the features come out, the sales meeting is basically ended.

David Perry:    

Gone.

Oren Klaff:       

He should know this. I get called in and we do training for a couple thousand sales rep at a time to get them out of this, “Here’s the features. Here’s the benefits. Here’s the problem it solves. Would you be interested?” The way to do that is to start with an idea, with anything. “Look, today, the movement of data is of course so critical that of course nobody wants to have any downtime, but the problem is that as soon as you’ve got server farm installed, it can become obsolete, and so the cost savings that you hope to have never fully get realised. That’s fine. We all know this, but if you look at the Fortune 100, the best cheap technology officers in the world understand this problem and have completely changed the way they approach it. This presentation today is an explanation of what the most well-capitalized and best technology officers in the world are doing, and how you can copy that same thing at the size you are.”

I don’t know, it’s an idea. Then, the job of that idea is not to sell people. It’s to get them into your swim lane. “Hey, this a high status company. These guys know what they’re doing. They understand the problems that are relevant to us. I’m going to put down my cellphone and listen to this guy for a little bit.” That’s the job of the big idea.

Then, I think the next thing is that we train people to do, the sales people, is, make the problem much more painful. What happens is when you start a presentation with, “This is what we have, the features, and these are the benefits, and this is the problem it solves,” the issue is you can’t really get somebody amped up on the problem after you’ve already delivered the solution. The correct formula is problem, then solution.

I know you didn’t ask this question, but-

David Perry:        

I was about to. Go ahead.

Oren Klaff: 

When we go in to help sales people at large companies, we reform this pitch to be big idea and then really make the problem deeper, broader, more painful, so when we start to introduce features and the solution, it’s more meaningful. I would say, and if we got focused here, 90% of the problems are, there’s no big idea at the beginning to make somebody put down their cellphone and pay attention. Most presentations feel like, “Oh, I’ve already seen this before. I’ve already heard this before,” so, “Hey, this is something different. We’re going to talk about something important, high stakes, and has big economics on it. Second, look, here’s the problem.”

Your familiarity with the problem as you described it to the client, or potential client, will build your status, let him know that you are intimately involved with the solution. When you’re trying to sell a solution, resistance and skepticism is high. When you’re highlighting or discussing the problem, skepticism and resistance is low. The more time you can spend on the problem, you’re actually selling into low skepticism, so, very, very strong discussion very early on of the problem is what most sales people need to change into.”

David Perry:   

In essence, then, one of the things they do when they start that way and present that way is they move themselves … The person that’s trying to get the sale move themselves from salesman towards trusted adviser status. Would you agree?

Oren Klaff:         

Yeah, I think that’s right. Yes. I think you can run into trouble when you say, “Hey, my goal is to be a trusted advisor-”

David Perry:       

Oh, yeah. I would never suggest anybody say that because that’s just … You’re dead, and it’s interesting. I was speaking in front of a group a couple of weeks ago and I was talking about sales in particular, and recruiting, and one of the guys, years ago, didn’t get a deal, and he literally did everything. He wasn’t working at my firm but I knew him. He did everything to get this deal including drop his price down to a silly number, and his comment to me a couple weeks afterwards, was, “You can drag a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” and I said to him, Your job’s not to get him to drink, your job is to make him thirsty,” and I think that’s part of your solution, as well [crosstalk 00:27:39].

Oren Klaff:

Yeah, I think [crosstalk 00:27:38], and in doing so, raise your own status. You become a trusted advisor when your status gets so high, and maybe that’s something we can end up on, because this is the other thing that we try and fix, is opening these presentations. “Hi, thank you for taking my call. Really appreciate the time. I know you’re busy. We’re really excited to talk to you today. Have some great stuff to talk about. Sorry we’re a few minutes late. Hope you’re still available for the call.”

All these kinds of things seem nice and seem like you’re ingratiating yourself into the good graces of the buyer, but in reality you’re lowering your status by saying, “Mr. Buyer, your time, your money, your happiness is more important than ours.” We got to keep ourselves, as sellers, at the same status level, if not higher, than the buyer. Just as you said at the beginning, people may have wondered why you said that, but you said the right thing.

“Glad we could find some time today that’s good for you and good for me to spend some time together and see if what we have is a good match for where you are today.” Again, if a call is scheduled, rather than saying, “Thank you so much for coming to call, we really appreciate the time, we’d say, “Hey, I’m glad we could find time today that works for both of us. We’re super busy on our end. We’ve got some really interesting products and services that, I think, are a perfect fit for you. Who knows, we’re going to spend about 10 to 15 minutes today running over exactly the service that we offer, and then we’ll give you a few minutes to tell us a little bit about yourself, and if, here in a short period of time, we feel like our circles overlap, we have something in common, then we’ll figure out a way to move forward. Make sense? Let me get started. It seems like your people are here, my people are here. If anybody needs fluids, are in or out, let’s do that now. Kick off, get started. It’s 10am.”

David, that’s the kind of start that lets the buyer know that he’s on the phone with a high status, professional, experienced presenter, and his time is not going to be wasted. They want that a lot more than they want, “Please, thank you, really appreciate it.”

David Perry:            

Yes, you’re absolutely correct about it, and I’m in total agreement because I’ve been using your material for a couple of years now, and as we talked before we got on the call, I made a couple hundred thousand dollars the first month as a recruiter, just changing up a couple of the things that I noticed that I did. When I wrote Executive Recruiting for Dummies, I went out looking to the community to see who I could recommend and bring in to help the people that read the book. You were first on the list. It was a no-brainer for me. Took a long time to set it up but I’m so glad we did.

Before we hang up, could you tell the listeners one more time what’s the best way for people who want to learn more about Pitch Anything to get in touch with your company to learn more about the products, services that you offer?

Oren Klaff:                

Yeah, I think we’re like you. We’re like most content providers, is we give away 90% of our stuff, and then if you really want to go forward into profession way, then we have a couple things that we sell. For example, if you head over to pitchanything.com, most of the good stuff that we have is available there for free, and you consume that stuff, and when you go, “Hey, I really want to go further. I want Oren’s help or I want some things that are specific to my business,” then we’ll figure out some way to take your money, but in the meantime … No, in the meantime, head over to pitchanything.com, consume the stuff there, you read Pitch Anything, you’re going to be about $14 in the hole by the time you’ve gotten the book, with FedEx shipping.

The website is full of stuff, and then hopefully at some point you want to bring this into your organisation, we can talk further if that happens. Pitchanything.com is a great starting point.

David Perry:      

Oren, thank you very much for your time. Glad we could finally connect, and I think that the readers and the listeners of this podcast will be going over in droves. I hope the server can withstand the heat.

Oren Klaff:      

Thank you. Thank you, David, it’s been good. You’re doing a great service as well. We face that in our organisation. It’s not something that we do all the time, so when … We’re not a 5,000 person organisation, so when we have to recruit we have to dust off our recruiting skills, we got to turn to a book like yours so we don’t make the most obvious, common, and painful mistakes, so we appreciate what you’re doing, as well.

David Perry:    

Excellent. Have a great week Oren.

Oren Klaff:       

Thanks, David, I appreciate the opportunity