Business Tactics They Don’t Teach in School

by Scott - 16 Comments

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A bunch of people that subscribe to my newsletter have told me that their favorite part is the business tactics I share in the “Tactic of the Month” section….

Business Tactics

So I thought I’d share the first 5 on this here tablet in case you missed them.

Business Tactic 1: Good Cop / Bad Cop 

In business development you’re bound to encounter some situations where you’re not going to make the other party happy (i.e. you can’t accomodate a request, you need an update on where a deal stands that they’re not ready to give etc).

People like doing business with people they like.

Thus, it’s in your best interest to be likeable. This why playing good cop / bad cop can be such an effective strategy.

At the most basic level good cop / bad cop is blaming other people for things that make someone else unhappy. You always want to position yourself as the “good cop” and someone else as the “bad cop” to remain in a favorable light.

Here are some examples so you can get a better idea of what I mean:

You need an update on where a deal stands that you know the other party isn’t eager to give:

“Hey Tom, I have a meeting with my CEO on Wednesday and he asked me to give him an update on all the current people we’re talking about doing a partnership with. I’d really appreciate an update here so I can give him an answer.”

Bad cop – Your CEO, Happy Cop – You!

Someone asks to do an integration that you can’t accomodate:

“Hey Tom, I’d really love to make this integration happen, but my product team is really strict about our API. Unfortunately, they said we can’t accomodate that. I’ll be sure to let you know if anything changes.”

Bad cop – Your product team, Delightful Cop – You

*Note practice this with honesty.

Business Tactic 2: “The Neighborhood Technique”

Sometimes it takes a face to face meeting to get a deal done. Why? Because that’s where you can engender intimacy and rapport the fastest and people do things for people they like. A face to face meeting also demonstrates commitment which can alleviate any hesitancies someone may have about working with you.

The challenging part is actually getting a face to face meeting when someone perceives that you might be trying to push them to do something…

Enter the “Neighborhood Technique”

The neighborhood technique is creating the perception that you’re already going to be somewhere in close proximity to a prospect and asking them to get together “because you’re going to be in the neighborhood.”

Exact you can use script:

Hey Chris

I’m actually going to be in Los Angeles in three weeks on business and have a few hours of down time on Thursday and Friday. Do you have 30 minutes to connect. I hear your offices are pretty cool and it’d be great to finally meet in person.


If the person confirms “yes” then you book your ticket and go out there. This works because framing it this way makes the meeting context seem far more casual than an explicit trip to talk shop. Because there’s less pressure, the person is more likely to comply.

Business Tactic 3: “Pre-emptive Strike Pitching”

I give props to my teammate Kenny Herman for teaching me this pitching tactic. He referred to this as “Getting Ahead of Their Questions” – I like to call it “Pre-emptive Strike Pitching.”

The idea is that if you anticipate what questions someone your pitching is going to have, you can disarm them before they even have a chance to ask them. Here is an example:

Say you’re pitching a retail analytics solution. One question they might ask is “who are you competitors?” or “who else provides this type of software?”

You can get ahead of this question and disarm it by throwing in something like:

and we’ve quickly become the industry standard for retail analytics. Most of the people industry are either using us already or will be in the next year.

This type statement makes questions about competitors much less interesting. When I’ve intentionally disarmed questions with the content of my pitch the end is usually more of a “ok this sounds great!” than a Q&A fest.

So before you come up with a new pitch it’s always a great idea to write down the possible questions someone will have and then figure out how you can disarm them by intentionally weaving pre-emptive statements into the pitch so that they don’t even bring up objections.

Business Tactic 4: “The Photographer”

One thing I’ve learned at SP (again from Kenny) is how to leverage the power of images in the relationship building process with current/potential partners in such a way that makes people more willing to do things for you. 

During an email dialogue with current/potential partners, you can attach images of your team or yourself doing something funny or relatable. These images can be related to an inside joke relevant to your relationship or it can just be a picture of something you think is cool or funny related to a shared passion or interest.

Say you know they love dogs. You attach a P.S. at the bottom of the email that says the following:

P.S. I’m catching some rays with my pup this weekend. Hopefully you can too ; )

photo (2)



Pro tip: Name the attached image something clever or funny (vs. photo.jpg). An example here could be “BadToTheBone” – Cheeseballs anyone?

I noticed partners seemed to really like when I did this, but I couldn’t put my finger on why until reading Chapter 5 on Emotion from the book Made to Stick.

This chapter states that just because someone holds a belief (i.e. doing a partnership is a good idea), doesn’t necessarily mean they’re motivated to act.

People are motivated to act when they believe and care about something…and  the way to make people care about something is to tap into their emotions.

When you send someone a followup email with a bunch of statistics, you’re priming them to analyze/process it with an analytical mindset. BUT if you ice this email with a picture that makes them smile or highlights something they can relate to, you give yourself a chance to tap into their emotions. This can prime them to process the email with an emotional mindset which is the state where they’re more motivated to take action and do things for you.

Although doing something like this is just a little tiny action within the equation of getting a deal done, it is the sum of many of these type of actions that ultimately helps startups push deals through the finish line. Sooo consider trying “The Photographer” : )

Business Tactic 5: The “Just So I Know” Tactic

If you hold your network and company resources sacred, you’ll find that you have to say NO a lot even to people you really like and care about.

I’ve found that there are certain ways to say no that mitigate the strains on a relationship. One of my favorites is using the “just so I know” tactic.

When someone makes a request that’s not in the best interest of you or your company to accomodate, you should always follow the “no” with a “just so I know” statement. Example:

Acquaintance from a fledgling startup: 

Hey can you introduce me to you’re biggest, baddest VC friend?

You: Hey I don’t feel comfortable making the introduction right now, but just so I know, what type of investor are you looking for?

Someone trying to take unwarranted developer time:

Hey can you introduce me to your head of product to chat about the API?

You: Hey our head of product is underwater right now so I’m going to have to hold off on the introduction, but just so I know, what type of challenges are you running into? I’ll take it to my team as feedback.

A “just so I know” statement enhances a negative response by signaling that you’re looking out for their best interest (hopefully you are!).

I can’t prove it, but I think that when you do this people tend to focus on answering on the question and you’re continued willingness to help instead of the fact you said no. Why is this important? Because people do things for people they like so it’s always in your best interest to remain within a positive light while upholding the best interest of your company….sorry if I’ve pulled this one on you!

So these were the business tactics I shared within the earlier newsletters If you haven’t signed up for it yet, you should probably go do that right now by signing up for it below!

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16 comments, add to the conversation.

  1. jeremy912

    Nice write-up Scott. Don’t give away ALL of our secrets, or else retailers will eventually call BS on my good cop/bad cop!


  2. Nicholas Maroun

    Great tips Scott. One of my favorites is telling people that if they give me more insight into what their organization is working on at the moment, I will be able to tell them if what we do will be of any use to them. It builds trust, gets them to open up sooner, and helps both parties determine value early on.


  3. Junaid Kalmadi

    Excellent post, Scott! Particularly love the example emails. Solidifies the advice to memory. On another note, what are your favorite email subscriptions for BD and sales advice? Mark Suster, Alex Taub, and Seth Godin I admire.


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  5. Ari Teman

    The “In the neighborhood” trick is good… it’s a psychological basis that people will agree more often to things when you give them ANY reason. “Can I cut in front of you in line because I have to see the parking lot?” vs just “”Can I cut in front of you in line?” Psych 101 (literally…it’s an example from Intro to Psych)…

    If you’re going to preemptively pitch, ALSO do research on the person you’re meeting… see if they have a public profile and replace the examples with things they like. “Say you have a user who loves chocolate and mountain climbing”. I used that in a meeting with a Googler once and he was floored. His face lit up in awe…you’d think he’d expect people to google a googler. 😉 It’s almost a crime not to google someone before conducting any business with them.

    I prefer to be honest with customers when they’re asking what we can’t (meaning “won’t”) deliver. “Our development team has 10 features that clients have prioritized over that so it’s not going to happen anytime soon.” “I think that’s going to bite you in the ass.” “Let me explain what we’d like to do instead…” or “It’s just not worth our time / money / psychological energy to do that.” I’d rather my clients know I’m not going to bullshit them, even (and especially!) if that means they don’t want to be clients.


  6. PondScum

    This makes me want to puke. What a disgusting load of shit for a human being to consider employing in order to gain an advantage.


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