Friday, May 9, 2008

The Complex Sale: 10 Hollywood Tips for Being "Good in a Room"

About a year ago, I had the pleasure to co-write an article titled "Ten Tips for Being Good in a Room," with Stephanie Palmer, former Director of Creative Affairs at MGM Pictures. At the time, she had just started a new company called (you're never going to guess ...) "Good in a Room."

The article, updated and included below, (with a surprise at the end) draws on Stephanie's years of experience working with stories, writers, creative people and directors as they "pitched" their ideas and stories trying to get them to the big screen.

In Stephanie's tenure as the Director of Creative Affairs at MGM Pictures she acquired screenplays, books, articles and pitches and supervised their development. Some of her projects include "
Mad Money," "21," "Be Cool," "Legally Blonde," "Sleepover," "A Guy Thing," "Good Boy," "Agent Cody Banks" and "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London."


The "pitching" of the idea, or the story, and the pitching of yourself can be applied to many different business and life situations. It's particularly relevant and useful in the B2B "Complex Sale" environment.

That Crucial Moment

"Ten Hollywood Tips for Being Good in a Room" focuses on that crucial moment - after you've
worked for months (or years!) on your project, and have the buyer interested. The meeting is set. There’s a lot at stake. You’ll have one chance to effectively communicate the value and uniqueness of your project. Now ... you have to be, what they call in Hollywood, "Good in a Room."

But first, an update.

Since that article was published, Stephanie Palmer has written a thoroughly fantastic and real-world informative book titled, "GOOD in a ROOM: How to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience."

Stephanie recently appeared on MSNBC's "Today Show" to talk about her new book in a segment called "How to Get What You Want,"
along with Jim Cramer, Barbara Corcoran and Dr. Gail Saltz. They discussed the power of persuasion and how to be a master of the art.

She's not only "Good in a Room," she's good on TV. If you want to perform better in high-stakes meetings, check out her book "Good in a Room."

Now, on to ...

The Complex Sale: Ten Hollywood Tips For Being "Good in a Room."

Do You Know …

The one skill that’s considered to be an absolute “must have” in the complex sale?

The Definition

The complex sale typically refers to a high-value purchase, $150,000 and higher, involving a buyer's committee consisting of anywhere from three to 21 people … or more.


The sales cycle is frustratingly long. Anywhere from 12-36 month. Worse still … it involves multiple decision-makers, all with different viewpoints, agendas and radically different personalities.

It’s a Science – It’s an Art

To win at the complex sale, one must be a storyteller, master tactician, strategist, cajoler, evaluator, philosopher, psychologist, bean counter and techno-geek. Yup. All rolled into one. But, even with all of that, there is one skill that is an absolute “must have” in the complex sale.

Without it, success is always a delayed sales cycle away – with a morbidly high improbability rate of closure ranging from 0 to 10 percent.

What is that one trait that’s an absolute “must have” to win the complex sale in today’s competitive sales environment?

I’m sure you’re thinking some highfalutin, corporate gobbledygook, acromoronic description is coming your way now.

You’d be wrong.

The skill is critical to your success – in business or life.

You must be ...

Good in a Room.”

What does that mean ... to be "Good in a Room?" To find out, I decided to ask someone that had sat on the other side of the fence. A buyer. But not just a buyer of any high-value product or service. A buyer of ideas. Concepts. Words. A buyer of screenplays and stories. Each one a high-value purchase triggering the complex and bewildering process that may eventually lead to the big screen. And, as you'll see, no movie ever gets started without someone having mastered the "art of the schmooze" and being ...

Enter Stephanie Palmer

Good in a Room founder Stephanie Palmer was named one of the "Next Generation: Top 35 Executives Under 35" by The Hollywood Reporter. As the Director of Creative Affairs at MGM Pictures, she acquired screenplays, books and pitches and supervised their development. Some of her projects include “Be Cool,” “Legally Blonde,” “Sleepover,” “A Guy Thing,” “Agent Cody Banks,” and “Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London.” Prior to MGM, she worked in development at Jerry Bruckheimer Films on “Con Air,” Armageddon,” and “Enemy of the State.” Her first job in the business was as an intern on “Titanic.”

Ten Hollywood Tips for Being “Good in a Room” - Stephanie Palmer

You’ve worked for months (or years!) on your project, and a buyer is interested. The meeting is set, and there’s a lot at stake. You’re going to get one chance to effectively communicate the value and uniqueness of your project. Many people get nervous at this point.

The best of the best, I've learned from many years of experience, follow these 10 steps ... or tips. If you learn them, you can join the ranks of those who know that they are “good in a room.”

1. Silence is the Strongest Start of All

Don’t start talking until the decision-maker is ready. If there have been a lot of people popping in, urgent phone calls or other interruptions, ask the executive if he or she is ready for you to begin.

Make eye contact. Then, start slowly and deliver your first line.

Make sure it is dynamite. Pause. Gauge the executive’s response. Then proceed with your presentation at a relaxed pace.

Remember, even though you’re intimately familiar with your project, the buyer will be hearing it for the very first time.

2. Understand the Buyer’s Secret Dream

Even though top-level buyers can seem cold and recalcitrant, this is the result of seeing a seemingly endless stream of poorly prepared and emotionally needy sellers deliver mediocre pitches.

I Can't Wait to Say No

Decision-makers don’t wake up thinking, “I can’t wait to disappoint people and pass on 30 projects today.” Instead, they hope today will be the day they discover their career-making project.

Thus, you must position yourself and your project in a way that differentiates you from the masses and speaks directly to the buyer’s highest-priority needs.

3. Build Rapport. Then, Build Some More

People want to work with people they like. Think about what you have in common with the decision-maker you’re meeting. Be ready to share a few brief, personal stories that demonstrate the attributes you believe will be most attractive to the buyer. Be prepared to ask a few open-ended questions that will encourage the buyer to speak about a non-business interest in a positive light. All else being equal, you will have the edge if you can establish a personal connection.

4. Make Your Pitch Repeatable

Though you are selling your project to a decision-maker in the room, after the meeting, the buyer – if interested – becomes the seller and must pitch your idea to their colleagues or superiors. In Hollywood, this is known as the “logline.” If you can’t summarize your project in a brief, compelling statement, you haven’t thought about it enough.

Remember, the more you say, the less people hear. Choose your words carefully.

5. Acknowledge the Competition

Be prepared to answer questions such as, “What does my project have in common with other successful projects in the same industry? What were the last projects that the company purchased, and were they successful?

Which of their projects is most similar to my own?

What makes me the best person for this project?”

Answering these key questions early in your presentation demonstrates that you have done your homework. This will encourage them to listen to what follows more closely.

6. The Best Meetings Are Conversational and Interactive

Many professionals make the mistake of performing an over-rehearsed spiel that sounds like an infomercial for their idea.

Instead, pause frequently, especially when there is an opportunity for the buyer to give you a reaction or ask a question.

In an ideal world, you’d spend more time in a dialogue with the buyer, than performing a monologue.

7. Start from the Beginning – Always

Even if you had a long and productive conversation the day before, you’d be surprised how much can change in the buyer’s mind. After all, you’ve been thinking about the meeting and they have, too.

Assume that they’ve done more research, talked to some people and something has changed since the time you last spoke. It’s your job to figure out what that is. After some initial rapport building, do another information-gathering session. If appropriate, ask for a recap from their perspective.

8.Watch for Hidden Opportunities

The buyer’s goal for the meeting may not be the same as yours. In addition to hearing your idea, the executive may be evaluating you to see if you would be a good fit for another project.

Remember, when you are in the room, you are selling minimally two things: your project and yourself. Even if the meeting doesn’t result in a “yes,” making a favorable impression can be the beginning of a long-term professional relationship.

9. Don’t Claim Your Expertise - Demonstrate it

Don’t just talk about your experience, show your expertise by positioning your project as it relates to the competition. Don’t brag or boast about past wins. If you must mention a past success, do it off-handedly and with humility. This is similar to the common rule about storytelling, “Show, don’t tell.”

Remember a lot of people talk the talk. Those who are “good in a room” are focused on meeting the needs of the buyer and not on boosting their own ego.

10. Save a Surprise for the End

Plan multiple strategies to exit gracefully.

Some techniques are to have a callback to a personal topic that you discussed at the beginning of the meeting, thank them for a specific, useful contribution they made during the meeting, or leave them a polished piece of material that they haven’t seen previously.

Use a summary statement that you design specifically to be remembered and repeated.

Remember ...

Last impressions last.

Surprise! - Bonus Tip

11. You Are Always in the Room

Develop your skills so that you can handle meetings that occur unexpectedly, like on a plane, at a party, or in a waiting room. More business starts from casual interactions than formal meetings across a conference room table.

The polished professional who is “good in a room” is ready for anything. But don’t feel the need to talk business in all situations, often the best move is to say, “Why don’t we just enjoy the party, and I’ll follow up with you on Monday.”


We saved a surprise for the end.

Like the article?

Want to win a copy of the book?

Email me your feedback and mailing address at First 20 responses will win a copy of "Good in a Room" by Stephanie Palmer. Put 'GOOD IN A ROOM" in the subject line.

About Stephanie Palmer:

Stephanie Palmer ( coaches business leaders, senior executives and established creative professionals from a wide variety of industries to help them get their ideas the attention and financing they deserve.

In her tenure as the Director of Creative Affairs at MGM Pictures, Palmer acquired screenplays, books, articles and pitches and supervised their development. Some of her projects include "Mad Money," "21," "Be Cool," "Legally Blonde," "Sleepover," "A Guy Thing, "Good Boy," "Agent Cody Banks" and "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London."

Prior to MGM, she worked in development at Jerry Bruckheimer Films on "Con Air," "Armageddon" and "Enemy of the State." Her first job in the film business was as an unpaid intern on the Academy Award-winning "Titanic."

Palmer has presented workshops and seminars for many organizations, companies and universities, including Merrill Lynch Business Development Programs, University of Southern California, American Film Market, the Asia Media Festival, National Speaker's Association Graduate School and the International Creativity Conference.

Additionally, she has been featured on NBC's "Today," "CBS's Early Show," "National Public Radio" and in the "Los Angeles Times." She serves as an advisor for the American Screenwriting Association, Carnegie Mellon University's Masters of Entertainment Industry Management Program, and the Producing Program at UCLA. She supports Habitat for Humanity and The Fulfillment Fund.

Stephanie Palmer

Good in a Room

10845 Lindbrook Drive, Suite 200,

Los Angeles, CA 90024

Phone: 310.481.3987

Fax: 310.388.0818


About Steve Kayser:

Steve Kayser is an award-winning business writer that has been featured in a marketing best practices case study by MarketingSherpa, “A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing,” Innovation Quarterly, B2B Marketing Trends, and Faces of E-Content magazine. His writings have appeared in Corporate Finance Review Magazine, CEO Refresher, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business 2.0, and Fast Company Magazine, among others.

In his spare time, Steve professionally models kilts for Un-Vanity, Non-GQ and The Manly Kilt Wearing Man monthly magazines.

Steve also headlines fundraising events for his run at an Olympic Gold Medal in the kilt-wearing mechanical bull-riding competition to be held in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2050.


1 comment:

Rhea said...

Good for people to know.