The Trump U Sales Playbook: A Marvelous Primer on the Dark Art of B2C Sales

I wanna start with an apology: Based on a very brief hot-take published in Slate, I posted this quip:

After seeing the these two Jon Oliver episodes (vol 1 and vol 2), I finally dug into the 2010 Trump University Playbook in earnest (as opposed to just re-reading the same nibblets everyone was passing around). And you know what? This playbook is special.

Since the Slate excerpts were chosen for the lulz, not the insight, all I saw was what was there: Standard-issue sales training materials, with the genre-mandated jankety English and flop-sweat sheen of Glengarry Glen Ross bravado.  If you have experience with consumer-oriented sales (i.e., “B2C”—that’s “business to consumer”, generally contrasted to “B2B,” which is “business to business”), none of this is that unusual. And so that’s what I tweeted.

But, of course, I was looking at it as someone who’s worked in sales, studied the psychology of selling, written sales copy, and slogged through a lot of terrible sales material and ethically questionable sales advice.  After digging into the playbook with my “Normal Human” eyes on, I’m seeing the ickiness much more clearly. That fantastic, revelatory ickiness.

Give these materials a gander, esp. the “Sales Playbook” section starting around pg. 96.  Read it, and get a sense of what a steep disadvantage you are at, as a normal human thrust into a professional sales situation (e.g., buying a car, sitting down with a “financial advisor,” being dragged to court, being interrogated). 

This is, in fact, a pretty tight textbook on the dark arts of high-pressure sales/persuasion situations where there is a built-in power differential that favors the seller. 

Frankly, if Trump U really wanted to give students value, then screw real estate investing; they should have handed out copies of this. “Here’s how we suckered you; go forth and sucker others!”

Maybe not worth $995, but certainly worth more than nothing. 

RECOMMENDED READING2010 Trump University Playbook

Listen: If We Don’t Start Taking Trump Seriously, He Will be President #FACT #NotJoking

credit: DonkeyHotey
This excellent and instructive set of posts really concisely analyzes the marketing savvy underpinning Donald Trump’s political crazy talk. Consider it mandatory reading for anyone who 1) currently lives and votes in the United States or 2) ever plans to attempt to earn any money in any manner:

This analysis aside, here’s why I’m absolutely convinced that, if we stay the course, Donald Trump will be President:

I see smart, political-aware, left-leaning progressives once again doing exactly what they did when George W. Bush ran: Bemusedly watching a desperately outclassed clown-candidate fumble every media event like a stumble drunk, and then archly snarking: “Who are all these people that are supposed to vote for this guy? I don’t know anyone who would ever vote for him!”

And that dumpster-fire of a President got elected twice—and put tens if not hundreds of thousands of people in their graves. So, howsabout we don’t go and do the same dumb, cynical bullshit again?

Just to be clear: I’m not suggesting you go out, insult and dogpile on pro-Trump folks—’cause that’s exactly the way we got Bush elected twice; a shrill liberal freak-out is baked into Trump’s strategy. I’m suggesting that we really set our minds to trying to understand how it is that folks who are enthusiastic about Trump got to that place, without assuming it’s because they are “dumb bigots.”

If you’re wondering, “Jeez; how the fuck do I talk to someone who is head-over-heels for Trump?” My experience: Make sure that your side of the conversation only consists of questions. And not thin-ass rhetorical questions like “Why do you love that bigot, stupid?” Real questions, like: “OK; why do believe Mexican immigrants are disproportionately criminal? Is that actually true?” ’cause 10 minutes of googling reveals this table:

Compiled be a very reliably Conservative writer, Heather Mac Donald, and based on DoJ National Crime Victimization Survey data. You’ll note that, as perpetrators, Hispanics account for 14.8% of violent crime, despite being 17.1% of the total population—in terms of violence, they’re actually underperforming [insert your own “lazy Mexican” joke here, bigot].[*]

The point here isn’t to zing anyone; it’s to compassionately invite them to join you in a place where reasonable humans will begin to properly question how reasonable this American Savior’s claims are.

Anyway, the Big Picture: Let’s maybe stop being Trump’s strawman, ok?

photo credit: DonkeyHotey


[*] Since my regular readers seem to deeply enjoy my penchant for footnoted fact-based poindexterity, here’s a fun set of tidbits:

  1.  While Hispanics lag behind in committing violent crimes, they are victims of 17.7% these crimes (as calculated from Table 5 numbers in the 2013 DoJ Criminal Victimization bulletin)—about what you’d expect, given that they’re 17.1% of the population. All that said, does my data disprove Trump’s claim? Clearly, no: “Mexicans” are a small subset of “Hispanics” and “undocumented Mexicans” an even smaller sub-set of that. Can we expect differences in behavior among these groups? Maybe, but if anything undocumented immigrants appear to commit violent and property crimes at a *lower* rate than their naturalized peers.
  2.  As part of his “We need a wall and Mexico needs to pay for it!” spiel, Trump repeats the conservative canard that: “[The Mexican government has] even published pamphlets on how to illegally immigrate to the United States.” In case you’re wondering, here’s the pamphlet in question. My Spanish isn’t superfantástico, but this comic book clearly begins by telling people that the safe way to immigrate is through official channels with appropriate paperwork, and warns that unofficial crossing is both dangerous and illegal. It goes on to describe the dangers of crossing the desert, forging rivers, being victimized by human smugglers, and then being victimized by employers once you are across the border illegally. It strongly discourages using false documents, lying to American law enforcement, fleeing law enforcement, being armed in any way, or breaking the law in any way. If you get in trouble, the pamphlet advises, you have certain rights, and should contact the consulate. The pamphlet closes with: “This [guide] does not promote crossing [the border] without legal documentation required by the United States government; its objective is to make known the risks and to inform about the rights of migrants regardless of their legal residence.” It’s a pretty run-of-the-mill government document. It was published 11 years ago and “thousands” of copies were distributed; at the time it was published, even folks of a seemingly anti-Mexico persuasion found the idea of using this as an “invasion blueprint” laughable: “But as a survival guide for Mexicans seeking a better life in el Norte, Guía del Migrante Mexicano fails miserably.” As near as I can tell, it hasn’t been in print in ages; in fact, the only place you can find it online anymore is on White Nationalist websites, as an inflammatory example of the immigrant invasion, or whatever.
    Nonetheless, this historical footnote is prominently featured in the platform of a 2015 U.S. presidential candidate, where it is characterized as a guide to “illegally immigrate to the United States.”