BLOG#16 The Bangkok Flip Flop Technique

In the heavy, sticky afternoon heat of Khao San Road market in Bangkok, I was the innocent victim of an ingenious sales strategy a few years ago.

In the years since, I’ve identified a lot that I’ve learned about selling, marketing, decision making and pricing psychology (psychophysics) at work in the assault.

Like many of the most potent forms of influence, it’s likely that the seller knew very little about why it worked so well (at least it did on me), but I’m equally sure he doesn’t care… it just worked.

Here’s what happened and the major lesson, so it can put more in your pockets too…

How I got Flip Flopped

Khao San Road and Thailand in general (if you haven’t been) is crammed with cheap replicas of big brands. It’s also common to haggle over every sale.

Tori and I were about to head home after a long trip and wanted to take Christmas gifts home for our families. We decided on a pair of Haviana flip flops for my brother in law Andrew and I spotted a stall with a big display.

I chose the light grey soles with banana yellow straps that were labelled as being $9 and told the stall holder (confidently!) I would pay $6 for them.

My undoing had begun.

He grabbed a very similar pair of grey and yellow flip flops from the back of his stall and told me that these ones were $6 if that’s what I wanted to pay.

I stood my ground and said I wanted the $9 pair but I’d only pay $6.

$$’s chi-ching’ed across the salesman’s eyes for an instant, his lips trembled as he fought back an evil laugh – he’d seen it all before.

He took one of the cheaper and one of the “high end” flip flops, placed both in front of me next to each other and explained the difference between them:

The $9 pair were made in China, they had a good quality (a better fake) brand logo embossed in them and they also had an authentic-looking branded tread in the sole.

The $6 ones were made in Thailand and, when you looked closely, they were a little bit more fake; The badge wasn’t made very well and instead of a branded pattern in the sole they had just a criss-cross pattern.

(Yes – he pointed out all the flaws in his product!)

So I now had a clear choice: The $9 decent quality fakes or $6 poor fakes.

Being a cheapskate, but not wanting my brother in law to know I was a cheapskate, I picked the better quality fakes and paid $9. And I was happy because I knew what I had paid the extra for.

The Flip Flop Technique Lesson: Offering a Quality-Based Choice

The stall holder had done two very clever things by offering me a choice – He’d not only made it very difficult for me to argue for a discount, he’d also taken his competition out of the equation.

The question in my mind at the stall initially was “should I buy these things here or not”

By giving me a choice and clearly explaining the differences, my brain became busy weighing up the different outcomes and was now thinking “which ones should I buy”.

How to Become a Flip Flop Master

There’s a broad spectrum of people shopping for what you sell. At one end there are those that just want the best and will pay for it because it makes them happy to know they have the best. At the other end are those who just want the cheapest.

In every business I have ever worked with, these 2 extreme groups are the minorities.

In the middle are the majority of people who want to get something in particular from your product or service and will buy if they are convinced they will get it. If they aren’t convinced, they will default to buying on price.

What was most important to me was 1. I wanted Andrew to be happy with his gift (and I know he likes good quality stuff) and 2. Me to look good for getting him something good (i.e. not a cheapskate)

If all you offer is one option, you make your potential customers choose to either buy from you or look elsewhere.

Instead, if you offer a higher-value (more benefits) option and lower-value (less benefits) option, clearly explaining the difference in value between the two, the customer customer can’t walk away before they have decided what matters to them most and whether they are willing to pay extra for it.

You have switched their minds from “should I buy here or not”, to “which is best for me” and significantly increased the chances of them buying from you.

The way our minds work is to try to simplify our decisions as much as possible. A single option can leave a lot of unanswered questions and doubt in a customer mind, so they will defer the decision to later (when it’s more critical) and walk away to “think about it” rather than risk making a bad buying decision on the spot.

The other extreme is when someone is faced with too many options, where the brain can’t process all the possible outcomes on the spot and come up with a clear winner. So, again, a person will decide not to decide right there and then and will walk away.

BUT, if you can give someone a very simple and clear choice, explaining the different outcomes of their decision, they will be much more likely to choose one of your options than delay the decision or add the complication of shopping elsewhere.

We tend to opt for the simple clear choice, even when it may not be the overall best choice to make. That’s why people don’t tend to take a long time considering all the ins and outs of the policies of political candidates, they simply vote for who they like, which is usually the person they understand most clearly (regardless of the insanity of what they say).

Of course there are always exceptions to this, but if you can come up with 2 options for every customer, where you’re able to clearly explain the differences in the outcome of their decision, your sales will increase.

Give it a Try

I hope you’ve found this useful and would love to hear about you testing it in your business. My best success has been applying this technique to a boat polishing service business, changing a standard polishing package (the only option previously) to a “Silver Package” and adding a full-shebang “Gold Package” (with every add-on we could think of) which not only boosted sales of the standard option but also added some new Gold price sales.

In most cases it won’t cost you anything to offer your customers 2 different value options and you’ll get immediate results. You’ll find that far fewer people will ask for discounts and you’ll get people buying quicker from you because they aren’t shopping around as much.


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BLOG#4 Why is Nobody Using the Giant Human Cloning Machine?

What would you do if you could clone yourself?

Never work again? Spend your life drinking Piña coladas (my personal holiday cocktail of choice) enjoying the very best experiences the world has to offer?

You might be surprised to know that humans have been able to clone themselves for over 20 years now. The giant human cloning machine is practically free to use for everyone and there is no limit to how many clones you can create.

What’s strange though is that very few people seem to use it, which makes me think that the majority of humans may see the cloning machine but don’t understand what it can do.

Imagine everyone in the world having a TV but never realising you could switch it on. They just thought the black rectangle made their rooms look stylish and were happy enough with that.

(They would never get to see Breaking Bad!)

The giant human cloning machine, right in front of your eyes, is the internet.

For people interacting with other people, I do think the internet is used exactly as it should be; it allows you to have multiple conversations and interactions as if you were face to face with all the people you know, all over the world, in the blink of an eye.

That’s exactly what makes the internet such a massive advance for our species – its a man-made tool that amplifies our abilities far beyond our physical bodies, making our minds the only limitation we have.

Or in other words: it allows you to do pretty much anything you can think of.


The way the majority of businesses and organisations use the internet is the equivalent of staring at the TV without ever switching it on.

It’s primitive – which is the most complimentary way I can put it – used predominantly like a giant Yellow Pages (have you seen how thin those things are these days?)

Because every business is absolutely unique, there is no step by step guide to using the cloning machine. All I can give you in these couple of minutes of your valuable time, is an example of how the best use it, followed by a way to think about what your website should be:

The Example

What do you think happens when you type a search into Google?

In the blink of an eye, it checks 4.6 billion website pages and presents you with the 10 that it believes are closest to what you want. (Well that’s not precisely what it does, but its close enough for this example)

And it does this 2 million times every second.

The reason Google is king (with around 2/3 of all online searches) isn’t because of its ability to do a lot of work at once. All of their competition have that ability, as do you and me.

The reason they are king is because those 10 results you get are just the same as if Larry and Sergey themselves (we’re on first name terms) had instantaneously read every page on the internet and then sent you a personal email with 10 links (with a short summary for each) to the ones they thought you would like the best.

They have made their online business as close as possible to dealing with them face-to-face in person and the internet clones them to deal with as many searches as they are asked to do.

That is what impresses me most about Google. Its not the volume of work and speed they do it in, its their ability to look at just a few words, know what you want and give it to you.

Its just like dealing with a human.

Actually no – it’s somehow even easier.

Every business and organisation has the ability to do what Google does, which is give every person who comes into contact with it online the experience they would get if standing in front of them having a real conversation.

And you don’t need any technical knowledge to do it.

The Way to Think About Your Website

For a business, the idea is that your website should be a clone of your very best sales person – YOU. If you don’t think you’re a good sales person, BLOG#2 explains how you can be using one simple question.

Now consider all of the different types of potential customers who might walk into your showroom or office or workshop. (A potential customer is someone looking for something you can give them)

Then ask yourself, how would each of those conversations go? What might each person want from you, what might they ask, what are all the things that could matter most to them and what would you tell them?

If someone was looking for just one of your product or services (which is all most potential customers are), would you force that person to listen to everything about all your products and services, along with your business history? Or would you just have a conversation about the thing they came to you for?

Now look at your website and ask yourself “does this website say and do the things I would say and do in real life to each of those potential customers?”

Does the website very quickly get potential customers to just the information they care about? Does it talk about what the customer will get, or does it just tell them what you do? (They only care about what they will get by the way)

Spend a couple of minutes thinking about the conversations you have that turn into sales, then compare those to what your clones (your website) is saying to every person that comes into contact with your business.

Most websites convert less that 1% of visitors into customers (3% is seen as good performance!)

If any business only got 3 out of every 100 potential customers to buy in person, the business wouldn’t last long. So why do we accept such abysmal performance online?

I think its because people don’t understand that the internet is just a giant human cloning machine.

And without realising it, they are cloning some pretty terrible humans (not to mention sales people) to represent their businesses.

Remember: Face to face, people have to listen to what you say out of politeness. Online, they will be gone in a click to your competitor’s website unless you’re telling them something they care about very quickly.

Just as you would.


BLOG#2 Become an Expert Salesperson with The Magic Question

If you’re good at providing a product or service, the chances are you aren’t as good at selling that product or service.

That’s absolutely normal and makes perfect sense – they are completely different skills.

And, if you spend all your time providing your product or service, you don’t have time to spend learning the completely different skill (that you’re probably not that interested in) of making people want to buy it from you.

There’s a big ugly BUT here…

If you run your own business and haven’t learned how to sell what you do, I’d bet you’re working harder than you ever imagined just trying to stay afloat.

I’ve been there. Not quite living the dream is it.

The ugly BUT has a hot sister called HOWEVER…

Believe it or not, being good at providing your product or service means you already have everything you need to be amazing (and I don’t use that word lightly) at selling what you do.

Well, almost everything.

You just need to know the magic question to ask any potential customer, which will turn your sales fortunes around forever. The question is this:

“What is most important to you about the (product or service) you’re looking for?”

It might feel a bit weird asking someone that question, but get a grip of yourself (they are just words!) because I guarantee you will be blown away with the results. Let me explain:

The best sales people aren’t pushy and don’t use tricks to get the sale.

Instead, the very best sales people (the highest paid professionals in the world) simply take the time to understand what their potential customer values most. This is their most desirable outcome from the purchase or in simple terms: the one thing that will make them reach for their wallets fastest and grab the biggest wad of notes.

Armed with this golden nugget of information, the best salesperson will then use their expertise (about the product or service) to educate the buyer with everything they need to know about their options to get what they want.

So you see, as the provider of the product or service, you are the very best person to provide potential customers with this information. You’re simply talking about what you know and, in the process, you’re demonstrating your knowledge, giving the customer a feeling of certainty (peace of mind) about their decision and gaining their trust.

All without being pushy.

I guarantee when you ask that question, the answer won’t be that they want your “friendly customer service”, your “years of experience” or your “comprehensive range of services” – everything your competitors are offering.

It will be some specific pain they’re feeling, a worry or stress they want to get rid of or a desire that has motivated their quest.

Ask every potential customer that question for one week and see what happens.

Or don’t. I’m easy.


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