Sales lessons from a failed Interview with Robert Downey Jr.

By Todd Liles Sales lessons from a failed Interview with Robert Downey Jr.

All the world loves a celebrity melt down.  So, it is no surprise that the recent video of Robert Downey Jr. walking off set has gone viral.  This “meltdown” occurred during an interview about the new Avenger’s movie: Age of Ultron.  This particular meltdown is interesting because it leads to lessons that can be applied to sales.  RELATED: 6 keys to low pressure sales

If you haven’t watched the video yet, then do that first.  It’s about 7 minutes long, and very entertaining.  Half of the interview will seem normal, and there will be no drama.  Hang on, because the drama and the sales lessons start at 3:15.

Before I jump into the sales lessons, I think it is important to discuss the “meltdown.”  In this instance, Robert Downey Jr. stayed calm and in control.  It was the interviewer, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, that lost his cool.

#1 – Stay on topic

The interviewer, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, started to steer off topic when he asked the question:

“What do you think about the comparisons between you and the character Iron Man?” 

Robert Downey Jr. answered that question with no problem.  He did so, because the question was still close to the topic of the movie.  However, the next question starts the downfall of the interview.

“He’s becoming a better man . . . in a way you are as well, I suppose?” 3:53

It is at this point where the experienced actor can sense that this interview is about to take a turn.   You can see it in Robert’s face.

For the next 3 minutes the interview is uncomfortable and unproductive.  Once Murthy begins to ask Robert Downey Jr. about his time in jail, it gets ugly.

The sales lesson:

Sometimes you have to ask some uncomfortable questions.  If the questions is on topic, and flows with the conversation, then the client will most likely answer.  Don’t stray too far off topic.  Doing so can destroy trust, and stop the sale.

#2 – Be confident

Some questions are on topic, but are still very uncomfortable to ask.  As the “interviewer” asking the questions, you want to make sure you exude confidence.  Robert Downey Jr. is confident throughout the questioning, whereas Krishnan Guru-Murthy begins to wilt as the interview progresses.  Some of you have experienced a similar melt down during the evaluation process of the sale.

I remember the first sell I made in Austin.  It was to Patricia Rogers.  She was a sweetheart of a lady, and we became friends after the sell. 

But before the sell could be made, I had to ask her an uncomfortable question:

“Mrs. Rogers, is there anyone else that needs to be involved in the process today?”

This question was uncomfortable because I suspected that her husband had passed away.  Based on the pictures in the home, I also suspected that his passing was recent.

My suspicions were accurate.  Mrs Rogers was newly widowed.  Her only family was a grown daughter who lived in Israel.

Knowing this put a few things in perspective for me.  Mrs Rogers needed an ally.  She needed someone in her court that could make her feel safe and comfortable .  At this moment, more than any other, it was critical to demonstrate confidence.

This is just one of the many uncomfortable questions that you may have to be confident in asking.  RELATED: 7 confidence boosters your team desperately needs

Here are a few more uncomfortable questions:

  • What budget did you have in mind for this project?
  • When do you want to get started?
  • What are you looking for in a company?
  • Can I ask for your business today?
  • Allow me to ask why you say that?      

The sales lesson:

Your confidence sets the stage for your client.  If you are nervous, they will be nervous.  If you are confident, they will be confident.

#3 – Control your body language

“Your foot is starting to shake a little bit,  you better get to your next question.” – Robert Downey Jr.

I love that RDJ called out Krishnan Guru-Murthy!  The sadistic side of me literally laughed out loud!

Robert Downey Jr. is a highly trained actor.  He instinctively understands how to read body language, and he knew that Krishnan Guru-Murthy was about to enter uncomfortable territory.  Instead of letting Krishnan Guru-Murthy get the upper hand, Robert Downey Jr. asserted the body language of “power”, and dominated Guru-Murthy.

Let’s compare the body language of the 2:

Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s Body Language – 

  • Flushed in the face
  • Fidgeting with his hands
  • Broke eye contact and looked away
  • Crossed arms and legs
  • Began to shake uncontrollably

Robert Downey Jr.’s Body Language – 

  • He Smiled
  • Made strong eye contact
  • Became direct in his focus

The sales lesson:

Body language is understood by everyone.  It will communicate your intentions before you have a chance to express yourself.

#4 – It’s about Relationships, not Contracts

Did you noticed that Krishnan Guru-Murthy referred to “our agreement” when the interview started to fade?  This happened because the relationship had evaporated, and he knew that he would have to use the “contract” to keep RDJ in the interview. 

A contract is a poor substitute for a relationship.  By the time either party gets down to throwing around their contracts, you can bet things are not good.

Using the contract line also feels a little cheesy, doesn’t it? Actually, it is the side move of a weak man.  I wasn’t laughing at this point.  By this point in time, I was sad for them both.  RELATED:  How to build profitable relationships

The sales lesson:

Trust and Rapport is what makes a sale work.  When the trust is gone, so is the relationship.

Closing Thoughts

I want to end with 2 closing thoughts:

  1. I don’t think Krishnan Guru-Murthy wanted to ask those questions that were off topic.  He seemed too disconnected from the topic for it to be his idea.  If it was his idea originally, I think he realized it was a bad one too late in the game to change his plan.
  2. Bravo to Robert Downey Jr.!  He was kind and controlled when he could have been cruel.  This is a powerful example of proper behavior.  Also, did you noticed what Robert Downey Jr. did on the way out?  He slapped Krishnan Guru-Murthy on the back and said; “I know you’re a good guy.  It was just getting a little too “Diane Sawyer” for me.” 

Question:  What sales lesson did you take from Robert Downey Jr.?  Share on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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