Impact Pricing Podcast

Ep198: Reading Facial Microexpressions for Business and Negotiations with Annie Sarnblad

Annie Sarnblad has a Masters in Cultural Anthropology. She is certified in Facial Action Coding and can numerically code the 10,000 muscle combinations in human expression. With this skill, Annie has been helping companies to make informed decisions. Besides her corporate clients, Annie also helps high-profile families with heightened security needs, individuals navigating charged political situations, educators, peace mediators, medical professionals, and others.

In this episode, Annie talks about the importance of understanding microexpressions in business. She also discusses some of the most observable expressions that would enable business people to assess the situation properly and make necessary adjustments when needed.

Why you have to check out today’s podcast:

  • Learn about the science behind facial microexpressions
  • Discover how understanding facial microexpressions could help you in your business
  • Acquire knowledge about the most common microexpressions and how to capitalize on them when you are in a business meeting

 

“My piece of advice is for any business to recognize the importance that pricing can play in reaching their growth targets and objectives and making sure that they recognize that pricing has to be rooted in value.”

Annie Sarnblad

 

Topics Covered:

01:42 – Annie explains her skill of being a “human lie detector”

04:11 – The science behind reading facial microexpressions

08:32 – You have no control over facial microexpressions; it just shows

12:19 – No one can really just “smile” for the camera, except when they are actually happy

14:04 – Annie doesn’t remember static faces, only the muscle movements

18:43 – Observing the pupil is the easiest to learn because we are already looking at the eyes

22:02 – Why Annie wanted to learn how to read microexpressions

24:30 – Always look out for “disgust” or the “no” face when you are in a meeting

26:16 – Seeing the “no” face means that you have a choice to make

28:57 – How simply looking for pupil dilation could help you pivot from one topic to another and increase your price

31:05 – Annie’s pricing advice

 

Key Takeaways: 

“Muscle movement precedes the thought process. Even somebody like me that’s hyper-trained and thinks about this 24/7, I can’t stop myself from making the microexpressions unless I change my thought patterns and think about something else.” – Annie Sarnblad

“Nobody’s ever felt cheerful when they get an order to smile.” – Annie Sarnblad

“If we’re building strategy, we can have incredibly intelligent, high-level strategic brains and know the business, know the industry, know the players. But if we’re not understanding how the players are interacting with each other, what their primary motivations are, what’s in it for them, if we don’t understand what’s under the surface, we’re basing our strategy on the wrong things.” – Annie Sarnblad

“Once people have a vocabulary for the stuff that they see all the time, they then can have a much higher-level conversation.” – Annie Sarnblad

“I think people just are so rushed to get everything closed immediately that they sometimes don’t use all the information that’s available to them to make good choices.” – Annie Sarnblad

 

Connect with Annie Sarnblad:

Connect with Mark Stiving:   

 

Full Interview Transcript

(Note: This transcript was created with an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)

Annie Sarnblad

Go in with a set plan and a set price, but be willing to pivot and adjust according to the information and the feedback you’re getting.

[Intro]

Mark Stiving

Today’s podcast is sponsored by Jennings Executive Search. I had a great conversation with John Jennings about the skills needed in different pricing roles. He and I think a lot alike. If you’re looking for a new pricing role, or if you’re trying to hire just the right pricing person, I strongly suggest you reach out to Jennings Executive Search. They specialize in placing pricing people. Say that three times fast.

Mark Stiving

Welcome to Impact Pricing, the podcast where we discuss pricing, value, and the intoxicating relationship between them. I’m Mark Stiving and our guest today is Annie Sarnblad, and this will be the most unique and possibly most interesting podcast I have ever recorded. So, I only have one thing to tell you about Annie: She reads micro-expressions on faces. First, we’re going to learn about the superpower of hers, and then we’re going to see how to apply it to pricing.

Welcome, Annie.

Annie Sarnblad

Thank you, Mark, for having me. I’m looking forward to this.

Mark Stiving

Oh, I am, too. I’ve had the privilege of watching Annie a couple of times recently. She is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.

Annie Sarnblad

That says a lot, coming from you.

Mark Stiving

First off, tell us; what is this skill that you have? I mean, I think of you as a human lie detector. I’m afraid to talk to you because you’re watching my face.

Annie Sarnblad

Yes, I am a human lie detector. I am what is called a micro-expressions expert. I can numerically code the 10,000 different muscle combinations in human expression. And I did go through a whole certification program to learn to do that. I believe that there are about 800 of us in the world that can do that at that level.

I am not a mathematical thinker, ironically. I was abused as a kid and I was obsessed with learning to recognize predatory behavior and getting a vocabulary to put words to justify what I kind of already knew in my gut, through my intuition. So, when I found out that it was science and that there was a way to prove what somebody was feeling by looking at the expressions and the movements of the changes of muscle movement and blood flow on their faces, I became obsessed with that. And then once I learned, that was my vulnerability; I code my own face constantly. It’s an affliction.

I then had kids, and I actually learned to code on a higher-level post having kids. But already, when I had my children, I was focusing on facial expressions because I knew some of it and I started working with them before they were verbal in recognizing facial expressions. It’s a universal human language. We’re all wired to read facial expressions, and we lose that ability as we start looking our parents in the eyes. When we do this, “Look me in the eyes when I’m talking”, you look me in the eyes and we stop scanning that whole face. Because that’s what babies do, it’s that they scan the entire face to pick out, is this person happy or sad? The only time we revert to that as grown-ups is when we’re going to lean in for a kiss. We revert to our primitive brain and we start going *kiss-like sounds*

Mark Stiving

So, when you talk to me, you’re not looking me in the eyes?

Annie Sarnblad

Not very often. The first thing I will do is gauge your pupil size. I do that with every single person I talk to.

Mark Stiving

Wait, we’re going to get to that a little bit later because I find that so frustrating.

Annie Sarnblad

Yeah, I know.

Mark Stiving

My listeners are almost all, let’s say, pricing people, product people. I would bet most of us are very logically oriented.

Annie Sarnblad

Yup, a lot of my clients are.

Mark Stiving

The first thing I’m going to tell you is, how do I know this isn’t total B.S.?

Annie Sarnblad

Okay, I’ll go through this. My gut response is to be really, really vulgar. I guess you’re long around me enough at a couple of dinners and stuff to know that I have such a dirty mouth. And I could answer that question in 2 seconds, but I’m going to go through the scientific, responsible, grown-up way to just say that.

First of all, the Museum of Science in Boston is a client of mine. This is all science: body language, choice of vocabulary, using qualifiers, all the lie detection stuff that is not facial expression or change in blood flow, heart rate, that kind of thing. That varies from person to person. Body language is very vague. Lie detection can be very vague.

Facial expressions are extremely scientific. Human beings are wired the same way. When we’re scared, our hands get cold. Blood rushes down to our legs and our feet. When we’re angry, it comes into our arms and our fists so that we can fight. When we’re scared, it rushes down to your legs and your feet so you can run to escape. When we’re nervous, we sweat in our armpits, sometimes on our brow, on our palms of our hands. When we’re sad, we, human beings, cry. This is not a cultural thing. It’s not depending on, you know, some people cry more than others and some people even cry when we’re angry or frustrated. Women tend to do that more than men. But there’s a change in blood flow, in muscle movement that is specific to every emotion that varies from one emotion to the other, and the facial expressions correspond with the emotion in the same way.

So, for example, when I’m standing on stage, I show a picture of the Washington Monument and I explain when human beings feel arousal, the blood flows the middle of their bodies. This is true for both men and women. And in fact, an erection is the most concrete example of a specific emotion leading to a specific change in blood flow and muscle movement. We would not survive as a species where that’s not true. And in fact, the same is true for women. That blood flows down to our core when we’re aroused. Arousal in the face is a dilation and a swelling of the pupils. And this has nothing to do with whether or not you’re socialized this way. In fact, if you’ve never met another human being, if you are born blind, you make the same facial expressions to show the same emotions. It’s like saying, because you’re born in Mexico or India or Canada, men have erections when they’re aroused. It’s not some men do. I mean, unless you have a medical condition, then the erection corresponds with arousal, not with sadness, not with anger. And if it does, then you need to talk to somebody about it.

That’s another thing that doesn’t have to do with pricing.

But the pupil thing that we were talking about is that every time I sit down with another human being and I go into a high-stakes meeting, whether it’s a date, honestly, or whether it’s a pricing negotiation, I’m going to see what size your pupils are in this lighting when we start talking, and I’m going to see at what point they swell. And so, this can be in a pitch and a romantic pitch, but it can also be – for example, I think I gave this example on stage many, many, many years ago – I sat down, I was doing strategic advisory. I worked with managing directors and CEOs for the bulk of my career for about 20 years, doing high-stakes negotiation, dealing with strategy, dealing with some of the things that you do with pricing, but mostly dealing with complicated human politics in corporate environments, with their boards, with their management teams, etc. And so, I went into this one meeting that I was getting, a client was going to hire me. And I leaned over and I said, You’re a good leader. I can make you a great leader. And his pupils went “ding!”. And I tripled my price.

I thought, oh, that’s a lot of ego you have there. And I could – I did make him a great leader. He was very good at what he did. He needed a little bit of polishing and I needed some strategy and some media training, basically.

Mark Stiving

Okay. So, we’re going to come back to pupils in just a moment.

Annie Sarnblad

It never gets old.

Mark Stiving

I know. But the point that I found so fascinating is the fact that I don’t have the ability to control whether or not I show these.

Annie Sarnblad

Yeah, that’s the fun part. That’s why we had such a good time at dinner, because I kept poking and saying slightly more outrageous things, and you’re like, “Well, you can’t tell”. And I was like, “That’s worry, you’re furrowing your brow. You’re swallowing because you’re feeling a little insecure. And now you puckered your chin because that makes you feel vulnerable. And you showed me your nostril shadows, which are right next to your nostrils, if you’re watching us on video, which is good, and you just kind of wrinkle that skin next to that nasolabial furrow, which goes from the top of the nostrils down to the lip corners. You lifted that because you were a little uncomfortable, but you also find this really fun so you raised your informal triangles, basically your cheeks, the apples of your cheeks. And I could see that the skin underneath your lower eyelids is squishing out. So, you really think this is fun and you’re having a good time”. And you kind of went, “Oh”, and I said, “Yeah, that’s a worry and vulnerability”. And you just laughed. And I said, “It hurts less if you surrender”. And you were like, “Okay, great.”

Mark Stiving

That’s the line. It hurts less if you surrender.

Annie Sarnblad

It’s just so inappropriate in today’s society. It is wrong on every level.

Mark Stiving

Actually, I think one of the reasons I like you so much is because I gave in a long time ago and just said, “Look, I’m just going to be me.” Me is me.

Annie Sarnblad

Right. And those are always my favorite people. Because why would you want to be anybody? Everybody else is taken… Or what’s the saying?

Mark Stiving

Yeah, something like that. So, the story you told at the conference that we were out together was about the hot pot. Go ahead.

Annie Sarnblad

Microexpression precedes the thought process. The muscle movement in our face comes before we process what we’re experiencing, what we’re feeling, what our emotion is. The muscle movement is a pivotal piece of our brain, recognizing, feeling and emotion. So, I use the example, you know, I put my coffee cup up here, it’s actually just got water in it. But if you touch something really hot, you don’t keep your hand on that pot or on that cup and say, “Oh my gosh, this is really hot. If I keep my fingers here, it’s going to burn.” No. We’re programed to respond faster than that. Our reptilian brain pulls the hand back really quickly and goes, “aww”. The ouch, and the understanding of what happens in that feeling comes after the muscle twitch. And science has been able to prove that.

And then the really fun part is that if I put a lot of Botox and I can’t move my muscles, I lose my ability to process emotion. It impedes the whole flow. First comes the muscle movement. It sends a signal to the amygdala, and then we process it. For advanced people with advanced stages of Parkinson’s, for example, or other facial paralysis, their family members will say, “You know, this person used to be really empathetic, but there’s something off. They’re not processing with me.” And that’s because we know that the facial mirroring, making the expression yourself or mirroring the other person that you’re talking to, which happens in any kind of face-to-face communication, it’s why we communicate so much better and we feel understood face-to-face in a way that we don’t when we’re not face-to-face.

Muscle movement precedes the thought process. Even somebody like me that’s hyper-trained and thinks about this 24/7, I can’t stop myself from making the micro expressions unless I change my thought patterns and think about something else.

Mark Stiving

Okay, so the single lesson that I have taken from you in all the times we’ve talked so far that is valuable and actionable for me – and that’s probably just because I haven’t figured out everything that you know or I can’t use everything you know – but the one thing that you’ve taught me that’s actionable is I have always hated people saying, “Smile for the camera”. I just can’t do it. And the thing that I learned from you is the only way I can do it is if I put a happy thought in my brain and feel happiness, right?

Annie Sarnblad

Or if they’re a little bit more friendly. But it’s like ordering someone to say, relax. Good luck with that “relax!”. And nobody ever says “relax” in like, just really calm tone. Everybody’s like, “relax!”. And I will tell you, it’s like being a woman. That’s what it feels like to be a woman where people are just kind of ordering you to act in the way that they feel would accommodate their needs and wants. And that’s annoying. I mean, nobody’s saying just smile. Nobody’s ever felt cheerful when they get an order to smile. You know, try saying you look incredibly handsome today. Yeah, I think I do.

Mark Stiving

Yeah. And even if I wanted to take a selfie and I wanted to smile, I have to, like, think a happy thought.

Annie Sarnblad

You have to think a happy thought. Otherwise, you cannot smile.

Mark Stiving

Not that I go around taking selfies of myself.

Annie Sarnblad

No, I don’t either. But I’ve gotten to like them more because I have teenage kids who just kind of gone past the stage of trying to look pretty all the time, and they enjoy silly more than pretty. So, once you understand people enjoy silly, then you can give in a little bit. But I don’t like it either.

Mark Stiving

Now that we’ve at least introduced your capabilities, let’s see if we can apply this to pricing. You’ve already told us the story about pupils. Now, here’s the problem that I have: I’ve met you a bunch of times, and I couldn’t even tell you what the color your eyes are.

Annie Sarnblad

I can’t either. I’ve got face blindness. It’s so embarrassing. I don’t really even know what my kids look like. I don’t even really know what I look like. I mean, I told my child, my oldest, she’s almost 21 – I told her the other day, “You know, whenever you walk into a room, I’m like, dang, I did good.” And then she said “What is wrong with you?” And I said, “You know what’s wrong with me. I’m dyslexic and I can’t remember what people look like.” I exactly don’t remember their eye color. I don’t remember the shape of their brows. It’s always been fascinating that people can do those sketch artists and recreate a face. And because I never understood, they must have a face in their brain as if they were looking. I could describe it if I have a picture right in front of me, I could tell a sketch artist what to write, but I don’t have memory for static faces.

And I have a client who I absolutely adore. And I finally had to tell him, and this is when I actually started talking about it. I said, I don’t know, I don’t remember what you look like. And he said, “What do you mean? This is your whole career.” And I said “No, I have to watch you move. I know that you’re all shifty and you move back and forth. As soon as you start doing that weird thing you do, I know exactly who it is.” I remember movement.

And when I started to learn to code on a higher level, I went back to the boy who was in love with me when I was 14 years old, who I thought was a real player. And I see my eyes turning that sadness, this skin right here on a diagonal, that sadness. And this is his face. And he would pucker his chin and just that longing and sadness and heartbreak when he used to ask me out over and over again and I would say no. Because I loved him so much, but I was convinced that he didn’t love me back. So, I would say no. And so, all these years that he kept asking me out, he had this heartbreak on his face, and I didn’t recognize it as what it was. And so, I remembered all these movements going back 30, 40 years, but I couldn’t tell you what his eyebrows look like. I can just tell you the movements.

Mark Stiving

I thought the fact that I couldn’t see someone’s eye color meant that I wasn’t observant.

Annie Sarnblad

I think it’s a brain wiring.

Mark Stiving

You think it’s a brain wiring.

Okay, so you sit down with someone to negotiate or have a conversation. Just want to know how they’re going to respond to you. Do you consciously say to yourself, “I’m going to look at this person’s pupils”?

Annie Sarnblad

Yes, the pupils I do look at because that’s something I have to get checked off my list. Everything else I do intuitively, I can’t ever turn it off. It’s like, you don’t have to remind yourself “Okay, Annie’s going to be speaking English. I better turn on my ears.” You just hear what I’m saying and we just start talking.

The pupil dilation, because I don’t have good memory for static visual images, I have to do that. That has to be a muscle memory thing that I remind myself to do. “Okay. What size are your pupils now?” I actually will see them swell in front of me, but it helps. Sometimes you’re looking away and you look back and they’ve already been. They become swollen. They’ve dilated. And so, I want to remember where they started, because some people just have naturally more dilated pupils. And it also depends on light, it depends on whether or not they’re taking medication, all of those things. So that I do.

But with any kind of other movement, I can see it even from the side. I mean, I really see it from my peripheral vision and because it’s so located on the face, anything right next to the nostrils that’s going to be discussed. Chin, vulnerability. If I see the tendency of the neck jump, that’s fear. So, I’m looking, I’m poking. I start off with small talk and I get a kind of a baseline and I say a couple of things that are a little outrageous, a little surprising, I do a little play, and that gets me to understand your baseline.

Also, I just think it’s fun. I mean, so it’s not a manipulative thing that I’ve learned to do to manipulate people. I’ve just found that if I’m totally myself when they relax, and I just like to play. So, I get away with things that I wouldn’t otherwise get away with. I also find that if I make myself a little bit dumber than I am, people can manage me better. I often think I’m the smartest person in the room. If I go in that way, they’re not very likable.

Mark Stiving

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Well, I want to focus on pupils a lot, but before we do that, an analogy that I often think of and especially with talking to you and your ability is to see these facial muscle movements all over the place. As I think to myself, if you showed me a whole bunch of apes, they look identical to me.

Annie Sarnblad

Until you get to know them.

Mark Stiving

Exactly right. And so, you look at them a lot and you really get to know them. And I’m sure the same is true with people who study orca whales. It just doesn’t matter. They all look the same to me because I don’t know.

Annie Sarnblad

Right.

Mark Stiving

And so, I get this feeling that if we stepped back, we as normal humans step back and actually focused on these skills, then we could start to learn them. And the one skill that feels easiest to me, and I want to say that carefully, is watching the pupil size.

Annie Sarnblad

Well, because we’re already looking in the eyes. And so that’s really easy. But the first thing I teach my clients when I’m starting to teach the other facial expressions is you have to adjust your gaze. And so, there are certain things you can see from the upper part of the face. But I find it easier just to shift your gaze down to the bottom half of the face and you can see this is why we need to be looking at the video. If I tighten my lips, that’s anger. I pucker my chin, that’s vulnerability, sadness. If I lift my nasolabial fold, that’s disgust. This is a knowing smile.

Mark Stiving

By the way, to the listeners. You guys have to go watch this just to see her disgust face.

Annie Sarnblad

The disgust face is amazing. I turn into a totally different human, right?

Mark Stiving

You do.

Annie Sarnblad

But all of those different facial expressions, this is fear. Fear is the only one that makes the lower lip turn into a rectangular shape. And so, it’s a rectangular with a pull out towards the shoulder from one lip corner down and towards the shoulder. That’s always fear or what I like to call the “oh crap” face. Oh, crap. Shit’s going down. It’s not good.

And all of those things are so relevant, so, when I go into a pitch and I am talking about the value that I offer my clients, obviously first try to connect with them. I try to make them laugh. I get their base. I try to get that emotional warmth. And then when I’m talking about what I do, I’m watching how they respond, and I am always ready to pivot. So, if I see pupil dilation, that means I stay on that subject. If I see the disgust which I talked to you earlier about, I just see that as the no face. So, I’m either going to dig deeper depending on the talk. It’s somebody that I’m trying to get a deal done through. I’m not going to dig right then I’m going to go on to the next subject and see if I can get a more positive response. You know, with a child or a teenager, you might want to dig and figure out what’s really wrong. If you’re saying, “Next weekend, we’re going to go up to my sister, spend the weekend with my sister.” I don’t have a sister, but if they’re showing the know face, I’m going to ask “Did you have something planned? What’s going on?” In my family, we’ll just say “You’re showing disgust”. I’ll say “Oh, well, because.” We’ll skip all this stuff. We’re like, “that’s disgusting. Good talk. What’s going on?”

Mark Stiving

Nice. So, one of the things that we didn’t cover in the beginning of the podcast today is you taught your kids how to do this.

Annie Sarnblad

Yeah, that was my goal with learning to do this: to keep my children safe. That is my focus and my obsession. And I didn’t tell other people – I had about four people in the world that knew that I did this for a very, very, very long time. And I just used it in my strategic – I mean, I would walk into a boardroom with a client and they’d introduce me as an associate or, “You know, this is Annie. She’s doing some advisory work. And I said she could join us. She’s here anyway” kind of thing. But they dismissed me because I was a woman. I could go the whole boardroom and I’d say, okay, these two are sleeping together. Those two hate what you’re saying. This one’s dumb as a rock, but super, super loyal if you just get that person to focus on the right thing, you’re golden. But this person could be, you know, understands your strategy, buys into your strategy, but wants to undermine you at every cost. So, I could do that political landscape. And then with that knowledge, I talked to my clients about getting the assessment right, getting the full understanding. A micro expression shows us what’s really going on under the surface. So, if we’re building strategy, we can have incredibly intelligent, high-level strategic brains and know the business, know the industry, know the players. But if we’re not understanding how the players are interacting with each other, what their primary motivations are, what’s in it for them, if we don’t understand what’s under the surface, we’re basing our strategy on the wrong things. You get the assessment right, you can get the strategy right, but you get the assessment wrong, doesn’t matter how good your strategy is if you’re trying to solve the wrong problems.

Mark Stiving

Oh, God. You have the superpower that I wish I had, which is why I find you so fascinating.

Annie Sarnblad

It seems like a great idea, until your teenagers start coding you. And then you’re like, “Uh dang it”. So, yes, my focus on teaching kids when I came to the U.S. And when I moved back, and I’ve been abroad for almost 25 years, I didn’t have a network. So, I had to rebuild my entire career and I couldn’t get my stuff hired as a strategic advisor because the only people who knew me remember me from like 16 years old. So, I started talking about microexpressions, and I started slowly teaching the skills that I have to other people.

Mark Stiving

Okay. So, let’s help my pricing audience, if you don’t mind.

Let’s assume I’m in a negotiation. Obviously, I’m going to be watching for pupils because I want to see when they get excited, and I can try to close the deal or I can raise my price or emphasize that capability or feature. What other emotion might I expect to see? And what should I do?

Annie Sarnblad

Disgust is constant. One of the reasons I show it is because it’s really easy to teach. But also, you see it all day long everywhere, and it’s coded as disgust, but it’s really discomfort. “That makes me uncomfortable” or it’s just that “I don’t want to”. So, let’s simplify it and just call it the “no” face. So, somebody does this, you say, “Okay, I want to get this project started in two weeks.” That person does not want to get that started in two weeks. There’s something about what you just said that they’re saying no. And if you keep talking and you do sort of pass through that, you’ve already got that person towards a negative trajectory. You have the choice of pulling back and saying, “Okay, is there is there a better timeline?” or “Does that work for you?” I mean, just asking, just knowing when to ask further questions and stop. It’s one of the things that goes wrong in any interpersonal. I was in a high-level negotiation on my own behalf with a client that I knew well recently, and he just kept talking at me, and there was at no point did he say, “does this work for you?” And I just looked at him and I was thinking, he’s on autopilot. I mean, this is not how he’s ever talked to me in any situation before. And I was showing no, no, no and no and no. And he wasn’t picking up on it. And it became very problematic.

Mark Stiving

I think I was having one of those Zoom calls yesterday. I had about five people on and one person had a permanent “no” face on. And about halfway through, we finally got her to switch to having a real conversation. It was fascinating. And I wish I had a recording of it so I go back and look at her face now.

Annie Sarnblad

Yes, and if you see it, you have a choice to make. I mean, it’s not always that way. So, for example, if I see grief or sadness, which is that puckering of the chin, if I’m seeing it in one of my employees, I might not stop in the middle of the meeting and say, “Hey, what’s going on?” Or there are times where you’ve got five people in front of you, just like you said. And it may be a casual enough meeting so that you can address the individual or maybe a board meeting or a really high-level meeting where you make a note to self and then you talk to that individual. You think, this is a person I need to grab coffee with. I need to have a private conversation with this person to get them on the board so that we can move forward so this person’s not impeding our progress with the group. So, there’s all sorts of strategic decisions you can make, especially when we’re talking about pricing for a longer project or you’re trying to extend a project and have a long-term relationship. But even in the short, quick knowing that that’s a “no”, that they didn’t like what you just said, allows you to pivot.

Oh, here’s another one that’s really good. The double lip pull, which looks like if we’re thinking of animation, we’re taking the cartoons that we used to watch as children. The frown. It’s not really a frown because it has nothing to do with sadness. But watch me do this. It’s a very French like Shebaa or Shebaa. And just like “I don’t know”. It’s the “I don’t know” face and I was taught that it was disbelief. It’s not. I make that face all the time. And what it means is “I’ll have to think about that”. So, if you’re in the middle of trying to talk to somebody about value and they go and they do that double lip pull, that’s them saying, “I’m not convinced”. So, you have more work to do before you want to try to close that deal. You have more explaining to do, more convincing to do.

Mark Stiving

Oh, that’s fascinating. I’ll have to watch for that face now.

Annie Sarnblad

Yeah.

Mark Stiving

So, when you made the face, I don’t know if you ever watched the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Annie Sarnblad

I haven’t, but I’ve seen the – It’s on Netflix, right? Is it good?

Mark Stiving

Yes. It’s actually on prime video. It’s amazing. And it just reminds me of her mother when you make that face. So, she must make that face a lot.

Annie Sarnblad

Okay. Yeah, well, it’s really interesting that we’re picking up on this all the time, but it’s like anything else that we don’t have a vocabulary for. It’s like our thoughts don’t get all the way to the finish line. If you’re learning, if you have a little kid in there, they kind of understand a big pile of Legos is more than a little pile of Legos or a giant donut or pile of donuts is more than a small pile of donuts. But they may not know how to count. Once they can start to count, they really can quantify and say, “Okay, but this is different in this way”, and you can make all these more sophisticated arguments. And so, once people have a vocabulary for the stuff that they see all the time, they then can have a much higher-level conversation. It’s one of the reasons I love training teens because they’ll say, “Did you see that when we said 12 million for this project, her pupils dilated and he showed disbelief or he showed no”. And then you can talk and they go “I missed that” or “yeah, I saw that”. “Oh, my God. That’s why I pivoted and started talking about this”. And so, when you see pupil dilation, you can increase price and scope. And if you have everybody on your team, if you’re a two-person team or more that’s working together to do an M&A, you know, you’re aligned and you’re going, “Okay, what do we know? Maybe we’re going to make this, maybe we’re going to make it bigger than we had previously planned on”. It’s like having X-ray vision. It’s fun.

Mark Stiving

Okay, one thing I often say to people is that “I can teach you how to read minds”, but I do it in a very different way. And I do it as in I help people know what does value mean to a customer and what are you looking for in that respect. And you’re essentially saying, what emotions are you going to see.

Annie Sarnblad

I can read feelings. I can’t read minds, but I can read feelings. So, if we’re like the Wonder Twin Powers Activate, we got it all covered, baby. There’s nothing we can’t do.

Mark Stiving

Okay. I could have this conversation all day, but we’re going to have to wrap this up. But you have to – I told you I was going to ask you this question: What’s the one piece of pricing advice you would give our listeners that you think could have a big impact on their business?

Annie Sarnblad

To go in with a set plan and a set price, but be willing to pivot and adjust according to the information and the feedback you’re getting. And then I would also say don’t feel rushed to reach completion and to end. If you feel like you need to process more and you need to think about things more, you don’t need to close the deal in that instant. You can always say, “Okay, we’ve gotten a lot to think about. Let me go get back to you.” I think people just are so rushed to get everything closed immediately that they sometimes don’t use all the information that’s available to them to make good choices.

Mark Stiving

I think those are two really good pieces of advice. And the second one I’ll tag team on. And when we’re negotiating, patience wins.

Annie Sarnblad

Yes.

Mark Stiving

It doesn’t hurt to walk away and say, I’m going to go think about this and then come back later.

Annie Sarnblad

Yeah.

Mark Stiving

Annie, thank you so much for your time today. If anybody wants to contact you, how can they do that?

Annie Sarnblad

Thanks, Mark. I’ve loved it. LinkedIn is probably the easiest. Just direct message me on LinkedIn.

Mark Stiving

Okay. And we’ll have her LinkedIn URL in the show notes.

Episode 198 is all done. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this, would you please leave us a rating and a review? The easiest way is to go to ratethispodcast.com/impactpricing. I have no idea why companies make it hard to rate podcasts, but go to ratethispodcast.com/impactpricing and you’ll figure it out. And finally, if you have any questions or comments about this podcast or pricing in general, feel free to email me at mark@impactpricing.com. Now go make an impact.

Mark Stiving

Thanks again to Jennings Executive Search for sponsoring our podcast. If you’re looking to hire someone in pricing, I suggest you contact someone who knows pricing people contact Jennings Executive Search.

 

 

Tags: Accelerate Your Subscription Business, ask a pricing expert, pricing metrics, pricing strategy

Related Podcasts