The coursework at Trump U may not have been very edifying, but the confidential sales playbooks sure are.
The nearly 400 pages of Trump University documents released by a U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday offer a comprehensive guide to the linguistic tools and emotional manipulations deployed to sell for-profit education. Everything from the temperature of the room (below 68), to the desktop backgrounds of the employees (that Peugeot-esque Trump U lion) to the music (“For the Love of Money”), to the arrangement of the chairs—close enough to bring attendees “out of their comfort zone”—is explicitly prescribed. “You don’t sell products, benefits or solutions,” a sales playbook advises Trump U reps. (You don’t sell an education, either, I guess.) “You sell feelings.”
It’s not the only place where the sales playbooks seem to function as a blueprint for the Trump presidential campaign.
Erroneously citing the Yale Psychology Department, the guide emphasizes a debunked list of the most persuasive words in the English language: “You, New, Money, Easy, Discovery, Free, Results, Health, Save, Proven, Guarantee, and Love.”* (Ironically, this list was popularized by another famous peddler of scammy for-profit “education,” Bennett Cerf.)
Trump’s unusually repetitive vocabulary is his own, of course, and includes words like beautiful and tremendous. But he certainly loves talking in the second person. He loves talking about money. And he loves talking about things he loves.
The Donald is also typically short on details. How tall is that wall supposed to be, anyway? This too is by the Trump U book.
He had me up until that last one, anyway.
There’s a kind of Trumpian nastiness, too, to some of the techniques the playbook recommends for when would-be students hesitate to buy a Trump U package.
Got a customer who’s reluctant to go into debt?
Got a customer who’s interested in a package, but would like to buy it later?
Trump has been characterized as the “feelings” candidate, in contrast to Clinton’s more “thinking” persona. That’s some more Trump U theory in practice. “Don’t ask people what they THINK about something you’ve said,” the sales playbook advises. “Instead, always ask them how they FEEL about it”
Feelings, ultimately, guide the decision-making process. There may be talk about logic and rationality. “But the point of decision,” the playbook affirms, “is always emotional, and usually subconscious.”
A ballot box is just another point of decision. Vote Trump. Don’t procrastinate.
Correction, June 1, 2016: This post originally claimed that the Trump University playbook cited a list of 10 persuasive words. It was a list of 12 persuasive words.