A “Trench Coat Wizard’s” Secret Negotiation Habit That Will Endear Your Clients Without Even Trying

Nov 15, 2023

The trench coat.

It is a staple of both English and American iconography representing secrets, mystery, disguise, intrigue, and even familiarity.

It simultaneously gives the vibe of “friendly” and “this dude knows stuff he’s not telling me.”

Yes, that’s right, you will amaze your clients and win all your sales presentations if, from now on, you show up wearing a trench coat.

Just kidding.

There is something here though.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the TV detective, Lieutenant Columbo. One of the greatest men to don the iconic trench coat who ever lived. 

Whether you have or have not, I implore you to take 8 short minutes out of your busy day and watch this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__FSRRGdPN0


Because if you do, you will learn one of the greatest negotiating techniques you could ever learn in business. I’m not kidding. Don’t worry, I’m getting ready to explain it to you too. But you have to see it in action to really understand its power.

Seriously, watch. Right now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__FSRRGdPN0

Take particular note of how he speaks softly, asks questions, asks for the time, acts a bit bumbling, etc. Especially the car scene. 

Detective Columbo is an unassuming figure.

He asks lots of questions.

He seems even a little annoying sometimes.

But he’s very, very good. And most of his suspects don’t even catch on to what he’s doing. He’s always in control, even when it seems like he isn’t.

In fact, that’s the whole point.

He maintains control of the situation — every interaction — while making his suspects feel as though they are the ones in control. Many of them even think they’re going to get away with it.

Until he drops the bomb on them.

So, what is the secret? What is doing that has them eating out of the palm of his hand?

Simply this: He’s “unokay”.

I know that’s bad English. But it’s also the truth.

This “unokayness,” an expression gleaned from the work of fierce negotiation expert the late Jim Camp, is one of the biggest secrets to winning a deal or any specific encounter. And this is not rocket science. It could be as simple as asking lots of questions, dropping a pen, or just appearing a bit needy or forgetful. There’s lots of ways to actually use this.

Here’s why it works.

As long as you are perfectly okay, you are a threat. And when people are scared, they go into self-preservation mode QUICK.

Not only that, but negotiating out of a position of fear is not wise.

When someone’s defenses are up they are the farthest thing from reasonable.

But when you say. “No—don’t worry—you’re actually more okay than me,” it has them thinking they are the ones in a position of strength. You are comfortable. Collected. Calm. And if anyone’s going to “win” the negotiation, it will be them.

At least, that’s what they think.

Now — you may be tempted to think this is manipulative.

Yes, and no.

It’s manipulative in the sense that you are approaching a conversation with intelligence. You are unashamedly seeking a certain result and aiming to structure the interaction in such a way as to make the result more likely to be in your favor.

(If you’re not doing this, you will not be in business very long.)

The mistake is thinking that this “ethical manipulation” is morally repugnant or inconsistent with having the other person’s best interests at heart.

If you are selling them something they do not need, and trying to “convince them” through manipulation tactics, then you are right. You should close up shop right now.

If however, you are utterly convinced that you are selling them the solution they need—the best thing for them—then there is nothing wrong with this at all.

You are simply using the tools of human communication to help them understand what they need, why they need it, and why they should buy it today.


I actually think this “spirit of unokayness” is morally good and wise.

Wouldn’t the opposite of this attitude amount to pride and intimidation?

Puffing yourself up to make you look better than the other party?

Talking down to them as if you are the “expert” and they’re a mere peon?

This is not the way.

In order to gain trust you have to be trustworthy.

And we too often think of trustworthiness in terms of “knowledge.”

Really, that’s hardly on the radar.

(After all, let’s be real — it’s not like you need to know a ton in order to know more than your potential clients about web and marketing stuff, right?)

No, it’s not about knowledge.

Trustworthiness is about demeanor and character. Endearment.

And almost nothing will endear an audience faster than unokayness.

Just a little more, with a real close-to-home example:

Yesterday, I sent you an email titled: “I’m not in the mood to write. So here I am, writing.”

I literally did not want to write that email. It was not a joke.

But I wrote it anyway.

And I know for a fact because of some kind messages I received that it endeared me to at least a few of you.

So, was it manipulative or unethical for me to do that?

I don’t think so.

I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad for me. I wish I hadn’t had to write that email.

But it would be FAKE and arguably unethical to just send another email full of tips and pretend like I’m some superhuman.

Nope, regular human here. Good days and bad days. Just like you.

Sometimes, I’m not okay. Neither are you. Neither are your clients.

But if you will take the position of unokayness in your client’s place, they will feel safe. They will trust you.

And they will lower their guard, allowing you fertile ground within to plant the seeds of a successful interaction.

If you get stressed out or nervous about these conversations, let’s talk about them together during our group coaching calls.

Literally, on just our last call alone, here’s about half of the list of topics we covered:

  • Jose explores a subscription-based web design model inspired by Steve and Adam’s insights.
  • Jose plans a customizable, fee-free subscription model, focusing on five healthcare specialties.
  • Ethical considerations of website ownership post-subscription are discussed.
  • Victor shares gratitude for the group’s guidance on the subscription web design journey.
  • SEO’s role is touched upon, with Steve emphasizing streamlined design services.
  • The group reflects on lifestyle agency success, valuing freedom over relentless growth.
  • Strategies like a waitlist, pricing adjustments, and niche expertise are considered.
  • Concerns about industry commoditization and the importance of a personality-based business arise.
  • YouTube as a traffic driver, tiered service offerings, and licensing content are discussed.
  • Ethical considerations and the importance of knowing one’s limitations are discussed.
  • Victor receives support for prioritizing web design over overwhelming marketing efforts.

Seriously. Half.

These calls are “where the magic really happens” in the group coaching program. We can tackle exactly what you need help with in the moment, including how you show up in sales interactions.

Oh, and of course, you can watch or listen to EVERY past call we’ve ever had so you don’t miss these insights.

Here’s the link to get started: