Playbook Reveals Trump University Phone Hustle

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — Numerous documents involving Trump University and its “playbooks,” unsealed by court order Tuesday, reveal why the presidential candidates’ attorneys fought to keep the documents from being released.
     A sales manager who worked at Trump University’s Wall Street office in New York said in a deposition that he resigned in May 2007 because he “believed that Trump University was engaging in misleading, fraudulent and dishonest conduct.”
     Ronald Schnackenberg’s deposition continues: “I found it particularly offensive that while Trump University claimed it wanted to help consumers make money in real estate, in fact Trump University was only interested in selling every person the most expensive seminars they possibly could.”
     The cost of the seminars ranged from $1,500 to $35,000.
     Schnackenberg said he quit in disgust after he was reprimanded for not putting a harder sell on a couple who could not afford the $35,000 “Elite” program because “they had no money to pay for the program, but would have had to pay for the program using his disability income and taking out a loan based on equity in his apartment.”
     Another salesman talked them into it after he refused to do it, Schnackenberg said: “I was disgusted by this conduct and decided to resign.”
     Corinne Sommer, an events manager, said in her deposition that the whole point of Trump University was to upsell people into the next, more expensive program. “I recall instances in which consumers had paid for a class to learn how to make money investing in real estate ask for more information and the teacher would say, ‘If you want to get that, you have to buy the next package.'”
     She said that many of the instructors were not “hand-picked” by Donald Trump, as advertised, and that “many of them did not even own houses and had no experience buying or selling real estate.”
     People who could not afford the classes were told “to max out their credit cards” and apply for new credit cards, Sommer said in her Sept. 22, 2014 deposition.
     “I recall that some consumers had showed up who were homeless and could not afford the seminars, yet I heard Trump University representative telling them, ‘It’s OK; just max out your credit card.'”
     Jason Nicholas, a Trump U “sales executive,” said in his deposition that “Trump University instructors and mentors were a joke. Most of them were not experts in real estate and did not [have] experience in the real estate techniques they were teaching.”
     Nicholas continues: “They were unqualified people posing as Donald Trump’s ‘right-hand men.’ They were teaching methods that were unethical, and they had had little to no experience flipping properties or doing real estate deals. It was a façade, a total lie.”
     Nicholas said that many of the Trump U managers were not only unqualified, they “were not who they said they were, either.” He cited one “manager” who falsely claimed to have an MBA.
     Nicholas, whose deposition features many repetitions of the phrase “This was not true,” said that despite Trump’s claim that he was “actively involved in Trump University … This was not true.” The only time he ever saw Trump, Nicholas said, he came in for five to 10 minutes, “and his bodyguard wouldn’t even permit Trump University employees to try to shake his hand.”
     All three of these employees testified in support of lead plaintiff Tarla Makaeff’s request for class certification.
     Other documents unsealed Tuesday involved the “playbooks” instructors were told to use to sell the program. Employees were ordered to use the playbooks word for word, they said.
     The documents were unsealed by order of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who ruled Friday on a motion to intervene in Cohen v. Trump brought by the Washington Post. The Post said that given the prominence of the case, and Trump’s status as de facto Republican nominee for president, the documents should be released.
     Trump’s attorneys claimed the playbooks contained trade secrets, but Curiel did not accept what he called that “blanket assertion.”
     Trump University gave students a free 90-minute “preview orientation,” where they were asked to continue with a three-day “Profit from Real Estate” training for $1,495. Escalating packages cost $9,995 to $34,995.
     A 2010 playbook told salespeople to “watch for buyer signals” through “eye contact” and using physical and verbal cues to find out what prospective students did for a living and if they were willing to pay.
     Salespeople were placed at strategic locations “to slow down traffic of people exiting” and were armed with “objection rebuttals” to help them close a deal.
     Buyers had a three-day right to rescind but all payments were required in full. Paperwork including the terms and conditions forms were bundled together in a blue and gold Trump bag.
     Salespeople were reminded after selling the first 3-day package that this was a critical point for upselling. A stop sign in the playbook states: “Retention starts here. Be sure to congratulate the buyer, shake hands and make eye contact to ensure that they are cognizant of what a life-changing decision they just made.”
     The playbooks frequently put down potential Trump University students by calling them “liars” and “needy,” and telling salespeople to mingle with students “with special attention to … needy attendees.”
     At one-on-one sessions where salespeople tried to sell the first 3-day paid workshop, they ranked attendees based on their liquid or cash assets, and whether “they are displaying buying signals or not.”
     Salespeople were instructed to call “buyers that needed extra reassurance” and were notified immediately if a buyer tried to cancel so they could try to save the sale.
     Salespeople were instructed never to view a potential student’s lack of money as an obstacle to closing a deal.
     “Attendees want to be a part of Trump University and go to the three-day training. They only have fear or doubt they can do it stopping them from getting what they want. Money is never a reason for not enrolling in Trump University; if they really believe in you and your product, they will find the money. You are not doing any favor by letting someone use lack of money as an excuse,” one playbook states.
     Playbooks reminded salespeople that they were in charge: “Because we decide what happens in the training, an attendee must react to what we say. They don’t have a choice. We can spend hours and hours planning a question that they must deal with and give an answer to within seconds. We also have the advantage of testing the question out on hundreds of people and adjusting it to increase our chances for a desirable response,” one sales playbook stated.
     Salespeople were directed to use persuasive words such as “money, free, results, save, guarantee and love,” which had been identified as useful words by the Psychology Department at Yale University.
     They were discouraged from thanking orientation attendees and told to replace the words “thank you” with “congratulations,” to keep the upper hand.
     “Always remember that we have solutions for attendees. They are not doing us a favor by showing up for a free training. The person who says ‘you are welcome’ has the posture. We want them thanking us,” one playbook states.
     On the same page, that playbook states: “Offering ‘congratulations’ almost always gets a ‘thank you.’ Remember, we are doing them a good turn by presenting our product/services. Attitude and confidence has a tremendous effect on others.”
     One playbook says that “customers don’t have needs — they have problems.” It continues: “So the sales job is about finding, eliciting and solving these problems. … Urgency is proportional to pain. Problems are like health. The more a problem hurts now, the more the need for a solution now. And the more it hurts, the more they’ll be prepared to pay for a speedy solution. It’s got to hurt enough!”
     Sales members were expected to close within two minutes or less and were instructed to “judge within 10 seconds or less if this is someone you’re going to be able to close.”
     They were discouraged from revealing at the orientation just what Trump University students would learn and told not to “imply they will learn a particular strategy at the preview.”
     The sales playbook said clients needed and wanted “hand-holding” throughout the Trump University experience.
     “You’re in charge of the conversation; you control the conversation the entire time. Remember that these people want you to take control. They want someone to grab them by the hand, and show them exactly what to do to achieve their goals,” the playbook states.
     Here are selected playbooks that were unsealed Tuesday.

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