Notes on Pitch Anything

My notes on Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal by Oren Klaff. Great book for folks who do in-person meetings. Hat tip to Kai Davis for the recommendation!

So instead of communicating with people, my best ideas were bouncing off their croc brains and crashing back into my face in the form of objections, disruptive behaviors, and lack of interest.

This filtering system of the crocodile brain has a very short-sighted view of the world. Anything that is not a crisis it tries to mark as “spam.”

the crocodile brain wants information a certain way—simple, clear, nonthreatening, and above all, intriguing and novel.

Understanding how to harness and apply the power of frames is the most important thing you will ever learn.

When you fail to control the social frame, you probably have already lost. All you can do then is fight for survival by fast talking, spin selling, trial closing, and a myriad of equally ineffective and annoying tactics that signal to the customer that you are needy and desperate—and defeated.

To instigate a power frame collision, use a mildly shocking but not unfriendly act to cause it. Use defiance and light humor. This captures attention and elevates your status by creating something called “local star power.”

Defiance and light humor are the keys to seizing power and frame control. Keep it fun, do it with a grin on your face, and the moment the power shifts to you, move the meeting forward in the direction you want.

When you are defiant and funny at the same time, he is pleasantly challenged by you and instinctively knows that he is in the presence of a pro. This is the moment when he realizes that this is a game, that the game is now on, and that you are both about to have a lot of fun playing it.

To solidify the prize frame, you make the buyer qualify himself to you. “Can you tell me more about yourself? I’m picky about who I work with.” At a primal, croc brain level, you have just issued a challenge: Why do I want to do business with you?

Keep the target focused on the business relationship at all times. Analysis comes later. This is the best and most reliable way to deal with a target who suddenly becomes bored and tries to entertain himself with the details of your deal.

No one takes a meeting to hear about something they already know and understand. It’s a fundamental concept driving every single presentation—it’s the hook that allows you as the presenter to grab and hold attention by subconsciously saying, “I have a solution to one of your problems. I know something that you don’t.” This is why people agree to take meetings and to hear a pitch.

As your pitch moves along, at any time, some or all members of your audience will solve the puzzle, see the solution, and get the whole story. Then they check out. This is why you see presenters lose more and more of the audience as time goes on—those who solve the puzzle drop out.

If you know where the shark is at all times, you have no tension, no suspense, no blockbuster.

Let’s consider three of the most fundamental behaviors of human beings:

  1. We chase that which moves away from us.
  2. We want what we cannot have.
  3. We only place value on things that are difficult to obtain. Are these universally valid laws that can be relied on in all social interactions? I think they are.

Money can't do anything by itself. The money needs you.

Knowing this, it is more likely you will embrace ABL—“Always Be Leaving.” And it’s also likely that you’ll embrace the money that comes with it.

“I’m glad I could find the time to meet with you today. And I do have another meeting right after this. Let’s get started.”

Remember, small acts of defiance and denial, combined with humor, are extremely powerful in maintaining your frame control and in reinforcing your high status. Humor is important here—don’t leave it out, or I guarantee that you will encounter unpredictable responses.

Others talk to each other as if you were not in the room, which is not only annoying, but it’s also one of the most degrading things one person can do to another.

Your status level is zero. You are owned, processed, and now are nothing but a pleasant social interlude in an otherwise boring day.

A person standing in a trade show booth may as well erect a neon sign above his or her head that reads, “I Am Needy!

Your position in the social hierarchy is an artificial measure of your worth to others, a construct based on your wealth, your popularity within society at large, and the power of the position you hold.

And it is in this role reversal that we begin to see the incredible power of situational status.

If you wish to elevate your social value in any given situation, you can do so by redirecting people into a domain where you are in charge.

While we temporarily hold high power, we can get a lot of things done just as effectively as those with financial or political means. This is called creating local star power. This is critically important. With local star power, you’ll be able to succeed in pitching audiences who don’t know you; the ability to create and sustain local star power literally is going to mean the difference between success and failure.

If you are meeting in the target’s domain—his (or her) office or at an off-site location—you must neutralize the person holding high status, temporarily capture his star power, and redistribute some of his status to others in the room who will support your frame.

you’re not going to sit down with a billionaire and have him believe that you’re somehow a triple billionaire. Global status is fixed. It’s only situational status that you can grab and control.

Pause and consider this for a moment: The most important scientific discovery of the twentieth century can be pitched in five minutes.

“Guys, let’s get started. I’ve only got about 20 minutes to give you the big idea, which will leave us some time to talk it over before I have to get out of here.

The key to success here is making it about your track record.

Research has shown that your impression of someone is generally based on the average of the available information about them, not the sum. So telling people one great thing about yourself will leave them with a better impression of you than telling than one great thing and one pretty good one. And it gets worse if you tell them one great thing, one pretty good thing, and two mediocre things. Stop with one great thing.

It’s vitally important that the target knows that your idea is new, emerging from current market opportunities and that it’s not some relic left over from bygone days.

Now your idea has a history, an exciting evolutionary path to the present time, and credibility.

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’re pitching jet fighters, securities, real estate, software, or cotton balls, you need to frame your deal in this way because it explains the force behind its evolution.

Once you know this fact about how your audience’s mind works, you realize that you cannot just show audience members two possible states and hope that the difference captures their attention. You need to show them the movement from one to the other.

This does not take 15 minutes. It takes 1 minute. You don’t have to explain the big idea in great detail. Oh, I know you want to. It’s instinctive: First, introduce yourself; then dive into details. I get the same urges. And this seems like the perfect time to do it. But it’s not time for details. Your target doesn’t want the deal yet. So the pitch temperature is cool. Lots of details will turn it cold.

“For [target customers] Who are dissatisfied with [the current offerings in the market]. My idea/product is a [new idea or product category] That provides [key problem/solution features]. Unlike [the competing product]. My idea/product is [describe key features].

This is why I have come to believe in—and rely on—the idea introduction pattern, because, of all the ways to introduce an idea, it does the least to trigger threat avoidance in the croc brain.

The idea introduction pattern breaks the idea down to the essential basics: Here’s what it is; here’s who it’s for; and here’s who I compete with. No anxiety, no fear, no drama.

Next, you show that your idea is not a static flash of genius. Rather, there are market forces driving the idea, and you are taking advantage of a brief market window that has opened.

Attention will be given when information novelty is high and will drift away when information novelty is low.

when a person is feeling both desire and tension, that person is paying serious attention to what’s in front of him or her.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of desire. Norepinephrine is the neurotransmitter of tension. Together they add up to attention.

You create novelty by violating the target’s expectations in a pleasing way.

the amount of dopamine in the cocktail has to be just right. Not enough, and there is no interest in your or your ideas; too much, and there is fear or anxiety.

There’s a two-way connection between pushing and pulling that, when it operates simultaneously, introduces enough tension to create alertness. If you always pull the target toward you, he or she becomes cautious and anxious. Constantly pulling someone in, also known as selling hard, is a signal of neediness. It’s a balancing act, of course, because if you are constantly pushing them away, they will take the hint and leave.

As businesspeople, we come together to find solutions to problems—not to admire problems that have already been solved for us.

One of the most well-known performers and presenters in the world has to put in months of hard work to build up 20 minutes of material—and when he eventually goes on stage, the average audience will cut him slack for only three minutes. After that, the material had better be really good, or the audience will turn on him.

It does not matter if you are offering a product, a service, an investment, or an intangible—there will be a fulfillment process involved, and that is what you must explain.

Most of the time, the data we have collected about choices and alternatives and options aren’t used to make a decision anyway. They are used to justify decisions after the fact.

Human actors striving to do physical things over time.

Dr. Robert Zajonc, writing in The American Psychologist, describes the importance of these hot cognitions and the importance of these emotional processes. He suggests, for example, that it’s not really important for us to know if someone has just said, “You are a friend” or “You are a fiend.” What you really need to know is whether the statement was made with affection or contempt. Whether the word was friend or fiend is the cold part of the message. It doesn’t matter. Affection or contempt is the hot part. Researchers found that 22 times as much information is given in the hot part of the message.

You have to find the right balance between fairness and pressure and set a real time constraint.

No pitch or message is going to get to the logic center of the other person’s brain without passing through the survival filters of the crocodile brain system first. And because of the way we evolved, those filters make pitching anything extremely difficult.

If the presentation isn’t fun for the person giving it, then everyone else becomes anxious. And because there’s no way to fake “having fun,” I would really have to be enjoying myself. That in itself would eliminate desire.

I was trying to get the targets to decide in my favor, trying to take control. And to my targets, this was a form of stress and pressure. Humans behave a certain way when they are put under this kind of pressure. At a basic level, in a target’s croc brain, there’s a feeling that you are taking away his or her autonomy. A threat response could be triggered.

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