Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal by Oren Klaff

Summary

  1. Here’s the “big idea” in 76 words: There is a fundamental disconnect between the way we pitch anything and the way it is received by our audience. As a result, at the crucial moment, when it is most important to be convincing, nine out of ten times we are not. Our most important messages have a surprisingly low chance of getting through.

Key Takeaways

  1. What is a frame?
    1. A frame is the instrument you use to package your power, authority, strength, information, and status. In the most basic sense, what are the frames I have been talking about here? Frames are psychological referencing systems that all people use to gain a perspective and relevance on issues. Frames influence judgment. Frames change the meaning of human behavior. And when you set the frame correctly, you control the agenda, which, of course, is important to do because every situation can be seen from many different angles. Frame control is about controlling which angle your deal is seen from. A frame helps to package a deal in a way that encourages certain interpretations and discourages others.
    2. The person who owns the frame owns the conversation. Necessary skills: setting the frame, telling the story, revealing the intrigue, offering the prize, nailing the hookpoint, and getting the decision. Collectively, I call these the STRONG method
    3. When you are responding ineffectively to things the other person is saying and doing, that person owns the frame, and you are being frame-controlled.
    4. If you have to explain your authority, power, position, leverage, and advantage, you do not hold the stronger frame. Rational appeals to higher order, logical thinking never win frame collisions or gain frame control. Notice, the officer does not need to pitch you on why he is going to issue you a citation.
    5. Strong frames are impervious to rational arguments. Weak arguments, made up of logical discussions and facts, just bounce off strong frames.
    6. Whenever you are entering a business situation, the first question you must ask is, “What kind of frame am I up against?”
    7. Frames mainly involve basic desires. These are the domain of the croc brain. It would be fair to say that strong frames activate basic desires.
  2. Communicate to the croc brain
    1. Must recognize and be able to communicate to other’s reptile brains. The fact that you are pitching your idea from the neocortex but it is being received by the other person’s croc brain is a serious problem. If your pitch is complicated—if it contains abstract language and lacks visual cues—then it is perceived as a threat. Not a threat in the sense that the person listening to your pitch fears he is going to be attacked, but a threat because without cues and context, the croc brain concludes that your pitch has the potential to absorb massive amounts of brain power to comprehend.
    2. You are jacking into the wetware that controls their brains, their primordial programming. You are simultaneously communicating with them on the surface and below the surface of their consciousness.
    3. Make the croc brain feel safe – feed it short vignettes of clear, visual, and novel information and don’t make it do much work.
    4. As you will see, it begins by setting the frame for your pitch, putting your big idea into an easily understood context. And then, once the frame is established, you must seize high social status so that you have a solid platform from which to pitch. Then you must create messages that are full of intrigue and novelty.
    5. The moment your frame makes contact with the frame of the person you are calling on, they clash, battle, and grapple for dominance. If your frame wins, you will enjoy frame control, where your ideas are accepted (and followed) by the others. But if your frame loses, though, you will be at the mercy of your customer, and your success will depend on that customer’s charity.
    6. There are the two questions we always ask ourselves after we have made a presentation or pitch: 1. Did I get through? 2. Was my message well received?
    7. As soon as the pitch or presentation begins, one critical thing must happen: The target must feel at ease. In the vast majority of cases, they don’t because they don’t know how long they’re going to be stuck listening to you, and you’re a stranger. Most people just don’t want to sit through an hour-long pitch. To put them at ease, I have a simple solution: It’s called the time-constraint pattern. This is what you say, exactly, to let the target know he isn’t trapped in the typical hour-long-meeting: “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.” Doing it this way puts the target at ease. It shows that you know what you’re doing and that you’re a pro. Anything can be pitched in 20 minutes by a pro. It also shows that you’re busy because you have a strong idea and you can’t hang out too long in a single meeting. What’s important here is not your mastery over the details but your mastery over attention and time.
  3. Different types of frames
    1. Going into most business situations, there are three major types of opposing frames that you will encounter:
      1. Power frame – The power frame comes from the individual who has a massive ego. His power is rooted in his status—a status derived from the fact that others give this person honor and respect. You will know that you are facing a power frame when you encounter arrogance, lack of interest (a vibe that conveys “I’m more important than you”), rudeness, and similar imperial behaviors.
        1. Power-busting frame – When you approach an opposing power frame, your first and most important objective is to avoid falling into the other person’s frame by reacting to it. And make absolutely certain that you do nothing that strengthens the other person’s frame before your frames collide. Observing power rituals in business situations—such as acting deferential, engaging in meaningless small talk, or letting yourself be told what to do—reinforces the alpha status of your target and confirms your subordinate position. Do not do this! 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.”
      2. Time frame – Frames involving time tend to occur later in the social exchange, after someone has already established frame control. Again, if you want to know who has the frame, it’s easy to observe. When you are reacting to the other person, that person owns the frame. When the other person is reacting to what you do and say, you own the frame. If you wait for someone in the audience to say (or give body language to the effect), “We only have a few minutes left, so let’s wrap this up,” you will lose the frame because you now have to react to that person. Instead, when you see attention begin to bottom out and expire, that’s it. You’re done. Stay in control of time, and start wrapping up. Running long or beyond the point of attention shows weakness, neediness, and desperation.
        1. Time constraining frame – When you encounter a time frame like this, quickly break it with a stronger prize frame of your own. Qualify your target on the spot. YOU: “No. I don’t work like that. There’s no sense in rescheduling unless we like each other and trust each other. I need to know, are you good to work with, can you keep appointments, and stick to a schedule?” YOUR TARGET: “Okay, you’re right about that. Yeah, sure I can. Let’s do this now. I have 30 minutes. That’s no problem. Come on in.” You have just broken your target’s time frame, established that your time is important, and he is now giving you focused attention instead of treating your visit like an annoyance.
      3. Analyst frame – How many times have you been giving a presentation when suddenly one or more people in the room take a deep dive into technical details? That’s the analyst frame coming at you. This is especially common in industries that involve engineers and financial analysts. This frame will kill your pitch.
        1. Intrigue frame – It is important to realize that human beings are unable to have hot cognitions and cold cognitions simultaneously. The brain is not wired that way. Hot cognitions are feelings like wanting or desire or excitement, and cold cognitions come from “cold” processes like analysis and problem solving. To maintain frame control and momentum, you must force your audience to be analytical on its own time. You do this by separating the technical and detailed material from your presentation. 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. Your intrigue story needs the following elements:
          1. It must be brief, and the subject must be relevant to your pitch.
          2. You need to be at the center of the story
          3. There should be risk, danger, and uncertainty.
          4. There should be time pressure—a clock is ticking somewhere, and there are ominous consequences if action is not taken quickly.
          5. There should be tension—you are trying to do something but are being blocked by some force.
          6. There should be serious consequences—failure will not be pretty.
    2. There is a fourth frame you can deploy. It’s useful against all three of the opposing frames and many others you will encounter:
      1. Prize frame – What you do is reframe everything your audience does and says as if they are trying to win you over. 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? Prizing is a way to deal with threatening and fast-approaching frames that are likely to push you into a low-status position. When you prize, you frame yourself as high value in the eyes of your target. Prize correctly, and your target will be chasing you.
        1. If you want to get started with this, in a simple, low-risk way, here is a phrase I often use to set the prize frame firmly in place: “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.” This is always a good start because it tells the audience that there are many like them but only one of you.
  4. How to Pitch
    1. You’re going to make the pitch in four sections or phases:
      1. Introduce yourself and the big idea: 5 minutes.
        1. The key to success here is making it about your track record. Things you built. Projects that actually worked out. Successes. Spend less than two minutes on it and definitely not more
        2. Here’s the basic formula: 1. Want nothing. 2. Focus only on things you do well. 3. Announce your intention to leave the social encounter.
      2. Explain the budget and secret sauce: 10 minutes.
        1. You’re almost ready to pitch the “big idea.” But first, a reminder of the obvious: Nobody wants to invest time or money into an old deal that has been sitting around. This is why you need to introduce a “Why now?” frame. 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.
        2. When you describe your idea, project, or product, first give it context by framing it against these three market forces or trending patterns that you believe are important: Economic forces, Social forces, Technology forces.
        3. Describe the genesis of your idea, how it evolved, and the opportunity you saw as it was emerging. The backstory of the idea is always interesting to the target.
        4. This idea introduction pattern goes like this: “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].
      3. Offer the deal: 2 minutes.
        1. Humor, fun, and light-heartedness are crucial components of every pitch. Importantly, the humor is not there to relieve tension. Instead, it’s there to signal that although the tension is real, you are so confident that you can play around a little. Perhaps it’s best to think about it this way: People who have lots of options are not uptight, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. If you talk to frame masters, they’ll tell you that the secret of success is to create tension in a fun way that invites people to join in the frame game.
      4. Stack frames for a hot cognition: 3 minutes.
        1. To avoid cold, reasoned analysis, unemotional judgment of ourselves and our idea, we are going to create hot cognition by stacking frames. The Wall Street trader ran this stack on me perfectly: I was intrigued, I was trying to impress him so I could have a chance to buy the deal, he boxed me into a very tight time frame and yet I felt no pressure, and I was trying hard to prove that I had a good moral values. I was a puppet.
        2. The effect of time on decision making has been researched for 100 years, and nothing has changed about human nature in that time: In nearly all instances, the addition of time pressure to a decision-making event reduces decision quality.
        3. You can trigger a hot cognition instantly, but cold cognition can take hours or days. Most presentations are set up to take the target down the path of a cold cognition. They try to justify the big idea with facts and information. Hot cognitions encode value. It’s the anticipation of a large financial gain that is emotionally compelling to the target.
        4. As we have been discussing, reality isn’t waiting to be discovered—it’s waiting to be framed. By stacking four frames quickly one after the other, you can achieve the hot cognition in the target—helping the target to discover a wanting.

What I got out of it

  1. The frame is what you use to package your power and status. You need to control the frame or else other’s frames will control you. Understand that you should be communicating with the most basic part of people’s base nature: their croc brain. Make them feel safe. Keep things simple. Let them understand how they will directly benefit. Being aware of the 3 main frames and how to bust them – power, time, analyst – is also incredibly valuable