A decade ago I was running a thriving marketing agency in Sydney. Without question the part of the business I loved the most was pitching for new business. The energy and buzz in the agency in the lead up to pitch day was palpable. The team and I would often work late into the night in the days before the pitch (usually consuming too much pizza and beer) bringing our creative ideas to life to present to our potential new client, the outcome of which sometimes had the potential to double the size of the business overnight. And while we won more pitches than we lost, I’d never really considered the science behind the pitch process — beyond presenting our creative in a persuasive way that inspired the client to want to work with us.
Oren Klaff’s style of pitching a proposal, investment deal or idea is successful and legendary. However what hooked me is his interest in how the human brain works and applying the results of his research to his specialty of pitching in the world of high finance and investment banking. And while I’ve used research into the human brain, especially when it comes to gender, and applied to both strategic marketing and building and maintaining excellence in customer relationships, I’d never considered it in the context of a pitch.
In Pitch Anything Oren details how he has worked out the the disconnect between the messenger or pitcher and the audience he wants to get a yes from and turns out it’s all because of how our brains work. Receivers are in ‘Croc-brain’ mode while senders are up in ‘Neo-cortex’ heaven.
I also love the way he introduces ‘frames’ as a way to reference the significance of personal perspective. How to recognise, build and use them in the combative art of Pitching. There’s the Power frame, the Time frame and the Analytical frame. Of course he also makes sure we appreciate how much status, timing and relevance contribute to a Yes or No outcome.
While I read, I pictured people literally smashing frames like shields; the notion that the subtle art of Framing is a game. Oren Klaff cleverly demonstrates through description and case studies that we can learn to Pitch Anything.
This Book in 200 words
While Pitch Anything was released in 2011 it’s never been more relevant in an increasingly competitive business environment.
Realising that people are using different parts of their brains during a pitch is central so it’s where Oren Klaff begins.
At the point of our pitching a concept or deal, we are in ‘highest functioning brain mode’ the Neocortex, while our audience is in basic ‘Croc-brain’ mode. In fact, Oren says we all have three brains working independently and together, starting with ‘Croc’ and travelling up through to the Neocortex. Understanding this fact before beginning a pitch is fundamental to Klaff’’s methodology which he comprehensively outlines throughout his book. ‘Croc-brain’ filters your sophisticated pitch; it is based in our gut reactions and suspicion is a key factor as ole ‘Croc-brain’ acts as a spam filter of sorts.
So it’s important when we pitch to be able to recognise the Frames at play. The Power-frame, the Analysis-frame, the Time frame and the significance of status.
For example when dealing with a Power framer, usually an egomaniac with status we can reframe with a disrupter. A disrupter can be creating or doing something unexpected with light humour, flipping attention back to ourselves, moving around the room or even suggesting a re-scheduled meeting place and time.
Oren Klaff has not only come up with a proven methodology for becoming Pitch perfect, he has even developed a specific vocabulary to highlight and describe his extensive body of work and experience. This vocabulary takes hold and becomes increasingly relevant throughout this awesome book.
Three Things to Action from this Book
- The original acronym STRONG method of pitching. Setting the frame, Telling the Story, Revealing the Intrigue, Offering the Prize, Nailing the Hookpoint and Getting a Decision. This is the exclusive method that is pitched to the reader. It’s also important to study Frames; when you own a Frame you’re in charge. For example if an audience member distracts your pitch with her Analytical Frame, you could break it with either a Suspense or Moral Authority frame. The important thing is to learn how to become a skilled frame buster and manipulator.
- Read the story of the French waiter Benoit. It is a delightful and detailed description of how a person can claim ‘situational status’ using style, skill and flare to win the devotion of a group of strangers. During the course of a meal in a famous French Restaurant, Benoit effectively seizes Alpha position from the host (Klaff) before proceeding to efficiently woo and control all of Klaff’s guests. He flabbergasted and eventually won over the Klaff who admits no surprise that he eventually gave Benoit a very large tip. When you assume status in any social interaction, you feel it and so does your audience.
- As well as deliberately Framing your Pitch, remember your information must be new, simple and non-threatening. It’s also important to establish your career status by giving your audience a couple of relevant, great earlier results. Never eat up time with too much information from your past. These are keys to soothing your audience’s ‘Croc-brain’ thus allowing your message to reach their Neo-cortex. When information is clear and non-threatening ‘Croc-brain’ feels safe. Learn the two essentials of getting the attention of any audience, by combining novelty and tension. Twenty minutes is your max.
Pitch Anything is a detailed and content rich guide for anyone needing to pitch pretty much anything across a diverse range of settings. I highly recommend that you consider it and here’s the link for purchase.