Book notes: Pitch Anything

Pitch Anything book summary by Marlo Yonocruz

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Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

Synopsis: “When it comes to delivering a pitch, Oren Klaff has unparalleled credentials. Over the past 13 years, he has used his one-of-a-kind method to raise more than $400 million – and now, for the first time, he describes his formula to help you deliver a winning pitch in any business situation.

Whether you’re selling ideas to investors, pitching a client for new business, or even negotiating for a higher salary, Pitch Anything will transform the way you position your ideas.

According to Klaff, creating and presenting a great pitch isn’t an art – it’s a simple science. Applying the latest findings in the field of neuroeconomics, while sharing eye-opening stories of his method in action, Klaff describes how the brain makes decisions and responds to pitches. With this information, you’ll remain in complete control of every stage of the pitch process.” -Amazon

Opening thoughts: This book showed up on my recommended books feed in Audible. It also got fantastic reviews, and I’m always interested in sales/influence-related books so it was an easy decision to get it.

Key ideas/notes:

  • There is a fundamental disconnect between the way we pitch anything and the way it is received by our audience
  • Pitching is a skill that heavily depends on the method you use and not how hard you try
  • Framing to create context and relevance. Whoever owns the frame owns the conversation
  • Presenters problem: you can do everything well and articulate clearly and still not be convincing. This is because a great pitch is not about procedure, it’s about getting and keeping attention
  • You have to own the room with frame control, drive emotions with intrigue strings, and get to a hook point fairly quickly
  • Neuro-finance: combines neuroscience with economics
  • The better you are at keeping someone’s attention, the more likely that person will be to go for your idea
  • The first brain (old brain, aka crocodile brain) is the survival, fight or flight instinct
  • The second/middle brain determines the meaning of things in social situations
  • The last stage of brain (neocortex) evolved with a problem-solving ability, and is able to think about complex issues and produce answers using reason
  • Your thought process exactly matches your evolution: first survival, then social relationships, finally problem-solving
  • No logical pitch created in the neocortex is going to pass through to another person’s neocortex without passing first through the croc brain
  • We have evolved to air on the side of caution for everything new we encounter
  • The croc brain’s initial reaction to your pitch is “since this is not an emergency, how can I ignore this or spend the least amount of time possible on it?”
    • The filtering system of the croc brain has a very shortsighted view of the world
    • The croc brain only passes along big, obvious chunks of concrete data
  •  Unless the ideas are pitched in a way that it is viewed as new and exciting, it will be ignored
  • If you pitch is complicated and uses abstract language and lacks visual cues, it will be perceived as a threat
  • The brain doesn’t have enough processing power to handle all of these things on top of your complex idea
  • You don’t want your pitch to end up in the amygdala, which causes physical reactions next to those of fear and anxiety, and makes a person want to escape
  • Passing through the croc brain coded this way:
    • 1. Boring, ignore it
    • 2. Dangerous, fight or run
    • 3. Complicated, radically summarize and pass it along up in a severely truncated form
  • 2 questions we ask after making a presentation or pitch:
    • 1. Did I get through?
    • 2. Was my message well-received?
  • 2 objectives: you don’t want your message to trigger fear alarms, and you want it to be recognized as something positive, unexpected, and out of the ordinary (pleasant novelty)
  • The croc brain is responsible for the big idea of survival and it can’t get bogged down in nuances. It likes facts clearly explained and to choose between two clear options. It needs you to get to the point fast
  • Aside from pitching products that are so sexy it releases dopamine, pleasure to the brain, you must adhere to the rules of engagement
  • STRONG: Set the frame, Tell the story, Reveal the intrigue, Offer the Prize, Nail the hook point, Get the deal
  • Mental structures by which we see the world is called frames
  • Perspective is seeing and interpreting things a different way than another
  • During a meeting, frames will collide and the stronger will absorb the smaller, and the smaller will be subordinate
  • Framing tactics: the less you say, the more powerful
  • Sales techniques are just weak strategies used when you’ve already lost and only offend and brow beat the customer
  • A frame is the instrument you use to package your power, authority, strength, information, and status
    • 1) Everybody uses frames whether they realize it or not
    • 2) Every social encounter brings frames together
    • 3) Frames do not coexist in the same time or place for long. They crash into each other and one or the other gains control
    • 4) Only one frame survives, the others break and are absorbed. Stronger frames always absorb weaker frames
    • 5) A winning frame governs a social interaction. When it does that, it is said to have frame control
  • 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
  • If you have to explain your authority, your power, your position, leverage, or advantage, you do not hold the stronger frame
  • The key to a good pitch is to build strong frames impervious to rational arguments
  • Strong frames activate basic desires
  • 3 major types of opposing frames: Power frame, Time frame, and Analytical frame
  • 4 types of frame strategies: power busting frame, time constraining frame, intrigue frame, prize frame
  • When encountering a Power frame, the most common, don’t reinforce their strength or frame before the encounter
    • When you abide by the rituals of power instead of establishing your own, you reinforce the opposing Power frame
    • To instigate a power frame collision, use a mildly shocking but not unfriendly act to cause it. Use defiance and light humor, which captures attention and elevates your status by creating something called local star power
    • Define subtle ways to take the power frame away. Either perpetuate a small denial or act out some type of defiance
    • No one can tell your story as well as you can, so don’t leave it to someone else’s subordinates when the key decision-maker cannot make the meeting
  • Prizing and reframing so that everything they say and do is as if they are trying to win you over. Tell the most important person in the room you are willing to reschedule but on your turf
  • Prizing 101: to solidify the prize frame, you make the buyer qualify himself to you
  • Moral authority frame: he’s right and you’re wrong
  • Time frames are relatively easy to break if you just reestablish control of it
  • Hard details and calculations during the pitch are cold cognitions. These will freeze over your pitch and will trap you later on in the collision from analytical frames
    • To prevent a detailed drill, restrict access to details
  • Humans are unable to have hot cognitions and cold cognitions simultaneously
    • Hot cognitions are feelings like wanting, desire, or excitement
    • Cold cognitions come from cold processes like analysis and problem-solving
  • To maintain frame control, force the prospect to be analytical on their own time. You do this by separating the technical and analytical from your presentation
  • Audience members are trying to figure out the answer to this question: “how similar is your idea to something I already know about or to a problem I have already solved?”
    • Those who solve the puzzle drop out, or check out and lose attention during the presentation
  • The most effective way to overcome the analyst frame is an intrigue frame. Of the 4 frame types at your disposal, intrigue is the most powerful because it hijacks the higher cognitive function to arouse the more primitive system of the target’s brain
    • Break the analytical frame by telling a brief but relevant story about you. This isn’t made up on the spot, but prepared well in advance
    • You need to be at the center of the story which immediately redirects attention back to you
    • Break their frame with this provocative story about you, and keep their attention by not telling how the story ends and keeping them in suspense
  • Your intrigue story must have the following elements:
    • 1) Must be brief and subject must be relevant to the pitch
    • 2) You need to be at the center of the story
    • 3) There should be a risk, danger, 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
  • Keep the audience focused on the relationship being built with you
  • When you prize, you position yourself as high value to the target. Do this correctly and the target will be chasing you. Prizing is the very first thing you need to do when you are on someone else’s turf
    • Your target is trying to earn your attention and respect, you are the prize
    • Prizing reduces the need for you to perform to get a reward
  • 3 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
  • Money is never a prize, it is a means to an end, simply a transfer of economic value from one place to another
  • Prizing 101: ask questions to make the buyer qualify himself to you. Make him answer “why should I do business with you?”
  • Protect your status. Don’t let the buyer change the agenda, meeting time, or who will attend
    • Step back and withdraw in order to make a challenge but with humor so it doesn’t sound forced
  • Internalize this: money cannot do anything without you. The money needs you
    • Money is a commodity, but there’s only one you and your unique deal. You must frame this mindset with every deal
  • Small acts of defiance and humor will reinforce your frame control
  • The harder you try to fit in the social scene, the lower your perceived value
    • You can create situational status
    • If you do not have high status, you will not be commanding the attention necessary to make your pitch heard
  • The Alpha in the group is trusted without question, commands attention when he speaks, and his claims are considered true
  • In social situations, those holding Alpha rank accomplishes more than those in Beta rank
    • Beta traps: the lobby, and tradeshow and convention booths
  • Elevate your social status to attract better buyers
  • The environment you are in can determine situational status and shift the Alpha role
  • Re-direct people to a domain where you are in charge
  • First thing when meeting a prospect is to establish local star power
    • A friendly but well-timed defiance act will dethrone the king
    • In general, ignore any conversation threads that detract from the pitch, and only focus on ones that advance it
    • Obtain local star power by using information dominance to quickly shrink the frame around this area of specialization making you an unassailable as the expert
  • The moment you are done with your pitch, pull away and keep pulling away
  • Momentum is key. Create high status immediately. Do not hesitate, choose a frame, force a collision, and do it early
  • Have fun, be popular in that environment, enjoy your work. There’s nothing as attractive as someone who is enjoying what he or she is doing
  • Global status is the honor or prestige attached to a person in society. This is the sum of a person’s wealth, popularity, and power
  • Time constraint pattern: giving a 20-minute time frame for the presentation shows you know what you’re doing and you’re a pro
  • All the important stuff must fit into an audience limit of attention, which is about 20 minutes
  • Pitch in 4 phases
    • 1) Introduce yourself and the big idea – 5 minutes
      • Includes your track record of successes and things you have specifically built
      • An impression is based on all available information on them. This means less but higher quality value information
      • Introduce Why Now frame. It’s vitally important that target knows your idea is new, emerging from current market opportunities, came together from a new idea and patterns you recognized, that you seized and are now taking advantage of
      • The target needs to know that you have more knowledge about these things than anyone else
      • Frame idea against 3 market forces or trending patterns
        • 1) economic forces and what’s changed financially
        • 2) social forces and highlighting what’s changed in people’s behavior
        • 3) technology forces and technological change wiping out and shifting entire industries
      • The backstory of how the idea evolved and your involvement is always interesting and legitimizes the rest of your pitch
        • 1) Explain the most important changes in your business, forecast the trends, identify important developments
        • 2) Talk about these developments on cost and customer demands
        • 3) Explain how these trends have briefly opened up a market window
      • Croc brain in devoted to detecting movement, so explain how your idea is moving away from the current standard into the new standard of how the world works
        • Change blindness: it is only when attention is focused deliberately on the thing that is changing you can finally see it. You need to show the movement from one state to another
        • Targets don’t like to see old deals and things that have been sitting around
      • Introduction pattern structure: for target customers who are dissatisfied with current offerings in the market, my idea and product is a new kind of product category. It provides these key problems and these solutions and these features, unlike competing products such as company x, company y, and company z, my idea and products have these important features
      • Note: capturing attention doesn’t mean commanding attention
      • We notice things that move through time and space because they’re most likely to be important. The catch: many times the things that move are also things to run away from. We have to create attention without threat
      • The fundamental organizing principle of the croc brain is to minimize threats and danger around us and react quickly
      • Humans are hardwired for social interaction and will react automatically to social threats
    • 2) Explain the budget and secret sauce – 10 minutes
      • Now you explain what problems your big idea really solves and how it actually works
      • Simplicity doesn’t always work. It can make you seem naive and unsophisticated. You can underwhelm the target with too little information. Tune your message to the mind of the target
      • Theory of mind: a working theory of mind allows you to understand how thoughts, desires, and intentions of others cause them to act. When someone can only see the situation one way, their theory of mind is weak and inoperative
      • If you’re describing relationships between people, you can provide plenty of detail, as the brain is really good at understanding complex human relationships
      • When a person is feeling desire and tension, that person is paying serious attention to what is in front of him or her
        • Balancing act between desire and attention, dopamine vs norepinephrine
        • To create desire, offer a reward. To create tension, take something away
        • Dopamine isn’t released when experiencing pleasure, but when anticipating a reward
        • Create novelty by introducing something unexpected in a pleasant way
        • Curiosity due to an information gap stimulates the croc brain
        • When something expected does not come, dopamine drops fast and negative feelings like anxiety pops up
        • Tension indicates consequence, and therefore importance. When tension is absent and there are no steaks, there’s no reason to pay attention
      •  Low-key, low intensity push-pull pattern:
        • To hold your targets’ attention there must be tension, a form of low-level conflict guarding the interaction
      • The attractiveness of an idea depends on what industry it is in and how much competition there is for it
      • Elements of competition:
        • 1) How easy it is for new competitors to jump in the game
        • 2) How easy it is for customers to switch out of your product and into someone else’s
      • Briefly describe your secret sauce, the unfair advantage you have over others
    • 3) Offer the deal – 2 minutes
      • You need to do one thing and do it well, describe to your audience what they are going to receive when they do business with you
      • You must explain simply and briefly the fulfillment process of your product or service and relevant details
    • 4) Stack frames for a hot cognition – 3 minutes
      • Hot cognition: deciding that you liked something before you fully understand it
        • The target can’t like your deal or be afraid of it without knowing much about it. The target can probably decide yes or no without fully knowing what it is
      • In decision-making, we don’t do much analysis if any at all. We go with our gut
        • We feel decisions in our body, not in our mind. We decide things with our gut and then rationalize our choices later on
      • Paradigmatic mode: detective mode
        • The target takes the context of your pitch and analyzes it in terms of tightly reasoned analysis. Logical proof and empirical observation
      • Stacking frames and hot cognitions using intrigue, pricing, timeframe, and moral authority
      • We don’t want the target to like us, that is called neocortex analytical. We want to stack frames that create hot cognitions so that they want us
      • Nobody cares about narratives where you witness something. They want to see someone forced into action and positively overcoming obstacles
        • They want to see you in situations that show your character. They want to know you are someone who rises to whatever level necessary, and travels in the company of interesting people and players in whatever game. This type of story puts people into narrative mode, seeking to understand reality in terms of events and human actors striving to do physical things over time
      • In Narrative mode, the croc brain sees human characters confronting real world obstacles in timescales that make sense. The croc brain can sort of verify events in time because they are easy to relate to our previous experiences and understanding of how the real world works
        • A narrative that feels correct in time will convey a strong sense of truth and accuracy
      • Intrigue frames need structure and a pattern
        • 1) Put a man in the jungle
        • 2) Have beasts attack him
        • 3) Open the question, “will he get to safety?”
      • For a good narrative, things don’t always need to be told in extreme events, but they always should be extreme in terms of the characters’ emotional experience
      • The man in the jungle formula forces you to deliver a narrative in a human, active way where you do something in the real world that shows drive, tenacity, self-confidence, and a connection to reality. It’s not what happens to you that makes you interesting, but it’s what you do about the situation you’re in. The emotional power in a narrative comes from the character that engages in difficult obstacles and finds ways to overcome them
      • Successful prizing flips the frame and makes you the most important party in the deal
      • Prize frame elements:
        • 1) I have one of the better deals on the market
        • 2) I’m choosy about who I work with
        • 3) It seems I can work with you but really I need to know more
        • 4) Please start giving me materials and credentials on yourself
        • 5) I still need to figure out if we would work well together and be good partners before I really let you buy into this deal
        • 6) What did your last business partner say about you?
        • 7) When things go sideways in a deal and its bumpy, how do you behave?
        • 8) My existing partners are super choosey about who I bring in. You have to convince me, but also empower me to convince my partners as well
      • The internal pattern and words you say to yourself to fully activate the prize frame:
        • 1) I am the prize
        • 2) You are the buyer or trying to impress me
        • 3) You buy or are trying to win my approval
      • Prize frame isn’t relying so much on words but the strength of your conviction about who is the prize
      • The addition of time pressure to a decision-making event reduces decision quality. Scarcity bias in the brain and a potential loss in the deal triggers fear
        • Extreme time pressure seems forced and cut-rate
      • You need to find a balance between fairness and pressure
      • Timeframe pattern: “Nobody likes pressure but just like a train has to pick up passengers and has a set time when it needs to leave the station. You have plenty of time to decide if you like it or not, but a decision needs to be made. If you don’t love the deal then there’s no reason to do it. The deal is bigger than me or you or any other person, so it is going ahead. The time constraint is set.
      • Moral authority frame
      • Hot cognitions tend to be instant and enduring
      • Hot and cold cognitions are like chocolate and spinach. One is better for you and nutritious and the right choice, but you go for the chocolate
  • The disturbing thing about rejection is that you never really get used to it. It’s natural and even unavoidable to feel disappointment when you get a no
    • Showing signs of neediness is the worst thing you can do for your pitch
    • No greater truth in business: persistence pays
    • Neediness triggers fear and uncertainty in the target and the croc brain takes over. The croc brain is designed to keep us away from potential threats
  • How we fall into validation seeking behaviors:
    • 1) When we want something that only the target can give us
    • 2) When we need cooperation from the target and we can’t get it, it’s frustrating
    • 3) Neediness is created inside us when we firmly believe that the target can make us feel good by excepting our pitch and saying yes
    • 4) Validation seeking behaviors are triggered when the target seems uninterested in our pitch
  • Basic formula for eradicating neediness:
    • 1) Want nothing
    • 2) Focus on things you do really well
    • 3) Announce your intention to leave the social encounter
  • 3 Rules to be perceived as cool: eliminate desires, be excellent in the presence of others, withdraw
  • Don’t fall into the deeper pore trap. Small talk before a pitch is a fruitless endeavor. People who make million and billion dollar decisions don’t care about small talk
  • Every pitch needs to tell a story. There’s got to be an intrigue hook
  • 3 basic truths about decision-making in the brain:
    • 1) decisions of wanting something are not conscious
    • 2) The opportunity to gain a social reward such as becoming a hero is even more enticing than making money
    • 3) You can flood the target’s brain with dopamine with 3 ideas: social rewards, becoming a hero, the idea of making a lot of money
      • Purpose: to ignite desire
  • The slightest perception you are taking away free will, scientists call this “reducing the autonomy of choice” which will trigger a threat response
  • Measure of status: wealth, popularity, and power
  • Generally, people will not do what you tell them to do. They  must feel like they have free will to make their own decisions
  • Understanding social dynamics is not an intuitive endeavor
  • Frames are psychological referencing systems that all people use to gain a perspective and relevance on issues. Frames influence judgement and change the meaning of human behavior
  • 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
  • Humor, fun, and lightheartedness are crucial components of every pitch
  • You have to package your ideas for the croc brain in such a way that you are generating hot cognitions
  • Use visual and emotional stimulus to push your target’s hot buttons to create wanting
  • You always have to be on the watch for opposing Power frames, and then win the ensuring frame collisions with better, stronger frames, and then you must further perpetuate frame control with small denials and showing defiance
  • Humor and having fun is the third component to social dynamics
    • Humor is not to relieve tension. Instead it signifies that even though the tension is real, you are confident enough to play around a bit. People who have lots of options are not uptight and they don’t take themselves too seriously
  • Strong frames allow you to selectively ignore things that do not move you towards your goals and such recognition amplifies your focus on the things that do. Framing keeps your focus on things that are most important: human relationships
  • Progressive steps to learning the method:
    • 1) Learn to recognize beta traps and how to step around them
    • 2) In a gradual way, start stepping around beta traps. It will push you to the place where it becomes natural and hardly noticeable
    • 3) Identify and label social frames
    • 4) Begin to initiate frame collisions with safe targets
    • 5) The small acts of defiance and denial you will use to take control of the social frame create a certain amount of conflict and tension. Push and pull with a soft touch
    • 6) Frame control cannot be forced because this takes the fun out of it
    • 7) Work with other frame masters
      • Apprenticeship leads to mastery faster than going at it alone

Closing thoughts: Mind-blown. I loved the mix of narrative and easy to follow key learning points. I love the lists, especially since it makes the notes a bit more structured. Not only is the author a fantastic storyteller, he skillfully deconstructs a seemingly convoluted skill and packages it in a way that illustrates that this powerful tool can be learned by anyone. Breaking down his self-taught tactics and combining/refining with scientific social dynamics significantly legitimizes the method. It makes the structure and sequence of the technique make complete sense.

All in all, I loved this book. Definitely a ton of great nuggets in this book that I plan to revisit in the immediate future as the ability to make a great pitch is useful in many different situations and contexts. Sales and pitching are simply different forms of influence, which is present in all industries, professions, and fields.

Nutshell: Master pitch-man deconstructs his method of pitching along with the underlying foundations of social dynamics and how our brains are naturally wired.

Rating: 4.5/5

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