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Pitch Anything is an in-depth outline of how you can produce top-quality pitches that will ensure investment. Oren Klaff has raised over $400 million over the past 13 years using this method. This same method can be applied to a wide range of situations, such as negotiating a higher salary or selling a big idea. Klaff describes pitching as a science. Neuroeconomics, combined with Klaff’s experiences, provides the foundation of this scientific theory. Klaff claims that his theory of pitching will lead to complete control of your entire pitching process. One great pitch can change your life, and Pitch Anything suggests it can help anybody produce great pitches.
About Oren Klaff
Oren Klaff is Director of Capital Markets at the investment bank, Intersection Capital. However, he has a long career in gaining backing through effective pitches. From 2003-2008, Oren raised over $400 million of investor capital from high net-worth individuals and financial institutions. Additionally, he is a member of Geyser Holding’s investment committee. Oren has been the principal of this committee since 2006. Finally, he has considerable experience as a venture analyst and partner at several mid-sized investment funds.
Chapter 1 – The Method
Oren Klaff outlines that a great pitch is never about the procedure. Instead, it is about getting and keeping the attention of the people you are pitching to. Hence, Oren outlines that evolution has left us with three levels of processing incoming information:
- Crocodile Brain – This is the first development of an attention system that is still used today. The crocodile brain is our brain’s primitive system, devoted mainly to survival. Hence, this system also triggers basic and robust emotions. As well as reacting to danger, the crocodile brain is responsible for managing new information. Subsequently, Oren describes the crocodile brain as responding to a sales pitch in three ways. Firstly, it could respond by dismissing the information as unuseful. Alternatively, it could respond by identifying the pitch as a threat. Finally, it could respond by approving the message for further review by the midbrain. The majority (90%) of information from your message that enters the crocodile brain will not be passed onto the midbrain.
- The Midbrain – The next area that the message travels to is your midbrain. This part of the brain adds meaning and context to the information. Additionally, it also determines the purpose of objects and social situations.
- The Neocortex – Finally, the message travels to the neocortex. The neocortex is the most advanced part of the brain. Specifically, the neocortex analyses complex issues and provides logical reasoning. Subsequently, this part of the brain is fundamental to problem-solving and rationalizing.
To bypass the crocodile brain, pitchers should aim to start their pitches with simple concepts. Starting a pitch with complicated constructs will most probably lead to the crocodile brain ignoring the message. Subsequently, the people being pitched to will no longer be paying full attention. Additionally, Klaff points out that the crocodile brain has limited focus and capacity. Hence, only 10% of your message will be passed onto the more advanced brain structures. To maximize this percentage, it is integral that you prepare a pitch that incorporates exciting ideas and concepts.
Klaff outlines a clear acronym that you can follow to ensure that your pitch overcomes the limitations of the audience’s brains:
- Set the frame
- Tell the story
- Reveal the intrigue
- Offer the prize
- Nail the hook point
- Get the deal
To remind yourself of this acronym, just remember to be STRONG.
Chapter 2 – Frame Control
“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.” – Oren Klaff
Klaff introduces the idea that every exchange in life has one frame. However, it can only have one frame, as all other frames will be subordinate to the primary frame. Therefore, Klaff suggests that pitches should say as little as possible. Essentially, the less you say, the more effective you will be.
A successful pitch depends on your ability to build strong frames. Klaff describes frames as a perspective. Specifically, he uses the analogy of giving someone a lens to see what you see. Everyone uses frames in every social encounter.
Klaff describes ineffective business negotiations as being characterized by people having two different perspectives for the same product. In this instance, their frames are colliding. Eventually, one of these frames will win over the other. Stronger frames will always absorb weaker frames. You can identify that you are frame-controlled if you realize that a conversation is not going your way. For example, if everything the other person says sounds ineffective, you are most likely frame-controlled. Defiance and humor are the most critical tools in reclaiming the winning frame in a conversation.
There are several types of frames you may encounter when having conversations. Oren Klaff outlines each of them.
The Power Frame
This kind of frame is an inevitable part of business. These are the individuals who have an ego. Subsequently, they tend to show little interest in listening to what you have to say. Specifically, they will listen to the first few seconds of your interaction. Then they will use these first few seconds to form judgments that last for the entirety of that interaction. These judgments will also apply to future interactions.
Klaff explains that a defiant and humorous approach is the only way you will overcome a power frame. Those possessing a power frame must understand that you are highly skilled at what you do. For example, do not let an audience member play with their phone. Instead, you should use this as an opportunity to incorporate some light humor into your pitch. This humorous interaction will lighten the audience’s mood while keeping this individual with a Power Frame on their toes.
The Intrigue Frame
“As you share your story, there has to be some suspense to it because you are going to create intrigue in the telling of the story by telling only part of the story. That’s right, you break the analyst frame by capturing audience attention with a provocative story of something that happened to you, and then you keep their attention by not telling them how it ends until you are ready.” – Oren Klaff
Individuals agree to a pitch as they are interested in your product. They do not want to hear something they already know or understand. Instead, they want to be blown away by a new product or idea. Hence, in a pitch, you have the upper hand as you are the one who knows about your product. Those with an intrigue frame will pay great attention to your pitch at the start, as they are looking for answers to their questions. However, as soon as these types of people find the answer to their question, they will lose interest.
To counter this type of person, you should make yourself the center of the story. Share your personal story with the audience. The most engaging stories are those involving hardship or obstacles that have to be overcome. Again, you only want to tell the audience part of the story. They should never feel that they know all the answers to their questions, as this is when you will lose their interest. Your personal story should be exciting and should always be associated with the subject of your pitch.
The Time Frame
The time frame is a powerful tool. For example, you can make the public think they could lose a great opportunity if you say something like ‘This is a temporary offer.’ Alternatively, buyers often use this frame at the start of a pitch. For example, they will tell the pitcher that they only have a few minutes. This approach aims to make the pitcher feel small. Most people respond to this approach by being thankful, saying something like, ‘Thank you for fitting me into your busy schedule.’ Klaff states that this is the wrong approach. In doing this, you have handed the potential buyer all the power.
One way to break the time frame is to be brutally honest. Explain to the individual that you do not work to other people’s time. Explain that you cannot work well with people if you cannot trust them to keep their time commitments. Therefore, probe them by asking whether they are the kind of person who keeps to their schedule. If the individual accepts your fully agreed time slot, they will value your time and give you the required attention.
Some targets will only care about hearing analytics, figures, and numbers. This type of person is using the analyst frame. They will prompt you to spit out numbers and projections, which the other half of the audience will not care about. Additionally, spitting out these figures will only increase your chances of making a mistake.
You can overcome the analyst frame by providing an intriguing story. This story should include a personal narrative that involves you. However, as previously mentioned, you should not tell them how this story ends. This cliffhanger will help keep their attention. Klaff explains that an intriguing story has the potential to break analytical thinking. Therefore, weaving narratives into your pitches is a great way of tackling individuals with an analyst frame.
The Prizing Frame
“Money is never a prize; it’s a commodity, a means for getting things done. Money simply transfers economic value from place to place so that people are able to work together.” – Oren Klaff
Klaff describes prizing as “The sum of the actions you take to get your target to understand that he is a commodity and you are the prize.” Never let the audience believe that the relationship is the other way round. Additionally, people often confuse money with the prize. However, money is never the prize. Instead, money is a commodity that is merely a means for getting things done.
Try to highlight yourself as the prize. For example, try to convince your clients that they would be privileged to work with you. The buyer will feel like they have to qualify to work with you rather than the other way around. Klaff highlights that you have to learn to value yourself. If you do not value yourself, then no one else will. Therefore, you need to always be ready to walk away from a negotiation if the other side does not give you what you want. On top of this, do not start your pitches if the key decision-maker has not arrived. Wait fifteen minutes, and if the person does not show, you should get up and politely leave. This action will show that you are picky about whom you work with. You are a prize, and they should be working hard to have a business partnership with you.
The Moral Authority Frame
You should always try to protect yourself and your company with a strong moral character. Your pitches will do significantly better if you are nailing the morals that society values. Klaff provides an example of a time when he won a significant investment deal for an old airport in California. This deal was necessary for its revival. His competitors were too busy focusing on numbers, plans, and spreadsheets. Klaff decided to focus on the airport’s diverse history and how his team would respect the airport’s heritage. By focusing on heritage and community, Klaff could link his pitch to a broader issue that the buyer values.
Plowing should be a feature of all your pitches, irrespective of what frames are present. Plowing is the act of always moving forward during your pitch. This approach showcases confidence and allows you to maintain a strong frame, despite push back from others.
Chapter 3 – Status
Klaff describes status as being closely linked to the frames. For example, the person with the highest status will likely hold the most powerful frame. Subsequently, having a high social status is crucial. This status will enable your pitch to be more comfortable and more robust. To be in control of the frames, you will need to acquire the alpha position.
Klaff does not recommend holding onto the alpha position via aggression, dominance, or force. Instead, Klaff recommends that you adopt the following tips:
- Do not get affected by your customer’s global status. You will likely encounter people with more wealth, power, and popularity than you. However, always try to put their status to the side when talking business.
- You can enter different situations with a different position: beta or alpha. Alphas will keep you in a beta trap, which puts you in a low-status position and works to keep you there.
- Klaff recommends using statements that will assert your dominance. For example, “Have you ever done a deal this large before?” or “Remind me why I should be doing business with you rather than anybody else.” Apply this approach with every customer, not just those who are clearly in a beta position.
- If you are caught in the beta trap, then you must try to reframe the situation. Search for opportunities to identify weaknesses in the customer or elevate your status. One way to do this is to be challenging and funny.
- You always want to try to grab the alpha status in a conversation as quickly as possible. Make a quick move and use this early momentum to hold onto the alpha status.
- After taking power, you should immediately redirect the discussion into an area where you know you are more knowledgeable. For example, choose a domain in which you are an expert. Klaff calls this Local Star Power.
- The Local Star Power will always disappear after you leave a meeting. Therefore, ensure you establish it as the beginning of every meeting or conversation.
- Make sure you are never late for a meeting. Being late gives power away to the other participants.
Chapter 4 – Pitching Your Big Idea
Klaff outlines that there are four phases to a pitch.
Phase 1 – Introduce Yourself and the Big Idea Within the First Five Minutes
Klaff emphasizes the importance of being concise during your pitch. Before explaining your big idea, you should give a brief background of you and your company. However, this should only take up a few minutes. For every topic, just include one great thing. Do not fall into the trap of including one great, one good, and one mediocre thing. Start your outline of greatness by getting your track record on the table. Present your track record in a fast, clean, and problem-free manner.
Customers are never interested in old ideas. Therefore, instead of providing an in-depth history of your product development, get right to the point. Klaff recommends the following foundation for presenting any big idea:
- The product is for (target customers)
- These customers are dissatisfied with (the current competitors)
- Our product/service is (your new big idea)
- That provides a solution to (the critical customer problems your competitors struggle with)
- Unlike (the competitors)
- We have (provide the product’s unique features)
After providing this clear outline, you should still keep things brief. Avoid long-winded analysis. Instead, briefly cover the economic, social, and technological aspects of your business. These aspects should only include those that are critical for the customers to invest in.
Phase 2 – Explain the Budget in Under Ten minutes
Every essential part of your pitch should fit into twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is the upper limit of people’s attention. Attentional overload is particularly common when information novelty is low. Therefore, try to only include information that will be new and interesting to the audience.
Although you want to display excellent budgeting, you should not dwell too much on figures. Also, when talking about budgeting, try to compare yourself to your competitors. Highlight how your company has the edge; Klaff calls this the Secret Sauce. Finally, your budgeting should showcase that your company has enough spare money to last a few bad quarters. Showing this financial stability will protect you against plans not working immediately.
Phase 3 – Offer the Deal in Under Two Minutes
This is a simple part of your pitch. Essentially, you want to tell the audience what they’ll get when they do business with you. Although you want this section to be brief, you also need to include all the essential details. Klaff emphasizes the importance of reminding the audience why you, as an individual, are investible.
Phase 4 – Stack Frames
The majority of investors will be considering analysis but will mainly be going with their gut. Therefore, you have to take advantage of their gut reactions. Generate a positive gut reaction by stacking the frames (spoken about in previous sections).
Chapter 5 – Frame Stacking and Hot Cognitions
Frame stacking and hot cognition is the best approach to adopt when the audience is particularly cold and analytical. Klaff describes this as the four-frame hot cognition stack. The four-frame cognition stack will trigger the audience’s crocodile brain. Klaff suggests you stack the following four frames:
- The Intrigue Frame – People want to know how you faced obstacles and overcame them.
- The Prize Frame – This frame highlights that you are the most crucial part of the deal. If you have sold yourself to the audience, then you are halfway to sealing the deal.
- The Time Frame – The addition of time pressure to decision-making events reduces decision quality.
- The Moral Authority Frame – You can use this frame to create a desire in the audience. A desire to engage with something that will have a more significant impact than the immediate benefits.
Chapter 6 – Eradicating Neediness
Showing signs of neediness is one of the worst things you can do during a pitch. No investor will want to spend their money on an entrepreneur who has money problems and needs hand-holding. For investors, seeing these signs will activate the threat part of their crocodile brain. Therefore, most of your pitch won’t reach the crucial parts of their attentional systems, such as the neocortex.
Klaff provides some examples of phrases that suggest you are a needy entrepreneur. Avoid using these phrases at all costs:
- Do you still think it’s a good deal?
- So, what do you guys think?
- We can sign a deal right away if you want us to.
Neediness will often surface if we have tunnel-vision on our want for something the audience can give us: money. Klaff provides three rules you can adopt to avoid seeming needy:
- Try to eliminate your visible desires. It can be impossible to remove your desires entirely. Still, you should not show them to your audience. Instead of wanting the audience to invest, you should provide your best pitch and just let the investments come to you.
- Be excellent in the presence of others. Suppose you are confident in your abilities and show people your specialisms. In that case, you will no longer give off a sense of neediness.
- Do not chase after the audience’s money when they expect you to. Take a step back and consider all offers before making a decision. If the offers are not sufficient, then do not be afraid to walk away from the deal. Just make sure the audience understands that the deal does not convince you.
If you keep to these three rules, then the audience will be chasing after you. You will be demonstrating your strengths and confidence, which is something the audience will admire.
Chapters 7-8 Get in the Game
Klaff ends the book by providing a step-by-step approach to effectively pitching a big idea.
- Learn to recognize beta traps. Learning this skill will help you avoid them or escape from them, depending on your situation. You can improve your chances of recognizing beta traps by thinking in a frame-based way.
- Use four basic frames to avoid beta traps.
- Identify and label social frames. You are more likely to encounter power frames, time frames, and social frames in business. Therefore, become a master of identifying which category an individual falls into and respond accordingly.
- Start practicing frame collisions with safe targets. Frame collisions are the most important part of pitching effectively. However, it can take a bit of time to master. Therefore, start by practicing these frame collisions with people within your business or even friends. Remember, humor is vital. Without humor, you can quickly appear rude and arrogant.
- Defiance and denial will always create a certain amount of conflict and tension. Therefore, selectively use a soft touch to reassure the target’s crocodile brain that no threat exists.
- Frame control cannot be forced. Klaff describes frame control as a fun game that you can apply to all social interactions. Instead of worrying about it, just see frame control as a lighthearted approach to interactions.
- Learn from other frame masters. You should surround yourself with people who are better than you at frame control. You should start by keeping frame control simple by sticking to a few frames that work for you. Then, you can develop these frames as you learn more from those around you.
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