Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff: Summary & Review

pitch anything book cover

Pitch Anything (2011) teaches readers how to raise money and sell your ideas to investors and venture capitalists by mastering power dynamics, displaying power and resolve, and controlling the frame.

Bullet Summary

  • Power dynamics are key in business deals
  • You must remove all neediness from your side
  • Sell to the lizard brain (emotions and feelings, only later financials)

Full Summary

About The Author: Oren Klaff is an investment banker and consultant with lots of experience in helping businesses and entrepreneurs raise money.

1. The “STRONG” Method

Oren Klaff introduces his method via the acronym STRONG, meaning:

  • Set the frame
  • Tell the story
  • Reveal the intrigue
  • Offer the prize
  • Nail the hook point
  • Get a decision

2. Set the Frame

The author goes into details on what a frame is.

As the author of a website on social skills and power dynamics, I can tell you frame is basically an umbrella word for who’s got the power in the interaction.

You could say that most articles you read here are about frames. And the main idea Ofer wants to convey is that when you pitch investors, you want to do it from a position of strength.

That means: make yourself the prize, and they the commodity (money is a commodity after all).

Don’t Over-Explain or You Lose The Frame

In every interaction there’s one party who has the stronger frame, and the stronger frame ends up absorbing the weaker frames and controlling the social interactions.

And usually, the author righteously says, when you find yourself in the position to respond (ineffectively) to what the other is saying, you have the weaker frame.

And when you need to explain your authority, you rarely hold the stronger frame.

How to Seize The Frame (& The Money)

Oren says that defiance and humor are the keys to seizing the frame.

It’s key not to be confrontational because otherwise you will trigger their flight or fight response, and you don’t want that.

The moment you can be defiant without being abrasive, that’s when they understand they’re dealing with a pro.

Ofer recommends you approach with a “playful” mindset. Imagine it’s a game which you are enjoying.

The Time Power Frame

When I read this part I couldn’t help but think: this book is basically The Power Moves for entrepreneurs!

Oren describes a typical situation in which a salesperson loses power with a customer:

Customer: “hey, I only have 5 minutes, but come in”
You: “Thank you for your time, I appreciate you finding a few minutes” 

And right there and then, you handed him all the power.

Now he’s the guy feeding you crumbs and you’re kissing up to him, happy for receiving scraps.
Here’s instead a way for getting more power in that exact situation:

Customer: “hey, I only have 5 minutes, but come in”
You: “Sorry I don’t work like that, we can’t reschedule unless I know we can work well together. I need to know if you’re the kind of person who can keep appointments”
Customer: “yes you’re right, sorry, come in” 

When you break his controlling frame like that, he will respect you more and listen to you properly.

Similarly, if they send in a subordinate saying that the big shot can’t make it, don’t try to pitch the subordinate. Tell him you can give Mr. Big shot 15 minutes to be there or you can call it a day.

And of course, the oldest trick of them all is making you wait.
Read:

Defending The Frame

When investors or potential buyers are drilling you down on financials, they are reinforcing their power frame.

They are the choosers.

Instead Oren suggests that you quickly answer the financial parts, but then revert back to the relationship question.

Because your frame must be:

  • Are we a good fit to work together? This what you want to find out

See?
With that frame, you become the chooser!
So here’s how Oren suggests you present the pitch:

Revenue is X, expenses are Y, the net is Z.
The numbers and details you can verify later and take all the time you need.
But first I want to find out if we are a good fit to work together.

This is what I came here to do.

Defending The Frame II

Ofer recommends that if they want to change the agenda, time you’ve scheduled or the people who will attend, you should refuse and withdraw.

My Note:
I could partially agree with the time. Albeit I wouldn’t cancel but simply make it a bit harder for them to reschedule. I don’t personally see any issue though with changing the people who attend.

If you want money because you believe in your project you shouldn’t get hang up on the details of the attendees. 

The Intrigue Frame

When investors meet you, it’s because there’s something in your product or presentation that piqued their interest.

You know something they don’t, and that gives you power.

During the presentation, they will be asking themselves if they have seen it before and fully understand it, and the moment they realize they do, you lose a lot of power and you lose their interest.

What’s the answer then? Don’t let them feel they understand it at all!

3. Be The One With Highest Status

Status closely interrelates with frames.

The person with the highest status is most likely to hold the most powerful frame.

Here are the key steps to keep a higher status:

  1. Ignore their power rituals (and avoid following)
  2. Don’t let his global status affect you (only focus on the situational status)
  3. Look for small act of denials and defiance to increase your status
  4. Once you have enough power move to your domain of expertise
  5. Position yourself as the prize to be won over
  6. Find a way to let them quality to you and confirm your higher status

See a few of my articles with clear examples of power relations:

4. Pitch Framework: Less Than 20 Minutes

Ofer says your pitch shouldn’t be longer than 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes people disconnect and start forgetting what they’ve already learned.
Here are the steps for an effective pitch:

4.1. Pitch Overview

First of all, reassure them it will be brief. 20 minutes only, a few questions and then you gotta go.

It puts them at ease, raises your status and increases their focus.

4.2. Introduce Yourself

5 minutes, a key few facts about you and the major accomplishments.

4.3. The Big Idea: Intro

  • Who is it for
  • Why your target customers can’t find something similar
  • How does your product change that (solution-based features)
  • How your product differs from anything else

It’s important that you show how your idea is not coming out of a lone genius mind, but it’s the natural evolution of market forces and demand.

Do name competitors: it shows you are grounded in business reality.
And add some time pressure: this is the moment to strike before those competitors wake up.

4.4. Budget & Secret Sauce

Every investors know you will be conservative about your expenses and overly optimistic in your growth predictions.

Don’t dwell too much on growth, but show you’re good at budgeting: that’s a rare and prized skill.

And then introduce what you do better than anyone else, that something that gives you an edge over the competition and will allow you to keep market share even when competitors jump in.

And last but not least: make sure they understand one of the biggest assets on the table is you.

5.5 Offer The Deal

Tell them what they will get when they will do business with you.

I particularly liked the idea of push and pull.
Ofer says that when you only pull (hard sell) people will get suspicious.
You should float the idea of not giving them the deal (taking it away) and then giving it back to them.

For example:

It might not work out between us (push). But then again, if it does, we could really do something great together.

5. Use Hot Cognitions

Hot cognition happens when you decide you like something even before you fully understand it.

And that’s what usually happens: we don’t make decisions with rational cognitive processes but with emotional ones.

And then we use the data to justify those decisions.

The overarching ideas are that:

  • Emotions and feelings are key
  • Complex abstract concepts need to be processed by the neocortex
  • But people would rather avoid using the neocortex

Ofer revisits some of the hot cognition points that will help you get to the final decisions via the lizard brain and bypass the neocortex. Some of them:

Prize Hot Cognition

This is the mindset:

You have one of the best deals available, but you are choosy as who you work with.

Yes, you might work with them, but you need to know more: let them tell you about themselves.

Time Pressure Hot Cognition

Ofer explains there’s a scarcity hot button in our brain (also read Influence by Cialdini).
And your pitch should make that button itch by putting some time pressure on the deal.

6. Eradicate Neediness

I was surprised to see Ofer introduce Taoism here, but it does fit very well.

Basically he says that neediness is a huge deal killer.

The more you can reach a mindset that you want nothing from others, the easier business deals will get.

pitch anything book cover

Real Life Applications

Don’t let them solve the puzzle!
When you’re pitching don’t make your product too simple too grasp too soon or they will lose attention. Keep something that will keep them on edge through the whole presentation.

Pitch to the lizard brain
Don’t unload all the numbers right away: structure your pitch to appeal to emotions.

Don’t get skewered!
Don’t let them drill you down on the details and financials or they get all the power. Remember your frame: you’re there to assess them.

CON

Too hung up on being the one with power

If you’ve been too needy or accommodating all your life, you need to focus on power dynamics.

But at the same time, unless you have become very good at it, people who appear to hung up on power come across as dickheads.

“Pitch Anything” sometimes feels it’s too much about power struggles.

And while that is very important, you should also learn to influence and persuade when you’re not the most powerful person in the room (and you don’t always need to be to get that money).

Review

In “Pitch Anything” Ofer mixes psychology, a good Machiavellian understanding of social dynamics and a long experience in deal negotiation.

In my opinion this method might come across as too hellbent in “getting the power”.
On this website, we would say that “it’s power taking” and “no power-protecting enough”. In simpler words, that can piss people off and harm you.

However, there is also plenty of gold if you know how to use this information more smoothly.
I see a lot of overlap between Pitch Anything and this website.

So, overall, I enjoyed “Pitch Anything” and I couldn’t recommend it more.

Read more summaries or get the book on Amazon

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