Pitch Anything is a fascinating book. It’s about how to pitch, but much of it is about everything around the pitch – prospects who keep you waiting, decision makers who leave early, or even executives who sit drawing pictures while you are talking to them.
Oren Klaff talks about the power dynamics of pitching – status, framing, neediness – and how to manage them effectively. Pitch Anything talks about stuff other books on pitch presentations neglect to mention.
What do you do when a prospect tells you they have exactly an hour for your meeting, and then turns up fifteen minutes late? Do you tell them you only have 30 minutes? What do you do when your prospect is noisily eating an apple? Do you take it, cut half off, and hand the rest back? No, I thought not. But that’s how Oren suggests you use frame control to avoid being placed into a less powerful (‘beta’) role. There are other tricks too – asking your prospect to justify why they should be chosen to work with you is just one.
In Klaff’s technique the actual pitch presentation breaks down as follows:
Introduce yourself and the big idea: 5 minutes
Explain the budget and secret sauce: 10 minutes
Offer the deal: 2 minutes
Stack frames for hot cognition: 3 minutes.
20 minute pitch? Great. Introducing the big idea and what makes it important now? Great. The bit in the presentation opening about yourself, as an individual? Maybe not in most industries. USPs? Great, although the exact formulation that Klaff suggests is probably best suited to launches (‘for [target customers] who are dissatisfied with […] my idea/product is a new […] that provides […] unlike [the competing product]’).
Hot cognition – intrigue, prizing (asking the buyer to earn their way in to the deal), and setting time frame for a sense of urgency all make sense – if done well. It would no doubt seem pretty sleazy if done without proper care – but Klaff is well aware of that. The basic insight – that sales presentations and pitches need to harness emotion to generate a decision, an action, is of course correct. Rational argument may get you there eventually – and it’s needed – but people don’t act without some sort of volition.
Pitch Anything certainly isn’t a book about PowerPoint (if you were wondering). It’s not about slides. The only real mention of visual aids is of large printed boards (that ‘remain [visible in the pitch room], adding a certain concrete feeling of reality to the whole pitch’.) But it does deal with how to frame a pitch. What to say during the pitch – but most importantly how to ensure the conditions are conducive to success before you even start to talk. If you’re interested in the best ways to create presentation outlines you can also check out this blog post.
Pitch Anything is written about finance and investment. Deals are different in this field – the sales person may be better able to ask potential investors to talk about what they bring to the table (think Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank). This sort of approach wouldn’t work if you were selling cloud-based software, where the buyer knows you want the sale as the marginal cost of providing the service is close to zero. Advice about starting a pitch presentation by talking about what you – as an individual – have done may not translate into other fields either. If you are selling cloud-based software (for example) the buyer probably doesn’t care that you as an individual sales person have an MBA from Wharton. So, ironically, Pitch Anything may be the wrong title. Maybe Pitch Any Investment Deal would have been nearer to the mark.
Business books seem to come in two types. One type tries to talk in plain English, so that anyone can follow. Accessible, useful, but perhaps not sticky. The other type – this type – is full of slightly quirky phrases, a unique lexicon of jargon that eventually rewards the reader but that makes starting in the middle of the book, dipping in-and-out, impossible. ‘Intrigue frame’. ‘Beta’. ‘Frame stacking’. ‘Hot cognition’. ‘Local star power’. It’s oddly compelling – like deciphering a code. Although at times I admit I wondered if I was the butt of some sort of joke. The material in Pitch Anything sounded like it would work – like it had worked. But where did these weird phrases come from? What was the research basis for the recommendations? Does one need Oren Klaff’s charismatic personality to replicate his success? I was left with more questions than answers.
I think Pitch Anything is a good book. A worthwhile read in an area where too many books all say the same thing. An essential read for those pitching to VCs and other potential investors. The only thing I’m left wondering is Why did Oren Klaff write it? Why is the Director of Capital Markets at a private equity house – one that’s raised around $2 billion to invest – writing a book on how to pitch? I’m not complaining, but I am a little puzzled. Don’t private equity deals offer better returns than writing this sort of business book? Why jeopardise those deals by sharing secrets with competitors, for the sake of a bit of publicity as an expert on pitches?
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I teach 5 different sales courses at Weber State University and would like a copy of Pitch Anything to review for possible use in my courses.
My address is
Weber State University
1503 University Cr
Ogden, Utah 84408
Thanks, this could be a great win-win.
Ummm, OK Tim.
I bought mine from Amazon. Or you could try and ask the publisher for one if you like. I wrote a review. But I’m not the publisher.
Stumbled across this post and I think we can send you out a book if you haven’t had a chance to get your hands on it yet. Let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pitch Anything / Pitch Mastery
Marina Towers – North Building
4640 Admiralty Way – 8th floor – Los Angeles, CA 90292
I am half way through the book. I find it very helpful as a framework for working on a pitch. This book covers the social aspect of a pitch I think are missing from most sales books. Thanks Oden for writing the book and Joby for writing the review.
Although I believe this is a great review, it would be helpful to include the many different frames used in pitching; I.e. moral, analyst, prize, power.
Tim Oren mentions why in his interview at London Real. He said he didn’t wan to be a guru but he wanted to help others with this genius knowledge. He’s totally pompous (in a good way) and it was his way of building his own “local star power”.
It’s a great interview if you liked the book.
I haven’t read the book but listed to the audio version of it during long car drives and flights to clients.
I have +10yrs experience in consulting and sales work and I have a passion for sales techniques and methodologies (at least the ones that fit selling complex stuff and big deals).
Oreos method is good, but I have to say I agree with the blogpost that I also had some doubts weather _everything_ can be directly applied to all B2B sales or not. Also I had to admit that I was a bit puzzled that why did he write this book if he has been able to reach such a huge success with this methodology. After all, it’s a bit like the gold digger who just found the biggest gold deposit ever throwing down his spade and walking into nearest town to start up his Gold Digging For Beginners courses business… 🙂
However I also want to say that I truly enjoyed the book and found a lot of the material really useful. I am going to start experimenting some of his methods in my own work.
Lot of organisations hire sales people and just throw them to the field without ever investing into training their sales people in actual sales skills. If the salesmen are lucky they might get a 1-day workshop led by some retired sales director telling them that they need to run faster and close more..
If you are like me and spend a lot of time on the road I suggest you use some of that time to listen to Orens book. It is entertaining for anyone who has ever stood in front of a unknown management team pitching something. Not all in the book can be applied everywhere and I have doubts about some of the science backgound, but there is a lot of good concepts and ideas that most other sales methods skip completely (especially social mechanics and human attention span).