Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff
2020, book 3: “The human brain is unable to be coldly analytical and warmly engaged in a narrative at the same time.” — Oren Klaff
Finished on January 6, 2020
My all-time favorite book without question. This was one of the first audiobooks that I ever listened to and I honestly don’t even recall how I came across it — maybe it was suggested based off of my listening history. This book contributes greatly to my core philosophy of communication. I learned so much about the different ways that people express themselves through communication and also the different ways that people interpret various communication.
The basis of the whole book. People cannot effectively communicate on a consistent basis, especially in crucial moments. I always want to do everything possible to ensure that what I’m striving to communicate with others is properly communicated and expressed.
The method in 76 words: There’s a fundamental disconnect between the way we pitch anything and the way it is received by our audience. As a result, at the crucial moment when it is most important that we are convincing, 9 out of 10 times we are not. Our most important messages have a surprisingly low chance of getting through. You need to understand why this disconnect occurs in order to overcome it, succeed, and certainly profit.
Essential to understand. Before this book, I wasn’t aware of the way that the mind thinks. Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a book that I will certainly need to revisit now after being reminded of the structure of our brains.
The development of the brain:
1. Old brain — crocodile (croc) brain: responsible for initial filtering of all incoming messages. Generates most survival fight or flight responses and produces strong basic emotions. There isn’t much reasoning power.
2. Midbrain: determines the meaning of things in social situations.
3. Neocortex: has a problem solving ability and is able to think about complex issues and produce answers using reason.
As I become more and more aware of the way that our brain works, I find my brain doing these things often. I often pass things on or stop paying attention when people are communicating grand ideas. Too often, I just don’t find them exciting or new, so why listen? There is no need for the neocortex to problem solve or focus heavily on some of those things, or is there? That depends. Often, I’d say that we should re-center ourselves and re-classify different things because we value the person speaking to us.
The croc brain has a very shortsighted view of the world. The croc brain’s filtering: anything that is not a crisis it tries to mark as spam.
1. If these ideas are not dangerous, ignore it.
2. If these ideas are not new and exciting, ignore it.
3. If it is new, summarize it as quickly as possible and forget about the details.
4. Do not send anything up to the neocortex for problem solving unless you have a situation that is really unexpected and totally out of the ordinary.
As the author emphasizes, we need each and every one of these 6 steps. We must continue to build and build and build and then attack when the time and position is right. I find people rushing to be understood but that’s not how it works; that’s not how our brains work.
Establish the frame, put your idea into an easily understood context, seize high social status and then create messages that are full of positive intrigue and novelty.
Set the frame
Tell the story
Reveal the intrigue
Offer the prize
Nail the hook point
Get the deal
If you have to explain… and I can just leave it at that. You shouldn’t have to tell people or try to emphasize your authority. If you need to do that, the author says that you should know you are already in the beta position and do NOT have the stronger frame. Period. No way around that, it’s just another thing we need to be acutely aware of in our communications.
The lesson of the cop frame is an essential one. If you have to explain your authority, your power, your position, leverage, and advantage, you do NOT hold the stronger frame. Rational appeals to go higher order logical thinking never win frame collisions or gain frame control.
They freeze out the neocortex. That’s important to understand. If each time that there is a frame collision, decisions are made with the crocodile brain, what happens? We won’t be processing things fully and we might not make the proper decision — but we can use this to our advantage.
Frame collisions are primal and freeze out the neocortex and force you to make decisions with the crocodile brain in interactions.
The author goes shares a LOT of detail about what each of these frames truly encompass and the ways to decrease their influence and control. The time frame is probably the easiest one to use, I see my current boss at the office using this one often. Each meeting that we walk into, he establishes a hard stop time because he has somewhere to be. He also makes use of the power frame through the way that he manages the office. People do not interrupt him in his office and rather meet with him at his discretion and when he permits. The analyst frame is also one that he normally uses, especially when people are presenting new things to him. He goes full analyst frame and focuses solely on the numbers and data.
Understanding what we can do in our interactions to win the initial frame collision and control the agenda is what is most important. We absolutely NEED to know what we can do to regain the control that we continuously strive to maintain.
3 major opposing frames you will encounter:
1. Power frame
2. Time frame
3. Analyst frame
4 major response frame types to meet the oncoming frames, win the initial collision and control the agenda:
1. Power busting frame
2. Time constraint frame
3. Intrigue frame
4. Prize frame
The author shared a time when he was pitching someone in a small conference room. One of the people in the room, the decision maker, began doodling on their notepad. What Oren did to regain control was he snatched the drawing, complimented it, and asked how much the person would pay for it. That was a small defying act that regained control. Oren was very clear to emphasize that the act must be mildly shocking but NOT unfriendly. We must maintain a respectful environment and create local star power for ourselves.
Power frame: Pride, arrogance, lack of interest. Status derived from status and respect others give them. “Big shots” When encountering someone, you must be prepared for the frame collusion to happen. In any meeting, let the person dominate you on the price of something trivial like a hand drawing.
To instigate a power frame collision, use a mildly shocking but not unfriendly act to cause it; use defiance and slight humor. Local star power.
Immediately look to:
1. Perpetrate a small denial
2. Act out some type of defiance
Save the rest. Love it. Recently, I had a presentation in an MBA course. I had two other people in the group and we anticipated presenting for about 30 minutes — we had 10 minutes. I cut out a LOT of the background that I was going to focus on and we even cut out the discussion and saved it for the next class. We maintained control of the room and generated high praise from all members of the class.
Time-based frames, when you are reacting to the other person, they have the time frame. When you see attention waning, vocally wrap it up, don’t wait for others to give body language or say it is time to wrap it up, save the rest for next time. Establish that your time is important.
I love this. I still need to develop exactly what a great intrigue frame would be for myself. Maybe I could use the example of nearly missing a flight to San Francisco where I was helping to put on an event that would have nearly $50 billion AUM (assets under management) present. That would probably work well, I could preface it by sharing all of the hard work that we put in and then share how my boss asked where I was 45 minutes before boarding. I told him I was in Hollywood, FL at a friend’s house because that friend was driving me to the airport. I’d use that. Leave it there. Save the outcome for later — which is the key — and get back to the pitch that I was undertaking.
To disrupt the analyst frame, which focuses solely on the hard data and lacks emotion and connection, use the intrigue frame. The human brain is unable to be coldly analytical and warmly engaged in a narrative at the same time. When your target drills down into technical material, use the intrigue frame by telling a brief but relevant story about you. NEEDS to be prepared in advance and is taken to every meeting. Since all croc brains are fairly similar, you will not need more than one story. The intrigue it will contain will have the same effect on every audience. People will pause and look up because you’re sharing something personal. Tell ONLY part of the provocative story. This is the BEST way to knock someone out of the analyst frame and disrupt your target: anger and extreme surprise are the two ways but in most social situations, the intrigue frame does it better and faster.
Construct, create, polish, practice, practice, and practice. Oren stresses that we can use the same intrigue story in many situations and NEED to have it prepared beforehand. It should flow out naturally and have all 6 of these parts, we need to get past the croc brain to regain the center of attention. Oren’s example has to do with flying in a private jet and narrowly avoiding a collision with another plane. He ends the story with a second nosedive.
A strong intrigue story:
1. Brief, subject relevant to the pitch.
2. You need to be at the center of the story.
3. Risk, danger, and uncertainty.
4. Time pressure, clock is ticking somewhere and there are consequences if action is not taken quickly.
5. Tension, trying to do something but you are being blocked by some force.
6. Serious consequences, failure will NOT be pretty.
There is no emotion, no curiosity, no jokes. It’s basically, show me it works, prove that it works, and prove it again and again and again.
The analyst frame filters a frame or offer like this:
1. It focuses on hard facts only
2. It says that the aesthetic of creative features have no value.
3. It requires that everything must be supported by a number or statistic.
4. It holds that ideas and human relationships have no value.
Oren shares an example of a time that he strolls directly past the visitor’s desk and directly to the office of the person that he is meeting. He shared a later example of when he was in a similar situation and was preparing for the pitch which was the case example in the book. After checking in with the receptionist and told he could sit in the lobby, he stayed standing. If we allow the office that we are visiting to exert their influence and power frame over us BEFORE we even see the person that we are meeting with, we will not be able to be effective in the slightest.
Establishing the prize frame is the very first thing you need to do when you are on somebody else’s turf.
Read. Learn. Understand. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. I just spoke about the first one and the second is very similar to it. No matter who the person is on the outside, focus on star power. I think that a great complementary resource to this section about elevating status is Robert Greene’s book The 48 Laws of Power.
Steps to elevate your status in any situation:
1. Politely ignore power rituals and avoid beta traps.
2. Be unaffected by your customer’s global status — meaning their status inside and outside the business environment.
3. Look for opportunities to perpetrate small denials and defiances that strengthen your frame and elevate your status.
4. As soon as you start to gain power, quickly move the discussion to an area where you are the domain expert where your knowledge and information are really unassailable by your audience.
5. Apply the prize frame by positioning yourself as the reward for the decision to do business with you.
6. Confirm your alpha status by leading your customer to make a statement about you that qualifies YOUR higher status. One of the best ways to do this is to get your customer in a lighthearted way. This shows that you’re still in control and reminds the customer that they’re in a subordinate position to you. Something like, “Hey remind me again why in the world I’d want to do business with you.” Continue asking qualifying questions.
Frame stacking is simply using one frame after another for greater influence and control of the room. Here is the order that Oren teaches us to stack frames in, intrigue first and last, moral authority. This is particularly impactful and valuable when in a group setting where there are various people jockeying for position.
Moral authority frame
We NEED to know this. The need for evaluation takes time and decreases the likelihood that we reach a decision. Hot cognition is deciding based on a feeling and if we are able to spur the other party to do this, we are much more likely to achieve our desired outcome.
Hot cognition is knowing something is good and feeling it.
Cold cognition is knowing if something is good or bad and needing to evaluate it.
As I shared just above, this is the order for frame stacking that Oren teaches and here is why:
Frame stacking with hot cognitions:
Intrigue frame works best when you put a man in the jungle, have beasts attack him, and withhold the resolution. It’s not a narrative about an event but about a character.
Prize frame needs validation. We must show that there is great possibility but even while we’re offering something we should express that we need to know why we should work with them — and other members of our team also need to know this.
Time frame is necessary. When the train leaves the station, the train must leave. Nobody likes time constraint but the deal is happening regardless of who it’s with, everyone will understand that.
Moral authority frame displays what is right and offers a way for the other party to join in.
Push pull push pull push pull. We need to show our control and we need to continue to switch it up so that the other parties are required to be active throughout the entire thing. I’m practicing this more and more and more. I see incredible value in all 3 things but am most wary of the second; depending on the context, showing that we are extremely could at something could put us in a dangerous situation.
Even if you need something, displaying neediness is a weakness, when you finish your pitch, deny your audience and start pulling away:
1. Eliminate desires.
2. Be excellent in the presence of others, show people one thing you’re very good at.
3. Withdraw, in that crucial moment when people expect you to come you after them, pull away
And stifle the urge to seek approval from your audience.
Love this. Need this. Do this. We need to do this. We are the prize. As Grant Cardone has said, “it’s unethical if I don’t want everyone to have my product or service.”
Push/pull in action:
Push by saying the organization is big and too methodical while he will be operating in an entrepreneurial and bold way.
Pull by saying that if it does work out then they could create something great together.
Essential. And I’ve read some great books about each of these areas. Be Obsessed or Be Average by Grant Cardone. Popular by Mitch Prinstein, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, and The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.
3 measures of status:
Wealth, popularity, and power.
I gave this book a 4.5/5 on January 6, 2020
I gave this book a 4/5 on September 28, 2017
I gave this book a 5/5 on June 25, 2018
Join my weekly newsletter to see all of my writing here.