Book Notes: Pitch Anything

Thursday March 16, 2017

Pitch Anything is a highly entertaining, and based on the anecdotes from this book, highly effective, sales book.

The methods described are evocative of pick-up artist book "The Game" and might not sit well with everyone. People should learn the sales style that works most effectively for themselves.

These notes are part original and part passages from the book.

Core Idea

The core idea in the book is that everything gets filtered through the limbic system (aka "croc" brain). If you give a logical pitch, you're fighting the filtering and boredom mechanisms of the croc brain the entire way. Give a successful emotional pitch, and it'll be pulling and supporting you through the logical diligence of the deal that necessarily comes later.

The better you are at keeping someone’s attention, the more likely that person will be to go for your idea.


I wanted my pitch to get through, I needed to be able to translate al the complex ideas coming out of my neocortex and present them in a way that the crocodile brain of the person I was pitching could easily accept and pay attention to. The "croc brain" is constantly filtering. Can I ignore this? Does this idea or person pose danger? Fight/run. Is this too complicated? Either lose attention, or radically summarize & likely losing the desired message in the process.

A great pitch is not about procedure. It’s about getting and keeping attention. And that means you have to own the room with frame control, drive emotions with intrigue pings, and get to a hookpoint fairly quickly.

The Method

The best pitches follow this sequence:

  1. Setting the Frame
  2. Seize high social status
  3. Telling the story
  4. Revealing intrigue
  5. Offering the prize
  6. Getting a decision (Hot framing)


Start off by considering the tone, the environment, the desires of the audience.

For example:

First, I had to hit the right tone. In fact, this would be a formal affair. Jeffries had been dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for several years. That experience surely would have set the “fun-dial” to low—these guys wouldn’t be used to free-wheeling humor and high energy.


When frames come together, the first thing they do is collide. And this isn’t a friendly competition—it’s a death match. Frames don’t merge. They don’t blend. And they don’t intermingle. They collide, and the stronger frame absorbs the weaker.

A frame is a thesis or keystone point to your argument. We classify them in an ontology here, but the frame itself is a (or the) key point of your argument.

Choosing your frame is the critical first step to the pitch. For example, if I know the person I’m meeting is a hard-charging, type-A personality, I wil go in with a power-busting frame. If that person is an analytical, dollars-and-cents type, I will choose an intrigue frame. If I’m outnumbered and outgunned and the deck is stacked against me, time frames and prize frames are essential.

You must also take care not to abuse the power you hold with frame mastery. The frame master, which is what you wil be when you get good at this, knows that dominating the frame is not how you win the game but rather a means to win the game. No one likes to be dominated, so once you own the frame, use this power in ways that are fun and mutually exciting. Moreover, give power to others so that they socially support your new frame.

Power Frame

Hard-charging, type-A personality/frame. Best response is power-busting frame: perpetrate a small denial, or act out some type of defiance.

Observing power rituals in business situations—such as acting deferential, engaging in meaningless smal talk, or letting yourself be told what to do—reinforces the alpha status of your target and confirms your subordinate position. Do not do this!

For example:

TARGET: “Thanks for coming over. I only have 15 minutes this afternoon.”

YOU: “That’s okay, I only have 12.”

You smile. But you are serious, too. With this simple remark, you have just snatched the power frame away from your target. This can easily become a frame game. I’ve had meetings get cut down to just two minutes this way. They will say, you only have 12 minutes? I forgot, I only have 8.

Keep it fun, do it with a grin on your face, and the moment the power shifts to you, move the meeting forward in the direction you want.

For example:

When I said, “We expect revenues to be $10 million next year,” he cut me off and changed the frame with, “Who cares about your made-up revenue projections. Tel me what your expenses are going to be.” A minute later, I was explaining, “Our secret sauce is such-and-such advanced technology.” And he said, “No, that’s not a secret sauce. That’s just ketchup.” I knew not to react to these comments. I pressed on.

For (negative) example:

“My pitch is totally bulletproof, I have nerves of steel, and I’m bringing my A-game,” he had said while we were waiting in Belzberg’s lobby. His confidence was inspiring.

He waved his arm at Tom, motioning him to get started. Tom looked at me, and I nodded the go-ahead. Belzberg remained standing and almost immediately cut Tom off, “Look, I only want to know two things from you. What are monthly expenses, and how much are you paying yourself?” Not what Tom wanted to hear. He had a different pitch planned, and now he was looking foolish, searching his bag to find expense charts. Where were the confidence and nerves of hardened titanium? He dropped his papers and stuttered a bit. He was lost.

Time Frame

When attention is lacking, set your own time constraint, and bounce out of there: “Hey, looks like time’s up. I’ve got to wrap this up and get to my next meeting.” If they are interested in you, they will agree to a follow-up.

For example:

Salesperson visits a client for a scheduled half hour meeting, and is late to meet after salesperson waiting in lobby for 10 minutes.

CUSTOMER: “Hi, yes, um, well, I only have about 10 minutes to meet with you, but come on in.”

SALESPERSON: “I really appreciate your time. Thanks for fitting me into your busy schedule.” This is a common dialogue and form of business etiquette— and it is exactly the wrong thing to do. You are reinforcing your target’s power over you and confirming your target’s higher status.

You are essentially handing your target your frame and saying, “Here, please, crush my frame, control me, and waste my time.” When you encounter a time frame like this, quickly break it with a stronger prize frame of your own. Qualify your target on the spot.

YOU: “No. I don’t work like that. There’s no sense in rescheduling unless we like each other and trust each other. I need to know, are you good to work with, can you keep appointments, and stick to a schedule?”

YOUR TARGET: “Okay, you’re right about that. Yeah, sure I can. Let’s do this now. I have 30 minutes. That’s no problem. Come on in.”

In this scenario, response was moral authority frame.

Analyst Frame

Next came the moment of first contact. It’s that moment when two opposing frames are about to collide with full force. You can feel it—usually as a pang of anxiety in the pit of your stomach. It is at this moment when you need to strengthen your resolve and commit completely to your frame. No matter what happens, no matter how much social pressure and discomfort you suffer, you must stay composed and stick to your frame. This is called plowing. So you prepare yourself to plow, as an ox might plow a field. Always moving forward. Never stopping. Never any self-doubt. And, as you are about to see, when two frames collide, the stronger one always wins.

The niceties didn’t last long. I spoke plainly and looked Jim right in the eyes. “We want Dennis’s $640,000, and we are getting all of it back from you, today, right now.” He hemmed and hawed. He threw out a bunch of promises, half-truths, and MBA double talk. But I saw through the jibberish. And I had the stronger frame: moral authority. I plowed. “Look,” I said. “Your lips are moving, but I’m not listening to a single word. Your words have no meaning. Stop talking. Start transferring money.”

Frame disruption I pulled out my phone and dialed a colleague, Sam Greenberg. I put him on speaker and discussed the logistics of getting the FBI involved. Dramatic? Yes. But Jim McGhan knew at that moment we were 100 percent committed to following through. I was activating the primal fears in his croc brain. As soon as he became afraid, my frame would crush his, and he would bend to my will.

Prize Frame

Can be used as catch-all.

  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.

To solidify the prize frame, you make the buyer qualify himself to you. “Can you tell me more about yourself? I’m picky about who I work with.” At a primal, croc brain level, you have just issued a challenge: Why do I want to do business with you?

Sound outrageous? It’s not, I promise you. When you rotate the circle of social power 180 degrees, it changes everything. The predator becomes the prey. In this instance, what your target is feeling is a kind of moral shame—they have wronged you—and they feel obligated to make things right.

What follows might sound like advice from the positive-mental-attitude crowd, but it’s an important part of the learning: The prize frame works best when you change your attitude about money—fully realizing that money is almost useless to any buyer/investor until it purchases what you have. Oh sure, the investor’s money can earn a few bucks in Treasury bills or corporate bonds. But that’s not what money wants to do. It wants to go to work by investing in deals and buying products. How does this work in the real world? This can seem a little abstract until you fully internalize the following fact: Money cannot do anything without you. The money needs you.

If I didn’t have the nerve to withdraw at the right time, then I would just end up chasing the deal—and therefore losing it.

Forget always be closing. Always be leaving.

Moral Authority Frame

Think of a cop, think of mother theresa. Think of respect for being late to a meeting. Example also in analyst frame section.

Intrigue Frame

An intrigue story is brief, subject relevant to pitch, you are at center of story, there should be risk danger uncertainty, there should be time pressure, there should be tension, there should be serious consequences.

Intrigue frame is a great breaker for the analyst frame.


Status can be global or can be local. Take the maitre d' of a restaurant. Maitre d' is the highest status, despite guests all being high-powered execs, etc.

As the wine was poured around the table, one of my guests smelled her wine and asked, “Is this a Bordeaux?” Benoit stood tall, placed a hand on her shoulder, and said, “Madame clearly knows French wine. This Bordeaux is from a small terroir that most people mistake for Languedoc. Your palate is very sophisticated.” This comment absolutely melted her, and her eyes were sparkling with emotional pyrotechnics. The table was smiling, and again, I was ignored.

When you take the high-status position in a social interaction, you feel it, and it is also felt by your audience. Do not underestimate the importance and value of status to your overall success.

Beta Traps

Small talk, pitching in public spaces, the office formalities of waiting for the appointment (after its running late)

Creating situational Status, Creating local star power

If you are meeting in the target’s domain—their office or at an off-site location—you must neutralize the person holding high status, temporarily capture his star power, and redistribute some of his status to others in the room who will support your frame.

To summarize an anecdote, Klaff disrupts the power frame of a Big Fish who is languidly eating an apple by (artfully) taking apple that he's eating, cutting it in half, and explaining, "that's how my deals are done."

A well-chosen, well-timed friendly but disruptive act wil dethrone the king in a single stroke. In that brief, shocking moment when no one is quite sure what you’ve just done, that is when your frame takes over and when high status transfers to you.

To keep my frame strong, after the apple thing, I just ignored anything that didn’t advance the pitch. This is an important lesson. In general, just ignore conversation threads that don’t support your deal, and magnify ones that do. I kept talking about the deal.

Introducing the Big Idea

Introduce Yourself

Following this formula, the very first thing you need to do—even before you think about explaining your idea—is to give people your background.

Research has shown that your impression of someone is generally based on the average of the available information about them, not the sum. So telling people one great thing about yourself wil leave them with a better impression of you than telling than one great thing and one pretty good one. And it gets worse if you tell them one great thing, one pretty good thing, and two mediocre things. Stop with one great thing.


Nobody wants to invest time or money into an old deal that has been sitting around. This is why you need to introduce a “Why now?” frame.

Three Market Forces

Classic, effective why now frame is to use three market forces.

Economic forces: e.g. customers beocoming wealthier, credit more available

Social forces: e.g. changes in peoples' behavior patterns

Technology forces: e.g. technology breakthroughs, or becoming cheaper

Explain how these trends have briefly opened a market opportunity, and we need to act fast to take it.

Introducing the Idea

This idea introduction pattern goes like this:

“For [target customers]

Who are dissatstifed with [the current offerings in the market].

My product is a [new idea or product category]

That provides [key problem/solution features].

Unlike [the competing product].

My product is [describe key features].”

Getting the Decision (Frame Stacking & Hot Cognition)

Deciding that you like something before you fully understand it—that’s a hot cognition. Create hot cognition by stacking frames.

Stack up frames in rapid succession to create a hookpoint.

  1. Intrigue frame
  2. Prize frame
  3. Time frame
  4. Moral authority frame

For example:

Once I started talking to the trader, I realized that he wasn’t selling me in the traditional ways. “Oren, once we get through this deal, and we know you can close deals, I’m going to introduce you to our senior trader, John Kincaid,” the seller told me. “He’s a wildman, just like you. It’s going to be a total love connection, and he’l get you into the big deals that don’t come to my desk.”

This was hot cognition 1— intrigue. I wanted to meet the senior trader and get introduced to these bigger deals.

The bank trader continued: “You know the market is on fire right now, and I have the French, English, and South Africans begging me for this package, but if you work hard and don’t play any funny retrade games, you can earn your way in.” It was true, the market was hot, and those were all players.

This was hot cognition 2—prizing. Although I was the buyer, he was asking me to prove myself. I wanted to impress him so that I could earn my way into the deal.

He continued: “I’d love to give you until next week, but this market is not letting me, and you have to make up your mind by Friday.” He said, “I’m totally okay with a ‘No’; there’s no pressure. But Friday is D-day.”

This was hot cognition 3— time frame. He gave me just enough time that I felt I had free will. This wasn’t time pressure, just a reasonable time constraint. In the end, the decision was mine to make.

He continued: “And I don’t need to tell you, we’ve done $150 billion in trades this year without a single SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] sanction; right now we’re very particular about our reputation and counterparties. We do things right over here, so no games, no missing wire numbers, just clean paper. We give you a fair price, and that’s the deal. Can you play by the rules?”

This was hot cognition 4— moral authority. I assured him that even though my company was small, just a $250 million blip on the outskirts of San Diego, I knew the rules and could do things right.

From the beginning, I never felt like he was selling me. My normal deal-making processes were disrupted by this four-frame stack. The Wall Street trader ran this stack on me perfectly: I was intrigued, I was trying to impress him so I could have a chance to buy the deal,


Neediness is the #1 deal killer.

Neediness comes when:

  1. We need what only target can give us (money, etc.)
  2. We need cooperation and can't get it. Target is hit by distractions (calls, emails, etc.)
  3. We believe the audience can make us feel good by saying yes
  4. When target seems uninterested in our pitch

Eliminating Neediness

Always come prepared with strong time frame: you are needed somewhere else.

The broad formula is to 1. eliminate your desires, 2. focus on what you do well, and 3. withdraw (at crucial moment, when they expect push, you pull away).

NB: This post is a mix of summarization and direct passages from the author.

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