I find that my ADHD sticks with audiobooks a lot better — after all, I can let the book be my distraction while mowing, doing the dishes, working out, or whatever.
But sometimes a book is so good — in one dimension or another — that I plunk down the extra investment to pick it up in multiple media.
So my copy of Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff just showed up.
And with hardcover in hand, I started listening for the third time. Because now I could go through, highlight and dog-ear, and create a quick reference for future use.
So yesterday I was listening around the middle of the book, and author Oren Klaff goes off on how you need to be able to make your pitch within 20 minutes.
Most people, he insists, spend a full hour in the pitch. They’ll spend another 30 minutes in Q&A. 90 minutes in, and their prospect needs a nap.
But by focusing on the right things, and ONLY the right things, you should be able to complete your pitch in 20 minutes, have another 20 to wrap up, and be out of the room with at least a tentative agreement in under an hour.
Now I’m NOT 100% sold on the short-pitch idea.
After all, some of my most profitable copy, raking in millions in sales, has been 10,000-plus-words long. Roughly an hour at an average reading speed of 3 words per second, according to this script timer tool I have bookmarked.
In fact, one promo I wrote clocked in at over 12,000 words, and the client had to save the VSL at 1.1X speed to keep the time right around an hour. (I like this subtle pacing trick.)
Another huge campaign I wrote for a client had somewhere shy of 10,000 words — but you only got to see that copy AFTER you watched a 90-minute informational video.
And yet, there’s an appeal to keeping it tight.
As Klaff emphasizes, our brains aren’t wired to sustain attention. All sorts of research suggests that much beyond 20 minutes, and our attention will drift dramatically. His pitching style is meant to avoid that cliff, rather than trying to fly above it.
Plus, the challenge of keeping it tight will likely make the pitch better. Because you’re forced to eliminate the irrelevant. You keep only the best.
That said, I wanted to pull out this specific outline for you, because I find it compelling and mostly spot-on. I’ll also share afterward how you might integrate it into writing longer copy.
The 20-minute pitch formula, from Oren Klaff’s Pitch Anything…
Phase 1: Introduce yourself and the big idea (5 minutes)…
I’m going to shortcut the explanation. Because you’re going to buy the book, right? That said, I want to share some of the unique ways Klaff approaches this.
First is the bio bit. He cites research saying we automatically average biographical info. So if you tell your WHOLE history, people will probably think you’re pretty average. But if you share your one or two biggest relevant wins, people will associate you with those big wins.
Second is the framing for why your pitch is relevant now. Klaff comes from the entrepreneurial investment world (venture and other private capital). So this is relevant to business ideas especially. But I promise it can be translated, almost no matter what you pitch. His “Why now?” frame is in three parts. Specifically, what’s changed in the economy, society, and technology to create perfect timing.
And third, he recommends using Venture Capitalist Geoff Moore’s idea introduction pattern. “For [target customers] who are dissatisfied with [the current offerings in the market]. My idea/product is a [new idea or product category] that provides [key problem/solution features]. Unlike [the competing product]. My idea/product is [describe key features].”
Most great copy will actually flip this. And speak directly to the customer. So it’s big idea, why now, and then who I am to make these claims. But the idea is sound.
In copy, three words per minute says you should be through this in under 900 words.
Phase 2: Explain the budget and secret sauce (10 minutes)…
Here we’ll diverge a little from Klaff. His goal is to sell companies to investors. So “prove it” is where you actually lay out your competitive advantages, unique selling proposition, and all the numbers behind your big idea.
But more generally, this is where you need to prove your big idea. What makes it unique? What makes this something they haven’t seen before? Why is it so compelling.
… And, importantly, back it up. Why the heck should I believe you? What do you have to prove and add credibility to your claims?
There’s all kinds of detail that you can throw at this. Over my career I’ve identified 28 different types of proof, credibility, and believability elements.
What it all comes down to is this. Your big idea should pique their interest. It should get their juices going. It should, in the parlance of Klaff’s book, get the croc brain stimulated. But then you need to convince the human brain, the neocortex. So without dropping the ball and slipping into the boring, you need to justify that you can do everything you’ve promised in the big idea.
Oh yeah, and you should do this within about 1,800 words.
Done right, this takes the prospect naturally to the point where they say, “How can I get in on this?”
Phase 3: Offer the deal (2 minutes)…
Next up, you lay out the fundamental offer. There’s not a lot to this. You simply tell them what they give and what they get.
My recommendation is to use the unique selling proposition, tie it to the big idea, and show your product or service as the deliverable or mechanism of fulfillment.
And you should do it in about 360 words.
Now, you need to get them to take action…
Phase 4: Stack frames for a hot cognition (3 minutes)…
The biggest area where I think this book provides value and I can’t do it justice is framing. I get its message. I could talk about it. But there’s an X-factor to learning through Klaff’s stories that you must get the book to understand.
That said, framing is all about setting the psycho-social context in which your prospect is experiencing your pitch. Putting a “frame” around the decision making.
“Hot cognition” here refers to emotional decision-making. As opposed to “cold” and calculated decision making. Klaff does make the point that his deals have to hold up to cold analytical scrutiny. But in making the pitch, he needs emotion on his side or he wouldn’t close anywhere near the deals he does.
So “stacking frames” means putting multiple layers of context around getting them to take action, and making it “hot” means those are meant to evoke an emotional response.
Sounds heady and very calculated — and it is. But done right, it achieves the phenomenon Marty Edelston of Boardroom referred to when he said great copy makes you VIBRATE.
Specifically, Klaff recommends a four-part frame stack. First, an intrigue frame, using a compelling and relevant story (without a conclusion) to grab their attention. Then a prize frame, to position YOU as the prize they’re going after. Then, a time frame that points to legitimate urgency around the deal. And finally, the moral authority frame, where you force them to justify their own worthiness to take advantage of the deal.
Again, this is all ultra-quick. You have 540 words to pull this off.
Done right, you just sealed the deal in 20 minutes…
It’s not that a multi-million dollar deal will actually get signed for the moment you’re done with the pitch.
But you’ve heard the assertion that decisions are made with emotion, justified with logic, right?
Well, if you pull this pitch off, you’ve just tipped the scales of emotion in your favor. And any further selling you’ll do will be based on making sure your prospects have the details they need to make an informed decision.
If you’ve put the copy on the page, you probably put the first call-to-action at the point where you introduced the deal.
If it was a video script, that’s when you put the button on the page.
You can give them the opportunity to respond as quickly as the decision is made.
Then, you can flesh out the offer, the deliverables, answer any pressing questions, or add any supporting points that will move fence-sitters toward taking action.
In an in-person pitch, this will be when you’re answering additional questions, letting them look through your pitch book, and providing any relevant details.
And in complex sales, they may take materials home, and come back to you with the decision later.
In any case, what happens AFTER that first pitch is only them asking one important question: “Will I regret making this buying decision?” If they’re still with you, that’s the question they’re asking themselves — usually subconsciously. If they’re not interested, they bailed already.
I don’t believe in any system as the “end-all, be-all.” But Klaff’s Pitch Anything is clearly a good one. And inside the book there are a few powerful templated approaches to implementing the principles and strategies the system is based on.
I don’t say this often, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t drop everything and get this book, if you haven’t already.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,