People are pitching all the time. We communicate persuasively with others in order to have them behave in a way we would like. It might be a sales pitch, or trying to convince someone at the bar to go on a date. Whatever the circumstance, good pitching is an art form.
If you don’t have your target’s attention because they’re distracted, don’t care, feel threatened or whatever then your pitch isn’t going to work. It also doesn’t matter how pretty or effective or powerful or well priced your offer if the other person doesn’t want it. So how are we going to get their attention right from the start?
Venture capitalist and influence researcher Oren Klaff says that the most important thing about winning interactions is owning the frame of the conversation. (Klaff, 2011). A frame, according to forensic linguist John Olsson, is “part of how humans think… [it] contains the elements of a typical interaction between people.” (Olsson, 2012). The frame sets things up so that all the expectations flow naturally. For example when entering a store you enter a retail frame you will expect a certain flow of experience that’s quite different to entering a bank or a burger store.
Control the frame and you control the interaction, lose control of the frame and you will never pitch yourself. According to Klaff there are four forms of frame:
Politely ignore power rituals (feet on desk, keeping you waiting) and avoid being put in second place behind others (sitting in a smaller chair). Use gentle defiance and light humour and your target will be pleasantly challenged.
No one takes a meeting to hear what they already know. Be intriguing and different, unique and stand out from the run of other people. Play the moral high ground if you dare – a CEO directs the company, but sits where they are told by a waiter. Find a topic where you’re in charge.
When setting up the meeting limit your own availability and don’t be pushed around by their lack of availability. Take a breath because this might mean you get bumped. Say, “I’m glad I took the time to come and meet with you,” instead of grovelling about what a pleasure it is to meet them.
If you are trying to win their time, attention or money… they are the prize. If you are the prize, then they will pitch you. Push away from them with, “We might not be right for each other” then pull them back with, “If this did work out our combined strengths could be potent.
Klaff, O. “Pitch Anything,” 2011, chapter 2: Frame control, pp. 19-23
Olsson, J. “Word Crime.” 2012, pp. 29-30