How to Pitch Anything

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Everyone should learn how to pitch. Whether you’re pitching an idea to your boss or trying to get funding for a startup, we’re all selling ideas. At some point you need to convince someone to do something to get things done. There are some universal rules that can help you be more effective and get more of what you want. 

My brother says his ‘lizard brain’ takes over whenever anxious thoughts set in. I’ve never thought much about the term, but have learned that ‘lizard brain’ is the ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain, that has been there since we were cavemen. When you pitch an idea, you need to appeal to someone’s ‘lizard brain’ before they actually use the more evolved part of their brain that analyzes. 

The lizard part of your brain is simple and emotional, so narrow down your starting pitch to be: clear, concise, and show value. You need to hook lizard brain with bait before you can get to the decision making portion of the brain. 

Once you have someone’s attention, you want to keep it throughout your pitch. The latest data shows that in order to do so, you need to create desire and tension. You feel desire when you expect a reward. You feel tension when you fear that you could lose something. 

To create these effects, employ a push-pull strategy. Start by saying something to ‘push’ the target away, like, “We might not be a good match.” Then counter with something like, “but it would be terrific if we were.” Powerful push-pull statements create alertness in your target and keep their attention because they sense they might lose an opportunity. 

When you are in a pitch meeting, you’ll typically find yourself with these three scenarios that work against you. 

  1. Power play – If you are pitching to C-Suite targets, you’re generally interacting with people with high egos. They’re going to naturally want to take charge of the meeting. In this situation don’t validate their power plays; use small acts of defiance to keep their attention. Do things jokingly like pulling back presentation materials from your target if they reach for it before you’re ready to hand them out. 
  2. “Only have 10 minutes” – I get it, we all lead busy lives but we all make time for things that we care about. Next time someone tells you they only have ___ minutes, don’t fret, respond by telling them you only have half that time available for them. Keep them guessing. 
  3. Paralysis by analysis – Another scenario is running into a target that insists on drilling down on minor technical or financial details. Respond to questions in a direct, concise manner, and get right back to your pitch. Remember to hook their lizard brain with emotion before getting into the analysis. It’s human nature to use analysis to validate our decisions and not the way around. 

Most importantly, most audiences will feel like they are doing you a favor by hearing your pitch. Don’t validate that behavior by doing things, like, agreeing to last minute schedule changes or interrupting your own pitch to ask what they think so far. 

Instead, try to make them qualify themselves to you. Tell them you’re particular about who you will work with and ask them why they think you should do business with them. It will catch them off guard but create alertness and attention. 

Make them chase you. 

Lastly, your pitches should always be short and sweet. If you know what you are doing, you should be able to pitch in 20 minutes. Don’t jump straight into the big idea during your pitch. Create Economic, Social, and Technological context as to why your target should act on the deal now. Urgency helps hook our lizard brains. 

Then lay out your pitch in a simple straight forward format: 

  • Identify pain points in the market
  • Introduce your product or service
  • Explain the solution you bring to solve those pain points (and how it’s different from the competition)
  • Features and benefits 

Before you end your pitch meeting always make sure you have next steps outlined and ask for their business! 

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