Daniel H. Pink’s new book is called Selling Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Inspiring Others. Pink is the bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind.
Pink says that we are all in sales today, regardless of our career or function. Parents flatter children and lawyers sell juries verdicts as examples.
The old ABC of selling (“always close”) is reinvented as attunement, lift and clarity. They’ll show you how, but you also need to know what to do. Refining your presentation, learning how to improvise (which ultimately is listening) and serve complements the new ABC of selling and helps you move others. Below are the highlights of the power of the pitch.
The researchers spent five years in Hollywood, entrenched in the entertainment business; who lives from pitching. Authors present pitches to film managers, agents to pitch producers, etc. The results showed that successful pitches depended on the catcher as much as the pitcher.
The catcher (i.e., the executive) used physical and behavioral cues to quickly gauge the creativity of the pitcher (i.e., the writer). Passion, wit and whimsicality were rated positively. Slickness, overexertion, and multiple offers of ideas were rated negatively.
Catchers quickly deemed negative presentations “uncreative”; and secretly dismissed any remaining meeting time. Positive pitchers achieved success by treating the catchers as collaborators and welcoming their ideas to perfect the project. Once the catcher felt like a creative collaborator, the likelihood of rejection went down.
Lesson: The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to get others to adopt your idea right away. Instead, offer something persuasive enough to start a conversation, include the other person’s perspective, and eventually reach consensus. Today the pitch is often the first word, but rarely the last.
Pink explains the classic elevator speech – meeting the big boss in an elevator and explaining your product or service in seconds; is obsolete for two reasons.
First, organizations are generally more democratic than they used to be, and many CEOs, even in large corporations, sit below everyone else or in open floor plans, encouraging easy contact and collaboration.
Second, today’s CEOs, despite being more reachable via email, SMS, tweets, etc., are overwhelmed with information on a daily basis. These challenges require expanding our pitch repertoire at a time of limited attention.
Pink describes six promising successors to the Elevator Pitch:
1. The one word pitch. “Digital natives” (all under 30) rarely remember life without the internet. The attention span is shrinking, almost disappearing. Brevity is key. Define the one trait you most want to associate with your brand, then own it. That’s one word equity. MasterCard is associated with the word “priceless”; and President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign embodied a one-word strategy – “Forward.”
2. The question pitch. In 1980, Ronald Regan ran against then-President Jimmy Carter. During the election campaign he asked: “Are you better off now than four years ago?” Questions are powerful and can trump statements; yet they are underused when trying to move others. They ask people to derive their own reasons for agreeing or disagreeing. When people come up with their own reasons for believing something, their agreement is stronger and they tend to act on it. Note: If the underlying arguments for a question are weak, don’t use the question. If President Carter had asked the same question as Regan, it would not have helped his re-election campaign.
3. The rhyme height. Attorney Johnny Cochran used the rhyme “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” in his closing arguments at OJ Simpson’s trial in 1995. “Woes unite foes” and “Woe unite enemies” both say the same thing, but research shows that people find rhymes more accurately. Rhymes increase processing fluency—the ease with which our minds understand stimuli. Summarizing your main point with a rhyme allows potential clients to talk about your proposal during the consultation. and helps your message stand out when compared to your competitors.
4. The pitch in the subject line. Every email sent attracts attention and is an invitation to participate. The subject line of an email shows a preview and promises the content of the message. Research shows that people open email for reasons of utility or curiosity. They tend to open emails that directly affect their work or create a degree of uncertainty (i.e., curiosity) about their content. Today’s information overload favors the usefulness of email. A third principle is specificity. “4 tips to improve your golf swing this afternoon,” trumps “improve your golf swing” in the subject line of an email.
5. The Twitter pitch. Twitter works with micro-messages of 140 characters or less. Effective tweets engage recipients and encourage ongoing conversation by replying, clicking a link, or sharing the tweet. Research confirms that only a small number of tweets achieve these goals. The underperforming tweets fall into three categories: Complaints – “My plane is delayed. Yet again”; Me Now – “I’m at the coffee shop;” and Attendance Care – “Good morning everyone!” High-ranking tweets provide fresh, new information and links, presented in a concise manner. Self-promotional tweets (the ultimate selling point) rank highly as long as useful information is part of the promotion.
6. The Pixar pitch. Pixar Animation Studios is one of the most successful studios in film history. Her success is rooted in a deep storytelling structure composed of six consecutive sentences: Once upon a time, ____________. Daily, ___________. Someday, ________________. Because of this, ___________. Because of this, ____________. Until finally_____________. The six-sentence format is engaging and smooth; This allows pitchers to benefit from the well-documented persuasive power of stories, but in a concise, disciplined format.
Author Daniel H. Pink recommends the RhymeZone rhyming dictionary to speed up your rhymes. Visit: