What makes a great sales pitch? How do you introduce your idea in a way that grabs your target’s attention and sustains it all the way from start to finish?
According to Oren Klaff, the author of Pitch Anything, there are two elements to holding the attention of your target audience while making a sales pitch: desire and tension. Desire is triggered when there is a prospect of the product or service improving their life in a significant way. As for tension, it comes from conflict: when the target feels rejected and accepted at the same time.
In this article, we’ll discuss some sales pitch tips on how to grab your prospective buyer’s attention and elicit interest in what you have to offer.
In order to effectively command your target’s attention—not just spark her interest, but hold it—you must understand the factors that control attention. A person is paying full and close attention only when she feels both desire and tension.
These feelings are controlled by two specific neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine is the chemical of desire, curiosity, and interest. It can create interest, but by itself it’s not enough to hold it. Norepinephrine is the chemical of tension and enhances the effects of dopamine by threatening to take it away. Below are some sales pitch tips on how you can use these reactions to craft a winning sales pitch.
Desire is your croc brain telling you that this thing in front of you will improve your life or your chances for survival. It is one of your brain’s most primitive responses, and in order for your pitch to be successful, you must create a feeling of desire in your target. Without that urge, your pitch fails.
Dopamine is released when you come across something new. New things are pleasurable: the anticipation of something new causes us to anticipate a reward, which releases dopamine.
Dopamine is also released when you’re presented with a puzzle. We enjoy figuring things out. As discussed earlier, the croc brain likes simplicity. But at the same time, if something seems overly simple, it’s boring. Our brains like a bit of a challenge.
Dopamine does have a dark side: Too much of it triggers feelings of fear and anxiety. Consequently, you need to get the balance right. You want your pitch to be novel enough to spark curiosity, and complex enough to spark interest, but not so novel or complex to trigger anxiety.
- Not novel enough, and it’s unimportant. Your target will ignore it.
- Too novel, and it’s strange, or unrealistic. She’ll reject it.
- Too simple, and it’s boring. She’ll, again, ignore it.
- Too complex, and it feels unsolvable. She’ll resist it. We only enjoy puzzles if we feel we can ultimately figure them out.
Desire, though, is just one half of the recipe. The other half is tension.
Tension is the introduction of consequences. Consequences imply importance. Even with desire built into your pitch, your target won’t pay full attention if there are no stakes. She may think you’re great, and really nice, but without more to compel her, she won’t have a reason to pursue you further.
To create tension, you need to create conflict. Many salespeople try to avoid conflict, just as we avoid conflict in our daily lives. However, with no conflict, your pitch is bland and easily forgotten. Conflict is the basis of interesting relationships and connections.
You can inject tension and conflict into your pitch with a series of “tension loops”—“pushes” and “pulls” designed to make your target feel you are rejecting her and then accepting her again. This activates her croc brain’s need for acceptance, making her instinctively want you to pull her in.
To do this, say something that indicates you might reject the target’s business (push), and then immediately follow it up by qualifying it with a more favorable statement (pull). There are three levels of push-pull tension loops that you can use to hook your target. You can incorporate these loops at any time during your pitch.
- Low-Intensity Tension Loop
- The push: “We might not actually be right for one another.”
- The pull: “But then again, if we could find a way to work together, we’d accomplish a lot as partners.”
- Medium-Intensity Tension Loop
- The push: “There’s more to any deal than the idea alone. Ideas are everywhere, there are millions of them. What truly matters is having the right people behind the wheel. If you and I can’t see eye-to-eye on that, it’s not going to work between us.”
- The pull: “But of course, that’s crazy talk. I can see you value people over ideas. I’ve known plenty of corporate types who can’t see beyond the numbers, and you are definitely not one of them.”
- High-Intensity Tension Loop
- The push: “Based on the vibe I’m getting here, it seems like this isn’t a good fit. I truly believe in only doing deals that both parties feel strongly about. So let’s wrap this one up, and maybe reconnect on another one.”
- The pull here is a bit different. You’ve laid out an ultimatum. Allow her to respond. The pull is an unspoken expectation for her to stop you. Start packing your things. If your target doesn’t stop you, leave.
No matter how terrific your pitch, you need to wrap it up after 20 minutes. A person’s attention does not last long. That’s not necessarily a reflection on your pitch. It’s just the way we’re wired. After 20 minutes, you will start to lose your target’s attention. Not only will her mind start to drift, but she will begin to forget what you’ve already told her.
Furthermore, if you continue to generate dopamine and norepinephrine for too long, you’ll eventually reach a point where they start to turn on you. Too much dopamine turns desire into fear. Too much norepinephrine turns tension into anxiety. So, keep it brief.
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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Oren Klaff's "Pitch Anything" at Shortform.
Here's what you'll find in our full Pitch Anything summary:
- An approach to the art of pitching that appeals to prospects' primitive instincts
- How to establish your frame as the dominant one
- The four parts of a successful pitch