Pitch Anything

By: Oren Klaff



We have already noted in other READITFOR.me summaries the challenges we face between two parts of our brain: the amygdala collectively called the crocodile or lizard brain and the neocortex, our young thinking brain. The croc brain is used for instant decisions: Fight, Flight or Mate. Then we pass things to the neocortex for more detail.

In his book - based on 10,000 hours of development experience - Oren Klaff suggests this brain entered conflict is the main reason why our pitches fail. He claims there is a fundamental disconnect between the way we pitch anything and the way it is received by our audience. As a result, at the crucial moment, when it is most important to be convincing, nine out of ten times we are not.

We base our presentations on facts assuming that our audience will be using the neocortex, but they are processed by the crocodile brain instead. No pitch or message is going to get to the logic centre of the other person’s brain without passing through the survival filters of the crocodile brain system first. And because of the way we evolved, those filters make pitching anything extremely difficult.

Klaff has created a methodology to overcome these challenges - STRONG:

S – Setting the Frame
T – Telling the Story
R – Revealing the Intrigue
O – Offering the Prize
N - Nailing the Hook Point
G – Getting a decision

Let’s look at three key factors behind STRONG, factors that makes it work.


Klaff suggests we need to encase every pitch - any meeting where you desire a positive outcome in your favour - within a frame. A frame is a perspective or approach you intend to take during the pitch.

Everyone uses frames whether they realise it or not. Every social encounter brings different frames together. The key point Klaff notes is frames do not coexist in the same time and place for long. They crash into each other, and one or the other gains control. The winning frame governs the social interaction. It is said to have frame control.

Frame collisions are primal. They freeze out the neocortex and bring the crocodile brain in to make decisions and determine actions. In most business situations, there are three major types of opposing frames that you will encounter:

  • Power frame and Power Busting Frame
  • Time frame and the Time Constraining Frame
  • Analyst frame and the Intrigue Frame
  • Klaff also gives us an all-purpose counter – The Prize Frame.


The most common opposing frame you will encounter in a business setting is the power frame.

The power frame comes from the individual who has a massive ego. His power is rooted in his status, a status derived from the fact that others give this person honour and respect. They are also the most vulnerable to a power-busting frame because they do not expect it. They expect your fawning deference and obedience.

To instigate a power frame collision, Klaff tells us to use a mildly shocking but not unfriendly act to cause it. For example if you have handed out some supporting material and someone starts to read it before you have finished your pitch, take it off them saying “Not now”.

It will come as a bit of a shock to them but for that brief moment the power shifts to you. Remember, though, to do it lightly and with a smile on your face – otherwise you may be shown the door quicker than you desire! Not confident enough to use this approach? Then the prize frame might help.


Another common indirect power exerting situation occurs when the key decision maker does not attend the meeting as agreed. What do you do? Stop everything. Reframe. Immediately take the power back.

Here’s Klaff’s prize frame response. When you are told he will join in 20 minutes, what you reply is, “I have other appointments and the time left will not be enough. I can wait 15 minutes, but then I have to leave.” That’s enough to get the message through.

And then something awesome will happen. The people in the room will scramble, doing their best to prevent you from being offended, doing their best to keep you from leaving. They are worried about you. When you own the frame, others react to you.

And if he does not show at that point, you leave. You do not deliver your presentation, you do not leave brochures, and you do not apologise. Your time has been wasted, and you don’t even need to say it. They know.

Tell the most important person in the room that you are willing to reschedule but on your turf. For the next meeting, they must come to you. It conveys to your audience that if they wish to get any further information from you, they will first have to do something to earn it.


You will know that a time-frame collision is about to occur when you see attention begin to wane.

Klaff suggests, if you wait for someone in the audience to say, “We only have a few minutes left, so let’s wrap this up,” you will lose the frame because you now have to react to that person. Instead, stay in control of time, and start wrapping up.

Ironically, the mistake most people make when they see their audience becoming fatigued is to talk faster, to try to force their way through the rest of the pitch. Instead of imparting more valuable information faster, however, they only succeed in helping the audience retain less of their message.

Constrain time your way - it’s your pitch you can stop it when you want. Leaving your audience wanting more - effectively invoking a version of the prize frame - is much better than boring them.


Klaff suggests the moment your audience does a “deep drill- down” into the minute details, you are losing control. So what should you do if someone demands details? Keep the target focused on the business relationship at all times. Analysis comes later.

Similarly, as your pitch moves along some or all members of your audience will see the solution, get the idea and check out. What really happened is that they learned enough about our idea to feel secure that they understand it, and there is nothing more to be gained by continuing to pay attention.

Klaff tells us the most effective way to overcome this analyst frame is with an intrigue frame - an associated story.

The story must be brief and relevant. It must have risk and time pressure. It must develop tension but most important it should take the audience up to the point of resolution but not quite. By then your audience will be re-focussed on you and you can recommence your pitch.


Klaff states, how others view you is critical to your ability to establish the dominant frame and hold onto the power you take when you win the frame collision. If you do not have high status, you will not command the attention necessary to make your pitch heard. You will not persuade, and you will not easily get a deal done.

Like in the animal kingdom, the alpha enjoys most of the attention in a social interaction, even when he’s not demanding it. But as top dog, their rank is under constant threat, and alphas protect themselves by asserting their authority over their employees and co-workers. What are set in business are beta-traps.

A beta trap is a subtle but effective social ritual that puts you in the low- status position and works to keep you there, beneath the decision maker you have come to visit, for the entire duration of the social interaction.

Let's take a visit to a prospect. The first beta trap you encounter is the lobby. It’s a venue created to welcome visitors, right? In fact, the lobby serves to demote you from the moment you arrive and keep you demoted throughout your visit.

Another common beta trap is the conference room. If it’s empty when you arrive, you are usually left alone for several minutes, cooling your heels while you wait for your targets to arrive. When they arrive, the mood is often jovial, with lots of light social chatter, smiles, and handshakes.

They are happy because they are now taking a break from their daily work to come into a nice, larger room to see today’s entertainment, that’s you.

How do we get round beta-traps and assert status? Klaff suggests, be unaffected by your customer’s status inside and outside the business environment. Look for opportunities to strengthen your frame and elevate your status. Quickly move the discussion into an area where you are the domain expert, where your knowledge and information are unassailable by your audience.

Apply a prize frame by positioning yourself as the reward for making the decision to do business with you. Confirm your alpha status by making your customer, who now temporarily occupies a beta position, make a statement that recognised your higher status.


From his experience, Klaff suggests showing signs of neediness is about the worst thing you can do to your pitch. It’s incredibly bad for frame control. It erodes status.

Neediness is a signal of threat. If you display neediness, it is perceived as just the kind of threat that the crocodile brain wants to avoid. Neediness results in avoidance. Neediness, displaying so-called validation-seeking behaviours, will affect all social interactions dramatically.

One dramatic way to eradicate neediness involves going into every social interaction with a strong time frame that you are prepared to use at any moment. This frame communicates, loudly and clearly, that you are needed somewhere else.

A second way is to want nothing. Focus only on things you do well. If you go with a frame that you don’t need the deal then you will appear less desperate when things don’t go your way. Klaff suggests neediness is the main barrier to the application of his methodology and by eliminating neediness you can step forward to gain success.

Here is Klaff’s step by step process to moving forward.

Step 1: Learn to recognise beta traps and how to step around them. This is a low-risk way to train your mind to begin thinking in a frame- based way. As you go about the business of life, look for the beta traps. Identify anything that is designed to control your behaviour, and think of how you would step around it.

Step 2: In a gradual way, start stepping around beta traps. It will feel uncomfortable at first, of course, but it will push you forward to the place where it becomes natural and hardly noticeable to you.

Step 3: Identify and label social frames. Notice the frames that are coming at you on every level of your life. Power frames, time frames, and analyst frames are everywhere, and they crash into you on a daily basis.

Step 4: Begin to initiate frame collisions with safe targets those who pose no major career risk to you. Remember that humour and a soft touch are absolutely necessary. Without it, you will appear rude and arrogant and will trigger croc brain defence responses instead of engaging your target in a fun and spirited social exchange.

Step 5: The small acts of defiance and denial you use to take control of a social frame create a certain amount of conflict and tension. This is the point. Delivering these acts with a soft touch reassures the target’s croc brain that everything is okay, that there is no clear and present danger.

Step 6: Frame control cannot be forced. If you find yourself forcing the method, fortunately, this is an easy problem to fix. Simply lighten up a little. When you say something that causes a frame collision, do it with a twinkle in your eye and a smile in your heart. Your target will feel your good will and good humour and respond in a positive way.

Step 7: Take the plunge. Try it at a pitch. An opportunity presentation. A salary performance review. A meeting with a prospective partner. Anywhere you want to make positive progress. Not everyone uses frame control. You will be amazed at your success.