differentiate pitching and selling like this: When you sell, the barriers of selling are much lower. You have a customer. You call the customer. He takes your call: “Hey, do you need another ream of paper?” “No, we are pretty good this month.” “We got a sale on the 20-pound. I’ll tell you what — if you get two reams, I’ll drop it 10 percent and then I’ll throw in a little bit of pink hue, which is a good separator, and we’ll throw in transportation.” “Okay, send it by. Call me next month when you have the blue that we love in.” That is selling. The kind of environment that I am in, you walk
into a room. There are five guys staring back at you. They are looking at their watches and they go, “I forgot. We didn’t have a chance to look over the paperwork. Can you just start at the beginning?” You start with no power, no status, no control, and you have about 10 minutes to get people really focused and wanting what you have.
What’s the most common mistake that people make when they’re pitching? The common mistake is pitching for too low of a status. If you have low status, people will not listen to you, and if they do listen to you, they will not take you seriously. Most people walk into a room. There is hello, maybe some Tony Robbins–style rapport: “Oh, your kid went to school at Florida State? My cousin went to Florida State. He was on the baseball team.” “Oh, we should get those guys together!” “Where do you golf?” That is all f---ing bulls--t. It does nothing to
advance your status. It is completely sideways. Nobody is going to listen to your pitch and go, “Man, that was so interesting. I just do not think those numbers work for us. Oh, wait. His cousin went to Florida State. Let’s f---ing do this deal.” The issue is not to spend your time at the begin- ning of the meeting trying to find some points of geography or some points of rapport or common sports. The point is to raise your status. You have to reach a point where you put pres-
sure on the other parties. When we finish our 20-minute pitch, we put pressure on the other par- ties and say, “You can see what we have. You can do what we have. We are interviewing investors. We are going to raise the money for this deal.”
Are meetings and conventions generally a good environment for pitching? They are horrible. You are sitting there at a con- vention. The guy you really want to talk to, you see
him and five minutes with him means the world. You walk up: “Hey, I’m Oren. John, I have wanted to talk to you. It’s great that you’re here at the con- vention. I saw you last year on stage. I really want to get a couple of minutes and tell you about our project, to see if we can get your endorsement.” “Oh yes, it sounds interesting.” You talk with him for 30 seconds. A guy walks up: “John, hey! A round of golf this afternoon! Are you in?” And he hijacks you. We all experience this. It is very hard to pitch somebody on a convention-room floor.
Is there something that meeting planners can do to create an environment that’s more conducive to pitching? Yes, for sure. The best customers at a convention, the ones that pay the most and want to be there the most, are the most underserved. They are the weak- est and the lowest-status deals. I think that is a real social problem at these conventions. The guys who can get the most out of the convention are the least likely to be able to get anything out of it. I am the founder and CEO of an investment
PCMA 2013 Convening Leaders Oren Klaff will deliver a Masters Series presentation on “How to Pitch Anything — and Win” at PCMA 2013 Convening Leaders, which will be held in Orlando on Jan. 13–16. For more information, visit convn.org/ pcma-2013.
bank. If I want to call up the CEO of XYZ Corpora- tion, I can make that happen in two hops. If I am a paper salesman there — and this might not be a perfect example — and I am at a convention meet- ing the CEO of XYZ Corporation and having five minutes with him, it is hugely more valuable for that guy than it is for me. The real issue is how you make these meetings valuable for the people who are your best customers. Imagine that paper sales- man gets a huge connection or at least gets some face time. He is going to leave and go, “Yes, that convention was awesome.”
What do you look to get out of a meeting when you’re just participating as an attendee? It’s a difficult answer. I built all of this to avoid hav- ing to do that. It is, for me, the most painful situa- tion. I need a blueprint. I need these waypoints to follow. That is why I developed them. I am at hundreds of conferences a year. How
many times are you going to sit at a table with a bunch of people and just serendipitously you are going to find the perfect trade partner on a really big deal sitting there? To the degree that it does happen, it is so unpredictable. I cannot handle personally the unpredictable nature of those kinds of relationships.
. Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene SEPTEMBER 2012 PCMA CONVENE 95