To Sell Is Human by Daniel H Pink – 6 Pitch Improvements That Complement Selling’s New ABCs

Daniel H. Pink’s new book is “To Sell Is Human-The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.” Pink is the bestselling author of “Drive,” and “A Whole New Mind.”

Pink says that today, we’re all in sales regardless of our career or role. Parents cajole children and lawyers sell juries on a verdict as examples.

The old ABCs of selling (“Always be closing”) are reinvented as Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity. They show you how to be, but you also need to know what to do. Honing your pitch, learning how to improvise (which ultimately is listening), and serve, complement the new ABCs of selling and help you move others. Following are highlights of the power of the pitch.

Researchers spent five years in Hollywood, entrenched in the entertainment business; which thrives on pitching. Writers pitch movie executives, agents pitch producers, etc. 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 assess the pitcher’s (i.e. the writer’s) creativity. Passion, wit, and quirkiness rated positively. Slickness, trying too hard, and multiple idea offerings rated negatively.

Catchers quickly deemed negative presentations “uncreative;” and covertly dismissed any remaining meeting time. Positive pitchers attracted success by viewing the catchers as collaborators, welcoming their ideas to perfect the project. Once the catcher felt like a creative collaborator, the odds of rejection decreased.

Lesson: The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others to immediately adopt your idea. Instead, offer something compelling enough to begin a conversation, include the other person’s perspective and eventually arrive at a consensus. Today, the pitch is often the first word but seldom the last.

Pink declares the classic elevator speech-encountering the big boss in an elevator and being able to explain your product or service in mere seconds; is outdated for two reasons.

First, organizations are generally more democratic than previously and many CEOs, even in large companies sit amongst everyone else or in open floor plans, promoting easy contact and collaboration.

Second, although today’s CEOs are more accessible via e-mail, texts, and tweets, etc., they confront information overload daily. These challenges require broadening our repertoire of pitches in an age of limited attention.

Pink describes six promising successors to the elevator pitch:

1. The One-Word Pitch. “Digital natives” (anyone under age 30) rarely remember life without the Internet. Attention spans are shrinking, nearly disappearing. Brevity is key. Define the one characteristic you most want associated with your brand and 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. Campaigning, he asked “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Questions are powerful and can outperform statements; yet they’re underused when trying to move others. They prompt people to deduce their own reasons for agreeing or disagreeing. When people produce their own reasons for believing something, their endorsement is stronger and they’re apt to act on it. Note: if underlying arguments to a question are weak, then don’t use the question pitch. If President Carter had asked the same question Regan asked, it would not have benefited his re-election campaign.

3. The Rhyme Pitch. Lawyer, Johnny Cochran, used the rhyme ” If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” in his closing arguments during O.J. Simpson’s 1995 trial. “Woes unite foes,” and “Woes unite enemies,” both say the same thing yet research shows people find rhymes more accurate. Rhymes boost processing fluency-the ease with which our minds make sense of stimuli. Summarizing your main point with a rhyme gives prospects a way to talk about your proposal while deliberating; and helps your message penetrate their minds when comparing you to your competitors.

4. The Subject-Line Pitch. Every email sent begs someone’s attention and is an invitation to engage. An email’s subject line previews and promises the message content. Research shows people open emails for reasons of utility or curiosity. They’re apt to open emails that directly affect their work or spark a moderate level of uncertainty (i.e. curiosity) about its contents. Today’s information overload favors usefulness in emails. A third principle is specificity. “4 Tips to improve your golf swing this afternoon,” trumps “Improve your golf swing” in an email’s subject line.

5. The Twitter Pitch. Twitter operates on micro-messages of 140 characters or less. Effective tweets engage recipients and encourage advancing conversations by responding, clicking a link or sharing the tweet with others. Research confirms only a small number of tweets accomplish these goals. Poorest-performing tweets fall in three categories: Complaints-“My plane is late. Again;” Me Now-“I’m at the coffee shop;” and Presence Maintenance-“Good Morning, everyone!” High-ranking tweets provide fresh, new information and links, presented with clarity. Self-promoting tweets (the ultimate sales pitch) rank high provided useful information is part of the promotion.

6. The Pixar Pitch. Pixar Animation Studios is one of the most successful studios in movie history. Their success is rooted in a deep structure of storytelling involving six sequential sentences: Once upon a time, ____________. Every day, ___________. One day, ________________. Because of that, ___________. Because of that, ____________. Until finally_____________. The six-sentence format is appealing and supple; allowing pitchers to capitalize on the well-documented persuasive power of stories, but within a concise, disciplined format.

Author Daniel H. Pink recommends the rhyme dictionary, RhymeZone to expedite your rhyming pitches. Visit: