**I hope you get as much of a benefit as I did from this book. As a heads up, if you do end up buying Pitch Anything from a link in this article, I may collect a percentage compensation.
One of my favorite hobbies is reading “Product Management adjacent books” (a book not traditionally seen as something that applies to Product), and then teasing out things that can apply to Product Management. Why? Because everyone is reading the same books related specifically to Product, but reading non-industry books can give you a whole different perspective on how to think about or approach a problem.
I recently finished Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff, a traditionally sales oriented book which actually has tons of takeaways that can help Product Managers be more effective.
This book is very applicable to Product Managers because of the many different hats we need to wear. One of, if not the biggest of those hats is the ability to sell ideas into different groups and garner support or excitement. They could be other teams, people on your own team, executive stakeholders, or even the customer, but across the board people won’t just magically believe in your idea, feature, or new product. This book can help make it happen.
There are many great takeaways Pitch Anything has to offer, but here are three key points that really stood out to me. Any Product Manager can apply these to their role or organization.
1. Use a concept called framing to understand who the decision makers are and how to onboard them to your ideas
In larger organizations it can sometimes be tough to understand exactly who a decision maker is. On the surface maybe the org chart says one thing. However behind the scenes people actually take direction from someone completely different. Additionally, organizations are learning more and more into servant leadership. This is the idea that those closest to the problem almost all of the time have the best insight into how to fix it, and should be empowered to make the decision. In other words, decision making should be pushed as far down the organization's hierarchy as possible while still making sense.
So if leaders in organizations are trying to push decision making responsibility lower in an organization, you need to figure out who needs to be influenced to drive things like headcount decisions, or prioritization decisions. You can figure out who drives influence in an organization, and effectively influence that individual by looking at the concept of framing.
You can think about a frame as someone's perspective. Everyone encounters frames, most of the time without ever realizing it. In any social situation, many frames can take place. In a 1:1 discussion, you bring a frame to the conversation, and the person you’re talking to brings a frame. These two frames collide, and one generally wins out or guides the discussion over the other. This will dictate who does most of the talking, or whose priorities take precedence when the two frames conflict.
Oren outlines six or so specific frames. While I won’t go over all of them here, one example is the analyst frame that I like to use as a data driven Product Manager. The analyst frame is a mindset that centers around a need for data. For me, I’ll use an analyst frame when presenting new ideas to make sure that everyone is clear on why I’m advocating to prioritize something, supporting that idea with an abundance of data. I also use an analyst frame when others come to me with features or work they’d like to get prioritized, making sure to get into the details of how this will impact the business or customer.
Conversely, you can also be approached by someone who is using an analyst frame. Let’s say the person you are pitching an idea to has an analyst frame, they would be consistently looking for copious amounts of data to support the idea. Many times, you won’t have all of the numbers needed to support all of the data the analyst frame is asking for. Here Klaff argues that the way to get around this or get your story heard is by driving emotion home with a story that ties a greater meaning to what you are going for.
Thinking about what frames you have to work with, and what frames you may interact with as you look to launch a new feature, or get work prioritized with another technology team can be incredibly impactful. If you want to learn more about what frames are out there, give this book a read.
2. Framing yourself as the prize will significantly increase your ability to get things done and prioritized when work is dependent on other teams
I have to say, when I first read about the prize frame, I thought it was a bit over the top. However, I have seen that it can definitely drive impact and success to your efforts. The prizing frame is one of those 6 frames Klaff outlines, where you position yourself as “the prize”. This can apply to you as an individual, your team, or an entire part of the organization. The key takeaway here is that the price frame gets you to think about what the person you are trying to influence wants, and then aligning what you bring to the conversation so you are best oriented to that person's goals.
Specifically, you can use this as a qualifier for feature ideas. Does the feature you’re looking for support on live up to the standards your team needs? Same thing with incoming requests of your team to implement a new feature. Thinking about your teams focus as the prize in this instance can ensure you set benchmarks or qualifiers to use for consistency. Can you make sure that the story you tell about that feature is exciting enough to garner support? If not, rethink the feature. If yes, use it to your advantage and prove your value.
3. The “Croc” brain: When sharing new ideas, features, roadmaps etc. to a new audience, make sure to boil your presentation (or pitch) down so that it is as simple as possible to increase its effectiveness
Oren writes about the “crocodile brain” intrinsic to every living thing. At its essence, Klaff argues that every single person has a part of their brain deep down that reverts in many ways back to our primal instinct. Deep down everyone will revert back to a fight or flight response when confronted with a conflict as an example. As it applies to work, this “croc brain” drives the very first reaction we have to a new idea, a new person, a new place in the first instant we encounter it.
It’s important to keep everyone's croc brain in mind when pitching anything. You need to make sure what you’re promoting is easily consumable, easy to understand, and ideally exciting for the receiver’s initial primal response. After getting your idea past their primal gate keeper, you can get the person you’re pitching to be more open to the idea and receptive to hear more about what it is.
This is incredibly important when using things like powerpoint or other standard presentation methodologies. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen start presenting, put up a wall of text as a slide, and expect the audience to listen to what they are saying. Instead, people ignore the presenter to read the slide, but then get distracted and listen to the presenter. In the end, instead of taking away your key points, the audience gets nothing!
Play in to what the “croc brain” wants! Use it as a qualifier as you flesh out your new product ideas or feature requests.
I understand this is not a traditional Product Management book, but I hope you find it as applicable as I have. Looking to learn more about the foundations of Product Management? Check out this article I wrote on three books that gave me more confidence as a Product Manager.
About the author:
Ben Staples has over 7 years of product management and product marketing eCommerce experience. He is currently employed at Nordstrom as a Senior Product Manager responsible for their product pages on Nordstrom.com. Previously, Ben was a Senior Product Manager for Trunk Club responsible for their iOS and Android apps. Ben started his Product career as a Product Manager for Vistaprint where he was responsible for their cart and Checkout experiences. Before leaving Vistaprint, Ben founded the Vistaprint Product Management guild with over 40 members. Learn more at www.Ben-Staples.com
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