Investment banker Oren Klaff on how to pitch anything

Oren Klaff has a strong background in deal-making, having worked for 12 years in investment banking. He says this has given him insight into the psychology of pitching ideas and how people accept those pitches. “Having been involved in those big deals, I’ve seen how people behave, and the same things work no matter the scale,” he says. He even wrote a book, Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal, about how to be more persuasive, whether you’re closing a multimillion-dollar deal or convincing your boss about the next step in your career. Here are some of his tips.

Be confident. Showing neediness is a great way to kill a deal, Klaff says. “We need the deal, we want the deal, it’s important to us—but if we don’t plan against it, we exude neediness,” he says. “Once somebody sees that you’re needy, they feel they have an advantage, and the human condition is that they will use it.”

Create curiosity. Klaff says the “cat-string theory” is a good metaphor for getting people invested in an idea. “If you give the cat the string, he doesn’t want it—but if you jerk it around a corner so it disappears, it’s the most important thing in the world,” Klaff says. “People want what they can’t have.”

Find ways to create curiosity and intrigue around your proposition, and communicate why someone else might want it. “If somebody doesn’t want what you have, it’s going to be difficult to sell it. And if they want what you have, they’ll chase you for it.”

Produce value. Look for ways to show the value of your proposition to everyone involved. “It’s so easy for people to get information and find alternatives. Information doesn’t have value anymore,” Klaff says. “Instead, offer insights. It’s hard to bring buyers to the table with features and benefits. Instead, you need to create a context with ideas and insight around your idea.” For example, if you’ve found a software add-on that helps people manage emails by delivering them twice a day and you say you’d like to purchase it, that’s information. But, if you can make a case for the amount of time lost to constant email distractions and how that affects the bottom line and employee burnout, that’s offering insight, Klaff says.