September 22, 2017

Book review: Learn the art of the pitch

“You Get What You Pitch For” by Anthony Sullivan with Tim Vandehey, 2017, Da Capo Press, $26, 232 pages

Throw it out.

That’s what always seems to happen to your best ideas, your finest interviews, the proud moments that fall flat as pavement. Ugh. When it comes to The Big Ask, “what are you doing wrong?” Read “You Get What You Pitch For” by Anthony Sullivan with Tim Vandehey; the answer is no throwaway.

Back when he was 24 years old and selling mops, Sullivan lived in a van and slept atop the product, but he was on a learning curve. He developed a pitch, figured out how to use it, and ultimately attained his television goals by appearing on HSN. So how did he do it? He pitched.

“Pitching,” he says, “is a superpower. Do it right and you’ll change minds, open doors, get opportunities.”

That doesn’t mean pitching is selling. It can be used to sell, but it shouldn’t be the only thing in your sales arsenal. Master it, and you can “become a boss at” connecting with anyone, anywhere. In fact, chances are that you already know how to pitch and you don’t realize it.

To “activate” your pitching super powers, first determine what outcome you want before you make your pitch, but also know what else is acceptable to make it a success. Doing so is not failure; it’s being happy with an alternative outcome.

Know your audience and what they need, and know how to “be the cure” for it. Practice, practice, practice, until you’ve got your patter down pat, and then practice some more. Learn how to work past what Sullivan calls “the Force Field,” and how to call (positive) attention to yourself. Be a storyteller, but know when the time is right to start your tale. Embrace your mistakes and know how to recover from them in front of your audience. Understand when — and how — to “push back” properly. Forget the close and “trust the process.” And finally, be confident and have fun! It’s that last one that makes people want to buy from you.

OK, you’re saying. You know how to pitch but it still doesn’t work. So is “You Get What You Pitch For” still worth reading?

It’s hard to argue with a man who sells products as successfully as does the author. Together with Vandehey, Sullivan shares some of his secrets of success, as well as the things you should beware of doing (or not). This is extremely helpful, but it’s obvious that the authors’ encouraging words might not work with cold calling or phone sales. This is a book that’s absolutely about in-person pitching, so it may not apply to gig economy workers. Also, this book may offend many readers with repeated references to “Getting her number” at a bar or cocktail party.

Once was amusing; more than that was not cool.

Still, if you need a new angle for a business- or life-pitch, this book is worth a try. It’s readable, and do-able. Just know what you’re getting from “You Get What You Pitch For” before throwing it in your cart.

Terri Schlichenmeyer reviews books about businesses and business practice.


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