The Anti-Pitch

the anti-pitch

“Dad, you're crazy.”

My daughter is a high school senior and interested in more than one boy. One appeared today and they had a chat. Tonight at dinner I asked if she was going to text him and maybe set up time to hang out tomorrow. The look I got told me that she knows more about the anti-pitch than many of the folks I interact with in the WordPress ecosystem.

She knows that the cardinal rule is to not look (or come across) too needy. I think the correct term is “thirsty.”

That's why the anti-pitch is so powerful.

“You were right.”

A couple of years ago I took a Clarity call to answer someone's questions. I did. Honestly. But they didn't like my answer – mostly because it didn't line up with what they thought.

A year later, they called back and told me, “you were right, even if I didn't want you to be right.” I appreciated the feedback but struggled to remember a year-old conversation.

Then they asked about my coaching and I told them I was too expensive for where they were in their lifecycle.

I didn't pitch them. I anti-pitched them. I told them no. Politely. I even recommended others they could talk to.

Much like my daughter, their response was something like, “you're crazy.”

Pitches Don't Work

I don't believe pitches work anymore. I think they started failing shortly after Valentine's Day in 2005. I know, that's pretty specific. But if pitches started failing back then, I don't think we noticed. It wouldn't be for a few more years that YouTube became the sensation that it is today.

Even though YouTube was founded on Feb. 14, 2005, it took a bit longer for us to hear people say, “I just looked it up on YouTube.” But now we hear it everywhere, and all the time.

Now, you might wonder, why do I think pitches don't work. And my answer is pretty simple. It's all about access to information. The asymmetry that used to exist left customers without knowledge and those who were doing the pitching with all the knowledge.

With unlimited access to information and knowledge, the asymmetry is gone. And with it, the pitch becomes useless. In the room aren't the know-nothings and the know-it-alls. Everyone knows everything. Or at least they can think they do after a couple of searches.

Why Does the Anti-Pitch Work?

Now don't get me wrong, the anti-pitch isn't the Heisman. I'm not suggesting you simply tell everyone no (that's another post).

The anti-pitch works for three reasons:

  • You're being honest and people respect honesty. If you say everything is perfect and wonderful and awesome and amazing, their BS detector comes out. But if you're honest about how hard things will be, how expensive they are, or any other truth they need to hear, they'll respect your honesty.
  • You're being helpful and people appreciate that. When you suggest other alternatives that might be a better fit, the reverse psychology will kick in and they'll want what they think they can't have even more than if you were pitching them. And if you're really pushing for “no,” being helpful with a set of alternatives is just plain nice.
  • You're highlighting that you're not needy. Successful people can be selective about their customers. Needy folks cannot. But people rather work with successful folks than needy folks. With the anti-pitch you're turning the tables. Who is pitching who? Not you. They're pitching to work with you rather than the other way around.

How Does the Anti-Pitch Work?

We live in a world saturated with pitches. So our guard is up.

The anti-pitch is refreshing because it goes in the opposite direction. Instead of focusing only on the positive, we focus on the hurdles, challenges, and consequences that will be in front of us. This honesty is so different, the contrast so remarkable, that it often surprises and delights people.

The anti-pitch can come across as a “warning” like I was mentioning just now, or it can also come across as a “no, not right now.” It's a message that says, “I don' think this is a perfect fit. Here's what I would do if I were you.”

The goal of the anti-pitch is to be helpful, and even memorable, so that the door isn't firmly closed.

How Does the Anti-Pitch Sound?

Let me show you two simple scenarios and how the anti-pitch sounds.

With an Employment Candidate

“The work we do here is intense. It will take a lot of concentration, an investment in learning the domain, and will feel hard. This won't be easy.”

It almost sounds like you're saying, “you don't want to work here.” But you're not saying that. You're simply stating the honest parts that others don't. So as a prospective employee thinks about their various options, you stand out as the honest one. And the challenge inspires someone who wants to test themselves.

With a Prospective Client

“I'll be honest, we're not the cheapest option in town. If you want a less expensive option, I would be happy to give you some recommendations.”

Again it sounds like you're saying they should go elsewhere. But you're not. You're simply letting them know if price is their largest decision-making criteria, this isn't likely a good fit.

People Often Come Back

I told you about the person who called a few years ago. Then called back again. They were shocked that I wasn't in pitch mode. Maybe they presumed I would take any client, for any amount of money. They didn't know me.

But then a few months later, they called back again to update me on their progress. And at that point, they knew what they wanted and what it would cost and we worked together for a couple of months.

They came back because I hadn't closed the door on them. But I also hadn't pitched them. I'd been honest and told them why they weren't a great fit. They went to work, became a great fit, and then came back.

I find with the anti-pitch people often come back.

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