Pitch Anything: “The Game” for Investment Banking?

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Pitch AnythingIt’s 11 PM and you’re sitting down at a bar with a friend. You see 2 gorgeous blondes stroll over and sit down across from you (if you’re female, just imagine this from your perspective instead).

You strategize with your friend about what to say and who to approach, you think of the perfect opening line, and then you go up and make your move.

The first girl stops you in your tracks, glares at you, and says, “If you’re going to recite lines from that book, we’ve heard them all before – you can go away now.”

Ouch. What went wrong?

The problem is that it’s 2005 and Neil Strauss has just published The Game, detailing the secret society of pickup artists and the exact tactics they use to get beautiful women night after night.

It became so popular in New York that women learned all about it and instantly knew when a guy was using tactics from the book.

And now a new book by Oren Klaff, a capital markets banker based in LA, might just do the same thing for the world of business and investment banking.

What?

It’s called Pitch Anything, but it could be titled “Persuade Anyone” because that’s what it’s about: how to present an idea so that the other person gets intrigued and ultimately signs on the line which is dotted (yes, Glengarry Glen Ross should be part of your required viewing).

“Wait a minute! I don’t want to work on the sell-side, why would I ever need this? I am a math genius and can sit behind the computer, look at spreadsheets all day, never talk to people, and still make bank!!”

I see where you’re coming from, but even on the buy-side you’ll need to persuade people and pitch your ideas all the time:

  • You just got a horrible bonus, only 1% of your P&L. You want to negotiate a better number for next year – how do you approach your fund manager?
  • You have a new investment idea and need to present it to the investment committee at your firm. What story will convince them to say “yes”?
  • You’ve had enough and are quitting your fund to start a new hedge fund. You need to raise $500 million – how do you sell investors on the idea?

Of course, if you want to keep your bottom-tier bonus, never get any respect from anyone else, and never get the funds to start your own firm, feel free to keep staring at Excel.

Got Skepticism?

When Oren first contacted me and told me about the book, I was skeptical: I get tons of pitches and requests each day and everyone wants me to promote their products and help them out with random favors.

So I let it sit for a while and didn’t get around to reading it until my flight got delayed on a recent trip, I ran out of battery, and I had nothing to do.

And then I almost missed my flight because I couldn’t put it down once I started reading.

The Big Idea(s)

There are many big ideas here, but the ones that stood out most:

  1. The way you pitch something and the way the other person perceives it are completely different.
  2. Setting the frame makes all the difference when pitching anything or talking to anyone.
  3. Don’t pitch numbers or logic – tell stories.

A “frame” is just the way a person views the world and what he uses to doubt whatever you’re pitching.

If he digs into your numbers and calculations and keeps questioning those, he’s using the analyst frame; if he spends 30 minutes talking about himself and then looks out the window when you get a turn to speak, he’s using the power frame.

There are others, and there’s an appropriate way to respond to each of them and “break” the person out of whatever he’s using to belittle you.

How to Use the Book

The section on frames and how to respond to frames, by itself, is so insightful that you’ll probably think of dozens of uses just from that (I recommended the book to other friends after finishing that part).

Here are a few situations where you could use the advice in the book:

Handling Co-Worker Harassment

Let’s say you just started working on the trading desk and the other traders are giving you crap for being the new guy. In addition to making you get lunch each day, they’re also making you pick up their dry cleaning and get gifts for their families.

There are 2 bad ways to handle this situation:

  1. Do nothing and ignore the traders as they make fun of you.
  2. “Argue” your way out of it by telling them to respect you.

Doing #1 is the equivalent of getting a terminal illness and not going to see the doctor: you can ignore it, but you’re still going to die.

#2 won’t work because of the same reason it didn’t work on the bully in the playground when you were 10: he’ll ignore you and keep pulling your pants down anyway.

In the book, Oren goes through a few examples of how to use a power-busting frame and other tactics to handle a situation like this and re-assert yourself by lightly defying “the authorities.”

It doesn’t require memorizing long scripts or anything like that, but it does require going outside your comfort zone – but if you want to advance in the industry you better get used to that.

Raising Funds… for Your New Hedge Fund, or Even a Student Group

You’ve dreamed of starting your own hedge fund since you were 10 and first saw Wall Street.

And now, after 15 years of working at other peoples’ funds, you’re ready to raise the $500 million of capital you need for your own.

You’re in a meeting with a potential investor and he is using the analyst frame to nit-pick your numbers and press you on whether or not you can really achieve the returns you’ve outlined.

“So I’ve looked at your IRR calculation here based on the funds invested and the potential cash flow coming from these investments and I wanted to know how you derived the margin right here…”

You do not want to get into an argument over the numbers or go into nitty-gritty detail in response to this.

If they want more detail, you can send it to them after the meeting.

In a situation like this you’d apply intrigue or suspense (by telling a story or starting to tell them something surprising and leaving it open-ended) to get the other person to step back from the numbers.

Oren has a few examples of doing this aggressively in the book – you may not want to implement everything he suggests, but using just the basic ideas can take you a long way.

More?

This first section on frames could be applied to almost any social situation; the other parts of the book are more applicable to pitching itself, but remember: much of your life consists of pitching and persuading other people.

So if you’ve spent more time developing your IQ rather than your EQ, this should be required reading.

Flaws

Though I’m a big fan, the book is not without problems.

First, if you’re a new analyst or associate, you can’t literally apply all the strategies and stories that Oren shares in the book.

If you show up to work on the first day and start “defying” your MD he’ll get pissed and you will develop a bad reputation.

So you have to do it in moderation and not get carried away with following it to a tee.

Another issue is that the deals described in the book, while big (millions / tens of millions and up) to a normal person, are small by the standards of bulge bracket investment banks.

In practice, most pitches from investment bankers for mega-deals are practically identical – hitting emotional triggers all the time might work, but it may also backfire if the audience is sophisticated and wants things presented in a certain way.

Finally, similar to other popular business books (The 4-Hour Workweek), sometimes the author makes everything seem too easy.

It would have been interesting to explore when the strategies here don’t work as well, or whether they apply to much larger deals as well.

Do You Actually Need to Read This Book?

I’ve gotten lots of questions on what the culture of Wall Street is like and whether or not it’s really a frat house.

Experienced traders aside, at most investment banks analysts and associates are more nerdy than fratty.

That’s what happens when you recruit top-performing students at top schools: you get a bunch of math wizards who are great at Excel but not so great at having difficult conversations.

If you already have a lot of real-world experience dealing with skeptical people, persuading others, and pitching your ideas, maybe you’re an exception to this rule.

But if not, I can’t recommend Pitch Anything highly enough – and at the very least, you’ll be entertained by all the stories within.

The Next Neil Strauss?

Pitch AnythingSo will Pitch Anything become The Game of the investment banking world?

While guys who want to get more girls read everything they can get their hands on, bankers have no time to read or do anything besides pitch, deal, and occasionally snort cocaine.

So unlike that situation with the 2 blondes back in 2005, you won’t suddenly have a market where everyone knows your tricks.

And that’s great news for you, because you can pick up Pitch Anything and start applying the tactics right now – when no one else knows how to respond to your newfound superpowers.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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62 Comments to “Pitch Anything: “The Game” for Investment Banking?”

Comments

  1. J says

    Ordered a copy on Amazon already!
    I’ve been looking for a book on this topic for a while, something thats more applicable to the business/finance world.
    Being able to sell can go a long way, either in finance or just life in general

    • says

      Awesome! I think you’ll like it as there’s a lot of counter-intuitive wisdom inside. The former banker/consultant friends I recommended it to all thought it was awesome.

  2. Mmann says

    I like the comparison to “The Game.” I for one, am interested in digging more into Frames and Frame busting. One of the hardest hurdles I have is letting myself get run over by more established “Frame.”

    • says

      Yup you will find this very helpful… might cover more on frames in the future as well as it’s something that gets almost no attention.

  3. Lindsay says

    I appreciated your honest review. After reading this I feel reading this book is a must for me. Really, pretty much anyone will benefit from the book by the way it sounds.

    I deal with customers’ changing needs and sometimes feel at a disposition. I need work on asserting myself from a higher status (I’m one of those nerds you speak of who sits behind a desk and never talks to anyone).

    Thanks!

    • says

      Yup it helps a lot. I have actually fallen into that category lately as well since 90% of my work is online now, hardly any need to talk to people during the day.

  4. J.T says

    If enough people read it, wont this book experience the same phenomena as “the Game”? How will we court the investors and managers then??

    I say we sabotage this before it goes any further!

    • says

      No, bankers don’t have time to read – only time to do drugs and do deals.

      In all seriousness, it takes time and effort to implement these strategies so very few people will actually do it successfully… it’s not rocket science, but it is outside of what most people will ever consider.

  5. says

    Interesting perspective on the book. I thought it was a great read as well. However, I don’t close billion dollar deals. I lead and manage 80 people who close, on average, dozens of $500 deals each month. (different industry from you of course)
    From the shallow end of the “pitching pool” where I live, the strategies in the book are not overly simplified or easy. In fact, they are dead on.
    Breaking a prospect’s frame from the jump is the key no matter how expensive his or her suit is.
    AL
    PS- wanna have some fun in the real world?… try using strong frames on your wife when you sense an argument coming on! :) It’ll change your life! LOL

  6. Baggins says

    “Experienced traders aside, at most investment banks analysts and associates are more nerdy than fratty. That’s what happens when you recruit top-performing students at top schools: you get a bunch of math wizards who are great at Excel but not so great at having difficult conversations.”

    Maybe that’s why the top paid MDs and partners at my bank aren’t from Ivy league schools ;D

  7. JY says

    Dear Brain,

    I am a loyal fan of your blog, and I will definitely have a look at this book!

    Can you name a few good readings on conducting M&A advisory? Interested topics may include: How to approach potential buyers or sellers and build relationship, techniques to structure the deal to please different stakeholders, how to get away without being murdered after the deal turns out to be a disaster…etc.

    Thank you!

  8. M says

    I know for undergrad recruiting, applying to analyst positions cold through the firm’s website is generally a waste of time. For lateral positions, do you think this is worth doing if they list 2nd year openings?

  9. volunter says

    Does playing golf (especially in the inital years as an Associate/VP) help in this business which is as you have said is a SALES job.How true are all those stories on corporate deals being negotiated /initiated on weekends over a game of golf.? Further,does it make you look interesting in eyes of banker …? or do you have to be a monk or jujitsu player in your former life to stand out and look interesting …?

    Thanks ,

    • says

      It may help a bit but most bankers are too busy to actually play golf that much. You can do whatever you want to be interesting. I think the importance of different activities depends on the region you’re in and what sports/activities are popular there.

  10. GG says

    Brian,

    Do you have any advice as to how someone who is currently employed FT in a different industry should network if they want to break into Investment Banking in a country where standardized recruitment only occurs at the analyst level (no associates)? Does the approach of cold calling/informational interviews still work?

    • says

      Depends which country it is… in the US/UK it could still work, in other markets it varies and networking is not always necessarily effective. Generally if networking doesn’t work a top MBA program is your next best bet.

  11. Lowell says

    Hi Brian,

    Love the book so far, but I’m a sophomore in college looking for internships. Do you think this frame-busting mentality is applicable to job/informational interviews?

    • says

      I think it could help you – maybe not everything will apply 100% and you have to use more caution when looking for internships but a lot of the ideas and strategies will still work.

  12. couchy says

    how are the modeling/valuation techniques different in lev fin and or restructuring groups. and will you ever make lessons on the different techniques?

    almost done with the real estate lesson!?

    • says

      LevFin is not different at all and the 4 or so LBO models on the site already address debt modeling in detail (plus coverage of debt in the industry-specific courses). Restructuring is a bit different in that you have to adjust operating models and valuation for specific items sometimes but it is not as dramatically different as say insurance/commercial banks/real estate/oil & gas. I may add it, but probably not for a while as it’s not in high demand unless the economy is tanking.

      Real estate will be available in May – it is much longer than the other courses so it’s at least another month away.

  13. Jimmy says

    great post Brian! I have also just ordered the book and reading it now. Any idea on if you would write something about workplace, like how to deal with your annoying co worker who is always nosey and poking around?

  14. Greed is good says

    Dear Brian,

    Thank you for such a resourceful site. I’ve learned quite a lot from all the interesting articles you’ve posted. I am curious if you would do an article that’s focused on how to break into IB in Asia specifically.

    I am a Taiwanese and I graduated from a decent US college(top 30.) As I have relocated back to my home country, I would assume that IB in Hong Kong is my best bet. However, as you’ve pointed out in several articles that IB in Asia is a bit different, financial modelling isn’t as important, and people don’t really deal with M&A in IB. In which case, how does one prep himself to get into IB in Hong Kong? What do Analysts and Associates do over there? Do major IB firms there only do experienced hire (from Wall Street) or do they hire people who are fresh off college as well? If so, how is the recruitment process different from what firms in the states do?

    In my case, specifically, I did not do any banking or finance-related internship back in college. However, I’m still hoping that with my diploma, fluency in English and Mandarin, and just pure willingness to work hard and learn would put me in a good position.

    Do you think I might stand a chance? If not, what do you suggest someone in my position should do if getting into IB is my ultimate short-term goal? Also, is the CFA designation more relevant and/or more helpful in terms of breaking into IB in Asia? I am sorry if I am a little unorganized and am full of questions, but you just seem really helpful in answering readers’ questions. Thank you so much in advance. Any help, advice, or comment will be greatly appreciated. And once again, thank you for such a great website. :)

    • Eric says

      Just saw your post and would like to share my knowledge of how Asian candidate (especially Taiwanese) usually prepares for a position in ib?
      First of all, I am Taiwanese myself, so don’t get offended of me pointing out the specific ethnic group; it’s just to my best understanding of the culture and how the people work their way up to ib in Asia.

      Frankly, the first step you should take is to get a better understanding of the available positions in ib and decide which of it is your designated goal. (Derivatives? Corporate finance? Buy side or sell side…etc.) I believe the most fundamental way of gaining the access to major investment banks is by a top mba (at least top 10 to have a better chance to seal the deal), and prior to applying for one, it’s most recommended that you acquire related working experiences from a multinational firm. Combine your language ability with a top MBA degree shall make you relatively competitive and a good chance to top off all other candidates in Hong Kong ib.
      CFA is good, but know that it’s always only a plus not the major factor.

      Well this is my first time posting on the forum, so if anyone disagrees with my suggestions, please feel free to let me know.

      • Greed is good says

        Dear Eric,

        Thanks for sharing your insights. Just to make sure though, did you mean that getting an MBA is a must for even IB analyst positions in Hong Kong? I only asked because I thought that the industry in HK were also opened to people fresh off colleges, but maybe that was just a fantasy. Also, can you specify the related working experiences you mentioned above? Or will any multinational firm do? Perhaps, do you know any types of jobs in Taiwan that can add such significant values to one’s resume? Sorry if my questions are a bit dumb…it’s just very frustrating being so clueless post-graduation. I thought I should go straight into IB if it’s at all possible given my current situation; however, maybe it’s not even an option at all for the time being. Thanks again for your help, Eric.

        • ben says

          Within Asia, Academics are valued over experience. People often look at which school you went to when arriving at a decision of whether to hire you. In places like Australia, experience counts for more. You’ll often see a candidate with stronger experience pip the guy with good academics. If you both, you’re a double threat and should find the offers flow freely.

          • Eric says

            I support the idea of Asian value over academics and experiences from Ben. When the two is placed in the same situation, an Asian recruiter is more likely to pick the one with better academic background rather than good working experience.

            Back to your first question of investment banks’ opened opportunities to bachelor degree holders; it’s always possible for a college graduate to be one out of thousands that get recruited as an investment banker at a bulge bracket bank, but to be the exception you need a whole lot more than just solid background and luck…

            Before I answer any of your questions, I shall explain why only top ten MBA graduates or candidates with dominating related working experiences get the golden tickets. From my perspective, the industry is more about network than any others you might know, while participating at a top MBA program, you’ll have the valuable networks of competitive individuals such as your fellow classmates and better yet, alumni. And so it is similar for an experienced candidate, except he/she has already proven that they can perform the role without others’ assisting and is able to jump right into the spot.

            So how do you access your way into bulge bracket banks as an undergrad, network. Why do you need related working experience from the field, network. Why do you want spend big buck and pursue a top MBA degree, network. I can go on but I think you got the point.

            One more thing I’d like to point out, from my years of working experience in the Asian market, network and connections are actually the most useful tools for businesses, as Asians feel that it’s a courtesy to take care of the connected/related individual and are more willing and comfortable of letting the one handling business for them. Well that, I believe, you can see a lot in events like Chinese New Year or Mid Autumn Festival…etc. where you parents bring in presents for relatives that they have not seen for a long time.

            Enough said, to your question of the type of working experience, I’ll break my answer up to two parts.

            1. If the experience is strictly for a good MBA, then any multinational firms will do.
            2. But if you are working to accumulate your knowledge and build up experience for investment bank. Then you really need to start with yourself, by deciding which segment of ib you are dedicating to. Then start finding out the role of the position and skills needed. For example, sales & trader, you will probably want to start practicing security trading or broking…etc.

            At last, I want to say that it’s really a long road, so I strongly suggest that you think twice on the reasons behind all of your actions before pouring yourself into preparing everything. I believe you have what it takes to get into a bulge bracket bank, especially with your relatively strong undergrad and proficiency in English, but ib wants a lot more than your expertise…it tends to ask all of its employees to dedicate their lives, well at least for the first three-five years. Try picking up some books (there are lots of reads about the mighty and exotic investment bank), I believe that will help.

            Hope you can find this helpful and good luck!

        • Eric says

          One more thing I forgot to include, no one ever said a top MBA is required for whichever position in investment bank. It’s only a place where they choose to recruit most of their newies. On top of that, the first comment I left actually pointed that the method I suggested was the most “fundamental” way and what most Asians choose to do for investment bank.

          So the job itself does not require you to be a MBA, MSF nor Master in Quants graduate, but chances are most of your competitors are. So unless you have special connections or unique experiences to offer, it is better that you do.

    • says

      Thanks for the suggestion. In Asia it is highly dependent on the specific country, i.e. HK is much different from Taiwan. I do not know much about the industry in Taiwan but I will see if we can do an interview with someone there. At this point your options would be aggressive networking / cold-calling and finding alumni back at home who could help. It is much tougher to get in if you’ve already graduated.

      • Greed is good says

        Dear Brian,

        Thank you for such a quick reply. I look forward to reading your how to break into IB Asia series. :) and thanks for the suggestion. I will try do to whatever I can at this point.

        Sincerely

      • Eric says

        Brian,

        Taiwan is relatively a small market, only a few of the bulge bracket banks pratice “partial businesses” here. Goldman & Merrill Lynch, I believe, only practie equity research & private banking. Nomura practices investment banking here but there is only a five-man team…(I know because my friend just got recruited.) Credit Suisse does none of their business here, only a few representatives for Taiwanese contacts.

        I believe if it will be a lot more helpful if recorded interviews for insiders from Hong Kong or better yet, China can be arranged.

        By the way, this is an absolute great site! I found my 21 questions solved and answered here. Thanks a lot!

        • says

          Thanks – yes I do want to do that at some point but so far no one from Taiwan has volunteered. I have also gotten a lot more questions on HK overall but will see what we can do. There is already some China material here if you do a search.

  15. Sheldon says

    Hi Brian,
    I was wondering if there is such a thing as a fall internship(during the school year) for a person who will still be a full time student during the fall? The chances of it being IB are probably slim but I would be happy with anything finance related. It would probably also be a really small firm and most likely unpaid, but I’m fine with that.

    The reason I ask is because I have no experience at all, which is why I didn’t even attempt to apply for a finance internship this summer. But I do I have some things lined up during the summer where I could potentially put it on my resume (Student investment fund and investment club). I’m currently finishing my sophomore year and I was hoping to get a fall internship and leverage that experience for the all important junior year summer internship.

  16. Jake says

    I am a 3rd year analyst talking to recruiters for lateral opps. My current comp at my IB boutique is about 30% below street. Is this going to effect the recruiters and bank’s opinion of me?

    Should I consider just telling them I make street?

  17. Stranger Danger says

    Hi Brian,

    I just started working in a country coverage team in a BB in London. My hours seem to be very low compared to other groups. I am only working 70-80 hours a week and its the same with my whole team. We do work late nights and weekends on some weeks though. The industry groups work longer hours everyday.

    Is this a bad sign? I mean I’m happy since I have some sort of work life balance but it just doesn’t seem normal to me.

    • says

      It really depends on how many deals you’re working on. It’s less about hours and more about deal experience and clients – if you have something solid to point to, you’ll be fine.

  18. Jake says

    I just finished the book Pitch Anything this morning. Incredible read. I was trying to think about how I’d apply it in lateral interview, using the power frame, push/pull, tension/desire, avoiding neediness, etc. Any ideas on things you can say in interview to set a ‘frame’ without sounding weird?

    • says

      I don’t think you could apply it 100% to interviews – but you could do something like setting the prize frame by mentioning how you have offers elsewhere and you do want to work there but they need to act quickly or else you’ll have to go with other options. That is probably the most effective way to use it, always emphasize you have other options and don’t care that much… but then seem really interested anyway.

  19. Greed is good says

    Dear Eric,

    Sorry for the late reply as I just saw your message, and thank you so much for answering my questions. I truly appreciate your help. I really don’t think I have a good reason for wanting to break into IB. To me, it’s mostly just this blurry fantasy which I would like to make reality one day, because fantasies just seem so good. I understand that IB is no easy business though and will definitely put more thinking into my actions. Thanks again, man. You and Brian are awesome.

    Sincerely

  20. Matt says

    Great review, thanks. I had just finished reading the book myself.

    I am a Business Development Director in M&A/Corporate Finance for a BIG 4 accounting firm and pitching is my main duty for the Partners in this group. This skill doesn’t come as “second nature” to accountants even though they work in the M&A space.

    I like the fact that although I do pitch (a lot) you can never stop learning and recommend this book to everyone.

    Love the site, keep up the good work.

  21. says

    Brian,

    I’m an associate in a boutique investment bank, and my MD has me going out cold calling clients and making pitches now. Enjoyed the recommendation. Do you have any other recommended presentation/ pitch books for novices?

  22. Randy says

    I’m fresh off a valuation and M&A process textbook (http://www.amazon.com/Investment-Banking-Valuation-Leveraged-Acquisitions/dp/0470442204) and want to read something that will provide a foundation for the way to shape marketing materials (CIM, teaser, etc.) and completely hammer down accounting skills/valuation models. This seems like a solid novel to start with but was wondering if you had something more appropriate. Also, I would like it to be somewhat interesting given that I just read a textbook. Thanks for the help and continuing this great website.

    • says

      Honestly not sure on that one – don’t know of anything that teaches how to build marketing materials. The BIWS PowerPoint course covers how to build a pitch book. Aside from that, best to get sample teasers from bankers and learn from those.

  23. Dre60 says

    How do we implement these strategies from the book, when seeking a job/interviews/networking?

    Isn’t asking for advice “validation-seeking behavior”?
    Doesn’t asking for a job, advice, or referrals seem needy?

    How can one ask without seeming needy?
    Would I say “I know your group/company/organization is a good fit for me”, instead of saying “I think/feel I’m a good fit for your group”?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      No asking for a favor doesn’t mean “needy”. However, if you act needy and emit a “desperate” vibe, you will look needy to others. Its not really about the words/questions. Its about how you present yourself.

      • Dre60 says

        If I go on an interview and the interviewee says why should we hire you (after answering their question), should I respond saying why should I accept an offer from you?
        Or how can I say this without appearing arrogant, cocky, unhumble?

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