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How To Gain Buy-In For Your Idea In 60 Seconds Or Less

Sam HornDid you know there is a woman who has helped countless entrepreneurs raise funds, aspiring authors to land book deals, and speakers to deliver edge-of-your seat keynotes?

Her name is Sam Horn, award-winning speaker and author of Pop! Stand out in Any Crowd. Sam is the official pitch coach for Springboard Enterprises which has helped raise $5 Billion in venture funding for companies such as ZipCar and Constant Contact. She also serves a who's who of blue chip clients such as HP, NASA, Cisco, Intel, and Kaiser Permanente.

While speaking at the Invent Your Future Conference, I had the chance to catch up with Sam to learn more about her techniques and her forthcoming book, Win Buy-In.

Adrian: What's an example of a winning pitch opener that gets attention?

Sam: That reminds me of a coaching session I had with Kathleen Callender, founder of Pharmajet, who said, "Sam, my pitch is only 10 minutes?! How am I going to talk about my invention, subcutaneous inoculations, clinical trials, and financials in only 10 minutes?"

I said, "Actually, you don't have ten minutes. Investors make up their mind in the first 60 seconds whether you're worth their valuable time, mind and dime." So here's what we came up with:

Did you know that there are more than 1.8 billion vaccinations given every year?

Did you know that half are given with re-used needles?

Did you know that we are spreading and perpetuating the very diseases we are trying to prevent?

Imagine if there were a painless, one-use needle for a fraction of the current cost.

You don't have to imagine it ... we've created it. And in this presentation about Pharmajet [share your evidence ]

In this new pitch, we went from confusing detail about subcutaneous inoculations to eyebrows up, blackberries down and complete attention by the audience. This pitch helped Kathleen Callender win the Nokia Health Award , she was featured in Inc. Magazine, "Pharmajet Finally Gets Unstuck", and BusinessWeek named her one of America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs in 2010.

Adrian: That's a great example. Now, let's dissect your approach. How can people apply this technique to communicating their ideas?

Sam: First, Get Context by answering three questions:

  1. What's an upcoming project or communication where you want funding, support or a yes?
  2. Who's the decision-maker? Rather than giving a vague description, given him or her a name and pinpoint their frame of mind? (i.e. skeptical, impatient, perfectionist, supportive)
  3. What do you want that person to do at the end of your presentation? For example, do you want them to buy your product? Provide funding? Sign a one year contract?

Second, Envision three things your decision-makers don't know about your issue or topic that they would like to know. Keep that decision-maker in mind as you craft your opening. Ask yourself:

What's a startling statistic about my offering I can attribute to a recent, respectable source? It's very important to cite a credible source because you need the gravitas to establish trust that what you're saying is credible and measurable.

What popular trend or event could I reference that proves this issue has growing significance? For example, "Did you see the TED talk where they said 'Water is the new oil?"

What other surprising insights could I introduce that would help them care about the problem I'm solving? Here's an example I recently developed with a European client:

  • Did you know fishing fleets are losing millions /day because killer whales and dolphins get caught in their nets and they have to cut them out which means they lose all their fish?
  • Did you know some fishing boat crews are resorting to killing the dolphins and killer whales to keep them out of their nets?
  • Did you know dolphins and whales are the only animals in the sea that have sonar?

When we tell our audience something they don't know—but would like to know—about the scale or scope of the issue we're addressing, it pulls them in and motivates them to want to know more.

Third, Engage Their Right Brain: Use the word "imagine" so they are right brain engaged, seeing what we're saying and picturing our point. Here's what we came up with in the dolphin example:

Imagine if you could create a sound, like fingernails scraping across a chalkboard, that only killer whales and dolphin could sense. Imagine that unpleasant sound could harmlessly keep dolphins and whales away from nets so fishermen don't have to kill them and they still catch their fish and don't lose money.

Adrian: So tell me more about the choice of words here. The fingernails on the chalkboard and re-used needles made me cringe.

Sam: That's the power of using words that are visceral and visual. You want to get a reaction because it means people are processing what you're saying rather than being preoccupied.

Adrian: These words really bring the story to life. Anything else you would like to add about this approach?

Sam: Great ideas are like great art. They work from every angle. The more you look at them the more they reveal. That's why it's important to start with questions. They transform communication from being a monologue into a dialogue. Questions engage. Declarations sit on the page.

As Johnny Depp said, "No one wants to go out mid-sentence." We don't want people nodding off in the middle of our idea.

To find more examples and further information about the 60 second or less approach to gaining buy-in learn more at

Adrian Ott is the award-winning author of The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved, Always-Connected Economy which was named a Best Business Book 2010 by Library Journal and by Small Business Trends. She is also CEO of Exponential Edge Inc. and a frequent keynote speaker. Follow Adrian on Twitter at @ExponentialEdge.

©2011 Exponential Edge, Inc., All Rights Reserved