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The Pixar Pitch

Mar 2, 2020

In his book ‘To Sell is Human’ Daniel Pink identifies six modern new ways of pitching including

– The One Word Pitch (based on concept championed by advertising guru Maurice Saatchi)

– The Question Pitch (we have already discussed the power of questions)

– The Rhyming Pitch (think ‘Kids and grown-ups love it so – the happy world of Haribo’)

– The Subject line (all about utility and curiosity)

– The Twitter Pitch (to engage and encourage to take conversation further)

These are great and whilst perhaps not suitable for use in B2B sales in their purest form, they certainly help add a creative twist to how we engage potential partners. However, the one that really caught our eye was the ‘Pixar Pitch’.

We like this as it is all about story-telling, a skill we believe should be used more in business. Stories are incredibly persuasive as, when people hear stories, they link to their own experiences. Stories conjure memories and stir emotions and listeners are better able to remember content when it has influenced emotions.

It is thought people will recall up to 22 times more than when faced with facts and figures alone. When the brain is presented with factual information, only two of its regions activate. FMRI studies show that storytelling causes many additional areas to light up. The brain responds to the story events as if they were actually happening to the listener.

When the brain sees or hears a story, its neurons fire in the same patterns as the speaker’s brain. This is known as ‘neural coupling’. In this process mirror neurons create a kind of mind synch between a speaker’s brain and the brains of their audience members. Engaged emotions create empathy with the speaker.

This is why storytelling is a powerful way to communicate information, build relationships, sell ideas, and inspire others

(It is also interesting that the human brain has a strong tendency to lose focus. It is estimated to engage in up to 2,000 daydreams a day and to spend up to half its waking time wandering. In the presence of an interesting story, though, this mental meandering goes to zero).

The Pixar Pitch

Pixar Animation Studios made their first feature film, Toy Story, in 1995 and is one of the most successful studios in moviemaking history. They have since produced other films including Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and WALL-E Pixar grossing over $7.6 billion and winning a load of Oscars along the way. 

How do they do it?

There are several interrelated reasons, but one should not discount the stories themselves. Pixar story artist, Emma Coats has cracked the code and argues that every Pixar film shares the same narrative DNA – a deep structure of storytelling that involves six sequential sentences:

  1. Once upon a time there was …
    2. Every day …
    3. One day …
    4. Because of that …
    5. Because of that …
    6. Until finally …

    Take for example the plot of Finding Nemo.

    1. Once upon a time there was … a widowed fish, named Marlin, who was extremely protective of his only son, Nemo.

    2. Every day … Marlin warned Nemo of the ocean’s dangers and implored him not to swim far away.

    3. One day … in an act of defiance, Nemo ignores his father’s warnings and swims into the open water.

    4. Because of that … he is captured by a diver and ends up in the fish tank of a dentist in Sydney.

    5. Because of that … Marlin sets off on a journey to recover Nemo, enlisting the help of other sea creatures along the way.

    6. Until finally … Marlin and Nemo find each other, reunite and learn that love depends on trust.

    This six-sentence template is both appealing and supple. For it allows pitchers to take advantage of the well-documented persuasive force of stories but within a framework that forces conciseness and discipline.

So how can it work in business and the consultative sell?

  1. Once upon a time… allows you to open with a general description of the situation.
  2. Everyday… depicts the current situation helps you to narrow down the problem.
  3. One day that decisive moment when the problem surfaces
  4. Because of that… first effect; what changed or could change because of the problem.
  5. Because of that… second effect; what changed or could change because of the first effect.
  6. Until finally… this concludes and highlights the essence of the journey or message.

Our mind processes and reproduces information better when it is presented in a structured way. Six sentences is the maximum we are willing to listen to and read, and through the use of effects it represents common logic and makes it easier to convince.

Let’s consider this using a partnering skills approach to selling

1. Once upon a time there was… a salesperson. A good salesperson who worked hard and strived to build relationships with his customers

2. Every day… he would go out and engage customers using the skills he had been taught on a course at the beginning of his career. His one and only training intervention

  1. One day… he realised that he was not as successful as he used to be. What he was doing no longer worked. He was still ‘making friends’ with customers but other companies were winning the business

    4. Because of that… he investigated how the world of sales had changed since he began 20 years previously

    5. Because of that… he discovered new and powerful approaches to selling including using partnering skills which he could use to apply many of his old and newly acquired techniques. He was thrilled to be able to recognize the partnering skills he had had along but didn’t understand

    6. Until finally… he was back on top of the game. His customers (who he often naturally referred to as partners) loved him, his company loved him, and his family loved him. He was a star and had a plan to stay as one through his modern approach to selling.

Interested in learning more about story telling and selling through partnering skills? Get in touch