The #1 Blog For Capital Raising, Selling, Deal-Making And Social Dynamics

There I was, in position to make a lot of money. It was November 1997 when I got a job in a real venture capital firm, NewLight Capital of San Diego.  My task was to find new investors.

One day, I was stealthing down the hallway minding my own business and out of nowhere appeared the Managing Partner, Rob Johnson, and it was like that familiar scene in a horror movie — I saw him 100 feet down the hall (which I consider a safe distance) then I blinked and he was just 25 feet away. Weird.

I blinked again and he was right in front of me. Like a supernatural being from The Omen, he had moved hundreds of feet in 2-blinks of an eye.

Ahhh!! PANIC!

ROB: “How’re your numbers looking Oren?”

I wasn’t prepared to go over my investor pipeline. So I said, “GREAT ROB! We’re doing SO good this month.”

ROB: “Super. Who do you have locked-in?”

ME:: <panicking> “Looks like Microsoft and Intel are on board, probably a few others”

ROB: “Excellent. Happy to hear it Oren. What are your numbers going to be this month?

ME:: "well, probably $3,585,000 from GE Capital alone!!"

WHAT THE HELL? WHY did my mouth just say that? And it was weirdly specific number. Why did I say any number at all … I didn’t have GE "locked-up" in any way.

I felt oddly like an actor in a play. That’s not me, I don’t just make up random numbers and blurt them out. I was scared, and trying cover up my emotions with bravado.

Anyway, Rob the Managing Partner and part-time demon nodded approvingly, stopped grilling me, smiled warmly and moved on. Thank god that was over.

What a ninja move I pulled there, I thought to myself. Double ninja!

I scurried to my desk in time to hear an email ping.

But something was off, this wasn’t the ping I was looking for:

TO: “Everybody”

SUBJECT: “Congrats to Oren”


Hello All:

I just wanted to give a big shout out to Oren who is closing the GE Capital account for $3.58 million and breaking company records for November.

Keep up the good work Big O! And I think you all should take a page from Oren’s playbook and start putting some big points on the board.


Rob Johnson
Managing Director

P.S. Seriously, though. Everybody needs to be in the game like Oren. He represents the future of the company.

I didn’t have Microsoft or GE “locked-up”  and of course they never appeared. Although I wasn’t fired, it was a year before trusted any of my numbers again.

I never intended to LIE to Rob. He used his high status to put me on the spot, I was youthful and inexperienced, I messed up royally and in the end, dug myself into a 1-year pothole, time I'll never get back.

Have you done this, are you a liar?

You would probably answer "no". Let's ask it another way. How many times in the past month did you say something that was not completely true? For many reasons, the answer is probably quite a lot –

… you said the financial projections were conservative

… you gave high revenue projections to make your project attractive

… used the best-case-possible assumptions to make the numbers work

… classified accounts that are dormant as being in the pipeline

Hey Oren, I would NEVER do that.

C’mon, give me a break.

We all overreach at some point along the way.

We do it because we –

Need to be liked.
Need to be heard.
Need to be believed.

We are all driven by two needs:

1. The desire to get ahead
2. The desire to think of ourselves as a good person

Our survive-and-thrive instincts tell us to cheat, lie and steal to be on top of the food chain. But our communal instincts tell us to be an honest, kind and authentic.

However, there are times when the reward for lying or cheating is higher than our desire to be a good person. At those times, there’s a high risk our brain will figure out a creative way to get the benefits of lying without the shame of feeling like a liar.

THAT’s where the danger is.

There will be times when your brain figures out a reasonable rationalization that allows you to

  • Get ahead by promoting big numbers you aren’t sure of
  • AND thinking of yourself as a good person.

Why even bring this up?

Because I have seen hundreds of deals die unnecessarily when someone used big juicy numbers to make a deal look good, eg.

… the deal will get a 20% ROI
… the equipment has a 10 year life cycle
… the company will produce $10 million of revenue next year.

But eventually the buyer found these were the best case results, or highly optimistic numbers. Trust was eroded, and the deal changed.

Most sellers overreach and overpromote.

This is why Buyers will pay you a lot for trust and certainty.

Is there any way to know if you’re pushing the numbers too hard and “overreaching” in a way that could blow-up a buyer’s trust?

People ask me every day, "look at my spreadsheet … what numbers should I use that the buyer will believe?"

Sure, I can give you the answer to that. I can give you trustworthy, credible numbers that buyers will love now AND later.

But I can't always be there to help. Let me suggest a system to keep you from overreaching and over-promoting your product, service or deal.

Step 1: pitch your deal to a friend or colleague:

Step 2: check in with yourself

1. Does it feel like you’re acting and playing a part, that the person talking is a character, but not quite yourself? Good actors make good liars; and a receptive audience can encourage you to keep performing a role.

2. Are you using emotional camouflage to prevent people from seeing your feelings? Liars usually mask the emotional expressions they truly feel by feigning the opposite affect.

3. Are you speaking with eloquence, more like a preacher than a regular person. Eloquent speakers confound listeners with word play and buy extra time to ponder plausible answer by giving long-winded responses to questions.

4. Are you feeling loose and comfortable or are you taxing your intelligence to make the pitch? Using the full breadth of your intelligence can mean you are using it to shoulder the “cognitive load” imposed by lying, since there are many complex, simultaneously occurring demands associated with monitoring one’s own deceptiveness.

5. Are you actively using “decoding”, or using the ability to detect suspicion in the listener which allows a liar to make the necessary micro-adjustments to a story.

Step 3: If you feel yourself doing a few of the behaviors above when giving a presentation or working a deal, it’s likely you’re pushing the numbers too hard.

Truth is, we’re all going to give revenue projections and project plans that we aren’t certain of, and of course we can’t control the future so we’re going to be wrong from time-to-time.

But there’s a huge difference between being wrong and selling numbers you don’t actually believe in.

In my case, I’ve done a lot of deals and in the past few years helped $600 million change hands

There’s only one lesson I have learned that applies to every deal, every situation, every dollar:

Soft lies the head on the pillow of a clear conscience

Buyers lie. Investors lie.

But not for the reasons you might think.

Let’s explore this. First, confront any executive in your company (or just look in the mirror) and question, “why didn’t you close that big deal last month?”

Then watch.  The excuse generator will kick-in:

… timing wasn’t right

…. competitor gave them product below-cost

… they weren’t ready to buy yet

All “reasonable” answers?

Not really.

To me, these are not adequate reasons —   they signal the buyer has completely controlled the sale while we ran in circles, exhausted ourselves trying to win them over.

What a big time waster.

How do I know?  I see so many deals, my inbox is overflowing, I have 28,288 unread messages. Factually speaking, some people have retired or died waiting for a response (sorry!)



While I can’t give you details on any one deal – it’s all confidential stuff — I do see clear patterns of behavior across hundreds and hundreds of deals … patterns that should interest you.

Turns out, entrepreneurs are so hungry for positive feedback about their company, product or deal — they have a huge blindspot: BUYER’S LIE ALL THE TIME and they don’t recognize when or how. 

The most common and most harmful lie I see? Positive feedback

Buyers often give positive feedback to keep you around as an option, but mainly to avoid the uncomfortableness of giving you bad news to your face.

I hear this 10X a week, “The buyer absolutely LOVED our presentation. They said it was the best they’ve ever seen.”

Across thousands of deals, I’ve learned, almost always, this is a form of deception. They didn’t LOVE the presentation enough to write a check. They didn’t LOVE the presentation to draft an LOI.

Buyers lie.

Well, really, all people lie. If Harvard University is to be believed, we’re all making two-solid lies a day. (Donald Trump recently had some impressive 1,000-Lie Days, so  maybe the average is skewed, but still: buyers lie.)

What to do?

Don’t worry about getting good at lie detection.

Even LIE DETECTORS aren’t good at lie detection; they get it wrong 35% of the time.

The Fix Is To Get good at Lie Prevention.


  1. Don’t ask the buyer, “So what do you think?” or “Are you interested so far?”

Why? Because buyer’s (and especially investors) know you will argue with any negative feedback they give you.

So when they’re not interested, they will do/say the exact opposite – these are the most common examples of  “I’m not interested.”

 – this looks very interesting.

–  this is something we can really use.

– definitely will take this to committee for feedback and get right back.

– this is one of the best presentations we’ve ever seen.

  1. Don’t ask a specific Leading Question

It turns out, buyers will lie most often when you ask them to affirm a positive statement:

–       would a 10-terrabye bandwidth speedloader help your load times?

–       would a 10 ton cement truck help you increase job size?

–       Seems like air freight would get product faster from China

Rather than confront your sad puppy dog face with a rejection, they will say “yes, that is a benefit we would want.”

Later you will get the full rejection email.


  1. Studies show business people are less likely to lie if you make a Negative Statement about them

You might think these confrontational statements would offend a buyer, but in practice, it makes them take you seriously and reduces the chance they will pander to you. 

 … seems like you waited too long to upgrade your servers,

 … you’re freight drivers seem careless, they have a very high accident rate, way above industry.

 … customer service wait times are way too long, I’d be mad too if I was your customer.

Now we’re getting somewhere!

 Stating negative facts about a buyer is something almost no salesperson does.

But they should.

Done correctly, this is single most effective strategy I know of to keep buyers in line,to keep them honest and prevent them from lying to you.

 It accomplishes three important things.

  1. Shows that you have watched Mad Men. (Don Draper does this s— all the time.)
  1. Communicates you’re not needy, and OK with tension. This signals that, unlike other salespeople, you’re both an adult and an experienced negotiator —  the buyer doesn’t have to lie to you and “protect your feelings.”
  1. You’re not going to supplicate and say “nice things” just to win brownie points. You’re not here to win a popularity contest, you’re here to offer something of value. This of course makes them take you seriously.

To improve your next sales presentation or capital raise,

– don’t set the buyer up to lie to you by asking softball, positive leaning questions

– initiate honesty + tension by directly insulting them … errr …  I  mean, by highlighting their obvious shortcomings

– There’s no risk in doing so, since no serious enterprise deal is going to close without some tense moments and lots of honest discussion.

– by introducing honesty, tension and openness you improve the sale process, and almost never hurt it.

Don’t worry about lie detection.

Focus on lie prevention.

If you want help doing this, I suggest using Pitch Mastery. Once you have a customer number, you can hop on our weekly LIVE call and we’ll do a live review of your current approach vs. What you should be doing.

Pitch Mastery registration here.

– Oren

Here are seven typical ways sales presentations start. They are all bad.

We'll get to a good one in a moment. First, let’s take a look at the bad ones in order of their badliness or "badiosity:”

1. Sob story about “how tough your family had it” growing up
When you start this way, with your origin story, it doesn't have any tangible benefit, and in the end you’ll find, 80% of people don't care about your past or present problems, and 20% are glad you have them.

2. Discussion of the weather
The ability to detect heat or cold is not a traditional sign of business talent, intellect or trustworthiness.

3. A half-relevant quote from a famous person
This tells me the presenter isn’t working hard enough to come up with their own brief, snappy take-away, so they have rely on some long dead person's brief snappy take-away, “50 years ago, Ernest Hemingway once said, You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. Or it might have been Michael Jordan, anyway …."

4. A Joke
I like to use humor to keep things lite and fun, but the outright telling of a joke usually doesn't end well. And for those times when I really need a joke, I pay for it by hiring Hollywood joke-writers. The Pros. Plan to spend $1,500 to have your opening jokes “punched-up” – or just stay away from jokes and save the dough.

5. A rhetorical question
Did you know half the people on earth are women? This will insult the audience's intelligence (at least half of them) and it's so lazy.

6. Review of the agenda
The most boring, uncreative, snooze-inducing and attention-losing introduction possible.

7. Discussion of recent sports event
Unless it's the Dallas Cowboys winning two games in a row. THAT is conversation-worthy. Otherwise, no sports.

Rather than discuss each of the above in further detail, let me mash them together so you can see how bad these openers are alone, or when combined.

(if today you are successfully using one of these openers, please reply to this email and let me know just when you became a Level 5 Warlock)


Hi, my name is Robert Mugabe, I'm here today to introduce you to my new app called, "Meglomaniac.” A little about me: my family moved here from [INSERT NAME OF BROKE AND WARTORN NATION eg. Mozambique, Laos, Djibouti, West Virginia] and 12 of us shared a 1-bedroom apartment in South Boston, where my dad pumped gas until he saved enough money for me to attend The New England Culinary Institute … … but hey, isn't this heat wave crazy, looks like climate change is actually real, like they always say on CNN for the past 20 years … well, this all reminds me my favorite quote, I believe it was Jesse Jackson who once said, "I deny the allegations, and I deny the alligator." So, I thought I would start today's presentation by asking, with a show of hands "Who here would like to make more money, yet work only 4-hours a week?" GREAT! Ok, here's the agenda I'll be presenting: 1. Who we are 2. Why we are here. 3. Technical Details 4. A contrived story about how useful our product is 5. A half-hearted call-to-action. Anyway, did you see the Dallas Cowboys game last week? END.

Terrible, right? Yet we have all done some of this.

Ok, so if, after reading and considering this, you still want to start your next presentation with any of 1-7 openers above, let me know and I'll do what I can to stop you from committing martyrdom on behalf of your company.

So if the standard stuff everyone uses is bad, what will work?

I suggest a method called EMPATHY ENGINEERING. You can use this to create a brief, original and powerful opener that doesn't rely on cliches. Let me explain, I think you’ll like this:

Nothing gets a person’s pulse up faster than a great plot driven by revenge. I’ve noticed that the best comedians (eg. Dave Chappel) also use this method.

The Revenge Opener is a form of Empathy Engineering, and works by setting up an antagonist — someone who is against you, and has wronged you.

The antagonist gives the audience an urge to root for you, the protagonist/hero. The audience becomes emotionally invested in you ‘winning’ after being wronged.

Here’s a simple Revenge Opener I recently wrote for a client, word-for-word. It worked quite well:

(spoken slowly and seriously:)

"My alarm goes off.
I get up.
Sit in traffic.
Get to work. Find a parking spot.
Slide my keycard. Login to computer.
51 new messages.
15 from my manager asking for status reports.
Look at my watch.
Cool, only 40 more years to go.

I resign. And start this company.

Just hired employee #50."


Ha! There are two main reasons this is a great intro:

Since everyone in the audience have also had an experience with being disappointed, betrayed or otherwise slighted, they empathize with your dilemma and are emotionally invested.

Since they have all had a similar experience, they want to see how you resolve it. So, when you “avenge” the wrong that was done to you, the audience feels that they also win. It’s a more personal experience for them, so they applaud the win.

By its nature, this type of presentation opener contains the critical combination of tension. The correct amount of push-and-pull. The way I wrote it there is immediate conflict and resolution; this gives the story the necessary beginning, middle and end that audiences crave.

When we use this approach our audiences are already groomed to applaud when the story resolves. It’s the same as when a country song ends, the story resolves, the audience naturally wants to applaud.

Next steps:

1. Try out a Revenge Opener, keep it simple, follow the formula.

2. I don't ask much of you, and I do give out a lot of good quality free content. But today, I ask do ask for something small in exchange: send this email to a friend or colleague.

3. And if you want to be even more involved, reply to this email and let me know you’re alive and what you’re working on. Mainly I’m looking for growing companies that want to raise money or grow faster, but I’ll listen to interesting people with a great story to tell.

4. Download my brain here. This is where you can work with me directly and learn how to use my method. Click here and I’ll help you craft your most important presentation, pitch or sale.


There are many kinds of “sales & presentation methods” and most of them are bad.

Features/Benefits………..……. bad.
Toastmasters … ………………..terrible.
Just be yourself ………………..horrible.

Has anyone recently told you, “hey, just be yourself, just tell them the facts and you’ll be fine”?

If someone has, give me their number. I’ll call them and tell them never to talk you again. Why?

Information-based selling is dead. And “winging it” is unprofessional.

The broad conclusion I have drawn is that buyers come to hear your pitch for one reason: curiosity. This is true of investors, purchasing agents, CEOs, etc.

So I have made a point of learning to think like the buyer, to be curious like the buyer, to feel the needs and pains and hopes and dreams of the buyer.

I’m going to be talking about this for a full hour next Thursday at the Infusionsoft ICON16 event. If you plan to be there, email me and we can arrange to say “hi” at the book signing.

If you’re not going to be at the event, here’s a quick and easy way to approach your next presentation –

Imagine for a moment “Tommy”, an average 10-year-old watching an average action movie, like Indiana Jones. There’s a car chase. Then a shootout. Then the heroes are making a desperate escape plan.

It’s all very interesting, exciting and curious … and engaging.

WHOA. What is this now …

A romantic scene with … what the hell …. kissing?!

Time to go to the kitchen and put a Hot Pocket(tm) in the microwave.

See, for a 10-year-old boy there is absolutely no reason in any action movie ever to watch a romantic scene.

Love-making, kissing, cuddling, hand-holding while walking on the beach in the rain … it doesn’t matter.

It adds nothing to the story.

At least not in the way that Tommy cares.

Your buyer is “Tommy.”

He wants key information that is –

– interesting
– engaging
– satisfying to his curiosity

I don’t know what business you’re in (you can always email me and tell me, you will get a response)

But I do know what business I’m in: investment banking.

So take a free lesson from my experiences with the most iron-fisted, cold-hearted and emotionless investors on earth:

These things are considered ACTION:
1. What is rapidly changing in your industry and what you think is going to happen in the next 12 months
2a. The very difficult problems you can solve with your product
2b. And why those problems are so hard to solve
3. The key features of your product/service (KEY FEATURES, not a laundry list of all the various things it can do)
4. A very brief demo (if possible)
5. The economics the investor will receive
6. The financials with a focus on revenues and actual year-over-year growth
7. Customer logos, customer contracts, user growth, renewal rates, gross margin, net margin, operating margin and ebitda (or NOI)
8. A reason to act now

And these things are considered ROMANTIC (and therefore not worth listening to)
1. The history of your company or any kind of sob story like is common on Shark Tank
2. The resumes of your team of advisors and “excellent” management
3. Your marketing plan (unless there are hard advertising dollars attached)
4. Reasons your competitors can’t do what you do (because in reality, they can, they just don’t want to)
5. One of those useless charts comparing your features to the competitors (useless because your competitor has the exact same chart showing that you don’t have any good features)
6. A list of products you will be coming out with in the future when you are a bigger company
7. A list of companies who have said they “love what you are doing” but haven’t purchased anything
8. Research about the size of your market
9. Features of products that haven’t been half built
10. And fifty other similar things

In summary, yes, do think of your buyer as a 10-year-old boy. He is curious. He is impatient. He wants solid information, and has other things to do. And he’s hungry for a Hot Pocket(tm).

Next, do me a favor. Send this to someone you know. Together, build your own list of “Romantic” items, eg things to take out of (or never put into) your own presentations.

Here are some administrative items:

– Again, I will be at Infusionsoft ICON16 next Thursday, stop by to say ‘hi’.

– If you’re working on raising money or selling your company, let me take a look at what you’re doing, I’m here.

– You can download my brain here, it costs a few bucks but is worth it.


Even if you aren’t raising money, or selling your company, these tactics are important to know because they will be used on you, now or in the future … let me explain.

Last Monday, eleven a.m. I’m reading some critical email and assessing the morning news (by that I mean, I’m surfing ebay for Ducati parts) and am finishing two shots of espresso.

The door opens and in comes an entrepreneur with a big problem. In just three days he’s meeting with a large private equity investor and he’s not prepared.

Getting “prepared” for that kind of meeting takes 30 days, not three. Not surprisingly I say, “That will take 30-days to get ready, not three.”

Then, just like a bar scene in the old westerns, he wrote a number on a piece of paper, and pushed it towards me slowly. “That’s for you,” he says.

Yesssir!! Gather the men! Mount up them horses, load your rifles and pack extra ammunition … and bring the doctor, there will be blood!

With a big payday drawing near, my team and I work through the weekend, preparing for The Huge Meeting with The Billionaire Investors Who Always Gets Their Way By Using Their Size and Influence to Push Small Companies Around.

Friday arrived, and it was time for the Big Meeting

Here’s how it went down:

1. The company (my client) introduced his products, his management team and how he plans to grow over the next three years. All standard stuff.

2. Then my client briefly described what had happened in sales past year, including the good, the bad and the ugly.

3.Next he focused on what his plans are over the next few two years. eg. the Go-forward plan

The Investors jumped on this with their first negotiation tactic –

“Why did you miss your Q4 Sales Target last year?”, asked one of the investors. He went on to add, “How can I believe your sales target for next year if you missed last year?”

His point was, anything you have messed up in the past, you will also mess up in the future.

The second negotiation tactic –

Next, the investor started to point out several competitors with “similar products.”

“IBM and Microsoft have similar networking routers to yours, and we don’t see how you can compete against their larger sales force,” asked one of the visiting investor team.

This is an attempt to say, we consider your product a commodity (and will offer a low purchase price.)
Why I am pointing out these two tactics:

First, every buyer or investor you meet will want to focus on what you have done in the PAST, because the past is knowable and it is made up of facts and it is measurable. Truth is, there is a battle in every room where a sale or an investment is taking place: are we going to price the deal on past performance (facts) or future performance (the unknowable)? If you can show a buyer or an investor that the future you are describing is very likely to happen, you will achieve premium pricing for your company, your products and services.

Second: the buyer/investor will always try to say that what you have is a commodity (no matter the quality) until you convince him how difficult it is to deliver your product and service. If you can show the buyer what you do is very hard and most people who try to do the same thing (at the same level as you do it) either fail or don’t get close to your quality — then he will appreciate the value in what you offer.

The bottom line:

Never let your past be used against you in business. How? That’s easy. Just state, “We did miss some of our performance targets, but have learned from the experience, and have collected new data. We’ve carefully recast our plans and are confident in [whatever is supposed to happen next.]”

And never let anyone cast you in the “commodity” frame. While you might sell a commodity, you are unique as a company, and certainly as a person. And that uniqueness is worth paying for.

If you’d like to learn how to perfectly prepare for your next presentation, and how to sell, negotiate and convince like the best Pro’s on Wall St. or Silicon Valley, jump over to Pitch Mastery here.Pitch Mastery here.

Brock Pierce is a venture capitalist and entrepreneur with an extensive track record of founding, advising and investing in online and mobile gaming, payment systems, digital currency, and distributed systems. He pioneered the market for digital currency. He has raised more than $200 million for companies he founded and led more than 30 acquisitions. Mr. Pierce is the serving Chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation and founder and Managing Partner of Blockchain Capital, which has invested in more than 35 companies.