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When Mr. Big Cancels Your Meeting, Frame Him

OrenKlaffToday’s post was written by Oren Klaff, director of capital markets for Intersection Capital, an investment bank. In his new book, Pitch Anything, Oren talks about the interesting concept of “situational power.” For example, when a surgeon comes to a golf pro to improve his swing, the golf pro has situational power over the surgeon. Oren’s strategy is to gain situational power over the ego-intoxicated client.


I regularly go up against big guns who compete in the same market I do, pitching the same sort of facts and figures. But I’m the one who consistently gets the funding at a rate of about $2 million a week.  I admit it: I’m not lucky, and I don’t have a special gift for sales. I don’t even have a background in sales.  

What I do have is a good method. I use an approach called the S.T.R.O.N.G. Method, which I outline in my book, Pitch Anything.  

The first key to the method is Setting the Frame, by which I mean establishing mental structures that shape the way we see the world. Imagine looking through a window or a camera lens. As you change perspective and view, the sounds and images you encounter are interpreted by your brain in ways that are consistent with your intelligence, values, and ethics.  This is your frame, and it can clash with or become absorbed entirely by someone else’s viewpoint or frame. Using a variety of techniques, you can reestablish the frame.  

I’ll give an example of how framing works by giving you an example of the Prize Frame. 

Let’s say that you’ve done everything right so far. You’ve come into the business interaction and quickly asserted control with the people you’ve just met. You’re ready to start your pitch and are waiting for “Mr. Big” to come in, when his assistant steps in to announce, “I am so sorry. Mr. Big just called. He can’t make the meeting for another hour. He says to start without him.” She turns to leave.

This is a defining moment for you. You have just lost the frame to him, and there is nothing you can do about it; however, this does not mean that you do not have choices. Your options:

  1. Go ahead with your presentation, even though you know you’ve lost the frame. Hope for the best, and hope that maybe Mr. Big will join the group toward the end of the meeting. (I would not recommend this.)
  2. Stop everything. Reframe using power, time, or prize frames, or perhaps all three. Immediately take the power back. 

You’ve traveled to this meeting, prepared for it, and have an established goal. Are you willing to throw that away? No one can tell your story as well as you can. If you trust your presentation to subordinates and expect them to pass it on to the decision maker with the same force and qualities of persuasion that you have, then you are not being honest with yourself. Mr. Big must hear it from you.

This is what I usually say in this situation:  “So you guys are asking me to delay the start? Okay. I can give you fifteen minutes to get organized. But if we can’t start by then, let’s just call it a day.” Usually someone will volunteer to track down Mr. Big, and that person will try as hard as he or she can to find him and request that he join the meeting.

Or someone will say, “Let’s go ahead with the presentation, and we’ll make sure that Mr. Big is briefed.” You can’t let your frame get absorbed by this. Your response? “No, we’re not going to follow your agenda. This meeting is going to start when I say start, and it will end when I say stop. You’re going to make sure that all the right people come to the meeting on time. Then we’re only going to cover the items on my agenda, and you’re going pay attention to every minute of my presentation.” 

You only think this, of course. What you actually say is, “I can wait fifteen minutes, but then I have to leave.” That’s enough to get the message through.

The first time you think this way and say these words, you’ll be uncomfortable - no, make that terrified - and you’ll wonder if you are doing the right thing. Your heart will race, and you’ll fear the consequences of your boldness, afraid of having offended your audience. You’ll second-guess yourself and think you’ve just made an awful mistake.  

And then something awesome will happen. The people in the room will scramble, doing their best to prevent you from being offended, doing their best to keep you from leaving. They are worried about you

When you own the frame, others react to you. Like Peter Parker’s transformation into Spiderman, you will suddenly be empowered by an internal change that is felt by everyone in the room. Be judicious with this power as you are now in complete control of the situation. If you stand, pack up your things, and leave; it will be a social disaster for Mr. Big and his staff. So be benevolent, give Mr. Big the promised 15 minutes to arrive, and act politely but true to your frame.

And if he does not show at that point, you leave. You do not deliver your presentation, leave brochures, nor apologize. Your time has been wasted, and you don’t even need to say it. They know.

If it seems appropriate, and if this is a company with which you want to do business, tell the most important person in the room that you are willing to reschedule - on your turf. That’s right, offer to reschedule and acknowledge that these things happen (we have all missed meetings before). But for the next meeting, they must come to you.

This is a subtle framing technique known as Prizing. What you do is reframe everything your audience members do and say as if they are trying to win you over.

A few moments earlier, you learned that Mr. Big wasn’t coming to your meeting and apparently you were just the morning entertainment. Now, however, you are communicating to your buyers that they are here to entertain you. What prizing subconsciously says to your audience is, “You are trying to win my attention. I am the prize, not you. I can find a thousand buyers (audiences, investors, or clients) like you. There is only one me.” It also conveys to your audience members that if they wish to get any further information from you, they will first have to do something to earn it.

This is a powerful and unspoken expression of your high status and frame dominance. It forces your audience members to qualify themselves by telling you exactly how interested they really are. Sound outrageous? It’s not, I promise you. 

When you rotate the circle of social power 180 degrees, it changes everything.


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Roz Bennetts

I can see this going badly wrong except with the most naturally confident of individuals. I like the idea though as it forces sales people to realise their own importance and behave like an executive. It would be situationally dependent for me and I might use it but I wouldn't insist on my 'turf. Sorry to be nitpicky, but the frame isn't lost if you agree to their turf again. I like the sentiment though.


Lame. Mr. Big isn't coming to the meeting because he doesn't see any value in being there. For the same reason, his chances of travelling to you are zero.


Often, when this has happened to me, I've felt that there is a small karmic debt Mr. Big feels towards me... and if I defer the presentation, he'll be even more receptive to me the next time. (btw; that might be Ms. Big, too )

proposal software

To bound customer with the organization is one of the most difficult thing in today times. I would say we should give our customers a personalized environment, for example, fixing pictures of big customers at our premises, involving them before launching a new product or taking their recommendations about a potential launch, inviting customers in our functions etc.. All these things are enough to keep the customers as well as getting new ones easily.

Michael Kelly

On the other hand, when I am Mr Big to some salesperson (we all are at some point) and I have a last minute higher priority to take care of (a real one) I might apologize and try to have someone else handle it for me or I might want to reschedule. If the salesperson did what you suggest with anything hinting of the wrong attitude I would probably say forget it. Learning here: respect, but firm. Practice this so you don't come off as someone who just read this and has no clue about how to do it well.

Mobile Proposal Software

I would also add something to your post. Enhancing the customer's buying power is the easiest way to make a sale or to convince anyone to listen what you are saying. Every company can do it provided it has the techniques to do so. Some of the tips can be:
--Provide what customer actually wants
--Customer warehouse where all important information about customers will be stored like their buying habits, spending habits etc so that you can hit them at the best time.
--After sales services for free
--24/7 customer support if possible
--Product differentiation
--Service differentiation


I completely agree that having a good and sound method for anything is the most important thing to get done anything successfully.

The example you gave to frame Mr.Big is again incredible. Your approach to communicate the things is outstanding i must say.

Today, i have learned a new lesson from you. I have been only thinking that saying like this " I dont have time or i can vait for 15 minutes then i have to leave" is worst thing one does and ultimatly loses a potential customer. but after reading your post i am convinced that you are right. If we are well prepared, our ofering is the ultimate need of the customer, and if we are right then why to feel fear? I am with you and will try my b est to communicate this great lesson to my fellows as well. have you also written something about tools to increase sales?

The window and frame example you have given is outstanding. Excellent.

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