Today’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:
- 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.)
- 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.