If you’re familiar with “The Game” and PUA (Pick Up Artist) techniques, then this book will simply show you how to apply much of that to sales. If you’re not familiar, then this book will be an eye-opener. Despite the title, this book is not about presentation skills – it’s about social dynamics. It’s about changing the playing field to give yourself the upper hand in your business encounters.
The dominant theme throughout the book is frame control. A “frame” is simply a perspective, a lens through which you view the situation. In any social interaction, our frames collide with others and the strongest frame will absorb the weaker one(s). The winning frame then sets the context and tone for the rest of the conversation.
“If your frame wins, you will enjoy frame control, where your ideas are accepted (and followed) by others. But if your frame loses, though, you will be at the mercy of your customer […]
Sales techniques were created for people who have already lost the frame collision and are struggling to do business from a subordinated or low-status position.”
The book primarily focuses on how to choose and set the winning frame. The following is a summary of the different frames.
Power Frame. Big ego and an attitude that says “I’m the most important person in the room”. When you encounter someone with this frame, you have to show them that you won’t stand for their B.S. A light-hearted act of defiance or denial will help you take the frame away. For example, if they’re reading a folder instead of listening to you, take it away from them and say something a little cheeky like “Multi-tasking’s not for you. You’ll get this back later.” The key is to keep it playful. “Defiance and light humor are the keys to seizing power and frame control.”
Time Frame. Whoever dictates the pace of the interaction owns the frame. If they keep you waiting or cut your time allowance without notice, they are imposing their time frame on you. It’s vital that you don’t let them get away with it. Stay cool and remember that your time is precious. Don’t rush to cram everything in. Present what you can and/or reschedule the meeting on your terms. They’re at fault so now you set the time and you set the place of the next meeting. Make them earn your time and attention.
Prize Frame. The “Prize” is the one everyone’s competing for. When you are the prize, people need you more than you need them. Position yourself as the prize by showing that you have an abundance of choice, that you are selective rather than needy, and that you don’t have to jump through their hoops – they have to jump through yours. “Frame yourself as high value in the eyes of your target.”
Analyst Frame. The “Analyst” wants numbers, graphs, statistics and calculations – basically as much detail as possible. This is not good because analytical mental processes are “cold cognitions” and we want to trigger the “hot cognitions” – emotions (such as desire and excitement) that drive people to buy. The problem is that “humans are unable to have hot cognitions and cold cognitions simultaneously.” So you have to break the analyst frame quickly. You do this by providing summary data. Give only the most important details. Assure them that “These and other details can be verified later” and swiftly refocus their attention – “But right now we’re here to focus on the big picture and answer the question: should we be doing business together?” The author advises to “Keep the target focused on the business relationship at all times. Analysis comes later.” Another way to overcome the analyst frame is with an intrigue frame.
Intrigue Frame. “No one takes a meeting to hear about something they already know and understand.” The intrigue frame tells your listeners that you know something they don’t. If that information is valuable to them, they will listen until they get it. “Those who solve the puzzle drop out.”
You can set an intrigue frame by telling a provocative (and relevant) story and leaving it unfinished – unresolved. Think of how your favourite TV series always ends on a cliffhanger. That’s what you want to do with your story. Keep it brief. Put yourself at the centre of the story and build tension with uncertainty, time pressure, struggle and high stakes. Once you have your audience hooked, stop without finishing the story. They will then be dependent on you as you’re the only one who can tell them how the story ends. Now that you’ve got their attention and replaced analytical thinking with narrative discourse, you can get back to your presentation.
Moral Authority Frame. When you are in the right and/or your target is in the wrong, you own the moral high ground. Stick to your guns and this is a very tough frame to break. Rational argument is little match for moral authority.
“Why Now?” Frame. “Nobody wants to invest time or money into an old deal that has been sitting around.” Your audience must perceive your pitch as relevant and timely. You can set the “Why Now?” frame by presenting your idea in three steps:
- Explain the most important trends and developments affecting your business/industry/market
- Highlight the impact of these factors on costs and customer demand
- Explain how these circumstances have opened and small market window
That’s the first half of the book: frames, frames, frames!
The second half: how to pitch!
Most of us know that long-winded presentations are ineffective. The author suggests that you deliver your presentation in 20 minutes or less, in these four phases:
- Introduce yourself and the big idea (5 minutes)
- Explain the budget and the secret sauce (10 minutes)
- Offer the deal (2 minutes)
- Stack frames for hot cognition (3 minutes)
The critical first step. Put your audience at ease with a “time-constraint pattern”. Let them know they’re not going to be trapped in the typical boring meeting that drags on forever. The author suggests that you open with something like, “Let’s get started. I’ve only got about 20 minutes to give you the big idea, which will leave us some time to talk it over before I have to get out of here.”
Introducing yourself. Do not recite your résumé. Keep it short and only highlight your major successes. “Research has shown that your impression of someone is generally based on the average of the available information about them, not the sum.” So talking about only your major achievement is better than talking about that and three minor achievements.
Introducing the big idea. Use Geoff Moore’s “Idea Introduction Pattern”:
“For [target customers] who are dissatisfied with [the current offerings in the market]. My idea/product is a [new idea or product category] that provides [key problem/solution features]. Unlike [the competing product], my idea/product is [describe key features].”
E.g. (emphasis added) “For companies with large buildings in California and Arizona who are dissatisfied with their ageing solar panels. My product is a plug-and-play solar accelerator that provides 35 percent more energy from old panels. And unlike the cost of replacing panels, my product is inexpensive and has no moving parts.”
In just a few short sentences, your audience knows what your product/idea is, who it’s for, who’s the competition and why you’re better!
Explaining the budget and the secret sauce. Anyone can make ambitious revenue projections. Investors are more concerned with costs and competition. Show them a realistic and accurate budget. “Unrealistic budgets and miscalculating costs are the greatest risks to a growing company, especially startups.” Answer these questions about competition:
- How easily can new competitors get into the market?
- How easily can your product be replaced by another?
Your “secret sauce” is what gives you the edge over the competition.
Offering the deal. Describe what your audience will get when they do business with you. They need a clear and concise explanation of the fulfilment process. What will you deliver? When? How? What’s their role?
Frame Stacking. As you move to closing your pitch, you can pump up the hot cognitions by stacking these four frames in quick succession:
- Intrigue Frame – promise an intriguing reward on the other side of the deal, e.g. “Once we’ve made this deal, I’ll introduce you to [high value person your target will want to meet]”, or, “Once we’re done signing the paperwork, I’ll give you [privileged access to special resources]”.
- Prize Frame – mention the interest from other parties and show that your target will have to work get what you’re offering, e.g. “We’ve got [other prospects whom your target either aspires to or competes with] dying to do business with us, but if you [insert condition for them to meet], I’d be happy to work with you.”
- Time Frame – Make the offer time-sensitive without being pushy, e.g. “I’d love to give you until next week, but we have to get a decision by Friday. It’s completely up to you; no pressure. But we’re working to a schedule and we’ll be moving ahead come Friday.”
- Moral Authority Frame – Reaffirm your integrity and then ask your audience if they can meet you halfway, e.g. “I don’t need to tell you that we [insert values and principles that you uphold]. Can you [meet our standards]?”
As you wrap up your pitch, remember that you are the prize. You’ve made your offer but you don’t need them to take it. So don’t chase them.Extend an invitation and let them come to you.
Honestly, it’s taken me longer to write this review than to read the book! While I think it’s a little too heavy on the frame control and mind games, many of us could benefit from valuing ourselves more highly. Too often, we surrender to the stronger personalities in the room and play their game. This book will motivate and equip you with some tools to hold your own in high stakes business encounters.
As for practical tips on how to deliver your pitch, the two most useful things that stand out to me are Geoff Moore’s Idea Introduction Pattern and the Frame Stacking technique for closing your pitch. Maybe I’ll find and share more examples of these techniques in future posts. If you have your own examples, go ahead and share them in the comments below!