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Framing is the art of shaping the meaning of a situation, behavior, thought, word or phrase. It is deciding what this situation in front of you is going to mean to you AND it is helping others decide what the situation is going to mean for them. There are three aspects of framing: pre-framing, re-framing and de-framing. Each of these skills has its own place in your sales presentation.
Pre-framing is a very powerful tool that allows you to let someone know in advance what is going to happen and what they should make it mean. We all know that two people experiencing the same event will often come away with two very different meanings about what happened; people decide what something means to them based on their individual past experiences and their general life attitudes. It is also true that people will always find what they are looking to find. For many people, when they are faced with something new or something that makes them feel uncertain or uncomfortable, their initial reaction will be to reject whatever has triggered that feeling. By letting people know in advance what to look for in your message you are paving the way for your message to be well received. A well done pre-frame can eliminate potential doubts, objections, hesitations, disagreements, etc. With a pre-frame you are giving yourself the advantage of handling challenges while they are small or even non-existent.
Here is an example: If you know that your price is slightly higher than you competitors, then you should bring it up first so you can pre-frame it and establish what it means. “I know you are a sharp business person, so I am sure you have already done your homework and found that our price is slightly higher than our main competitor’s. Well that may be true on the surface, but let me share with you the reality. With our product, you also get X, Y, and Z service and support, which is worth ____ to you over the next year. With our competitor you only get X and they charge you for Y and Z, meaning over the next year you will actually pay more for their product than ours. So the reality is our product actually costs less.”
Re-framing is the art of taking an event that a person (even yourself) has already attached a meaning to, and making it mean something different. It really is just offering another perspective, another way of viewing the situation. Technique and confidence is important here. You want to make sure that the other person doesn’t feel as if they are being attacked or as if you are making them “wrong.” You are simply, with compassion (a little Lover with some Magician thrown in…read the article on Archetypes in the Influence category!) offering a more empowering meaning. Maintaining rapport is key while you are helping someone to re-frame.
Here is an example: “I know the last time you tried our product you didn’t have the best experience, so I don’t blame you for being a little hesitant to look at again, but I can promise you that you will be glad you did. You see, we took your experience and that of others, and went back to work improving our product. Now, because of what happened, we have not only completely solved these previous concerns, but we have actually leapfrogged where we were and the competition and come up with a meaningfully better product. I know you are going to like what you see.”
The de-frame is a last resort measure. Basically it is shocking someone into your way of thinking because you have just done something totally unexpected. This strategy is not for the faint of heart, and it does not go over at all if you are not in total rapport.
Here is an example: I was in a meeting that I knew was going to be tough, but as it turns out I had underestimated just how tough. I was doing just about everything I knew and still they wouldn’t budge. Finally, I pulled out the old de-frame. I said “You guys are probably right. Maybe you don’t want to accept this new way because you really don’t believe you can accomplish this goal anyway. Maybe you’re hiding behind your fear and you wouldn’t accept any concept because you don’t believe in yourself or this company. I just want you to know what it looks like to me.”
Well, that did it. They were wondering what the heck I was talking about. Had I really just given up on them? Did I really think they were afraid? Of course, since they were in such a pattern of contradicting everything I was saying and arguing, they contradicted these statements and started to argue with me telling me why I was absolutely wrong and they went on to prove it to me by coming up with all these ideas on how to make the concept work. Pretty sneaky, wasn’t it?!
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