If you’re just joining us, this week I’m debriefing last week’s discussion of Milton Erickson’s teaching tales. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment and shared their insights.
From the responses, I can see that many of you are already familiar with Erickson, probably through the work of John Grinder and Richard Bandler who codified Erickson’s (and other noted therapists) techniques into a process known as NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming).
Still more of you are probably familiar with Anthony Robbins, who with the help of Guthey Renker commercialized NLP for mucho moolah via late night infomercials. So it’s not surprising that some of you describe Erickson’s techniques in NLP terms …
Bob Clarke writes:
“Dr. Erickson always “joined” his clients in their model of the world. Entered the conversation they were having in their head.”
There is a difference between the world and our perception of it. Human beings do not operate in the world directly.
Each of us creates a representation of our world – a map or model through which we interact with reality. And this map determines to a large degree what our experience of the world will be … what choices we will be able to see and make as we live our lives … and the behaviors we will adopt.
Regardless of what it is you’re selling, your prospects are thinking certain things about the problems they are trying to solve, and the opportunities they hope to exploit. And that means they also have feelings about those things.
Taken together, these thoughts and feelings comprise their model of the world as it relates to your offering. If your efforts to persuade fail to instantly harmonize with that model, your words will fall on deaf ears.
To try and impose your own model of the world on another in an attempt to influence them doesn’t work. As Bob puts it, you must enter the conversation that’s taking place inside their heads, or they simply won’t hear a word you say. You might as well be speaking another language.
As a coach, consultant, advisor, agency, service pro or solution provider, if you can join your prospects in their model of the world, and then gradually extend and mold that model to where you need it to be, you can make more sales.
But there’s more to the story.
The seed that sprouts the sale …
When you join your prospects in their model of the world, you are validating their value as human beings. You are telling them they are right, and that what they are thinking and feeling is important. You are displaying your empathy and building up their self-image.
The same occurs when you allow your prospects to take ownership of the conclusions you make through the artful use of questions, as Erickson did in the teaching tales.
Why is this so important?
The self-image is the key to selling. People buy things because they see those things helping them to enhance their self-image, although few will admit it, and even fewer realize it. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see this is true. Think about the last house or car or piece of clothing you bought, and try to remember the thoughts and feelings you experienced at the point of purchase.
If you’re human, you imagined what people would be thinking about YOU as they watched you pull up in that new car …about how impressed – even jealous – your friends and family would be when they came to visit YOU in your new home for the first time … and how strangers would respect YOU when they saw the distinctive style of the clothes you were wearing.
Or maybe you were in denial, busying your mind with common sense reasons why you should have that new car, house, or piece of clothing. Nonetheless, you felt pretty good about yourself, didn’t you? Trust me, your ego was working overtime. You just didn’t know it.
We’re all junkies when it comes to things that we believe will make us feel better about who we are. We all want to feel important, appreciated, recognized, and admired.
When you join your prospects in their model of the world, you give them a little fix of these things, and they want more. If getting more means investing in your program, well so be it. The more tangible you can make the promised satisfaction of these self esteem needs, the more money they’ll spend.
Jeff Campbell writes:
“Milton Erickson used in all three cases a technique known as “Reframing”.
This is where someone like Erickson changes the emotional viewpoint or setting in which a situation is experienced by placing it in another “frame” which suits the facts in a similar way.
It is commonly used by therapists to get patients out of a “rut” when they constantly hold a particular point of view which is causing them distress or harm.
For example the little girl biting her nails soon changed her point of reference from it being cool to it becoming a chore. That was enough to get her to stop the nail biting.”
If we can find a new frame of reference for our experience, the world literally becomes a different place. Or as the bard of Avon put it:
Erickson helped his patients to see a more useful and empowering map of their world. Nail biting was reframed from cool to chore … flatulence was reframed from a source of shame and embarrassment to a form of worship … and thinking you’re Jesus Christ was reframed as being well, crazy.
Can you use reframing in sales and marketing? Oh yeah! It is the cornerstone of the craft.
Your job as a persuader is to get people to frame the purchase of your program in such a way that its price is dwarfed by their perception of the rewards it brings them. Yes, there are as many places to use reframing in persuasion as Carter has little liver pills.
Let me give you just a few examples to get your creative juices flowing …
Expensive to Inexpensive – As Ben Graham (one of Warren Buffet’s mentors) is famous for saying, “price is what you pay, value is what you get.”
Spending money is the downside of buying things for many people. In their model of the world, spending money means having less of it, and that conjures up all kinds of negative mental images. Less security. More obligations, if they’re buying on credit. And so on.
One way to reframe this perception when it comes time to reveal price is to never refer to price. Instead, reframe your prospect’s negative perceptions about spending money by calling the price an investment.
Second, suggest the investment is small. “Your investment? Surprisingly low – just $5000.”
Third, compare and contrast. Focus your prospect on a more costly alternative first. “As you’ve seen, until now, business process automation this sophisticated and easy to use cost over $100,000 to implement. But with our new application service provider model, your total investment is surprisingly low – just $5,000.”
Fourth, never state the investment by its lonesome. Always remind your prospect of the return he gets from the investment in the same breath. Carrying on from the above, “ … your total investment is surprisingly low – just $5,000. You get a turnkey system for automating your entire operation that will easily save you having to hire at least two employees at a cost of $60,000 a year as your business grows. That’s a whopping $55,000 annual return on your investment!”
Fifth, trivialize the investment. “Imagine, for less than the cost of benefits for one employee – about $14 a day – you’re all set to grow your business for the foreseeable future without headaches, and without hassle.”
Do you think reframing a $5000 cost into a $14 a day investment that saves the prospect $55,000 a year will increase sales? Does the pope wear a beanie?
Hard to Easy – Another sales killing frame is “it’s too hard”. People seem to reflexively rebel against anything that sounds like work. Funny how that is …
In Breakthrough Advertising, published by Boardroom Books, Gene Schwartz gives a few great examples of this type of reframing. Gene, of course, was writing copy long before NLP and called the process “redefinition.”
One of the examples in Breakthrough Advertising is taken right out of Max Sackheim’s famous ad, Do You Make These Mistakes in English? Gene points out that prospects for Sherwin Cody’s course – while they wanted to become “cultured” and well spoken – were convinced it was too difficult. Sackheim’s ad redefined the process of turning bad English into good English – from hard to easy.
Here’s how he did it:
Only 15 Minutes A Day
Nor is there very much to learn. In Mr. Cody’s years of experimenting, he brought to light some highly astonishing facts about English.
For instance, statistics show that a list of sixty-nine words (with their repetitions) make up more than half of all our speech and letter writing. Obviously, if we could learn to spell, use and pronounce these words correctly, we would go far toward eliminating incorrect spelling and pronunciations.
Similarly, Mr. Cody proved that there were no more than one dozen fundamental principles of punctuation. If we mastered these principles, there would be no bugbear of punctuation to hamper us in our writing.
Finally he discovered that twenty-five typical errors in grammar constitute nine-tenths of our everyday mistakes. When one has learned how to avoid these twenty-five pitfalls, how readily one can obtain the facility of speech which denotes the person of breeding and education!
When the study of English is made so simple, it becomes clear that progress can be made in a very short time. No more than fifteen minutes a day is required …
Information to Transformation – I was thumbing through a copy of J. Haldeman Julius’ The First Hundred Million the other day, and I am reminded of what a great example of reframing it is.
For those of you who don’t know, Julius was a publisher who sold books for 5 cents a piece through mail order in the 1920s – yes hundreds of millions of them.
When a book failed to sell 10,000 copies or more per year, it was removed from offer and sent to the “hospital”, where Julius personally attempted to resuscitate it. What happened at the hospital?
The same thing that happens dozens of times each month here at the Science Of Client-Getting, when we brainstorm hot new names for our member’s signature programs.
Julius reframed people’s perception of the book by giving it a new title. Sometimes, all it took to dramatically increase sales of a particular book was to give it a new name. A name that focused the prospect’s attention on who the information could help them become. Our clients find the same to be true.
Pleasure to Pain/Pain to Pleasure – One last important example is what I call, The Rapid Reframe.
Like a magician, your sleight of hand as a persuader is all about where you direct the prospect’s attention. Joining them in their model of the world and then gently reframing their perception is your stock in trade.
Sometimes all it takes is a single question to flip a switch inside the prospect’s brain. And it allows them to see things differently …
You get to the end of a sales interview and the person you’re working with desperately needs what you’re selling, but they don’t want to make a decision. So they start making excuses.
Frame: It costs too much.
You can fold up like a card table and let them stay stuck, or you can reframe their view of the world. Put their pain in the frame instead of your price.
Reframe: It costs too much? You mean if you take it, or if you don’t?
Frame: This all sounds wonderful, but I’ve got to talk to my wife.
Reframe talking as deciding, and deciding as benefiting. Note the marking out of words to assist in this reframe.
Reframe: What do you mean you need your wife to sign off on improving your cash flow? Do you really need her permission to take her on that trip to Cancun?
Frame: I never make snap decisions, let me think it over and I’ll get back to you.
Reframe thinking it over as indecision.
Reframe: How do you know your indecision and the fact that you’ve been struggling with this for the last 5 years are not the same thing?
Frame: Damn, this is interesting sales information, Daniel. I’ll definitely put it in practice someday.
Reframe selling as helping and the future as now.
Reframe: How many people are you NOT helping because you’re not using it NOW?
Maybe it’s time you book a free strategy call and find out.
Until next time, Good Selling!