Framing and a Terrible Procurement Meeting – Episode 15
In this episode of Pricing College – Joanna covers the concept of framing – and how it can benefit you in a negotiation or procurement meeting. With framing – you can assume dominance or the moral high ground in a meeting or interaction which can be used to great benefit. This can be a tactic often utilised by procurement professionals.
What can pricing managers learn in this regard?
TIME-STAMPED SHOW NOTES: FRAMING A PROCUREMENT MEETING
[00:44] Joanna explains that framing is used often in negotiation. Frames are points of view.
[01:20] We have all been in environments where we are being “framed”.
[02:00] Framing in a procurement meeting comes down to power structures.
[03:00] You need to be aware if you are being framed.
[03:30] Joanna discusses 4 common frames: a time frame, the power frame, moral authority frame, and the analyst frame.
[05:15] Aidan tells a horror story.
[07:55] If you are not aware of framing – you can feel very uncomfortable.
[08:30] Power and framing can be always in flux.
In today’s episode, we want to cover the concept of framing. Framing in any sort of environment such as an interview, any negotiation, but in particular, discussions with procurement.
Alright, so what is framing in a procurement meeting? This is a very important concept. It is used a lot, as Aidan said, in negotiations. It’s when one perspective and another perspective clash. Because frames, in a sense our point of view, perspectives that everybody has when they interact with another person.
So, wherever you go, there’s always going to be framing occurring. So, it’s important to know how to utilise that to your advantage.
I think everyone has been in discussions or meetings with people where there’s a clear power structure. There’s a pre-stated or unstated mechanism where one person is in the morally correct area versus the other.
You can think of, even in a courtroom, where a judge sits high up on the stage, or much higher up than the lawyers. Now, the people in the court put a much stronger moral position for that judge.
You probably also have it when you’re a school kid and you’re calling to see the headmaster or masters. There’s an all piled office with a nice big desk and frames the entire discussion in a way that may not benefit you.
I suppose it goes back down to our evolution, our history of being people. Framing comes down to power status. Where do we fit in the pecking order? Are we alpha or not?
And in any discussion, that’s kind of what’s happening, especially in negotiations. So it’s important to know where you’re sitting the power control in any discussion. An interesting book on this that describes this well is a book by Oren Klaff’s “Pitch Anything” – highly recommend that you read that.
I think people are very aware of the way things are positioned and the way things are framed. There’s always the concept that if you’re the buyer, some people think they’re almost the boss of the seller. There’s almost that mentality and they can push prices down or be tough.
Try that if you want to go in and buy a luxury product, like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini from a prestigious dealership. You may find that the old framing slightly changes. But I think people are used to that.
I’ve got a horror story that I want to bring up. But I think Joanna is going to cover a few more items regarding framing. Sometimes, you can find yourself being framed and you have to wonder, “How do I get out of this situation?”
It’s a really good story that Aidan’s going to talk to you about. And maybe just to give some context that it made me think through the story are some four very typical frames that people use during negotiations. So, maybe think about these different frames when he talks through his story.
Now, these four frames are called time frames. That’s the first one, do you know when people often look at their watch or cut a meeting short. Or say, “I’m going to leave if you come too late?” They’re using what’s known as a time frame.
The second one is the power frame like big bosses or CEOs. They want to be powerful and come across and show their power. So, they will use that to their advantage in a conversation in a meeting. Maybe they’ll sit in the power position at the top of the table. Or maybe they’ll talk more, those sorts of things.
The moral authority frame is an interesting one. It’s when you have the moral high ground in a conversation. And we all know those people that go, you may be right but the good thing to do here is X, Y, and Z. They’ve completely undermined what you’ve just said by using a moral authority frame.
And the final one is called the analyst frame. When they dismiss what you said, using things like facts, evidence, and maybe using logic as a way to undermine emotion when both coexist in this world, that’s the final frame.
I’ve learned quite a bit listening there and I can even recognise some of them in this story. This is from a couple of years ago when I was a pricing professional and I was helping a sales team in a B2B environment.
We were selling to a French multinational. We got an email on a Friday evening, demanding that we jump on a plane on Monday and fly off to meet somebody who was jetting out from Paris. This was in Australia. We flew off to Brisbane on Monday morning and we did not know what the meeting was for.
They refused to give us any information in advance, clearly keeping us in the dark. I can feel that there was pressure on us. We had to get up early and we had to get there. We arrived at the location of the office and we were kept waiting, more than I think 45 minutes beyond what was required.
In the meeting ahead of us, there was like a stream of different people going into a meeting. And I could hear shouting coming out of the meeting. You felt like you’re a small kid back at school getting shoved up.
Eventually, when our time for the meeting came up, we went in to meet somebody who introduced themselves as a very important person jutting out from a head office in Paris. And that we were framed as very unimportant people.
I think the initial thing was, “How can you explain yourself?” was almost the first question. And we were like, I don’t even know how to answer that and so you know you start talking through the meeting.
The meeting was incredibly awkward. The gentleman from Paris was badly dressed in unironed clothing, four days on the shift. He looked like he hadn’t slept, and to be honest, had virtually no idea as to what we were even selling. It was more than just accusations.
I think one of Joanna’s points there was about an accusation that you’re not being moral. And the accusation was “You’re ripping us off, you’re ripping us off,” repeated four or five times and demanding explanations for it.
When we tried to give any explanations and discuss things the answer was, I’m too important to know this detail. You can work on it later and send it across to my assistants.
The meeting was ridiculous. I’d be honest, I still don’t know what they hoped to achieve from it. I think the highlight for me was when the gentleman shouted at me, “You’re looking at your watch, you’re looking at your watch, you’re so desperate to get out of this meeting.” That’s a sign of guilt. And then when I pointed out that I wasn’t even wearing the watch, I think that was the final straw of the meeting.
Yeah, I think it stands out to me as a comical example of probably somebody going through the motions using these framing techniques. Now, I think we can take all four of them off, just from what Joanna mentioned.
Yeah, I don’t know what was achieved in that meeting. I think as a sales team, we have to learn from that and try to reframe it.
And the interesting point about that is when you meet somebody who’s using all these framing techniques on you, it feels really bad. It feels uncomfortable and often, if you’re not aware of framing existing, then you’re not going to respond in the right way.
What’s just happened then is you’ve been framed. You’ve been controlled and you are then beta. You’re not alpha and they’ve won that particular discussion.
However, the good thing about this power is, it’s in flux. It changes and you can get that power status later. But only if you know how to use brain control. So, I highly recommend that you learn these techniques. Why? Because it’ll make you feel much more confident about yourself and where you sit in that situation in a conversation. And then you can start having really meaningful conversations with your peers, your managers, and your customers.
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