Three-step sales technique that will increase buy-in

By Lisa Earle McLeod

McLeod & More, Inc.


Often it’s not the idea, but the words that precede it that determine the level of support you get. Here’s a three-step technique I teach clients to increase buy-in.

​Stan was excited about his presentation. His proposal was perfect. He was confident the senior leadership team would quickly buy into the brilliance of his plan. He was envisioning a fat promotion.

Imagine his surprise when, five minutes in, the CEO said, “I don’t think so. Let’s move to the next item.”

Was it Stan’s idea? Or the way he presented it?

Have you ever had a good idea rejected? Or worse, watched someone else present the exact same idea (two days or two minutes later) and have everyone eagerly support it?

Often, it’s not the idea, but the words that precede it that determine the level of support you get.

Here’s a three-step technique I teach clients to increase buy-in.
    1. Context — Succinctly summarize the situation.

    2. Framing — Establish a framework to help people understand the topic.

    3. Content — Connect the dots. Present your idea as a logical next step.
Here’s how one of our clients is using this technique to get employee support for a new customer service program.

Context — We’re in a highly competitive marketplace and we want to be number one.

Framing – It all comes down to products and people. Our products are similar to our competition, but our people are much better.

Content – We’re launching an initiative to take our customer service from good to excellent.

Providing context and framing before the idea gives people a way to make sense of the information. It’s in alignment with the way our brains work.

When you hear new information, your brain immediately scans its arsenal of previous experiences to figure out what the new data means and where it should be slotted. Our minds are always making meaning.

Compare the way our client teed up their program with the way most people present initiatives.

Typically the leader starts by announcing, “We’re introducing a new customer service program.”

The listeners start processing: "How will this affect me?" "Is this going to be more work?" "Oh great, another flavor of the month." "Why are they doing this?" "Do they think our service is bad?" "Why is that man still talking?"

Providing context and framing after presenting the idea is too late because the listeners have already attached their own meaning.

Context and framing up front establishes the meaning in advance. It works in small personal situations, like explaining why you want to make a change in the chore chart. It also works in high stakes business situations.

Compare and contrast two ways for a CEO to announce a merger.

Traditional approach:

We’re merging with XYZ company. (Freaking out wondering if I have a job.)

We’re excited about this because their products complement ours (Management blah-blah, I’m now texting my spouse.)

This will make us a bigger stronger company. (More blah-blah as I email a recruiter.)

McLeod context-framing-content technique

Context – We’re always looking for ways to grow our business. (Establishing a positive intent.)

Framing – We can either develop new products or partner with someone who has complimentary products. New products are expensive to create and not always successful. (Providing a framework to examine our options.)

Content – We’ve discovered XYZ company. Their products complement ours beautifully so we’ve decided to merge with them.

No matter what the topic, people want to know: Why are you doing this and what does it mean to me?

This technique enables you to answer those questions up front. You will get more buy-in for good ideas and it makes scary news a bit easier to swallow.