Leveraging the power of reframing, it is possible to turn a negative into a positive. By reframing into an appropriate context, even the most apparently limiting of traits may be seen as ultimately beneficial.

It is particularly sweet when you ‘steal’ and re-purpose a term or notion that your competitor uses as a weapon to denigrate your company or product – and use it against them.

Done well, such ‘appropriation’ not only inoculates your client from any negative message your competitors wish to spread, but can cause the client to become a proactive champion for your cause. And, it not only takes the weapon from the competitor, but causes them to shoot themselves in the foot if they continue to use it!

I give you as an example something I did when I sold for SAP: The sales force of another global ERP vendor (which also sold databases) was in the habit of describing our software as “electronic concrete” – implying it was grey, heavy, unyielding and inflexible. As someone who has always been fond of words and wit, I admired their concise summation. However, as I was also selling against them, I couldn’t afford for them to get this notion established in my marketplace – so, I decided to steal the term from them by pre-emptively using it myself whilst associating the positive benefits of concrete!

Obviously, concrete is grey, heavy and inflexible – it is also strong, consistent and reliable and hence is used in the foundations of virtually every major construction of the past 100 years. Having so ‘reframed’ concrete in that way, it was trivial to explain that SAP’s ‘electronic concrete’ was similarly strong, consistent and reliable by design, and hence that is why so many major corporations chose it as the foundation of their enterprise business process constructs.

“An organisation can be flexible, agile and responsive – provided that it has a firm footing – our ‘electronic concrete’ provides that” I would assert. I could continue with “as Archimedes said “Give me but one firm spot on which to stand, and I will move the earth” so he was clearly anticipating our software.”

Whilst rather pleased with myself with how this new notion of ‘electronic concrete’ was received by one of my customers, I was absolutely blown away just days later when their CIO paraphrased my words to shut down one of his own dissenting staff (who had clearly been groomed by the competition) during a planning workshop I attended.

It got better. Within a few months of my initial appropriation – and having spread the story through the SAP Australia sales team – our Australian CEO ran with it as part of her keynote address to our Asia-Pacific Kick-off in Singapore. We had effectively inoculated the entire region!

The takeaway is simply this. If your competition is spreading negative stories about you, your company or your products – grasp, reframe and spread them yourself. It works just like an inoculation – a little piece of the virus, repurposed, becomes the cure.