8.3.3 Rules of Engagement

The nine keys outlining the do's and don't of making claims.

Art of War Quote: 

"Victory goes to those who make winning easy.
A good battle is one that you will obviously win.
Sun Tzu's The Art of War 4:3:13-14


"The modern nose, like the modern eye, has developed a sort of microscopic, inter-cellular intensity which makes our human contacts painful and revolting."  Marshall McLuhan

General Principle: 

We must know how to engage people to win recognition of our value.


Strategy requires us to retrain our instincts about how to make decisions about conditions. Our only inborn "strategic" reactions to others are the "flight or fight" response (2.3.3 Range of Reactions). Needless to say, in a society where we can only get rewarded through our contact with other people, these reactions are not very useful.

The problem is that we are increasingly isolated by modern forms of communication. This isolation is a major strategic problem because we cannot get rewarded for advancing our position without engaging others  (8.2 Making Claims), leveraging our position into rewards.  Modern communication tools such as Twitter can increase our isolation in an increasingly crowded world when they are used to disengage us from meaningful contact with others.


Direct human contact is the primary source of all strategic rewards. If we go back a hundred years, its was also the source of all entertainment and diversion. People didn't have to be trained in human contact because their lives revolved around it. The opportunity today is that most of us our relatively unskilled and uncertain in our direct contact with others. 

In a sense, all the principles of strategy teach us how to better conduct human contact. Because so few of us develop the skills of human contact, certain professions--salespeople, politicians, people in the media--enjoy a huge advantage because they have an opportunity to develop these atrophied skills. Skill at contact begins with understanding why we must seek it our in order to be rewarded.


Key Methods: 

The following nine keys explain the best ways to engage others while making a claim.

  1. The keys to engaging others apply to every type of contact.These general do's and don'ts for engaging others to claim rewards apply to every kind of meeting from one-to-one meetings, to group meetings, to making public appearances, to sending out emails, and so on. Other Play Book articles deal with the specific methods of working with individuals one-on-one (8.4 Individual Contact).
  2. These generic principles of claiming are always  trumped by "the keys to the ground". Different competitive arenas--selling a product, proposing marriage, constructing an alliance, winning a football game and so--require that the specific keys to the game be followed. We don't score in a relationship the same way we do in a football game. (2.4.1 Ground Perspective).
  3. We make more frequent and broader contact  to increase our probability of rewards. We engage people so that, even if they don't reward us immediately, we set up another contact where they can (4.0 Leveraging Probability).
  4. We must be prepared for personal encounters where we make a claim. Making a claim, that is, asking for a reward, is a delicate matter and without the proper preparation, it leads only to embarrassment. We don't want to shock or confuse the person whose support we need during the request or be surprised ourselves by someone's state of mind when making it  (5.0 Minimizing Mistakes).
  5. We do need to get people's attention before we make the request so we can make it when we are prepared an they are not.  On many occasions when people expect claims to be made, they prepared excuses to reject them. The contact that sets up the request for a reward must involve at least an element of surprise and creativity, while the request itself is very straightforward. This reverses the normal rules of momentum (7.0 Creating Momentum).
  6. Our request for reward and recognition must reinforce the firmly held beliefs of others and the advantages of their position. We cannot use our claim directly challenge the legitimate position of another. Our claims should be consistent with what people believe, especially about their own position (3.1.3 Conflict Cost).
  7. Rewarding contacts move quickly and lightly rather than slowly and heavily.  A series of quick, small, successful claims is more certain than pushing for a large, significant award (5.4 Minimizing Action).
  8. We must work hard to be heard and understood.  Others do not necessarily hear what we say. In claim situations, it is totally our job to make sure that we are heard and understood (2.3 Personal Interactions).
  9. Our focus must always be on creating a common cause with others. While we look for awards to satisfy our needs, they are only given if we satisfy the needs of others (1.6.1 Shared Mission)


Let us illustrate these ideas with examples from selling.

  1. The rules of engaging others apply to every type of contact. When we are selling, we are always selling whether we are making a sales call or making a presentation to the Rotary.
  2. Generic principles of rewarding contact are always trumped by "the rules of the ground".  Jet  planes are not sold in the same way that vacuum cleaners, even if they have many things in common.
  3. More frequent and longer contacts increase our probability of rewards. If we want to sell a product or service, the more people that we can contact more often, the more we will sales.
  4. We must be prepared for personal encounters where we make a claim. If we run into our prospect when we are unprepared, we should take the opportunity to build the relationship rather than trying to close the sale.
  5. We should set up special claim encounters outside of the regular course of events. More sales are closed on the golf course than the board room.
  6. Our contacts must reinforce the firmly held beliefs of others and the advantages of their position. If we want to close a sale, the least successful method is to pressure people into an immediate decision. Even if it works, it never creates a satisfied, repeat customer.
  7. Rewarding contacts move quickly and lightly rather than slowly and heavily. For a salesperson, it is always better to make a small sale now that can lead to a sale in the future than try to get a large sale immediately.
  8. We must work hard to be heard and understood. After we make a statement about the value of a product, it is always best to ask the other prospect for a confirmation of that value in their own words.
  9. Our focus must always be on creating a common cause with others. In sales, we teach that  getting rewarded is not about how great our product is, but how great the product can make our customers.