This is an important one. We live in a world of personal branding, quick online reputation checks and a lot of noise. Authors, Entrepreneurs and job seekers get less and less time to explain themselves.
This morning I was listening to Guy Kawasaki pitch his new book “APE” in a webinar on publishing. He talked about the challenge of an author. “Nobody walks into the bookstore thinking I am here to make Guy Kawasaki a little bit richer. He walks in with a problem that he wants to solve. His problem.”
The mentality of someone walking into a bookstore and browsing, and the mentality of an investor share a lot of similarities. They have their own agenda. Either you show you can help that agenda very quickly, or there are 20,000 other books in the bookshop that will get their attention.
If You Can’t Explain what You do in a Paragraph, You’ve Got a Problem
I love the energy of entrepreneurs. I spend a lot of time involved in activities in Barcelona. I love the entrepreneurial energy. It is great to see people and institutions coming together to build the supporting community. We need to get better at connecting 1) the people with the resources with 2) the people with the ideas with 3) the people who can execute these ideas.
If you approach me at a networking event and say “I’d like to talk to you about my business.” I’ll say “Great.” Then I will ask “What problem do you solve?”
This is the point at which 85% lose my attention. They try to steer the conversation to describing the technology, or give a generic statement that uses either the word “platform” or “solution”.
I don’t want to hear about what language you are coding in. I don’t really care about which font you have chosen for your book. I don’t care when you started.
The 3 Ingredients of What We Do
Brad Feld says the “What We Do” Paragraph should be three sentences: (1) what we do, (2) who we do it to, and (3) why you should care. Sometimes this can be two sentences; sometimes four, but never more than a paragraph.
I believe the major risk of early stage startups is getting customers to buy, and showing that you can sell. The words “platform” or “solution” are indicative of an entrepreneur who has not spent much time with real or potential customers.
Daniel Shi gives a simple but profound answer to “How can I learn to be more Influential?” over on Quora:
I think that you can certainly become influential without having to do something “extraordinary.”
7 Steps to become more Influential
Connect with many people. Learn that just because someone may not be important today, it doesn’t mean that he or she won’t be in the future. And even better if it is with your help.
Remember people’s names and what you talked about. Have a repository in memory of what you talked about. Everybody you know has some request for help that you may be able to help them with. Have it cycling in your head as you go about meeting more people and encountering new things. When something clicks, act upon it. And that brings me to:
Follow up. Find reasons to talk to people. Do this out of genuine desire to build relationships and to help people. Learn to tell the difference between being genuine and when you are being too forward.
Develop a love of helping other people. See the success of other people as being your success, rather than a lost opportunity for you. If you help someone else out, they will remember you down the road.
Don’t think of interactions with people as a one shot deal. You will no doubt meet that person again some day. You will have another interaction with them as well.
Learn to communicate well. None of the above is really applicable if you find it difficult to craft a message.
Be likeable, but not to everybody.
And of course, this is the most important lesson that I ever learned from my college accounting professor:
Reading through Quora today, I came across this simple question to Jimmy Wales: “If I ask Jimmy Wales for a meeting, will he meet me?” His answer is simple, but as I read it I stopped and thought “that’s it! that’s why some email requests for meetings seem ok but still get a no”.
Jimmy Wales is an American Internet entrepreneur best known as a co-founder of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Here is his answer as to whether he might meet you:
“Jimmy, will you meet with me?”
“Possibly, but you’ll have to make a good pitch as to why I should!
It’s actually surprising how many people don’t follow this simple guideline of courtesy. I often get long tedious emails from people explaining to me in great detail how I can help them, how great it would be for them if I would work on their project with it, or endorse it, etc. But they fail to consider my context – why should I care, and even if I do care, why should I act on this rather than any of a thousand other things.
One-on-one meetings are a huge time sink and generally unnecessary. Email is almost always more effective.” Jimmy Wales
Consider Jimmy’s Context
When you are asking for time, why will it benefit both? Even if it is my “job” to meet you, the courtesy of thinking through how I might gain from the meeting will make it more worthwhile for us both.
Good business has been done the same way for centuries. The medium does not change the rules for success.
Question 1: Who exactly do you help?
Who do you help? What problem do you solve for them?
How can you make that pain tangible for the listener? Effective sales is about helping a customer understand that their suffering can go away. They have a choice. Continue to suffer, or begin to change.
Question 2: Where can you take me?
People don’t buy coaching, they buy results. “I am a coach” = about me; “I enable you to make a living through speaking” = results, about you. Olympic coaches have not won gold; they have helped others achieved gold.
The more I am specific, the more I show how others like you have gone on this similar journey and achieved these desirable results, the better.
Customer testimonials are powerful. When a salesperson explains their “vision” it is because they can’t show you a customer who has already gone through the journey.
Question 3: Why can I trust you?
What makes you worthy of trust? It takes a tremendous amount of trust to click “buy” on the website of someone you have never met and believe that the goods will be delivered.
“Social Media is not about technology, it is about the relationships you can form” Charlene Li, author of Groundswell.
I had the privilege of having coffee with Charlene Li before she spoke to 400 people in IESE Business School’s Aula Magna in Barcelona at the HSM Social Media event. Watch the video of our interview on the blog.
“I don’t want to be ‘messaged’, engage with me”
We spoke about her book, examples of companies who use social media effectively, and how she, as a parent, manages her family’s exposure to social media.
“It’s not just about listening, it’s about learning and changing… to consumers marketing often feels like someone shouting at them. That is not a dialogue. You need to join the conversation but you have to have the conversation with your customers that they want to have.”
Does your company use facebook, twitter, google+ effectively?
How do you respond to this most simple of questions?
This is the question that starts many friendships, job interviews, professional relationships and team experiences. However, in many cases… the way that we answer ruins the possibility of creating something great. How do you answer this question?
Andrew Dlugan provides an excellent overview of the Ice Breaker speech at his blog Six Minutes. I recommend that you start by reading that post.
This is a good speech to practice
– Introduce yourself: you are an absolute authority on this topic, no research will be needed.
– Conquer fear: get started on preparing a speech that you will give hundreds of times over the course of a life; when you meet someone new, when you move to a new team at work, when you start a new training course.
Here are a 3 simple examples of how to introduce yourself:
Structure: “How did I get here?”
Patrick from US Toastmasters
Would you like to meet Patrick? How did his story engage you? Are you interested in finding out more? How could you use Patrick’s structure to explain who you are?
Structure 4 phases of my life:
Esha from Indian Toastmasters
Would you like to meet Esha? How did her story engage you? Are you interested in finding out more? How could you use Esha’s structure to explain who you are?
Structure: My life as Fiction
Charles from USA Toastmasters
Would you like to meet Charles? How did his story engage you? Are you interested in finding out more? How could you use Tom’s structure to explain who you are? (PS Charles has given over 4,000 speeches and is a professional speaker)
Are there any other good examples? Please let me know.
Another way to improve your confidence is regular practice. I have been developing an online module of my Persuasive Communications seminar. It is available here: Improve My Speaking. Feel free to share this resource with friends (and people who need it).