Friday, August 19, 2005

Be polite and blurt it out

When your enterprise is up and running, you'll get a question most biz trainers don't typically prepare people for.

All kinds of people will ask you what you do.

You need a short, sweet drive-by answer.

Potential customers, bankers, possible investors, community development folks, and neighbors will all ask at some time or another. That's just the start.

As a start up or emerging enterprise, you know damn well what you do is as varied as the weather and twice as unpredictable. My advice: don't use that for your answer.

What do you do? Your drive by answer needs to be about 5 to 10 really great words. The fewer the better.

Yes, you need a story, which I talked about in an earlier post. But you also need the movie trailer to your story. You need to explain your story and your enterprise like your enterprise depended on it. It just might.

What no one wants is an answer that provides the mission statement delivered with your self deprecating angst thrown in.

The ones who you really want to understand your answer are potential customers. Read the next sentence slowly, please. To interest most potential customers, you've got 3 or 4 seconds, probably only once. I recommend smart, fast, accurate.

Others will need to hear your short answer so they can ask more intelligent questions from their perspectives. These might be bankers, potential investors, and community development orgs. They don't want to hear your full story up front. They have their own stories they're busy working on. If you want their help, you'd better participate by keeping it short, using your drive-by answer to give them the tools to see how your enterprise fits in with theirs.

The last group, your neighbors and friends, are just being polite. They don't really want to know. Don't kill them with your rants. Give them your short answer. They really don't give a damn. Your short answer will give them something vaguely interesting to remember you by when they pass you on the sidewalk, at block parties, or wherever you bump into them.

So, what do you do? The reality is, my friend, everybody needs some part of that answer, and nobody really wants to know more than what's necessary.

Want a little sales tip? Keep your drive-by answer short and smart. Make it enthusiastic and accurate. Everyone in your food chain will be better for it.

Then, when someone asks what you do, be polite and blurt it out.

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