As an entrepreneur, you are in constant “sell mode”. Each human interaction – a lunch meeting, a formal presentation or a surprise encounter with an old school friend while wandering down the street – is a chance to ‘sell’ your idea, product or venture.
I use “sell” here in a broader sense.
When it comes to potential investors, you sell in the sense that you are trying to convince them to invest in you. With potential customers, you sell in the sense of seeking a firm expression of interest – “Yes, I would buy that product/service” etc. Occasionally, you even need to sell family members (so they can “keep the faith”).
There are millions of books on selling techniques. Common to all of them is a single pearl of wisdom: successful sales people listen more than they talk.
Sure, there are exceptions. If you’re invited to do a 20 minute pitch to a group of investors, then you’d better cram that 20 minutes with as much solid and convincing information as you can muster.
Before you can prepare an effective 20 minute presentation, however, you will have spent considerable time understanding those to whom you are presenting.
In most “selling” opportunities, you won’t have time to prepare. That’s partly why I advocate memorising succinct “elevator speeches” that you can deliver on-the-go.
Yet, even the most effective elevator speech won’t get you past “Go” if you haven’t established the right context. How do you establish the right context? Ask a few questions and listen very intently on the answers.
What is the best context-setting question? It really doesn’t matter what you ask. More important is that you show you are listening. At the end of the day, however, what you want to know is what is the biggest “pain” in their life/business (because the best way to create an opportunity is to uncover a “pain” and create an innovative solution).
So you could start with: “What drives you nuts about your business?”
Follow that with a series of open-ended questions (Why? Why not? How? etc.), and very soon you will be hearing a cry for help (figuratively speaking). If your idea, product or venture provides a solution, then you have established the right context for “selling” it.