Friday, February 23, 2018

How would you answer these tricky questions about your business?

This week's FP Entrepreneur column came out of a recent event I attended: the Toronto round of a 15-city “Open Innovation” competition run by Japan’s NTT Data, a US$16-billion-a-year software giant looking for creative partners and technologies.
The Event Organizers
Pitch competitions are the new Tupperware parties, so I attend a lot of them. But it's hard to get a good story out of them, even when the companies pitching on-stage are outstanding (as they were at this tech-focused event). There's little journalistic fodder in these raw. 5-minute pitches, even though the companies may be interesting (and I will be writing about a few of them in the weeks to come).

At the NTT Data event, however, the questions asked by the judges seemed newsworthy to me. Every entrepreneur, every executive, every salesperson, is always pitching their business or their products and services to everybody they meet. Sadly, most people don't do a very good job of it.

The judges at this event, however, had a rare knack for spotting the soft spots in people's presentations: especially for things they said that didn't quite make sense, and for the important things the presenters didn't say. I took careful note of the questions they asked, because these are the same questions people will ask themselves when they hear YOU pitch.

The Presenters
Being polite, or shy, or time-pressed, the people you meet may never ask these questions out loud - but they're definitely thinking them. To improve your daily pitches and formal presentations, you need to understand these questions so you can answer them before they're even asked

Here are a few of those key questions:

* “Do you have any success stories you can share?” (The entrepreneur who was asked this forgot to tell one. Even after being asked!)

* “How did your company get into 65 countries?” (Any time you make a big, impressive-sounding claim, such as your business operating in 65 countries, people will ask themselves how you managed that. Was it strategy, or just luck? Make sure you're boasting about the right things.)

* “When selling to customers, what benefits do you lead with?” (That was just another way of asking the two Big Question in business: How do you create value, and what makes you different?)

This is the sort of basic, useful story that people used to tear out of the newspaper and save for future reading. You can just click this link:

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