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The Secret To Selling Is Simplicity

If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't really have a clear idea of what you are doing, writes Allon Raiz


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After a few tough months things started to look up, and I had recently been offered an unexpected and extremely exciting business opportunity. 

I arrived at the restaurant, and sat fidgeting while waiting for my mentor to arrive, because I couldn’t wait to tell him about the next big deal that had come my way.

By this stage of my journey as an entrepreneur, I’d learnt the importance of getting different perspectives, and I was curious to hear what he would say about this new business opportunity. 

After we’d ordered breakfast, I enthusiastically started telling him all about my new business opportunity, and how it had come about. He listened carefully, not showing any emotion (approving or disapproving of it), and when I’d finished he said: "The explanation you’ve just given me is too complex. You’re not articulating what you want to do simply enough."

How could he say it was too complex? It was straightforward to me? I repeated my explanation of the opportunity and watched his reaction. He shook his head, and said: "It’s still not simple enough." By then my frustration level became evident.

My mentor looked around the restaurant, and his eyes settled on the table next to us, where a mother and her 6-year-old daughter were busy enjoying a tiramisu dessert that had just arrived. He leant over to the mother, and asked her politely: "Excuse me ma’am, would you mind if we troubled you? I’d like my friend to briefly explain something to your daughter." After a long and seemingly awkward moment, the mother accepted his request, while watching us both suspiciously.

He turned to me and said: "I want you to explain to this young girl what your new business opportunity is." I wasn’t sure why I needed to explain it to a 6-year-old, but decided to humour him.

I greeted the young girl, and briefly told her about my new business opportunity. My mentor then asked her to relay the story I had just told her, and when she did, she provided a completely inaccurate interpretation of what I had told her. After hearing her response, my mentor asked me to once again tell the young girl about my new business opportunity, but this time in simpler terms, making sure I explain clearly what I’ll be doing and why I’ll be doing it.


See also: Go Beyond the Pitch

 

Only after the third attempt at telling her my story – in uncomplicated terms – did the young girl finally understand my new business opportunity. We thanked her and her mom for accommodating our request and let them get back to their dessert.

Rule of thumb

Very often, in our heads we complexify what we do, by using big, trendy words like "best practice" or "best of bread" or "most innovative" to explain what our business or product is all about.

The rule of thumb is that: if you can’t articulate what you do, in as few words as possible, so that a 6-year-old is able to understand, then you don’t have a clear idea of what you are doing.

Ensure that you provide the context of your business or product, and then when you see the audience comprehends your explanation, move to the next level. By simplifying your explanation, you create a far better understanding of the context of what you do, and why you do it.

This will prove invaluable when you are networking at events, meeting new people, and doing your elevator pitch

About the author: Allon Raiz is the CEO of Raizcorp. In 2008, Raiz was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and in 2011 he was appointed for the first time as a member of the Global Agenda Council on Fostering Entrepreneurship. Following a series of entrepreneurship master classes delivered at Oxford University in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Raiz has been recognised as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Follow Allon on Twitter: @allonraiz.

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