The “So What” Rule

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The “So What” Rule

I use this rule all the time when advising startups and early stage companies.  Actually, it has application in any sort of sales pitch, regardless of your company’s stage.  I call it the “so what” rule because it’s an easy way to think about it during a conversation or presentation.  It’s a fundamental element of all sorts of sales and presentation methodologies but just called something different and with a longer explanation.

Remember that investors are skeptical to start with, and rightfully so.  Most investments by angels and VC’s either fail completely or return less than what they invested.  They count on something like 1 out of 5 investments to give some minor or decent form of return and 1 out of 25 to do really well.  So many executive summaries and business plans come across their desk claiming to completely change the world that they basically get numb to superlative claims.  Same for customer prospects you’re selling to.

Because of this, every time you make a statement that you think represents a key benefit or differentiator (your product/service, your approach, your business model, etc), imagine the reader or audience member is thinking to themselves “so what!” immediately after reading/hearing it.  Make sure that you answer their “so what” concern by not just making the claim but by further substantiating it in a specific way.  For example, use phrases like “The benefit of this is …..” or “The reason this is important is ….” or “The difference between this and the rest of the market is …”.  And if you want to put a bow on your claim, finish with a supporting customer example or quote”.

Here is an example to demonstrate the point:

  • Initial claim:  “Our system includes advanced computational analytics created in collaboration with M.I.T. and published in the most recent International Journal of Analytics.”
  • “So What” enhancement:  “The is significant because due to the unique information our system provided to our pilot customers, they reduced the amount of time spent on _____ by 75% and saved an average of $50,000 per year for each project they used the system for.  In fact, Google’s VP of _____ told us that they were able to ______, which is something they never dreamed of before using our system.”
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