On the classic game show “Name that Tune”, contestants would compete to name a popular song in as few a notes a possible. We’d like to see a business world version of that game called “Answer that Question.” In this game, contestants must answer the question in as few sentences as possible.
In general, shorter answers are better than longer ones. Shorter answers are easier to understand, help the audience faster, and inspire confidence.
We do a drill with our clients where we have them answer questions in a single sentence. This is not to say that you should always give one-sentence answers. But it’s a drill that helps teach how to keep answers tight and listener-friendly.
Here’s an example:
Question: “Why are we having such a tough time closing this sale?”
Answer that is too long: “If you think back to how we first got this contact, the key decision-maker was most interested in a program that would ensure their sales people had all their training in five months. Now we started creating this training six months ago and we’re still working on coming up with a program. Meanwhile . . .”
Answer that is nice and tight: “We haven’t been able to close this sale because we haven’t been able to show the final training schedule to the client. . . .”
The first answer comes off as rambling and makes the answerer seem uncertain. The second answer gets right to the point and inspires confidence.
Once you get the basic answer out in a sentence or two, then you can explain if necessary.
If you want to learn how to answer questions well, think of it as a game show called “Answer that Question.” To win, you need to answer in as few sentences as possible.
Joey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”