I’ve had the privilege of posing questions to over 1,000 business leaders. So, I’ve been on the receiving end of many excellent answers from some of the most respected CEOs on the planet. On the other side of that, I’ve also heard responses from less skilled managers.
I’ve learned a lot through this process and would like to share some of that knowledge with you. Here are four ways to answer questions like a CEO.
1. Answer a yes or no question with a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ before providing details.
Does John Thomas work at Google?
Bad Answer: “John Thomas? Oh, I knew him back at the University of Michigan. He and I were in the same engineering lab. This one time …”
Great Answer: “Yes. John Thomas works at Google now. We went to college together, and we are friends on Facebook.”
2. Answer a number question with a number answer before providing details.
How much did your sales decline during the last recession in ‘08?
Bad Answer: “The Great Recession was a really hard time for us. It felt like we ran a marathon in quicksand. No matter what we did, customers just stopped buying …”
Great Answer: “Twenty percent. Our sales declined by 20%. Fortunately, our team’s compensation was largely variable, so we all just made a bit less income during that period and were able to avoid any layoffs.”
3. Answer from the other person’s point of view.
Why do you want me to invest in your ice cream stores?
Bad Answer: “Because we need the capital to grow. And we need a way for some of our cousins to cash out of the business. This store has been in our family for 50 years.”
Great Answer: “Because a 10% return on invested capital is what you say you want. And that is what we have delivered reliably on a per-store basis for over 50 years
4. Share just enough information to prove your point but not more.
Why should we buy from your company?
Bad Answer: “I could give you a million reasons to buy from our company. For starters, here is our 150-page brochure. And here is a 25-page PowerPoint slide deck in 8-point font. And here’s …”
Great Answer: “I think you should buy from us for three reasons: Gartner Group rated us #1 in the three areas that are most important to you: ease of implementation, security and customizability for multiple languages. In addition to this, we know this space better than anybody. Our team published the #1 book on Amazon about this topic. And, lastly, we offer a 100% money-back guarantee, so the burden of risk will be on me, not you.”
Using these tactics will give you a much better chance of being hired at your dream job or persuading investors.
Dr. Geoff Smart is the chairman and founder of ghSMART, a leadership consulting firm that exists to help leaders amplify their positive impact on the world. Dr. Smart and his firm have published multiple New York Times bestsellers. He stays active in his community and has advised many government officials.