Can You Tell Me in Eight Seconds What You Do for a Living?
When someone asks you what you do for a living or asks you exactly what it is you do as a Financial Advisor, how simple do you think your answer should be? Bingo. Very simple.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the attention span of a human being is eight seconds. To put that in perspective, the attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. If you like that statistic and want to learn others, check out www.statisticbrain.com.
The operative phrase here is ‘the simpler the better,’ and keeping it simple is one of the greatest challenges we face.
Listen to this audio episode or read the transcript below to learn how to tell someone in eight seconds what you do for a living.
Every interaction; every presentation; indeed, every conversation during your day is with someone of lesser knowledge. You possess an enormous reservoir of knowledge; and you need to distill and convey that knowledge to people who know little or sometimes nothing about investing.
This challenge is not new.
Occam’s Razor dates back to the 14th century. When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.
Leonardo da Vinci taught us that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Architect Mies Van Der Rohe was convinced that less is more.
Antoine de Saint Exupéry was right when he said that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus Cars, urged his designers to “Simplify, and add lightness”.
Kelly Johnson, lead engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works (creators of the Lockheed U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes, among many others) reputedly coined the acronym KISS, keep it simple stupid. He never used the comma that is used today. He did not imply that his engineers were stupid.
Even Albert Einstein chimed in on the subject. Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.
How then do we make our message simple?
In his book The Articulate Executive: Learn to Look, Act, and Sound Like a Leader, Granville Toogood spells out his eight-second rule.
Stand in front of a mirror and describe in no more than three minutes exactly what you do. Once you have it down pat, cut your talk to two minutes. Then go down to one minute, thirty seconds, twenty seconds, ten seconds and, finally, eight seconds. You have now distilled the essence of what it is you do.
Geoffrey James tells us that any sales message longer than two sentences is blathering.
You simply tell the questioner:
- “Our clients hire us to provide [benefit(s) to the client.]” and
- “They hire us, rather than somebody else, because [something unique that the competition doesn’t have but the customer values.]”
This approach is powerful because it makes the message about your clients, not about you.
However you condense your message, make it stir the listener’s emotions.
“I find people’s financial pain and make it go away.” This simple sentence makes the unfamiliar familiar. Use words that make sense, that translate easily. Don’t use buzzwords.
When you get done creating your eight second message, try it out on a six year old. If he doesn’t get it, go back to the drawing board. When you get back to your drawing board, channel your inner Steve Jobs: “Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get you thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”