Answer the Damn Question

An investor asks you a simple, direct question: “Have you ever lost a customer because they couldn’t figure out how to install your product?”

Your answer might be: “No, that has never happened.”

Or maybe: “Yes, that has happened once.”

It was a short answer, but you answered the damn question.

This is where it often goes wrong. Then comes the dreaded pause.

You don’t like that pause very much. It makes you uncomfortable. So you fill the silence by veering off into other topics or offering up more information:

“We’ve never lost a customer for that reason, because our product is incredibly easy to install.”


“So that’s just not really the reason we lose customers at all.”

Wait. How did that happen? Now you’ve brought up an issue the person wasn’t even asking about. You have created an entirely new line of questioning, when you could have simply said, “No.” Or, “That has only happened once out of 400 customers, so it’s definitely not a trend.”

The next question is probably going to be “Can you tell me more about how you do lose customers?”

That pause isn’t by accident. It’s a tactic many investors use. After you provide the short, direct answer, a savvy questioner will often remain silent for a moment, hoping to get you to say something beyond the answer you’ve already given.

So when you’re asked a question, simply answer the question. If the investor wants to follow up with a related question, that’s great. But learn to be comfortable with the inevitable pause that will occur after you give a direct response to a direct question. You don’t need to fill the silence by elaborating on all kinds of other things or volunteering a bunch of additional information. Don’t create the next issue and remember that less is more.

Just answer the damn question.

file under: Startups