Show, Don't Tell
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
- Anton Chekhov
A frequent staple of startup pitches is lauding your team’s abilities. “Dude, you should see our lead engineer. She is a Ruby ninja.” Or, “our Head of Sales is totally crushing it.” **
The challenge with these claims is that anyone can make them. Here, watch this: “I am awesome at PR and business development.” Sounds good, right? Except it’s not true. Well, I’ve never tried PR or biz dev, so maybe I would be awesome at those things, but it’s not very likely.
One of the maxims of writing is “show, don’t tell.” This is great advice for startups, too. Don’t just tell investors that you’re great at something when you can show them instead. Some examples:
Don’t just say that you can acquire customers cheaply (when you haven’t run the experiments yet). Instead, spend a little money to test out AdWords or Facebook Ads and report the results.
Don’t just say that your Head of Sales is a natural at selling. Instead, talk about how he exceeded his sales quotas by 300% in his last two jobs.
Don’t just say that your designer has excellent taste. Instead, show off her portfolio of past projects or what she has built at your startup.
Don’t just say that your developers are rockstars. Instead, list the programming contests they won, or the projects they previously built (and what roles they played), or what they’ve created at your startup.
This advice isn’t only for writing and fundraising. It’s also for selling and hiring and many other activities. You can tell a prospect that your tool is best in class or tell a candidate that you have a great company culture, but showing those things will be much more effective.
**People don’t usually talk like that, but sometimes they do. =\