How to answer a pointed question

The other day, I watched some reruns of The Apprentice, a reality show where Donald Trump tries to hire someone to run one of his companies. As two finalists faced off in a last interview, Trump asked both of them, “Should I hire you instead of him? Are you the right person for this job?”

Both replied differently but not just because they had different qualifications. The actual structures of their answers were different.

Here’s an example of how they answered differently (although these aren’t their actual responses). Notice that both answers give the exact same information. The difference is the order they give it in:

  1. Yes, Mr. Trump, I am the right person for this job. I’ve built three of my own companies, I graduated from Harvard with straight A’s, and I really think I have the right personality to succeed in the Trump organization.
  2. I really think I have the right personality to succeed in the Trump organization. I graduated from Harvard with straight A’s, and I’ve built three of my own companies. Yes, Mr. Trump, I am the right person for this job.

Now, keeping the original question in mind, which response do you think is better? Why?

Here’s what I think

I think the first answer is better.

  • The first response boldly answers the question right up front: “Yes, I’m the right person.” It’s confident.
  • By answering the question straight up, the first response doesn’t give the decision back to Trump. If you want something (like that job), you don’t want the other person to make the decision, not really. You want to make the decision and then lead the person along with you. Of course, in some situations, the more you can disguise that and make the other person feel like they’re making the decision, the better.
  • If you’re trying to sell, it’s usually better to make the offer and then explain the benefits than to explain the benefits and then make the offer. That way, you get the whole “But wait, there’s more” thing going with each new benefit you explain.

So that’s what I think. What do you think?

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