1/“What would need to be true for you to….X”

Why is this the most powerful question you can ask when attempting to reach an agreement with another human being or organization?

A thread, co-written by @deanmbrody:

2/ First, “X” could be lots of things. Examples: What would need to be true for you to

- “Feel it's in our best interest for me to be CMO"
- “Feel that we’re in a good place as a company”
- “Feel that we’re on the same page”
- “Feel that we both got what we wanted from this deal
3/ Normally, we aren’t that direct. Example from startup/VC land:

Founders leave VC meetings thinking that every VC will invest, but they rarely do.

Worse over, the founders don’t know what they need to do in order to be fundable.
4/ So why should you ask the magic Q?

To get clarity.

You want to know where you stand, and what it takes to get what you want in a way that also gets them what they want.

It also holds them (mentally) accountable once the thing they need becomes true.
5/ Staying in the context of soliciting investors, the question is “what would need to be true for you to want to invest (or partner with us on this journey, etc)?”

Multiple responses to this question are likely to deliver a positive result.
6/ Positive answers/outcomes include:

A) straight answer that includes a set of conditions that you can reasonably meet (e.g. a reasonable equity ask).

Positive outcome: clear criteria to establishing a deal.
7/ B) straight answer that includes a set of conditions that are not realistic to meet (e.g. renounce leadership position).

Positive outcome: get out of the deal pursuit and save your time OR counter propose with more favorable conditions.
8/ C/ no straight answer and uneasy body language. They struggle to give a clear/concise response.

Positive outcome: bail!  Save your time and money as they are not ready or willing to do business.
9/ Note: The Q should come from a place of seeking mutual benefit. Or else it’ll ring hollow and manipulative.

When asking for a raise, it's less: “true for you to feel I deserve this?"

More: “true for you to feel it’s in all of our best interest?”

And you genuinely mean it.
10/ Put differently: The Q below isn't phrased “buy my product, be my employee, etc —


it says “be all in”—be a partner.

Seeking win-win.

Like any conversational framework, use somewhat sparingly, and only when genuinely seeking mutual benefit!

More from Erik Torenberg

1/ Here’s a list of conversational frameworks I’ve picked up that have been helpful.

Please add your own.

2/ The Magic Question: "What would need to be true for you

3/ On evaluating where someone’s head is at regarding a topic they are being wishy-washy about or delaying.

“Gun to the head—what would you decide now?”

“Fast forward 6 months after your sabbatical--how would you decide: what criteria is most important to you?”

4/ Other Q’s re: decisions:

“Putting aside a list of pros/cons, what’s the *one* reason you’re doing this?” “Why is that the most important reason?”

“What’s end-game here?”

“What does success look like in a world where you pick that path?”

5/ When listening, after empathizing, and wanting to help them make their own decisions without imposing your world view:

“What would the best version of yourself do”?
1/ Some initial thoughts on personal moats:

Like company moats, your personal moat should be a competitive advantage that is not only durable—it should also compound over time.

Characteristics of a personal moat below:

2/ Like a company moat, you want to build career capital while you sleep.

As Andrew Chen noted:

3/ You don’t want to build a competitive advantage that is fleeting or that will get commoditized

Things that might get commoditized over time (some longer than

4/ Before the arrival of recorded music, what used to be scarce was the actual music itself — required an in-person artist.

After recorded music, the music itself became abundant and what became scarce was curation, distribution, and self space.

5/ Similarly, in careers, what used to be (more) scarce were things like ideas, money, and exclusive relationships.

In the internet economy, what has become scarce are things like specific knowledge, rare & valuable skills, and great reputations.

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