Giving startups confidence is my mission. While this is related to design because that's the medium I've experienced these phrases through, it's applicable in other areas like pitching and sales.With that in mind, here are two phrases that make your startup sound desperate.
I just need...
This is a red flag as it implies that you are unaware of the gravitas needed for whatever you're asking for, or that you are aware and are trying to belittle the investment needed from whoever you're asking.
What to say instead:
I need to (task goes here), how can make it happen?
Damn, look at you and your confidence. This phrase is what would come from someone who is ready to partner up. They know what their goal is and they aren't trying to make it seem insignificant. Because if it was insignificant, they wouldn't care.
It's a simple site/logo/brochure/investment/whatever...
If it was simple you'd do it yourself. Don't bullshit. The truth is that simplicity is the greatest form of sophistication. Making something simple is hard and the fact that you're asking for help shows it.
What to say instead:
I need to (task goes here), how can we make it happen?
Notice a pattern forming here?
Look, the point is that asking for stuff is hard and it takes courage. But trying to belittle what you're asking for makes the results you want to achieve seem far fetched and not worth the effort.
Ask for things with confidence and be ready to accept answers you don't like. It will get you to the good ones.
Be sure to read pillars one and two before diving into this article:
The problem with most companies, especially startups and small businesses is that they cast wide nets. They can't say certain things because it will offend people, and they have to appeal to everyone that walks through their doors regardless of how anomalous. It's in this fallacy of trying to please everyone that rebels gain the upper hand. Rebels are honest, so they know that even if they wanted to, they cannot help out everyone. It's physically impossible. Diving deeper, rebels have the confidence to stand firm and say, "I know that I cannot help everyone, but that's ok because I can help someone."
This gives rebels the opportunity to narrow their focus on a specific group of people with a specific problem. Everything else is a distraction to the mission at hand. You see, to rebels, it is better to have 100 true fans who cannot live without their services, than to have 10,000 fair weather fans that will leave them at the drop of a hat. Focusing on a specific group of people creates a virtuous cycle of respect and care for both the business and the people it seeks to serve. One that can only be achieved by having the courage to say, "this is not for everyone, but it is for someone who believes and needs this."
Rebels are honest.
Rebels are confident.
Rebels are focused.
Brands are best served when made for specific people. For years, I've been encouraging founders to focus on building a brand for one person.
In reading the Lean Startup, there was a moment of clarity: the person you build a brand for is the early adopter. Prior to reading this, I'd be referring to this persona as the ideal customer, but that isn't as objective as early adopter. Here's why:
Early adopters seek out uniqueness and difference, they are very particular with good taste, they have strong tribal associations, and they are willing to go out on a limb to try something new. Furthermore, they are the first dominoes to buy into a product that will eventually spill over into the early majority and late majority. You cannot impress the majorities if you have not impressed early adopters.
Build a product for your ideal early adopter. Not the average or ideal customer.