Lisa D'Andrea
Nov 5, 2018
Business

How to Tell People What You Do in 3 Simple Steps

You meet someone new at an event or party. You introduce yourself and they ask “what do you do?”

Does your typical response sound like any of these?

  • a) You give the person a generic industry descriptor (e.g. “I’m in marketing”) that does nothing to pique interest and shuts down the conversation faster than you can say ‘hello’.
  • b) You offer your new friend a convoluted five minute spiel about your day-to-day while they frantically search for an escape route.
  • c) You say “oh it’s kinda complicated…” and watch as their brain immediately switches off.

If you haven’t nailed down how to talk about what you do for a living, you’re not alone! Often we are so close to what we do, we tend to fumble our words and leave people a bit confused.

What you do is valuable. It should be a conversation starter, not a fizzler. And it definitely doesn’t need to feel forced, salesy or send you into a sweaty state of panic.

Today, I wanted to share an easy formula you can use to create an elevator pitch— a few simple sentences you can remember for the next time you meet someone new.

Step 1: Pique their interest with your customer’s challenge or desire

Most of us can resonate with and understand the desires and struggles of another person, even if we’ve never experienced it ourselves. For example, you might not be a working parent, but you can probably understand what it's like to be time poor. Or, you might not have ever experienced a skin condition, but you can probably empathise with feeling self conscious about your appearance.    

If we can get the person we’re speaking to quickly understand our customer’s problem, it’s much easier for them to see the value in our solution. So, the first step in explaining what you do is clearly stating the challenge your customers have. What problem do you solve, and for who?

Here are some examples—

  • “It’s hard for new parents to find time for themselves.”
  • “I noticed that my adult patients with acne were self conscious and becoming socially isolated”
  • “Many business owners aren’t sure how to stand out and connect with their customers online.”

Step 2. Share your unique solution

Now, it’s time to share how you help solve this problem. How do you help your customers? This sentence needs to communicate both what your solution is, and why it’s unique (your point of difference). 

Let’s build upon the examples from step 1—

  • “It’s hard for new parents to find time for themselves, so we have a service that allows parents to book professional babysitters on-demand. This gives them a few hours to run errands, work, have a shower or even catch up on sleep.”
  • “I noticed that my adult patients with acne were self conscious and becoming socially isolated so I launched a group cooking program to show people how to prepare healthy food that can help heal acne from the inside out.”
  • “Many business owners aren’t sure how to stand out and connect with their customers online. We work with them to rebuild their brand from start to finish. We clarify their message, refresh their visuals and design their new website.”

Step 3. Highlight the results

The final step is to share the results— what kind of impact does your offering have on others? What are people really buying when they give you their money?

Let’s revisit our examples—

  • “It’s hard for new parents to find time for themselves, so we have a service that allows parents to book professional babysitters on-demand. This gives them a few hours to run errands, work, have a shower or even catch up on sleep. With a little extra help, parents are less stressed and can enjoy more quality time with their family.”
  • “I noticed that my adult patients with acne were self conscious and becoming socially isolated so I launched a group cooking program to show people how to prepare healthy food that can help heal acne from the inside out. Not only does their skin start to improve over the course of the program, but their whole demeanour changes. They become lively and confident, and make new friends in the process.”
  • “Many business owners aren’t sure how to stand out and connect with their customers online, so we work with them to rebuild their brand from start to finish. We clarify their message, refresh their visuals and design their new website. They feel confident knowing they have a stand out brand and website that their customers not only trust, but want to engage with.”

Putting it together

Once you've written down your problem, solution and results, you should have the beginnings of your new elevator pitch. But, before you give it a whirl at your next event, make sure you edit it. Check that—

  • It's conversational. We definitely don't want you to sound robotic, or like you're delivering a rehearsed speech. The best test is reading it out loud to yourself, or to a friend. If it sounds too scripted, rework it!
  • It's free from complicated words or jargon. Shoot for a grade 8-9 reading level. You can use a tool such as this one based on the Fletch Kincaid Readability test to help.

Once you’re happy with your elevator pitch, all you have to do is learn it! And remember, it doesn’t have to be delivered verbatim, you can definitely freestyle, just make sure you follow the order of problem, solution and results and you will be golden.

Now, it’s your turn— have a go at writing what you do using this formula and let me know how you go in the comments. And, if you found this post helpful, and know someone else who might too, why not give it a share?

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