What do you do? And how do you tell people?


When you go to networking meetings and someone asks “What do you do?” can you answer succinctly, in a way that leaves people wanting to know more? Can you get your message across in one minute – or less – in a way that everyone can understand? Or do you leave people confused, bored or even put off by what you say?

Courtesy of the great Mike Harris, who set up companies like Egg and First Direct, I’d like to share with you a process I’ve learnt recently. We tried it out at an LGL lunch in Oxford at the end of September and it went down really well. Here’s the process:

  1. What’s the big idea? What do you actually do, or want to do? You need to be able to say it in one line, without using any jargon or ‘weird’ language. At this stage you don’t need to say how you do what you do. I used to say “I’m a marketing consultant” and have realised that the word ‘marketing’ puts many people off; and some people just don’t understand it. So now I say “I work with coaches, consultants and trainers who are too busy to find new clients.” Simple, clear and succinct.
  2. Why should I listen to you? This is where you tell your audience why they should carry on listening to you. Give them your credentials. If you’re the only person who does what you do, say so; if you invented what you do, or have won awards doing it, then say so. For me, I tell people that I’ve got 16 years of experience helping other companies to find new clients. I also say that 11 of those years have been spent running my own successful consultancy, finding new clients for coaches and consultants.
  3. What’s the problem? So you’ve got all this experience, but what problem do you actual solve for your clients? What have you noticed people struggling with? As an example, I’ve noticed how a lot of consultants either have too much work (and no time for life or doing any marketing) or they don’t have enough work (and therefore no money for life or doing any marketing.) They spend their time going up and down a rollercoaster, going from feast to famine and back again. And they want to get off the rollercoaster!
  4. Sell the solution. Once you’ve got the audience’s attention by showing you understand their problems, you can tell them about the solutions you provide. Tell them how you can help them. At Appletree, we help coaches, consultants and trainers to get off the feast and famine rollercoaster, by doing lots of marketing for them. We keep the marketing ticking over in the background, while they get on doing what they’re good at – and what they’re paid to do. With regular marketing, we help them get a regular flow of the right sort of clients, to keep them busy and earning the sort of fees they deserve.
  5. Put your heart into it. You can go through the first four stages of this process and still leave people uninterested in what you say, if you don’t put your heart into it. You need to show your audience why you care about what you do and how passionate you are about it. I hate seeing coaches and consultants struggle with their businesses, especially when I know there is something that can be done about it. It’s my mission to put an end to the struggle of running a coaching, consulting or training business. I want to inspire people to succeed by following their passions.

So think about how you can explain what you do, without confusing people with jargon from the outset and by being really clear on what you do and why. Put some heart into it and the next time someone asks you what you do, try out this clever process and see what happens. If you’ve been used to seeing people’s eyes glaze over, or have people drift away from you before you’ve finished answering, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Let me know how you get on?!

And if you want to try this out with a group of like-minded people, join me at the Ladies & Gentlemen That Lunch north Oxfordshire/south Warwickshire meeting in Farnborough on 5 October, when we’ll be running a mini workshop during lunch.

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