You're at a gathering and you come across someone who would be a perfect client for your business. You engage in a conversation and the inevitable question comes up. "What do you do?"

You get excited, your eyes light up. One thought races through your mind: "This is it, this is my shot, I'll get him now!"

"Well, I'm a small business coach," you say, and then anxiously wait for him to tell you how you are the answer to his prayers.

"Oh, really, wow...yeah... Oh, hey, listen, I think I left the lights on in my car--great talking with you!"

And you watch your perfect client rush away to find someone else to talk to.


Learn to Position Yourself

It's important to communicate what you do in ways that will help your prospective customers understand that you might be a solution to their problems. How you position yourself is the difference between getting that "deer in the headlights" look and having someone actually ask you for more information.

Positioning revolves around your core marketing message that clearly states who you work with, what problems you solve, what solutions you provide, what benefits you offer, what results you produce, what guarantee you give and what is unique and special about your particular service. Positioning is the foundation that you build the rest of your marketing upon.

Here are two approaches that don't position you properly:


This is a sure-fire way of ending a conversation quickly. How many times have you told someone, "I'm a coach," and they say "Oh, what team?" Or, "I'm in network marketing," and they look mildly confused, then say, "Oh, like, networking computers?" and then blandly change the subject.

If you open a conversation with your label and the conversation actually keeps going, chances are the person is just being polite--not genuinely interested.


When people say, "What do you do?" they are expecting a short-hand answer--not an education. Don't expect to gain people's interest by giving them a complete explanation of what it actually is you do.

If you are a personal coach and someone asks you what you do, how do you think it would work if you say back:

"I'm glad you asked that question. The truth is, I help people discover their excellence by co-creating the positive environment needed for a powerful conversation by having a two-way structured dialogical process that goes beyond basic listening skills and includes multilevel hearing and co-active interaction by the coach...that is, me."

If your strategy is to have every prospect do a perfect, Marcel Marceau­worthy impression of the headlight-frozen deer--well, this is the one for you.

When you, the business owner, communicate the process of what you do, you are still not reaching your prospects. Why not? Because you're still not communicating what's in it for them. They will be confused--and will head for the exit as fast as they can.


And the Correct Answer Is...

Package your services verbally so that you can clearly communicate, in a nutshell, what you can do for your prospective customer.

Here is one thing that your answer must do:

Communicate the problem, then the solution.

This approach works so well because people are living in, thinking about and totally immersed in their problems. If you relay a problem clearly and quickly and show that you do indeed understand that, you'll get their full attention in a heartbeat.

Be as specific as possible.

"I work with organizations that are facing the many challenges of the slow economy."

"I work with small- to mid-sized business owners who are struggling to get customers."

Ah: you're starting to get someone's attention. Now follow up with the flip side of the problem: the solution. If you can now show your prospect, through logic, examples, testimonials or case studies, that you do indeed have a solid solution to this problem, you will get that person's ear--and his business.

Here's an example of a good answer to, "What do you do?"

"You know how a lot of small businesses struggle to find new customers? I have a service that guarantees them new customers."

Bingo! You've gotten their attention. Notice how their body language changes. They lean toward you as they talk; there is a warm glow in their eyes. You're speaking to a small business owner who happens to be struggling to find new customers. He asks you, " do you help small businesses get customers?"

"Good question...," you say--and the conversation goes from there. Again, I caution you to stay away from your process. Continue talking about the benefits that working with you can provide. The processes are for later...much later.

Remember that this is about your customer, not about you. Engage your prospect by asking connecting questions about his problems and linking them to the benefits of working with you. If you do, you will both have the perfect opportunity to explore a great business relationship. n



IRENE BROOKS is President of 3-D Success Partners, a firm that helps small businesses create a constant flow of customers.