Create a Memorable Way of Answering, “So What Do You Do?”


If you follow my posts, then you know that I’m not okay with sales pitches when it comes to networking. I believe that networking is important for building mutually beneficial relationships, not for immediately building your prospect list. However, if you do a lot of networking, both formally or informally, then eventually you will experience a situation where someone asks you what you do for a living. This is where having a well-constructed personal statement (elevator pitch) will benefit you.

A personal statement is a better and more memorable way of explaining what you do when asked.

The great thing is that it also helps you control the stereotypes people may have when you tell them what you do.  For instance, if you say, “I’m in sales.” They may automatically think you are pushy and they are about to get a sale pitch. Or if you say, “I’m a lawyer.” They may think you are argumentative and potentially unethical. Or if you say, “I’m an accountant.” They may think you are boring and geeky. Which we all know is not true. So, creating a personal statement allows you to set the tone on their initial impressions of your profession.

This can also be an energizing conversation starter. If the person you are speaking with assumes they already know everything about you when you say what you do, then the conversation stops there. However, if you are able to explain what you do in a more interesting way, it almost always leads to follow up questions and a genuine conversation.

Developing a personal statement can be intimidating. It’s a lot of pressure to come up with the perfect words to use to describe what you do in an interesting and compelling way. Hopefully, this multi-step process will break it down into a more manageable task and you’ll have fun doing it in the process.

Quick warning: steps 1 – 4 are questions that can be a little difficult to answer. Take your time and really think about these so that you can articulate what you do in a clear, concise, but interesting way.

Step 1: Define Your Value

A lot of people make the mistake of making their pitch all about them. The key to having a great personal statement is to make it about your clients. The focus needs to be on them, not you.

So start by writing two benefits your clients or customers receive by doing business with you. You can start with just jotting down words or phrases until you identify the ones that you feel resonate most with your target audience.

Again, this should focus on the impact you make on your clients, not just a list of services you provide. You want to come up with at least two really cool benefits of working with you.

Step 2: How Do You Provide Value

Now that you’ve identified a couple of ways you impact your customers/clients, write 1 – 2 sentences on how you deliver that impact.

Step 3: Define Your Ideal Client or Customer

This step takes some courage. There is a difference between knowing you can help everyone and knowing who you want to help. Who is your ideal client or the type of client you seek to work with? Saying “everyone” in this instance will not be as effective as if you narrow the focus. The goal is to be specific enough that someone who matches your ideal client profile will know that you are speaking to them.

It is possible to have multiple target audiences. For instance, you may be an accountant who works with both small businesses and individuals. If you truly have multiple categories, then eventually you need to develop statements for each audience.

Step 4: Define Your Unique Selling Proposition

It’s time to create 1 – 2 sentences about what is unique about you and your business. What do you do different than your competitors? If there is no differentiator, then you are selling your industry, not your company and therefore there is no particular reason to do business with you.

Your differentiator may be specific to what you do or provide or it may have to do with a specific set of experiences or background, passion, and area of focus.

Step 5: Call to Action

Be careful here. When most people hear “call to action” they think sales pitch. I like to think of it as the “enough about me” section of your personal statement. To effectively wrap up your personal statement, it’s important to have an eye for continuing a conversation rather than putting yourself in a situation where you end up talking more about yourself.

Bring up something one or both of you brought up when introducing yourselves, ask them why they’re at the networking event, or for their unique perspective on something given their background.

Using this method to wrap up your personal statement is a great way to immediately guide the chat in a direction that involves you and the other person sharing ideas, exchanging best practices, and adding value to each other.

Step 6: Pick a Style

Now that all of your components are written, it’s time to select a style that is true to who you are as an individual. There are a lot of styles to choose from but here are a few popular ones:

·         The Attractor – Describing what you do by telling people how you help people instantaneously removes stereotypes about your job title and explains the value you bring to the table.

·         The Anecdote – Storytelling is a great way to capture someone’s attention and makes it easier for them to understand what you do.

·         Teachable Moment – This style provides an opportunity to educate the person you are speaking with about you, your work, or your industry by sharing something that the other person may not know about what you do.

·         Vulnerability – Being vulnerable helps people understand where you are coming from. Every conversation is building a relationship. Letting people behind the curtain, even just a little bit, provides opportunity for connection.

Don’t be afraid to practice with a couple of different styles until you find the one that feels most natural to you. You may even find that you use a different style depending upon the conversation.

Just remember your personal statement does not have to be perfect out of the gate. Your statement will evolve over time and you will constantly refine it based upon what comes natural to you and how people respond to what you are sharing.

If you need a little help developing your personal statement you can visit my website to download a guide to assist you through this exercise:

Have you tried to develop a personal statement or elevator pitch in the past? What are some of the issues you came across or lessons learned in the process? Please share your story below.


2 thoughts on “Create a Memorable Way of Answering, “So What Do You Do?”

  1. I usually shy away from blogs and books about “the elevator pitch” and sales in general. I loved the way this was written. From a place of authenticity and true connection between people, marketing my life coaching business will not feel like a “pitch” and more like a conversation. This was so useful for me. Thank you!


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