Explaining What You Do In 15 Seconds 

By Charlie Cook

You're in the elevator and your friend John introduces you to Barbara who is the CEO of one of the companies you'd like to do business with. Barbara asks, "What do you do?" Here is your chance to make a connection with a prime member of your target market. You want to get her attention, make a positive impression and get her interested enough to continue the conversation. You've got about fifteen seconds to do this.

Whether you are in the elevator, or on the phone, the way you start the conversation will determine whether or not it will continue. You could tell anyone what you do if you had half an hour, but with fifteen seconds you're likely to simply label yourself, as most people do.

Labels don't tell us much. Imagine you told Barbara in the elevator that you are a coach or a consultant. Are you talking about working with high school kids, senior managers, or actors? Few job labels tell your audience who you work with. Most labels are not only vague but don't help to prompt the conversation to continue.

You could be more specific and tell your prospect you are a tax accountant or an automation specialist. That gives people some idea of what you do, but still doesn't explain why your prospect should care.

Instead of using a label, you could tell your prospect how you do your work, the processes you use. You might say, "We analyze light manufacturing companies to identify areas where the addition of a programmable logic controller could boost throughput." If she understands what you are talking about, you still haven't given her a reason to contact you.

Whether you are an executive coach, lawyer, accountant, or automation specialist, when you start talking about the processes you use eyes glaze over and minds shut down. While you may have developed processes that no one else uses, prospects don't car about the process, at least not initially.

One of the most common mistakes people make is assuming their message should be about themselves. If you are in business to provide services and products to clients and customers, your marketing message should be about their needs and wants. Here's the difference:

- "I'm a marketing coach." (It's about me, and who really cares?)

- "I help independent professionals attract more clients and make more money." (It's about what I do for others and should prompt the question, "How do you do that?")

Your prospects' primary concern isn't you. They want to know what you can do for them and how you can help them profit, financially, physically or emotionally. They want to know if you can solve a problem for them.

To get attention with a short sentence about the problems you solve, you might tell Barbara you "help reduce manufacturing operating costs and increase profits". Cost containment is a continual problem for any CEO and should pique her interest and prompt follow up. Stop shutting the door to new business with your marketing message. When people ask you what you do, avoid using a label or a discussion of process. Instead, quickly clarify who you help and what type of problems you solve. One sentence should do the job.

Talking about what you do in a new way takes a little getting used to. The first couple of times you stop yourself from saying, "I'm an executive coach or consultant" and replace it with a marketing message that describes how you actually help clients, it will feel awkward. Keep using and fine tuning your marketing message and soon it will not only give prospects a clear idea of what you do but you'll be comfortable using it.

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