What Do You Say When People Ask, “What Do You Do?”

Mar 8, 2011 | Networking, Sales

by Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert, author of POP! and Tongue Fu! www.SamHorn.com It happened again.I went to a conference last week and met dozens of smart, talented entrepreneurs.Yet when I asked them “What do you do?” or “Tell me about your business,” many couldn’t quickly and compellingly communicate what they did in a way that got my eyebrows up.

Talk about lost opportunity costs.

If you care about your company, cause, creative idea or campaign, the ball’s in YOUR court to craft an intriguing response to this question so the next time someone asks “What do you do?” your response sets up a meaningful, memorable conversation and connection.

For example, I met one woman in the halls and asked what she did.

She said, “I’m a project manager.”

Argghh. I asked, “Want to play with that?”


“What’s an EXAMPLE of a project you managed?”

(The two words FOR EXAMPLE are the most important words in your introduction because they show what you do vs. tell what you do. They turn a one-way elevator speech into a two-way elevator connection because people SEE what you’re saying which means they’re more likely to get it and relate to it.)

She said, “Well, I was project manager for a drug launch.”

“For what company? Or, if you need to keep your client’s name confidential, what size organization was it?”

(Vague claims compromise credibility. Claims backed up with names and numbers enhance believability because people will trust that what you’re saying is true.)

She said, “It was a billion dollar pharma company.”

(See how those specific details made this intro more interesting and positioned her at a level of respect?)

I asked, “What was the timeline of what you accomplished for them? What were the measurable results?”

(Providing metrics of the tangible value you’ve delivered for someone else sets up a When Harry Met Sally desire to “have what they’re having.”

She said, “I brought the project in before deadline and under budget.”

(Who wouldn’t want that?) “Then what happened?”

“The CEO called to thank me and said, “We couldn’t have done it without you.’”

(Quoting an endorsement POP!s our elevator intro because it provides irrefutable social proof we have produced bottom-line results before.)

“Next time someone asks, ‘What do you do?’ Say, “I’m a project manager. For example, a billion dollar pharma company hired me to oversee a drug launch. We brought it in under budget and before deadline. The CEO was so pleased, he picked up the phone to thank me and said they couldn’t have done it without me.”

That response is still under 30 seconds but people will understand what you do and be impressed with what you do. Furthermore, they’ll be able to remember what you do and tell other people what you do (which turns them into your word-of-mouth ambassadors). And, if they’re ever in the market for a project manager, you’re a lot more likely to get a call.

How about YOUR elevator intro?

Can you clearly and compellingly get across what you do – in 60 seconds or less? If so, good for you.

If not, you might want to listen to the BusinessWeek.com interview I did on this topic.

Alice Heiman

Alice Heiman

Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion.  Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.


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