How Do You Answer, What Do You Do?

How Do You Answer, What Do You Do?

This is the age old question of sales people and business owners alike. You meet a new person and they ask what do you do? What do you say? What if I say too little and miss an opportunity? What if I say too much and miss my chance? What if I come off as boring or arrogant? This answer is known as your elevator speech. Why? Because it needs to be stated between 30 seconds and 45 seconds. The time that you would be riding in an elevator together. Anything less than 30 seconds may be too little information or boring. Anything over the 45 seconds becomes a sales pitch. Neither are going to give you a golden opportunity.

Think for just a minute. What is your 30 to 45 second elevator speech? Do people shut down after you say it? Do they engage you in valuable conversation? Do they just change the subject? Whichever the answer, you created the response by what you told them you do for a living. These valuable seconds are often overlooked by small business owners and sales people all the time. This elevator speech should not be awkward and it should flow naturally. After all, this is how you make your living.

As an example, let’s use a life insurance agent meeting someone new at a networking event. When approached what do you do? Do you say I’m a life insurance broker and that’s it? Nothing says boring and run better than that response. Or do you begin a 2 minute pitch on how good you are and all of your accomplishments? Again, run and don’t look back. Try to be engaging with your response that leaves the client wanting to know more. Try something like I’m an independent broker representing top financial companies that specialize in helping middle class Americans secure a better future for themselves and their families. Together we design plans to not only secure assets but protect assets as well. All of this by staying within the client’s budget. Or at least something along those lines. It is engaging to the person to say that’s interesting, how do you do that? Use enough mystery that they will continue to ask questions and stay engaged. Your elevator speech needs to draw in a person to want to learn more, but not so aggressive to turn them off completely. Remember, it’s the first introduction not the appointment for the presentation. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so don’t blow it.

Think of networking as a blind date. Not every prospect you meet, you want for a client and vice versa. If your first date started with talk about marriage and children, you probably will not have a second date with that person. Trying to push too hard at the first introduction is a big turn off. Just like dating, networking with new people should be spent showing interest in them and their business, not selling your product or service. Sincerely care about that person and their business first, a relationship will develop if they are a good fit for your product or service. Your elevator speech is only meant to create curiosity that develops into a conversation. Go spend some time developing that very important 45 seconds for the next time you are asked what do you do?

“I feel it’s a responsibility for anyone who breaks through a certain ceiling… to send the elevator back down and give others a helpful lift”.–Kevin Spacey

 Image by Stuart Miles at www.freedigitalphotos.net


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger, author and team leader with over 28 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

7 Responses to How Do You Answer, What Do You Do?

  • Thank you for your kind words James.

  • Think about your answer in this light: You are educating the other person on the subject of you. So instead of just saying your title, explain something he or she might not know about your work or industry. Talk about the void in the market that you are filling. Talk about the latest thing happening in your industry. Talk about the most interesting thing you’ve learned lately.

  • Lynn, that is an excellent thoughtful way to state an elevator speech. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • Tim Wilhoit great article, website and following! Interesting perspectives from a true leader. Just curious, how would you answer, what do you do?

  • Hermann, it is very close to what I stated in my article. Only a few minor adjustments.

  • Great piece! Thanks Tim. I’ll try to remember the dating advice too:) LOL

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