121508 What Do You Do?

In which we are reminded: Focus on results or impact when we introduce ourselves to prospects.

A long time ago, in a part of my life I can barely remember, I attended a party in Los Angeles. After a bit, I collided with a woman of about my own age and stature. “Hi,” I explained. I then asked, “Who are you?” She giggled and replied, “Who would you like me to be?” (Fade to black. Cut.)


This is a challenge many of us run into.

We’re at a convention or networking event or mixer and someone asks us, “Who are you?” And, just like me at the party in Los Angeles, we really, really, REALLY want to get the answer to that question right so that the conversation continues. Wrong answer, the prospect gives us a funny look and disappears, never to return.  



A group of sales people I was with last week got into a VERY spirited discussion about the right answer to this question.


Their view was, do one of the following:


1) Say your job description (e.g. “I’m Rob Lowe, I’m a lender and relationship manager at Bronze Bank” or “I’m Susan Patricks with Unintelligent Design, I sell computer software to middle market companies.”)


2) Avoid the question and make a request like, “Tell me a little bit about what’s going on in your company,” the idea being, after you find out a little more, THEN you position yourself. [This is the “Who would you like me to be?” approach!]


The first approach tells me nothing, really. I have to draw my own conclusions about what “lender and relationship manager” mean. The second approach is just, frankly, irritating (absent the circumstances of the party).


Here are two ways to answer the question through which we can make a BIT more of an impression than we can with either of the preceding approaches.


The “Be Your Result” Approach


Prospect: “What do you do?”


Seller: “I help businesses owners clarify goals and operating plans then obtain the right mix of financing to support them.” Or: “I help plant managers increase their profits by ensuring they get the right information at the right time from their information systems to make better production decisions.”


The “Problems We Solve” Approach


Prospect: “What do you do?”


Sales rep: Networking… .specifically… connecting computers that don’t talk to each other.


Prospect: Really? What does that mean?


Sales rep: My customers are middle market companies that have acquired anywhere from 20 to 500 computers over the last several years as they needed them. Now, they’re trying to solve three problems: High systems costs, too much downtime, and computers that don’t talk to each other. I help them redefine their computing goals; configure hardware, networks, and software; and train their people so their systems give them accurate information when they need it at a reasonable cost.


THEN, we ask, “ What’s going on in your company?“






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