Sales Masters Guild Mentor, Toby Acton, notes that most people get something wrong when networking.

When out networking there is a question which is almost always asked, and which is almost always answered incorrectly.

When meeting someone for the first time, after initial “name” introductions and trying to read their name badge whilst shaking their hand balancing a tea of coffee cup in the other hand, you will generally ask them “What do you do?”. That is pretty much the standard question.

And they will answer, “I’m an accountant” or “I’m a graphic designer” or “I’m a solicitor” or “I’m a recruitment consultant” or “I’m a financial advisor”” etc etc

But they have not actually answered your question!

They have not told you what they do. They have told you what they are.

Even if they expand it a bit by going on to tell you about a particular niche that they are working in, or the type of clients that they are looking for or working with, they still have not really answered your question.

So, ask yourself, when you are networking and someone asks you what do you do, are you answering their question or are you telling them what you are?

There are a lot of accountants, solicitors, graphic designers, recruitment consultants, financial advisors etc out there so we need to be different. We need to stand out and be noticed. As children, at school, we are told that we need to fit in and conform but in business we must stand out and be different in order to be noticed.

When we are asked the “What do you do?” question we have about 5 to 10 seconds to make an impression and to differentiate ourselves from the other people in the room or the other accountants or graphic designers that are on the networking scene. And these golden few seconds can be carefully planned and rehearsed to make sure you get people’s attention.

What value do you bring?

Bottom line, people want to know about you and if they can use your services or product, sell their product or service to you, sell through you to your contacts, connect you with someone they know or form a strategic partnership with you.

People want to know:

  • what you do for people
  • what value you bring to them
  • what difference you will make in their lives or business
  • what difference you might make to someone they refer you to
  • what the difference is between before you work with them to after
  • what you make happen or what you make go away for your clients
  • what they get from working with you

So I suggest when someone asks you what you do that you try to incorporate an element of your Value Proposition – have a short succinct powerful statement that tells them a bit about the difference you make to people and makes them want to know more.

It needs to be short for two reasons:

  1. People lose interest if you talk for a minute about your business – especially when they actually want to talk about theirs
  2. You want people to refer you and when they refer you, they are not going to talk about you for long – they are going to talk about you for 10 to 20 seconds maximum. So why no actually give them, the exact memorable words that they can pass on?

The trick is to say just enough get people interested and wanting to know more. The three most powerful words that you can hear when you are networking are “Tell me more”. We want people to be interested in what we are saying and to actually draw more out of us.

We want to “tweak their nosey buttons” to maintain their interest. As I said, ultimately, when out networking most people are wanting to talk about themselves and when the ask what you do it is generally a precursor to you asking them what they do so that they can tell you about themselves. But by just giving a mini snapshot that intrigues them to ask more about you it maintains their focus on you.
So, your introductory statement needs to intrigue and entice. It needs to inform a bit but also leave a lot left unsaid. It needs to appeal to the heart more than the head – after all, everyone is motivated by emotion.

So, for example when asked “What do you do?”, an accountant can say:

“I am good at looking after all the numbers for business owners so that they know what is happening in the finance side of their business and can concentrate on doing what they are good at.”

Notice the statement of the value that they bring? The value is that they give people back time so that they can focus on building their businesses. The accountant just makes all the figures stuff “go away” for them.

A lawyer who works on personal injury claims or debt recovery can simply say:

“I make sure that people get the money that they are entitled to but don’t know how to get”

Again, touching on emotions and the value that they bring – helping their clients do something that they would struggle to do themselves.

A recruitment consultant can say:

“I help business owners to get the right staff in a time and cost effective way”

Very short, very simple. It pretty much covers what they do, very big picture, no detail – “It does what it says on the tin” – and it says what they do not what they are. And it pretty much invites people to ask for more detail “How do you do that?” or “What does that entail?” or maybe even “So you are a recruitment consultant?”

And if when people do ask questions, we can give just a little bit more info and leave them wanting more and asking more questions:

“I put time and effort into making sure that I understand who my clients want and need for their team, and also making sure that the candidates are the right fit for them and that they understand their potential employer”

This gets the conversation flowing when they are asking for more info from you. “How long have you done that?”, “What is the market like for you at the moment?”, “Do you have any particular types of clients that you work for?”

Inject some humour

Why not inject some humour into it and really intrigue people?

For example, a florist can say “I help men give women what they want!” It’s original, it’s memorable, it’s intriguing and it will certainly leave people wanting to know more!

A Virtual Assistant can say “I do all the boring stuff that no-one else wants to do” – again, people are going to want to now more.
You don’t have to explain everything in your first statement, getting people to draw it out of you is far more powerful.

Swivel the spotlight

But, we need to bear in mind that they do want to talk about themselves, so at some point, as soon as possible, we need to swivel the spotlight back to them and at the end of answering one of their questions, we can ask the “What do you do?” question.

Actually, personally, I like to be a bit different and rather than asking “What do you do?”, I often say things like “What is your area of speciality?” or “What sector are you in?” or let’s try and draw that value proposition out of them from the start and prompt them with “So, what do you do for your clients?”

Be different, be noticeable, be memorable…

So when networking, always be thinking about how you are answering the “What do you do question?” and listen to how others answer it and consider if they are saying what they do, or if they are telling you what they are. Judge for yourself, which is more powerful and more memorable – which do you connect with most?

What do I do? “I help business owners to become wealthy, faster”

If you are struggling with your response to the “What do you do?” question, Toby can help. Contact him directly through his Sales Masters Guild Mentor page or book onto one of his Pro-Networker Training courses.

Toby Acton

Toby Acton

Toby Acton is a Sales Masters Guild Personal Business Mentor.

For more than two decades, Toby has been running his own businesses, with interests in a variety of diverse sectors including IT, market research and property. He has also mentored and trained many hundreds of people on how to build their networking marketing businesses and to develop their personal brand.

Find out more about Toby on his Sales Masters Guild profile page.

Read more blogs from Toby.

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