How to Suck Less at Your Personal Pitch
When you meet someone for the first time, the question "What do you do?" inevitably makes its way to the conversation. I don't know about you, but I am not a fan of this question. It is not a great question to ask, nor is it fun to answer.
Let's explore some reasons for why this question is not so great. "What do you do?" implies you are asking what someone does for a living. This makes people define themselves by how they earn a paycheck. What if they are in transition? What if they hate their job?
So you can see how this simple and common question can quickly make someone uncomfortable. Plus, you are not really getting to know that person.
Here are some alternative questions to ask instead:
- If you won the lottery what would you do?
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you like to do?
- What is your favorite thing that you own?
- How do you spend your days?
- What are you most excited about right now?
- What are you working on?
- What are you most proud of?
- What's the number one item on your bucket list?
- What gets you up in the morning?
The number one thing people want to talk about is themselves. When you facilitate this, you’ll be remembered because they enjoyed the conversation. Just remember: A good question prompts people to tell a story about themselves, in turn creating a deeper connection.
Now let’s examine some ways to answer “What do you do?” because you will undoubtedly get that question. Do you say, “I’m a marketing manager” or “I work for ACME Corporation”? My guess is 95 percent of you answer with something along those lines.
Don’t let your work define you. How would you answer that question if you are currently between jobs? You might feel a little deflated when someone asks you that, especially if you haven’t given much thought into what you should answer.
What if you designed a different way of answering that question? What if you told a story? For example, I might answer that question with, “Right now I am really excited to be launching a new product that will help marketers manage their personal brand in only two minutes a day.”
It’s not true, but if that sounded interesting to you, let me know, and I may just start working on that.
To start to tell your story, think about these three things:
- Who is your audience?
- How do you serve them or provide value?
- What results are achieved?
Once you have your answers, you can create a personal brand statement or even a 10-second pitch using a template like:
“I help target audience verb results or market needs by value.”
When you are at your next networking event, your conversation might then look like this:
New acquaintance: “So, what do you do?”
You: “Software companies hire me to turn prospects into enthusiastic brand advocates.”
New acquaintance: “How do you do that?”
You: “Well, I partner with sales to create marketing campaigns that generate a high ROI and then my customer loyalty programs elevate customer lifetime values far above average.”
Another way to answer the question, which I like even better, is to ask a question back to your new connection. Here is how I might use this approach:
New Acquaintance: “So, Michelle, what do you do?”
Me: “Let me answer that with a question. Do you know anyone who is unhappy in their job?” (With recent studies showing only about 50 percent of people being happy in their job, I know I have a pretty good chance of a positive answer.)
New Acquaintance: “Actually, yes. I have been trying to get out of my current role for a few months now.”
Me: “Well I help professionals like you make job search fun so they can land their ideal role faster.” This is a true and authentic answer. I am probably one of the few people on earth who thinks job search is fun.
This format sets up a conversation that is engaging, providing the opportunity to talk about yourself in a way that relates to a new acquaintance, personally.
Now, let me give you a template to follow so you can create your own question to use in this situation:
Do you know anyone who specific problem you solve?
If you’re having trouble narrowing down the problem or think people just won’t be able to relate, you can combine the two methods. Tell a story with your question.
Putting this into context, let’s say you’re a Director of Marketing for a hospital in the Chicago area and you’re at a local networking event. Your conversation might look like this:
New Acquaintance: “What do you do?”
You: “Do you remember when Skokie Valley Hospital had the nickname Death Valley?”
New Acquaintance: [chuckles] “Yes, I do. Even though I used to live near that hospital I would never go there out of my own free will.”
You: “Well, I help hospitals turn around their community reputation and achieve record-setting growth.”
The more you can localize and relate to your new connection, the more likely you will have an engaging conversation that will lead to productive networking.
So, now let me ask you: What are you most excited about right now? I love facilitating connections, so pop a comment below with your answer (or how you’ll answer the “What do you do?” question). You never know who might be reading and can connect you to that next prospect or job opportunity.
The toughest marketing challenge of all is marketing you, and the purpose of this blog is to help marketing superstars, like you, conquer that challenge and excel in your career.
Passionate about direct marketing and helping people find jobs, Michelle Robin has translated her extensive B-to-B marketing background into a career focused on her true love: creating powerful career marketing documents that lead to interviews at her clients’ target organizations. As Chief Career Brand Officer at Brand Your Career, she works with executive-level sales and marketing professionals across the U.S., and helps them discover their personal brand and fast track their job search.
An award-winning and dual-certified resume writer (NCRW and PARW), Michelle’s work has been published in the book, Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed...Get Hired.
Need help discovering your personal brand? Download Michelle’s free Personal Branding Workbook. Just launching your job search? Get 26 action-packed tips to accelerate your marketing job search. You can also connect with Michelle on Twitter, LinkedIn, or email.