So, What Do You Do?

Cheryl Koch, Director of IBA West Education suggests an answer.

You board your flight home on Friday night, following several days on the road, attending a conference.  The passenger in the next seat stows her luggage, gets settled in, and breathes a sigh.  You ask, “are you headed home?”  She says that she is, and asks where you are headed.  You tell her you are also headed home, and then come the dreaded five words.  “So, what do you do?” 

Now you have some options.  I have learned over many years and millions of miles that if I say “I sell insurance”, the conversation will end and I can sit back, relax, listen to my music and read my book.  That’s not a bad outcome for a tired road warrior, but it’s not the truth.  So instead, I say that I help my clients better manage the various risks they face in operating their business so they can achieve better financial results.  Voila!  That’s my ‘elevator speech’.  It inevitably leads to the question, “how do you do that”?  I am able to describe the risk management process, and the word ‘insurance’—normally a conversation killer—is only a minor part of the discussion.

What do you say when someone asks what you do?  The answer can be the difference between beginning a relationship with a prospect and ensuring that the person will not be interested in moving the conversation to a deeper level.  Abraham Maslow once said that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem appears to be a nail.  If you are an insurance salesperson, and you assume that cost is the only problem a suspect or prospect has, your inclination might be to say “I help people save money on their insurance”.  Now, there’s no doubt you might get some people’s attention with a line like that, but it’s also pretty well proven that you will lose that client as soon as someone else offers the same thing.

The words you use matter.  If you want to line up with all the other “vendors” from whom people purchase products, then by all means go with the money-saving hook.  But if you want to distinguish yourself as a professional who helps solve the deep problems faced by individuals and businesses, then you might want to come up with a new ‘elevator speech’.