How to tell people what you do.

“So, what do you do?”

Being ready to answer this question in a clear and engaging way is one of the most important skills to develop when you set out to market your offerings in an authentic and personal way.

It’s a deceptively simple question though. Your work is complex, after all, deep and multi-faceted. It can take different shapes and meet different needs. Where to even begin?

The answer is not an elevator pitch.

Just to be clear, this post is not going to be about elevator pitches or scripts. It’s about a simple tactic you can draw upon to comfortably move the conversation forward, and to offer an answer that is meaningful to the person you are talking to.

Ask a question back.

Meet your conversation partners where they are.

Here’s why: Some people have been seeking out holistic healthcare as long as they can remember. Some have never made contact with the field. You wouldn’t want to tell the latter that your thing is “similar to shiatsu” or “based in the principles of Chinese medicine.” For the former, those phrases would be helpful.

Asking a question back helps you find out where they are at, so that you can tell them something about your work that’s meaningful to them.

Find out more about their needs and interests.

Just as you most likely don’t know their level of familiarity with holistic health care, you don’t know what their needs and interests might be at the moment.

It’s worth finding out if there is a facet of your work that will especially resonate with them, that meets one of their needs or fuels their curiosity.

For example, if you are a holistic nutrition consultant, you might help people clean up their diet, simplify their cooking and shopping routine, navigate the overwhelming volume of information on healthy eating out there, tailor a meal plan to their food sensitivities, and much more. Asking a question back can help you move your answer from broad and general to specific and personal.

Introverts: Make yourself comfortable.

Asking a question back is also a nice strategy for introverts, because it reflects some of the spotlight back onto the other person while keeping the conversation focused on your work.

And finally, most of us human appreciate it when our conversation partner shows genuine interest in us, rather then launch into a generic presentation.

Example questions

So, here’s what that tactic might sound like:

“I practice Amma Therapy. It’s an amazing healing art from Korea, but not very well known around here. Have you ever had acupuncture though?”

“I am a nutrition consultant. Recently I’ve been working a lot with parents to put together meal plans for kids with food allergies. Does anyone in your family have food allergies?”

And then the conversation continues, which is the whole point: Inspiring an interesting conversation, which can be the beginning of a client or ally relationship.

By the way, I am planning to write about a few more authentic conversation starters in the next issue of my newsletter. to have it delivered to your inbox.

{Photo by Goce Mitevski on Flickr.}