Such an innocuous question. What do you do? It’s a question we’re asked (and we ask) regularly when we meet new people, especially in a business context.
If we’re employed, we probably answer with the name of our employer and our role within the company, with possibly a bit of explanation of what that company does.
If we’re self-employed or a business owner, the question ‘what do you do’ – and your response – is a little more nuanced.
If I ask you ‘what do you do’ you’re most likely to list the services you offer and the things that fill your working day – I’m a trainer, I’m a coach, I’m an accountant, I make kitchens.
To be honest, I don’t care.
I don’t really care what fills your day, or even what services you provide. What I care about is what you can do for me. How could you help me and my business? How could your services improve my life – or my bottom line?
When you hear the question ‘what do you do?’, in your head you should turn it into the question ‘what can you do for me?’ – and answer that. Try starting your answer with the line ‘What our clients get from working with us is…’ and make your answer client-centric, possibly even ending with something along the lines of ‘would you be interested in me doing the same for you?’.
It can also be a really revealing exercise to ask your clients what you do for them. You might assume that you give them expert knowledge or professional services but you may well find that they see your service as giving them peace of mind, confidence or the ability to concentrate on what they’re good at within the business. Note and use the words and phrases clients use to describe what you do – because they are likely to be words and phrases that will resonate with potential clients, especially from similar businesses or sectors.
So ‘What do you do?’ isn’t about you. It’s about me, the questioner, the potential client. Ask questions about me, find out what makes me tick and which of your current clients I’m a bit like. Tell me what you can do for my business – or for me personally – and I’m far more likely to buy that than a list of products or services that could be provided by anyone.