How to Answer the “What do you do?” Question from Prospective Clients

March 3, 2016 | By | 1 Reply More

what do you do question from clients

One of the greatest confusions in talking about and marketing professional services is that we tend to answer the questions about our services at face value.

This is a big mistake because what people ask and what they really want to know are two quite different things. So, if you answer the question they ask, they don’t get the answers they want.

Confusing? Definitely!

The first question everyone asks us is “What do you do?” That’s THE question. But if we answer it at face value we don’t communicate much of real value:

“I’m a management consultant.” (OK, now I have your label, but I really don’t know what that means to me.) or…

“I do workshops on productivity and performance.” (Better, but still I’m not seeing a big benefit here.) or…

“I work with software firms to be more productive and profitable.” (Yeah, I could see that this would be valuable.) or…

“I work with startup software firms who are struggling to make a profit.” (Great! my son-in-law works for a company like that!)

So what’s the underlying question to “What do you do?” My observation is that it’s, “Are you someone who can help me?”

Now the person you’re talking to may not work for a software firm that’s struggling to make a profit, but if they do (or know someone who does), you’ve hit a vital nerve with your answer. None of the other answers even get close.

Wouldn’t it be great if it got easier from there? Well, it doesn’t! Because people keep talking in code. And you have to decipher the next one as well. Here it is:




“That’s great, how do you do that?”

But don’t go there. Translate the question as follows: “What kind of results do you produce for your clients?” Then answer like this:

“The clients who work with me get these kinds of results: They become profitable in six months or less and stop struggling with cash flow.”

This is music to the ears. The language of results. Just make sure you talk about what you can really deliver.

This kind of marketing language will get the attention and interest of prospects, and make them want to know more. But you’re not done yet. You’re going to get more coded questions:

“That’s terrific. But how does your service work?”

The red lights should go off at this point. Don’t go down that path. Better men and women than you and I have gone there never to return. The vast majority tend to go in one of two directions:

They go into “tech-talk” that explains their approach or process in excruciating detail. But tech-talk can be confusing to the average layman:

“The sub-optimal performance horizon undermines the maximization of variable input factors in the productivity matrix. So we co-harmonize these factors.”

Huh??

Or they go in the opposite direction explaining how their service works in terms so generic that they lose all impact.

“Well, we’re all about productivity, alignment and commitment. When we get those things going, results tend to improve pretty fast.”

Well, Duh!

Both of these approaches are dead ends. Nobody really wants to know how your service works. The hidden question behind the question is:

“Do your services actually work?”

That would be a little rude, wouldn’t it? But answer it, nevertheless, as follows:

Tell a story. Success stories that outline how you helped a specific client gets listeners hanging on your every word:

“We met a very promising start-up software firm who didn’t think they could hold on another month. We helped them get their cash flow working, got them some more money and then showed how they could sell the software faster to their target market. Nine months later they are profitable and growing quickly.”

Not so hard, right? You can do this quite successfully with a little practice.

You should prepare several success stories in verbal and written form. They are a powerful persuasion tool.

Starting to get the idea? If you don’t understand the real questions beneath the standard questions, you’ll miss the opportunity to tell them what they really want to know.

The More Clients Bottom Line:

To speak a prospect’s language you need to understand that the fundamental question everyone is asking is “What’s in it for me?” Answer that and you’ll do fine.

Recommended Books on How to Sell Professional Services:

About the Author: 

Robert Middleton is the owner of Action Plan Marketing at http://www.actionplan.com , a resource for helping Independent Professionals market themselves more effectively.
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  1. Derrick Malkowski says:

    What a great article! It’s clear that you are passionate about this subject, which is a refreshing change from most authors. I bet your content will soon get picked up by a major syndicate. Thank you for bringing this information out, it’s much appreciated!

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