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Answering “What do you do?”

With a mixture of relief and amusement several members of the the North Central Mass Chamber of Commerce Sales Leads Group approach me last Wednesday after “Communication Skills for Business Networking” to try out their new answers to the most common business networking question.

“What do you do?”

There’s a good reason

That so few professionals

Are prepared to answer

The most common business networking question

In a way that starts conversations.

It’s because

They’re trying to summarize

All their hopes and dreams

Experience and expertise

Knowledge and advice

In a single sentence.

It’s too much information!

Too soon.

So today I’m sharing a simple template

And some impromptu coaching

For a restaurateur, a printer, and a member services director

From last Wednesday’s presentation.

Meet Rodrigo from Comeketo.

George from Quality Graphics.

And Yasmin from the North Central Mass Chamber of Commerce.

Each had a different question.

Here’s what I suggested to each of them.

I hope the answers help you start better conversations for your business.

Remember, the template for answering “What do you do?” is:

I help <group of people> <take action> <to get a result>.

Rodrigo asks how to describe his “<group of people>.”

Anybody and everybody eats at the restaurant.

So how can you narrow it down.

I suggested that business networking is about choosing a particular focus.

To drive growth in a specific area of your business.

Here are three ideas I shared with Rodrigo:

  1. We help business people impress their prospects by offering a casual yet professional place where they can enjoy great food while networking.
  2. We offer an alternative to fast-food for families that are looking to help their kids eat healthier.
  3. We help single people impress their date with our <signature dish> that tastes delicious and isn’t available anywhere else.

I’m not sure which of these (if any) resonate with Rodrigo’s vision for his restaurant.

I do look forward to hearing his thoughts on how he’ll position his restaurant and his signature dish.

George’s first draft was: “I help businesses communicate better with their prospects.”

The challenge is that “communicate” is too vague.

It doesn’t help me understand how he’s going to help my business.

Or when I would talk to him.

Here’s one that’s clearer and more specific:

  • I help businesses design brochures, signs, and business cards that attract better prospects.

This way he positions himself as the go-to guy for brochures, signs, and business cards.

I’m willing to bet that no one has ever approached George for help to “communicate better” with their prospects.

I bet a lot of people approach him to print brochures and signs.

Be specific.

Be very specific about what you do.

Yasmin, as Sales and Member Services Manager for the North Central Mass Chamber of Commerce, offers such a broad range of products to such a diverse group of businesses that she was having trouble keeping it short.

Here’s what you’ll hear her say in the coming weeks:

  • I help local businesses connect with each other in ways that bring them more customers.

“Local business” is more warm, genuine, and engaging than “small businesses” or “business owners.” It also accurately describes the community focus at this Chamber of Commerce.

“connect” continues to reinforce that sense of community.

“more customers” speaks for itself.

I look forward to hearing from Yasmin about the conversations she starts.

One more thing!

Once you’ve answered the question.

Stop talking.


Let the other person absorb the message.

Let the other person make the next move.

If they ask a question, then you’ve started a conversation!

Elevator Pitch Success!

If not, try your same answer on someone else.

In the best case

You’ll only expect to start conversations with 10%-17% of the people you meet.

So, what about you?

What’s your answer to “What do you do?”

Enroll in our free on-demand video training program: Answering “What do you do”



Develop your own personalized and engaging Elevator Pitch.

Post your new Elevator Pitch in the comments.

Let’s start better conversations!

38 comments on “Answering “What do you do?”

  1. Hi Andy,

    Thanks a lot for you tips on the elevator pitch! What do you think about mine?

    “I’m offering venture capitalists real estate investment ideas that can save them fortune disaster and make them richer than any interest rate a bank could ever offer.”

    Thanks ahead for your feedback, sincerley appreciate your advice.


    Simon J.

    1. Hi Simon,

      I think you have a good start here. My feedback is that if you’re going after venture capitalists, you’re not competing against banks. And, given the people venture capitalists talk to every day, they are highly suspicious of anyone promising to make them rich (since that’s essentially what everyone coming into their offices is promising).

      It’s not clear to me exactly what kind of real estate investments you’re offering (and why they’re good for venture capitalists). The more specific you can be about that the better, and the less it sounds like you’re selling REIT’s.

      How about:

      I work with venture capitalists who make real estate investments

      Let me know your thoughts.


  2. Hi Andy, great stuff.
    I am a business coach and offer a range of services including social media, planning and training to mainly women over 40. I introduce myself using different pitches.. One of my elevator pitches is “I help women over 40 to start and grow successful businesses”
    The interesting thing is that I help create elevator pitches..yet I struggle with mine 🙂

    I would welcome your comments.

    1. Hi Angel,

      The women over 40 is a great start. I’d like to see you be more specific about what type of business. At home craft businesses? Biotech businesses?

      Something like:

      “I help women over 40 start home-based craft businesses.”

      Let me know your thoughts.


  3. Hi Improvandy!

    I am working on my 30 second elevator speech. I am a Major Accounts Sales Rep for the largest solid waste and recycling hauler in North America. Here is what I got when I used your elevator speech creator:

    “Waste Management offers a broad range of waste and recycling solutions, so let me share a recent client success.

    A manufacturing company approached me because they were interested in exploring new waste haulers.

    We implemented our Compactor Monitoring System, which addressed their issue of their compactor being hauled too frequently and in turn gave them reduced number of hauls, saved them money, and improved their carbon footprint.

    My name is Melissa Dixon with Waste Management and if you want to avoid the same mistakes…”

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for using the Elevator Pitch Creator!

      Your new Elevator Pitch sounds great. It’s very specific about ways you can save your customers money above and beyond the programs offered by your competitors.

      Start using it and let me know how it goes!

      I also wanted to let you know that I’m hosing a free webinar in a couple of weeks called “Effective Follow Up.” I’ll be sharing a three step process for following up so people are eager to hear from you.

      You can get the full details and reserve your spot here:

  4. Hi Andrew, it’s a great post. I came up with an elevator pitch. Let me know how is it.

    Answer to “What do you do”
    I help companies double their pay per click ROI while cutting costs to half.

    Elevator Pitch
    We offer a broad range of solutions, so let me share a recent client success.

    An e-commerce business selling motor parts online approached us and they were looking to increase orders for their various product lines.

    We conducted an audit of their PPC campaigns and found problems in campaign setup, keyword matches and landing pages. We also conducted a thorough competitive research and fixed their campaign structure and found and added hundreds of potential keywords strategically. We also redesigned their landing pages to have better look and feel and better functionality. This resulted in over 50% increase in their orders the following month. Cost per click and cost per conversion also dropped by more than 25%.

    My name is Humayun with Leadskaart and if you want to double your pay per click ROI and generate high quality leads, just hand me your business card to get things started.

    1. Hi Humayun,

      Thanks for using the Elevator Pitch Creator.

      The Elevator Pitch you’ve come up with looks great. Go ahead and start using it and let me know how it goes.

      I also wanted to mention that I’m hosting a free webinar on June 14th called “Effective Follow Up.” I’ll be sharing my three step process for following up so people are eager to hear from you.

      Full details and registration are here:

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

  5. I work with business and home owners monitor their businesses and homes using information and communication technology solutions whenever they are not around.

    1. This is a great start!

      To make it shorter and more effective, pick one of your target markets. Whichever one are the best or most profitable customers for you. Also, your Elevator Pitch is much more about the what. The how is best kept for later conversations.

      How about: “I protect homes while homeowners are on vacation”

      You can see more examples and more details about my approach here:

      Let me know what you come up with…

  6. Hi Improvandy,

    I have been looking at you site and it has helped me tremendously on getting the skeleton for my pitch. However i still struggle to make it gel well. I wonder if you may be able to take a look and advise.

    Corporate Concierge

    Answer to “What do you do”
    We help corporate companies impress their prospects and current clients partners and stakeholders..

    Elevator Pitch
    We offer a broad range of solutions, so let me share a recent client success.

    A corporate business approached us through our website because they were interested in a solution to help them stop losing large portions of their worrkweek performing tasks that are not strategic in nature you know? Doing tasks they either don’t know how to do,don’t like doing or don’t wat to do and focus on the ones that are .

    Frome the onset we rolled out our programme designed and availed an itinerary that included corporate and social functions that we felt the client would be interested in. We arranged airport pickups, dinner reservations and entertainment as well as a corporate gift.This solution addressed their not having the right personnel for the task and gave them an opportunity to outsource their necessary but time consuming tasks to us so they are freed up to focus on other things.
    So how does your company handle this type of thing?

    My name is Kgobero Kgobero with Errands Avenue and if you want to avoid the 7 biggest mistakes we see companie make and to stop losing the hidden costs performing tasks that are not strategic in nature and focus on the ones that do please allow me the time in your calendar so that we may discuss how me work together.

    Kindly Advise

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I agree that you have a strong skeleton for your Elevator Pitch.

      The information is all there. It’s just about making it tighter and more focused.

      I’m making up some facts to show you the kinds of specifics that make it a great Elevator Pitch. You’ll want to substitute facts from your own client experiences.


      * Answering What do you do: *

      We make companies 12.5% more productive with their current staff.

      (Note: 12.5% comes from saving them five hours on a 40-hour week. You probably know how many hours of work you did for them, so divide that by number of hours in the work week to get a percentage you can confidently defend).

      * 30-Second Elevator Pitch *

      We offer a broad range of solutions, so let me share a recent client success.

      A corporate business approached us through our website because their professional staff was wasting 20 hours a week on administrative paperwork.

      I’m happy to report that we took control of their corporate and social functions by designing itineraries, arranging airport pickups, dinner reservations, and entertainment and even picked out a corporate gift. Outsourcing these necessary but time consuming tasks to us freed them up to focus on growing their business.

      My name is Kgobero Kgobero with Errands Avenue and if you want to know how many hours your company is wasting each week please get in touch for our complimentary productivity audit.

      Let me know your thoughts.

  7. Hello, I’m a small pest control business owner in AZ. I was wondering if you would help me or lead me to the right direction on coming up with an effective pitch the ones I’ve used aren’t very productive. Thank You in Advance.

    1. You’ve come to the right place!

      The first step is to head over to our free online tool at It’ll only take a couple of minutes to answer a few questions, and we’ll send you a fully formed 30-Second Elevator Pitch.

      If you have more questions, just forward me the results and we’ll take it from there.


      1. This are the results ? Answer to “What do you do”
        I help none companies fix spiders.

        Elevator Pitch
        We offer a broad range of solutions, so let me share a recent client success.

        A none business approached me through referral because they were pest control.

        We rolled out our service which addressed their spiders and gives them excellent service.

        My name is Alfredo with Pest Busters Exterminating and if you want to avoid the 7 biggest mistakes we see when companies pest control just hand me your business card to receive our white paper.

        1. Hi Alfredo,

          Thanks for using the Elevator Pitch Creator!

          You’re very close to a great Elevator Pitch.

          I would want to know a little more about the person you helped with the spiders. Was it a company that was being overrun? Was it a dad who had a spider problem in his daughter’s bedroom? Those specifics are what makes a great Elevator Pitch.

          I also think you have a golden opportunity to educate people as your call to action. What are the three things people can do to prevent spiders from coming inside. Write that up as a PDF or blog post. I’m sure there are people searching for how to deal with spiders.

          In terms of your pitch, here’s one possible one. I’ve made up the facts about your best customer. Feel free to put in the facts from your customer and let me know what you come up with.

          Answer to “What do you do”

          I help homeowners get rid of spiders

          30-Second Elevator Pitch

          I get rid of all sorts of pests, so let me share a recent client success. A homeowner approached me because his daughter’s room was being overrun with spiders. I’m happy to report that we put him on our quarterly extermination plan, and his whole house has been spider free for 2 years. If you’re interested in the top three things you can do to keep spiders outside your home, just hand me your card and I’ll email you our free white paper.
          Again, I’m not sure how true this is. Feel free to change it to represent the experience of your customers, the actual programs you provide, and a claim about getting rid of pests that you feel comfortable making.
          Let me know your thoughts.

  8. Looking for an effective pitch for a startup business (not open yet) called SOAK Hydro Spa. Currently, I feel too long winded talking about the services that will be provided. Trying to incorporate ideas from your blog, I’ve come up with these options:
    – SOAK Hydro Spa helps women de-stress and live healthier lives.
    – SOAK Hydro Spa helps women feel lighter (too vague I’m sure!)
    – SOAK Hydro Spa helps women improve their health in a communal self care environment.

    1. Liz,

      Your website looks great! Congratulations on opening a new business.

      You are thinking about this correctly and are on the right track.

      Healthier lives is too vague.
      Feel lighter just isn’t the way people describe whatever result you’re actually offering
      Communal self-care sounds more like an added bonus they’ll get than a particular reason they are going to walk through your door.

      I like making it personal, so coming from you rather than the company.
      Women is a good start at being specific.
      But who are the most stressed kind of women?
      Women with families and full time jobs.

      How about:

      I help moms with careers de-stress before heading home for dinner
      I help moms with careers de-stress after family vacations

      I like the first one because it anchors to being present and available for the family.
      I like the second one because it’s backwards from the way most people think about de-stressing, which can be a good way to grab people’s attention.

      Let me know your thoughts.

    1. Well, your video says it all! What a beautiful Aquatic Center.

      You can shorten your pitch slightly. How about “I design and build aquatic centers and Olympic swimming pools”

    1. Hi Shirley,

      That’s a great start.

      Two observations.

      First, I never recommend giving your name at the beginning of your Elevator Pitch. If you must you can mention it at the end, but if someone comes up to ask you your name that’s a good sign that your Elevator Pitch is working. They are interested enough in what you offer to find out who you are.

      Second, let’s short it a little:

      What do you do?

      I help brides choose a catering menu for their wedding.

  9. We offer a range of photographic solutions with professional services because we have over 12 years experience in the industry. We worked with major retailers who approached us via our former clients.
    If you want to avoid any mistakes or a bad photographic experience contact us at Level 7 Photography, my name is Nashad

    1. This is a great start!

      Next step is to replace “photographic solutions” with something more specific. Do you take professional head shots of CEO’s? Do you do product pictures? Do you handle weddings?

      You mention major retailers. Can you name one of them? If not at least say it’s a major fashion (or electronics, or toys) retailer.

      “I was working with PetCo to take cute pictures of owners pets for their latest marketing campaign…”

      Let me know your thoughts.

  10. hello sir, I am still going through your site but I think I have been able to generate a pitch intro for my business:’I help generate customers for business owner’

    1. That’s a great start! The next step is to differentiate yourself, because if you think about it, everyone either increases customers, increases revenue, or reduces cost.

      So the key to a great Elevator Pitch is to be specific about the results you get for customers.

      I help manufacturers reduce their production line costs by 33%.
      I increase website leads by 57%.
      I help rural communities connect to the internet for pennies a day.

      1. Hi! Sounds like a great business! The question for you is whether you work primarily with kids or adults.

        We throw fun non-alcoholic parties for sweet 16’s, confirmations, and bar-mitzvahs.

        Or, are you going after the adult crowd?

        We offer the booze cruise, without the booze, and still keep it fun!

        Let me know your thoughts.

  11. Thoughts on this?

    I work with various business units to implement projects by providing effective communication to eliminating project failure.

    1. That’s a great start! The next step is talk about a particular project you worked on for a particular business unit and what you did to eliminate failure from that particular project. See how different it is talking about “projects for business units” vs. I help sales teams move offices with zero downtime.

  12. I have just briefly browsed through your site, and I love what you say about “the pitch”. It’s a bit late tonight, so I will check you out tomorrow and try working on my own elevator pitch. Thanks for the insight on this very important subject.

  13. Fantastic advice Andy.

    I’ve struggled for years with this, so …following your advice, here’s my attempt .

    I partner with business owner, leaders and their teams to reduce the hidden cost of conflict in their business by improving communication and performance – which results in happier more productive teams and a healthier bottom line.

    1. Hi Gail,
      Great job! You’re on the right track. It’s still a little too long so here are my recommendations to make it even tighter:
      1. Any time you say “and” in an Elevator Pitch it loses all its punch. So the first step is “I work with business owners to reduce the hidden cost of conflict by improving communication which leads to better performance.”
      2. Hidden cost of conflict sounds like something you would say, not your clients. For example, I bet that no one has ever approached you to solve their “hidden cost of conflict” problem. So why do they approach you? What is the hidden cost? Absenteeism? Stalled projects? “I work with business owners to restart stalled projects.”
      3. You’re still giving away too much of your secret sauce. You improve communication, but that’s not why people come to you. That’s how you solve the reason they come. And you want the Elevator Pitch to be about the reason, not the solution. “I eliminate conflict from the workplace.” Then, when someone says “How do you do that?” you can talk about a particular team you worked with that used to be in conflict and how you turned them into a high performing team.
      Let me know how it goes!

  14. I was curious about and checked it out. I think your post may have helped me rephrase my intro pitch… “I help busy professionals stop checking their email on weekends so they can spend time with their families without fear of missing something critical.” or “I help people get out of their inbox so they can work more creatively, with fewer distractions.”

    1. Dan,

      Great job on your pitch! I’m glad you found my post helpful.

      Your first pitch is stronger because there’s more of an emotional connection to spending time with family than to working creatively. In other words, your prospects are more likely to want to create more family time then they are to reduce their workday distractions.

      We may even be able to tighten it a little:

      How about “I help busy professionals enjoy nights and weekends with their families because they no longer have to constantly check their email to be notified when a truly critical email arrives.”

      Let me know your thoughts.

      I recommend reading it out loud 10 times in a row, both to smooth it out and to help memorize it, and then start using it! Pay attention to the questions that people ask and the kinds of conversations that start.

      Feel free to post any feedback, comments, or questions. I look forward to hearing how it works for you.

      Happy Networking!

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