[How to Perfect Your Elevator Pitch]: Three keys to answer the dreaded,"What do you do?"question in 20 seconds or less!

[How to Perfect Your Elevator Pitch]: Three keys to answer the dreaded,"What do you do?"question in 20 seconds or less!

We've all been there. You're riding high on the networking wave, passing out business cards and making connections when all of a sudden, someone asks the dreaded question, "So, tell me, what do you do?" In that split second, you have approximately 20 seconds or less to generate the perfect "one liner." For many entrepreneurs and small business owners, this small question creates a submerge of brow dripping sweat and college level essay answers that leave the sale on the cutting room floor and the business card in the nearest trash receptacle. Learning how to deliver the perfect offering not only sets the tone for you to propose a great sales pitch, but it creates positive interactions for future customers and collaborators.

To start, you have to break this question down into three parts; The Who, The What and the How. Simply put, who do you service? What does your service provide? And how does your service and/or product deliver a solution driven result? Too easy right?

This question is often confused by answering with your occupation, quoting, "I am a Graphic Designer." While this may work in the corporate world, it doesn't necessarily become a strong interview bullet as a small business owner. Telling someone you're a skin care consultant won't get you the "Ohhhhh" factor you were expecting when it comes to breaking the sales plane. Your answer tells your potential investor, customer, or collaborator, what you do differently than similar persons in your field or market.


As an example, as the Chief Brand Strategist of Cierra Michelle and Co, I exclusively teach women in business how to effectively build and scale buzz worthy brands that gain exposure in the marketplace. In layman's terms, I help women in business build and design bold brands that become exposure magnets in their dedicated niche for their target audience. In both of these scenarios, I was able to explain who I served, what I provided with my service and the solution driven results my audience retains from my services. You can use adjectives when describing what you do, but don't go into adjective overdrive. Customers look to you for direct answers and in their mind, they already deciphering, "What do you offer and how does it help me?" They aren't trying to come up with the best way to write a third grade english paper.

Short. Sweet. And to the point. Got it? Good! 

Once you have their attention, explain in no more than 3-5 short sentences more details about your company. This could include, the mission of your company, how you got started in your company and current products, services and promotions. In this moment, you are building your momentum to deliver your sales funnel. The object of this question is extend an invitation to build a future relationship. Your occupation is not what you do, it’s who you are in your field. Your “How” is what you do. 

Here's how to polish this monumentally effective question without drowning your audience in subjective marketing jargon:

  1. Define who you service: As important as your business is, knowing who to design the brand experience around is the most important task. To define your audience, find out: Where they hang out? What do they do for fun? What kind of products do they like? Ensure your brand is building a connection and not just aiming to monetize.
  2. Refine WHAT your services provides: If you are a skin care consultant, what do you provide differently in your market? What makes it valuable? Consider reviewing prior customer testimonials or running a focus or beta marketing group of potential customers to define what "special sauce" your brand has. The magic words will come from your customers who've already built a relationship with your brand.
  3. How does it solve their problem? Let's revisit the skin care consultant offering. As a skincare consultant, your job is to personalize skin care regimens that enhance the beauty needs of middle aged women. (TAH-DAH) In this defining moment, you we're able to tell me HOW you were going to solve the problem for your customer. Customers aren't concerned by what you can do for everyone else but as Janet Jackson so eloquently phrases: "What have you done for ME lately?"

Now, to put it all together, let's look at this example offering. "I'm Jane Doe; a skin care consultant who helps millennial women enhance their skin care experience by designing personal skin care recommendations tailored to an individual's beauty needs."

Once you have this summed up, you have now crafted and created the perfect Oscar worthy one liner or offering. While you may not win an Oscar, you will score some customer relationships and even initiate some rock solid business to business collaborations that help you establish exposure and shape greater influence.

As an added tip, using your smart phone to time yourself assist in designing your offering. Try and keep your offering between 10 and 20 seconds or less. Also, try not to start with, "My name is...". Be sure not to confuse your offering with your pitch. These are not the same. Your offering is the beginning of the interview. Your pitch closes the interview and nails the job. Make sure the conclusion of your “one-liner” has a solution driven result that doesn’t stream line into a full college essay.

Lastly, the key to remember is realizing your potential audience isn’t asking for an infomercial, they are asking if what you offer can appease their tastebuds.


Make it worth both your while.


Meet Cierra Michelle: A Brand Strategist and Social Media Marketer who helps women in business build and design bold brands that become exposure magnets in their dedicated niche for their target audience. She is a decorated ten year Army Veteran who is currently serving her country while surfing the busy streets of entrprenuer-ville. For more biz worthy tips and tricks, let's get social:

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