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What to say when People ask you what you do for a Living

By David Baer, writer
Apr 21, 2015
Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
> Marketing

Have you fallen into the trap of actually answering this question when people ask it? You've probably dug yourself a pretty deep hole. Either that, or you were too vague, and left too much open to interpretation.

Most of us love talking about ourselves, but it's kind of tough to turn our own enthusiasm for what we do into a meaningful connection with the person who asked the question in the first place. That is, of course, unless you've got a formula in place to answer the question effectively.

What's the formula, you ask? Simple:


Answer the question with another question

When someone asks you about your line of work, a great response is to try to relate what you do to their situation. And the best way to do that is to ask another question in response. The question should take the form of some general area of need that you fulfill when you work with your clients or sell something to your customers.

Here's an example: An upscale pet supply store owner might say something like, "You know how some people are some in love with their pets that they want to pamper them in every way possible? Well I help them do that!"

Pretty powerful, right? And far more interesting than saying "I own a pet supply store."

But the answer doesn't end there. Let's move on to...


Stop talking, and wait for a response

We often don't give silence nearly enough credit. But it can, in reality, be one of the most effective ways to keep a conversation moving forward.

When you give your simple response to the other person's initial question, they will naturally want to know more. They'll want to, at the very least, get a clarification of what your answer meant. And if you are silent, and give them a chance to process what you've said, the chances of the conversation moving forward are much higher.


Avoid the temptation to have the full conversation

If there's potential for something to come out of this initial conversation, then it's probably wise not to try to make that happen right on the spot. Sadly, that's what happens all to often.

The key to moving from an innocent question like "what do you do?" to a potential referral or sale, is listening to the other person's response, and offering an opportunity to continue the conversation at another time... if, and only if, they are really interested.

This approach saves time and energy and avoids disappointment on both sides. And, ultimately, it's far more efficient in moving you in the right direction.


So why go to all this effort? It's all about marketing. And the more you are constantly thinking about how your are perceived by others, and how you approach answers to questions about you and your business in a meaningful way, the more success you will have at getting others to work with and refer you.

And that goes for online marketing even more. Because online marketing isn't quite the same as answering questions at a cocktail party, you need to be sure you are addressing the right questions, and helping people who encounter you online to make the right decisions for themselves.

Are you doing the right things when it comes to online marketing? Find out by taking this quick and easy marketing IQ quiz for NAMS, the Novice to Advanced Marketing System.

Brought to you by David Baer, helping business owners and solopreneurs navigate the world of Facebook and online marketing for profit.

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David Baer
David Baer
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ONLINE MARKETING CONSULTING SPECIALIZING IN FACEBOOK > PLUS Get FREE INSTANT ACCESS to David's Facebook Marketing Video Tutorial: 3 Marketing Essentials @ WINE EDUCATION & INDUSTRY TRAINING ?? Private Wine Dinners ?? Wine Confidence Training ?? Wine Seminars ?? One-on-One Consulting Since 1999, David has been a wine consultant and educator. Through his business, WINEBAER, David has worked with wine professionals on service, operations, sales, and marketing projects, helped consumers build their wine knowledge and collections, and hosted and spoken at numerous corporate events.
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