Skip to main content

Services Marketing Tips: How to Craft a Perfect & Dignified Elevator Pitch (to Answer the Question What Do You Do)


Many people have difficulty answering the question: “What do you do?” It's easy to fall into the trap of being too modest, saying too much or delivering what sounds like a sales pitch. But when you’re asked this question, this presents you with a promo moment – a commercial break – to pitch the other person with their permission!

Handle this seemingly mundane “prospecting situation” right and you can create a strategic partnership, ask for referrals, and quickly educate this prospective referral source on who your ideal customer or client is – all in 30 seconds!

Very powerful.

In their book, The Complete Book of Perfect Phrases for High-Performing Sales Professionals, William Brooks and Robert Bacal use the term “direct value statement” to describe these elevator pitches. They define the direct value statement as follows:

“This is a straightforward, easy-to-say and easy-to-understand statement that clearly and declaratively communicates the fundamental reason why your organization exists and why you’re selling its products or services. It is likely the most important thing you’ll learn in this book. Yet most salespeople never master the concept. In fact, surprisingly, some never even know it exists.” (p.36-37)

That’s saying something in a 730 –page book!

Other experts refer to these statements as “benefit statements’, or “audio bytes” or the more familiar “elevator pitch.”

Why is your personal direct value statement so important?

According to Brooks and Bacal it's important, "Because it quickly, clearly, and precisely defines for a prospective customer exactly who you and your organization are, what you do, and how you do it. Better yet, it defines clearly what you do and how you do it in the way that it benefits your customers or clients. It also identifies your core customers."

The best responses when you’re asked “What do you do?” have these characteristics:

  • They’re short – no longer than 30 seconds
  • They’re sincere – which is why word-perfect scripts often don't work
  • They’re specific – should not use generic or buzz words, for example words like “communications” and “empower”
  • They’re engaging – the listener wants to know more
  • They’re interesting – stories work well as a follow up.

Here are some common formulas you can use:

Labels: In social networking situations, the question “What do you do?” is often just a courtesy so people introduce themselves with a label. The person responds with “I’m an accountant”, or “I’m a management consultant”.

The problem with responding like this is that sometimes a label is not helpful because the listener may assume, wrongly, that they understand what accountants or management consultants do.

In this information age many new occupations or professions have come up that people know very little about, if anything – things such as “digital marketer”, or “blog manager” just to name a few off the top of my head.

You know how…: With this direct value statement you start with “You know how …” then follow up with “What I do is”. For example:

“You know how you sometimes struggle at work because your internet connection drops out and you have to restart your computer all the time? Well, we fix those problems for businesses.”

Talk in terms of solutions: We’ve all been in conversations where people launch into boring, detailed explanations of what they do. Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consultant, gives an example of such a response:

“I'm a consultant who focuses on the interactions of teams, especially cross-functionally; raises sensitivity to synergies possible in greater collaboration; and implements processes to enhance team connectedness. I use instruments such as...’’

Scroll to Continue

Weiss suggests that a better technique is to think in terms of solutions, using the following structure.

“I help/work with/assist……… (name of your target market)………………… (name your solution).”

So the previous elevator pitch could’ve been “I help clients improve individual and organizational performance”.

Relate your answer to “problems” In InfoGuru Marketing Manual, Robert Middleton recommends a similar approach as the above, but with more emphasis on “problems”.

Middleton uses the formula:

“I help/work with/assist………… (name of the target market you work with) who are struggling/having problems with etc……… (name their problem).”

Here’s the example he gives:

“I help professional service businesses who are struggling to attract clients.”

Brooks and Bacal in Perfect Phrases, use the following formula...

“We assist clients (or customers) in the …….. industry (or business) to …...We do this by ……..”

However, in order to do that, you must really understand what end-result benefits you actually deliver to your customers.

You also need to know what end-result benefits your targeted prospective customers and current customers actually want to gain, enjoy, achieve, or have.

In preparation to crafting a winning direct value statement, here are some questions you need to answer:

  • Identify your niche….Do you specialize in an industry, or a specific segment, or a unique market, or a certain type of business?
  • Identify the benefits you deliver to your target market….What do you assist your customers in doing? Do you for example help them reduce their costs? Do you help them improve their productivity? Or help them reduce employee turnover, or help them to maximize financial returns, or help them gain market share, or increase stock value, or improve their profits?
  • How do you do that? By improving processes? Improving manufacturing yield? Providing upgraded equipment? Offering education? Guaranteeing on-time delivery?

“If you cannot easily, quickly, and comfortably communicate the fundamental reason why people or organizations would choose to do business with you and precisely how you do what you do for your customers, you will surely have a very serious problem when prospecting for customers. In fact, this is so critical that if you can’t verbalize those things, you may likely never even get your foot in the door.” (Perfect Phrases, p. 39)


“We assist our clients in the banking industry to improve their profitability. We do this by reducing their fixed operational costs, improving employee performance, and geometrically expanding their marketing efforts.”

In the final analysis, people will choose to do business with you in order to reduce or eliminate a problem, solve an issue, improve a situation, make easy purchases, or enhance their position. They are all vitally interested in solutions. That’s really what it is all about.

Create visual pictures: When you respond to the question “What do you do” with labels such as consultant, writer, or speaker people don’t listen to your words, instead they look for images in your words, according to Michael Lovas. So, instead, you should create a visual picture that’s real for your audience.

He gives the following example:

“Jane, what if you had an emergency and needed someone to take care of your children and your home. That's me. I help families protect the things that are dearest to them.”

Following up: If your listener asks you questions about your elevator pitch here’s what you do…

Ask what industry they’re in and explain how your products or services could benefit them and their business. Follow up with a story. For example, “We recently worked with a client who…” Then tell your prospect what the situation was before you worked with the client, what you did for them, without going into too much detail, and what happened as a result of your work.


The 30-second “referral prospecting engine”

Ask for referrals in a group introduction: I have saved the best for last…

In this last example, we’ll see how you can use a prospecting situation to create a strategic partnership, ask for referrals, and educate a prospective referral source on who your most qualified prospects are – to equip the referral source with the trigger words that tell them when your ideal prospects raise their hands! Here goes…

When you have 30-60 seconds to introduce yourself to a group, you can use this time to ask for referrals. In Masters of Networking, Steve Lawson illustrates what a wasted opportunity self-effacing introductions always are.

“I watched a travel agent stand in front of twenty-five business associates and say, ‘I guess you all know what a travel agent does, so if you are going on holiday call me.’ I could almost hear her audience thinking, Nope, can’t take a vacation this week. How much more powerful and effective it would have been if the travel agent had said;

"‘Last week our agency bought a large block of Caribbean cruise tickets at a ridiculously low price. If you’re talking to friends, clients or business associates, and they complain of being overworked and tired, tell them you know of a travel agency that has some unbelievable three, four or five-day cruises at amazingly low prices! Listen for two key phrases this week: ‘I’m tired,’ and ‘I’m overworked’. When you hear those phrases, think of me.’

"By saying this she would have both educated her associates and got them looking for a specific kind of referral for her.” (p199)

Did you just hear that? This is high-impact, low-cost marketing delivered without a lot of hard work – and it’s guaranteed to bring in high-quality clients/customers.

In another post, Services Marketing Tips from the Book The Butterfly Customer, we saw how a lot of today’s customers are butterflies, and why you should do whatever it takes to attract Monarchs – the kind who loyal and very forgiving, who will sometimes “allow you to screw up once in a while and often even pitch in to help when the going gets rough.”

So, don’t underestimate the power of a well-crafted elevator pitch for selling your services. Take the time to craft a good one for some of the common prospecting situations you face. When you start getting referrals as we saw above, don’t forget too that you can double your business fast by getting skilled at converting referrals into fans of your business. We show you how in How to Convert Referrals into Buyers & Fans of your Services Business.

Just by improving your referral prospecting as above by just over 30%, and also improving referral conversions by just over 30%, your business will double. It’s called the Rule of 72 and it comes from the Law of Compounding.

In business acceleration the Law of Compounding describes how a business can grow dramatically by making a series of incremental changes to various elements of the business.

Now you know how effective a simple “elevator-pitch” style referral prospecting engine can be for building your business fast, freeing up your time, and doubling your profits!

Related Articles