You’re an expert at what you do.
This should feel wonderful.
But when it comes to telling people about your business at networking events or on your website, being an expert might be what’s making you miserable.
In fact, the five scariest words a thoughtful entrepreneur can hear are “So, what do you do?”
How can that be?
Because you know the ins and outs of your industry. You know the reasons that your products and services are so important. You know the history of your field and the latest breakthroughs.
And if you try to tell all that to someone outside your industry, you’ll likely make their heads spin.
That’s why answering the “what do you do” question can make an entrepreneur crazy.
Here are my top tips to make it easy for you to talk about your business — and easy for your potential customers to listen.

Elucidate, don’t Educate

It’s only natural to want to talk about how your business helps people. Especially if someone is a potential customer. You want your customers to be informed! You want them to have the skinny on the process you use and the background you come from.
In short, your first inclination is probably to educate people.
And that potential customer you’re facing had no intention of signing up for a seminar.
She’s busy. She just needs to know if you can help her.
Are you the right person to groom her dog, take car of her low back pain, organize her garage, or help her create an eating and exercise routine?
That’s the first thing you have to signal her about. If you can help her, she’ll listen more. But if you don’t first let her know you have the magic she needs, she’s going to move on and find the person who DOES have it.
The problem is that your knowledge has accrued over years — maybe even decades. You know a lot of it.
When someone’s asking you what you do, the real question is “What do you do to help others?”
Stop trying to give technical explanations for what you do. It’s OK if your customers don’t know exactly why something works. After all, they don’t want to do what you do — they want you to do what you do for them.
Here are some tricks for toning down the tech and making your explanations more user-friendly:

  • give examples that are concrete and easy to imagine: “I help relieve low back pain so that you can ride in a car or on a plane without discomfort.”
  • use similes and comparisons to simplify complicated processes: “I’m like an Olympic coach for the process of writing your book: I’ll tell you exactly what to do, help you learn the skills you need, hold you accountable, and keep you motivated.”
  • use the everyday language your customers use, not the jargon from your industry: “I help you curb your cravings and stop listening to your sweet tooth.”

It’s not terrible to be technical everywhere. You might want to have a blog post or two diving into the nuts and bolts of your expertise. But that kind of info shouldn’t be front and center in your business. Your website, your professional bio, and your elevator pitch for networking events should be about the specific ways you help your customers — the problems you help them solve.

It’s Not About You. It’s About Your Customers

If you’re finding it hard to be succinct, try talking less about your business. Most of us “geek out” about our fields of expertise, wanting to share our passion for what we do.
It’s wonderful that you have passion. But just like when you’re in love with a person and everyone else gets sick of hearing about how fantastic s/he is, you can turn people off by talking too much about why you love what you do.
Your customer’s interest is not in why the solution works or the concepts behind the method. What your customer wants to know more than anything else is what results she’ll get from working with you.
That means you need to shift the conversation from being about your experience or your field to being about your customer’s experience.
Similarly, hitting people with too much how and not enough what is a problem. If someone has low back pain, she doesn’t care as much about how you’re going to treat is as whether you’re going to treat it.
Once she’s started to work with you, you’ll walk her through the process. But right now, she’s trying to decide if you can help her with her main focus: her pain.
Here are some ways to focus on your customer instead of yourself:

  • talk about specific customer results
  • focus on outcomes, not explanations
  • list the problems you solve or help your customers solve
  • show before and after, either in actual photos if relevant to your business, or with stories (They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but you only need a a few hundred words if those words tell a compelling story!)

Name Specific Results

When someone meets you for the first time or visits your website, she’s trying to determine whether you’re the one who can solve her problems.
A good rule of thumb is that when you introduce yourself — in person or online — you want people to think of someone they know who could use your services. Ideally, they’ll put a face to the problems or issues you’re describing.
“I help people with chronic back pain enjoy their favorite activities again without having to be on harmful medication.”
You can picture someone, can’t you? I have a friend who was in a bad car accident years ago. He has to be on pain medication that messes with his internal thermostat and makes him uncomfortably warm all the time. Plus, he’s a game enthusiast but it hurts his back to sit for long stretches, so he can’t enjoy his favorite long-play strategy games as much as he used to.
In your business, you probably help a lot of people in a lot of varied situations. For example, I have a friend who has a hyperbaric chamber. She treats people with a variety of conditions because it turns out (spoiler!) that oxygen is really good for your body and generally helps it heal. But telling people that isn’t enough to get them excited about her hyperbaric chamber.
So when she talks about her clinic, she lists the specific conditions she has helped alleviate. When she talks about helping people regain their strength during chemo or heal faster after breaking bones, that’s something we can connect to. Unfortunately, most of us know someone who has or does suffer from cancer, so we think of a specific person we know who could be helped by this service.
I met a woman recently with multiple talents. She’s an artist and a comic book letterer (is’t that a cool job!). But when I told her that I work with authors, she immediately told me the services she offers that are relevant: She designs covers and branded backdrops for conventions. Upon hearing this, I immediately thought of several people I know who could probably use her services, and I’m excited to add her to my network so that I can start making connections.
Here’s what you can do to get more specific:

  • list 3 – 4 types of projects you help people with
  • list 3 – 4 conditions you treat
  • tell a short but very specific story about someone whose life you’ve changed

Get Perspective

You know your industry and your talents well. It’s hard to get the distance you need to see what info is accessible to the average person without your training and knowledge.
It’s also hard to stop focusing on the how and instead highlight the what.
If you find it hard to speak or write about your business, you’re not alone. In fact, I’d say it’s the rare entrepreneur who can get enough distance to see her business from the customer’s point of view.
But hey, don’t feel bad! That’s why you’re so amazing at what you do.
Instead of feeling frustrated because you do what you do like a pro but talk about what you do like a newbie, get an outside perspective.
I bet your taxes are hard, too. Right? That’s why there’s an expert ready to help you.
When you’re ready for an expert copywriter who can take care of the words for you, I’m here to help. Let me help you frame your story, what you do, whom you help, and why it’s all so amazing. I’ll do the writing so you can focus on being the best at what you do.