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How To Answer When A Customer Asks “What Do You Do?”

When a customer puts you on the spot and asks you what you do, you need to make sure you have a clear, concise answer to their question. Your answer should intrigue them and make them remember you. Not knowing how to explain what you do in the right way is costing you leads and sales. In this post, we’ll show you how to create the perfect answer to this simple, yet terrifying question.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Explain what you do in a sentence or two

In the movie industry, screenwriters write a logline to sell their movie to potential investors. They know they only have a matter of seconds to get these investors’ attention. So they keep this description clear, concise, and enticing. In that one sentence alone, the screenwriter needs to convince the investors that this is a movie that will sell and make them millions (or billions) of dollars. When someone comes up to you and asks what you do, you need to have something like this in your back pocket. A one-liner you can recite off the top of your head, explaining what you offer and why someone should buy it.

With a great one-liner, you can:

  • Spread word about what you do
  • Break through the noise your customers hear every day
  • Defeat your competition
  • Make customers remember you for the future
  • Increase chances for orders and sales
  • Grow your business

Let’s take a look at how to put a killer one-liner together, using our own from MotorClick as an example!

The three key elements of a great one-liner

The problem

When it comes to your products or services, what does your customer have? What do they want? Try to be as specific as possible here, because it’s the details that make the story interesting to your customer. Moreover, make sure that the problem is a real pain point your audience can really feel and understand. If they can’t relate to the problem, they won’t care about the story or what you’re trying to sell. Lastly, focus only on one problem, even if you solve dozens of problems with the products or services you sell. This keeps your messaging clear, clutter-free, and easy-to-understand.

For MotorClick, this is what this part of our one-liner looks like:

Most people feel overwhelmed trying to create a website for their business on a limited budget.

We know a lot of our potential clients may have a limited budget, especially if they run or work for an SMB. This kind of problem resonates with them on an emotional level and ropes them into the story we’re inviting them into. At MotorClick we solve many other problems, like bringing more traffic to their website, increasing their sales, etc. But this is the one we chose, because it appeals to the largest portion of our audience.

The plan

Once you lay out the problem, you need to tell your customers what your plan is to help them overcome this problem. The key here is to differentiate yourself in some way, to make your product or service unique by approaching the problem from a slightly different angle. You also need to keep this simple and easy, because something that takes a lot of effort or seems difficult will turn off potential customers.

Continuing our one-liner for MotorClick, here is what this portion should look like:

We build and optimize affordable websites that rank in online search and win you more customers…

Notice how simple the solution is? We build the website for you, so you don’t have to feel overwhelmed with creating it, and it’s affordable! There are countless things that go into creating an effective website that ranks in the search results and brings traffic in the form of new customers. But we eliminate all that confusion by telling them all they need to do is hand it over to us. And we eliminate any resistance by ensuring them the solution will not cost them the next six months’ revenue.

The happy ending

To finish your one-liner, you need to paint a picture of success for the customer. To help you think about what this might look like, think about the controlling idea behind your business. In other words, why does your business exist? Is it to create a world where all pets receive proper nutrition with your organic pet food? Or maybe to create a safer home environment for little humans with your BPA-free baby products? Whatever this controlling idea is, it should also be something your clients want for themselves.

Going back to our MotorClick example one last time, here is what that might look like:

…so you can grow your business without breaking the bank.

Almost every small business owner wants to grow their business to some degree. And they want to do that without spending too much money on things like websites and marketing consults. This happy ending works well for the story we’ve created. Once you put it all together, you can see how well these elements work to intrigue the customer, while still keeping things relatable and memorable.

Most people feel overwhelmed trying to create a website for their business on a limited budget. We build and optimize affordable websites that rank in online search and win you more customers, so you can grow your business without breaking the bank.

And there you have it! A sleek, brief one-liner you can use to explain what you do, no matter who asks!

What to do with your new one-liner?

Once you’ve written down your one-liner, the next step is to memorize it, so you can repeat it anytime a potential customer asks you what you do. Additionally, you should teach it to your team, so they can answer the question the same way you will. This essentially turns your entire team into a sales force, and it helps solidify your brand, since the answer is consistent, no matter who you ask.

You should also make it a point to use your explanation of what you do in every piece of marketing collateral you have. Your website, social media profiles, brochures, sales emails, business cards…everything. And if you give any keynotes or have company meetings, start off by saying that one-liner to remind everyone why your company exists and why your mission matters.

Pro-tip: Avoid insider language

As business owners and creators, we become quite close with our products and services; we know everything about them, and could rattle off their features in our sleep. Because of this closeness, we suffer from the curse of knowledge. Because we know all these wonderful things about [insert industry here], we instinctively assume everyone else has enough background knowledge to understand what we are talking about. But most of the time, this is a wrong – and dangerous – assumption. In reality, there is a massive gap between where you are and where your customers are, and you need to bridge that gap if you hope to increase sales and grow your business.

When writing your one-liner, try to avoid using that insider language. Instead, communicate in a simple, understandable, repeatable, and relatable way. This will help you overcome the curse of knowledge; your customers will hear you if your message is relevant to them and makes sense to them.


Knowing how to respond when someone asks you what you do is crucial. If you ramble about how your great grandmother started the business in the 1940s, you’ll lose them. Instead, respond with one or two sentences that clearly communicate the problem your customers have, how your company can fix it, and what success will look like for them if they do business with you. Once you build this statement, memorize it and repeat it every time someone asks you, “What do you do?” This not only helps build your brand, but it also statistically will lead to more sales and will grow your business.

Keep Reading: Writing A Mission Statement For Your Website »

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