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Answers From The Mailbag

This week I’m answering one of the burning questions I’ve received from newsletter subscribers and clients. Let me know what you think in the comments below!


Hi Bill,

My major question is this: when I’m at a networking event, I get challenged by answering the question, “What do you do?” Every time I answer by saying “I’m an executive coach”, it doesn’t work very well. How can I change the way I introduce myself to people? (Because once I get into a good discussion, I’m able to successfully offer a consultation.)


This is a really good question –  it’s an important one.

Executive coach doesn’t mean anything to most people. And even if it does, it will mean what they think it means and not necessarily what you want it to.

So I’ll show you how to say “what you do” in a way that will entice people to want to know more. Because really, that’s the reaction that we want.

So compare the these two answers to “What do you do?”

(A) “I’m an executive coach”


(B) “I help Fortune 500 C-level executives who are having trouble motivating their entire company into a singular vision. I help them create a unified organization so that every single person from the janitor to the CEO is working towards the same thing.”

From the question you’re asking, I’m sensing that this is actually a niche issue, and you haven’t really fully committed to a niche. Once you’ve committed to a niche, you need to be networking in places where your target market hangs out. And then it’s a lot easier to explain what you do.

For example, if I were at a networking event talking to someone about what I do, and they happen to be an employee for someone else’s company, I wouldn’t try to mold my introduction to try to attract that one person when that’s not what my business is about. I would ask them if they know anyone who could use my services and could you introduce me.

Right now you are probably trying to adjust according to the people you’re meeting, and trying to cast a broad net. Probably you don’t want to lose an opportunity to get a potential client. That may be why you haven’t honed in on a specific niche.

The good news is that in networking, you can tailor your message to each person you meet.

The bad news is that you never really get good at creating a compelling message because you tailor your message to each person you talk to.

If you want to grow your business in a bigger way, you’re going to need to create a compelling message that can reach more people than through  just individual conversations. For example, If you’re doing speaking engagements, your message needs to be targeted to a group of people with common needs and problems. If you’re doing teleseminars or webinars, the same thing applies.

When you are clear on the problem you solve, and who your target market is, and you know what the result is that they want, then you know what solutions to offer because you’ve done it many times.

That’s when those networking conversations will flow easily and you’ll be standing as a clear provider of a compelling solution for your niche. The person you are talking to will see that and either identify themselves with what you are offering or, if it’s not for them, they’ll probably feel inclined to refer anyone they know in your niche to you.

~ Bill

PS: If you enjoyed this Q&A and discussion and would like to receive more, please let me know by leaving a comment below!


  1. Great article Bill! You’re singing my tune:)

    When I help my clients solve their Niche Puzzle, we answer 3 questions: WHO do you help, WHAT do you help them with, WHY should they work with you.

    You need to answer all 3 pieces in order to be focused in your marketing, and create a powerful marketing message.

    But I actually like to dig deeper when I help my clients with their messaging. We also create their “Core Message”. This is what captures what they stand for in their business.

    It’s what helps you really stand out and create a consistent impression in the minds of your ideal clients.

    So for instance, my core message is: “To be a great marketer you have to know your target market. But to build a profitable business that you love, you have to know yourself”.

    It’s at the core of everything that I do and stand for in my business. It’s why when helping my clients choose a niche, we don’t just pick a target market and figure out what they want. We start by looking within.

    Many thanks for sharing and allowing me to share.

    warm wishes,

  2. Excellent thoughts. I wrestle with the same issues, as I’m working to carve out a niche in a crowded market (teaching music in Nashville, TN….a great but challenging exercise in figuring out how to stand out from the herd).

  3. No one really wants to buy coaching. They want solutions to their problems so you need to sell a solution to a problem faced by your target market and ideal client.

    When I am asked what i do, I respond by saying “I help small businesses get all the leads they can handle.” 9 times out of 10 it leads to an additional conversationand a meeting.

  4. Bill great observations, great response. This is the real challenge for “new” Coaches, they feel they can help everyone, yet they really are much more suited to a specific audience based on their background and skill set. I know this is true for me. And the challenge has been to get enough starting clients to really get this and refine the niche that I serve. Michael Port says to focus on the clients that energize you once you’ve booked yourself solid. Easier said than done, yet true as the day is long. Thanks again for your wisdom.

  5. Hi Bill,

    Introducing yourself by including your target market and how you can help them is a great teaser into what you do and by far more interesting that just saying that, in this case, “I’m an executive coach.” I would also add that everyone you meet may not be in your target market. Stay clear and confident on what you are offering so that even if that person is not in your target market, you will be memorable enough for them to share your info with someone that is.

  6. I found this really useful. It seems daunting to focus on a niche, but easy to focus on a problem to solve. Also, it helps me to be reminded to look at the meta-picture of my business, not just the pieces.Thanks!

  7. Hi Bill,

    Samantha Hartley said something about this very topic recently that really landed for me. She said folks are worrying so much about what THEY are going to say when it is their turn to talk at the networking event that NO ONE is paying attention to what anyone is saying.

    This is a tragedy … especially when so many people are up to big things in the world that have the potential to make real impact.

    Getting the message right is giving folks serious pause. And that means the marketplace is suffering, too.

    This is one of my favorite answers to the “what do you do” question that I heard at one of your events. She said, “I am a certified financial planner who helps women 50 and better make sure their money lasts as long as they do.”

    It was so simple and clear, and when the words left her lips, people were leaning in. Immediately people know who a good referral for that gal might be, and they may even be fabulous candidates themselves.

    Simple and clear messaging requires that the person speaking the words feels that way about her message. It takes some work to get the meat of that matter, and it is so worth it.

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