Who Are You and What The Heck Do You Do?


A few years ago, I was attending a family function when I ran into a cousin of mine. Having not seen her in more than three years, she told me that her son had graduated from law school and had passed the bar examination and was now a lawyer at a very prestigious law firm in New York City.

"So what kind of law is he practicing?", I asked.

"Well....law, The American kind" she replied.

"Ok, but what area of specialization? Bankruptcy? Criminal? Real Estate? Personal Injury?," I inquired.

"You know, I don't really know, but I know he's a great lawyer, or at least he better be with all the money I spent on his schooling,", she said.

"Do you have his business card?" I asked.

"Actually I don't have one with me. He never gave me any. He said just told me to have anyone with a legal problem give him a call. I'll give you his home number and you can talk to him about it," she said.

I'm sure that many people have heard parents brag about their son "THE LAWYER" or their daughter "THE DOCTOR" or whatever profession they are in. But like my cousin, many of them are not familiar with what their son or daughter really does for a living. All they know is that they paid for their kid to go to medical school, law school, graduate school and in their eyes, they are a success.

After the conversation ended, I thought to myself about the many golden opportunities my cousin had missed for her son to acquire new clients. It was bad enough she didn't know what kind of law he practiced, but what made it even worse is that she didn't have any of his business cards with her.

As a business owner or sales professional, people need to know what it is you do for a living. Your first step is to educate your immediate "sales force" -- that is your family -- as to what you do. This doesn't mean that they need to know all of the technicalities of what you do for a living. At the very least, you need to train them to listen for key words, or to watch for certain circumstances where they may be able to provide a solution to someone's problem.

For example, if you are a chiropractor, tell your family that if they hear a neighbor complain that their back is hurting after doing spring cleaning, that person may be a patient for chiropractic treatment. You may want to train your mom to 1) identify a need, 2) provide a solution to the person's problem and 3) give them a call to action [tell them what they need to do] and 4) make them prospect for future clients by giving out your business card, plus an extra card in case that person knows someone else who can benefit from your services.

Speaking about business cards, out of the thousands of business cards I receive each year, I am surprised whenever I get a card that is missing the basics: the address, fax number, email, or title, let alone the person's full name.

I'm a firm believer that your business card must also spell out exactly what you do, if it is not apparent by your company's name. For example, if your business is the SUPER MEGA COMPANY, INC. and you clean windows, it should say "SUPER MEGA COMPANY INC" with the words "Commercial and Residential window cleaners" below it.

If you have a title in the company, use it on your card. Are you the CEO? The account representative? The Vice President of Marketing? The Developer of Imaginative Ideas? People want to know.

The bottom line is that people need to know who you are and what the heck you do for a living. Start training your family members, your friends and clients to get the word out there about yourself. Once you do, you will start to see results: in name recognition, and more importantly, qualified business referrals.

2005, Timothy M. Houston. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Timothy M. Houston is the President of Houston & Associates, a commercial Debt management and business consulting firm based in Staten Island, New York with affiliated offices in Texas, California and Florida, (http://www.houstonandassociates.com). He is also the Area Director for the New York City Outer Boroughs Region of BNI (Business Network Int'l).

In 2005, Tim launched SmallBizSaver.com (http://www.smallbizsaver.com) which is dedicated to helping small businesses to stay in business. He can be reached at tmhouston@houstonassoc.com, or Toll Free at 1-888-407-4646.


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