You've seen it all before. You're attending awedding/funeral/birthday. You chat will a well-dressed stranger.They ask: “What do you do?” You say: “I sell insurance.”They bolt.

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Later, you learned all about elevator speeches. “I'm an estate planningspecialist in intergenerational wealth transfer.” It's smoother,but sounds scripted. They counter: “You're an insurance agent,right?”

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Do you have any other options about what to tell people, to getthem to talk a little longer?

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Here are eight possible answers, and I'm sure you have ideasabout others.

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1. Excitement We wereon a Mediterranean cruise. Table of eight. When a diner was askedthat question, she said: “I'm a fine art dealer. But it's not asexciting as you think!” She stopped talking. She waited forthe audience's reaction. The silence was filled with comments suchas, “Wow!” and “What do you mean it's not exciting?”

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Here's how a CPA I know handles this. He says: “Ever get one ofthose certified letters from the IRS? We take care of that kind ofproblem.”

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2. The assist

In some social situations, women are invisible. It's assumedthey are raising the children or have a lightweight job. The mentalk among themselves. One husband, married to a financial advisoranswers: “I own the local hardware store. You should ask my wifethat question. She's the one with the really interesting job!”

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3. Volunteer work

It's rare the other person says: “What do you do for aliving?” If you are at a museum event, you might say: “I'm avolunteer at the museum.” They might be one too. They draw you out.If you think it's appropriate you later add: “My day job is….”

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4. Draw others out

People like to talk about themselves. If their professionis already known, you might answer: “I'm a financial advisor at(firm). But tell me more about your job. It sounds reallyinteresting.”

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5. Head 'em off at the pass

You've seen it before. You say: “I'm a financial advisor.” Theyhave already started to say “I have one” before you've evenfinished speaking. Try: “I'm a financial advisor at (firm). Youprobably work with a financial advisor already.” When they answeryes, you are in the position to ask” “What do you like best aboutthem?” or “Would you recommend them?”

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6. Get them to ask

We often ask “What do you do?” when we meet a new person. It'san icebreaker. Try getting them to ask the question instead. Forexample, you walk up to the hotel bar, take a seat, order a drinkand say: “At last, a chance to relax. This is my busy time ofyear.” Stop talking. The person sitting alongside might say:“Why is it a busy time? What do you do?” You've gotten them toask.

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7. Play the officer card

You probably consider yourself an agent or advisor. Yourbusiness card might read “Assistant Vice President” or somethingeven better. That's an officer title. It commands respect. Policeare called officers. Banks have officers. The military does too.When you are asked the question you might say: “I'm an officer at(firm).”

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8. Keywords

Here's an example of an answer that expands and contracts. Ithas two sentences. Design your own. You might use some variationbased on one or both.

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1. I'm an officer at (firm).

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Rationale: You are playing the “assistant vice president” card.“Officer” commands respect. You've got your firm name out theretoo.

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2. I work with a small group of successful business owners andfamilies in the (your city) area.”

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Rationale: “Small” implies exclusivity. Most people identifywith “successful.” They also know most of the local wealth is inthe hands of established business owners. “Family” implies familyvalues, which you share. The city name lets them know you are partof the community. The fees you earn from them are recycled in thecommunity when you and your family go out to dinner, the drycleaner or the hardware store.

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In 21 words you have said quite a lot. Most of it is byinference, as the “rationale” explains. They will likely want toknow more, starting with; “What do you do for these businessowners?”

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