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NorthStar Performance Partners, LLC | Minneapolis, MN

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Sam was surprised when his boss, Juanita, called him into her office, closed the door, sat him down, and asked him:

“So what is it you guys do?”

This was not the question Sam expected to hear from his sales manager that morning. He was expecting Juanita to start grilling him about his quarterly numbers, which were not anywhere near where he wanted them to be. But when Juanita repeated her question – “I’m serious, what do you guys do?” – he knew he had to take the request seriously. But he still wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

“I’m not kidding, Sam. Pretend I’m a buyer. Pretend you’ve gotten through to me on the phone for the very first time, after weeks of trying. And pretend I ask you that question. What do you say?”

Having finally figured out that he was now in the middle of a role-play session, Sam did his best to answer the question. He started by talking hesitantly about his company’s long and storied history. Then he talked about its most popular products. Then he talked about the features that made those products great. After about five minutes, Juanita smiled and called time out.

“I think,” she said, “I might have found one of the reasons your closing numbers aren’t where we want them. Would it be all right if I took a couple of minutes to share some ideas with you?” 


You don’t have five minutes to answer a question like “What is it you guys do?” Your answer should, ideally, consume only 30 seconds, and it should conclude with a question that forwards the conversation in a way that tells you whether or not there’s a reason to keep talking. The answer you give should move your prospects from the “unaware” end of the spectrum to the “solution awareness” end of the spectrum. By asking an appropriate question at the end of your 30-second “commercial,” you can increase the odds that the solutions your prospects will become aware of during the conversation will be the ones you and your company can provide.

First, though, you must provide your own answer to the question, “What do you guys do?” That answer should paint a clear picture of the undesirable outcomes your product or service helps people avoid.

In order to create that picture, you will want to take some time to identify the desirable outcomes your product or service creates. Answering the following questions will facilitate this process:

  • What specifically does your product or service do for your clients?
  • What problems does it allow them to solve or avoid?
  • What desirable results does it facilitate?
  • What does having your product or service enable them to do?
  • Of what efficiencies does it enable your clients to take advantage?

Once you have identified the desirable outcomes your product or service facilitates, you can then describe the situation that would exist without those beneficial outcomes.

You don’t need to oversell the premise of the question. And you don’t need to talk at length. What you say should be very simple. Consider the following examples:

Prospect: What do you guys do?

Salesperson: We work with manufacturers like X, Y, and Z to eliminate unintentional inefficiencies that eat up their bottom line. A major concern for many of the manufacturers I’ve spoken to is tying up money and warehouse space with inventories of raw materials they won’t be using for months. Does that ring any bells? Are those kinds of inefficiencies a concern of yours?


Prospect: What do you guys do?

Salesperson: We help attorneys and accountants in the greater metropolitan area generate higher-quality leads online. A number of professional services firms I’ve spoken to lately are dissatisfied with both the quantity and quality of the leads generated by their online marketing efforts. Some are profoundly disappointed due to the amount of time and money they invested in website design and SEO. If I may ask, how satisfied are you with the quantity and quality of leads your company’s online presence delivers? 


Focusing on developing a powerful 30-second commercial helped Sam to turn the corner.

After working with Juanita for just a few half-hour sessions, Sam was able to come up with a better, more concise, more powerful answer to the question “What do you guys do?” By helping Sam develop and practice that answer, Juanita not only made it easier for him do a better job of communicating with buyers on the phone … she also helped him to generate more leads and referrals in social situations, such as parties and networking events. She gave him a big high-five when he improved his closing ratio … and finished above his monthly quota for the first time.



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