There are 2 questions that seem to trigger all the fears -- “What do you do?” and “What do you charge?”
I have a feeling there’s a connection between them.
And today’s podcast episode #418 is part of my ongoing quest to help people just like you do business your own way.
If you panic or freak out when a prospect or client asks you these questions, you’re not alone. I know because I’ve been helping people find answers to these questions for years. And today, my good friend, Terri Trespicio, and I hash out what I’m calling the parallel problem of “what I do” and “what I’m worth”
Listen here (or below) and learn...
Check out Terri's "audio intro" on LinkedIn here (connect with her too!).
Here's a partial transcript of our conversation...
Hello Terri, welcome back to the podcast. Please introduce yourself.
I'm Terri Trespicio, and I am….this is exactly the point. What the hell am I?
Well I'll tell you what I have on my website because that's always a thing we go to. Who is she? Is she a circus clown? Is she a rodeo cowboy? No, I am a writer, speaker and brand advisor, also a human. Also a woman. Also a New Yorker -- lots of different things here.
And that is actually why we're talking. I think most people know by now that the way I choose my podcast guests is not based on who pitches their talking points to me -- I really don't want to hear about talking points. When I hear a good question, or a good issue that needs to be hashed out, that's what I want to use the podcast for. And Terri you reached out to me the other day. Tell me what your thought was.
Whenever I have a thought. And it reminds me of Ilise, I immediately tell Ilise. I planted a seed in your brain, knowing that you would water it and give it some sunlight of attention and it would grow into something and that's what this was. I was talking to people in my community about why they hate, why we all hate, talking about ourselves. There's resistance to saying who you are. Who are you? Introduce yourself. There's a resistance to that. And it felt very similar to the kind of resistance, we feel, experience and share about when we're asked to give a price for our services, or to ask for money, or any of those things. You know how we get a little bit hitchy around money and what to ask for and what are we worth.
I started to see a comparison between these two things, because you and I have talked about that, about how hard it is and why money is such a tricky emotional topic for us, especially when it comes to our own work. But when I realized that the kinds of responses I was getting to the question, “Why does it make you break out in hives to talk about what you do?” it felt very similar to the money question. And that's when I knew I had to come to you, Ilise and say, “What do you think that is and do you agree?”
I received this thought and I spent a little time thinking about it and what I came up with is the idea that we have a parallel problem between what I do, and what I'm worth.
And the thought I'm having about it and the reason we're having this conversation is so that we can really hash it out and see what's there. My initial thought is that it's true that people really struggle with how to capture everything that they are, their essence and everything that they can do and their skills and their talents, in what gets called “an elevator pitch.” It’s kind of like when I asked you to introduce yourself and you were like, “Uh…”
And so I feel like the impulse that people have when they are asked to do that is very similar to the impulse that they have when they're asked to give a price, because they interpret it as, what am I worth?
And so there's a connection here between the two of these things, and I actually have a little bit of a solution for the problem. I don't want to get to that yet. I want to kind of hash out the problem. So, how are you hearing what I'm saying? This idea of how do I capture what I do, everything that I am, and everything that I'm worth.
Well, the first thing is what you told me years ago which is when I struggle to put a number to something, it feels like either I'm worth nothing, or someone could never afford me -- those two extremes. We've all felt those things, they're not practical solutions. Your mother thinks you're worth $5 million. It doesn't mean your client does. That pressure and the same one about what you do comes down to, like we said, what are you worth. But are you worthy? Are you worthy of someone's money on one hand, and their budget? Are you worthy of their attention?
And this question kept noodling at me and so I sent out an email and said to people, why does this bug you? And the thing that came up was not about the other person. It was about this idea of, “oh God, when someone asks me, it's like I'm being hauled on to the witness stand to testify against my own career and work. I have to make the statement and capture everything.” When I realized, like I said, the other person doesn't want the entire picture. They're literally just starting a conversation with you. But when I go to say what I do, my fear is, of course everyone's fear, is that the other person's going to judge it, or misjudge it, under or overvalue it, or not understand me. And I'm afraid I'm going to bore them. All the fears, the question kicks up all of the fears, uncertainties and doubts that we have about what we do.
And likewise for the money question -- it also kicks up all the different fears and maybe we can articulate those as well. If someone says, “Terri, I'd love to hire you. What do you charge?”
Oh god, it's a horrible question.
Why, because everyone's answer is, and probably should be, “It depends, depends on what this thing is.”
I skirt around it because I'm not sure what kind of project we're talking about. I was at an event, and this guy kind of wanted to quickly get an answer out of me. But I knew he would hold me to it and I knew I didn't like being hustled for an answer. So I feel like there's a need to push away from the question, because I usually don't have enough information to tell them. And so it's like a whole conversation -- someone wants quickly, what do you do? -- quickly, what are you worth?
These are really the biggest questions about ourselves. It's no wonder we get tripped up on them and I've been running my own business for 10 years and I still get tripped up.
You know, one of the ways I've been advising people to respond or actually not respond to some of these questions, especially if it's too early, is to do what the politicians do: you don’t accept the premise of the question. You don't have to answer the questions that are asked of you, and I think it takes a long time for people to realize that, to say, “You know what,” and often this happens, when I get on a call with someone I don't know and they say right off the bat, “Tell me what you do.” I say, “Would you mind actually telling me a little bit about what you're looking for first, and then I will tailor what I say about what I do to what you need?”
Of course, if we tell everyone to do that, I guess no one will be answering first. But I also like to hear what someone does first. In fact, I got right out of that question the other day on a first time networking call with another professional I'd never met before. She said, “Tell me everything!” She's very sweet. “Tell me everything. I want to know everything about what you're doing.” And I said, “Well, let me ask you something first.” And I asked her about herself. Do you think she refused? No, of course not. She was off to the races. So I got to hear a little bit about her first.
That's right, we want to and should contextualize this a bit. Honestly I think that the fear and the panic that we feel around this with hesitation is because when someone asks us, we think all of a sudden we're on a game show, and we're about to win or lose a million dollars.
It's not a game show. You don't have to have the answer right away. You can ask a question, you can turn the question around. But I think people feel, and I know I do, like a deer caught in the headlights when someone asked them that. In fact, the whole reason this came up is because I was leading a workshop, and a woman told me that someone in a very friendly environment, one on one, asked her what she did and she had what really resembled a panic attack.
She got short of breath, she got clammy and sweaty and her heart was racing, and she was like, “Oh my God, what's wrong with me? She loves what she does. There's nothing about the work that upset her. But talking about your work is not even in the same ballpark as doing the work you do, And that panic, I thought, that can't be unique. And when I reached out to my own community and said, “Does this sound like you?” Oh my god, I've never gotten so many responses to an email effort, and that showed me that I hit a nerve because we all feel a little bit uncomfortable about it,
Right, and I feel compelled to give some examples -- maybe excellent examples -- of the types of things you could say and be ready to say, so that you don't have a panic attack, so that you don't get caught like a deer in the headlights, when someone asks you what you do, and you're not ready to answer the question. Maybe your elevator pitch is in process or you forgot it, for God's sake, right? As I'm listening to I'm thinking of all the different things, one could say, like, “Well, you know, I have five different elevator pitches and I'm not sure which one to give you. So tell me a little bit first, I'll be able to choose the right one for you.
I mean that's so honest to be like, “which elevator pitch? Pick a floor, and a button, and I'll tell you.” I mean there's nothing wrong with that. The fact that you have five ready to go, is great because someone can choose. With the person who doesn't have something good, they get tongue tied. The first thing I tell them to do is to, first of all, freeze, and reframe this. Like I said, it's not a contest, you're not in court. Realize that this person is just trying to get to know you. You're going to tell them and they probably wouldn't be able to repeat it back 10 minutes from now. And they don't want your whole LinkedIn profile. And they don't need to understand everything -- that's what conversations are for. It's a door to a conversation. If you spit out a one word answer and they don't say anything. Well, that's the end of the conversation.
Yeah and I think that's a really important point that I've been making for years and years which is that your elevator pitch -- your answer to the question, “what do you do?” -- is really just the beginning of a conversation, or the end, if you say something that everybody thinks they understand, and maybe even think they're not interested in. That's one of the reasons labeling yourself is not helpful at all.
Right, in fact, another thing I was telling people to do is leave out the org chart.
When someone asks you what you do, they really don't want to know how the entire organization runs. They are not looking for your W2. They really don't need to know everything. People say, “But when I tell someone that I'm the director of operations at a startup, no one knows that means it's the end of the conversation.”
Well then, this is what I say, “Think like an alien, talk like a human. How would you explain it to someone who's never been on the planet before? How would you put it in perspective outside of jargon? “I make sure money is in the right pockets of the people who need to spend it to grow the business.” I mean something so simple.
People say, “Well I don't want to dumb down what I do.” Frst of all, can we please stop with the dumbed down? It's insulting to everyone. The idea that you need to dumb down for the perfectly intelligent person you're talking to, they don't appreciate that or need that.
The idea is you need to build a bridge so that you have something to talk about.
And that is the connection to what I was referring to earlier, as a possible solution. Because I think the problem and the reason both of these issues trigger all the fears is because we're thinking about them in a very self centered way. Our focus is on ourselves. And that's entirely the wrong perspective. It's the wrong perspective to get a conversation going and it's the wrong perspective to get a fee that you can agree to with whoever you're talking to.
Oh my gosh. Let's not forget. We don't like pitching, because we don't like being pitched. There's a reason we fast forward through commercials. We don't want to hear it.
When I was a kid, third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade, I was basically made to play in the girls softball league. I didn't want to play, Not a bone in my body wanted to play softball. And there's always a point when you play softball when you have to stand at the plate, and someone winds up and throws something at you.
This is terrifying. The idea of being pitched at is someone literally throwing something at you! No one wants that. Now, in some cases where it's a pitchathon or pitchorama --t there are places for pitching. But I'm talking about the places where you could make a real connection with someone who could help, who you might help, you could have a very meaningful connection....