"So, what do you do?"

How a compelling talk-trigger can open many doors

For any of us, there are many opportunities during the week where we can trigger a conversation with someone that could lead to the next big deal. How often do we get the question ‘So, What do you do?’, when we meet someone, while we are commuting, at events, in restaurants. Often it is as simple as answering that very question in a slightly different way.

I refer to this as ‘the talk trigger.’ Something way more simplistic than the ‘elevator pitch’ and therefore much more applicable in day to day life. Having a compelling talk trigger cannot only result in concrete business, but it’s also more fun as it brings you meaningful conversations. Moreover, the good thing is, since anyone in your company can master this, it’s a very effective way to scale your marketing efforts. Everyone is in sales, and everyone is a target.

Value PropositionWhat I realize is that hardly anyone has a useful talk trigger. We have become so accustomed to directly answering the lazy way: Oh, hi, I am Ton, and I am a product marketing consultant. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, the conversation goes flat, directly after giving my answer. Hardly anyone will say ‘Oh interesting, tell me more!’ Where if I would answer something like:

“One of the things that trigger me is that so many companies today are challenged to stand out in their market. I am sure you recognize this.

Somehow, somewhere they’ve lost their edge.

The result of this is they end up competing on price, lose more than they win, and end up with financial stress.

That’s what I’m solving – specifically for business software companies.

So, what do you do?”

Do you see the difference? It’s conversational. It’s recognizable. It’s effortless to comprehend. Moreover, most importantly: it invites for more.

That’s the power of having a compelling talk trigger. Everyone should have one present – not only if you work in Marketing or Sales. We’re all in Sales.

How to start?

So, what’s the magic behind creating a compelling Talk Trigger.

From my own experience, I have distilled five tips that will help you carve an intro that’s irresistible. It starts with the framework.

Ensure you always follow this flow

1)    The problem – what’s broken, and what’s the consequence of it

2)    The Solution – make the bridge to a better future

3)    The Result – envision a desirable outcome

Let me go into the essential ingredients of each section.

Part 1) The problem – the hook

Whenever you talk to someone the way to get them ‘hooked’ is to introduce ‘the problem.’ That’s how we are wired. If it takes too long, we lose interest. So, the trick is to get straight to the point and address a commonly known friction.

Set the context One of the things that trigger me is that so many companies today are challenged to stand out in their market.
Make it inclusive I am sure you recognize this.
Introduce the problem/cause     Somehow, somewhere they’ve lost their edge
Introduce the negative effect The result of this is they end up competing on price, lose more than they win, and end up with financial stress.
Complete the circle That’s what I’m solving – specifically for business software companies


Often this first part is enough to trigger a reaction and ignite a conversation, whether this is directly relevant to the person you talk to, or to someone they know in their network.

The most logical reaction you’re after is: “Interesting! How do you do that? / Tell me more!”

Part 2 and 3: The solution & Result

Once this happens, you should have the second part ready: The solution and the result.
This part is should be short and punch, making the bridge, and painting a picture of a desirable outcome.

Introduce the solution                   I have developed an approach to help them to stand out again,
Envision the result by becoming remarkable in what they do across product strategy, marketing and sales.

What makes the strongest talk triggers?

From my personal experience, the strongest talk triggers are the ones that typically follow five basic rules:

  1. They are recognizable/inclusive
    Remember, your talk trigger is one that you should be able to use in any situation, not just with your qualified prospects. This could be someone you meet in the train tonight on your way home or waiting in line when you buy your coffee tomorrow morning before going into work. So, the trick is to set the scene with something everyone can relate to – whether direct or indirect.
  2. They paint a picture – something you can ‘see’ or ‘feel.’
    An essential element. Since it’s doubtful the people you meet do the same you do or are your ideal prospect, you want to speak in language and examples they ‘get.’ The way to achieve that is to paint a picture of what it ‘feels like’ experiencing the problems you solve.
  3. They are specific
    We tend to want to explain everything we do. That’s not possible. Remember you’re in a 10 second Talk Trigger moment. My advice is to select one particular angle that ‘triggers’ a reaction. Specific is better than generic as it allows you to hit a nerve and make people care.
  4. They are stripped from any jargon, and use simple, down to earth words
    We are so ingrained in what we do every day that we don’t realize we’re using language most people don’t understand. Be aware of that. Ensure you strip your talk trigger from any jargon. Think about how you would explain it to your 8-year-old son, or your 79-year-old grandmother. Step inside their shoes.
  5. They are conversational
    Remember, you’re in a conversation with someone you don’t know. It’s very informal. They don’t know who you are. Assume they don’t know anything about your profession or expertise. So, keep it conversational. Invite them into a story – your story. Keep it very down to earth.

About the author

Sales Pitch

Ton Dobbe is a former B2B software product marketer who's on a mission to save mission-driven SaaS CEOs from the stress of 'not enough' traction. He's the author of The Remarkable Effect, the host of the Tech-Entrepreneur on a Mission podcast, and writes a daily newsletter on the secrets to mastering predictable traction.