Long before words started paying the bills, I worked in commissioned retail sales—for about eight years. It was good money for a cheeky little punk like me, but the lessons I learned there were even better.
I still look back and draw from the wisdom I gleaned back in those days—staring at, measuring, and (unfortunately) smelling feet from all walks of life (see what I did there?).
The title on my business card (yes, they gave us business cards, stop smirking) was "Footwear Representative."
But when people asked me what I did for a living, I always answered the same way: "I sell shoes."
Why? Because I had discovered, through trial and error, a life-changing axiom:
Clarity is magic.
At present, my official title is "Verbal Strategy Consultant." When you break it down, it's a precise description of what I do, more or less. But do you know what it actually means? If not, don't feel bad—I've yet to meet someone who does.
Compare that with what I tell people I do—and what appears as the title on my LinkedIn page:
"I write sentences for a living—sometimes fragments."
It's a bit of a joke (kind of like me) but it does something important—it connects.
It breaks through the needless (even when precise) pomp and just tells people what they want to know.
Trolling LinkedIn I see a smattering of titles—some are completely inscrutable, while others sound like the result of a cocaine and cava-fueled leadership encounter hosted in international waters.
Lots of people out there are trying hard to make their mark, only to miss it on their first step out the door.
What I don't see often, and what I gleefully celebrate when I do, are people who communicate with more care for their audience than for themselves—prioritizing the reader's experience over verbiage they think will make them sound important.
If you're in the business of selling—whether it's a product, service, or even just an idea—the attention and interest of your audience is worth its weight in Bitcoin—which I'm told is very hot right now and yes I know it technically doesn't weigh anything but neither does attention so let's just move on.
The point is: When you present yourself with a confusing title, it starts the conversation with…
...wait for it…
You have now burdened your reader, your new networking pal, your prospect, your grandma at Thanksgiving dinner—with a problem: "How do I decode this?"
You've given them a riddle when they wanted an answer.
So now, this vacuum of understanding needs a hasty backfill explanation that, let's face it, will not be your best. It's a sweaty tap-dance on stage at the Apollo—and you're about to get yanked.
Imagine instead that you'd given a simple explanation—something that maybe even undersells what you do, but that nevertheless evokes a clear image in the mind of your audience—especially if they don't work in your field.
Now you have somewhere to build from. The follow-up questions your audience has (if any) will come from interest—probing further, to build on their existing understanding—rather than digging themselves out from a feeling of ignorance.
They don't know everything you do—but that doesn't matter. All they need is that attention-grabbing headline—the thing that lets them know there's a reason to keep talking.
You have their interest, rather than their regret.
Footwear Representative → I. Sell. Shoes.
Verbal Strategy Consultant → I. Write. Words.
Clarity is magic.
If you can apply this nugget of truth to the way you talk about yourself, you can connect with almost any audience—and start by building bridges, instead of filling holes.
Now, back to my strategic messaging initiatives—sorry—my other word stuff.
At GhostCMO, we know how important it is to put your best verbal foot forward. From branding and positioning, to messaging and copywriting—we know what it takes to create powerful results for your business.