February 18, 2020 Shawn

A Professional Speaker’s Most Powerful Question

Because we’re all about sales, we’re all about sales conversations. And as it’s said, “the one who controls the questions controls the conversation.”

There are a lot of great questions unique to the professional speaking industry, and the best all drive the conversation closer to the sale. The greatest types of sales questions are also the simplest type:

Those that only result in a yes or no.

They’re known as ‘binary questions.’

In order to properly leverage this type of question, we need to get back to basics and re-acquaint ourselves with the purpose of any question in the sales process: To guide the conversation closer to the close. Whether that close is you sending a proposal or delivering the talk, every question you ask needs to get you and your prospect closer to that point. As I mentioned, binary questions make that journey easier for you – and your buyer.

Many conversations, especially most (poor) sales conversations, have no destination. If you’ve ever had a long conversation with someone and then found out the budget wasn’t right, or they were all set this year? With a destination, you know as the speaker where the next stop along the way is and can use binary questions to guide yourself and your prospect there more efficiently. You’re a professional problem solver, right? Here’s a chance to practice it.

(If you’re in the speaking business, you’re the CEO of a company whose principal purpose is problem-solving for your audience’s challenges.)

OK, So How Do I Use Binary Questions To Increase My Speaking Sales?
The magic of a binary question is that if you think of them ahead of time, they allow you to ask questions of your prospect to which you, as the salesperson, already know the answer. Knowing the answer, you can then assure your prospect that you have dealt with their situation before and can help them with their event’s outcomes.

(Interested in how to tailor questions to drive more sales? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)

Here are some examples of the type of binary questions we ask during the information-finding portion/qualifying part of the sales call; by far the majority of the types of calls a professional speaker will make.

Identifying the decision maker
This question is the initial question we ask and one of the few binary questions that we don’t always know the answer to ahead of time. However, the yes/no response informs us if this person is the right one to be talking to.
“Are you the one responsible for your XYZ event this (Season?)?”
If yes, you know you’re talking to a potential decision maker. If no, you can follow up with a, “Who is?”

Confirming The Value Of You Knowing Their Challenges
After we discover/confirm challenges the audience is facing (and that they need an expert to help them solve), we can then ask the prospect, “Is it more valuable to have speakers who are addressing what’s top of mind with your audience or a motivational speaker giving a canned talk?”
We know the answer to this one: Yes! More valuable! Our follow-up is, “We find that to be the case as well, and why it’s such a good fit because I’m an expert in (challenges affecting your audience).”

Making Their Decision-Making Easier
If a committee is making the decision on their speakers, our binary question is, “Would a custom video speaking directly to your committee help them make their decision better than a generic speaker’s reel?”
Their inevitable “Yes” allows you to be invited to present a custom video to the committee and let them know you’re familiar with that kind of decision-making process.

Can’t Select Speakers Today
When someone informs us they’ll be choosing keynote speakers at some point in the future, our binary question is, “Would it make sense for us to reconnect closer to that date so I can ensure you have my updated materials?” If you hear a ‘no’ to that question, you’d gone off track with matching your expertise to what they were looking for. The ‘Yes’ gives you permission to connect again closer to decision-making time.

Revealing Budget
Knowing how much an organization can pay is a critical step in saving yourself – and your prospects – time and ensuring you’re a good fit for each other. Some prospects are hesitant to reveal a budget, and binary questions can help you as a salesperson narrow it down.
“Are you in the $5k-$20l range?” If a yes, you know that budget range. If a no, you can likely count on this being a sub $5k opportunity.
Let’s play with a ‘yes’ to this question to narrow budget even further and immediately follow up with:
“So do you find yourself in the $15k-$20k range for your keynote speakers, then?” If yes, you now have a budget of $15k-$20k. If no, then you know you’re dealing with a $10k-$15k opportunity.

Confirming You’re Worth Your Fee
One of our favorites, this question helps the prospect agree that your method of delivering a talk is the best one for their audience. We ask, “Do you find it more valuable to your folks when your speaker (builds a custom talk/engages them with crows circling the ceiling/whatever your unique talk does) or (the opposite of your secret sauce, which usually results in less engagement, retention and implementation after the event).” Because we know the first part of the statement will be chosen with a ‘yes’, we can affirm that’s exactly what we do when presenting.

You’re A Great Partner To Be In Business With
Another awesome binary question can be asked that reveals how great of a partner you are to an event planner. “Have you ever brought in a speaker that used none of your industry’s terminology, didn’t change any of their slides and ignored your theme entirely, and that probably impacted your event right?” Of course it did! This lets us follow up with, “That’s why we work to build a talk with your theme, brand our slides with your logo etc. etc.” They’ll know you’re a partner and not a primadonna.

Capturing More Gigs For Less
Many organizations have both annual events and smaller events that all pay their speakers. For many speakers, these types of clients are a dream – multiple gigs and only one sale that needs to be made! After we ask, “Do you have other events that pay keynote speakers?” and the answer is yes (yep, that was a binary question in case you were paying attention), we’ll follow up with “Would it make more sense to get your main-stage keynote at a reduced fee and lock me in as your keynote speaker for the regional events as well?” That yes can make your CPA work a little harder with your increased revenue, but that’s a good problem to have.

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