In the world of speaking, we’re asking event planners, executive directors, CEOs and business executives for thousands of dollars to solve specific problems they (and their people) face.
Interestingly, we can ask all the right questions, build the bridge from their challenges to our expertise and explain how that will solve their problem better, faster and cheaper than they could on their own – yet, sometimes they still won’t move from a discussion to a sales negotiation.
A variety of excuses come up: They need an email. They want to see a speaker’s reel. They want to talk to past clients. But the real reason is something it took me a few thousand calls to figure out-
They’ll say they want a lot of things, but what they need is trust.
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They need to trust that we are who we say we are and can deliver what we’re promising. That’s why so many speakers’ gigs come through referrals; someone a decision maker knows, likes and trusts passed the speaker’s name on as a potential presenter.
Unfortunately, that model is dependent on a given decision maker remembering you and carving out the time to share that with a friend that trusts them. If you enjoy ‘feast and famine’ in your revenues, keep running your business waiting for the phone to ring.
For us, we realized that if we were taking the initiative in our businesses and calling into folks who never heard of us, we had to find a way to build trust on the first call. That’s what would allow us to earn the right to put forward a proposal.
But how to build trust with someone you’ve never met?
We found the best way to do this was in between the questions we ask. What that means is we ask a standard set of questions to move an account closer to the sale and need a way to not make those questions sound like an interrogation. To break up the question patter, build trust and earn the right to ask the next question, we keep the following things in mind during the call:
1. Take the time to understand their event’s needs. If you make your call all about you, you’ll never have the opportunity to discover what challenge they are hosting their event to solve.
2. Let them know you have experience with their kind of event/challenge. We mention in a few sentences how we’ve addressed a similar/identical topic and for which clients, if they have names that lend credibility because of the global brand or similarity to the audience we’d like to speak to.
3. If they have a conference theme, can you share how you’ve worked to customize your presentation to themes in the past with your decision maker? If so, they’ll know you’re dedicated to being a partner in serving their audience.
4. Whatever process they use to make their decision around a speaker, let them know that you have experience with that process (if you do) and know how to make it easier and more enjoyable for that person or committee.
5. Whatever their number of attendees (3 or 3,000), share how you’ve modified your talk to best serve that audience size. If you don’t have past events to draw from, explain in a few sentences how different size audiences require different things from a speaker and you’re an expert in understanding that.
6. If there’s lag time between today and when they can make a decision, tell them there are things along the way you can do to add value in the meantime. This shows you’re used to dealing with this situation and know how to handle it.
7. When you’ve discussed budget and you know it’s a viable fee for your business, you can share how you’ve built great events for that budget or how you could design an event they won’t find anywhere else for that budget (if it’s your highest potential fee – and if so, congrats!)
8. If you’ve ever spoken at multiple events for the same organization, bring this into the conversation when you ask about other events that bring in paid speakers. That way, they know you’ve familiar with speaking at regional or chapter events and being a partner along the way.
And the magic words …
After assuring the decision maker along the way that they’re in good hands and you’re aligned of challenges and the type of event planned, it’s time to wrap it all up in preparation for the proposal or sale. There are three magic words that begin a sentence that closes deals:
Because you said … (thanks to Phil Jones for that!)
At the end of the conversation, I’ll say, “Well, because you said (reiterating each of the things they told me about their event and how I’m a match), our next step in the process is reviewing my (keynote experience package/signing the proposal/whatever you do to close business).”
Because you’re feeding back the very words they told you, it becomes very difficult for a decision maker to shut the process down with an objection. You’ve shown them you can be a trusted partner, understand their needs and are ready to help.
That’s how the best achieve sales through assurance.
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