In the world of sales, there’s an old saying that a salesperson should constantly be practicing their ‘ABCs’ – as in, ‘Always Be Closing.’
That might work in industries where an economic decision maker often has carte blanche power to buy, but I haven’t found practicing my ABCs in the world of speaking sales to be effective.
What is effective, though (especially in challenging times like when the events industry shuts down due to COVID-19) is to practice your ‘ABAVs’, as in, “Always Be Adding Value.”
How Do We Understand How To Add Value?
Understand that in any economic climate, but especially in a crisis, businesses (and the individuals that run them) tend to fall into one of three camps. Once we understand what camp that is, we can better understand the value our prospects are interested in, not just the value we think they need.
Camp 1: Hide
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These are the folks who have withdrawn completely from the outside world, and this camp swells with folks in times of crisis when most think it’s a good idea to simply wait out the storm and, “Soon,” they believe, “things will return to normal.”
Unfortunately, when folks who hide shut down their outreach they also shut down the visibility and business growth they’d built – often setting them back years in their industries.
Speakers in this camp relied on inbound business and now that leads have stopped, they’re putting their heads in the sand until the emails and phone calls start back up.
Camp 2: Survive
While slightly better-off than the folks who hide, businesses in this camp are keeping the lights on, but by any means necessary. This means in the mad dash to backfill revenue they thought would come in, they start creating new products and services at breakneck speed in the hopes that some of them will be purchased. Unfortunately, the rapid development and release of these new offerings rarely has the planning and beta testing these new revenue streams would have in times of normalcy.
This means the breakneck speed they were produced and released with translates to the experience their customers will have. In times when many are trying to survive, a patchwork course or online program will destroy more goodwill than it creates.
Speakers in this camp are standing up online courses and paid virtual offerings, hoping that their prospects and clients will buy. While not a bad strategy, I wouldn’t put all my eggs in this basket as the sole way of replacing speaking revenue.
Camp 3: Thrive
In this camp are the businesses who see the opportunity in a crisis and understand they’ll need to pivot in order to better serve their prospects and clients. These are the folks who re-assess what their prospects need (in the case of speakers, it isn’t a motivational talk delivered from a stage), and once they understand what their prospects need more than anything else in that moment, get busy delivering it.
Speakers in this camp are still conducting outreach to prospects, but they’ve changed their pitch with the understanding that the needs of their prospects have changed – and whether those prospects are themselves in the hide, survive or thrive mode – the speaker has adapted their expertise to provide value in the way their prospects need that value today – not yesterday or once the economy recovers.
In times of crisis, folks don’t want to be sold a solution made for normal times. They need a solution built for where they’re at now, and for the budget they have today.
That’s why I advise speakers in thrive mode, pivoting their value proposition to where their prospects are today, do it for free.
Yep, you might have choked on your drink there. “Wait, you’re advocating on a sales blog that we add value to our prospects for free??!!”
I am. And it’s because of the philosophy we stand behind at Speaker Sales Systems, that we are experts first and speakers second. That means that our expertise is our driving purpose, not revenue and not closing sales. Many of us are already offering our expertise for free via blogs, podcasts, vlogs, ebooks and videos – but in times of crisis it’s imperative that we step up our game and show the folks who we want to do business with one day that we care enough about them to help them survive (and thrive) back to profitability.
So What Should I Do To Add Value Now (So I Can Get Business Later)?
Before reaching out to anyone with a free offer of value, ensure they are qualified prospects. In the world of speaking, that means that they have brought in paid speakers to their live events and are likely to in the future. This way, you ensure you are placing your time and energy with folks who may be potential customers in the future. For those who aren’t qualified (whether they reach out to you or you uncover an organization you thought was qualified but turns out they’re not), send them to your free resources. What I’m going to outline for you below takes time, so ensure you’re using your time effectively.
Cruise by your qualified prospect’s website and look at their press releases, member announcements, past and future virtual sessions already scheduled, and capture what message they’re sending to their own employees, to the clients they serve, and to the general public. Ask yourself, “How could my expertise help them achieve that goal better, faster, and more inexpensively?”
Ideally, you can run a live virtual session for their organization that gets you, as an expert, in front of them/their audience, but you may have to build up enough goodwill for them to want to take the time to market it.
2. Pick Up The Phone
Your next step is to confirm what you think you know about the organization. That means calling in and speaking to the person who would normally be your decision maker to ensure you understand what you read and to offer to share your expertise with their company/employees/folks they serve to confirm their challenges. This is not a traditional sales call, it’s simply a call to check in and ask how they’re driving those messages home.
3. Build The Program
Don’t let approval stop you from doing your job. At this point, whether you reach a human or not within the organization, shoot a quick video with your computer of you emphasizing the messages they’ve said were important through the lens of your expertise. For instance, if an organization is challenged with folks working from home and you’re a millennial retention expert, your 3-minute video can address managing millennial employees at home and how millennials can better lead remote teams. The program starts with a video specifically filmed for that organization, and followed up with a few follow-up articles that you’ve customized for their industry/team.
Intersperse the delivery of the video and articles with phone calls to check on whether that content is on-point or needs to be modified. You’ll rarely hear ‘stop sending me stuff,’ but if you do, simple move to step 4.
4. Confirm Follow-Up Steps
Your phone calls will likely produce a conversation that leads to the complementary live virtual session, but whether that happens or not, confirm a solid follow-up date for a conversation when they think they’ll be purchasing keynotes. Because you’ve shown you care more about helping than about selling, you’ll be ideally positioned as their first choice for when budgets do open up again.
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