A method more and more organizations are using to select speakers is the ‘RFP’ (request for proposal) or ‘call for speaker.’ If you’ve ever taken time to submit one of these, you know what a black hole they can be.
After tracking the results of more than 5,000 sales calls to sell speaking engagements, we learned that RFPs don’t have to be the end of the sales conversation. To understand what to do about them, we need to understand why organizations use them – and then we’ll teach you how to leverage them to benefit your business.
(Want to know how to leverage RFPs and close more speaking sales? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)
How Decision Makers Choose Speakers From RFPs Understand RFPs are designed to save event staff time and money – not benefit your speaking business. In our industry, events provide solutions to challenges and/or prepare people for future success – meaning when RFP submissions are reviewed for events, speakers are vetted against specific unpublished criteria. These are always the top two priorities:
1. Topic. Decision makers know what solutions their event needs to deliver. Unfortunately, no one shares this with speakers who submit an RFP. When our topic wasn’t a perfect fit, we were cut. Read more
A lot of speakers pride themselves on being able to be on an airplane an hour after they leave the stage and never think of that gig again.
At Speaker Sales Systems, we love to hear that. Not because we love getting back to our families quickly too (we do), but because we know that speakers that bounce as soon as they’re done are leaving a lot of money on the table.
Meaning you and I can capture that revenue. We’ve discovered that selling can continue long after the proposal is signed, speech delivered, and sale made. (Want to know how to increase your speaking sales after the speech? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)
There’s one thing that will make a meeting planner, executive director or CEO round-file a speaker, and one thing that prevents it.
Unfortunately, it’s what speakers think they’re great at – talking!
After tracking the results of more than 5,000 conversations with decision makers, we’ve learned that a sales call is the wrong time for a speaker’s story. Yes, you’ve climbed mountains and overcome obstacles.
The question that decision makers need answered is:
Why should I care?
We realized we weren’t presenting our keynote in terms of value. We had to take a step back and ask why these events were happening at all. Read more
We’ve spoken many times about the value of omni-channel marketing. As a refresher, it’s the strategy of using electronic, print and other mediums to deliver your messaging through in order to drive a conversation with decision makers.
There’s one platform out there that many speakers are underutilizing, ignoring entirely or worse – misusing – in order to reach decision makers. It happens to be the largest professional social media platform:
How are the best using LinkedIn as part of a systemized strategy to connect with decision makers that won’t respond to emails, letters, cards, or a rock through their window?
(Full disclosure: We haven’t tried that last tactic. But we’ve been tempted.)
If you’re judging the success of your speaking business by how many gigs you’re booking, you’re destined to living in feast or famine.
You’re also running the business model that most speakers run. They land a few gigs, deliver them and then look at an empty calendar. Then, they scramble to fill their calendars with more gigs.
It’s a cycle of pain that will never let them get on top of their business.
If you’ve taken a business course, then you’re familiar with the term leading and lagging indicators. In the speaking world, lagging indicators are the booked gigs. That’s how we know we’re successful, and we judge that by the amount of money coming in.
There’s a time of year when it’s socially acceptable to watch movies about being killing one another – and we at Speaker Sales Systems find that strange because there’s a profession that focuses on killing things year ‘round.
You guessed it. That profession is speaking, and what they’re regularly killing?
In this round of thousand-dollar ideas, we’ll go over the biggest killers of speaker sales and what you, as a professional speaker, can do to keep them alive.
Not Talking To Decision Makers Speakers are human, and humans avoid rejection. It’s a million-year-old response that’s genetically hard-wired into us, but its also the main thing that kills a speaker’s chance of getting into a sales conversation with someone who can buy from you.
If you’ve been following this series, then you’re getting great idea for generating more sales in your speaking business.
Where did these lessons come from?
They came from the money we lost along the way.
As professional speakers, we’re held to a higher standard than most when we take the stage. But being great on the stage is the price of entry. It’s getting to the stage – that’s where most speakers fail.
Speakers do a few things that lose them the sale before they ever open their mouths.
And again, we know this because we used to be those speakers.
(Want to know how to blow up your speaking sales? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)
Not Talking To The Decision Maker
If you as a speaker have made the monumental step of picking up the dang phone to have actual conversation with people who can pay for your talk, the biggest mistake you can make is talking to the folks who pick up the phone. Read more
It’s bound to happen at some point – someone that a speaker is trying to contact will stop talking to them. This happens for a variety of reasons. Here are some we have heard:
Stepping into another event they’re been planning for.
Stopped having events altogether.
But more often than not – it’s because they just don’t care about the speaker. It’s harsh, but true – until someone knows how you can solve their problems, you will be ignored. And your hard-sourced prospects will go to waste.
Where I grew up, logging camps used to be a major industry. Loggers would fell trees and roll them to rivers to float to sawmills. When the trees got stuck, they would use dynamite to blow the logjam. Could that damage some of the logs?
But is it worth taking some risk to avoid all of the logs rotting in the water? Yep.
Here are ways we’ve discovered – over more than 5,000 calls – to eliminate logjams and ensure that our buyers continue to speak to us, so we can speak for them: Read more
We’re leading this week’s content with a heck of a promise – if you implement what you learn here, you’ll never lose a speaking sale again.
To deliver on that promise, we need to take a step back to the first time I was turned down for a talk. If you haven’t been there, you will be soon. You’ll get a lovely email saying something along these lines:
“We’re going in a different direction.”
Most speakers let that be the end of the sale and the beginning of a hard night of drinking.
Not speakers with systems. (We drink, but in celebration – not in consolation.)
When I got enough of those emails, I began to ask “Why?” I didn’t have the answer, so I had to (gulp) pick up the phone and ask. After salvaging enough sales by doing this, I know I’ll never lose a sale – for the same reason – twice. Read more
Want to know the one question that will shut up many speakers (and most entrepreneurs)?
“How much did you keep from that last gig?”
Whoa. It’s easy to remember what we were paid to speak somewhere (our top line), but few speakers – and even fewer solo business owners – are tracking how much they take home (their new profit).
An added layer to this is the business model most of the folks reading this are in – the expert business. For us, we don’t have to worry about warehouse overhead, inventory, or a big payroll. For us experts, our time is our inventory. For that reason, we need to as ourselves not only how much money we kept at the end of an engagement but also how much time we saved.
So how do we ensure we’re capturing (and tracking!) margins on both our events and our time while continually increasing both Money AND Time?
(If you’re interested in increasing the margins of your speaking business, you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)
Reaching out to folks is scary – no doubt about it. You’re an interruption in their schedule. You’re time they didn’t plan on spending, and on an issue they didn’t have on their agendas for that day – hiring a speaker for their next event.
After thousands of sales calls, we’ve cracked the code on how to get speaking prospects to say ‘Tell me more.’
The problem is, it took thousands of calls to learn one simple rule that every salesperson knows:
Cold calling sucks.
So how do we ensure that we get the information we need to never cold call anyone and increase our chances of selling our speech or workshop?
One of the biggest challenges speakers have when they begin using systems to generate sales is not managing systems – it’s managing prospects.
And that’s because not all speaking prospects are created equally.
Not all speaking prospects are created equal
Why are speaking prospects not the same? After 4,500 calls, thousands of emails and hundreds of letters sent to people who hire speakers, we’ve discovered that each company, organization and association all buy speakers differently. That’s enough to drive a speaker insane!
Maybe you’re still waiting for that TEDx logo on your website or the New York Times Bestseller. That’s why you’re not making the high speaking fees you deserve, right?
Wrong. So, so wrong.
Credentials have nothing to do with what someone is willing to pay you for your talk. After more than 4,500 sales calls, we’ve learned that driving higher fees starts long before we ever get a buyer on the phone.
High Fee Skill #1: Delivering On Promises
Most speakers, if they market at all, blast out an email or two and wonder why their phone isn’t ringing. They’re missing a key element we found is the first step in driving high fees, and it’s also something sorely lacking in today’s business world:
The last thing we do with every piece of communication – whether it’s letter, card, phone, email or LinkedIn, is state when our team will be in touch to follow-up and what method we’ll be using. Of course, when we say we are going to reach out or follow up on a certain date, it is vital that we do so. By constantly engaging and following through, we create continuity in our conversation, make a promise a deliver on it, and make decision makers understand we have a vested interest not just in us – but in the success of their event.
(If you’re looking for 1:1 assistance with getting the team to increase your fees, apply by clicking here and we’ll personally walk you through how to make it happen in your business)
What would it be like if you had an army of decision makers out there marketing for you? For most speakers, it takes decades to grow those relationships, and at Speaker Sales Systems, we’re all about shortening the learning curve. We asked: Why does it take decades to get folks promoting a speaker to their friends?
The reason it takes decades to develop that kind of organic marketing force is because folks are busy and speakers are only one of 100 decisions they have to make.
How do we get decision makers to advocate for us not just when it’s convenient for them, but when we need them?
(If you’re looking for 1:1 assistance with building an army to market your speaking business, apply by clicking here and we’ll personally walk you through what’s working and what isn’t.)
Why Professional Speaking Is A Horrible Business Model
Telling family members that we’re giving up steady pay to be professional speakers is always an anxiety-producing conversation. Why?
Because professional speaking is a horrible business model.
Imagine one of your loved ones coming to you with this news:
“I’m quitting a job where I get a regular paycheck and benefits so that I can do what I love for a living as a business! To market myself, I’m going to give away what I do for free so that someone will hire me! And my chief sales strategy will be waiting for the phone to ring and emails to come in offering to hire me!”
If I was your family member, I’d try to talk you out of that business model, too.
It’s unfortunate, but as speakers we’re taught to get on whatever stage will have us and regardless of the pay. But unless a speaker loves eating chicken dinners every night and living in a feast-or-famine world, that’s using hope as a business strategy.
Don’t get me wrong: Inbound leads, recommendations and outside representation can help drive a lot of our sales. But what else can we do as speakers to turn speaking from a crappy business model into a great one?
(If you’re looking for 1:1 assistance with your speaking business, apply by clicking here and we’ll personally walk you through what’s working and what isn’t in building a professional speaking business.) Read more
As speakers dedicated to building a real business, we know storytelling is only a small portion of our jobs. “How I climbed Mount Everest on a pogo stick with one leg, blindfolded,” is a great story, but doesn’t matter when we’re talking about generating business.
We can’t rely on storytelling, stagecraft or vocal power to build a sustainable business; we also have to have a great sales process. However, what stops most speakers (and most salespeople in general) from getting in front of folks who can buy from them is the fear of being rejected. And that comes from the fear of cold-calling.
Never Cold Call Again Why are so many speakers, experts in communication, afraid to reach out to people who have never heard of them (I mean, isn’t that the case every time they take a stage?)
“On stage it’s different,” they tell me. “On the phone, I don’t want to be considered a slimy salesperson.” Yet it’s that same fear that keeps many speakers in feast-or-famine, waiting for the phone to ring and the emails to come in.
That fear is not from speaking – we’re already great at that or we shouldn’t be in this profession. The fear comes from not being prepared when reaching out. Not providing value to the folks on the other end of the line.
We’ll cover exactly how we prepare before reaching out – but before that, we should get clear about what happens when speakers don’t prepare. See if any of these ring a bell:
-Finding out that the person we are asking to speak with is either retired, dead or even worse, has never worked there. (Can you say “awkward”?)
-Being cast into the black hole of voicemail (Delete!)
-Getting shut down by people who can say ‘no’ but not ‘yes’ (It’s the only power they actually have!)
(If you’re challenged with building sales into your business, you won’t want to miss our next Speaker Sales Masterclass. Click HERE to register.) Read more
If you’re reading this, you may never be a ‘celebrity speaker’ (unless you’re Bill Clinton – and if you are, what’s up, my man??). Yet, we all would love to be paid like – or close to – celebrity speaker fees. So how can we go from being a hobbyist speaker to a speaker who earns tens of thousands of dollars every time our feet hit the stage?
That’s the question I was struggling to answer as I began selling keynote talks. Turns out, I had to stop selling keynotes to triple my fee. Let’s talk about how I and other speakers are making that happen.
It might sound funny, but if you are looking to grow your speaking business, you have to stop selling your speech. To do that, never call yourself a keynote speaker again.
If you are looking to grow your speaking business (and if you’re not, you might have stumbled onto the wrong blog), then you should be looking at what million-dollar speakers are doing. We’ve spent time asking them this question:
“What is the one thing you’ve done in the last year, tactically, that has made the biggest difference in your business?”
Their answers were always the same: Create Content, Deliver Content, and Close Deals. Most even mentioned how they actually only do those three things in all aspects of their lives, and have even realized the half hour they were doing laundry means they could’ve been making $30,000… so they created a system and learned to outsource that, too.
In order for you to ever turn anything over to anyone else in your speaking business, systems have to be in place.
How does a million-dollar speaker utilize systems?
These top speakers systemize selling, marketing and operations so they can focus on growing their expertise and reaching the people who can pay for it.
While most speakers feel like they should get their content onto social media outlets, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, we are learning more and more that social selling isn’t just posting on these sites, but instead looks like the actual marketing that we are producing and putting on these platforms. Since we no longer live in a day and age of traditional cold-calling, it’s vital to understand the importance of a multi-channel communication approach (which we’re addressing in an upcoming blog).
Hope is NOT a Strategy If you speak at a conference just hoping that someone in the audience wants you to speak at their conference next, that’s using hope as a business strategy. Hoping does not generate predictable revenue.
Speakers have to move from hope to predictable processes in the way they approach their business and the results they generate. Using a methodical strategy can help drive business and revenue, which is why we recommend utilizing a Customer Relationship Management Software/Database to manage your systems for you.
What is a CRM?
A Customer Relationship Software/Database, or CRM for short, is something many speaker invest in but few utilize. A CRM is designed to handle both marketing and sales, booking events, and can facilitate tracking interactions, outbound calls and email templates.
Some experienced speakers have not invested in a CRM, and while they may be “successful” the research we have done shows they still experience feast-or-famine in their business.
What About Spreadsheets?
Spreadsheets are designed to track and report numbers, not to create tasks that build relationships. Customer Relationship Management Databases are designed to not only build relationships through creating tasks, but they allow speakers to build the strongest relationships possible with potential clients.
Do This Now
-With any speaking engagement, be sure to connect with your first point of contact on LinkedIn. This could be an association director, meeting planner, event coordinator or even the Director of Learning and Training.
-As part of your contract, require prospects offer 2-3 referrals upon successful completion of your talk (we’ve only had this turned down a few times in hundreds of gigs). When you follow up after the speaking engagement, have a list of a few names of people they can connect you with on LinkedIn – because you’ve already looked through their contacts for other potential prospects.l If they know these folks well, send them an email script to forward and ask for them to provide personal introductions. If they don’t know that connection well enough, ask if it’s okay if you mention them as a shared contact.
-Immediately following your speaking engagement, as everyone is still clapping, track down the lead decision maker and ask them to talk about the experience of having you speak to their people. You can make this video on your smartphone, tablet or even a handheld camera. Now you have a leverageable product to use in your future marketing efforts.
If you’re ready to begin building the systems that build speaking businesses, we’re offering a free speaker sales masterclass beginning soon:
If building a better speaking business is one of your goals, then you’re a marketer and a salesperson. As such, there’s a quote from legendary marketer and author Seth Godin you should hear:
“There’s no shortage of remarkable ideas, what’s missing is the will to execute them”
The driving goal for our team at S3 (Speaker Sales Systems) is to help speakers get out from under the myths about growing a speaking business and equip folks like you with the knowledge, systems and best practices to actually grow a speaking business.
Every week, we focus on the intelligence coming we’re capturing from the very front lines of the selling in this industry. Why would we peel back the curtain on our own business to help other speakers?
We want you to see that by leveraging systems you can think differently, grow your business and create more predictable results and revenue. Crazy, huh?
There’s one myth circulated in the speaking community that we need to dispel immediately.
When many speakers start their businesses, one of the myths they’re told goes like this: Read books, attend speaking conferences, and if you can implement just three things you’ll be successful.
Why is that a myth? Because everybody treats it as a truth, when it’s not! The first time we heard this was at a national convention – a convention designed to help speakers grow their businesses!
When that myth was passed onto all the speakers in the room, it made a lot of sense because everyone leaves conferences like that with a notebook full things to implement.
Looking over 80 or 100 new ideas is overwhelming, so the myth makes sense on the surface – just pick two or three things and get them done. What solves this problem? Read more