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Maintaining Control (Of The Sales Process)

At speaker sales systems, we’re all about systemizing success to increase our impact and income in the speaking business. But there’s something many speakers do along the way that destroys the effectiveness of any system, and it happens when a speaker gives up their control of the keynote-buying process.

This happens when a speaker is told something like, “Here’s how we select speakers … send us an email and we’ll let you know if we’re interested,” and the speaker actually does what they’re told!

The best systems in the world fall apart when they’re not used, and if you’re not using your sales systems because you’re letting your speaking prospect use theirs, you’re putting yourself – and your business – at a massive disadvantage.

It makes a lot of sense why a prospect would want to use their own selection processes: it saves them time to send you to an RFP form, helps them preserve budget to demand you send your keynote fee via email so they can shop by price, and dozens of other things keynote speakers face.

But simply abiding by a process designed to make you a commodity also moves us from being partners in creating an impactful event to just another vendor.  Underline what I’m about to say next, because it’s the foundation of being able to ethically take control of someone else’s preconceived way of doing things – you have to reclaim the selling/buying process in a way that creates a win-win for you and the client. Otherwise, you’re just bullying them through a conversation and no one likes to do business with bullies.

(Interested in controlling the sales process to increase speaking sales? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)

What does creating a win-win look like? It’s like taking control the way a surgeon takes control of a patient’s surgery. The surgeon and patient work together for a mutually beneficial goal. It’s inconvenient for the patient to do all the tests, prep for the surgery and recover, but they do it because they know a small amount of discomfort now will save them a large amount of discomfort later. Guide your prospects through the selling process like the global expert -and solutions surgeon- you are.

First, Overcome The Battle Within
Before you can muster the audacity to regain control of the process, you have believe more in your value more than the prospect believes in their buying process. The person with the greater amount of belief in their system leads the process. While there are countless examples of those with greater beliefs overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, it’s actually a very simple process for professional speakers that we’ll get into below.

However, some speakers have a tremendous amount of belief in themselves (it takes a healthy ego to command a stage, after all), and will still lose control of a sales flow and not know why.  When this happens, we find it’s because the speaker believes they are inconveniencing their prospect by reaching out. Granted, this prospect did not plan to hear from a speaker asking questions of them and likely did have something else on their calendar for those few minutes. However, if you approach a prospect from that perspective, you’ll not only communicate ‘Sorry for the inconvenience,’ but your prospect will take the hint and treat you as such!

What does inconveniencing someone sound like?

“Sorry to bother you.”

“Excuse me, didn’t want to take up too much of your time …”

“You’re probably in the middle of something, but …”

If you’re an expert in your topic, you need to approach every conversation like it’s that person’s lucky day – especially when you discover that they need your expertise on their stage!

Second, Overcome The External Battle
If a speaker can overcome feeling like an inconvenience, they’ll next lose control of the sales process because they don’t have a process themselves. Meaning, the speaker doesn’t know what the next step is they need their prospect to complete to move closer to the executed proposal, payment and taking the stage.

By having a map of the terrain you and your prospect will be navigating together (your cadence and methods of outreach, discovering challenges, confirming budget, determining when they’ll be buying a speaker, etc.), you can guide them through the forest and keep both of you from getting lost.

But Wait, I Do What Prospects Ask And I Get Replies!
If you’re sending emails with speaker reels as requested and waiting patiently by the phone or your inbox for good news, you will occasionally hear back from a prospect – but don’t make the mistake of thinking your process is still running the show. There’s a sentence in most of those email responses that makes this perfectly clear: “What is your fee?”

In case you didn’t know, you are not back in control of the conversation when you hear that question – instead, you’re being shopped on price and not for the experiences you build for audiences like theirs. If you are booked after an exchange like that, you can bet you were one of the cheapest speakers they were considering.

OK, But How Do I Know I’ve Lost Control In The Keynote Buying Process?
There are a few key phrases (among many) professional speakers need to keep their ears open for during conversations, because they all mean you are about to lose control to the buyer’s selection process:

“We don’t discuss speaker’s fees at all. Send over your price.”

“Submit your info via our website form and we’ll get back to you if interested.”

“Send your bio and some video links via email and we’ll get back to you if interested.”

“We’ve gone in a different direction.”

What To Do To Regain Control
If you’d like to be the one defining the buying process, it’s a simple 2-step model.

First, get clear on your value. This means defining as many value propositions – or changed buyer states – as you can. Ask, “How is an audience member better in their life and business if they implement my content?” Like a surgeon can clearly define the changed state after the surgery, you have to be able to paint a powerful picture like that for your prospect. If your expertise won’t create a massive change in audiences’ lives, get more expertise or better at delivering it.

Second, have a process to guide yourself with. We’ve covered multiple campaigns and their steps in previous editions of this blog, so you’re not short for ideas of what’s working and what’s not in speaker sales campaigns. The important thing is to have a campaign and a next outreach step you’ll execute regardless of what process the prospect wants to use. This doesn’t mean to not send them an email they request, but it does mean that’s not where the conversation ends.

It doesn’t matter what the prospect thinks is convenient for them – because (hopefully) you believe more in the value you can deliver than in not inconveniencing your prospects with your call.

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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.
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Customizing Talks To Covert Sales

One of the most contentious issues among professional speakers is whether or not to customize their talks.

Having discussed this with speakers in the past, I find we all tend to fall into a few ‘camps’ around this issue:

Some of us won’t customize, for a variety of reasons (that we’ll be addressing below).

Some will customize but for a drastically higher fee, believing that the extra time investment warrants it for their business model (also discussed and dispelled below).

And then there are some of us that customize every talk for every audience.

Before I tell you which camp I, and the other speakers who are taking active control of their speaking business fall into, let’s look at the issue of customizing from the seat of the only person who really matters in all of this – the folks responsible for hiring us to to speak at their events.

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

The View From The Top
As we’ve discussed before, events are not held to justify bringing in a professional speaker to entertain an audience – they’re held to achieve outcomes for that audience. Keeping that in mind, someone tasked with finding and hiring a professional speaker is looking for the person who is most likely to achieve that outcome for their audience. Read more

Value (And Sales) After The Speech Is Done

While we’ve discussed the value of sticking around after a talk to generate more business, there’s something a lot of speakers could be doing to generate more revenue for their business and impact for the client but because it happens after the event, few folks take the time.

Why is it worth investing the time in things that happen after your actual talk? First, it better serves your client. If there was a way to ensure increased implementation that better solved their problem, then they’re more likely to see ROI on their investment in you. Second, it’s better for their audiences. They come to events to learn things to improve their lives and businesses. If you can do that through continuing education, you help them do that and stay top of mind for events at their companies.
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Why Speakers Are Ethically Obligated To Sell After The Sale

This week, we’re focusing on an important part of the selling process, and it’s what happens after the sale is made. If you offered your client something in the sales process they said ‘no’ to, you are ethically obligated to give them another opportunity at it if you believe it can help them better achieve their desired outcome. There are a lot of ways to do this and it goes by many names, but around S3 we call it a ‘pre-event brief.’

In addition to giving you another chance to add value to the client, it’s also an opportunity for them to confirm all the details you need as a speaker to deliver an awesome event.

Brief? What’s That?
A pre-event brief is a process we use to ensure our clients see us as partners in helping them achieve an outcome at their event. It’s an opportunity for us to handle logistical details, learn more about the event itself and establish delivery and arrival timelines – but perhaps more importantly for a blog about sales, the pre-event brief is also an opportunity to add more value to an event and increase sales, after the initial sale for the talk has occurred.

(Interested in driving more value in your speaker sales? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)

Why Isn’t Every Speaker Doing This?
The reason most speakers don’t take advantage of the pre-event brief system is that most speakers are woefully lacking systems of any kind (both before the sale and after). I’ve proved this with dozens of speakers when I ask them: “What are the 10 things you do after the sale and before every event?” Most speakers have to make their answers up or try and remember what worked last time for them. Read more

Achieving Sales Through Assurance

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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The Magic Of Matching Challenges To Prospect Problems

In part 1 of this series, we explored how important it is to stop seeing (and selling) yourself as a keynote speaker, author or consultant. Instead, we went over how to actually define what you do to improve the lives/businesses of your audience.

Knowing your expertise is only one side of the equation, however. The next piece you’ll have to master if you want to be seen as a subject-matter expert and be paid accordingly is discovering the challenges your prospect will be addressing at their event and matching your expertise with it as the solution.

It’s what drives high fees and gets you out of the commodity category so many speakers find themselves in. So let’s dive into the 5,000 sales calls we’ve learned from and get started with how it works.

Life’s Tough All Over
No matter the industry, no matter the size of the audience and no matter if they’re the CEO or the janitor, everyone in business deals with the same set of challenges. They’re ‘themes’ that every conference is built around. Once you understand the value your expertise brings, you can practice linking it to each of the themes you’re likely to hear a meeting planner say they need a speaker to address.

(Want to get better in your sales conversations? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)

In no particular order, here are the themes we’ve seen repeated in conference after conference:
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The Problem Professional Speakers Ignore

We’ve shared it before, but it bears repeating:

Stop selling speeches. Start selling solutions.

We’ve covered why every professional speaker should stop selling speeches, but we’ve never dived into how to define what solutions you do provide, how to keep your ears open for the challenges the events you’re targeting need to solve, or how to go about doing it.

Put on your speedos and tighten your goggle straps, because we’re getting in the pool today.

Why Do Our Clients Have Events?

Read more

The Questions Speakers HAVE TO ASK On The Phone

The biggest challenge speakers have is not killing it on the stage in front of thousands. For many, it’s having a 1:1 conversation with someone that’s never heard of them, but could be the speaker’s next client.

If you’ve been following Speaker Sales Systems for any length of time, you know we advocate active outreach to the folks who can buy you talk – it’s the only way to take the destiny of your business back into your own hands. In past articles, we’ve covered researching prospects, knowing as much as you can about the organization, their past speakers, future events, and even budget.

But what do we need to discover on the phone to drive the sale forward? And what questions do we ask to get there? After more than 5,000 sales calls to associations and companies that hire speakers, we’ve learned exactly what we need to know to move the sale forward. Below are the 8 questions we keep printed next to the phone and why we have to ask them on every call.

(Want to get better in your sales conversations? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)

First, how you introduce yourself. You’re not a keynote speaker. You’re a solution provider. Introduce yourself as an ‘international expert in (whatever)’ and you’ll be pigeonholed into an email folder or RFP. Instead, just intro with your name until you know you’re dealing with someone who understands the value you bring from the stage. Now onto the questions …

  1. Who Is The Decision Maker?
    We normally word this as ‘Who’s responsible for educational programming for your XYZ event in New Orleans in 2020?’ This gets us directly to the person responsible for speakers, and who knows what topics they need their speakers to cover. This is the first question we ask because we don’t want to burn hours talking to people who can say ‘no’ but not ‘yes’. Note – this is a binary question and only allows for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.
  2. What Challenges Are You Addressing At This Event?
    Understand that every event is held with a purpose in mind, and speakers are brought in to address that purpose by solving problems or prepping audiences for the future. Before we ever reveal the topic of our expertise, we need to know what the event is attempting to achieve. Only then can we match that to our value proposition.
  3. What’s The Event’s Theme?
    If the event coordinator has a theme for their event, this creates a great opportunity for you to build the bridge from your expertise to that theme. If you can formulate a keynote title that aligns with their theme, suddenly you’re a perfect match for the event they’re creating.
  4. How many attendees are you expecting at this event?
    This piece of information is normally not on a website and has to be asked to a human. The reason it’s important is the budget for a 3,000-person event at the Bellagio is going to have a different budget than a 30-person event in the basement of a Sheraton. Knowing the number of attendees allows you to know if they’re likely allocating a high or low budget for their speakers.
  5. What’s Your Decision-Making Process?
    The way we word this is: ‘How do you select your keynote speakers?’ It’s crucial to you as a salesperson to know what criteria an organization will be using to select their speakers and who will be doing it. Will they be reviewing video? Interviewing on the phone? Contacting past clients? Is it one person making the decision? A committee? Knowing this information means everything you discuss and send from that point forward can be tailored to their decision-making process to get you from free to fee as quickly as possible.
  6. When Will You Be Deciding On Your Speakers?
    Don’t leave this one to chance – discover when the decision maker expects to be selecting speakers (if not today), and ensure you’re doubling or tripling outreach when they’re in buying mode to get yourself to the front of the line. The intelligence you’ve gathered thus far, leveraged for their event and industry, will be critical in placing you ahead of everyone else they’re considering.
  7. What’s The Budget?
    We’ve written whole articles on this question, but if you’re running a business, this question has to be asked. State your fee first and your prospect will shop you on price and will never know if the other value-adds you can include will be worth it. If you’re dipping your toe in the water of professional speaking or are an amateur, skip this one (but then what are you doing reading this?). Keep in mind the first person to issue a firm number in any negotiation is at a disadvantage for retaining their budget. The way we ask this is: ‘What’s your historical budget?’ or if pressed or refused, we’ll say, ‘Our keynote is anywhere between free and $1.5 million. I can’t speak for free and you probably don’t have $1.5 million, so what range are we talking about?’ The answer to this question can let you know what added value you can build into your all-inclusive package to maximize your client’s experience.
  8. Bonus Question!: What other events do you have that are bringing in speakers/who’s in charge of those?
    You may be calling about their large annual conference, but the org has 4 other regional events that bring in speakers as well. We left a lot of money on the table until we learned to ask this question and build a proposal that included us speaking at all the events, for a commensurate price.

Love this content? You’ll never believe what we’re giving away in our free masterclasses each month! REGISTER HERE.

Breaking Free Of Three-Tiered Speaking Proposals

There’s a myth in the speaking world about how to state fees to prospects that is taught by many coaches, you’re likely using it, and it’s forcing you to make less than you would otherwise. Let’s deconstruct the myth and dive into how we reversed it to maximize the fees we were getting from every gig.

The Myth: Tiered Pricing Gives Clients Options And Grows Your Revenue

If you’ve been running a speaking business for more than a few days, you’ve likely come across this model for stating fees.

‘Give them options,’ coaches say. ‘Silver, Gold and Platinum.’ The reasoning behind this is that if they can’t afford your gold or platinum package, they’ll at least buy the silver one. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is flawed on multiple levels.

Flaw 1: It’s predicated on ‘the speaker as a commodity’.

(Want to begin maximizing revenue in your gigs? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)

If your event planner or executive director is looking for all the things that are in your gold and platinum-level packages, then they’ll be more likely to choose those options. Unfortunately, very few understand the value of the things you’re likely to list in those offerings (books, articles videos, panels, breakouts, etc.), because so few speakers ask about why the event is happening. If these folks could spend the money on your top-tier package and don’t understand how all those extra things drive the solution they’re hiring you to deliver, they’ll choose to spend their extra money somewhere else. Read more

All About Speaker Budgets

When it comes to running a speaking business, most speakers focus on the wrong questions: How to improve stories, concluding remarks, or stage presence – or the value of their talk.

None of that matters if the gig doesn’t pay the bills. Instead, we advocate speakers focus on another business question:

How do I maximize revenue?
(Want to increase what you’re paid for your talk? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)

That means getting as much of the budget allocated to you as possible while delivering as much value as you can. Read more

Self-Review For Speaker Sales

It’s a fact – the best salespeople in the world, in any industry, don’t remain that way by resting on their laurels. One of the things we credit to our success in the speaking industry – and the success of our clients – is a process for self-review and continuous improvement.

While there are many techniques for doing this in all areas of life, this is a column about speaker sales, so let’s go over exactly what we do to review our sales calls and ensure each one is better than the last.

Why Review Our Sales Calls?
If you know you’re pretty sharp on the phone and your sales numbers look great, why would you still take the time to review your calls? What if you’re brand new to the game and have never picked up the phone and tried to get someone to buy your talk – what’s the value in reviewing a call when you’re brand new?

(Want to know how to generate more sales for your speaking business? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)
The answer is the same for both situations: Without hearing yourself and matching what you hear against a plan, you’ll never know if you could have done better.

We’ve tracked the results of more than 5,000 sales calls on behalf of speakers at Speaker Sales Systems, and have learned there are key things to listen for on every call so we know if we’re moving the conversation toward a sale.

Call Recording Technology
While we’ve upgraded to VOIP call recording software, in the early days I would just record my end of the call on my cell phone. Later, I found apps that would record both sides. Whichever method you use, get your voice on a recording so you can listen to your questions, tone and cadence.

When To Review?

We’ve learned over the years that if we don’t block time to review our calls, it doesn’t happen. If you only have a few calls to review over the entire week, then knock them out in a single sitting. However, if you’re implementing what we’re teaching, you likely have dozens of calls going out each week.

To scale this process, label your best/worst calls each day and tee those up for review. That will cut down your overall call reviews to a manageable number.

Once you have your recording tech set up and time on your calendar, here’s what to run through your post-call checklist:

1. Did I Hit My Call Objective?
If you’re picking up the phone to have a wonderful conversation, call a friend. If you’re picking up the phone to generate revenue for your speaking business, then you better have a plan – and that starts with a call objective. What, at a minimum, will you try and accomplish?

If we look at the ultimate purpose of any sales outreach in our industry – to submit a proposal for a speaking engagement – what is the one thing we need to know before sending it?

The Decision Maker.

Without knowing who that person is, we won’t know what challenges they’re trying to solve, what their budget is, when they’re selecting speakers and what they’ll need to make that selection. All those are secondary objectives that we also try and achieve through the phone, but they’re contingent upon talking to the person who has that information.

So the first thing to listen for when reviewing your calls: Did I ask/discover who’s making the decisions on speakers?

2. Did I Discover The Challenges/Solutions This Event Is Focused On?
If you’re asking someone to turn over thousands of dollars for an hour of your time, you’d better bring a specific, tailored solution to the table. The days of someone calling a decision to offer a ‘motivational speech’ are over. We’ve addressed the value of a value proposition before, but having a list of benefits is useless if your decision maker doesn’t understand how those benefits apply to them/their audience.

That’s why the second thing we listen for on call recordings is whether we discovered the challenges/solutions the event is focused on. Once we know those, we can match one of the dozens of benefits our talk provides to that exact solution or challenge the event is focused on, and can ask for the next step in our sales process (whether that’s a proposal, more conversation, etc.)

3. Did I Keep The Ball Of Communication In My Court?
Finally, we need to ensure we’re taking the initiative on the next form of outreach. Too often speakers hear, “We’ll get back to you if we’re interested,’ and let the conversation end there.

It never has to.

To ensure that we maintain the ball of communication in our courts, we ensure we get a decision-making deadline from the decision maker so we know when to reach out again with a concentrated campaign to get a sales conversation and proposal issued. At the very least, create a follow-up task to check in with the decision maker as the next step in your sales campaign.

Bonus For Podcast Listeners: We covered how to ask about budget and tailoring the next step of the conversation and getting follow-up steps in place in the podcast this article was based on. To listen, click here.

Do This Now:
-Record your calls. This process is the only reliable way to self-review and improve your sales calls.
-Review for your objectives. Did you find the decision maker, discover challenges and confirm your next point of outreach?
-Make a plan for improvement. Update your own call script/question outline and ensure it’s used during your calls.

Love this content? You’ll never believe what we’re giving away in our free masterclasses each month! REGISTER HERE.

Routing Around The RFP

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

Selling Doesn’t Stop With The Speech

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)

First Missed Opportunity: The Folks In The Room

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Why No One Cares About Your Experience Or Expertise

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

LinkedIn Sales Systems For Speakers

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.)

Read more

Pipelines Aren’t Just For Plumbers

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.

Read more

What’s Killing Speaker Sales?

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.

What does this look like?

Read more

How Speakers Lose The Sale Before They Speak

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

Using Dynamite In The Speaking Business

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:

Maternity leave.

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:
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Never Lose A Speaking Gig Again

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.
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The Sales Margin Most Speakers Ignore

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)

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Why Speakers Love To Waste Money On Lists

If you’re a speaker and have money to spend, there are people happy to sell you a list of ‘prospects’ – or the search engines to do so.

“Folks who run events and pay speakers? I’m in!”

And then you’re out. You’re out time, and you’re out money. How do I know this? Because I’ve bought about every list out there, wasting time and money in the process.

“But Shawn, are some lists or search engines worth what they cost?”

Absolutely, and we’ve made multiple six figures in speaking fees from lists. You see, it’s not the list that creates revenue-

It’s what we do with the list that matters.
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The Sales Intelligence Every Speaker Needs

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?

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Why Speakers Fail At Finding Quality Clients

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!

But it’s manageable – if you use systems.

The first thing to do is
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No-Cost Ways To Increase Speaking Fees

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)

High Fee Skill #2: Customizing Content

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How To Get Others To Sell Your Speech

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.)

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Professional Speaking – The Worst Business Model. Ever.

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.)
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Why Speakers Are Afraid Of Speaking

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.)
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Why Speakers Should Stop Selling Speeches

Stop Selling Your Keynote Speech

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.

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The Systems Of Million-Dollar Speakers

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:

The Myth That Destroys Speaking Businesses

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?

The Problem

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?
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