August 18, 2020 Shawn

Lose The Speaking Gig To Win It

It’s scary to pick up the phone and speak to a stranger who didn’t expect your call.

But what if it could be you who was qualifying them? What if was you trying to determine if this gig would be a good fit for your topic, preferred budget and business goals?

It’s possible, and it happens by disqualifying ourselves before our potential client can. 

After tracking the results of more than 5,000 sales calls, we discovered one of the most powerful things a professional speaker can do during a sales conversation is disqualify themselves. It’s a process and an art that does take time to get right, but the benefit is it establish us in our prospects’ minds in a beneficial way and furthers the speaking sale in ways that begging, pleading and stumbling around on the phone can’t.

More than anything else, disqualifying ourselves is a mentality. It’s the knowing that unless our expertise is going to create a dramatic difference in the lives of an audience and we can be paid what we’re worth, we’re better off not speaking at that event.

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To understand why we would want to kill the sale before a prospect sends us to the black hole of an email folder, RFPs or the commonly-heard ‘we’ll call you if we’re interested’, we need to understand the way someone who is new to the game of speaking and business approaches a sales call and how that differs from the way a speaker who disqualifies themselves handles the same call.

The Way A New Speaker Approaches A Sales Call

Their Method: Most new speakers prefer to rely on blasting emails to as many people as possible, hoping for a slim response rate. When they do get a response, they’ll lengthen their sales cycles by sticking to email communication until a phone conversation is demanded to confirm the details of the talk, budget and proposal details (and a call is eventually required).
Their Attitude: Speakers who only have a few prospects to call upon are putting their businesses in a succeed-or-die position, meaning a lot is riding on THIS prospect. Therefore, the speaker calls in with as nice a tone as they can muster, treating themselves as an inconvenience and repeatedly apologizing for disturbing the person who could potentially hire them.
Their Language: Because they have so few people to call upon, these speakers usually spend as much time as possible with everyone they do connect with, hoping that the person they’re speaking to can hire them or at least put in a good word. With only a handful of prospects to contact anyway, these speakers have to develop as many relationships as possible within every organization they’re trying to speak for.
Their Next Steps: Many speakers are happy with being told to send along their speaker’s reel and outline of their topics with the assurance that, “We’ll get back to you if we’re interested.” Unfortunately, that’s a promise that’s rarely fulfilled.

The Way A Speaker Who Disqualifies Themselves Does It
Their Method: If a speaker is not a good fit for an event or audience, why would they want to spend months in email back-and-forth to confirm it? The fastest way to know if an event isn’t going to be the right fit is to pick up the phone and confirm that with the person hiring speakers!
Their Attitude: The attitude of a speaker who disqualifies themselves isn’t rude, but it is concise. They have no desire to waste the time of the person on the other end of the phone because they don’t want their time wasted, either. They have a lot of organizations to ‘confirm’ they’re not a good fit for, so they have a lot of prospects to contact each day.
Their Language: For a self-disqualifying speaker, language is targeted to find out as quickly as possible if this event, organization and audience are going to be a right fit. These speakers are quickly ascertaining who makes the hiring decisions for speakers, what challenges that person needs their speaker to solve at the event, how many attendees are expected, what budget is available, how the hiring decision will be made and by when. If any of those answers don’t match up to a ‘great fit’ for this kind of speaker, they have a firm handle on the eject lever and can disqualify that organization from pursuit.
Their Next Steps: If an organization proves to not be a good fit, this type of speaker knows to either remove them from all future contact or set a reminder to reach out in a few months to see if anything has changed. If they are a good fit, this kind of speaker still has a lot of other organizations to disqualify that day, so they control the next step of the sale by ensuring a firm calendar date for review of a proposal, find out if a decision has been made on speaker lineup for that event, etc.

Obviously, there’s a massive difference between a speaker who’s just trying to get on a stage and a speaker who’s trying to identify all the ways that event/audience/organization won’t be a good fit so they can move on to the gigs that will best serve them – and those audiences.

What does it communicate to a potential client if we approach a conversation with the opening line, “I don’t know if this is even going to be a good fit, but if you’ll let me know a few things about your event, we’ll know if this conversation is worth continuing?”

-It shows that you value your (and your prospect’s) time. You have many clients and prospects who need your expertise and you don’t want to waste time with folks who don’t need your expertise or are rude.

-It shows you understand the demands of leadership and busy people. Time is the only resource leaders can’t create more of for themselves and as a leader in your own company, disqualifying yourself demonstrates you understand the challenge of a packed schedule.

-It shows you’re more interested in helping and serving than in quickly cashing a paycheck.

-It shows that you have value tailored to certain audiences and you’re ethical enough to only offer it to those who need it.

But how do we go about disqualifying ourselves in a sales conversation – multiple times, even? We center our disqualification system around the same questions our salespeople are trained to ask when inquiring about a speaking engagement. Here are the questions and how we use disqualifying language to achieve the above goals with our prospects:

Identifying the decision maker

“I may have reached the wrong person, would you mind telling me if you’re the person responsible for selecting speakers for you XYZ event in Tulsa in 2021?”

Discovering Challenges
“This may not be the right fit, and if it isn’t, this will be a short conversation. Can you tell me what you need your audience to leave Tulsa being able to do more, better or differently to consider that event a success?”

Aligning With The Event Theme
“If I can’t support your event theme then we’re better off waiting until next year to consider my talk. Do you have a theme for that event chosen, and if so, why did you choose it?”

Discovering Audience Size
“I’m sure you’ve seen speakers who work better with large crowds and some who should never have been on a stage in front of more than 12 people. Some audiences are a better fit for me too. How many are you expecting in Tulsa?”

Understanding How They Decide On Their Speakers
“I don’t want to waste anyone’s time by sending things no one will review, so can you share how you’ll be selecting your speakers, and who in your organization is involved in that process?”

Buying timeline
“And if this is the wrong time to be having this conversation, happy to reach out again later. Are you actively looking for speakers for Tulsa now or is that something you’re scheduling down the road?”

“Because I customize my talks to each audience, it involves a lot of pre-work before the event, meaning like your members/employees, I have to keep the lights on. What’s been your historical budget for speakers (or a current budget range) and we’ll know if we can even make this happen?”

Other events that hire speakers
“It may be possible to save us both time down the road. Do you have other events outside of your Tulsa conference that hire speakers? Happy to chat about those events and audiences and see if some of my other topics might be helpful to them.”

Self-disqualifying is a powerful tool in making our outreach and sales more efficient. It also saves us (and our clients) time in figuring out if we’re the speakers that will be able to help their audiences to the next level in their lives, businesses and careers.

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