Pipelines Aren’t Just For Plumbers

November 1, 2019 Shawn

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.

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Few speakers have the ability to measure leading indicators, or the potential for success. The closest they get is continuing to pump out blogs and videos, hoping someone who can hope a speaker sees them.

Yes, marketing production is a leading indicator of future sales – but it’s a poor one.

So what’s the best indicator of success in the speaking business, how do we track it and what do we do with it to make more sales?

It Starts With A Pipeline
A pipeline, simply speaking, is an overall view of the health of your revenue. Every CRM (customer relationship management) software platform out there can show you an overall view of where all your accounts sit – but few entrepreneurs (and even fewer speakers) take the time to use it to help make business decisions.

A pipeline’s biggest value is being able to project revenue, something most speakers aren’t even aware is possible. The amount of speakers who can project revenue are the exact same number as those who use systems (who knew?)

How To Leverage The Pipeline To Predict AND Project Revenue
First, we have to cover the foundation of how a pipeline works if your plan is to predict reveue with it. If you’re reliant on emails coming in and people handing you business cards after an event – it will always be impossible to predict revenue.

If, however, you’re subscribing to the belief that as a business owner you need to focus on and target folks you want to do business with – then a pipeline can be a way to get a snapshot of not only the potential revenue you have coming your way, but also the overall health of your business.

Work The Number So The Numbers Can Work For You
Once you get qualified opportunities into your pipeline, you can begin outreach and intelligence-gathering. In this industry, budgets for speakers vary tremendously and also tend to change year to year, so it’s tough to take a guess at what any organization is willing to spend.

That means if you want to find out what money is on the table with a given gig, you’ll have to (gulp!) call them up and ask.

 Only when you know what someone is willing to pay will you know the value of that particular account. The second piece is knowing when they’ll be buying a keynote speaker (again, this varies with every organization). Once you have price and buying window, now you’re ready to predict revenue.

If you want to know what you average will be throughout the year, take the overall dollar value of all the deals in your pipeline, multiply by your closing ratio (for outbound leads, we find 33% is a good number to begin with), and now you have a realistic revenue projection. Divide that by 12 and you’ll have a monthly idea of what revenue your business will bring in.

But What Does A Pipeline Really Do?

In a business where we never know where the next gig is coming in, taking charge of our own destiny gives us back control. Even when we don’t see any checks coming in, we can look at our pipeline and know that a percentage of those deals will likely close for us, and that means that finally, we can know that our business will still be in business this time next year.

Do This Now
-Get yourself a CRM. There are free version and paid versions of every type of CRM. To predict revenue, you’ll want the version that shows you an overall view of all your deals, i.e. a ‘pipeline’.
-Get your leads organized into the pipeline and find out what they’re probably going to spend on a keynote speaker this year and when they’ll likely be deciding.
-Use math to give yourself an overall value of your pipeline and what you’ll likely close each month.

Ninja Secret: Most speakers say they have a 90%+ close ratio. Most speakers only deal with inbound leads – folks that are already convinced they need the speaker. If you’re busting out of feast and famine, you’ll be targeting and reaching out to prospects who haven’t heard of you and don’t know if you can help them. A 33% close ratio is more realistic for those leads.

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