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.)
Speakers sometimes believe they have to be referred into an organization to get a speaking gig, but that’s leaving a lot of money on the table, and it leaves out the power of something every large business strives for – outbound leads.
Outbound leads are generated when we identify our target audience based on our value proposition. If we are great at speaking to a certain industry, like distribution and manufacturing, and we seem to hit it every time, we can recognize what is happening and generate a group of target prospects based on that success story. To turn them from leads into business, though – that requires a pipeline.
What is a “Pipeline”?
Every speaker likely has a drawer full of business cards or an excel file with thousands of leads, how to we turn that information into business intelligence? We need to create a predictable outreach process, or a “campaign” and we need to make sure we have all of these different leads in play across our pipeline.
We define a “pipeline” as a representation of our business that shows the different stages of where our prospective clients are in our sales cycle. This pipeline approach is not only a way to manage revenue, but to manage our relationships with potential clients. Our own pipeline is broken down into five areas:
- Cold Leads: These are leads in our system that we have minimal information, maybe just a business card, but we suspect we can provide a solution for them.
- Cold Campaign: Once we reach this phase, we have enough pertinent information to reach out and have an intelligent conversation with a decision maker, and we are ready to send a first piece of outreach.
- Pre-Qualified Accounts: Organizations that fall into this category are ones that we are confident we can provide a solution for, but the timing just isn’t right yet for them.
- Opportunities: Once the stars align and the timing is right, we can provide our solution for the organization because they are ready to make a decision on their next speaker.
- Won/Lost: This phased is based off of the ultimate decision of the organization. Did we win the gig, or do we have to try harder again next round? How can we use what we learned to better equip ourselves for future opportunities?
Do This Now
-First, don’t bite off more than you can chew. When developing this process, it is easy to get wrapped up and feel like you have created an even bigger mess for yourself. Recognize that you can begin this process incrementally by starting with investing in a CRM.
-Identify your closing ratio for outbound leads so that you are able to more accurately predict business, and ultimately, the revenue stream.
-Move each one of your accounts closer to the finish line by monitoring the progress and maturity of these accounts as you execute your campaigns. Figure out ways that you can help push these folks forward in the pipeline so that they get closer and closer to the “won” column.
(Interested in seeing how this would apply to YOUR speaking business? Apply by clicking here and take the first step!)