March 24, 2020 Shawn

Surviving Silence As A Speaker

In the midst of an industry-wide shut-down, what can speakers do to ensure their businesses survive and be ready to ramp back up when live events that need speakers finally ramp back up?

Many speakers are converting their keynotes to virtual formats, writing their next book or designing new online courses. While all of those are great activities, they’re passive, in that they aren’t continuing to position speakers in front of folks who can buy (now or when the events industry returns to normal).

You are reading a blog about sales, after all. And sales don’t come from you building the next great course or writing the next bestseller. Sales come from positioning your intellectual capital as a solution to the problems your prospects face. And whether we’re in the midst of a 2020 industry shut down or a 2018 industry boom, prospects still have problems, challenges and the budgets to pay for solutions.

So if you’re a speaker wondering if you’re going to be in business this time next year, know that the survival and success of your business isn’t dependent on when people start picking up the phone to book you – it’s still (and always) dependent on you reaching out.

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Sales Are Still In Your Control
The way the speaking business works hasn’t changed because of turbulent times, but the way we go about it has. A myth many speakers have been running their businesses from is that “Speaking leads to more speaking.” While that may have worked when meeting planners knew they had a need for speakers and were reaching out, these days that simply isn’t happening.

Speakers are realizing now more than ever that their sales are now dependent on what they’re doing, the outreach they’re conducting, and what they do with what they find.

The Phone Has Stopped Ringing, So Now What?
Now that you’ve come to the realization that the phone isn’t going to ring as much as you want it to, you can begin to take the initiative and build the systems that will place your revenue back in your control. And like all great businesses, that starts with systems. When it comes to sales, those systems live within a pipeline.

A pipeline is a series of campaigns, it’s that simple. Think of it like cylinders on an engine, or pipes that liquid must pass through. It’s our job as speakers to put quality fuel into the pipeline so we can move them through the various deal stages of our pipeline in order to get proposals issued and us on their stages.

I Get It – Multiple Campaigns. What’s A Campaign?
A campaign is a series of steps used to conduct outreach on a prospect, with the goal of getting the decision maker in an organization into a conversation about bringing you in as the speaker for their event. Each campaign serves a specific stage of the buying cycle for a keynote speech. It wouldn’t make much sense, for instance, to execute a campaign designed for the end of a keynote sale (you know who the decision maker is, their budget, when they’ll be buying and what their buying criteria is) on a brand new prospect – because you may find yourself wasting a lot of time talking to people who can’t even make a decision.

For that reason, sales professionals (that’s you, if you’re taking back control of your sales) structure their pipelines from least known to most known. Expressed for a keynote sale, it would like “cold outreach”, followed by “we know who makes decisions” followed by “we know who makes decision and what they’re spending” followed by “In an active sales conversation with the decision maker who has been qualified for budget”.

Whoa, Where Do I Build This?
Before we get into how to actually use a pipeline, many speakers get stuck with where does this pipeline thing actually live? While you could try and run a pipeline through an excel spreadsheet, most salespeople have realized that it’s easier to use a platform designed specifically to manage a pipeline, it’s campaigns and the prospects they’re using it to pursue; that’s called a CRM (a customer-relationship-management platform.)

While the costs of CRMs vary widely, most of the paid versions can easily facilitate a pipeline and its campaigns.

I Get The Concept, How Do I Begin Adding Prospects?
As many speakers are beginning their pipelines with quite a few past clients in their rolodex, start there as these clients already know, like and trust you. Likely, you know who the decision maker in the organization is (or was), so you can bypass cold outreach and drop them into the “we know the decision maker” vertical of your pipeline and begin outreach.

Second, start adding in your high-value prospects who you haven’t done business with. These would be the events that you know bring in speakers who get paid what you want to get paid. Because you don’t know who is specifically responsible for those decisions, you’ll need to conduct outreach and find out, qualify for budget, buying timeframe, challenges they need solved, etc.

Third, add in all the other prospects who may be likely targets. Not all of these prospects will remain in your pipeline, but a good portion will (if you’re taking the time to qualify them!).

Once you have the verticals of your pipeline set up and prospects added in, you are in the top 1% or professional speakers in the world (and at the top tier of many sales professionals as well).

Being able to see how many prospects are in each vertical will let you know where to devote energy that day, and the campaigns within each vertical will tell you what needs to happen next across all your accounts (we’re currently managing over 400 just for my business).

Whatever the events industry does or doesn’t do in the coming months, your business will continue to be as strong as the systems it lives within.

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