Speakers are great at using their career milestones when asked ‘what do you do?’ or ‘why should I hire you?’ They’ll rattle off things like number of speeches given, number of audience members served, books sold, publications they’ve been featured in, and even years in business. In and of themselves, these milestones are great, but these milestones can often hurt speaking sales more than help them.
As professional speakers – meaning professional experts – we need to remember folks don’t hire us because of what we’ve done, but rather because of what we can do for them. When we start reciting our accomplishments, few prospects are able to connect those items with the challenges they need solved at their events.
So why do speakers insist on talking about their milestones? First, it’s often a cover for a lack of expertise. These speakers believe if they impress clients enough, it will make up for them not being experts in actually solving problems. Celebrities, folks who have survived a crisis and former sports figures who become speakers often fall into this category. Second, many speakers will use milestones as a way of avoiding having to build custom talks for different audiences. If we can convince a client that our story is worth bringing us onto the stage, we can deliver the same talk over and over with no work in between to customize Finally, speakers will over-rely on milestones because they’re more in love with themselves than the value they can deliver. It takes ego to take the stage, but it takes skill to turn the stage into a platform for change.
Before we mention a milestone in a sales conversation, we need to ensure it will help our sales process and not hurt it. That means we have to first listen to what problems our prospect wants solved with our expertise and what’s worked well and poorly for them with past speakers. Speaking milestones should only be used if they are relevant to helping clients achieve the outcomes we’re being hired to achieve.
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Milestones can be extremely valuable in the sales process, but we have to understand how. Below, we’ll go over the milestones that most speakers use in their sales, how these milestones often kill sales, and when it is a good idea to use them.
Speakers misuse this one by assuming that repetitions equal quality, which is something few clients believe. More important than repetitions is relevancy.
When IS it a good idea to mention number of speeches given? If a prospect is looking for a speaker who is comfortable working an unruly audience, the after-lunch keynote slot or needs a speaker with a lot of experience in a particular field/a certain topic, then number of speeches given will help the sale move forward.
Audience members served:
We’re not McDonalds, so having one million served doesn’t have the same effect. Speakers often throw out the number of audience members we’ve has as a way to prove credibility. If 15,000 people have seen us, we must be good, right? Few prospects believe so. Better is if we can state the number of audience members who TOOK ACTION on our content or growth of the businesses we’ve helped. For instance, making a single business $50,000,000 is more impressive than helping 50,000,000 companies save a dollar.
When it IS a good idea to use audience members served? If your decision maker values credibility and reps, wants to ensure you have experience speaking to audiences in their industry, has a large audience themselves or wants to know if you have experience speaking to a diverse crowd.
Speakers will use the number of books sold or the easily-manipulated ‘bestselling author’ to try and inflate their expertise, but it rarely impresses a buyer unless they’ve heard about the book already. Speakers will also use ‘best-selling author’ as a mask for credibility.
When IS it a good idea to mentioned numbers of books sold? If we’re offering books for sale as part of our all-inclusive package or selling back of room AND our prospects have expressed an interest in our books or tactical takeaways, then book milestones become applicable.
Publications featured in:
Speakers often think if they can get published in large publications then they must be credible, but unless being published in that publication impresses the decision maker we’re in front of, it actually hurts the sale.
When it IS ok to mention the publications we’ve been featured in? When our decision maker wants to know we’re a credible source for our expertise or has an audience of people who read the specific publication(s) we’ve been featured in, feel free to drop the names of the publications.
Years in business:
Speakers think if they’ve been speaking for 30 years, it must be impressive. However, as our decision makers get younger, a decades-long career can make us seem dated and irrelevant.
When IS it ok to mention years in business? When we’re dealing with an audience that will value and respect legacy and decades of experience, or when our length of experience adds to our relevant expertise (for instance, if we’re asked to teach younger folks how to lead/sell to an older generation).
So what if we’re just getting started in speaking and don’t have any of these milestones? Speakers in this position need to find ways to prove credibility; either through testimonials, references or the things we CAN control: Books we sell ourselves, features in publications and even audience numbers and events we spoke at for free.
As we’re in sales conversations, pay attention to the milestones we normally bring into a sales conversations or even when someone asks us what we do and pay attention to whether we’re mentioning our milestones to build a bridge to their solutions or whether you’re bringing them up to impress ourselves.
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