Most speakers are dedicated to ensuring folks know their name, thinking that’s going to be the secret to getting on more stages. By doing this, they miss one of the most powerful strategies available for ensuring we have thriving speaking businesses – and it isn’t ensuring everyone knows our name as a speaker.
Rather, it’s ensuring we know the names of other speakers. Specifically, the speakers our prospects have hired in the past.
It’s so critical to know the name of previously-hired speakers that it should be the first thing every speaker confirms they know about every organization they want to speak to before they even reach out. Knowing the names of the speaker(s) they’ve previously hired will qualify the account as worth pursuing, can point you to the correct decision maker, will reveal potential budget, it can show us whether there’s good topic alignment and can even help us learn exactly how we need to position ourselves to move to the front of the line amongst all the speakers they’re considering for their live or virtual events.
We’ll go over how to leverage previous speakers’ names to learn all those things, but hopefully you’re curious to understand how knowing a name unlocks so many doors that allow us to achieve so much in a sales call.
Wait, how do I know who they’re hired in the past?
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There are two ways to understand who an organization has hired in the past. We can either start with the speakers themselves or with the organizations we’re targeting.
Starting with the speaker:
As professionals, we should be aware of other speakers who speak on similar topics/have similar backgrounds. For instance, as a military veteran I keep up to date on every other military-themed or veteran speaker. I can learn who hired each of those speakers in the past by going to the speaker’s website and looking for testimonials and client logos. We can also set up Google alerts on those speakers’ names so whenever one of their clients sends out a press release we can put those organizations in our CRM for future outreach.
Starting with the organization:
If we discover an organization that we think we’d be a good fit for, type in the organization’s name into Google with the word “keynote” in quotation marks. That will scrub anything that has both the organization’s name AND the word keynote. If that returns no results, try “speaker” and “plenary session” as secondary searches. This will reveal any speakers who have been on their stage that they ever listed online.
What do I do with the name?
There are two things to do with the name of who an organization has hired the speaker in the past. First, see if you can discover what fee that speaker might have been paid. While it’s not an exact science, if a speaker is listed on a bureau website or lists fees on their own websites, we can estimate their fee range by searching ‘speaker name’ and ‘bureau.’ We’ll never know if they were paid full fee, but knowing a range of $5,000-$10,000 is better than not knowing a range at all.
The second thing to do with the name is to examine how the speaker is positioning themselves. If they were hired for the stage you want to be on, assume they figured out something that you can learn from. How does their website, social media presence, and marketing language align (or mis-align) with yours? If their website is loaded with video and client logos, you now have a checklist to begin working on.
What if I can’t find any speakers my target organization hired/their speakers don’t have bureau pages or their own speaker websites?
This is a massive red flag that this organization may not hire professional speakers. While it’s not impossible to convince them to pay a speaker from outside their industry/membership base, there are thousands of companies and associations who have been hiring professional speakers like you for decades. Start with the low-hanging fruit because there’s a much lower barrier to entry.
OK, I’ve got the names of the speaker(s) they’ve hired and a fee range, now how do I leverage that information?
Now that you know who your target organization hired in the past, you can use that information across each of the questions you’ll need to ask to ensure you check every box on your way to issuing a proposal. Let’s dive into each of the questions we train speakers to ask (and that we use ourselves!) and how to leverage the name of a previous speaker:
Identifying the actual decision maker
Why it’s important: There are a lot of people in an organization who can say no, but few who actually make the decision on hiring speakers. Even fewer are the people who hired the speaker whose name you have. Why not use it to get directly to the decision maker?
How it sounds: “I saw that you brought in (speaker name) at your conference last year, and I had some questions about them. Who was the person responsible for bringing them in?”
What that question does: It gets you the exact name of the person responsible for keynote selection – not always the same person responsible for breakout sessions/unpaid speakers.
Discovering how you need to be more specific/different to get the gig
Why it’s important: Without knowing the specific challenges the event is addressing, we’re forced to present ourselves as a ‘leadership’ or ‘change management’ speaker – a commodity, as there are hundreds of people (if not thousands) who speak on that topic. Knowing they are looking to increase performance of their remote workers who are mostly millennials allows us to build a bridge between our expertise and that challenge.
How it sounds: “I’d love to know what you thought about (speaker name) when you brought them in. What feedback did you get from your audience on them? And could they have done anything better if you were to hire them again?”
What that question does: It shows that you’re interested in raising the bar on performance and ensuring you’re a great fit for their specific needs.
Discovering budget range
Why it’s important: There isn’t one fee everyone pays for a speaker. This is largely set by the organization’s budget and by the fee the speaker charges. Because we’re walking into the conversation knowing a budget range, we know to start at least at the bottom end of that previous speakers’ fee range. The budget may have changed and if so, we can always make the call if we’re willing to accept a lesser fee. Without coming into the conversation with some idea about budget, we’re by definition coming to the negotiation at a disadvantage.
How it sounds: “I understand (speaker name) speaks for around $X. Were you allocating the same budget range for speakers for this event or has that changed?”
What it does: It allows you to come into the negotiation from a preset starting point instead of starting at a base price that may end up with you leaving a lot of revenue on the table.
Discovering audience size
Why it’s important: Fees will be different for an audience of 3,000 and an audience of 30. Additionally, you may prefer large or small audiences. Unfortunately, few organizations will list the potential audience numbers on their websites so this question has to be asked for us to learn it.
How it sounds: “How many folks was (speaker name) able to address at that conference? And are you expecting about that many at your next event?”
What it does: In addition to giving you an idea about the size of the event, it also shows your decision maker that you want to ensure you’re a good fit for their audience size.
Discovering decision-making process
Why it’s important: While you may have identified a person that hired the previous speaker, they may not be the only person with input. Knowing that they oversee an education committee or also get input from their CEO can make the difference between you getting the gig or not.
How it sounds: “And when you pulled the trigger on (speaker name), was it just you making that decision or did you get input from anyone else in your organization?”
What I does: It reveals the way a paid keynote speaker is chosen, allowing you to tailor your follow-up, videos and proposal to that specific buying process.
Discovering buying timeline
Why it’s important: While the organization you’re targeting might pay tens of thousands of dollars for a keynote speaker, they may not be buying a speaker today. Knowing the decision-making timeline is a critical piece of information that not only allows you to put a firm appointment in place when they are deciding, it also allows you to project revenue from potential business in the future.
How it sounds: “And is there a time of year you select speakers like (speaker name), or is that happening now?”
What it does: It allows you to know when to get back in front of the decision maker precisely when they’ll have keynote selection top-of-mind, drastically increasing your chances of being selected.
There’s a lot of value in knowing who an organization has hired in the past, both for filling your pipeline and for turning those prospects into clients.
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