During the industry-wide shutdown of the events we planned on, speakers are falling into two main camps:
1. Those who are hunkering down, retracting and weathering out the storm while handling all the new challenges this crisis has presented.
2. Those who are seeing this as an opportunity for expansion, growth and finding new ways to serve their clients and prospects.
Of course, there is a lot of grey in between the two camps, with speakers all across the spectrum. Many have asked:
“What can I be doing now that few meeting planners are even looking for speakers? How can I continue to plan for when this turns around?”
(Want to learn exactly how we find and qualify prospects into our speaking pipeline? Then you’re going to want to sign up for our next FREE Masterclass. Register HERE)
At Speaker Sales Systems, we’re all for taking the initiative year-round in growing our speaking businesses, which is why our answer to that question is the same now as it’s been for the pat few years:
If you’re not engaging in a conversation with a prospect, then you should be preparing to.
And that means finding prospects whose stages you would like to be on, even if those events have been cancelled or postponed for the near future.
If your ales funnel is the engine you run your speaking business through (and if you don’t have a sales funnel or pipeline, your business will always be in someone else’s hands). Think of the prospects as the fuel that keeps the engine running and moving your business down the road.
But where do professional speakers find these prospects – and why is it the last thing many speakers find the time to do?
If It’s That Important – Why Don’t Speakers Prospect More Often?
1. They don’t know where to find them
In the world of professional speaking, few businesspeople at a local networking event will be able to pay your fee and put you on a stage. Unfortunately, few business coaches understand this – so most speakers spend unnecessary time attempting to network with folks who can’t hire them. While networking like this may have been the way to build a speaking business prior to the internet (where information about decision makers and their organizations wasn’t publicly available), this was the only way to grow any kind of business. Fortunately, today our prospect list is potentially unlimited with nothing more than an internet connection.
They don’t know where to keep them
For many speakers, their entire sales system lives on a spreadsheet they haven’t looked at in years. And that system isn’t really a sales system, because it doesn’t involve regularly-used steps that drive towards a speaking sale. For speakers who are serious about properly managing a large group of qualified prospects, there is nothing better than a CRM (customer relationship management) system. There are hundreds available, and they’re all designed to give you a place to load, manage and campaign to the folks who can hire you.
3. Their prospects aren’t actually prospects
Having coached speakers through the process of standing up a pipeline, many have told me “Sure, I’ve got a whole list I’ve been building for decades!” Unfortunately, most speakers’ ‘lists’ are outdated or never had qualified prospects on them in the first place. And what is a ‘qualified prospect’?
A qualified prospect, for the speaking industry, is someone who is 1. Someone with the ability to make a decision around bringing in a speaker and 2. Someone who manages an event that brings in external speakers.
Turning It Around
So you’re convinced that prospecting needs to be something you build into your business growth time each week – but where do you find events that can hire you?
The way I started my ‘seed list’ was not to begin researching events – rather, it was to research speakers. Use a search engine to find those professional speakers who share a similar background/topic as yours and take a look at the client logos and testimonials on their websites. That’s a great way to know who is in the business of hiring speakers. You can also set up Google alerts for those speakers’ names and pay attention to when an organization releases an announcement that they’re bringing in your speaker. While they may not be hiring another speaker this year, few organizations will bring in the same speaker in consecutive years – this means that organization is a qualified prospect for their next event.
For many of speakers, online databases are a great place to expand their prospect list from. Associationexecs.com and Dunn & Bradstreet are popular choices. I advise ensuring the organizations you’re searching for actually have regular events as not all do. Additionally, just because an organization has events and is listed in those databases doesn’t mean they will hire you as a speaker. Take the time to Google a target organization’s name and ‘keynote.’ Ensure the speakers you see on their past lineups are external speakers who have their own websites/bureau pages.
There are two ways to leverage past clients’ networks to fuel your pipeline: Passive and active. Active referral generation means reaching out to past/current clients and asking who in their network would be a good fit for your expertise and the solutions you provide. The passive way to leverage a previous clients’ network is to look through their LinkedIn contacts and find other folks who are likely decision makers. Research them to ensure they meet the criteria I mentioned above – there’s no better way to waste sales time than chasing someone who can’t say ‘yes.’ You can then choose to ask your contact for a warm intro and/or reach out directly to that new decision maker and leverage your mutual connection’s name and the work you did together.
We’ve outlined the exact information you need to research in past blogs – and it’s also available in the free resources section of our site – so now you have no excuse for not prepping for success.
There’s no better time than today to make an introduction and begin to provide value. The seeds we plant today for our businesses will be the fruit we reap when it’s time to harvest.
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