January 2, 2020 Shawn

The Questions Speakers HAVE TO ASK On The Phone

The biggest challenge speakers have is not killing it on the stage in front of thousands. For many, it’s having a 1:1 conversation with someone that’s never heard of them, but could be the speaker’s next client.

If you’ve been following Speaker Sales Systems for any length of time, you know we advocate active outreach to the folks who can buy you talk – it’s the only way to take the destiny of your business back into your own hands. In past articles, we’ve covered researching prospects, knowing as much as you can about the organization, their past speakers, future events, and even budget.

But what do we need to discover on the phone to drive the sale forward? And what questions do we ask to get there? After more than 5,000 sales calls to associations and companies that hire speakers, we’ve learned exactly what we need to know to move the sale forward. Below are the 8 questions we keep printed next to the phone and why we have to ask them on every call.

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First, how you introduce yourself. You’re not a keynote speaker. You’re a solution provider. Introduce yourself as an ‘international expert in (whatever)’ and you’ll be pigeonholed into an email folder or RFP. Instead, just intro with your name until you know you’re dealing with someone who understands the value you bring from the stage. Now onto the questions …

  1. Who Is The Decision Maker?
    We normally word this as ‘Who’s responsible for educational programming for your XYZ event in New Orleans in 2020?’ This gets us directly to the person responsible for speakers, and who knows what topics they need their speakers to cover. This is the first question we ask because we don’t want to burn hours talking to people who can say ‘no’ but not ‘yes’. Note – this is a binary question and only allows for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.
  2. What Challenges Are You Addressing At This Event?
    Understand that every event is held with a purpose in mind, and speakers are brought in to address that purpose by solving problems or prepping audiences for the future. Before we ever reveal the topic of our expertise, we need to know what the event is attempting to achieve. Only then can we match that to our value proposition.
  3. What’s The Event’s Theme?
    If the event coordinator has a theme for their event, this creates a great opportunity for you to build the bridge from your expertise to that theme. If you can formulate a keynote title that aligns with their theme, suddenly you’re a perfect match for the event they’re creating.
  4. How many attendees are you expecting at this event?
    This piece of information is normally not on a website and has to be asked to a human. The reason it’s important is the budget for a 3,000-person event at the Bellagio is going to have a different budget than a 30-person event in the basement of a Sheraton. Knowing the number of attendees allows you to know if they’re likely allocating a high or low budget for their speakers.
  5. What’s Your Decision-Making Process?
    The way we word this is: ‘How do you select your keynote speakers?’ It’s crucial to you as a salesperson to know what criteria an organization will be using to select their speakers and who will be doing it. Will they be reviewing video? Interviewing on the phone? Contacting past clients? Is it one person making the decision? A committee? Knowing this information means everything you discuss and send from that point forward can be tailored to their decision-making process to get you from free to fee as quickly as possible.
  6. When Will You Be Deciding On Your Speakers?
    Don’t leave this one to chance – discover when the decision maker expects to be selecting speakers (if not today), and ensure you’re doubling or tripling outreach when they’re in buying mode to get yourself to the front of the line. The intelligence you’ve gathered thus far, leveraged for their event and industry, will be critical in placing you ahead of everyone else they’re considering.
  7. What’s The Budget?
    We’ve written whole articles on this question, but if you’re running a business, this question has to be asked. State your fee first and your prospect will shop you on price and will never know if the other value-adds you can include will be worth it. If you’re dipping your toe in the water of professional speaking or are an amateur, skip this one (but then what are you doing reading this?). Keep in mind the first person to issue a firm number in any negotiation is at a disadvantage for retaining their budget. The way we ask this is: ‘What’s your historical budget?’ or if pressed or refused, we’ll say, ‘Our keynote is anywhere between free and $1.5 million. I can’t speak for free and you probably don’t have $1.5 million, so what range are we talking about?’ The answer to this question can let you know what added value you can build into your all-inclusive package to maximize your client’s experience.
  8. Bonus Question!: What other events do you have that are bringing in speakers/who’s in charge of those?
    You may be calling about their large annual conference, but the org has 4 other regional events that bring in speakers as well. We left a lot of money on the table until we learned to ask this question and build a proposal that included us speaking at all the events, for a commensurate price.

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