There’s a famous saying in sales, that salespeople should always be reciting their ABCs – ‘Always Be Closing’.
Unfortunately, it leaves off the precursor to any sale – and that’s having someone to close with! The place many speakers struggle, especially those who are finally taking the initiative on their own businesses, is in finding people to reach out to. There are a few pitfalls many speakers fall into when prospecting, and we’ll try to hit the major ones here so that you can begin practicing your ABPs – Always Be Prospecting.
While many salespeople consider ‘prospecting’ all the activities that occur with a lead before a sales conversation, we’ve covered a lot in past articles about the outreach methods, discovery questions and systems that we use. Prospecting, as we address it today, will be about the systems we use for finding the people who we can reach out to and ensuring that we’re making it part of our weekly activities.
First, What’s A Speaking Prospect?
Until we understand what qualifies as a speaking prospect and what doesn’t, none of the techniques we’ll share about how to find them will make a bit of difference. When we share this information in live programs to speakers across the country, the first thing we say about prospecting is:
“The quality of your pipeline is only as good as the quality of your prospects.”
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It’s critical that if you’re taking time in your business to reach out to people to establish relationships, discover needs and offer to speak on their stages, that they be quality prospects. So what defines a speaking prospect? It’s pretty simple, but something many speakers overlook, and that’s: Someone who can hire you to speak!
You may think that anyone with budget may be a prospect to hire you, but you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to be hired. Instead, we advocate that speakers go after the low-hanging fruit first and target those companies and organizations that have already hired a speaker in the past.
They already understand the value that a life-changing talk can make to their members or their audience, and they’re willing to pay for it! The alternative is someone who has a problem but can’t fathom how a single talk can help solve it and balks at the idea of paying anyone thousands of dollars for an hour of their time.
This is why so many ‘association lists’ aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Not all associations have meetings, gatherings, or bring in external speakers. That means you could spend months trying to get ahold of someone only to learn that they never hire outside speakers.
OK, How Do I Find Folks Who Have Hired Speakers?
That’s a great question, and one that shows you’re thinking about making the most of your prospecting time. There are a few ways to find organizations that have hired speakers, which is the first step of the prospecting process.
First, use other speakers. If you know some other speakers who are willing to refer you, that’s the best way to start. If you’re new to the business or don’t have a network of referral partners, other speakers can still point you towards the folks who hire professional speakers. Check out other speakers’ websites for testimonials, in written and video form. Those are the folks who brought that speaker in and often their company and first and last name are right there in the testimonial!
Second, you can use Google Alerts, a free service, to set alerts each day for the names of the speakers you know you’d follow up well from and organizations having conferences in your area. While those alerts usually point to events that already booked speakers this year, Google Alerts are a great way to start building your pipeline so you can target those same events next year.
Third, you can use databases of associations and lists, but keep in mind that few of them have the research attached to know if the association even has events, and no list exists today that can tell you whether that association hires external speakers like you. That means you have to individually ‘scrub’ every association you think you’d be a good fit for to ensure they do have events, have brought in external/paid speakers in the past and that your expertise could serve their audience.
There are many other ways to find prospects, but those three methods tend to reveal qualified prospects the soonest and the methods are the cheapest to use.
OK, I know where to find prospects, what do I do next?
We have more than 50 articles, as of this writing, on the things to research before reaching out to a new prospect and what outreach methods/cadence we’ve found to be most effective. However, simply having a few leads you’ve researched from another speaker’s website, Google Alerts or an association database isn’t enough to build a strong pipeline.
Instead, it means making time every week to add a few more qualified leads into your outreach campaigns, either from other speakers, online research or a database. Keep in mind that scrubbing a new prospect takes time, as you’ll need the names and direct contact information of multiple people in the organization, including their next scheduled event date, who they brought in to speak in the past, and the LinkedIn profile URLs for everyone.
In the early days of growing my own pipeline, I had the aggressive goal of launching 20 new prospects into my pipeline each week, although 10 is a very manageable number for a speaker in our industry.
Because prospecting isn’t the sexiest task we have on our to-do lists, I find it helpful to put blocked chunk of time on my calendar each week to prospect, meaning a hour to find a certain number of new lead and their organization’s information.
Why is prospecting important?
Now that we know what qualifies a prospect and how to find them, and have gone over how to make prospecting part of your weekly do-do tasks, why is it really so important that we take the time each week to add new prospects to our database or CRM?
1. Eliminates scarcity
If we only have a few chances of getting to speak each year because we only have a few leads to pursue, we’ll be more likely to reduce fee and make other concessions. Plus, we’ll sound desperate when chatting with the folks who want to hire us. By having a lot of potential clients in your pipeline, it’s easier to hear ‘No’ or ‘Not this time’ because you have so many other people to reach out to that day.
2. Prevents over-attrition
If you’re taking the initiative to reach out and interrupt someone’s day to learn about their keynote selection process and needs, you will be hung up on, told to never call again, or simply have an email reply with ‘remove me from your outreach attempts.’ Every qualified lead you pull out of your pipeline from the lead’s request or from a lost sale is called ‘attrition.’ Prospect attrition, unfortunately, is a part of the game salespeople play. Instead of being bummed about it, we can also choose to feel happy, because now we have more time to get ahold of people who might say ‘YES’!
3. Increases confidence
Nothing increases the confidence of a speaker in their business model like a full pipeline – dozens, hundreds or thousands of organizations who will be hiring a speaker in the next year. While most speakers fret about the phone not ringing or inquiries not being sent, speakers regularly adding prospects and growing their pipelines know that success is in their hands. Not being dependent on someone else picking up the phone to hire you means you can take the initiative and reach out first.
Having prospects to reach out to, for all of the reasons above, is why speakers should ‘Always Be Prospecting.
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