Breaking the $100,000 revenue level in any business is a key milestone. For many it is the target that defines success. That’s why in the spring of 1999 I was sitting at my desk pondering how I could grow my speaking business with that number in mind.
And then the phone rang…
Little did I know that call would be the first step on the path to building a 6-figure business that would continue for over 15 years.
The Unexpected Inquiry
The call was from the president of a statewide trade association. He knew that I offered speaking, consulting, and training, and asked if I had any programs on service.
I shared that one of my current ‘best-selling’ (meaning more than one client had invested in it) programs was The 7 Deadly Sins of Customer Service. We briefly discussed the program content and he asked whether I would be willing to “make a couple of adjustments so the program would better fit his audience.”
“Absolutely,” I responded.
“Well here’s my dilemma,” he said. “Our annual convention is on Friday and our keynote speaker just cancelled. Any chance you’re available?”
The Immediate Response
Since the event was within 10 miles of my home office (and I had nothing on the calendar), I again responded: “Absolutely.”
We talked about the set-up of the program and his expectations, I secured his permission to video-tape the event, and we agreed on an appropriate investment.
The deal was done and it was time to prepare.
Based on what I had learned in our conversation it was clear I needed to learn a lot more about the people who would be in the audience. So I requested a few names and phone numbers of people I could contact.
Though the timeline was tight, I was able to connect with most of them and pick their brains a bit about how they saw the topic, what they wanted to learn, and their favorite stories related to customer service.
I leveraged what I learned, updated my presentation, and rehearsed it several times.
The Event Results
The event was a success. The stories I gathered from the audience members made it seem like I really understood their industry. The changes to the presentation based on the input of the association president were perfect. And the video came out great!
More important, the meeting planner was effusive in her praise of the event. She specifically identified three things that she felt made the presentation “perfect for their audience.”
Applying a lesson I had learned from a mentor I thanked her for her comments and asked if she would mind if I put them in writing to share with others. She said that was fine and I thanked her for the opportunity. Then I visited briefly with some of the audience members.
One CEO asked me if I did leadership training, and told me what he needed for his team. He ended by handing me his business card and telling me to call him the following week to schedule an on-site session.
Another CEO asked if I facilitated strategic planning sessions. I shared a bit about how long I had been doing it and how the process worked, then he hand me his business card and asked me to call him the following week to schedule his next planning session.
To say that it was a good day would be a bit of an understatement, but from my perspective all of the positive outcomes came from one thing: Taking the time to understand the audience and customizing the presentation based on what I learned.
But wait. There’s more…
Over the weekend I reflected a bit on the experience and realized there was an opportunity at hand. After all I had a video of a presentation that connected well with an audience served by a trade association in every state, and I had great feedback from a meeting planner who had peers in all of those organizations.
So on Monday morning I made three phone calls. I called the CEO who wanted leadership training. Then I called the CEO who wanted me to facilitate his planning session. My third call was to the education director of the trade association.
The first two calls focused on setting up meetings later that week, each of which resulted in a 5-figure contract to be delivered within the next 60-90 days.
The third call focused on getting permission from the meeting planner to share her comments in a letter from her to her colleagues recommending my services. Included in that letter was a P.S. indicating that she had asked me to send them some information about my speaking topics.
Later that week I sat with the meeting planner as she signed the letters and I stuffed them into envelopes and mailed them. One week later I sent a mailing to each of the recipients with a list of three speech topics, a bio, and a 3-minute demo video from the event. Within a month of that mailing I had 15 state trade associations booked for keynote and breakout sessions to be delivered in the next 6-9 months. And 30% of those sessions led to additional bookings for leadership and strategic planning engagements.
The net result: Within 90 days that single speech generated agreements for business over 6-figures during the next 12 months. This established the foundation for serving that market for the next 15 years.
A Replicable System
At this point, you may be thinking that this was a special situation and wondering if it can be repeated. The truth is that it can because it is based on a simple 7-step system:
- Listen to the client — Ask questions, probe for more information, and focus more on learning about their needs than selling yourself. This creates the foundation for success.
- Respond to their needs — Customize your program and your approach to meet (or better yet exceed) the expectations of the person hiring you. This creates shared ownership of the outcome.
- Understand the audience — Invest time to speak with and learn about audience members. This provides a clear pathway to connection because you are sharing their stories and using them to illustrate the key points of your message.
- Prepare judiciously — Put in the time to prepare the right presentation for that audience at that time, and rehearse it well. Ensure that you deliver it perfectly. This creates raving fans.
- Share relevant stories — Replace your trusted stories with actual stories from the industry and from members of the audience. This makes you an insider and that leads to more opportunities.
- Follow-up quickly — Do what you say you will do and take immediate action to follow-up. This differentiates you and secures additional business that others miss.
- Leverage feedback — Listen to feedback and ask permission to capture and share it. This deepens your relationship and creates advocates who help you grow your business.
Approach your business using these 7 steps and it will take everything you do to the next level. These 7 steps can provide a solid foundation for building a 6-figure business in a relatively short period of time.
Question: What challenges do you face in your speaking business? You can leave a comment by clicking here.