About Vickie Sullivan
Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.
Written by: Vickie Sullivan | October 04, 2013
After the Applause: 3 Steps to Get Clients After Every Speech
Originally published for RainToday.com
Many of us speak to promote our business. We spend time on our content, our style, and those PowerPoint presentations. You know the effort paid off when a crowd gathers around you after the speech.
The questions in these “hallway conversations” come fast and furious — as do opportunities to generate warm leads. The key is to not let those opportunities slip through your fingers. To help you out, here’s a three-phase approach to turn an inquiry into a possible sales conversation.
1. Set the Stage
The first phase usually starts with a question that applies what you taught to a specific situation. This is an indication that your material struck a responsive chord and the wheels are now turning. The attendee is trying to figure out how to use your material.
The two most common mistakes involve access. Many speakers nip this process in the bud by not being available after the speech. They will answer a few questions right after the program but won’t stick around. If you don’t make yourself available, you will miss out on conversations from attendees who needed time to digest your material. Second, many attendees won’t ask questions unless you open the door for them to do so. They have to know that it’s OK to find you later. For introverted attendees, you have to make the first move.
Don’t underestimate the power of timing. This opportunity to turn curiosity into a warm lead expires very quickly. The prospect won’t feel the same sense of urgency once they get back into the office.
Do this next time: Make yourself available by staying later, even if it means staying over an extra night. The potential for lead generation is worth it. Another idea is to invite questions by probing for them. Tell the audience at least twice that you are available for questions throughout the event.
2. Answer the Question
The second phase starts the dialog that can easily lead into a discussion about how your views and background can help them. This is also the phase where you qualify their situation and decide how you can help. The test here is to see if you are as good as you appear. The way you answer the question will determine if the prospect moves on to the next step. Exceed their expectations, and you just earned the opportunity to talk about working with them.
The two biggest mistakes in this phase involve perception. First, if you give a general answer in the interest of time, you lose the opportunity to explore. The attendee assumes you’ve answered their question and won’t come back and find you later.
Second, it’s tempting to try to start a subtle sales conversation at this point. Don’t do it. It’s way too early in the game to suggest working together. And attendees are very sensitive about this. What you think is a small probe could look like a sales pitch to them. At that point, you can’t recover.
Do this next time: Err on the side of caution and don’t even mention your services. Give a full answer that will prompt more discussion. If the question is about a specific situation, I will start the answer with “It depends.” For example, “Well, it depends on if your ideal clients are XXX or if you are going after XXX. If it’s the former, I would suggest XXX; otherwise, you might consider XXX.” Expound on the factors impacting their choice and how those factors play a role in finding the best path forward.
This answer does two things: first, you are giving a full-value, nuanced response without pitching and second, you open the door for the prospect to tell you about their situation.
3. Plant Seeds for Future Conversations
During the conversation, you should know how interested the attendee is in your work or if they need outside help. If you are interested in exploring further, tie yourself to the solution you just discussed. This last phase is your chance to translate your work into a benefit for the prospect and find out if they are open for a follow-up conversation.
The biggest mistakes in this phase also involve perception. We get so busy giving information that we forget to plant seeds that show we can help. Again, you are not asking for any business. You want to show the attendee that you have been down this road before and got results. My favorite tools of the trade: examples and stories. Why? Examples and stories show how your knowledge can work for them if they hire you. You become safer to work with.
Do this next time: My favorite response is the “you’re not alone” comment. Example: “Ya know, you are not the only person experiencing this. It happens all the time. In fact, [insert cool client here] and I were working on this issue and here’s what we learned…”
Another way I open the door to working together is with the “if you were my client” phrase. Example: “If you were my client, we would focus on XXX first because of XXX. Then I would go after XXX so that you would have XXX.”
If they don’t express interest in working with you, back off graciously and offer to keep in touch. When you get back to the office, send them an article or something that refers back to your conversation.
Your Brilliance, Risk-Free
Giving speeches to promote your business is a time-tested tactic. It works because people get to experience your brilliance, risk-free. These three steps will turn that positive experience into conversations that lead to more opportunities. Yes, they do take time. But it’s worth it. Try this systematic approach and see what happens next.