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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  |  March 01, 2007

Speak To Sell: 3 Ways To Convert Audience Members Into Clients

Originally published for RainToday.com

You’ve hit a homerun with a recent speech. The audience was perfect, filled with high-level prospects who have the authority (and the budget) to hire you. Your talk was met with rave reviews and you got an outstanding recommendation letter from the host organization. But now, it’s 90 days later, and you didn’t get the business you expected. What happened?

As speaking moves beyond generating credibility and into lead generation, the next big question is: How can we convert a larger portion of the audience from observers to clients? This conversion happens with a consistent but subtle adjustment of perception.

Understand that the audience is not attending your program thinking of ways to hire you. Create that connection during the presentation by planting “seeds” that give them the idea to approach you. Experts who answer those below-the-surface questions create ingrained opinions that drive initial interest and inquiries.

Each attendee must be convinced of three things before they get the idea that you can help them. Below are the questions that must be answered before any attendee will approach you.

You Do What?

I was an agent for professional speakers for eleven years and talked to thousands of participants looking for more business. Their most common question: “I can hire this person?”

Somehow, the message that your services are available to them just doesn’t register.

Again, it’s a matter of focus. The attendee is there to network and learn something. They are not shopping for professional service firms. So you have to show the audience that you work with folks just like them.

The biggest mistake many thought-leaders make is they meet the challenge head-on with an approach that looks like a sales pitch. This is the kiss of death in many venues. Not only will the audience be offended, but they will also complain about you throughout the entire event.

You don’t want that kind of attention. The audience needs to learn that you are available without your selling them.

The best way to tell the audience you’re available without sounding like a walking sales pitch is to let other people do it for you. Most speakers are introduced by the program chair or president of the host organization. Write out your introduction and give it to them.

And don’t just say “consultant” or “coach.” After identifying what you specialize in, include how many people or organizations you have helped and in what way. If the clients are well-known, mention a few by name. Then, carry that idea forward by mentioning other clients in the context of your work.

For example: “Of all the organizations we work on with (your area of expertise), one challenge comes up every time…”

How Does This Work For Me?

Once an attendee knows that your services are available, the next question is about application. Many audience members think to themselves, “This speaker is really making sense, but our situation is different. I just don’t see a fit.”

Translation: there’s no connection between the material and its application. When a participant sees you as the perfect solution to a specific challenge, they are transformed into allies. They are now on a personal mission to get you into their organization.

The biggest reason why many thought leaders get stumped here is that offer too much information and not enough stories and examples. It’s called “data dumping” and usually happens from a misguided desire to educate and/or from the arrogant belief that “all of my content is too important to cut.”

Many speakers also fear running out of material, so they overcompensate. Presenting too much information is like drinking from a fire hose. An overwhelmed audience is a paralyzed audience. They think, “Well, I will digest all this information, then I’ll contact the speaker to help us.” The result: the call never gets made and the attendee moves on to simpler solutions.

What’s the best approach? Don’t assume that the audience will apply your material. Do it for them. Use specific examples or instances and apply your message to them. Switch the focus from teaching your material, to applying it to their work environment.

Attendees will still learn, but they will also see the application. When using your clients (in their industry) as an example or story, be sure to make the client the star, not you.

Why Do We Need You?

The third question is the most subtle and most always fatal. I call it the, “We can implement this system without you” opinion.

Many companies send people to conferences for a recount of ideas/ strategies to teach the others. Audience members come to the program with an agenda: what can they take from this program for their report? If attendees think they can do your work on their own, then your content didn’t tell them anything new.

Consultants and other list makers are the biggest culprits here. Too many speakers give in-depth, step-by-step solutions, complete with all the pitfalls and best practices. Not only is this way too much information for the time allotted (see drinking from a fire hose above), but also you can’t give enough nuance to implement it effectively.

The audience thinks, “We now know the entire system. The speaker has given us all the steps. We can do this in-house.” Never mind that they can’t implement your ideas as well as you can. And if the effort fails, what do they blame? Your system.

Use interaction to prevent this disaster. If you’re a coach, do some “on the spot” coaching about process. For example, if you are a consultant use a process that will spur recommendations not only from you but also from the group.

Exercises that hone in on just one tool or process will be enough to shine a spotlight on your ability. Attendees who see your talent in action will never assume that they are as good as you are. They will know that having your help is well worth the investment.

To convert an observer to an interested prospect, your audience needs to know three things: your expertise is unique, you can help them and they can’t do it without you. Only then do the audience members start to think, “We need this person in our organization!”

Filed Under: Sales, Speaking


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.