S. 3 Ep. 8 – Busting Common Sales Myths In Thought Leadership Businesses

Cece Payne

Cece Payne

Marketing Coordinator at SpeakerFlow - Follow us on social media to stay in the flow!

Cece Payne

Marketing Coordinator at SpeakerFlow - Follow us on social media to stay in the flow!
Technically Speaking S 3 Ep 8 - Busting Common Sales Myths In Thought Leadership Businesses with SpeakerFlow and Shawn Rhodes

A single search for “sales strategies” produces a ton of amazing advice… but also a fair amount of garbage or (put more kindly) myths about sales that can lead you astray.

“Cold outreach is pointless” is a common one. We also hear many thought leaders argue that “You can’t build trust with cold outreach” and “objections mean you’re not going to close the sale.”

The good news is that none of these statements are true, and there are a variety of ways to ensure predictable revenue in your thought leadership business. Here to discuss that with us is Shawn Rhodes.

As an author, TEDx speaker, and seasoned expert on what it takes to build a sales team, Shawn is globally recognized for his sales expertise.

Here, he argues, “You can hope for business or you can be predictable about gaining business. If you’re running a small business as more of a hobby, hope is fine, but if not, you need a mechanism to keep you in control of your revenue.”

We couldn’t have put it better ourselves, and if you’re looking to take charge of your sales systems, this episode is full of myth-busting you need to hear.

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Show Notes 📓

✅ Take Shawn’s 5-minute sales assessment that generates a sales system you can begin using today: https://survey.bulletproofselling.us/

📷 Watch the video version of this episode and subscribe for updates on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYAr3nGy6lbXrhbezMxoHTSCS40liusyU

🎤 Thank you to our sponsor, Libsyn Studio (formerly Auxbus)! Want the best podcasting solution out there? Learn more here: https://www.libsynstudio.com/

🚀 And as always, don’t forget about all the mind-blowing free resources at https://speakerflow.com/resources/

Read the Transcription 🤓

Intro: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business, maybe it’s standing onstage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed, and time just seems to slip by? This is called the flow state. At Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to Technically Speaking.

Taylorr: All right, we made it. Shawn, welcome to Technically Speaking, man. It’s been a long time in the making. It’s awesome to have you here today.

Shawn: Thank you, sir. Pleasure to be here.

Taylorr: Yeah, for sure.

Austin: So good to have you. You’re, kind of, like an OG inspiration for us in this space. You’ve been parading this topic of taking sales seriously in this industry for a long time, and I think more strategically and procedural, given your background, that makes sense, than most people do, and that is exactly what the doctor ordered in this space. We’re really excited for this episode. So, yeah, thanks for joining us.

Shawn: Thanks. Yeah. Sales saved my business as opposed to anything else and being able to do that in a way where I could predict outcomes, made a massive difference in my sanity. So, I’m sure we’ll talk about all of that.

Taylorr: Yeah, for sure. Super excited. We have a soapbox lined up here for Shawn today, folks. We are busting all of the myths and BS we hear around sales, so it’s going to be a good one. But, first, Shawn, we have to play out the background, of course. So, you have a very impressive background, especially with your military expertise, and we are reading, of course, in the bio that you sent over, that you, kind of, segued from that military background into what you do today, which is saving salespeople and their sales. And I’m just really curious, how did that transition unfold for you? Why did that become a core focus for you? Paint us a picture.

Shawn: Yeah. I had to become a speaker before I became an expert in sales, so I, kind of, worked backward. There are a lot of people in the speaking industry that started as salespeople, or they managed a sales team and now they speak on sales. I didn’t know anything about sales before I opened my business. I didn’t think I knew anything about sales anyway, but like a lot of speakers, I was speaking everywhere that would have me; every Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, chamber of Commerce. I was speaking so many places; folks thought I was running for office here in Tampa Bay. That’s the only reason that you would speak that much for free. 

But that’s what they told me to do. Because I thought that would generate a couple of leads that would generate a gig, that would pay me, that would generate a wonderful thriving speaking business. And it wasn’t happening. And when a gig did come in, I had to figure out, well, how do I repeat that? And there was nothing to figure out because there was no system, I had used to generate that gig, I was doing a thousand things. So, when one of those things did pop and create revenue, I had no way to replicate it. And that meant I didn’t have a business, I had a practice or a hobby. And so, my topic at the time was change management, was just business systems. 

So, I asked myself, well, if I’m going to keep my business viable, I’d better figure out; Shawn, if you were going to pay yourself to figure out this business to create a system, what would you do? And it was to create something that was, actually, replicable. So, I began saying, all right, if I’m going to generate business, what are the three to four things I’m going to do in any specific order? So, at least I’ll know, did that work or did it not?

And after a few iterations changing step one or step four, making that a little better, or eliminating it entirely, I found something that generated gigs pretty predictably. So, within a few years of opening my speaking business, I had a quarter million dollars in revenue. We were ramping up big, COVID happened, had to learn to build new systems then in a different way. And as I got hired to go into these organizations to consult, this is really where the transition to sales happened. 

They said, Shawn, we love the fact that you’re here to help us improve our processes, but start with our sales team. Because without top-line revenue, it doesn’t matter how efficient we are. And that’s a mindset that a lot of business people, entrepreneurs in the speaking industry could do well to take a look at. It doesn’t matter how great you are on the stage, if you can’t generate a gig, no one’s going to get the value of your expertise. So, that’s really a little bit about, kind of, how I started my business, if we want to jump back into the military, there’s some stuff there that might help in systems, but I’ll let you guys guide it from here.

Taylorr: Yeah.

Austin: Oh, I think that’d be great. Yeah. You’ve already dropped so many good little golden nuggets there, so I’m, yeah, hang on people. This is going to be a ride. But, yeah, I’m super curious, how did the military experience, you were in the battlefield, how did that transition into speaking about change management? I can imagine systems, right? That’s an important part to the military, from my outsider perspective, but it seems like a leap of some sort, so how did that happen?

Shawn: Yeah. There aren’t many veterans that end up in the speaking industry. There are, probably, I don’t know, a, a dozen of us, maybe; total around the world. And we’re very familiar with all of them, I’m sure, because it’s such a small community. But my job in the Marine Corps was really unique; it wasn’t just to shoot stuff, which is the job of every marine, first and foremost. But they gave me the secondary duty of studying what was working and what wasn’t on the battlefield. 

So, my role was to find the highest performing teams, whether it was an individual on a sniper team or whether it was a whole platoon, and figure out how are these folks able to do stuff that most of the world thinks is impossible, like kick down doors in Fallujah and bring everybody back in one piece. Really incredible stuff. And as I began studying these men and women who were able to communicate non-verbally, you think of a high performing Navy seal team or a SWAT team that kicks down doors and nobody’s talking, but everybody knows how to keep each other safe, everybody knows who’s supposed to do what when. And it comes from not a special brilliance; they don’t have extra sensory perception. 

They have a lot of great systems that they train in until this stuff is almost muscle memory. And so, it almost seems like they’re bulletproof on the battlefield. And I realized as I began studying great sales leaders in the speaking industry, great sales leaders in other industries, they were able to go into sales calls and it’s almost like magic to watch them work. They might not have a notepad in front of them, they don’t have anything that they’re writing down, they don’t have a script they’re using, but they have 10,000 reps. And they know a lot of ways to get it wrong because they’ve had to learn it the hard way, a lot of lost sales. 

So, as we see in this industry, in the speaking industry, folks that are amazing at sales, usually it’s because they’ve failed more than anyone else has. It’s very rare that you find somebody in a situation where they have the process that you guys work with people to build, the system’s on the backend that tell you what needs to happen next. That’s the way that I’ve found to take someone that is junior in the world of sales and get them performing at a high level much, much faster. It’s not by making them learn everything the hard way; it’s by giving them the platform, the process, the software that they can use then for their expertise to generate gigs so they can make a bigger impact and a bigger income. 

And so, that’s really where the military ties in well, because we had to drill in systems to keep ourselves alive. Well, in the field of sales, and if you’re an entrepreneur, if you’re a speaker, guess what, you’re a salesperson too. That’s another hat you get to wear. If you don’t have something in front of you to remind you of what needs to happen next, then by definition you’re guessing at what happens next. And that’s not a great way to run a business. And I know you guys don’t do that. And the successful people we know in this industry don’t do that. So, if we’re here to help speakers be better speakers, run better business models, it means replacing the hope that we have with something a little more consistent.

Taylorr: No, gee. Should we just end the show there?

Austin: I know, right? What a great line, replace the hope with something a little more consistent.

Taylorr: Yeah, of course. Of course.

Shawn: I’m going to tell you guys a hard truth, and this is something that it took me a long time to learn. When we lose a sale in speaking, we think it’s because we lost it to the competition because they’re going in a different direction, right? We think maybe it’s price, right? Maybe we lost it on price. We were too expensive or sometimes too cheap, right? Maybe that $5,000 keynote fee that we pitched, they were really looking for a $25,000 keynote speaker, we could have got the gig, but we priced it wrong. All of the reasons that we think we’ve lost a gig in the past is not for the reason that we think. It’s because we were hoping that what we did would work out in our favor. 

So, I’m going to tell you something, it’s not price, it’s not competition, it’s not market, it’s not COVID that kills sales. Hope is what kills sales in this industry, in any industry. And so, my mission now with Bulletproof Selling, and we’ll talk a little bit about that brand and what I do for sales teams in general, and speeches, consulting, everything else, as I help salespeople remove hope from how they sell. Help them identify the places where they’re hoping things are going to work out, they may not even be aware that they’re hoping in. And what do we replace that hope with? 

Well, it’s those systems. Just like we had in the military, there are systems we use that we learn to clear houses, to fire weapons, to conduct missions that keep us successful in the midst of stress, browns coming down range, all the crazy stuff we deal with. Well, there are systems that we can use as speakers, as salespeople and entrepreneurs to keep ourselves successful in sales as well. The platform that you guys offer is the umbrella that all of those systems can sit under. And so if you’re hearing this and you’re like, well, great, Shawn, I understand that systems are great, they work well in sales. 

The folks that you’re listening to this podcast from in Speaker Flow, they make their life’s mission to build the systems that you can then leverage, and they’ll help you customize the systems to your industry, to your business model, to your exact topic. So that when you’re out there in the field making sales calls you know what happens next on the platform. So, I’m just going to give a prop to you guys on that one, you helped me do that as well.

Taylorr: Thank you. Yeah. Well, we appreciate that. Thank you for the kind words. Yeah. Austin over there.

Shawn: I know, I know. Yeah. We got Austin crying. It’s okay.

Taylorr: I know. Well, it’s still pretty common for these shows. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. I love you, man. Okay, so there’s this transition that happened, right, in your speaking business? Where you went from this hope to I need a process to be. So, what that, at least, implies to me is that you didn’t have this database of hot leads ready to go, that are ready to buy from.

Shawn: I didn’t know what a hot lead was, man.

Taylorr: Right? So, there must have been some element of cold outreach involved.

Shawn: Oh, yeah. A lot of cold outreach.

Taylorr: I would imagine still a consistent effort in that. I don’t necessarily think that, maybe, goes away at any point in time. But I think a common myth that we hear is that, I don’t think, I know this is a thing that we hear constantly is that cold outreach isn’t effective for a small business; a speaker, a coach, a consultant. Can you speak to the reality of this based on your experience?

Shawn: Yeah, let’s talk about this. If you’re going to close a deal in the speaking industry, especially if you are a sub $25,000 speaker, which means you don’t have the bestselling book, you don’t have the big name brand recognition, you’re not a Daniel Pink, you’re not a Seth Godin, you’re not a Michael Jordan, you’re not a Bill Clinton, which is most of us fall in the not that category. There’s one thing that always has to happen before you get paid to take a stage, before they cut you that check. And it’s a conversation. And it’s a conversation that doesn’t happen on email. Okay? 

Again, if you’re that $25,000 speaker, you have bureau representation, they’ll close deals for you all day, where you just get told where to show up and you just start vomiting words and everybody loves it. Great. Most of us are not at that stage of our speaking business. We’re building to that perhaps, but we’re not there. So, if a phone conversation is the one thing that has to happen before a deal closes, why would you purposely extend your sales cycle by 8 months or 18 months because you’re afraid to pick up the phone? 

Okay. I’d rather find out that this is not a good fit, or you’re not looking for a speaker with a military background, or you need someone that just doesn’t meet Shawn’s criteria. I want to find that out today so that I don’t waste 18 months in emailing you and sending you LinkedIn messages and figuring out ways to send you cute marketing packages in the mail to try to get you to do one thing, which is get on the phone with me. So, let’s cut out the middleman in that situation, the 6 to 18 months that you’re otherwise going to wait. 

Let’s have a phone conversation today. And through systems I can very quickly figure out, is this a good fit? Are you still looking for speakers? When are you looking for speakers? How much are you going to pay your speakers? What does your audience need to achieve for you to consider this a success? And we can dive into the tactical sales questions that we ask on a phone call. But, yeah, why would you extend your sales cycle on purpose? I thought you were running a business and whether that business is to make money or to make money so you can have a better quality of life or more freedom, or you’re building an orphanage in Calcutta, whatever that overall mission is that requires you to have to generate revenue to keep the lights on. 

Why would you wait 18 months to achieve that mission when all you have to do is pick up the phone today? So, I only say that to say, the cold calling doesn’t work. It doesn’t work if you’re just reaching out to say, do you hire speakers? Yeah, that’s a crap question. Don’t ask that question because that’s a terrible cold call. But it’s the way that most speakers go about cold calling until they learn that there’s a better way. And the better way is to take your mission and make it focused on the event that you would like to speak at. What’s their mission? What are the things they’re trying to achieve? What’s their vision of success for their audience members? 

Make your mission about them. And people are strangely willing to talk to you because suddenly it’s not about you; it’s not about your life story of climbing Mount Everest on a pogo stick blindfolded. That’s a great story, but if I can’t relate that to how it’s going to improve the lives of my audience, I don’t care. And I’ve tracked 30,000 sales calls in this industry, reaching out to organizations, to events, to professional associations. Maybe I’m the best qualified person to tell the world what works and what doesn’t because I’ve failed 29,000 times, right? And I’m going to tell you that making it about you is a quick way to failure in cold calling in this industry.

Austin: I think it is so important to really understand the implication of what you just said. You just.

Shawn: Dive into it then. You break it down.

Austin: Your words. 30,000 attempts, 29,000 failures, right?

Shawn: Yeah.

Austin: I think that so much of people’s resistance to doing cold calling is there’s an expectation that you’re going to get an immediate result from doing that. And sometimes you will, because numbers work out that way. We’re talking about probability here, but the law of averages would say that you’re going to take 50 attempts to get one person that’s willing to have that real serious sales conversation with you. 50. And so, if you’ve not made a hundred calls and gotten two people to say, I’m interested in having this conversation with you, then you can’t say that it doesn’t work. Because failure is expected the majority of the time, you have to expect that the cold call isn’t going to work out the way that you want it to. 

And I’m sure that’s been your experience. You have so much experience; you teach other people how to do this. You’ve just said yourself, you’re probably the best qualified person to speak at the efficacy of cold calling in this industry, and I am certainly not going to argue that point. And is your expectation that when you get on the phone, they’re going to answer and be super excited to hire you on the spot every time now with that skillset and experience you have?

Shawn: Nope, still isn’t. Because until I learn what they’re trying to achieve, I’m not quite sure that I want to speak at their event. They may be pulling together a sales conference of young salespeople in the manufacturing industry, which is an industry that I slay in all day because they love military stories, right? So, let’s say that’s the event. But if they tell me, no, Shawn, our expectation is we want our salespeople to have more emotional intelligence, that’s the focus of our conference. As much as I’d love to be the person on that stage, that’s not my area of expertise, right? 

I’m the hammer and you’re looking for nice silk camisoles, right? Two very different types of subject matters that you’re after here. I can refer you to some emotional intelligence experts in the field of sales, but that’s not me. So, the job then is not to get a yes immediately, it’s to figure out what are they trying to achieve and am I a good fit? Am I in line with that? Am I passionate about it? And you might have to go through, as you said, a hundred phone calls before you get to those two, yeses, or those two, let’s have a conversations. And so, that’s the larger question then. 

So, let’s peel up from the 15,000 foot level, get to the 30,000 foot level on this. Why would I cold call in the first place? Why would I go through the effort of making a hundred calls only to get two conversations? That’s an important question that speakers need to ask. Because until you answer that question, you’ll never pick up a phone with confidence. So, I’m going to give you my answer, the one that I figured out after about 15,000 of these, and some of them were failures and some of them weren’t.

I looked at the speaking industry, I looked at my own business and I realized that if I was only going to run my business on referrals, so somebody sees me speak at a Kiwanis event, or I managed to land a keynote talk by hook, by crook, because I’m related to Aunt Ethel, who’s the meeting planner at that event. However that happens that I end up on a stage and there may be a couple of people in the audience that are really excited to hand me their business cards at the end of the event. You are not in control of your business in that model. You’re waiting for people to call you, to read that blog, to find your video on YouTube, to see your TEDx Talk, whatever that looks like. And I’m not saying that all that is wrong, right? 

Passive marketing is a beautiful way to generate new business, because it’s a lot easier to close, they’re already sold on you. But if you’re waiting for people to call you or to email you or to get on your website and fill out your have me at your event form, your business is in other people’s control. If you’re comfortable doing that because you have alternate sources of income, you’d really just prefer to be home 360 days a year, there are a lot of reasons why that’s a great business model. But maybe you’re like me, you have a mission to change the world in a specific way and you want all of the opportunities to get in front of people that you can and get paid for it. That’s the reason that you would cold call. 

Because even if I know I’m only going to generate two conversations, I’m taking the initiative on executing why I’m here as a human being, why I’m here as a CEO of a business, why I’m here to use the skillset that I have of communication to get on a stage and deliver that. That’s why you cold call. Otherwise, write all the blogs, do all the TEDx Talks, you’ll be waiting for people to take action. If you never take action, the success of your business will always be in someone else’s hands. So, that’s why it’s worth the effort to get a hundred nos to get to two or three yeses.

Austin: Here’s to that. Man, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Taylorr: Of course. Yeah. Well, this, kind of, leads me down another train of thought too, and we might be jumping slightly ahead, Austin, here in our myth busting, but I have to bring this up.

Shawn: You can go through them one-on-one, man, this is a good conversation.

Taylorr: One of the things that we hear so much is that, and I think that this is valid, I want to express that to everyone listening here, this is a valid concern. All of our time is valuable. But we hear a lot of the time that this is too time consuming, this isn’t worth my time, my time is better spent doing X, Y, or Z. So, my first question relating to the time that it takes to do this type of thing is what do you have to say to that? I think this plays into what you just said a moment ago, where you’re losing the predictability at that point. 

But how does somebody reorient their priorities from, it’s not worth my time to sell, not me the owner of this business and the speaker. I can’t fathom being an underling doing that type of work to, this is the highest priority thing I need to be doing in my business over pretty much everything else. How does that shift happen?

Shawn: Great question. At NSA, which is an organization that we’re all part of, they have people that have a really rare, kind of, conference tag on their name tag. And there are different colored tags with words on them that mean different things, are you a certified speaking professional, all of that fun stuff. Well, there’s a tag that’s green, it’s the Million Dollar Speakers’ Club. So, these are folks that are able to prove, it’s not just you say it, you have to show some tax returns and prove that you’ve earned gross million dollars in your business over a certain period of time. 

I find these people, because I know I’m going to learn from them because my business isn’t that million dollar a year level, I hope it will be soon, but it’s not there quite yet. But I grab them, I grab their hand to shake it and I will not let that hand go until I learn something that I can tactically implement. Create some, kind of, awkward conversations at first, but I always learn something, right?

Taylorr: Right?

Shawn: So, it’s funny, though, because I stopped doing this when I realized I was only getting the same answer from all the million dollar speakers; male, female, young, old, same answer all of the time. Because I ask them, well, what is the thing that I can tactically implement that you’ve found has changed your business? And it’s all about time. How they use their time. So, this is going to go right to your question. They say, Shawn, we only do three things at the million dollar level when we’re running that type of a business. 

So, if we’re all trying to emulate to be that million dollar speaker, maybe we should model, really; what these people are doing. What you can do if you’re a $5 a year speaker or a $500,000 a year speaker, a million dollar a year speaker, 10 million a year; it’s the same principle modeled across your business. We only do three things with our time. We create content, we deliver content, and we close deals. That’s it. And a few speakers were so adamant about the effectiveness of this that they were willing to share with me they really only do those three things. 

They realize that doing their own laundry took them 20 minutes a week and it didn’t involve creating content, delivering content or closing deals, so they outsourced their laundry washing and folding and putting away in their drawers. Because they realized 20 minutes a week might be $10,000, $20,000 in business. Why wouldn’t you pay somebody 50 or $150 a week to do that for you, right? It’s a great ROI, if I could use those 20 minutes more effectively. So, if the million dollar speakers are thinking like this, how do we apply that down at the $5 a year speaker? 

Maybe you’re just getting started or maybe you have a hundred grand in revenue because you have some consulting, you have some other stuff going on, but you want to grow the speaking side of your business. Why is it worth your time? Ask the greater question of why you’re in business in the first place. It’s probably not just to make money, because otherwise you wouldn’t be in the speaking industry, you’d be trading futures or you’d be managing hedge funds. That’s a great way to make money, right? If just money in the bank was all you cared about. 

My guess is you have a passion for helping a group of people solve a problem. That’s probably why you’re in this business and added benefit; you likely are a good communicator, all right? But you have a passion for helping a group of people solve a problem or reach their goals faster, right? However you want to attack that. If that’s the case, why would you not take every opportunity throughout your work week to deliver on that mission? Keeping in mind that you’re not always going to be on a stage to deliver that mission. 

If reaching out to people that you know are organizing events that could get you on a stage and you know that you might be able to help that meeting planner solve a problem for that specific group of people, you are fulfilling your mission for why you’re in business. So, why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to do that? I get that writing blogs is fun because there’s zero chance of rejection, because it’s on your website. No one’s going to tell you, no, we can’t publish that one. It’s not to our high standard of quality. It’s your website, publish all you want. Linkedin is the same way, right? 

Put all you want out there. But if your mission is to change the lives of a group of people, to help them be better, faster, more efficient at whatever; why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to do that? Have a conversation. Because all they can do, the worst that’s ever happened, and, again, 30,000 sales calls in, the worst that’s ever happened to me is someone’s hung up the phone. And I have a few ways of having fun with even that. So, it’s why I’m here, right? 

I’m here in this business to make a positive difference in the lives of a group of people and I know who that group of people is and the difference that I make, so why wouldn’t I take every opportunity to generate the chance to do that? So, at the end of the day, whether I’ve made sales or not, I can still look at my day and my business and my time and I can say I was successful.

Austin: Yeah.

Taylorr: Yeah.

Austin: You touched on something at the end there that I’m curious to get your opinion about. I think a lot of people don’t feel like they have the words to even explain what they do well enough. Do you think that a barrier that people have a hard time getting past as it relates to this is that they’re not clear about how they’re solving problems or who is the best fit to have those solved for?

Shawn: Oh, sure. Yeah. And it took me a while to figure this out; again, thousands of sales calls where I realized maybe I shouldn’t call somebody up and say, Hey, I’m a speaker, do you need some of that? Because I say, well, even the janitor can talk. So, even the person that gets paid the least in this company can communicate enough to put the sentence together. And if we need a speaker, there’s a Toastmasters club down the road and they’ll do it for free. So, why would we pay you? Right? 

If we’re positioning ourselves as a commodity, which is what calling yourself a speaker is right out of the gate, then, yeah, you should be paid like a vendor, which means you’re going to have to submit an RFP, you’re going to have to go through eight layers of approval and maybe you’ll get hired 18 months down the road if we decide that you’re the cheapest option, right? That’s a terrible way to run a business as a straight vendor, as a commodity provider. So, what I learned to do is not position myself as a speaker. Think of yourself as a solution provider. What is the solution that you provide? How do you present that in a way that gets attention? And it’s going to be very dependent on the people that you’re reaching out to. 

So, if I’m reaching out to just meeting planners, then you have to position yourself as a solution to a problem that they have, which is providing specific skillset education at their event, or creating an inspiring moment that gets people pumped up and ready for whatever else they’re going to learn at the conference. If I’m reaching out to a VP of sales, I’m not going to say that I’m producing inspirational moments because that’s not anywhere on their list of concerns. Their KPIs don’t involve inspirational moments. Their KPIs involve getting their people to reach goals, right?

So, it depends on who you’re reaching out to and understanding a little bit about what they’re concerned about. And if you want to dive down the meeting planner path, got a lot of experience there, I can tell you exactly what they’re concerned with and how to position oneself. But, yeah, the idea that if I’m reaching out as a speaker or a podcaster or an author or a consultant, every single one of those is a commodity. But if I reach out and I say, I can solve this specific problem that I know is costing you a pretty reasonable amount of money, you’ll get people’s attention even if they don’t end up hiring you. And all we need to do as speakers is get our foot in the door. 

And I’ve found more often than not, I can beat out all of the other people that are a lot more famous than me, that have a lot more bestselling books. I can get the gig instead of them because I’m the first person to get my foot in the door. Why? Because I’m picking up the phone.

Taylorr: That’s exactly right. Well, what I love about what you just said here, which I think, maybe went unsaid, is that you didn’t let the barrier of, maybe, not having the perfect way to present yourself get in the way of picking up the phone and learning through experience about what works and what doesn’t. And I think this is one of the things that prevents people from taking action is they think that some new website or some new messaging they land on, some sizzle reel or whatever, is going to finally give them that thing that’s going to allow them to reach out and close the deal every time. 

But we all know in this room here that the only way you’re really going to figure that out is through the trial and error and the experience and making fine adjustments, and we have to credit that iteration to the success that you’re having with your outreach. Because I’m not just positive.

Shawn: Oh, yeah. And there are so many speakers that we all know in this room that are really focused on the marketing side of their business. So, they’re waiting to get the perfect website, they’re waiting to get the perfect sizzle reel and they think that’s going to generate the gigs. And I’ve seen so many speaker businesses go under because of that reason. You have to keep the lights on somehow. Even a website ain’t free. 

So, something has to produce revenue. And if you’re only focused on the marketing side of your business, writing the blogs, getting the sizzle reel, getting the sexy website with all of the graphics and everything just right, you’re not on a stage, you’re not delivering the value that you have to the world. So, yeah, I’d say first let’s look at what are the things that are needed to keep my business operational and then build all of that other stuff when there’s spare time. Because it’s a lot easier to get hired with a video on your website, I’ll grant you, but if you have to produce revenue, it can be done without a video. 

It can be done by you picking up the phone, proving to them that you can carry a conversation and then use that opportunity to get the video you need for your website, even if it’s low tech. So, that’s the first part of that. Second piece is the iteration part that you mentioned. After your sales calls, and this is something that I did religiously in the beginning days before we, actually, started building great systems to use on the phone. I would, after that call ended, if I was, actually, able to reach a human, I would say, how could that have been better? What question did they ask that I wasn’t really confident in my answer? And how do I fix that? And that’s the iteration piece.

And so, maybe that is developing a five-point checklist that you make sure you want answered on your next call, where you reach a decision-maker. When are you having your event? What is the budget of that event? When are you deciding on a speaker? What are the challenges that you need solved? What is your industry going through? Who else are you considering hiring? There’s a whole list of questions that we learned to ask, but if I left that to chance, if I just picked up the phone and said, how are you doing today? I probably wasn’t going to remember all of those questions and they’re all critical. 

So, that iteration piece is learning after your mistakes. That’s why I said I’ve failed 29,000 times to figure out what are the thousand ways that work. It’s because I failed so much and not just fail and say, oh, I’m just going to go drink a bourbon, which is one way to deal with that problem. But a better way, in addition to the bourbon, is to sit down and say, what would I do differently next time? And then don’t just hope that happens. Put it into something that keeps it in front of you. And the platform that you guys run has a lot of different ways that we can talk about tactically to make that happen with sticky notes, with freeform fields inside of the CRM. 

All of the things that we know to do to keep all of that stuff in front of us so that when I’m making a call, I don’t have to think about what comes next or what is the next question that I need answered. It’s all right there.

Taylorr: That’s exactly right.

Austin: Yeah.

Taylorr: Man, beautifully said.

Austin: Yeah, that’s the whole point is you keep everything in one spot. And I, actually, am super curious to hear if you have your fields organized where you’re typing information in while you’re on the phone with them, I’m seeing some head nods. Is that really how you’re doing it, you’re at your computer typing and stuff?

Shawn: I don’t know, Taylorr, you helped me set it up, buddy. What do you think?

Taylorr: The briefest of answers.

Shawn: How much time did we spend getting it set up? Yeah, okay, so the short answer to your question, Austin, is yes.

Taylorr: It was beautiful amount of time, it was worth it.

Shawn: A gorgeous amount of time and I’m sure you loved every second of it. All right.

Taylorr: It was beautiful. I love it. Yeah.

Shawn: Yeah. So, it’s all engaging the things that we know work, right? Where they’re kept can be different depending on what you want your workflow to look like. But, yeah, the fields that I need filled out, I want to make sure they’re there, so that if this account comes up in front of me and it says, Hey, it’s been 45 days since you’ve reached out to these people or 30 days or whatever the cycle is that I want to make sure I’m in touch, that I have the information I need in front of me. 

What are the things that are great for us to have in front of us as speakers? What is the date of the event you’re calling about? What is the industry that you’re calling into? Because unless you know that you’re calling into the Widget Manufacturer’s Association, you’re just going to have a generic pitch, right? You’re going to have a generic conversation to be had. You’re going to have to get them to reveal who they are and what they’re about. And that’s a little too much to put on a busy meeting planner. But if I know that I’m calling into the widget manufacturers that are having an event in San Antonio on April 1st, 2024, and I have a fair amount of research done as far as who their speakers have been in the past. 

Why? Because it’s all publicly available information. Look at last year’s program lineup. I know they’ve brought in Waldo Waldman and Elizabeth McCormick who are also veteran speakers, they have military backgrounds. I could show up there and say, I know that I’m a good fit for your event because I know the type of speakers you’ve hired in the past and what they speak on. I know when you’re having an event, bonus for all of us, that date is clear on my calendar in 2024, and I have a fair reasonable amount of information on what your industry is going through right now. 

Suddenly, I’m having a professional-level conversation, not asking do you hire speakers and how much can you pay me? And do you need somebody that speaks on the magic of underwater basket weaving? The answer to all of that is.

Austin: That is a valuable skillset, though.

Shawn: I don’t have time for you. I’ve tried it that way and it doesn’t work.

Taylorr: That’s exactly right. Yeah. Okay. Holy cow. Okay, so I, just soapbox moment here. Now, you’ve heard, probably, not only in the speaking industry, but just as salespeople as a whole, there are a lot of excuses for not selling. So, for you personally, Shawn, what is the most aggravating excuse for not selling that you hear?

Shawn: There are so many good answers to that question, because they’re all aggravating and again, they all come back to the basic thing of you were hoping that would work out for you. I would say, yeah, time is definitely really high up there. I don’t have time for professional salespeople, where it’s their job to just sell. Content generators and content experts in the speaking industry have some other excuses like, well, I also have to produce content, I have these consultant clients I have to get on calls with, there are a whole bunch of reasons. 

But, yeah, I’d say time is right up there. Price is another one. I’m not the cheapest option and that for whatever reason, I can’t get down to whatever my competitors are willing to offer their services at, so I often get beat on price. That’s a whole bunch of crap and I have a few reasons, I can prove that. Because usually there’s somebody that’s getting paid more for your exact thing that you do by that organization and they’re delivering less, which is the most annoying thing, right? They’re not delivering as much as you, but they’re getting paid more, how does that work? It’s because you hoped you’d be able to close the deal. But, yeah, time and price are definitely big ones. Fit, in our industry, is huge as well, right? 

So, if I only speak to HR leaders about specific challenges that HR leaders have in transitioning senior-level leadership, which is a really niche topic, but that’s what’s all over my website. And I think that those are the only people that I can serve, then you’re only going to get hired for people to have that specific need, right? So, in our industry topic fit is a massive one as well. So, what I encourage people to do is take whatever topic you have and list out all of the solutions that, that provides to an organization, not just to a specific person, but to the organization as a whole. 

If you’re speaking to small business owners that are really not an organization, it’s just them and their dog, like that’s the entirety of the company. How do you make their lives better? And solutions now, not the specific features that you have. I help senior leadership transition in a more efficient and effective way. Or I speak on diversity and inclusion so that we can have more diverse workforces. Those are features, not benefits. What’s the benefit of a more diverse workforce? Lower employee turnover. You have the ability to target markets that you couldn’t target before, which means you have the ability to make more profit, increase revenue. 

Think of the things that organizations care about. Position yourself as a solution provider in those areas, rather than, I only help these people achieve these things. And you will be surprised at how wide the pool of prospects you have now is.

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