Throughout the speaking industry, one problem is becoming more and more prevalent for professional speakers and their businesses: time. After all, as a speaking business owner, you’re not just responsible for speaking gigs. You’re also expected to act as your own operations, marketing, and sales manager for your business. As a result, for many speakers, the thought of working on your business rather than in it has become a bit of a dream. That said, if there’s anything we at SpeakerFlow have learned in working with speakers, it’s that this can definitely be changed. One of the simplest ways to do this is by offloading your work to others, whether they’re full-time or part-time, and our first recommendation, when it comes to offloading sales, is hiring a speaking agent.
If you haven’t worked with a speaking agent in the past, hiring one can be challenging. This is partly because they can be few and far between. However, it’s also because you don’t know what to look for when you haven’t seen an experienced speaking agent in action. That’s why, in this guide, I’m going to outline the five top things to look for when you’re ready to hire one.
Please note that although this covers the five most important qualities of a good speaking agent, there are plenty of other tips and tricks to keep in mind. For further and more personalized advice, feel free to connect with our sales guru, Max Warren! With decades of sales experience, he’s a font of knowledge when it comes to hiring a speaking agent. Plus, he advised on this blog, so he knows his stuff. 😊
1. Self-Motivation & Natural Optimism
To start, it’s crucial that, when hiring a speaking agent, you look for someone that is naturally motivated and optimistic. This is important largely because of the harsh nature of sales and the number of times a salesperson faces rejection. Within the speaking industry, this is especially true because of the steep competition. If you speak on leadership, what makes you different from the thousands of others that do the same? If you’re pitching to corporate clients, what return can you offer that’s better than the other speakers approaching them? These questions are just two examples of push-back a speaking agent can receive in a day on the job.
That brings me to the second reason to look for a naturally optimistic speaking agent: patience. Hearing “no” or having to overcome leads’ objections all day can be emotionally draining, even for experienced salespeople. Take it from two of our founders, Taylorr Payne and Austin Grammon! After working in direct sales and building sales teams for several years, there’s a reason they take everything with a grain of salt and don’t let a single cranky customer get them down. When you let a lost sale get to you, it prevents you from closing all of the other sales you would have made if you approached them as your authentic, positive self!
In the same way, by hiring a self-motivated agent with a positive attitude for your own business, you not only ensure they’ll start the job on a good note on day 1. You also set your speaking business up for success. After all, you need someone that takes the approach of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
2. Commitment to Learning
In addition to positivity, look for a speaking agent that loves learning. Like self-motivation, commitment to learning allows a salesperson (or any team member, really) to tackle problems with a solution-oriented approach. For example, take one of the current problems affecting the speaking industry, the COVID-19 outbreak. For many speakers, the coronavirus has sparked an epidemic of panic for their businesses as well as their health. However, while concern is definitely justified, it’s important not to panic and to see the necessary precautions as a way to switch gears rather than shut everything down. Want to work from home so you’re less exposed? Had an international event cancel because of the virus? Take it as an opportunity to streamline the inner-working of your business, so you can come out of this challenge ahead! It’s all about staying calm and taking each obstacle as it comes.
That said, global pandemics aside, hiring a speaking agent committed to learning new things doesn’t just come in handy when things go wrong. It also means that, when things go well, you’ll have a team member asking, “What can we do to continue our upward climb?” From an analytical standpoint, this attitude is key to continued growth and making sure tasks or mistakes within the team don’t fall through the cracks. Additionally, from an emotional standpoint, learning new ways to grow and work together is one of the keys to a long-lasting, happy, and productive team.
In short, the more your speaking agent (and your team, for that matter) can learn to love learning, the more your speaking business can grow. Plus, when you initially hire a speaking agent, one that loves learning will put in some extra time upfront to learn your systems and processes, making them quicker to train. Win, win!
3. Comfort With Sales-Related Technology
On top of learning new systems, a good speaking agent will also be ready to learn new technology. However, ideally, the speaking agent you hire should already be comfortable with common sales tools. A few examples of these tools include autodialers, like Kixie or Dialpad, as well as CRMs, like SpeakerFlow CRM or Agile. By mastering these tools ahead of time, not only are you saved time in training them. There’s also the possibility that they’re better at using sales technology than you.
For example, let’s pretend you’ve managed your sales using only a simple CRM, like karmaSpeaker, and your cell phone. Although you’re not opposed to technology, you’ve seen success with the method you’re using now, so you’ve stuck with it. Hiring a speaking agent allows someone with a fresh perspective to look at your sales process and say, “I could do that in half the time if I use this app for it.” It might mean changing your CRM or subscribing to some new tools, but the return on investment can be huge.
Our own sales expert, Max, experienced this first hand as a speaking agent in years past.
“One speaker I worked with never connected with anyone on LinkedIn before meeting them in person first. It wasn’t a new tool, but it was a way to use a common platform in a new way. Plus, after I started putting this into action, we immediately got more engagement and deeper conversations on LinkedIn. The take away is that leveraging tech is important, especially when it facilitates building a real relationship.”
Likewise, in your own speaking business, looking for a speaking agent that knows their tech (as well as their sales techniques) can mean a huge boost in sales you didn’t even know was possible.
4. Understanding of Business Development
The same potential applies to networking in your speaking business. Although your speaking agent should, above all, have a solid understanding of sales, they also need to understand the importance of business development. In the speaking industry, more than any other, connections are key. Think of how many times you booked a speaking gig as a result of a referral from another speaker or from a past client. How about the number of clients you’ve booked more than once? All in all, it’s not about what you know as much as it’s about who you know.
When hiring a speaking agent, look for someone that already understands this. Within our own client base, one of the most common scenarios we’ve seen is the “Not now but later” scenario. This situation arises when an event planner gives you a “no” for this year’s event, but you know you’re a good fit for their company. Period. In cases like this, maintaining a connection with that meeting professional can mean an easy “yes” from them before next year’s event. That way, you don’t have to completely write them off and find another lead to pursue. You just have to stay in touch with them, so they’re primed to hire you next time around.
As far as sales go, this is just one example of the importance of business development for a speaking agent. Even though they’re not necessarily responsible for business development, they do need to understand when and why their ability to connect is important. They also need to know how business development can lead to sales, in the future if not right away.
5. Willingness to Take Accountability
Last but not least, look for a speaking agent that is willing to take accountability. Look for someone that understands why continually improving their sales process is important. Whether you know it or not, your sales process as it exists currently isn’t perfect. In time, the speaking industry will fluctuate, sales tactics will change, and the key aspect of a speaking agent that will set them (and your speaking business) apart is their ability to adapt. Because of this, it’s important to hire someone that is willing to make changes where needed and admit where they could have done better. In the end, not only will that make for a more honest and reliable work relationship between you and your speaking agent. It will also ensure greater attention to detail in your sales process and the ability to stay ahead of the curve in speaker sales.
Hopefully, whether you’re hiring a speaking agent now or looking to do so in the future, this guide gives you a leg up. That way, you’ll be able to efficiently narrow down your list of candidates and confidently hire the best one for the job. 👍
For more information about agents for speakers as well as the cost of hiring one, check out our companion blogs listed below.
Additionally, for a free, personalized meeting with the SpeakerFlow team, schedule a call with us! We’re all about speaking business growth, and if you’re looking for more recommendations for hiring a speaking agent, we’ve got you covered. 🙂