By Robin Robins, President, Technology Marketing Toolkit, Inc.
According to the Book of Lists, public speaking produces more fear and anxiety than death. However, for the business owners and sales professionals who overcome this fear, they quickly discover that standing up in front of a room to deliver a seminar is one of the fastest, least expensive ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and generate considerable increases in revenue, profits, and new clients.
3 BIG Reasons Why Seminars are Such a Powerful Way to Promote Your Services to New Clients
When done right, a seminar can land you a number of big-ticket sales in a very short period of time. On multiple occasions, I have used a 90-minute presentation to secure well over $100,000 in signed contracts.
Compared to other methods of marketing like cold calling, direct mail, and trade shows, delivering a seminar will pay off far greater and in a much faster time frame. There are 3 big reasons for this…
First, a person who takes the podium is automatically considered an expert that has something worth saying. This gives them a little bit of a celebrity status in the eyes of the audience, which automatically translates into some level of respect and recognition. Positioned this way, attracting qualified clients becomes infinitely easier than even the best cold prospecting campaign.
Second, having heard you speak, people feel as though they know you personally, and are more confident about hiring you. This trust cannot be established as quickly or effectively through traditional marketing or cold calls.
Third, you have a captive, attentive audience who wants to hear what you have to say – the ideal target market. The average person receives over 3,000 marketing messages a day. With so much noise, prospects have become very good at shutting out marketing messages; however, when someone signs up to hear you speak at an event or for a seminar you are delivering, they are not only demonstrating a serious interest in what you are talking about, but they are also actively paying attention to you during your entire presentation. This makes for the perfect selling situation.
How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking
The first hurdle to overcome is your fear of speaking in front of groups. Fortunately, the more you speak the easier it becomes, but this is a chicken and egg situation; if you are too afraid to speak, how do you get the practice you need to become a fearless force in front of a room? Your self confidence and presentation style GREATLY impacts your ability to influence an audience, so this is a necessary skill to develop if you are going to deliver seminars.
If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend starting out by speaking to small groups of people you know (clients, associates) or by joining Toastmasters (www.toastmasters.org). This will help to get you comfortable in front of a room full of people.
Another way to overcome your fear and deliver a great presentation is to thoroughly prepare. Most speakers’ fear comes from a feeling of looking foolish or unprepared; therefore it makes sense that the more prepared and practiced you are, the less nervous you will be. This is a die-hard rule that all really good presenters live by. Unfortunately, most people won’t invest any time in preparing and practicing their presentation – and that is why MOST speakers are lackluster, boring, and ineffective at selling anything from the front of the room.
How should you prepare? I recommend scripting your entire presentation, practicing on your own or in front of staff, friends, or colleagues, and memorizing your presentation. This IS a lot of work, but it will dramatically improve your effectiveness in front of a room and it will ease your nerves. Most people wait until the last minute to plan their presentation, then slap together a few PowerPoint slides and wing it. This is a huge mistake. In a lot of ways, speaking is like acting. Actors do not wing their performances. They memorize their lines and practice – in character – over and over again until it is perfected.
Delivering a speech when you are unprepared can have the opposite effect that you want and can damage your reputation by appearing disorganized, nervous, and uninformed. Once you become a professional, polished speaker, you will be able to command attention and respect from large groups of people, and the financial benefits will certainly follow.
Clarifying Your Agenda to Absolutely Guarantee Sales
Once you’ve made the decision to add seminars and events to your marketing plan, the next step of clarifying your agenda is absolutely critical to your success. Specifically, what is the outcome or result you want to produce from delivering this presentation? Or, how are you going to measure the success of your presentation? The more you crystallize your goal(s) for the presentation the better your chances of making it happen.
As a business owner or sales person, your primary goal should be to produce sales, not to make people laugh or write good evaluations. To that end, your presentation must sell. As obvious as this seems, many people don’t prepare their presentations to sell because they either don’t know how, or they are too afraid to ask for the order and compel the audience to take action on what they are offering.
All too often I’m approached by clients who want me to help them create a marketing plan or letter to follow up with people who recently saw them speak at a seminar. The problem is, creating a sales letter to follow up with people who recently saw you speak and didn’t buy is like closing and locking the gate after the horse got out. Your absolute BEST chance of making a sale or getting the prospect to at least commit to taking the first step forward is at the event. That is why you have to clarify your agenda and make your presentation sell the attendees on taking action (buying).
Let’s suppose you want to sell your audience managed services. With that goal clearly focused in your mind, you want to craft your entire presentation to sell your audience on the value of managed services.
You would have to establish WHY a business needs regular maintenance and monitoring for their network. You would want to provide case studies and testimonials of other businesses you have helped that demonstrate tangible business results. You would need to establish credibility for your company. You would want to clearly demonstrate why the services you are selling are superior to other managed services plans being offered by other consultants. You would want to bring up and overcome common sales objections. You have to clearly define the measurable and tangible results this system is going to deliver, and ideally, guarantee them. And then finally, you would close your presentation with an offer for a free network audit or some other valuable service that would only be made available to those in attendance who take action that day. Obviously you aren’t going to get them to sign a contract right there on the spot, but you have to at least close them on the next step.
Once your prospects get back to their respective offices, they’re out of the buying mode. They’ve already forgotten half of what you said during your presentation.
They’ve also had a cooling off period where many of them will change their mind about being interested in the first place – classic buyers’ remorse. If you wait to try to sell them on taking the next step at this stage, you’re right back to making a cold call where you have to battle through voice mail and secretaries to get them to take your call. Then you have to get them warmed up and interested (again), and then sell them on the meeting or whatever you determine the next step to be.
That is why it’s absolutely critical to have a strong close at the end of ANY presentation. If you don’t get them to take action while you’ve got their full attention, you’ve lost the opportunity.
Why “Consultative” Sales Presentations Don’t Work
Most presenters put on a very plain vanilla, educational seminar with lots of product facts and features. At the end, they have one slide that contains their phone number, e-mail, and web address with the non-offer of calling them if you are interested. Using this wimpy close they should feel lucky if they get anyone interested, much less buying.
I have been delivering presentations for the purpose of marketing myself for over 15 years to various audiences. Before I changed my presentation to contain a strong close at the end, I was generating a big fat zero in revenue. My nice “consultative” sales pitch was not ruffling any feathers, but it was not generating any sales or new clients either.
Since changing my presentation to contain a strong close, I’ve generated millions of dollars in sales for my products and services WITHOUT having to make follow up calls and presentations. These sales are already made and in my hand by the time the seminar is over. That is a vast difference from getting a handful of business cards to follow up on and spending weeks or months chasing them down, trying to get them to buy.
I also want to point out that my Toolkit is NOT the only product or service I’ve sold from the front of the room, so don’t think for a moment that “my business is different” and that you can’t use the exact same strategies to sell managed services, network upgrades, CRM systems or any other IT service or product you want to sell.
The Silent Killer of Sales Presentations
One of the biggest stumbling blocks you are inevitably going to have to overcome is hidden, negative beliefs or feelings about asking for the order and compelling your audience to buy. This is not as easy as it sounds and it will take practice to overcome. Even seasoned, professional speakers have to deal with this.
If you have internal conflicts about asking people to buy from you, using a strong close, promoting yourself, or if you feel uncomfortable when asking a prospect to write you a check, you better get over it quick or you’ll waste your time delivering seminars or any other marketing for that matter. These beliefs will negatively impact your ability to attract new clients and persuade them to buy.
If you know you have issues around selling and asking people to buy, I recommend that you get and read the book Zero Resistance Selling by Maxwell Maltz. Justifying these negative feelings by telling yourself, “that’s just not me,” or “that’s just not the way we do things,” or “we haven’t had to use this in the past and aren’t going to start now,” are excuses that prevent you from addressing the real, underlying problem of a negative attitude towards selling and asking people to buy from you.
After all, if you truly believed in the value you bring — if you wholeheartedly believed that a client would be better off buying your services than not buying your services and you know you will deliver on your promises — then why the heck wouldn’t you do everything possible to get them to buy?
With that said, you CAN certainly deliver a presentation that provides great information, happy attendees, and sales at the same time; but until your bank starts accepting good evaluation forms as a form of currency, I would recommend that you work on closing sales as your main agenda.