Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 28, 2008

Are You Missing this Most Underutilized and Effective Marketing Format?


Salespeople and business owners often overlook one of the most effective and quick ways to both establish themselves as experts in their field and generate a pipeline of quality prospects.

Most salespeople and small business owners are all too familiar with cold-calling; purchasing leads; sending out mass direct mail and email pieces; and using print, radio and TV advertising and other common methods of lead generation.  However, becoming a niche expert and taking that expertise on the road in the form of speaking to groups and organizations that cater to their prospects is seldom considered.

The natural fear of public speaking is a deterrent for many, but most salespeople simply have not considered the possibility.  When we think of a speaker, most of us envision someone with grand ideas speaking to the most crucial events of the day—or maybe someone who has lead an extraordinary life, regaling the audience with tales of high adventure.  If we do think of business experts as speakers, we tend to think of names such as Jack Welch, Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar or some other high-profile guru who commands tens of thousands of dollars per appearance.

Those sorts of people may be the most visible, but they are, in fact, the tiny minority of speakers.  Literally tens of thousands of organizations in the US need speakers on a regular weekly or monthly basis.  A large percentage of these organizations are actively looking for businesspeople that have a message that will appeal to the majority of their members—and you could be that speaker.

You need not be expounding on the evils of the Democratic takeover of Congress, or the how badly the Republicans have governed, or the great coming economic downfall of civilization as we know it.  You do not have to be a stand-up comedian or a storyteller on the level of Garrison Keillor.

Speaking for local groups and originations only requires you to have information that is relevant and interesting. 

A realtor client of mine became an expert in the minutiae of every neighborhood in her city and began speaking to groups about the transitions taking place in the city—which neighborhoods are on the verge of taking off, and which in decline.  Her presentation is laced with statistics but also stories and history, with fact and prediction. Within a matter of several months, she became the “go to” person when members of audiences she had spoken to began to think about buying or selling their home, because she is recognized as the expert on where to move, where to build and where to avoid.

Another client of mine, a business insurance broker, began speaking about the issues that businesses in his city face in terms of risk.  His presentation centers on crime, employee theft, and upcoming city ordinances that may affect business, and other, unexciting aspects of risk management.

Although he is a likable and entertaining man, his presentation is hardly worthy of an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.  Nevertheless, he has information that is of interest to other businesspeople.  Moreover, he, like the realtor, has become known as expert in his field.  Businesspeople come to him first because of their perception of his extraordinary knowledge of both business risk and how to manage it and the local issues facing businesses.

Neither of these people is exceptional in the sense that they have led extraordinary lives or have mythical business prowess.  In fact, the business agent has only been in the insurance business for a couple of years.  However, both recognized the power of getting in front of groups and presenting themselves as experts.  Their average audience is fewer than 40 people.  Their average talk is less than 20 minutes, and each speaks less than four times a month.  Nevertheless, if they speak three times per month to an average audience of 35 people, they are in front of about 1,200 per year as “the” expert in their field.  Moreover, many of these people are potential prospects.

How do you become the expert?  First, find something about your business that will be of interest to a broad range of potential customers.  Concentrate on areas that could give your audience information on potential risks or opportunities that could expand or enhance their life, open new doors, or increase or protect their wealth.  Once you have found an interesting niche, connect it to your local market.  The realtor deals only with local issues and demographics, but the insurance broker mixes general risk statistics with local business-related issues.  He takes mundane national statistics and brings them home, to a more personal level.

Do your homework on both your subject and your public-speaking skills.  Hone your presentation so that you are confident and do not have to speak with notes.  Work in front of a mirror until you have managed to eliminate all of your nervous movement.  Go over your presentation—both verbally in front of a mirror and in your mind as you drive—until it becomes second nature.  Check and recheck facts and figures.  And, join the Toastmasters.  Most of us probably think of the Toastmasters as simply an organization that will improve our public speaking skills.  It certainly will.  However, it will improve your leadership skills also, not to mention your interpersonal skills in general.  Most every community has at least one Toastmasters club within reasonable distance.  In addition, in a city of any reasonable size, you’ll probably have several options of meeting days and times as there will probably be several clubs from which to choose.

Then, once you have mastery over your subject and yourself, get the word out to groups, associations and organizations where you can get in front of potential prospects.  Send a self-promotion package and follow up with a phone call.  As you begin to set speaking engagements, more will follow.

Keep your material fresh and up-to-date.  Look and act like a professional.  Within months, you’ll have gained the reputation of an expert, the image of the guru, and the self-confidence to match.
Speaking to relevant groups can literally change your business.  Over time, you can create a steady flow of prospects coming to your door seeking your expertise and guidance.  Getting in front of real prospects is key to success.  Getting in front of them as the recognized expert puts you on a different level from your competition.  Far more effective than cold calling, direct mail or advertising, speaking gives you the opportunity to connect, to educate, and to impress your prospects in a format that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere. 

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2 Comments »

  1. Thank you for your comments on public speaking and how it can help your business. I joined Toastmasters so I could be better at speaking and improve my consulting business. Since public speaking is the biggest fear most people have, I feel Toastmasters is terrific for anyone to over come those fears although I will have to say I am biased since I have just become VP education of the my local chapter!!

    Comment by John D — January 28, 2008 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  2. I agree. Seeking out opportunities to speak is a great way to market your company or yourself. In addition, if you have a unique area of expertise, you can even make money speaking at conferences and kickoffs.

    It’s important to have strong presentation skills. You cannot learn to present by reading a book or blogs. You need to get up on your feet.

    Here are some options to improve your skills:
    1) Get some training. There are sure to be workshops in a major city near you. Our company offers one workshop every quarter, if you live in the SF Bay Area or are open to travel.
    For more info go to: http://www.hendersongroup.com/art_pres_info.asp
    2) Practice regularly. Volunteer to speak at work. Get up to speak at meetings or family events.
    3) Join Toastmasters. It is a great place to practice, thus enhancing your skill level and confidence.

    Not only can speaking expose more prospects to your services, it will enhance your life generally. Public speaking has had a huge effect on my general sense of confidence in every social situation.

    Comment by Terry Gault — February 1, 2008 @ 8:18 pm | Reply


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