088: Win clients with speaking engagements with Gene Hammett

My guest on this week’s podcast, Gene Hammett, is an expert at growing business through speaking. He is also host of the Leaders in the Trenches podcast, which is focused on building authority through speaking engagements.

I had a great time talking with Gene. He has tons of knowledge and ideas to help you avoid the typical marketing “funnel frenzy” as he calls it. I learned a lot from this episode, and I hope you get a lot out of it as well.

Becoming an authority

Gene’s business is focused on helping marketing companies raise their own authority. He helps them understand their position in the market and how to use the stage to get high value clients.

A lot of people start a business and then wonder why they can’t get the meetings they want. But, the reality of it is that your audience isn’t booking meetings, because they have no clue who you are.

By taking the stage, you can get in front of people. You can become an authority. In fact, this is exactly what Gene did when growing his business. The more he started taking part in these speaking engagements, the less he had to deal with the “funnel frenzy.”

A lot of marketers rely on PPC, social media, and a lot of other tactics, but they neglect going after speaking engagements. But, these engagements are a vital way to separate yourself as an authority rather than just being a commodity. This, in turn, can allow you to not only have people coming to you for work, but also to be in a position to charge more for your service.  

A lot of people have tried speaking, but they get frustrated because it isn’t going anywhere. The problem almost always is that they are speaking where their ideal customer is not in the room. They get an opportunity to speak at a chamber or some small local networking group, but the lack of any lead generation starts to become debilitating. You can be doing a good job, but you are speaking to the wrong audience.

Build a list

Gene has an awesome strategy to avoid this roadblock and actually start targeting events that will reach your dream clients. He suggest reaching out to three of your best clients and asking them what conferences or events they are hoping they can attend this year… and why.

If you can get an idea of where your ideal clients are going, you can create a plan for where you need to go. If you can understand why they are looking at certain events, you can better understand the thinking of those you are hoping to reach.

Gene gives this assignment out to all of the companies he works with. It is a vital first step into getting out there. If you want to get these speaking gigs, you have to be proactive by creating a list from what you’ve learned. There are a lot of conferences and associations out there that have great opportunities.

One thing that often happens though is that people want to start writing their speech next. But, you really want to be researching the decision makers.

Research decision makers

When reaching out to try to get a speaking gig, the “hey look how great I am” email isn’t always the best tactic.

You need to research the decision maker of the event. This could be an event host, CEO, or someone who has the responsibility of gathering all of the speakers. Once you’ve identified that person, it is time to start building a relationship before actually pitching yourself.

Most of the speeches that Gene has gotten have come from a relationship that has been built and nurtured.

Check LinkedIn to see if you have any common connections.

Reach out to them in an email, not a pitch email, but an email that really does begin to build a relationship.

Sometimes, this can be difficult when there are no mutual connections and no context with the person you are reaching out to. But, Gene had some awesome suggestions of how to lead off the conversation.

One of these includes reaching out to them to let them know you really appreciate the conference and ask them if it would be okay for you to write an article, include them in a list, or write a blog about them. This approach allows the relationship to develop in a more natural way than a pitch would.

I’ve talked a lot before about how important it is to begin your outreach by providing value to your audience, and the same holds through when reaching out to try to land a speaking gig.

Delivering a great speech

In our interview, Gene told me about someone who came to him frustrated with the engagement they were getting with a certain speech.

The truth is that it’s not enough to give the speech you’ve always given. You have to connect with the audience in order to get them to move and engage with you in the way you are wanting.

So, how do you make a presentation that resonates?

According to Gene, a great speech is not one that shares information, but it shares insight. You don’t want to train the audience. By just training, you aren’t connecting to the heart and head of the audience in a way that is necessary to make a connection.

You want to tell them things that they already know. This allows them to know that you get them. In his speeches, he gets to share the pain and frustration of things he’s done, what he discovered, and how he got back up on his feet. You want to make sure your speech is written from a place of connection.

The other peace is on the delivery side. Be sure to make eye contact, have emotional contrast throughout, and take care in how you open and close. This is critical to really go inside the audience and make them say, “I’ve never seen it that way before, and I need to see how this applies to my business.”

Sales tales from the past

Before becoming the coach he is now, Gene worked in sales. We have a mutual connection who has mentioned to me that Gene is amazing when it comes to closing deals, so I had to ask him about it.

After working with the team for 4 weeks, Gene hadn’t gotten a sale on the books yet. When asked why, he let them know he came in with no pipeline, and all he was getting were crappy leads.

Then, he pitched an idea.

He saw an area where a lot of agencies leave money on the table. He asked for a list of all of the people who had told them no. He figured these people already knew who they were. He just wanted to see why they said no.

What proceeded involved Gene sorting through this list and figuring out who may be a good fit. He reached out and got some meetings on the books.

He came into one of the next company sales meetings saying that he wanted to sell an audit. With some reluctance, they agreed, and he began to make sales. In fact, out of that first batch of leads, he closed a $5,000 a month retainer.

The idea was that these audits were an easier sell than a huge product or service. And they can be differentiated enough to make them worthwhile. They can give a prospective client a clear idea of what the path forward is, and lead to the next level.

Sometimes it can be hard to sell an audit, but Gene had a great approach.

He would just ask the prospect what they are spending on PPC or SEO.

He would ask them how they are tracking results and what their knowledge was about PPC.

He would then ask if they trusted the company they were working with enough to believe they are doing everything they can to move your company forward?

And then, he would ask if they would you be willing to invest about 3% of what they are spending to make sure they are doing the right things. You know, a second opinion.

I saw this as a great way to frame the situation for the prospect and really show them the value of the audit. And, it works. Gene once sold a $15,000 a month retainer because he was able to sell an audit and make it valuable.

Final thoughts

Once again, I had a great time talking with Gene. I encourage you to begin figuring out what conferences or events your dream clients are attending and begin building relationships with decision makers.

And, as always, I hope you keep working without pants.


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