How heavily do you rely on referrals to keep your calendar booked?
For many professional speakers, referrals are an absolute key source of business. The idea that these might dry up, or go through a quiet spell, could be quite detrimental to the health of their business.
You might be fortunate and find that many of your referrals “just happen,” but a more reliable strategy is to create those referral opportunities for yourself.
So how can you ensure that you keep a steady pipeline of good referrals?
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#1. Gather feedback
Hopefully you’re already in the habit of gathering presentation feedback as a way to help guide improvements in the future. But what does feedback have to do with referrals?
One primary concern of many companies that book speakers is seeing an ROI from the engagement. Did booking you as a speaker create the value they were hoping for?
When you think about it, corporate gigs are usually arranged because the company has some kind of goal they’d like to accomplish by booking you. As for conference gigs, they want to know that having you up on stage checked the boxes for their audience so that they come back next time.
So, you should tell them how you added value.
Here’s a neat tip from professional speaker Hugh Culver: ask the “one thing” question.
“For everyone who comes to talk with me, buy a book, or ask a question, I always, always ask them what is the one thing in my speech that made a difference.”
When he asks this question, people pause. They consider that “one thing” and then, as Culver describes it, they give him the best free market research possible.
“If they say they learned tips they can use – great! I’ll include more of them.
If they tell me they feel more empowered – great! I’ll spend more time on motivation.
And if they tell me one lesson made all the difference – great! I’ll promote that lesson more.”
You could take that feedback and simply use it to craft your future presentations, or, you can do what Culver does and share your findings with your client. Make sure your client knows of any evidence you have that what you are doing works.
You can assume that some people will naturally refer to you once they have seen you in action and had great feedback, but this is not something to leave to chance…
Gather feedback from audiences and present that as success to your client #speakertips Click To Tweet
#2. Ask for the referral
Asking for the referral is an obvious step, but it’s important to know how to ask the right way. Joanne Black has become legendary among sales practitioners with her approach to proactively seeking out referrals. The No More Cold Calling founder believes that getting referrals shouldn’t be a lucky break or afterthought, but a key part of generating business.
Black says that many people in sales think that they have to wait until after closing the sale to ask, but this isn’t true. You can ask at any time, ideally after delivering some kind of value (see our first tip above!). You’ll know you’ve delivered something, because the person is probably saying “thank you.”
For many professional speakers, there is an aversion to the word “sales,” but in the end, you are running a business. This means that it is valid to look at the advice of sales professionals for building your business. Ask for that referral!
A good approach, rather than simply asking “do you know anyone who could benefit from my services?” is to be more specific. Who exactly is your ideal customer? Describe them to the client and ask if they know anyone who matches the description.
To take it a step further, do some homework on the client and find out what you can about who they are connected to already. For example, you might look at their connections on LinkedIn – are any of them a good match for your services? You may be able to work a warm referral to the person into your conversation.
#3. Keep in regular contact
You’ve got stacks of business cards from events and emails in a database, but are you optimizing your contact management to build your business and get referrals?
A common problem in many businesses is lack of consistency. They have a vast network of contacts, but they don’t stay in touch. Or, when they think of it (or suddenly have a need to book the work), they send an email out of the blue.
The problem is, if you don’t regularly stay in contact, the relationship easily fizzles out. When your email arrives in their inbox, they don’t remember who you are and mark it as spam.
There is a better way of ensuring that you keep up contact, and that’s by using a good CRM tool (check out KarmaCRM here) to manage those contacts. Develop a regular program of keeping in touch, such as through an email newsletter. At the same time, make sure you keep updated information on your contacts. Where did you meet? Where are they and what do they do? Try to keep information updated as anything changes.
#4. Make yourself shareable
What is it that makes people want to share your work or your content? Whether this is your social media posts, blog posts, or links to something else you have produced, think about what is most appealing to people.
The idea is that the more shares you get, the more visibility you have and the better the chance of those word-of-mouth referrals. Make it easy for people to share your content by producing posts regularly and engaging with people on your online channels.
Importantly, the idea is that you deliver value somehow, and aren’t afraid to give some away for free. For example, what if you had video snippets of yourself, delivering a quick message? This would serve to highlight your speaking ability as well as the content you deliver. Shareable quotes or thought-provoking articles might also be good options. You can experiment to see what appeals the most to your particular audience.
#5. Have a hook
Your “hook” is your point, or engaging ideas which reel in your audience. These might include exercises which get people involved, memorable stories, or thought-provoking ideas. You have to grab your audience within the first minute of your presentation so that you can keep them interested enough to stay tuned.
What does this have to do with getting referrals? Well, similar to making yourself shareable, having a hook that engages the audience or is relatable for them is a good way to spark word of mouth referrals.
If you have something that is provoking enough, people will tweet out your quotes and stories, or still be talking about them with others in the days after the event. Think about the “meat” of the presentation you deliver, but also consider the punchy lines which are easy to repeat and eminently shareable.
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What will you be doing to make sure that your referral pipeline remains stacked?
Sales is a critical aspect of a professional speaking business, and every decent salesperson will tell you that referrals need to be a focus. It’s not just about talking to anyone and everyone, you also want to make sure that you are being referred to people who are your ideal client.
Have you thought about exactly what that ideal client looks like? This might be a good place to start, to guide your referral strategy. Consider who it is you are looking for and be able to articulate that to your clients.
We’d love to hear any good strategies you use for landing referrals – let us know in the comments below…