The phone was ringing incessantly…
I rubbed my eyes and looked at the clock. 6:12 a.m. Who could be calling at 6:12 a.m.?
I let it go to voicemail and rolled back over.
Another call came at 6:31. And another at 6:45.
Was this the new normal? My phone ringing around the clock?
It was after 7 am in the Central time zone and people were starting to show up at their offices.
…starting to show up and call me.
A few days earlier, I was in Texas and had secured my first big stage. Actually, it was 2 stages right next to each other on the calendar.
I was working with a speaker that had a message for educators, and we were thrilled at what these 2 stages would mean for our growing business… no more calling individual customers and trying to convince them to book us… we were going to where they were hanging out.
They were a Safe and Drug-Free Conference and a School Safety Conference, both in Texas. They were, in short, “dream stages.”
The events had gone really well, and a lot of people were looking to bring us into their schools. They loved what they heard at the conference and knew it would impact their students.
(Funny how the right message to the right audience at the right time can make all the difference. It can birth and grow an organization…)
Over the course of the next few weeks I had hundreds of highly-motivated, well-funded leads to follow up with.
I thought to myself, “this is really going to work…”
But I needed help. I had figured out how to crack the code of getting on dream stages but needed help on the administration and coordination side.
I had someone in mind to help me get started. She was sharp, a recent college grad, and I knew she needed a job. I sat down with her and explained the opportunity.
I told her how many leads I had coming in. Leads I couldn’t service. People were hungry for the message we had to offer, but there were not enough hands on deck to book, service, and administer them.
And, full disclosure, I made her an offer on the spot: 10% commission on programs sold.
For the short term, I knew I had enough leads that we could both work. I would continue to book “dream stages” and she could help service and book lead on the back end. She could also help build the systems (i.e., sales reports) and strategize around research for the next big dream stages.
She accepted, and in that next year she booked hundreds of thousands of dollars in stages… and also set up vital systems for our organization to grow.
Furthermore, I taught her everything she needed to know to book more dream stages. So she wasn’t an order taker for long… she quickly originated and closed her own leads.
This was working…
In the next round, we brought on 3 (yes, 3) more salespeople. They were all full-commission (10% of sales). They were also young, hungry, and anxious to book as many stages as possible.
Our team now consisted of me (Chief Rainmaker, unofficially), my first hire was still doing sales and admin, and 3 more sales reps.
Our main source of leads continued to be these “dream stages.” As this was the heartbeat of our business, we began calling these stages our “bread and butter.” This was what we went to when all else failed.
Running out of leads? Book a dream stage!
Don’t know who to call? Book a dream stage!
(Side note: this varies for your business. If your customers are entrepreneurs, then book yourself at entrepreneurial and business conferences. If they are teachers, book educational conferences… you get the idea. We will post our in-depth strategy on how we do this soon).
We had some turnover throughout the years, as does every organization. At our height, we had 9 salespeople on the phone selling over $6 million of stages… all for the same speaker. They had obviously grown beyond a “speaker” and had themselves become an “organization” with some serious traction in the educational space.
Here are the 3 steps to hiring and growing a sales team for your speaking business:
- Start with a booking assistant. This should be someone who is a go-getter, comfortable on the phone, can do some research, and start to build your systems. The easiest pay, in the beginning, is full-commission, and pay as much as you’re comfortable. 20-30% is standard, but if they help you get stages, you never would have had in the first place, start them higher than that. We cover this in a FREE training.
- Hire a motivated sales specialist. If your first hire was more admin/sales combo, make this one more sale driven. Someone you can train and mentor under you. Show them how to book the stages you want. Push each other; hold each other accountable. In that “round of 3,” I talked about, I had this guy that was a mini-me. He completely ran with the “bread and butter” idea and was eventually booking more “dream stages” than me. Well, almost. 🙂
- Rinse and repeat. Once you have the winning formula, grow your team as you are comfortable. For us, this is when we have generated too many leads and events to adequately follow up with. There is no set formula (though I wish there were). Start to divide up the country into regions, giving each rep a part to work with. (At one point we had multiple reps working all over the country… it was a disaster… everyone was fighting over leads and who “saw them first.”)
It’s definitely an art form. A lot of speakers today can get by with #1 on that list for a loooong time. That’s fine. You might not ever want a sales team or a team of speakers. No problem.
But a team of skilled assistants, researchers, and salespeople can help grow your MESSAGE and turn it into a MISSION. How cool is that?
Founder, Advance Your Reach