When times are difficult or uncertain, the speaking industry can take a hit. To build your speaking business during tough times, start by asking what’s within your control. What can you do as a speaker?
You need a message that resonates enough, even in tough times. Your message should convince companies to say “We need to pay for your services to help us get through these tough times.” This is what I recently discussed with Carl Seidman, NSA-IL member and trusted business advisor specializing in financial planning & analysis (FP&A), business strategy, and finance transformation.
Build Your Speaking Business During Tough Times with New Offerings
When times are good, companies are loose with their spending. When times are bad, they are not. To build your speaking business during tough times, you need a much better value proposition than just being “a good speaker.”
Developing a strong value proposition starts with understanding what a prospect is truly struggling with. You can understand that by asking strong questions, not in a “salesy” way, but in a consulting or counseling way. Discover why they’re hurting, what they need and what would make their situation better. Then, based on what you hear from them, redesign your pre-COVID offering to give them what they need now.
What many speakers do wrong is just repackage old stuff. For example, leadership speakers think everyone needs leadership advice. So they just change the title of their speech to “leadership in times of crisis” and alter a few lines.
By asking powerful questions, you can redesign — not just repackage — your offering or create a new offering. A package custom-tailored to their needs will help clients overcome obstacles and get through the tough times faster.
For example, Carl’s expertise lies in training about how to manage a company’s financial issues and how to manage a company as a whole. Carl could have renamed an existing program to “How to manage a company in a pandemic.” Instead, he created brand-new programs called “How to manage cash while times are tough” and “How to forecast for the short term instead of the long term.” Now his packages meet the current needs of his clients. If you have relationships with clients, what they needed a year or two ago isn’t what they need now. The relationship is there, but the needs are very different.
How to Maintain Relationships During Tough Times Without Being “Salesy”
Another proven way to build your speaking business during tough times is selling again and/or more to existing clients.
Carl suggests reaching out to existing clients to ask how they’re doing and how you might be able to help. Listen to them more than you talk about yourself. Connect them with someone they could benefit from talking to.
Since times have changed, Carl suggests reaching out to people that, years ago, you might have considered to be competitors. If you have created entirely new packages, your offerings are now going to be different than theirs. You might be able to refer each other business, becoming collaborators instead of competitors.
Those points mean that you are playing the “long game” by building and maintaining relationships. You become someone they know, like and trust instead of someone who’s just going to sell to them.
When it comes to networking in general, share information about what you are doing, what you’re looking for and what types of people could help you. You never know who the person that you’re talking to knows. Create a “marketing ask” that’s as clear as possible and put it out there during conversations. Be sure to make networking a two-way street. Ask the other person what they’re doing, what they’re looking for and who they need to know. People that give tend to get value in return.
Key Advice to Build a Speaking Business During Tough Times — and Good
Whether you want to build your speaking business during tough times or in good, consistency is important to build and maintain momentum.
Keep momentum up by understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing rather than just “feeling busy.” What does “feeling busy” look like? You could have a day where you’re on eight Zoom calls, and you’re tired at the end of the day. But then you look at the substance of those phone calls and whether or not they drove your business forward, and you come up with nothing. To avoid that situation, be intentional about who you give access to your calendar and your time. Make sure there is a strong reason for the call and it’s not just a call for the sake of saying you had a call.
When deciding where to spend your time, make sure it’s something you enjoy, care about and that returns some kind of value to your business. For example, creating content could be a better investment of time to build your speaking business during tough times.
Be very mindful of how the world and your market have changed. Don’t expect that it’s just going to come back and that you can wait it out. Don’t be afraid of repositioning or completely changing what you do. Even in good times, you should be consistently reinventing yourself. Unfortunately, it’s not until bad times that people feel the pressure to do that. Fortunately, being forced to reinvent yourself can be a blessing in disguise. In good times and in bad, you should be doing a lot of self-reflection and understanding where your market is and where it’s going. Then follow it accordingly.
About The Guest
Carl Seidman is a trusted business advisor specializing in financial planning & analysis (FP&A), business strategy, and finance transformation. He works with Fortune 500 corporations and middle-market companies, helping establish effective FP&A practices, processes, and teams. At the same time, he brings finance professionals greater control over their careers by helping them build their competence and confidence while eliminating time-wasting activities and mistakes. Carl’s FP&A development methodologies and curricula have been implemented by many leading companies as part of their financial leadership development programs.
Carl frequently serves as a CFO advisor and management consultant to entrepreneurial businesses throughout North America and Europe, assisting them with strategic financial planning, value enhancement, and revitalization.
Carl is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Illinois, has earned other professional credentials including the CIRA, CFF, CFE, CGMA, and AM (Accredited Member in business valuation), and was a 2020 National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA) 40 Under Forty honoree.
He lives in Chicago with his wife and twin sons.