How To Build a Professional Speaking Business

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Being a professional speaker can be exciting. You have to remember that it’s still a business that needs to be built and run like a business. 20-year speaking veteran Rick Davis and I recently spoke about how to build your business as a professional speaker.

The first thing Rick says you need if you want to be a successful speaker: You need to run your speaking business like a business. A company has operating costs, employees that you pay salaries to, a payroll to make, a business has to have a marketing plan, and more. A business has to decide how to incorporate; will you be an LLC? Or an S-Corp? Etc. Many speakers focus mainly on designing content and sharpening their speaking skills while leaving the business elements left to chance.

When Rick delivers a speech, he figures he’ll retain about half of the fee. The other half goes into running his business.

Content is King When Creating Meaningful Conversations

The second thing Rick says that you need great content. Content should be something delivered by you that the client can’t get anywhere else. This means creating more than a great elevator speech or marketing slogans. Rick is a sales trainer. In his world, teaching things like “How to ask open-ended questions” is advice from the 1970s. Open-ended questions are a tactic, but the real goal is knowing the information you want regardless of the problem.  It would help if you had fresh advice and strategies that work. Rick’s case teaches how to listen and deliver information relevant to the buyer’s perspective. He teaches people to have strategic dialogues casually conversational. This separates Rick from other sales trainers.

Your content must be original. If you’re borrowing other people’s content, you need to credit the source. If you don’t, someone somewhere will invariably recognize the content, and you’ll lose their respect and your credibility. Your content must also be compelling, and Rick uses the foundational three-step process he’s learned from the industry’s top experts. 1. Share a concept. 2. Tell a story. 3. Apply it to your audience.

The stories are part of the sales process. Rick doesn’t talk about who HE is; he talks about the potential client’s sales pitch results. He does it through stories of case studies. The case studies are about other people and the results that they have gained from working with him. Rick says that “Case studies and testimonials are your credibility currency.”  He continues to go on and create a proposal. One of the key sections is sharing “What I heard and observed” during the sales process. That’s telling more stories. Then he has a section entitled “I need to know more about…” which elicits stories from the client.

You Have To Sell

Some speakers love spending time creating content, but they forget to sell.. Rick has never had an elevator speech, and 20 years later, his business is going strong. Instead of an elevator speech, take a tip from the last section and tell stories about your clients getting results. Then there are three things you can build a sales plan around:

  1. Prospecting. Using the previous tips mentioned in this post – get your clients and potential clients in the door!
  2. Embrace reporting and accountability. Many people in the sales world fly by the seat of their pants. You need to track your leads and be accountable to at least one other person to keep you on track.
  3. Recognize and adapt to the need for change. Don’t let your career get stale. Everybody can grow, study, change their sales processes, and more.

As a speaker, your learning curve will start with a LOT of outbound prospecting. As you create more content and have more sales conversations, people will start coming to you. Today, most of Rick’s business is inbound because he sometimes spent 12 hours on the phone dialing for dollars for the first six months of his business. Three or four years into his career, he started to develop a solid reputation. Ten years in, he was the premier speaker and content creator in his niche.

One last tip? Focus on your clients’ success, and yours will come quickly.

About The Guest

Rick Davis is the leading sales trainer in the construction products industry. He quit his job 20 years ago to start Building Leaders, Inc. It took him two months to get his first client. Today his business offers onsite training programs, public training seminars, an online learning platform. He is the author of three books, and his monthly sales column has received gold and silver medal awards from the American Society of Business Publishing Editors. He is a CSP, a classical pianist, famously funny, similar to a genius (although not one), and kind to older adults. You know this must all be true because he wrote this bio himself!


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