Sometimes the more fundamental a concept is, the easier it is to miss. So when I ask you — “what’s the one thing that your professional speaking business needs, above all else?” — you might say a rockstar support team or a calendar full of speaking gigs. Or maybe, to get really fundamental, a high-speed internet connection.
But you’d be wrong.
You need a network of folks who will introduce you to rockstar team members. You need well-nurtured clients to get you that jam-packed calendar. And, while your internet provider will probably still hook you up with a connection even if they don’t particularly like you, how much less hellish would customer service calls with utilities be if there was room for developing a mutual rapport?
In short, everything that runs well runs on relationships.
Good professional speakers know this. What they sell, in fact, is not an hour of powerful info, a memorable experience, or the secret to unlocking leadership potential — though that might all be part of it. Top speakers are in the business of creating relationships — with clients, with meeting planners, and with audience members.
In our interviews with professional speakers, we learned that their relationship status is always set to “more.” Here’s how they create and grow their connections — and their business.
They keep in touch.
Relationships aren’t magic beanstalks. You can’t pocket some business cards and then throw them in a drawer and expect a thriving relationship to sprout up overnight. Relationships are more like the tomato plants. You have to put the time in so they’ll grow.
To nurture relationships, top speakers focus on follow-up. Michael Hoffman stresses that if you don’t put follow-up systems in place, your relationships simply will not grow. So, he spends his morning — every morning — connecting with leads, touching base with clients, and nurturing his advocate network.
They build their referral network.
A good speaker may have 200 potential referrals after a single knocked-it-out-of-the-ballpark presentation. The difference between hundreds of walking testimonials and hundreds of missed opportunities? You guessed it. Relationship building.
If you put the work into listening, responding, and providing constant value, those happy audience members will become dedicated advocates. And when their friends at a sister company are looking for a phenomenal speaker — even years down the road — they’ll think of you.
Mike Wittenstein says that offering referrals to clients and connections is not just great relationship-building but a solid way to get referrals in return.
Diane DiResta suggests forming strategic alliances. Look around and ask, who complements your work? Who could you collaborate with? This will help make your referral network more meaningful to the work you do.
They connect offline. (Shocking, I know!)
These days, what gets leads’ attention may not be how on-point a speaker’s Twitter account is or how many blog posts they churn out each month. People have become desensitized to digital input — so much so that offline nurturing can really stand out.
Shep Hyken still makes phone calls regularly — he calls it smiling and dialing.
Mary Kelly hands out physical goal cards to her workshop attendees to create tangible reminders of the work they did together.
And when Doug Devitre wants to take a new LinkedIn connection to the next level, he writes a handwritten thank-you note.
Relationships aren’t one-way streets. To provide value for their clients, a good professional speaker listens for how clients define their pain points, what challenges they face day after day, and what kinds of solutions work best for them.
Wittenstein is a master listener who helps clients find their own stories. He helps them draw up journey maps for what they’re looking for in a speaker. Out of these journey maps, he creates not just a keynote speech or a seminar, but a total experience.
DeVitre also listens beyond the basics. He looks beyond the topic and introductory info and works hard with the clients to understand the goals they’re trying to achieve.
When Hoffman is a conference speaker, he attends as many other sessions as he can. He listens alongside his future audience and takes notes on his iPad. When he’s speaking, he peppers his own talk with tidbits, jokes, and pearls of wisdom from other sessions.
They use smart tools.
So, you see how closely tied business growth and relationship building are. Your tech choices should also foster connection. The tools you you use don’t just make your day easier. They often define how your clients first interact with your business.
Just as Wittenstein encourages his clients to create a journey map that defines their customer experience, he also believes in tying tech tools to strategic goals. “Before you invest in lots of random tech, figure out the experience your clients, colleagues, partners and contractors, and audience members want to have.”
He goes on to stress the importance of a CRM to manage your relationships as a professional speaker:
Tie your website to your CRM. If you don’t have a CRM system, get one–even if you’re just starting out. With web traffic tied to our CRM, we can track interactions, get in touch with people when their interest is high, and tailor some of our online and follow-up phone messages according to customer interest. This tech means we will be much more personalized in our service delivery.
So there you have – 5 ways building relationships can grow your speaking business.
Want more tips from these savvy speakers? Check out our article 7 Habits of Highly Effective Speakers.