Create, Don’t Compete!


When NSA was formed 40 years ago, founder Cavett Robert, CSP, CPAE, had a vision: To create a bigger pie for speaking opportunities so every speaker could have a bigger slice of that pie. In my own business, I create outcomes tailored to my unique areas of expertise rather than compete with other speakers, as the following example illustrates. John Treace, senior executive vice president of sales at Xomed Surgical, called me about keynoting at his national sales meeting after three of his regional managers heard me speak at a conference. He wanted to book a well-known speaker who was also a member of NSA. At the time, I knew I couldn’t compete with the other speaker’s brand and portfolio.

Fortunately, John also disclosed that Xomed recently introduced a machine for ear, nose and throat surgeons, but they couldn’t sell it. A competitor came out with a similar, but lower quality offering and gave it away. The competitor made money on consumables. John had $8 million of capital in equipment out on the street for free. Instead of booking the keynote, I leveraged my core competencies and closed a much bigger deal. I helped John recoup that $8 million—and put the competitor out of business—by devising a plan for assessing the situation in three cities, developing a customized program with a sales training component, and delivering a closing keynote at the national sales meeting. Some speakers offer several services, while others focus on one, like keynotes.

To be successful at either, follow these guidelines for leveraging your core capabilities and creating outstanding client experiences.

Sell a result.

You’re selling a result, not a speech, workshop or consulting. Figure out how to solve the client’s problems and challenges, or help them meet their goals.

Create incredible experiences.

People buy experiences, not speeches. Before the speech, I interview audience members to identify their needs. Go beyond ordinary customer service and help the meeting planner shine by going the extra mile. Offer a breakout session, act as an emcee, or anything else that enhances the experience.

Think beyond the gig.

In 1990, Gil Eagles, CSP, CPAE, advised me to view a speaking engagement as a stepping stone to the next piece of business, not the end result. If you’re really good, your presentation will lead to other opportunities. I’ve taken Gil’s advice to the next level by thinking and acting strategically. Don’t just show up for your gig and then leave. Attend as many general sessions as you can and listen to the executives speak. Where else can you uncover so much information about their problems and challenges?

Always follow up.

I contact the meeting planner or hiring decision maker two weeks after the meeting to review their feedback and provide my findings and recommendations. This practice often leads to more conversations and multiple bookings at the original keynote fee. I have enjoyed success by adhering to these guidelines. I recall when I was involved in a high-stakes negotiation with a client who repeatedly asked what the competition will do. I said, “Forget the competition. Let’s create an offering that is so powerful and valuable that the competition will not matter.” My strategy was right on the money—in more ways than one. As the competition stumbled, we kept pouring on the value and creating phenomenal results that yielded the largest contract in the industry’s history.

Do you want to sell more gigs and projects? Create, don’t compete!

Ron Karr

Ron Karr

President and CEO at Karr Associates, Inc.
2013-14 NSA President Ron Karr, CSP, is acclaimed as a leading sales and leadership expert. Karr is an in-demand business consultant that offers his audiences and consulting clients the real-world business success and knowledge he gained during a highly successful career in sales and management.
Ron Karr
Ron Karr
Ron Karr
Ron Karr

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