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I launched my business in September 2005. In my blog, How I Landed My First Paid Speaking Gig and You Can Too I shared with you that, even before I launched my speaking business, I had landed my first paid speaking engagement.

But what happens after the first gig? How do you continue to grow your speaking business?

I’m a believer that one speaking engagement should lead to another. And there is evidence that, when you give a dynamic presentation that meets the needs of your client, you’ll be booked again and again.

However, even when some buzz is created after you speak, there may not be an immediate need for your services.

So what do you do in the meantime when you have a relevant message that solves a problem, but your phone isn’t ringing?

Some people recommend cold calling. This is, undoubtedly, an excellent way of creating awareness around your brand and the solution you provide for an organization. However, for me, when I first started my business, cold calling was not an option.

I hated cold calling, and I still do.

I’m uncomfortable picking up the phone, calling an organization and praying that, eventually, I’ll get to talk to someone who will talk to me. This doesn’t mean it’s not an effective way to grow your business. In fact, I help my clients who choose to cold call, craft a message that helps them to connect and communicate what the do and the value they bring in such a way that gets them to the decision-maker. But it’s just not the way I have been able to work with over 100 organizations across nine industries and have a repeat client base of 95 percent.

So how did I sign my next contract?

Here’s what happened.

It’s September 2005. I just launched my business. I am at an event and recognize the president of a local university. My immediate thought was: “Aha! A potential client. I can help them. I should go and introduce myself.” The more I thought about the possibilities, the more pumped I became.

Suddenly, it hit me. I have to talk to him. What should I say? What will make him want to hire me? Of course, when the leader of one of the largest employment organizations is in the room, I’m not the only one wanting his attention. It seemed everyone in the room is vying for his time.

I battled so long within myself until the announcer said, “Please begin to make your way to your seats. The program will start in two minutes.” Has that ever happened to you? You talk yourself in and out and in and out again, of taking action?

Before my conscious thought caught up with my movement, I made a mad dash toward the front of the room and found myself standing in front of him.

All I can remember is feeling anxiety, talking fast, selling hard and trying to put my business card in his hand.

Can you relate? Clearly, that’s not what I would recommend to my clients today.

To my utter amazement, he interrupted me and said, “I know who you are. I’m familiar with your work. You just wrote a book. Our students NEED your help. Please set an appointment with our Provost. He’ll be expecting your call.” While stepping on his last few words, the announcer came over the intercom, “The program is about to begin.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

Still feeling the residue of anxiety—along with a renewed sense of excitement that they “need” me—I confidently, but hurriedly made my way to my seat. I couldn’t believe what just happened. That moment led to an $8,000 contract a few months later and six consecutive contracts in six years. Plus, my first book There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power-Packed Life was designated their freshman must-read for two years.

I didn’t know that answering the call in that moment would be so pivotal in my personal growth and business success.

Whether you want to build a speaking business, land a promotion on your job or score a media interview, here’s what I know for sure:

Build Your Brand. A well-built brand creates buzz. Buzz increases awareness and awareness is a touch point. A touch point comes in many forms. For example, a conversation among two or more people and your name comes up, an interview on a local television show or an article in the newspaper or a promotion about your upcoming book signing. And, of course, social media has given us the opportunity to connect with hundreds of thousands of people. Every touch point gives you a chance to be relevant and to climb to the top of your audience’s mind.

Small Steps; Big Opportunities. The challenge I faced back then, and sometimes now, is taking the step. Yes, today each step I take involves less risk of rejection because people are more likely to have a positive response to proven success, but the point is this: I still have to take the step. Wherever you are on your journey, you have to take the step. I don’t know how the president of the university knew who I was back then, and I still don’t. But I know this: never underestimate the work you are doing and who it is reaching.

Follow up. This isn’t just about landing a new client or developing an important business relationship at work—it’s about the credibility of your brand. Do you do what you say you will? Let’s say I assumed the president was just blowing me off, but didn’t want to appear rude so I decided not to follow-up. Think about what I would have lost. What about you? How many people have you meant, promised you were follow-up with them, but haven’t? I have to constantly remind clients and employees alike—stop making assumptions about others and what they will or will not do.

Be honorable in your commitment—this will force them to tell you what they really want from you. And, yes, sometimes they may want you to stop calling them, but don’t be disheartened. Knowing their true desires is important. Surely you want to invest your time, talents and abilities in people and organizations that want them and will value you, right?

© 2018 S. Renee Smith-Larry. All rights reserved. S. Renee helps professionals around the world increase their income and influence by becoming more likable, marketable and credible. As a nationally recognized self-esteem, branding and communications expert, speaker and coach, she also is the bestselling author of: 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate with Confidence and Get What You Want, The Bridge to Your Brand, Our Hearts Wonder, There Is More Inside and Co-Author of Self-Esteem for Dummies. For coaching or booking information call 888-588-0423 or visit www.srenee.com.

 

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Recently I had an Aha Moment! I can’t believe that I missed this. But I think you’re going to find this to be one of your greatest blind spots, too.

As experts, we often assume people “Get it.” They know what we do. And, if they don’t, they should. Why shouldn’t they? There’s tons of information out there about our subject matter and we saturate them with the value of our work, right?

Here’s what I learned during a one-on-one fact-finding consult with a new potential client. It has helped me shift again how I position my message.

After we exchanged pleasantries, the conversation went like this:

S. Renee: Tell me about yourself.

Potential Client: I don’t know if I need your services because I don’t know if I need branding, but you came highly recommended so I thought I’d at least give you a call. A publisher published my book and I want to sell lots of copies.

S. Renee: Oh, that’s exciting. So you signed a book deal. What an honor! Who is your publisher?

Potential Client: Oh, I paid to have it published.

S. Renee (Hmmm, I thought to myself): Okay. Tell me more.

Potential Client: I realize now that I paid too much money for the little bit of work they did for me, and now they are trying to sell me a marketing package. So I’ve been asking people about marketing, and your name keeps coming up as someone who can help me. I thought I’d call to see if you could help me sell copies of my book.

S. Renee: Tell me more.

Potential Client: I know my book will help a lot of people. I just need for people to see it and I know they’ll like it and buy it.

Renee (after some more digging): So, tell me what you know about branding.

Potential Client: I think it’s when people recognize you. But I don’t want to be recognized. I just want to sell my book.

That’s when the light bulb came on for me. This individual, like many of the people I talk to, has a dream. They finally have a piece of their dream in their hands, but they don’t know how to launch it into the marketplace. In fact, they don’t even realize their book is a product and it has to find its position among the millions of other books in the marketplace.

Yes, they see Fortune 500 companies reach them through storytelling on television, billboard and online advertising, and store placement. But they don’t connect their product with needing the same investment, attention and persistence.

Like many of the over 300 clients I’ve coached, their ideas are on paper, but they don’t see their book as an extension of themselves. They see it as an independent product that only needs to be seen by others, and – BAM – they sell hundreds of thousands of copies and they become well-known!

This is so far from reality. Consumers are sophisticated and smart. They know what they want to spend their money on, but you have to tell them you are the person or company who they want to spend their money with.

Brands drive sales. It’s the skillfully worded message behind the product and the consistency of that message that gets people’s attention. It’s the fulfillment of the promise of that message that earns the trust of the consumer, which leads to a purchase.

Think about the advertisements you see. They are nothing more than a carefully crafted story that shows you a problem and tells you how to solve it. As small business owners, entrepreneurs, speakers, authors and even employees, we too, have to craft our message, build our story and earn the trust of our audience.

S. Renee, CPC, is a nationally recognized Self-Esteem, Branding and Communications Expert, Speaker, Coach and Best-Selling Author. To learn more about how you can craft and communicate a message that connects and engages your audience visit www.srenee.com and consider one of her upcoming events.

 

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I remember feeling tired, just worn out. I didn’t feel like fighting anymore. It wasn’t worth it. She had won. She could replace me with someone, anyone she thought could do the job better. The daily struggle to prove myself, do my job, keep my staff inspired in a toxic work environment plus navigate her unpredictable bully tendencies of condescending, disrespectful, unwarranted jabs and humiliating comments in front of others, had taken its toll.

But, I wasn’t completely defeated. Despite the efforts of my boss, the president and his executive assistant scheming to get me to sign their pre-written letter of resignation, I refused. Not a chance. If you want me to go, then look me in the eyes and tell me. Say it! Say, “You are fired!” They didn’t have the courage to say it to my face; instead, my boss slipped a letter under my office door.

I laugh at that cowardly behavior today after reinventing myself, receiving a written apology from my former boss (that wasn’t slid under my door) and becoming nationally recognized for my work, but that experience was mental and emotional torture when I was going through it. It wasn’t a small feat to reinvent myself and design a brand that would catch the attention of major corporations, media outlets, and publishers. There were a lot of decisions I had to make before I could land my first gig, media interview or book deal.

Reflecting on that time in my life, I realized that I had already seen the vision that I’d be doing something other than serving as Director of Public Relations. I had written in my journal exactly what I believed God had spoken to me. Deep down I knew the truth, I just couldn’t own it at the time. The truth is, at that time, I didn’t have the courage and confidence to stake claim to my space in the world. Isn’t it ridiculously sad that we are so fragile? Unfortunately, we replace our God-given powers for our fragile insecurities.

All I had to do was say: Yes! to the vision, God had shown me for my life. Yes! to the possibility that the image in my mind and the feeling in my heart were the truth,  and understand that the doubts running through my head were a lie. Yes! to the belief that if I put myself out there, I’d be supported by the spiritual world. I’d meet people on my path that would appreciate what I was trying to create and help me, and I would appreciate and support them. Click the title to watch a video to understand what my trademark message, There Is More Inside is all about.

Remember, when I left my job, I was broken and feeling lost. Okay, maybe more intensely disappointed in a system that failed me than broken, but the point is this: they robbed me of my livelihood for no good reason–and didn’t care.

This is what learned as I navigated that challenging time and made my way to the top in the self-development industry:

  • Decide what you want to give the world. For me, I want every person to know they have the right to feel good about who they are and create the life they want by practicing spiritual principles and building a brand.
  • Write down your vision. I wrote my vision down in my journal years before landing the Director position. I knew I desired to become nationally known by writing and traveling the world teaching people spiritual principles and how to own their truth and courageously live it by being personally accountable for their life.
  • Put your pride aside. I earned great success during my 20s. In my early 30s, after being fired, I was without income, but I was trying to pursue my purpose. As a result, the debt was rising and my stress level increasing. I put my pride aside and took a job as an assistant manager at WalMart. Yes, people were asking, “What happened?” They were wondering what happened to me because I was on the fast track to success.

I didn’t explain myself. I stayed focused on my target. No good could come from engaging in conversation with people who would only keep a negative conversation going and give power to my doubts.

By staying focused, I created the spiritual space for me to work on writing my first book, There Is More  Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power-Packed Life.  This would’ve been difficult if I would impose more suffering on myself. 

  • Reflect on your life. By pausing and thinking about your life’s journey, you’ll notice themes and messages that allowed you to clearly see a marketable message that will resonate with people.
  • Crafted a brand message around your life challenges. I used my story and the lessons I learned to craft a message that related to national issues and solved problems. You can do it too.
  • Decide what image you want to project. As a former model and television talk show host, I understood the importance of image and how it influences people’s perception of you and how they respond to you. I wanted to make sure that when the spotlight finally made its way around to me, I would be ready to showcase and clearly communicate my value to others.
  • Attend workshops. You don’t know what you don’t know, but I knew it was important to find out what I didn’t know so I attended conferences and workshops, which gave me the opportunity to watch leaders in the industry, learn from them and make myself known to them–even though I was still marinating on who I was going to be in the marketplace.
  • Put into action what you learn at workshops. Attend workshops with the intention to learn and implement what you learn immediately. By doing so, this commitment served as the building block to my business and helped me to grow steadily.
  • Hire a coach. I hired a personal and business coach. I needed to understand what may hinder me from reaching my goals and identify any blind spots. You’d be surprised what can happen and how much you’ll grow from getting a proficient coach.
  • Launch your newly reinvented brand into the marketplace. In September 2005, approximately 3.5 years after being fired, I launch my business. In the last 13 years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with over 100 organizations over 9 industries (95 percent are repeat clients), coached approximately 300 small business owners and employees logging over 600 hours, be interviewed by some of our nation’s top journalists and signed two book deals.

The first was with Wiley, one of the world’s top academic publishers,
and the second was with Callisto Media, one of the fastest growing
online publishers. As the author of 5 books, I wrote and launched a
new book every 2.5 years. This helped me to remain relevant in the
marketplace. As a result, I’ve been invited to share platforms with
some of the nations most influential leaders.

What’s most important? I have been able to wake up every day and be used by God.

I’m not sharing this with you to impress you, but to impress upon you what can happen when you DECIDE you will no longer be filled with doubt, but fueled by faith!

How about you, what’s happening in your world? What are your challenges? What needs to change? What are you willing to change? Are you pursuing the vision God has given you? If not, why not?

© 2018 S. Renee

S. Renee is a Certified Professional Coach and a nationally recognized Self-Esteem, Branding & Communications Expert, Speaker, Coach & Author. She is the author of Self-Esteem for Dummies, 5 Steps to Assertiveness: How to Communicate With Confidence and Get What You Want, The Bridge to Your Brand Likability, Marketability, Credibility, Our Hearts Wonder Prayers to Heal Your Heart & Calm Your Soul, There Is More Inside: Personal Essentials to Living a Power-Packed Life. You can learn more at www.srenee.com