In my last article, I wrote about looking at your business from the outside in, and mentioned that I’d be attending an event in Orlando led by successful entrepreneurship coach, Suzanne Evans. I am now back from her Be The Change Event - something different than any event I’ve ever attended - with lots of stories and lessons learned, some of which I’d like to share.
The punchline - which you’ll get if you read further - is that you need to keep an open mind and look for learning in every situation. While I’ll likely never be a member of Suzanne’s “tribe” or attend the event again, what she taught and how she executed gave me some invaluable lessons, one’s I’ve already started to use, and I think made me a little less judgmental. I’ll share some of what I learned in this article, but will also be respectful of her copyrighted material.
Let’s Start with the Colorful Part
It was my first encounter with Suzanne, who happens to be my coach’s coach, which was my path to being at this predominantly female conference. She is a superb storyteller, living up to one of her mantras to “make your mess your message,” a brash, fat, gay, southerner (her words, not mine!) whose style at the surface might seem abrasive or televangelistic or both. Her coaching business now grosses $7M annually. WTF? Suzanne says that she’s not here to make friends, but here to help us make money.
The Be The Change Event was attended by nearly 800 people - coaches, consultants, creatives, contractors - many of us here for free (like myself) which certainly raised my suspicions. There is no such thing as free. If you’re going to put that many people into a room, entertain them with grand theatrics and multimedia, teach and coach them for four days, and not charge at least the $2K it’s worth (probably $1997 with Suzanne’s method) - there’s got to be a catch. I was expecting to be sold to hard.
The first day really had me surprised. No one tried to sell me anything. After a grand opening magic act, Suzanne appeared and dove right into her stories, and then walked us through her “Marketing Magic” workbook. Real teaching. Exercises. Creator or Innovator. Mindset (taught by her colleague, No Negativity exercise). Movement (Sell your story, not your stuff). Assessment Marketing. Profit-focus. “You have a moral obligation to market and sell.”
It certainly got me thinking. Many entrepreneurs feel that “selling” is a bad thing. Those of us who have already built businesses know that the ability to acquire customers and drive revenue are what differentiates those who succeed or fail. We cannot get what we want out of life without being able to derive a suitable income to sustain us and provide the means to reach those goals. If our business is that income, then you’d better put selling to the top of the list.
This Conference is about Selling
I’ve realized that we’re going to spend the next few days learning how to sell. And how to coach others to sell. Suzanne being a coach in high demand, I’m expecting to learn from the best, much of it by my own observations of her in action. I was not disappointed.
The second day was a little different. Suzanne spent less time teaching. She gave some of the members of her team time on the stage to talk about their specialties. Mindset. Branding. Event planning. Speaking. Each of those presenting shared what they did and then made a compelling “offer,” giving away thousands of dollars of perceived value if signed up for their list. The List (more about that later).
Suzanne spent time coaching individuals attendees from the stage. Not quite faith healing, but there was lots of crying and a bunch of hallelujahs (or “Hell Yeah” as chanted by Suzanne’s tribe). People whose businesses were being held back because they weren’t thinking like business people, they were letting their own “shit” get in the way of success.
Why does Suzanne coach from the stage? This is community building, demonstrating that those in the “tribe” can be healed. It’s also branding. Every time she upset an attendee, or found one that was stuck, she had one of her coaches take them to the “10K” coaching zone. (10K is one of Suzanne’s branded programs.)
Lisa Sasevich, a competitor of sorts to Suzanne, took the stage for an hour to share her story of being a divorced mom, starting from scratch, building a multi-million dollar business coaching the secrets of selling. She shared some of her program with us and - in turn - used it on us. I am pretty sure she sold lots of $1K packages that day (in her limited time offer with lots of freebies). This was starting to become exactly what I had been expecting of the event.
But wait. If I could learn what they were doing and also get to watch them do it, then perhaps I could use it myself, and coach others.
Now for the Close
I was prepared for the third day and it didn’t disappoint. There was less teaching and more community work (the tribe). More presenters sharing superficial lessons, giving away what seemed to be free in exchange for your becoming a lead. Inspirational videos encouraging you to work hard and take action.
What they had been doing is what they were teaching. When developing relationships with leads and prospects, start with the close in mind. Know the offer you want to make and then reverse engineer the conversation. Start with the end (knowing what you want to sell) and work your way back, crafting a purposeful path to your being able to make and close the deal. You position yourself along the conversation one step further towards the close and never seem “sales-y” since you didn’t start with the offer. You’re guiding a lead to become a prospect, or a prospect to become a sale. Your seeding a context for the offer, and then finally making the offer. You’ve developed a system.
Seeing it on paper and watching it work live was magical. I couldn’t stay to the very end and left shortly before Suzanne was about to make the offer. One of her tribe told me that she could expect to sell about 140 of the 800 attendees - mostly the 10K program (which she had been carefully branding throughout all of the talks). Her packages start about $15K annual, so that’s well over $2M in recurring revenue grossed from the event. Nice.
Leaving with Valuable Lessons
I have pages of notes which I can barely fit into this article. More to come. I am sharing some quick lessons below, but the big one for me was this: to use what I have been doing in terms of goal setting - starting with the end goal and working backwards - and take that approach for sales. How am I going to close? What am I going to offer? And then construct the conversation so I can seamlessly guide them to it. (Next time you talk with me, stay alert!)
1. Tech Startups vs. Lifestyle Entrepreneurs
Tech Startups are not the same as Lifestyle Entrepreneurs. You probably already knew that. I kept thinking that if my Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley colleagues were at this conference, they’d have rolled their eyes and proclaimed “hogwash” (or something less conservative). The game of building a tech startup, investment and exit often required for financial “success,” seems so much different than the entrepreneur who bootstraps revenues and maximizes profits. While the tactics and techniques might differ, from my observations there is a big similarity - getting leads and converting them to customers. A tech entrepreneur like myself who is willing to see through the hype of Be The Change can walk away with good insight.
2. The List
Whether you’re a tech startup or lifestyle entrepreneur, you need leads. Having a list (i.e., email) is the single most effective way to ensure your messages are being heard. You may know your customer profile and have developed your brand, but without an audience, who will know? You can build your list online with content (like this!) or offers (freebies). You can build it offline networking or at speaking engagements.
3. The Tribe
Have a tribe. Or community, however you’d like to call it. Build it by first surrounding yourself with a team, partners, or those offering complementary products or services. Suzanne’s “team” turns out to be a number of consulting companies who offer services that go nicely along with her coaching. By being on her team, those consultants are able to get leads and build their own businesses. Suzanne, in turn, looks bigger through her team. Win-win, and there’s power in numbers, right? Expand that into “tribe” by including your raving fans, customers and community with share your motivation (your movement), are inspired by you and your “mess.”
4. Have a Freebie
Everyone likes something free, even the world’s richest people. Having something that you can offer for free allows you to capture people’s attention and draw them in. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, but something that they can’t resist. These are often white papers, self-published books, templates, webinars, consultations or seminars. By helping people solve a problem, or by providing an unexpected value, you are not only building your list, but also growing a community by exposing and building awareness to your movement, language, or systems.
Extra Credit: One of the speakers was Shanda Sumpter, founder of Heartcore Business. Like others, she had a story about starting with little and growing a business to $1.8M. What I found interesting was her business - combining endurance sports training with business coaching, Heartcore Endurance. Shanda's philosophy is that winning at business is about endurance. The qualities you develop training for a half marathon (or longer) are those that will help you be more successful in business. I'm sold. (Figuratively, I haven't bought anything. Yet.)
Like I said, this only scratches the surface - I didn't event touch on things like conversion, turning leads into customers. We'll try to get some more written in the coming weeks, and maybe additional color of the event. (Like why can't you get a good cup of coffee at Disney?!?) Until then, you've got a lot you can be working on...