122 Phil Jones on Getting the Gigs You Want

With nearly 120 keynotes and workshops a year, Phil M. Jones is one of the busiest public speakers on the circuit. The author of an award-winning business trilogy that started with Exactly What to Say, Phil’s mastered the art of the speaking business by constantly striving to be better and aim higher. Plus, he finds sales fun. He believes that every speaker can find room for play in their sales, content development, and business-building. It starts with asking the right questions and giving yourself permission to grow.

 

How You Can Steal the Show

 

  • What you need to know to move past the shortlist to getting booked. 
  • The right questions to ask if you want to get booked and get paid what you’re worth. 
  • The common mistakes public speakers make that prevent them from getting the gigs they want.
  • Two simple questions every successful speaker should be able to answer. 
  • Things you can ask for when the money on the table is not enough.
  • Why a speaker should never negotiate from desperation.
  • The reasons we get nervous before gigs and why that’s okay.
  • Why every speaker should consider becoming an author and what you should avoid when it comes to selling books at your speaking gigs. 
  • How to sell more books (even when no one’s asking for them)

 

Visit Phil’s website or follow him on LinkedIn.

Listen to Phil’s Audible original of How to Persuade and Get Paid: The Sales Workshop for Everyone

Michael:
I always like to start an interview cleaning my glasses, because it makes me feel very sophisticated and-

Phil:
It’s just a move to make you appear more intelligent.

Michael:
It is. It’s actually my go-to look. It helps me focus. When I’m listening to somebody, actually having something to do can help you focus.

Phil:
Well it also brings attention to you, in a way.

Michael:
It does, doesn’t it? All right. Plus, I’m such a dad, I carry this and clean everybody’s glasses.

Phil:
So kind.

Michael:
And of course, you know where I got that from?

Phil:
Where?

Michael:
My dad.

Phil:
There you go.

Michael:
So we eventually turn into our parents.

Phil:
That’s a frightening thought.

Michael:
Yeah. So listen, Phil, you’ve given over 2,000 presentations?

Phil:
That’s correct.

Michael:
In over 50 countries?

Phil:
Right.

Michael:
Across five continents?

Phil:
That is right.

Michael:
And you are not to be confused with the soccer player, Phil Jones?

Phil:
Absolutely not.

Michael:
No. This is the Phil Jones. Also, you’ve written five internationally bestselling books.

Phil:
You bet.

Michael:
And were the youngest ever winner of the coveted British Excellence in Sales and Marketing Award.

Phil:
That is also true.

Michael:
That’s pretty cool. Now, you have a podcast as well.

Phil:
I do.

Michael:
And one of the… Words with Friends, is what it’s called?

Phil:
That’s right, yeah.

Michael:
Yeah, okay. One of the things you do is you just say a word-

Phil:
That’s right.

Michael:
… to your guest, and then they’re to respond based on how that word makes them feel.

Phil:
Something like that.

Michael:
Sort of, okay. So I thought that might be a fun way to start.

Phil:
All righty.

Michael:
Because I think great artists steal, so I’m just going to steal that from you.

Phil:
Perfect.

Michael:
And let’s see how it works. So humility.

Phil:
Okay, humility. What a great word. It immediately makes me jump to the word humble, I guess is the word that I jump to on that first of all. When you think about that word, humility, it doesn’t show up in the world that often. It’s that what we often see more is people looking to be egotistical, or have a brag, or look to be able to say that they are more than what they are and hope that they get to be able to grow into that. Humility is something missing I think. You’re making me think, thank you.

Michael:
Well, so one of the things that we see a lot in the industry, speaking industry, is the diva mentality.

Phil:
Right.

Michael:
You know, this idea that somehow when you get to a certain stage, five international bestselling books, and 5,000, or 2,000 speeches in 50 countries, that somehow then you’re a rock star, and that people should cater to you.

Phil:
And bow to you. That’s right.

Michael:
And bow to you, yeah. On a recent episode of the podcast, Tim Sanders and I were talking about this, and he articulated something that I’ve felt for a long time, which is, we’re just vendors.

Phil:
Right.

Michael:
That’s all, we’re just vendors. So we’re probably the most overpaid vendor at the conference, as well.

Phil:
Maybe.

Michael:
Maybe?

Phil:
Maybe. Have you seen the price of coffee recently at some of those events? That’s pretty overpriced.

Michael:
Touche, well said, very well done. So given that, how do you see your role as a professional speaker when you go into a conference?

Phil:
Okay, so during a conference, it’s often that you’re the vehicle to be able to create a takeaway. That’s the way I see it. So, can you be the memorable ingredient that meant all the important stuff that the event needed to get across, whether it was a theme, it was a changing culture, whether they had a number of big corporate announcements, could you create something as a moment that happens on that stage that everybody six months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months after the fact has the ability to be able to say, “Oh, that was when that British guy spoke, and spoke about those words thing,” right?

Michael:
Yeah.

Phil:
So I like to be able to create a lasting effect that becomes an anchor, or a pivot point for the corporate information. I think also we’re intelligent entertainment, we’re a point that sits in the agenda of a one day, a three day, a five day conference, where the audience get to be able to sit back a little and enjoy, let their minds open up a touch and maybe have some fun during that period too. So it isn’t necessarily like you are the content master that is going to solve everybody’s problems in that given moment in time, it’s, can you make people laugh, can you make them feel something, can you insert some ideas that they haven’t thought of before, and can you be the outside special source? And I like to be able to focus that special sauce piece. If you think you’re the main meal, you think you’re the entrée, that’s where you find yourself in a really dangerous space.

Phil:
If what you want to show up as is that super hot sauce that everybody talks about after the fact, but you don’t damage the entrée, what you do is you just add to it, you’ve probably got it something right when it comes to a speaking business.

Michael:
That’s nice. And how has your vision for yourself as a speaker changed over the years, if it has?

Phil:
It’s changing all the time, it has not necessarily had these big landmark points where it’s pivoting from one to the next. It’s really been an evolving period of time.

Michael:
And when you started speaking, did you have the intention to become a world-traveling, big name speaker?

Phil:
I just wanted to be better, that’s all I wanted to be. When I started this business it was 2008, I’d just bought down a property business, it was doing particularly well. The economic climate meant that it was no longer going to have any legs in it, and I was wondering what I was going to do next. And while I was figuring out what I wanted to do next, things like chambers of commerce and business networking groups would invite me in, and they asked me to be able to speak to their members about things they could do to trade out of a recession. So I wasn’t trying to be a professional speaker, I was speaking about my experience giving back to groups of people. People liked it and said, “Hey, could we learn some more about this?” So I started my training business by creating a one day sales training program off the back of those speeches to allow those people to be able to buy something from me that previously they couldn’t.

Phil:
Then I found that what I needed to be able to do was to fill those workshops if I wanted to keep that turning. So I would speak, typically for free to sell the workshop that then became a coaching business that then became a consulting business that then became a corporate training business, so speaking was part of that. I didn’t know about the rock star speaking space, I really didn’t. It wasn’t anything I had a huge amount of transparency towards. I had idols and greats, like Jim Rohn, and Zig Ziglar, and people I looked up to that way round. But this speaking circuit that exists in North America, in the way that I now know it to be true? I wasn’t aware of that. I thought that people who stood up on stage and delivered keynotes were largely literal rock stars, or sport superstars, or somebody with a gold medal in some way. I didn’t think that was an option for me.

Michael:
So what percentage of your work is keynote-focused, and what percentage is workshop-focused?

Phil:
I’m probably one of the busiest speakers on the circuit, so percentage terms, I’m about a third, a third, a third. So I’m about a third keynotes, and I’m around a third of workshoppy-type stuff, and then a third of my business is associated towards books and other licensing products, et cetera. So that’s the general split. I’m on-stage around 100 to 120 times a year.

Michael:
That’s a lot.

Phil:
It’s a lot. And I do a number of virtual programs, and those kind of things too. And the reason for it, and the reason why I’m so busy as I am right now, is my business is always in transition. What that means is that you’ve got the business that you are growing, and the business that you’re running. When you’re growing a business aggressively, and you’re running an existing big business, then the overlap on those means that something has to give, and typically it’s your schedule. So my current point right now is part of the business that I was running, that was good business for me 2015, 2016, end of this year I let some of that go, creating the space to be able to operate in more of a bigger echelon, and hopefully buy myself some time back.

Michael:
Yeah. You know it’s interesting, I sometimes think about that concept as it’s like, new company, old company.

Phil:
That’s right.

Michael:
And for a lot of entrepreneurs, that type of thinking is comfortable, even though it presents a certain amount of anxieties, because-

Phil:
You bet, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
… the future’s uncertain, we can predict it ourselves. But it is a very entrepreneurial way of thinking. We’re very interested in the future, we’re very interested in reconfiguring what we have, turn it into something new that is more desirable to us. But it’s not necessarily how everybody thinks.

Phil:
No.

Michael:
And so, I’m wondering if you have any suggestions on how people can get more comfortable with that constant state of flux, that constant reconfiguration.

Phil:
Yeah. I guess the first thing that would make you become more comfortable with it is looking at the reality of not accepting that kind of mindset. If you don’t accept that kind of mindset, you get stuck in a box. If you get stuck in a box, you build a reputation within that box, you can’t break out of it. An example would be, is that if you are a really good workshop speaker at $2,500 bucks delivering somebody else’s material, and you stay in that space because you’re comfortable, you stay in that space for three, five, seven years, you’ve got no chance of ever breaking. If you don’t stay in there, if you by alternative give yourself the permission to continually be moving, then you’re almost on a ladder with one foot always on the next step that comes up, and that as you become more confident in that new space you move the left leg up to be able to step into the new space. So it’s the risk of getting stuck is the thing that I’m most fearful of. I don’t want 20 years at the same level in this business, or in any business for that matter.

Michael:
Why? What drives you? What’s the thing that drives that fear behind the sameness?

Phil:
Okay. If I asked a roomful of people whether they wanted to be good at something, better at something or best at something, what do you think most people would pick?

Michael:
Most people would probably say, “I want to be best at something,” yeah.

Phil:
Yeah, that’s what almost everybody says. They say they want to be their best. What I’ve learned to be true is that that is a stupid mindset.

Michael:
Don’t mince your words.

Phil:
Right, but I think it is, and I’ll explain why. Is, have you ever said the words to somebody, “Don’t worry, you tried your best?”

Michael:
I tend to not say that, but I know what you mean. It is a typical [crosstalk 00:10:26].

Phil:
We say those words, and we know it’s not true. Not only that, many people have used it as an excuse in themselves, is, “I was trying my best,” and again, knowing that that was just a pack of lies. So we’ve learned to believe the best is a finite destination that is often untrue. Not only that, is because it’s a finite destination that’s often untrue, is it’s a ceiling. With it being a ceiling, that feels to me like it’s remarkably limiting, and hugely frustrating. If you think about a point in your life where you struggled with something, it could be as simple as being able to say, “Tie your shoelaces.” You may have proclaimed to parents and said, “Look, I’m trying my best, I’m trying my best.” It isn’t until you’ve decided to shift your focus away from best and to better, that all of a sudden you learn to be able to quickly go do that thing.

Phil:
So the reason that I don’t want to get stuck is that my continued quest is better, that’s it. There isn’t this finite destination that says, “Here is where I want to end up, this is the destination,” it’s just, “Can I be better tomorrow than I was today?” And sometimes that measure is speaking fee, sometimes that’s the stages that you’re on, sometimes it’s the time I spend with my family. There’s all sorts of measures that we can bring towards what better looks like. But if I’m not working on that in some way, I feel like I’m dead inside, and it’s probably time to give up.

Michael:
Yeah. That actually brings us back to the conversation around humility. Recently, Amy and I were watching the Netflix special with Beyonce, and her whole rehearsal process and performance into Coachella, and it was remarkable.

Phil:
I’ve seen it, it’s great.

Michael:
You’ve seen it? Okay. So you may recall that one of the things she says, and I’ll paraphrase, in that film, is that it takes an enormous amount of humility to rehearse. And I’m wondering what your process is around getting better as a speaker. Because look, any time you do anything in front of large audiences, you’re going to get criticism.

Phil:
You bet, 100%>

Michael:
It’s just part of the process. Write books, whatever. If you want to do something in the world in a big way, here’s always going to be people who don’t like it. And that can be challenging to deal with, and our relationship to that criticism generally changes over time. The more successful, the more comfortable you get, often the easier it is to deal with that, because you feel more established. But sometimes, for some folks they take less risks as they get more successful, because they don’t want to risk what they have. So what’s your process for getting better as a speaker?

Phil:
I’m very fortunate in the fact that I don’t have cookie cutter-type scenarios, so it’s not, “Phil, can you deliver a 45, 60-minute speech, stages look something like the same, corporate audiences look something like the same.” If I do 120 events in the year, the similarities may exist in 18 of them, and the variances then overlap like crazy. So it makes you think, you have to think about different constraints, so obviously a four hour event is a two hour event. Where do the brakes sit? Is it 27 people in the room, is it 2,700 people in the room? What happened before the event, what happened after your contribution within the event? What’s the energy of the organization at that moment in time? What is the key output they’re looking for for the bigger picture, as well as the output they’re looking for from your small contribution?

Phil:
So all of these different variables make for me a really exciting challenge, because it means that what you can do is bring a higher level of consciousness to what your deliverable is. It’s not about the speech, it’s about the result that you can create for your client.

Michael:
That’s right, yeah.

Phil:
And quite often they don’t know what they really want from you.

Michael:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Phil:
They really don’t. They know what good enough is, they know what doesn’t suck is. But what they don’t know is, what could create wow? That’s where your challenge starts to come in in prep, from being better, is to start to look at all the things that they would never know to be able to look for. And some of the things I learned from the likes of you and Amy, of things like blocking and staging. I’m weird, right, I need to see… So I don’t need an AV check so much for microphones working, and that stuff. I need a check of the room, and I want to make choices about, where am I going to enter from, how am I going to greet the person who’s going to be introducing me, am I going to enter stage left or stage right? I do a lot where I leave the stage and I engage with an audience. I want to pick who’s going to be where, et cetera.

Phil:
I don’t want to pick on the wrong person, if there’s somebody who was an exec that is from a different country that I enter into a piece of role play with and they don’t speak English too good, that could be embarrassing. So this is thousands of micro choices that you have to make. I enjoy that challenge, I puzzle on it like crazy. I’ll live through a speech a hundred times in my head before ever opening my mouth, and if any of you would see my journals, my journals are crazy. I mind map a speech, and it would make no sense to anybody else.

Phil:
Yeah, that’s it, it’s the same kind of thing. But in on that, then I say, “Where can I play?” Once I’ve got to this point where I’ve mapped it out and I’m feeling like, “I’ve got this,” it’s then, “What can I do to play today?” And that may be a choice of bringing a prop in that I’ve never tried to be able to use before. That may be a, can I say that same thing three different ways, can I create a new, crafted story towards that piece? And I might take 15 to 20% of what I’ve planned and throw out the plan and create the choice for play. And that’s dependent upon the level of risk associated to the event, even if it’s a client you’ve worked with a long time before you got familiarity, more room to play. You learn to be able to feel how much room you’ve got to be able to play, based on the client.

Michael:
Yeah. If you’re a speaker, often you’re starting on your own. You don’t generally have a big team behind you, unless you’re an entrepreneur who already has an organization and can draw on the resources to support the operational side of the business. So, each individual speaker comes into the work with a certain set of strengths, and a certain set of weaknesses. And I’m wondering what you think your strengths are, and what your weaknesses are from an operational perspective, in terms of running the business, doing all the things that you need to do to advance the mission and grow your speaking business. And then how do you handle or manage against some of the weaknesses so they don’t interfere with your profession.

Phil:
Okay, let’s start with the biggest weakness, is I’m-

Michael:
Also, what are your strengths? What do you think your particular strengths are, like, what do you do really, really well? Besides of course perform. You speak really well, your content development is outstanding.

Phil:
From a business point of view is, I’m good at being strategic and long-term, I’m good at laying the foundations out to work on tomorrow’s business as well as today’s work. And everybody on my team sees me for that role, there’s nobody else within my organization that has the ability to be able to see into the future.

Michael:
And that’s one of the reasons that companies hire you?

Phil:
Correct.

Michael:
That’s your secret sauce.

Phil:
Yeah, and I believe that that’s a really important part of a speaking business too, is congruence, is the stuff that you deliver up on the stage should be the same stuff that you live in your world. If not, there’s an issue. So yes, I’m good at that stuff. I’m also good at the relationship networking piece, the part of being able to find, whether it’s strategic relationships that can help create opportunities, whether it’s staying front of mind with some of the core clients who could book me again. That networking business development piece is a piece that I really enjoy, and that I know I’m good at. I’m also good from a creative point of view, to be able to think about marketing direction, to try and take inspiration towards what we can do with content creation, or how we can try and test new ideas that have seen work in other industries, and how we can make that work.

Phil:
So I’m always pioneering things that can bring the attention towards our clients, that can move me into a marketplace of one, which is very much what I look at through the buying process. Probably one of the biggest decision triggers that affects success or failure in a speaking business is having got to the shortlist of three, how do you become the one?

Michael:
Correct. Because you keep on ending up on that shortlist of three, but you don’t get picked, it doesn’t matter that you were a three, you could have been 50.

Phil:
Correct. And in the shortlist of three, it’s not what your price is, or how many reps you’ve got, or whether you’re competent, or whether your content is good enough, et cetera, it’s tiny little micro-fractions that give somebody a reason to choose you as opposed to somebody like you. So I’m good at coming up with dozens of reasons that move us into marketplace of one, that would be my core set of strengths. I’ve not really thought about this much until you asked the question, but I feel like I’m a strong leader through good delegation. I put a lot of trust into my people that work with me, and I expect them to be able to deliver on their responsibilities, not on their tasks, and that means I have a very autonomous team. I don’t have the need to watch over them like a hawk, I don’t need to have daily check-ins, they’re not waiting on their next job from me.

Phil:
They’re all largely independent, largely freelance, largely work from home, but they get stuff done and I’m continually surprised at how they outperform my expectation in doing so. So I’m good at that stuff. If I look on the flip side of that and say, “Where are the areas that I know cost us in the business,” the biggest one is my inability to say no. I’m really good at wanting to help people on things, I’m really good at saying yes, I’m really good at working within the constraints of somebody else’s problem.

Michael:
If I had a nickel for every time I saw one of our colleagues or friends say, “Oh, I just got off the phone with Phil Jones, it was like 20 minutes and he blew my mind, and now I know what to do.”

Phil:
Right.

Michael:
If I had a nickel every time Phil did that, that’d be great.

Phil:
That’d be great, yeah. But I love doing it, I really love doing it, and within a circle of people that I’ve pre-determined and said that these people matter to me, I think I’m going to keep showing up and keep doing that in that way. But I do it with strangers, I take clients problems and put them on monkeys on my back. Outside of the scope of the work that we have on board, it’s, I find myself up at night worrying about their issues more than the execs within an organization. I know that that hurts my business, because it slows me down, it makes me heavy, and that’s something that I’m consciously looking to be able to make a change on. Other things that I’m just not great at is, I don’t want to build a big business, so building the… And by big business, I mean giant staff, operations, payroll, all of that big, long-term thing.

Michael:
Like all the stuff we’ve got here right now.

Phil:
Yeah, you bet. I don’t want that middle of the business, so I very consciously have been building my business to say that I want success at the top end with high fee-paying clients, keynotes, et cetera, and then I want success down at the bottom end with books and audible programs, and can I make a little off a lot and then have somebody else’s engine do the driving on it? I’ll just create the special sauce for them to be able to go and make it run. So that’s where I’ve become conscious. I’ve tried to do the stuff in the middle with online courses, and licensing, and having people that would teach my content, et cetera. And then I’ve learned I hate it, and I’m not very good at it.

Michael:
Well let’s talk about licensing just a bit, because I think you are doing some licensing.

Phil:
Yep.

Michael:
So it sounds like you’ve tried some licensing that you-

Phil:
No.

Michael:
… didn’t really like so much, but now you have a different focus. And so I’d love you to unpack that, and what have you done that didn’t work so well for you and what are you focusing on now that you think will produce leveraged returns for you over time?

Phil:
Yeah. So 2012, 2013, I licensed individuals to be able to teach and train my content. I found if I’m to summarize, two outcomes. One was the people that were good enough very quickly forgot where they learned their information, and started to then call it their own and became competitors of my brand, and I found myself in ugly conversations I just didn’t want to be a part of. Or the alternative was that they weren’t good enough, and that was my fault, and that I was dealing with babysitting a level of incompetence for people who weren’t doing the thing they paid to do. They thought the license meant instant success, as opposed to an opportunity or gateway.

Michael:
Yeah, sure. So you’re saying your fault is you let them through?

Phil:
Or even, well, both that and also that’s what their perception of it would be, that they would be reflecting back to say the reason they’re not being successful is something that I’m not doing.

Michael:
Oh I see, they were saying it’s your fault? Yes.

Phil:
Correct. So both of those things, so yes, there’s the acknowledgement from my point of view of maybe picking the wrong people.

Michael:
Which is one of the things that happens in the agency [inaudible 00:23:06] as well, you know, you bring on a new client, you help them build their career, they get very famous and then they go, “Well what do I need you for?” “I helped you get here,” you know?

Phil:
That’s right. So the day that you’re supposedly getting your payday is the day that they come off the payroll, yeah.

Michael:
Correct. Or, if things aren’t going very well for you, if you’re not producing, then you say to the agent, “What’s your problem? You’re not doing, for me, what you should be doing.”

Phil:
That’s right.

Michael:
It’s a really tough business, it’s similar, the agency business and the licensing model, are so similar.

Phil:
Correct. And I think now, my movement on licensing has become a really fun revelation, is that many of my books and some of my online content has done better outside of the United States of America than it has in it, so outside of Western-speaking countries. So everywhere that we’ve had success in book translation, we’re now pursuing training and product licensing opportunities within countries where I wouldn’t have the ability to be able to deliver that material. So I can let out the rope on the quality of the deliverables on it, when it’s in the language that I have no idea of how to police. So recently, we’ve signed a number of licenses through South America where they are competent high-level training organizations that are using my brand and my content to be able to create training vehicles for themselves that they go out, sell market, et cetera, and I take revenue back off the top of that. And that, that’s an exciting approach to licensing that I’m really looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Michael:
So it sounds like you’re focusing on the existing training organizations, and then they will take your content, translate it and start to deliver it, as opposed to just an individual who may not already have an organization-

Phil:
That’s right.

Michael:
… around them that hopes maybe they’ll get rich quick through it?

Phil:
Correct. And it has immediate in-built scale, it’s a lot easier for me to be able to vet an organization ahead of time and know what they’re about. I can see if the effort is worth the reward, the risk is next to minimal really from my point of view, and it leads towards the greater goal of growing personal brand. There’s a point where I’m at speaking-wise right now, with where my fee sits, and as busy as I am, that if I’m to get less busy and make more money, I need to be famous. I never set out to want to do that, but if that’s what I need to be able to achieve to be able to get to the next level. That’s an area that I’m trying to explore right now, is what can be done to be able to grow a profile into that level so that there’s an element of household name within the business space?

Michael:
And through what elements are you pursuing that?

Phil:
So the licensing piece is a part of that, right? If I’m a big deal in Brazil, and you get called in to then go headline a keynote that has 7,500 people in it, and high-level production value, et cetera, and then I photograph and leverage that whole thing well, and that feeds back into my North America business. Other things that we’re doing to be able to pursue that is very strategic growth through LinkedIn and Instagram, and looking to grow a profile there. Investing in being able to document a huge amount of the work that I do. So I’ve kept much of my work a secret, so I’m so busy doing it that we’re not photographing it and we’re not building the brand around it. So I’m trying to do that a little bit more, to be able to raise profile, and we speak about an agent, and I’m finally deciding to work with an agent as well.

Phil:
So that is highly likely to be something that is done and dusted before this even gets aired. I’m meeting her at an event that I’m keynoting tomorrow, so the person that I think I want to work with.

Michael:
Great. Now, if I was your agent, I’d be pushing to get you on a television program, or-

Phil:
That’s right.

Michael:
… a television program. You should be on as the expert on sales, revenue growth, business development, communications, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, on CNBC, CNN, Fox, et cetera, across the board, because you’re well designed for that.

Phil:
It is hard though now to say, “Well what is the formula for that success?” I think some of that formula of being on TV so much is a proven success story, but perhaps even historically, because how many people now watch those programs? How many eyeballs of the right kind of people are showing up in those spaces? I think it’s a diminishing number, is my personal viewpoint.

Michael:
I agree, I think yes, I agree. There are so many more channels for content distribution now of course, but there still is a certain cache, a certain credibility associated with prime time TV.

Phil:
It’s a badge of honor, it’s a perception piece, yes.

Michael:
Exactly. So from a fame perspective, there are certain things that if we do will raise our level, our profile, even if you don’t sell many more books through that, or get gigs directly through it, et cetera. But it has such a positive effect on the rest of our work, and you, some people are watching on video, most people are going to be listening to the podcast so they don’t see you. But you’re handsome, you’re young, well, you probably look younger than you are. Maybe actually you’re younger than you are, [crosstalk 00:28:26]-

Phil:
Who knows, right?

Michael:
Yeah, who knows. But you’re very handsome, you’re charming, well-dressed, you have a lovely accent which in America works very well for you. Not everybody is as well-suited for that environment.

Phil:
Sure.

Michael:
And what I’ve found over the years is, you get in with one place because one producer likes you, then the host likes you, they keep bringing you back and everybody else starts calling, you know?

Phil:
Yeah. And I love that. The challenge in doing that is schedule, so for any of those environments that they want you to be able to go on a show, it’s like, email comes in on a Monday, what are you doing on Tuesday or Thursday of that given week? And at this point in time, I’m booked through April, April of next year. So I’m booked nine months out ahead with limited windows in time, and this is why I have to start to be able to carve space back into the business. And the hardest part of growing a speaking business is turning down gigs, because we condition ourselves in a way that every gig is a good gig. That is, even through the industry can be seen as like, “Oh, somebody wants you to show up?” Your ego kicks up and you’re like, “They want me? And they’re going to pay me to do a thing that I love?”

Michael:
Of course.

Phil:
Like, “Hell yeah, let me at it.” So being brave enough to start to say, “I need to put new boundaries around what’s a hell yes,” I think is what will carve out some of the space in the years to come for me to be able to do more of that profile raising work.

Michael:
So let’s move into that kind of [inaudible 00:29:50] a little bit more, because you are remarkably skilled at sales tracking.

Phil:
Thank you.

Michael:
Remarkably skilled. And so, we want to make sure that our listeners get tools and-

Phil:
You bet.

Michael:
… techniques and tactics and strategies that they can use to help sell better. Now, one of our faculty members at Wonder Park, a client, somebody that I work with, had become close with over the years, is a speaker named Andrew Davis, and of course you’re friendly with him as well.

Phil:
Sure.

Michael:
And Andrew has been on the podcast, and his episode on the podcast is still one of the most popular episodes of the podcast. And one of the things that Andrew does is, he makes sure to turn down at least 50% of the offers that he gets. He says that if you’re not turning down 50%, then you need to raise your fees. So what’s your perspective on that, given that you were just saying that sometimes it’s hard to say no, and when people…

Phil:
I guess my perspective on it is I’m a little more organic, and-

Michael:
Yeah, he’s a very analytical, tracks everything, knows the average fee price to the penny.

Phil:
He does, and then I challenge him on what his average fee growth has been over the last five years, and that’s a number I know remarkably well that is different from his analytics. So we can all choose to measure what matters to us, right?

Michael:
Yeah.

Phil:
That’s the key thing. And when it comes to making decisions about gigs, my bigger thing is, is how soon is it? When is it? If somebody wants me to deliver a gig on Tuesday next week and I’m home, and the gig is in Manhattan, and I can take the car to it, and I can be home in time for lunch, would I be open to being able to consider a price less than my standard fee for that right now? Hell yeah. If it’s October 2020 and it’s in Peru, there’s every possibility that what I’m going to be doing is reaching for my 2020 pricing, and I’m actively always looking at what the next price point is that I’m looking to be able to grow into, and what’s it going to take to get there? The second I’ve been paid it three times, it’s my new fee.

Michael:
Oh, is that how you do it?

Phil:
Yeah.

Michael:
So if you’ve been paid that fee three times, you immediately raise it?

Phil:
Yes.

Michael:
So if you’re-

Phil:
But I’m aspirational, I’m aspirationally looking to be able to raise-

Michael:
[crosstalk 00:32:13] raising your prices a lot. If you’re doing over 100 gigs a year, and you’re raising it every three gigs, that fee-

Phil:
No, I’m raising it every time I’ve been paid that new fee three times.

Michael:
Oh, I see. So for example, you may talk to somebody and say you get that fee, but then the sales conversation you have the next day-

Phil:
Yes, correct.

Michael:
… and that’s the slightly lower fee, like a previous fee, pays down the negotiation? Yeah.

Phil:
You bet. And sometimes, I think… You want a solid piece of advice for speakers? Is firstly understand you’ll never get paid more money than you ask for. And I know that sounds so simple, but the mistake that almost every speaker makes is they assume that the client is responsible for how much you’re worth. There needs to become a level of bravery that is attached to your ability to be able to ask for money. I’ve been successful as a speaker for free, I’ve been successful for a speaker at 500, I’ve been successful for a speaker at 1,500, 2,500, 5,000, 10,000, et cetera, every price point that has existed right up until where I’m at right now. I like to believe that I’ve been really good for that price point, and I think that is an important track that everybody should run on. The worst place you want to end up is, you don’t like feedback like, “He was pretty good, but for that fee…”

Michael:
Yeah. So interestingly enough, I’m close with the founder of Big Speakers [inaudible 00:33:30], and he told me a story about a client that he’d been working with for 10 years who has always gotten good feedback, 100% good feedback. I mean, this is someone who is just a mainstay of solid work. A client went into… The speaker went into the speech, and the meeting planner called up his agent and said, “I don’t know, I don’t really think it was worth it.” He said, “Oh my God, I’ve never heard that before, that’s terrible.” And she said, “Yeah, you know, it just really wasn’t worth 40 grand.” And Martin said, “Wait, what? Hold on, that’s not his fee, his fee’s 15. Let me just go check, because we’re not sure there wasn’t a clerical error or something.” So he went and checked, he said, “No no, you guys paid 15. You did not pay 40, you paid 15.” And she said, “Oh, in that case, he was great. He was fantastic, lots of value. Thanks,” boom, that’s it, end of conversation.

Phil:
Right. So you’ve got to get that confidence to be able to rise a fee with the credibility of knowing that you can still outperform expectation at whatever that level of fee is. And that’s why I look for the bravery of, firstly I negotiate probably two thirds of my current inquiries myself.

Michael:
But you’re particularly skilled.

Phil:
Well, I think it’s also part of the reason somebody should choose me. So it forms part of my sales process, is that if I can touch it and I want to put myself into a marketplace at one, and everybody else had an agent bureau executive handler they’d be able to reach out to be able to negotiate it, and the client gets to speak to Phil direct, I’m already further on in the conversation because I’m discussing with the meeting planner the event itself, I’m discussing what their objectives and goals are, everybody else is a speaker packet and a fee.

Michael:
Well this is interesting, because it’s actually very meta.

Phil:
Yeah.

Michael:
You know, you’re being hired to teach them how to sell better, so they’re evaluating your salesmanship throughout that process. Whether they’re consciously doing it or not, I think they are, just like when they’re considering bringing us for communication training, public speaking training, they’re evaluating how we show up in the world as communicators. Which, I think they should be.

Phil:
They should be.

Michael:
And if they can’t follow what we’re saying, if we’re very confusing and all over the place, then they may say, “How are they going to teach us to do it better, if they can’t do it?” So it seems to me-

Phil:
It happens all the time, and one of my favorite things that often happens is I’ll have a call with a client about booking me to be able to speak, and we’re talking about some of the metrics that they want to be able to move with their people. One of those metrics is often that what we’re looking to be able to do is to maintain a premium price more often, what we’re looking to be able to do is to give away less discounts, what we’re looking to be able to do is to be able to charge more for some of our higher-level services. These are things they’re looking for them to be able to do, I then talk to them about my fee and they ask me to negotiate. My response is typically, “You realize that if what I do here is that I reduce my fee, that you just picked the wrong speaker?” Typically gaining that type of level of response.

Phil:
“What I’d like you to be able to do is to use this negotiation as part of your introduction for when you bring me out on stage, to be able to talk about the fact that you’ve maybe paid more than you ever paid for a speaker in the past, but that’s exactly what you’re looking for this audience to be able to do.”

Michael:
That’s very clever. [crosstalk 00:36:50]-

Phil:
So we actually utilize it to be able to better play it out that way. And you know, I’m a stickler for questions, right? Questions are my way of controlling almost any given conversation, and I think speakers are awfuler at it when an inquiry comes their way. Firstly, because they’re excited, right? Typically an inquiry comes in and the inquiry comes in as an email, or a contact form on your website, and it’s normally the same thing, right? It’s, “Are you available, and what’s your fee?” That is the typical inbound speaking inquiry. And then the typical response to that, “Are you available or not and what’s your fee,” is, “Yes, I’m available, and what’s your budget?”

Michael:
Yeah, right.

Phil:
Which is stupid, straight up stupid. So if people are looking for a real practical takeaway as to how they can command their fee more successfully from a speaking inquiry point of view is to take control of the conversation. Firstly, what you might look to be able to respond with is you’re going to say, “As it currently stands, yes I am available on that day, and I’ve placed it on hold for you.” So just kick off right there, and be able to take some control of it. The second thing, instead of talking about your fee, you might say something like, “What is it about me and my work that makes you think I might be a good fit for your event?” Those two questions alone put you back in complete control. What then happens is the client sells you on you, so they then start to unpack, “Well, I’ve seen you speak here, or I’ve seen this happen there,” et cetera.

Phil:
Next question I might ask is, “So what is your experience with working with a paid professional speaker?” And you’ll note even in the verbiage there when I say, “Paid professional speaker,” as opposed to, “Professional speaker,” I’ve indicated that there’s some money attached to this. They’re going to say, “Oh, no, we’ve booked a number of people in the past,” I say, “Who have been some of the most memorable that you’ve worked with in the past?” If they say that, “What we’ve had is that we’ve had Mel Robbins, and We’ve had Kindra Hall, and that we’ve had Ron Tite, and these people were all great,” what does that do to my confidence? Instantly I’m realizing that I’m in good company and that they understand what they’re getting into. If they say back to that, “Well, mostly we’ve had internal speakers that are from the corporate team.

Phil:
“Or, you know, we’ve had some industry speakers from our vendors that have come up on stage. We’ve never actually reached out to work with a speaker in the past,” now I know I’ve got a very different conversation when it comes to positioning how they might work, so the first thing I would look to do is to help educate them on the landscape of professional speakers, to then let them know where I fit within that landscape, and ask if that was the kind of expectation they had. And if they had a different expectation, can I help recommend them to somebody who might fit within the lines of those expectations?

Michael:
So how do you frame those expectations?

Phil:
Okay, I might say something like, “So you say you don’t have a great deal of experience in working with paid professional speakers. Would it help if I gave you maybe a spectrum of helping you understand the landscape in its entirety, they say, “Yeah, sure.” I say, “Well if we took maybe like a scale of one to 10, with 10 being like a Barack Obama, an Oprah, you know, somebody like that coming in. And then a one being somebody who’s maybe just come out of a corporate role, getting started in their professional career. Somebody up at a 10 might be like, $400,000. That’s what they might demand for a single speech. And down at the one end of the level, you might be looking at somebody that’s maybe at the 500, the 1,500, the $2,500 range. Now I’m not a level 10 speaker, I’m currently a level six working on becoming a level seven. Is that the kind of level of speaker that you might be looking for.

Michael:
Very interesting. It’s such a great frame.

Phil:
That’s all it is, it’s just a frame to open up a conversation.

Michael:
And how do you handle it if they have worked with a lot of folks that might be a level six or a seven?

Phil:
Right, well, I’m just going to assume that they’re good with my fee, yeah.

Michael:
Okay, got it.

Phil:
I don’t have any further positioning to be able to do, because they know what they’re getting into, they’re an experienced buyer.

Michael:
They’ve already paid Ron, they’ve paid Mel, they’ve paid [crosstalk 00:40:37]-

Phil:
Right.

Michael:
And you know what the fees are, generally.

Phil:
Think of it like a restaurant, right? If you or I are going to a restaurant, we look at the menu. If there’s a glass of wine or something that we want to be able to drink, we don’t over-analyze the price list, we just say, “That’s the one I’d like,” and we move forward with it because that’s the one we would like. We’re not looking at the $16 vs the $18 vs the $22 glass and letting that go into our decision, we read the left hand side of the menu, and we don’t care so much about the right side of the menu because we’re experienced buyers. We know what it might cost to be able to be in that environment. That’s the same with a lot of meeting plans. For a lot of meeting planners, if they want you and you and only you they don’t care whether you’re 15, whether you’re 25, whether you’re 32, 500, for many if it’s you they want, providing that you’re in play, you’re in good shape.

Phil:
What I found to be interesting though, is if they come to you first, typically they have a speaker budget. Not a budget for me, a budget for the speakers. So if I’m more than what they maybe anticipated that they wanted to pay but they still want me, what they do is they don’t challenge me and my fee, they reduce the expectation of what they might pay the other two speakers at the event. And that’s why it’s nice to be first.

Michael:
It sure is. So how do you discover or uncover how their motivations are… Or how much they know about you going into the conversation? Because as you said, if the bureau calls and said, “Listen, Acting Corporation requested you, they want you,” well that tells you a lot, and that’s going to help you navigate that conversation. If it’s a bureau, and they’re just putting you and nine other people in front of that client, totally different-

Phil:
Totally different.

Michael:
… conversation. So how do you uncover those specifics?

Phil:
If I’m one of the 10, I view that like a lottery ticket. I’m in the game, some I’m going to win, some I’m going to lose, so what? I don’t view that as the strategic part of my business, the strategic part of my business for the bureau stuff is to build better relationships with the bureaus, so that what they’re not doing is putting me on a list of nine others, they are reaching into some of their clients and saying, “Phil’s your guy.”

Michael:
Yeah. Even proactively before there’s a gig, you say-

Phil:
Correct.

Michael:
… “Listen, Phil’s the guy-”

Phil:
For your next one.

Michael:
“… for the next one, make sure you come, we’ll talk about it, and we’ll get him [crosstalk 00:42:54].”

Phil:
Exactly. For the other stuff, it’s just that first question. What is it about me and my work that makes you think that I might be a good fit for the event? That question just-

Michael:
Same question.

Phil:
It’s the same question, it just… And it unpacks. Sometimes you bump into a meeting planner like, “I don’t know, I was just browsing on Google and you came up, and we liked one of your videos.” All right, I’m okay with that. Sometimes it’s, “Well, you know, three of our friends have seen you speak,” sometimes it’s one of the team was at an event that you were at in 2008 and they’re always looking for an opportunity to be able to bring you on board.

Michael:
And that same question, it applies to all those situations, yeah.

Phil:
Every single one of them. All I’m looking for is context before I present any of my content.

Michael:
Yeah.

Phil:
Right? Without that frame of them saying, “Well this is where I’m at,” I can’t then help them in the decision-making process. And that’s my goal, my goal is not to sell me as the speaker, my goal is to help assist their decision-making process.

Michael:
Excellent. And when they say, “So, what would you talk about,” how do you handle that? What do you do? Because you know, some speakers will start to go into, all of a sudden they start doing their speech.

Phil:
Yeah, start unpacking the speech. What do you talk about?

Michael:
Yeah, but it’s not particularly productive.

Phil:
My first response is, “Great question. If you want a short answer, I don’t know. What I need to understand more about is, what are your goals and objectives for the event? Having delivered over 2,500 presentations, there’s a chance that I might have something in my back catalog that would be useful to you, but I’ve never delivered the same speech twice. So what I’d look to be able to do is customize something that was unique towards your circumstances.” So we just dive back into what they’re hoping to be able to achieve. Sometimes they don’t know, so we start to then be able to dive into some of the other constraints. So where are you thinking of this sitting within the agenda? How many people are there in the audience? What happens before, what happens afterwards? Is this a kickoff, or is this a closing?

Phil:
Is this a meet, or some content that exists within the middle of the piece? If there was something you wish that your corporate execs could say to the audience that they don’t have the ability to be able to say, what might that thing be? See, I use that as a great trigger for somebody to be able to get to book me. If there was something you wish your exec team could say to your audience that they’re not in the position to be able to say, what would that thing be? If I can position my talk towards the ability to be able to address that elephant in the room, and do it without the corporate red tape, they’ll pick me.

Michael:
So one of the… I’m very happy that you said that it’s a stupid question, what’s your budget? I like that you’re so blunt on that. What are some of the other mistakes that people make, or things that they probably shouldn’t do that may be interfering with their ability to get booked?

Phil:
Okay, we can do some more on the fee stuff, I’ll talk about that in a second. But I think the bigger mistake is to think you’re all things to all people. And I see it even in some of our speaker communities that we’re bumped into together online, is like, “Somebody says I got this gig, and it’s over here, and it has a budget of this, that has a topic of that,” and then you see people volunteering for it, and it’s not just slightly left of what I believe their area of expertise is. It’s like a-

Michael:
It’s like a hard u-turn, yeah.

Phil:
… hard u-turn, you’re like…

Michael:
So someone usually speaks on like, healthcare, and this thing is on sales to engineers.

Phil:
“Sales to engineers with diversity in the workplace,” and you’re like, “Eh?” And they told me that they were a 25 grand speaker, this has got a straight up offer of seven grand on it,” and you’re like, “Oh, this is telling me a very different story. And I’m okay if that story’s true, but the trouble is I can’t refer somebody if I don’t know what they’re for.” So that’s the mistake, is people don’t know the answer to two simple questions. The two simple questions that people should know the answer to is, who are the people that they help, and what are the problems that they solve for them? And the answer can’t be everybody and everything, right? It needs to be cleaner and clearer than that. People get scared by that, but it’s nothing more than the tip of an arrow. Behind that tip of the arrow there’s a ton of weight, a ton of experience, and a ton of skill, and a ton of options of what you could be able to create otherwise.

Phil:
I have probably the biggest tip of my arrow is my work in and around word choices, and magic words, and exactly what to say. I very rarely get booked to deliver an exactly what to say speech. It’s always the takeaway, it’s always the thing that people are left with, it’s always the thing that becomes to Jay Bear’s point of view, a talk trigger that people go on and be able to go and share with others. It’s not actually my core content, it’s just the thing that pierces the market because everybody accepts the fact that their people need to know exactly what to say. It’s a universal truth.

Michael:
Yeah, and I can [crosstalk 00:47:22] for that. You spent four hours with a big group of our students a few months ago, and I don’t always sit in when we have a guest teacher, just because-

Phil:
You have a business to run?

Michael:
Yeah, and it gives me an opportunity to have a break, but I sat in for that because I wanted to see your work, live and in-person. And I do remember thinking that, I was, “Oh wow, it’s actually really quite brilliant, because his content is really deep and focused, and it’s not just about exactly what to say, but everybody was leaving there saying, ‘Oh, I know exactly what to say.'”

Phil:
That’s it.

Michael:
It was really quite lovely.

Phil:
Another big mistake, and let’s bring it back to fees, is people not setting on a fee. I think every speaker should have a fee, it might not be the money that you always get for every given speech, but you should know what you’re worth. And I don’t mind what that number is, you have to just decide what that number is for you. And there may well be examples where you work for less than your fee, but you should never work for less than the combined value of your fee. Speaking-

Michael:
Say that again, you should never work for less than the combined value of your fee, or is that-

Phil:
Yeah, well what I mean by that, so a conversation with a guy in one of my Mastermind groups, a guy called Bruce, he is a 15 grand speaker. Well, he’s now decided he’s a 15 grand speaker, at the start of this conversation he says, “I typically charge between like, 12 and 18.” Funnily enough, he speaks on ethics and integrity, and I’m like, “Hold on, you speak on ethics and integrity and you can’t tell me what your fee is? That is perhaps lacking in ethics and integrity, I’ve got an issue.” So this got my back up a little, in a fun, playful kind of way, and he had an issue where a client that he wanted to speak for had offered him $5,000. Now, this is a challenge, right, is if he takes the gig at $5,000, what has he just said to every single other client about what his fee is? If he takes the gig at $5,000, to me he’s a $5,000 speaker.

Phil:
What you can do by alternative though, is you can ask to be able to create a value exchange, and the play to be able to do this, and I’ve taught people to do this a number of times, is to throw down a challenge to the client. It runs something like this, is, “My speaking fee is $15,000. I understand that you can currently offer $5,000, and the way I see it is we have two options. Now absolutely I want to speak at the event, and I’ve penciled it in on my calendar. Perhaps either you can go away and see what you can do to be able to find some extra funds to get it towards my fee, or here’s a list of 20 different things that I would see as being valuable, that if you can come up with some success in some of these areas I may be happy to take these in lieu of the $10,000.”

Michael:
What are some of those things? What might some of those things be for you?

Phil:
Right, I mean, there are different things for different people, you get to choose. But say for example that you are looking to be able to go through a pivot in your branding, and your video content is insufficient. Three camera video shoot on the right stage would be wonderful, commitment to be able to move forward with the purchase of a bulk order of books, distribution and content through maybe trade publication or magazine, access to delegate contact details, opportunity to be able to get sponsor branding in and around the event. Do you get some space within the expo hall, can they be able to perhaps put something out to their email list about you and your work and your presence at the event ahead of time, what’s happening with regards to professional photos at the event, can you capture some of those?

Phil:
Is there an opportunity for you to get a meeting greet with some of the key sponsors that could lead towards future work? Would they be prepared to commit to maybe some further training work for you, or to be able to purchase any of your online courses, or something for some followup work that means that this would be worthwhile? Can you bring maybe some other people along to the event? Do they have a sponsorship package that would give access towards you being a guest on their podcast, or… Explore the opportunities of everything they have on the list, but what I want to do is to give them the biggest list of stuff and then say, “I want you to think about what you might be able to do, and come back and make me an offer.”

Michael:
Yes, so you’re not asking for it…

Phil:
No.

Michael:
You’re saying, “Here’s [crosstalk 00:51:20]-”

Phil:
I’m saying we’ve got a gap. We’ve got a gap, I want to be able to do it…

Michael:
Here are some of the things that might fill that gap.

Phil:
Correct. Go play.

Michael:
Now, what can you offer?

Phil:
You go play, and almost always I’m impressed by the size of the list that comes back. Better than that though, it’s a joyful experience for everybody involved in the negotiation. They had fun putting this together, they realized that when you show up they got a 15 grand speaker for five grand, I got an email back from Bruce when he did this just two days ago. They took three days to be able to come back with their offer, he asked for 12 potential things, he got seven of the 12 to a combined value of $23,000.

Michael:
Nice.

Phil:
So he’s happy, they’re happy, everybody wins. But what he’s now decided is he’s a $15,000 speaker, and he’ll never do anything for other than 15 grand. Now he can donate a $15,000 speech for all I’m concerned, and that-

Michael:
And he might take some of it in kind.

Phil:
Correct.

Michael:
[inaudible 00:52:11].

Phil:
And I even do that now, like, I might deliver four or five speeches a year that I don’t charge a dime for. What do I typically do on those is, I invoice with 100% discount, just to be able to create the perception of value towards the other person.

Michael:
On the invoice, do you articulate why you do so?

Phil:
Yeah, and it changes the way you’re treated. You’re a free speaker, you’re a pain in the arse. You’re a 20 grand speaker that gifted the speech, you’re a hero.

Michael:
It’s true. It’s really remarkable, if I had been more academic when I was in school when I was younger, I probably would have ended up a social scientist, because I find human behavior fascinating.

Phil:
It’s fascinating, super fascinating.

Michael:
And just bizarre, and that’s what makes it so interesting.

Phil:
It’s super-interesting, and if people can take anything from our conversation that we’re having here right now, I want you to see how much fun I have with this stuff. It is straight-up play, it’s not there’s a right way and a wrong way to be able to do it. Every conversation, every interaction, every opportunity to be able to win business for the client is a game, and that game is laced with lessons and laced with opportunity. But because it’s a game I can still be playful with it. It’s the second we start to be able to stack this as the, “I have to get this one,” then that’s when it starts to become a dangerous place. And a speaker playing from a position of desperation, that’s straight-up ugly.

Michael:
It’s tough, especially because your role at that event is very often to be in the leadership position-

Phil:
Correct.

Michael:
… mentorship position, or just a straight-up teacher. And a lack of confidence doesn’t really support those roles.

Phil:
No, it doesn’t.

Michael:
It doesn’t mean you might not be nervous, yeah.

Phil:
Oh, you’ve got to be nervous.

Michael:
But you know, it’s interesting, I mean even before I do a podcast interview like this I often get a little bit nervous. But if you look at these, why, I mean, I’ve done it a hundred times. Actually, probably a thousand times, given the number of podcasts that I’ve gone on. I know you well, I’m prepared. So it’s in my training facility, there’s nothing that is out of control or could be so problematic that something bad could happen.

Phil:
No.

Michael:
But it’s normal.

Phil:
I think the reasons though that we find those nerves are probably, maybe at least threefold. Firstly, it’s because you care. The bigger thing though, is that because you have versions or levels of success that exist within your mind, of what could happen, what could be done, what you could get from any one of these opportunities, and because you play out all those different variations of what it could be, now you’ve created unknowns that didn’t exist-

Michael:
That’s true actually, yeah.

Phil:
And that’s what the nerves come from. But that’s again, that what gets you into a state of play that says, “Actually, now what I’ve done is I’ve broken away the shackles of what right is, let me see what might happen. I’m nervous to get to the end, to find out what actually really happened.”

Michael:
Yeah. This is one of the reasons that we do a fair amount of improv with our students. When I was in grad school at NYU for acting, the first year, most of our time, I’d say 85% of our time was spent on play, and they actually called it play.

Phil:
Love it.

Michael:
So we didn’t do improv, we did games, because they wanted to teach us how to play. Because if, over the course of the three years they teach you the craft so that you have a toolbox and an instrument that can do all the different things that you want to do as a performer, but you can’t play, you’re generally not going to be transformational.

Phil:
No.

Michael:
And so that’s why we spend so much time playing, and the same thing we do here. It is one of the things, especially for folks that don’t come from that kind of creative background that at first can be very intimidating, but in fact becomes liberating. For so many years I really thought about transformation as our primary focus, but more recently I’ve been thinking about it as liberation. Because really, what we’re doing is we’re liberating the best parts of ourselves, so that we can play in any situation, or any environment that we’re in, and play the right role.

Phil:
That’s it.

Michael:
So with that said, let’s talk a little bit about books. You’ve been very successful, there’s no transition there. It’s just, “Let’s go to books.” So you’ve been very successful selling books into the environments that you’re speaking in, one of the things that you’ve done very well. So I’d love you to just unpack your history with book writing and book sales, and then also what you think your future looks like with respect to books.

Phil:
Okay. So if we go back in history, the first book I wrote in 2011 was a book called Toolbox, and it was a self-published book, and I wrote the book because I needed to write a book. And it’s at that point in career that if you haven’t got a book, then who are you? So I got my book out, and I did the thing that lots of people do with their first book, which is like, “How do I get almost everything I know about almost everything I know between the covers of a piece of… Of a book?”

Michael:
Yeah, and I’m actually reading someone’s book right now. It’s still in an early draft stage, but I’m reading it because he wants me to direct the whole keynote. For those that are watching, you can see that I’m holding up my fingers…

Phil:
Yeah, we’ve got like a four inch depth in here.

Michael:
About four inches right now, and it’s going to take me quite some time to work through.

Phil:
That’s kind of you.

Michael:
The first thing that I’m going to talking to him about is, “How can we cut this down?”

Phil:
Right.

Michael:
Yeah.

Phil:
So that was an early book, and it did its job, right? It established me as an author, it was probably one of the key things that allowed me to be able to move my business from just a UK-based speaking and training business to be a global speaking and training business. It gave me that passport. My second book was a book called Magic Words, and Magic Words was a bet. So I was in a Mastermind group, and people were talking about how difficult it was to be able to get a book to a point of market. Me, being the kind of person I am, sometimes lets my big mouth get me into trouble, and I made a statement that said, “Look, you could turn a book around in as little as seven days. I’m pretty sure that if I really needed to, within seven days I could have a book listed, I could have it in bestseller status, I could make a little bit of money, I don’t know what you guys are all messing about at.”

Phil:
And they called me on my bluff. So I did it, I took a two-page PDF that I’d used for a training the day before, that was a training towards a telecommunication company’s admin staff on the phone, for customer service, where they wanted me to be able to teach them to be more sales-focused without feeling like they’re salespeople. So I created a two-page PDF as their takeaway for that, which was 17 sequences of words that could allow you to have more influence and impact on your conversations. So me turning that into a book was me padding out a two-page PDF. I turned it into what is nothing more than a glorified pamphlet, that book was called Magic Words. We put it out with a little bit of nous and marketing behind it, and within maybe 10 days we had 120,000 downloads on it on the free Kindle edition.

Michael:
All right, so you said it was a glorified pamphlet-

Phil:
That’s right.

Michael:
… and maybe you’re being a little self-effacing.

Phil:
Maybe.

Michael:
Because if 130,000 or 140,000 people downloaded that quickly, there must be some value in it, yeah.

Phil:
Oh yeah, there was certainly value, but it didn’t meet the typical book description.

Michael:
Yeah, so you mean more in size or scale?

Phil:
Yeah, size and scale. It was concise, you could get through it in like 20 minutes. But it met my objective at that point in time, and my objective for it was number one, to politely respond to my Mastermind group with what was possible, two, to have a simple takeaway for dozens of events, three, to have a low-priced giveaway that had perceived tangible value that could get me through the door of dozens of different things. So that’s what that book did for me.

Michael:
And clearly, you don’t seem to be worried about perfection?

Phil:
Oh no way.

Michael:
Yeah. You look at it and say, “Okay, what is enough for this reader to give them what they need in this particular… In these parameters?”

Phil:
There’s a job description for every product that exists within my business. My evolution with books came with my geographic move to the US. So with me wanting to be able to come here and shrink my business geographically, I want to do less geographic work, et cetera, I wanted to be able to build a footprint here in North America. I needed a reason to be able to get people interested in who I was, so I thought, “Well, what I should probably do is to do a new book.” And then when I was thinking about doing a new book, I thought, “Well, why am I trying to reinvent an idea that is untrusted? What if I take what I call my big gun, right, and I shoot my big gun first, which is Magic Words? So why don’t I take that and write it the way it should have been written, and actually give it the level of refinement that it would have needed the first time around?”

Phil:
And that’s exactly what to say. So exactly what to say was the product of a second level edit on Magic Words, rewritten in the way it should have been done with the correct level of production attached towards it, to mean that it would… And I think there’s a really important lesson in that for speakers, is we quite often think we need new content, new content, new content, yet refine content of what was great for us five years ago, probably is just as new as it needs to be, and your ability to deliver that same content today is better than you could have done back then, that’s what makes it new. And we want signature stories, we want signature work, if we’re to build a long-term round. So that was that book, as we stand today we’ve just grossed out over half a million copies of that, and now intro distribution.

Phil:
It’s the most listened to book on Audible for 2018, it’s an hour and fifteen minutes long as a read, it breaks many of the standard traditions of what a book should be, and it’s now a serious, genuine revenue stream for my business. Behind that book is exactly how to sell, and exactly where to start, which are two other strategic plays.

Michael:
Just FYI, I don’t know if you should for the people who are watching, you can see almost every other page is dog-eared.

Phil:
It’s a playbook.

Michael:
And then there’s notes in there, and it’s highlighted. So there’s that. I think this was a… Amy did this, worked through this and made all those notes in it.

Phil:
Now that’s a playbook that will never sell the volume of quantities that Exactly What To Say would sell. What it does do though, within my business system, is it strategically backs me up in saying that there’s more depth to this, guys, content that’s in that tiny little book. It actually is the hammer behind the nail, sits there for me purposefully so I don’t ever have expectations of that doing half a million copies. We’re currently at 25, 30,000 copies of that, I’m already good with that. But it exists in the portfolio for credibility, and then exactly where to start, the third book in the trilogy is a book for entrepreneurs to help them get an idea from nowhere into reality. Where does that sit within the portfolio? Well, I didn’t have a lot to talk towards entrepreneur space, yet it’s something that I care passionately about.

Phil:
It’s something that I get asked a lot of questions about, as to, “How do I get started with this, or what did you do when you first started, or I’ve got this idea.” And the biggest thing I got sick of in my travels is, you know the people you meet at a bar or whilst waiting for a plane that nearly did something? They find out the kind of work that they do, and they tell you the story about the thing they nearly did once?

Michael:
Yeah.

Phil:
I wanted an answer for that. So that’s where that book sits, but now the trilogy allows me to have this Exactly brand, and what they really do is they sit as a triangle, where any one of them is the tip and the other two are the weight that sits behind it, depending upon which audience I’m looking to be able to speak towards. So that’s been very much the journey with books, up until where we are right now. The most exciting next part of the journey is what we’re doing to be able to do customized, and niched versions of exactly what to say. We’re now at a point where we have 18 customized corporate editions of exactly what to say that exist within niche industries, they’re not available within public domain, we still sell thousands of copies of them, organizations use them as a training tool, we do them in their color palette, I rework the examples-

Michael:
Nice.

Phil:
… towards their industry, et cetera.

Michael:
And you’re able to do that because you’re controlling the publishing and the distribution process.

Phil:
Correct, and also, I’m close enough to the content to have the ability to be able to make that a quick edit. It becomes an almost no-brainer upsell to some of my core clients, it becomes a way for me to get through the door of some new clients, and I think over the next two years we might have 150, 200 different special editions of Exactly What To Say, and I’m going to ride that horse like Psy rides Gangnam Style, I think is-

Michael:
Is that the expression?

Phil:
That’s what I’m looking at, that’s my analogy on it, is you know Psy wrote that song Gangnam Style, and it’s about the only thing he’s ever famous for? I don’t think, sometimes, if you do something that has enough longevity and is a perennial bestseller that way around, is you don’t need to keep reinventing anything. You can just ride that one piece of content for a career.

Michael:
Well I said that one of the mistakes that I made over the years is writing too many books.

Phil:
That’s right.

Michael:
You know, I wrote Book Yourself Solid in 2005, and I was very fortunate that it hit in a real way. And then I kept writing more books, and you know, they did fine, they hit lists, yada yada. But I could have stayed just with Book Yourself Solid for a decade or more, and not taken any time to do any other books, and been just as financially successful if not more, because I would have been more focused. And also, sometimes you confuse the marketplace if you’re doing too many things.

Phil:
It’s like having too many speeches, too many areas of expertise. Same issue.

Michael:
Yeah, exactly right.

Phil:
I agree. I’m more interested right now in less than just the books piece, but looking at other content platforms. So if you look at the likes of Audible, you look at Netflix, you look at even Masterclass, I’m fascinated at how these subscription models have grown massively well over the last four, five years. I’m also very aware that their biggest challenge right now is churn, and within that challenge of churn is quality content. One thing that will keep people coming back time and time again is entertaining educational content, and I’m seeing huge opportunity to be able to create that quality of information, utilizing somebody else’s train set as opposed to say, “It always needs to come through me.” So the distribution channel for education always used to be traditional publishing. I think that distribution channel is now significantly changed.

Phil:
And I’m looking at saying, “How do I create content that is unique within those spaces?” So I did my Audible Original, which I’m super proud of, which is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’m doing another secret project with Audible that comes out in Q1 of 2020, and actively exploring opportunities to say, “If Netflix needed something from me, what would that look like?” And trying to get close enough to the conversations to let them come up with something that is their idea to use me, but I created the idea for them to be able to think was their idea.

Michael:
Well done.

Phil:
So working on that kind of stuff, and then same again with Masterclass. You look at that platform there right now, there will be in the next two years’ time somebody showing up, teaching people how to be able to communicate effectively from a stage. I’d love that to be Michael and Amy Port, that would be the coolest thing, but currently they are having the problem discussions in their corporations, they’re not having the solution discussion within their corporations. And I think that’s the future of where a lot of content distribution is going to be going, and I’m trying to get ahead of that race rather than thinking about what’s my next book?

Michael:
Yeah, smart. So a couple of questions, or maybe one question about book sales, with the speech.

Phil:
Speech, sure.

Michael:
Because that’s something that’s very immediate and important to listeners, to increase the number of books they sell, and still get their fee when they’re going in for a gig.

Phil:
Absolutely, and I do pretty good at this. So about 85% of the gigs that I book buy books, and they buy books for every attendee. I’ve tried everything through the years, I’ve tried the back of the room book sale, it’s one of the ugliest, worst, painful experiences of my life, where you’ve just crushed it on stage and now you’re like, “You got change for a 20?” Right? That stuff is like, avoid that at all costs.

Michael:
It’s just like a step away from putting out a hat.

Phil:
Correct. So anything you can do to avoid that stuff, absolutely get away from. My roots are being able to introduce books to almost every event is that I don’t make it a condition of sale pre-contract. So books aren’t talked about ahead of time, we closed the gig, et cetera. The pre-planning call is my time to sell books. I have one question that is killer, and it works for me almost every time, and the question is this: “Oh, what’s your plan for books?”

Michael:
And they say, “What do you mean?”

Phil:
That’s it. And I say, “Well typically, at the end of the event we reference some of the key information from the books,” and what I always get asked is delegates say, “Where can I get a copy of the book?” “Now, the most successful way we can do it is to create a book in the room for everybody, or would you like me to point them towards Amazon so that they can go buy copies for themselves?”

Michael:
And generally, what’s their answer?

Phil:
“Oh, we haven’t thought about that. How much is it, and what will they be, and how does that work?” So I say, “How many people are attending?” And they tell me, and I say, “Well we can do this really cool thing, that if we do books for every attendee then following the event we’ll have the books available for them outside, and I’ll do a small signing and a meet and greet and some Q&A.” “Wow, that’d be amazing.” And then I tell them the price and they say, “Great,” and then I send them a payment link, and the buy the books.

Michael:
Yeah, that’s it.

Phil:
It’s that easy.

Michael:
Yeah. It’s very, very strategic to separate the book sales conversation from the speech conversation, because they are two different things.

Phil:
They’re two different things, and I think-

Michael:
They’ve already gone through the pain of the fee, like, “Okay, that was a couple of months ago, they don’t even remember [crosstalk 01:10:15].”

Phil:
So if you want lessons on upselling anything, then you look to the masters. The masters of the upsell are a little business that was founded by Ray Crock. Now, many people think that it’s a fast food business, but really it’s a real estate business that’s built with a fast food empire on top of it, and the business we’re talking about is McDonald’s, right?

Michael:
Yeah.

Phil:
Everything you need to know about upselling anything is taught through their, “Would you like to go large,” or, “Would you like to super size” story. And thinking about those lessons is firstly, at what point in the transaction do they invite somebody to go large or super size?

Michael:
After they’ve ordered, yeah.

Phil:
Yeah, after they’ve ordered and before they’ve-

Michael:
Paid.

Phil:
Yeah, there’s the window. How much extra do they invite somebody to pay in percentage terms of the overall transaction?

Michael:
Smaller.

Phil:
Relatively small, like 15, 20, 25% of what they’ve already agreed to be able to commit to be able to purchase, is how often do they ask the question?

Michael:
Every time.

Phil:
Every single time. What happens if they get a no response?

Michael:
I don’t know, I don’t go to McDonald’s. What do they say?

Phil:
Ah, there are zero consequences.

Michael:
Oh, I see.

Phil:
There is no pushback like, “Oh, you should, because Jimmy’s on french fries and they’re banging.”

Michael:
They don’t keep going.

Phil:
There’s no further, “Let’s try and explore and push this idea in.” Their job is to be able to insert it. The final question I tend to ask of people is, “The people of McDonald’s, are they more skilled or less skilled than you?”

Michael:
I think most people would assume less.

Phil:
I think they’d like to be able to give an answer to that, but if the people at McDonald’s can invite people to be able to purchase something extra at the point of transaction after they’ve ordered and before they’ve paid, they can do it every single time without care or consequence to the result, my guess is more often than not in that scenario, in that skillset, they are way more skilled than you are. So the challenge I would put to everybody listening is, can you raise your game in that area? I have six figures of incremental revenue in my business that exist, for books that appeared at events that nobody asked me for. They wouldn’t have been missing, the client would have said afterwards that this would have been better.

Michael:
Oh I see, yeah, they didn’t come to you and say [crosstalk 01:12:13]-

Phil:
It wasn’t their idea. I gave them the idea.

Michael:
Their question is, “What do you plan to do about books?”

Phil:
That’s it, and I put something on the agenda that previously they had no consideration towards.

Michael:
Yeah, that’s great.

Phil:
It’s real money.

Michael:
It’s great, it’s really, really, great. Look, I could sit here and talk to you all day about this, and I actually will because [crosstalk 01:12:31]. But I’m going to turn off the cameras and the microphones. How could people get in touch with you if they want to reach out to you?

Phil:
If people want to join the conversation, Twitter, I’m not really on. But LinkedIn and Instagram are two channels that I show up very much in person, so we can join the conversation there. You want to find out more about me and my work, come to the website, it’s Philmjones.com. If people want to take a deeper dive on any of this sale stuff, probably the best place for them to be able to go right now is to my Audible Original, which is How To-

Michael:
Yeah, which is tremendous.

Phil:
How To Persuade and Get Paid, and it was recorded live at the Manila Lane Theater. I got to perform off Broadway, I’m not even an actor. One of the proudest things I’ve ever done, probably the best piece of work I’ve ever put into the world. So go check that out if you’re interested.

Michael:
Isn’t it also, it was a popular Amazon Original at this point, that you put out there?

Phil:
Within the business space, yes.

Michael:
Within the business space, yeah.

Phil:
Yes.

Michael:
Well congratulations. I know how important that was to you.

Phil:
It was a ton of work.

Michael:
And you really [crosstalk 01:13:25].

Phil:
And you guys helped a ton as well.

Michael:
Well thank you, we just answered a few questions.

Phil:
That’s enough sometimes, right?

Michael:
All right, so thank you Phil, and thank you everybody for listening.

Phil:
My pleasure.

Michael:
In the meantime, keep thinking big about who you are and about what you offer the world. Bye for now.

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