Technology has conquered almost every industry in the modern world, but there’s one thing technology can’t do yet, and that provides the human touch. It’s easy to close deals virtually, but there’s something different when you do it in person. Founder of the Driven Business School and Life Coach, Suzanne Evans, talks about how desperation became the friend that boosted her to the top. She shares why she chose to ignore technology and do things old school by closing deals left and right in person. In this episode, Suzanne guides us on the ins and outs of hosting a successful event that has been the catalyst for making her an authority in the life coaching and event hosting space. She imparts a lesson about the importance of understanding that, if you don’t ask, you don’t get anything.
Closing Deals In Person With Suzanne Evans
Welcome back to all my old friends and my new readers. People tell me that this show is addictive and once you start, you can’t stop. That’s because my amazing guests share their magic openly so you can get actionable steps you can take to make your company more money. Did you know that this show is now a two-way conversation? You can talk back to me anytime you want. Simply go to YourFirstThousandClients.com and click on the speak now button, which will record your voice and deliver your message to me. I can reply with my voice as well. Go ahead and give it a try.
My guest started by setting up a table inside Whole Foods between the carrots and the salad dressing where she pitched her own life coaching services. That lead her to create a $6 million company that runs the Driven Business School and The SPEAK Mastermind Program. She also helps others host their own live events. She coaches hundreds of people a year and helps many others in the community. Welcome, Suzanne Evans to the show.
Thanks for having me.
It’s my pleasure, Suzanne. You are a legend in this industry. Everyone says, “You’ve got to speak to Suzanne if you’re going to run a live event,” and I think for good reason because I’ve been to several of the events you’d run and they are fantastic.
Thank you for saying that. I love events, including hosting and planning them. I appreciate that you have enjoyed experiencing them.
You add a lot of value. You helped the event creator, the person who’s speaking at these events, find a way to bring out their best in themselves and in their team. That makes everything better.
When the host and the people on stage are having an amazing time, the audience can’t help but have an amazing time.In the entertainment industry, unless you’re the one on the stage, you’re not making much money. Click To Tweet
I want to start with how everything got started with you. I want to hear your story. It’s fascinating. Let’s start at the beginning.
I probably have a story that’s certainly unique to me. It’s mundane because almost everyone has it at some point and experiences it. I had a good job and I’m a happy person in general. I wasn’t miserable in my job. I wanted to make more money and I thought there was something more for me to do. I was working in the Broadway Theater industry as an assistant producer. I had put Reba McEntire in Annie Get Your Gun, Usher in the Sweet Charity. I opened five Broadway shows. At 30-ish years old, it was an interesting life. I was also getting that thing I call the itch. It’s that little itch that you get where it says, “There’s got to be something better than this. Is this really it? Is there something better than this?” If anybody knows anything about the entertainment industry, unless you are on the stage, you’re not making much money.
I started to look at what I wanted to do and I landed at coaching. I started a coaching business while I was still in my day job. I was working that 60-hour a week day job building a side hustle of the coaching business. I built it to six figures in about a year. I was still in the day job when I built it to $250,000 the next year. I thought, “How dumb can I be? I should leave this day job that I was making about $50,000 a year at that point.” We went to $1 million in under three years. What I learned in that process was, first of all, the less you know, the easier it is. It was built out of excitement and hustle. The only thing I knew how to do was to talk. I use speaking to grow the business.
I love the story that I think is legendary about you is how you set up a little table inside of Whole Foods. First of all, that it took nerve. What were you thinking?
I’ll tell you what I was thinking, I was desperate. I had done the warm reach out to friends and family and I’ve gotten a few clients. I was doing what probably some readers to this podcast are doing right now, which is I was trying to listen to teleseminars. It was saying, “You’ve got to get in front of people.” I thought, “Where am I going to get the front of people?” I had done exercise in some little course I had taken that said, “Where are your ideal clients? Where do they go?” One of the things I listed was Whole Foods. At that point, I was a life coach and it made a lot of sense. People seeking life coaching are probably shopping at Whole Foods. They’re going to a yoga studio and they probably use an acupuncturist and that kind of thing.
I went to Whole Foods one day with my wife, Melanie. I said, “Melanie, hold the chicken. I’m going to be right back.” She goes, “Don’t do this, please.” She knows me so well. I went to the manager and said, “I would like to set up a booth in your store.” He said, “Ma’am, we don’t do that.” I said, “There is a person in the back hopping chicken sausages.” Life coaching has got to be more important than chicken sausage. I said, “Look at your logo. It says, ‘Whole Foods, Whole Body, Whole Life.’ You’ve got a ton of food here. You have a whole body section, but you’re doing nothing about life. I’m afraid you’re going to get sued.” That’s how the conversation went and I’m fairly certain he thought, “She’s nuts. I’m going to let her do this because I don’t have time for this.” He said, “Come next Sunday from 1:00 to 3:00. Set up here.” I set up between the organic tomatoes and bananas every Sunday for about a year. I stood there and talked about life coaching and had a little brochure you could take to see what your stress levels were. It was completely humiliating and it worked.
That’s such an important point. I love what you said before, “Melanie, hold the chicken. I’ll be right back.” That’s what it takes. Many of us had to start that way. We had to find a place to be uncomfortable to get what you want. That’s what you wanted and you were willing to be uncomfortable. The nice thing about it is that you didn’t try it once and give up, you did it for a year. Out of curiosity, after a year, did that manager ever come back to you or any time within that year and say, “Suzanne, what’s in it for us?”
No, they didn’t. It’s funny because of two things. First of all my wife, Melanie, tells people all the time, “I wouldn’t be a successful entrepreneur.” People go, “You run Suzanne’s company.” She does. She is brilliant and she makes this thing run. She goes, “Yeah but the difference is I’m not going to stand in the produce section.” Most people won’t. You have to ask yourself, “What are you willing to do?” That’s number one. Number two, I don’t even know if I ever saw him again. I took it even further because when I started working and I started getting clients, I thought, “There are more than one Whole Foods.” I was living in New Jersey at the time. Where I started was at the Englewood, New Jersey. After, I started doing it at the Montclair. I did one in the South Orange area. I was at every Whole Foods, as often as I could be in. I had one of the Whole Foods make a deal with me where for a week if you spend $75 or more on groceries, you’ll get a life coaching gift certificate in the bags.
I tell people all the time because they go, “Whole Foods won’t let me.” I don’t think they do it anymore. I don’t think they have outside vendors anymore. It worked well for me. No, they never came back. I kept growing it. As my business grew, my time spending several hours standing in the produce section it wasn’t a good exchange in my time any longer. Here’s what I will say and I think this is key. If we were in my conference room, you would see a little sign that says Blueprint Life Coaching. Every time I tell the story, I get emotional. That is the sign that I had printed for $20 at Staples and it’s the sign that I took to Whole Foods all the time. People always say, “That’s so sweet that you framed it so it reminds you of starting.” That’s not why framed it. I said, “I framed it and kept it because I wanted to preserve it. If all of this goes bad, I’ll pull that sign back out and go to Whole Foods.”
What you’re talking about obviously doesn’t have to be Whole Foods. Any of us can find a venue for free by showing up and setting up a table. With a little permission, curiosity and gumption, get out there and ask business owners if it would be okay if you add value to the people who are already visiting their business.
We still do that. I have multiple seven-figure businesses and have a full-time community outreach person that all we do is find places where we can show up and talk about what we do.
When I first started my software company, we blew our entire marketing budget on two stupid ads in PC Magazine and had $2,000 left. We struggled at that point to figure out how we can get free PR. I’m glad I blew that money because that led us to discover how amazing PR can be. You’re doing another form of that. You’re just doing it live. What does your community manager find for resources? What types of places are letting her, you or your team go out and make these pitches?
There are all types of organizations and associations that are local that are desperate to have people come to talk. A quick stat, there are 7,000 meetings, events, conferences and associations that meet every single day in North America that look for a speaker. Seven thousand a day in North America. First and foremost, there are those types of groups. Second, there are a lot of events and conferences that take place in every town. When somebody goes, “You don’t know me.” There are still little events or day-long conferences happening in your area. Sometimes you have to pay for those opportunities. They’re not all free. We had amazing success at paying $75 for a day-long event before, having a booth and talking to people. You can begin to roll into any place where there’s high traffic in your area that may be your target market. Quite often, people are open to people adding value for their people.
There are hundreds of meetups in every city. You can go to Meetup.com and find a meeting that’s relevant to what you do and show up. Become a trusted member of the Meetup and show up every time. The organizer will get to know you and sooner or later everybody in your in that entire meet up will get to know you too. The other tip I wanted to add to the ones that you’re providing is bar associations. Bar associations are in every city in this country and are always looking for speakers. The opportunity to call up a bar association and ask if you could speak at one of their meetings, they would be thrilled to have you speak.There are 7,000 meetings, events, conferences, and associations that meet every single day in North America that are looking for a speaker. Click To Tweet
If I can extend that for one moment. Every professional organization has an association. Roll that out to your local Realtors Association to the Insurance Association to the Women in Business Association. We could list a hundred things. Every profession has an association and they all hold meetings.
These are generally free for you, except it takes your time and trouble to get there and speak. We close deals when we do that live. I’m sure you guys do too.
There is no better way to close the deal than live. Research shows in this world of technology, online, and online transactions that still in-person transactions close at a 64% rate higher than online.
Readers, 64% get out there do this. It’s worth it. Suzanne, you have so much skill and knowledge to share. One of the things that I think is fascinating for many of us is the allure of running a live event. This is a deep area of expertise for you and your team. Many of us, readers and myself included, don’t have a lot of skills in this area. What tips would you give? How can people start to conceptualize and then execute a live event? Where would you start helping somebody do that?
There are a few different things. What is a live event? Let’s give some context to this. My wonderful friend and client, Rachael Jayne Groover, started getting eight women together in her living room. That’s a live event. I’ve held events that have thousands of people. Tony Robbins held events with tens of thousands of people. An event is where I believe three or more gather, that you are not a guest but you are the host. That’s how we’ll define events. The second thing I want to establish is why an event and what type of event. I know you have seen this over the years in both of our industries. People do an event because they’re sexy, fun, interesting and makes you seem celebrity-like. It’s cool to do. They go, “I’m going to hold an event with 300 people.” They’ve got a list and a database of a thousand people.
Those numbers don’t add up unless you’ve got $100,000 of ad spend that you can use to fill it a little bit. Even that’s hard to convert. You want to do the event that is right for you and you want to right-size your event. The first event I ever held, because I had a database of a few hundred people and I have probably eight or ten private clients at that point, was an event with eleven people in a little room of a Radisson. I paid $300 for the room and there were eleven people there for about a half-day. I grew that into then doing a one-day event as my database and business grew. I would do one-day events and they would have anywhere from 50 to 100 people. I rolled into a three-day event. My first three-day event had 165 people. After that, we’ve done events up to over a thousand. Now, I do a multitude of events.
I did something called a Business Acceleration Mastermind. We only allowed twelve businesses into that two-day event. It’s intimate. I did do some local one-day events here that might have 40 or 50 people in them on a specific topic. I hold two events every year. One is a general business-building and event-driven. The event has about 500 people. The other is Take the Stage, which is a speaker that has 300 people. I wanted to give context to that because events to me is a word that’s being bastardized like mastermind. What does it actually mean? You want to think about who you are, what you do and what would be the right place to start?
I always suggest starting with either a small group like my Business Acceleration Masterminds. Put twelve people around the boardroom table and do that type of event or start with a half-day event of putting 20 or 25 people in a room. Putting twenty people in a room is a lot harder than you think it is, especially if it’s a free event. Free is hard. We joke about this but free is as hard to sell as a $300 event. It all starts with first establishing the type of event. Number two, establishing the problem you will solve at that event. Many people lose sight of what is the consumer going to walk away with after they spend four hours with me. It’s not, “I want to hold an event that I want you to be in the room with me.” It is about, “What is the promise I can make?” We think about that when we think about, “I’m going to watch this new program. What’s my promise? Or I’m going to offer to coach. What’s my promise?” An event has to have an event promise. When you have a good promise, a location and have the container which is going to hold it, is there going to be a small board room event or is it going to be a 100-person larger event? That’s when you begin to develop a marketing strategy to fill the event. There are as many ways to fill in an event as there is to build a business.We are at a technological age, but at the end of the day, we’re still humans that connect on an in-person human level. Click To Tweet
The biggest problem I think any of us have had and where the most failure lies is in filling an event. What would be a good way to fill a twelve-person event assuming that you have a small list? You’re smart, you have a lot of expertise and you’re entrepreneurial, so you’ll do what it takes. How can someone fill a small event, maybe their first solo event?
Here’s what I would say. I’m assuming this person is in the consulting or coaching type business and they have a coaching program. Let’s say that the coaching program is $5,000 for six months or $5,000 per year and they’ve got a few clients. What you’re going to find is an intimate event like that is perfect for the person who wasn’t ready to commit to you yet. Usually, you’ve got three types of noes that you get when you’re having a sales conversation. One is a hard no, you aren’t a fit and it’s never going to happen. That’s rare. The second type of no is really, “Not now.” It’s code language for, “I’m not sure if I trust you.” That doesn’t mean you’re not trustworthy. I maybe had a 30-minute conversation with you and read five of your essays and watched two videos. I don’t know if I’m ready to invest $5,000 in you. The third type of no is a no that is, “I don’t know if I’m ready.”
Take all three of those and the easiest place for a beginner doing events is to go, “Let me go to all of the people that we had a great connection with but they weren’t ready yet. Either they weren’t ready for me or they weren’t sure if they were ready,” and you go to them. You say, “I hear that my $5,000 program maybe you weren’t quite in a position to say yes to that but you want some help and you want some support. I am doing a two-day Mastermind Retrieve Event where you’re going to get one-on-one time with me. We’re going to do some hot seats. We’re going to do coaching. I’m going to do teaching you’re going to walk away with a plan and a strategy and it is $500 per person. This would be a wonderful first step for you to see the value that I can bring to you. You’re going to walk away with an incredible strategy and if you don’t. I’ll give you your money back.” Or you say, “I know that you’re still trying to put all the pieces together and see if you’re ready. Let me help you get ready. You’re going to feel a lot more confident. You’re going to be a lot clearer after those two days and it’s for $500.”
You go to all the noes, maybes, next times or in a couple of months that you got and you’re able to easily enroll them into a program that hears the magic of it. It looks them in a room with you. There’s no better place for them or for you to be. What do you think you’re going to offer the end of those two days? Your program. Here’s what you get to do they’ve gotten to experience you you’re in an intimate environment. They’ve now decided they’ve got a plan, a connection to you and trust of you. When you get to the end you go, “It’s a $5,000 program, but you all get $500 off because I want what you invested over the last two days to be zero.” I want us to start and take what you’ve learned for the last two days and move forward for you to have the best year of your business or your life or whatever your topic is. That’s a great model for a simple two-day event.
What you’re saying is the same thing that you hear whenever you speak to a marketing person about how to sell anything. You need to get your prospects to know, like and trust you. What you’re saying is that over the course of whether it’s an afternoon or several days the whole goal of that event is to get them to know like and trust you. Deliver something so compelling and so valuable that for $500 they would consider it a bargain. At the same time, up the level. Get them to the next level. Offer that that $5,000 program with credit for what they already paid to be in the room that day. It’s great. By the way, the free event, why are they so hard to fill?
The moment you say it’s a free event, the event promise has to be even stronger. Why would somebody hold a free of event? There are a couple of ideas that I’ll give you around that. First of all, I’m transparent about a free event. I’ll say, “Here’s the deal,” or sometimes I’ll charge $27 whatever. I’ll say, “I’m charging you $27 because I want you to have a reason to show up. At least you’ve invested a little bit.” Or I’ll say, “I’m charging you $27 because if you don’t show up, at least some covering my cost of what I put out to rent a room to host this event.”
I’ll also say, “This is a free event because here’s the deal. I’m going to give you incredible value. I’m going to work my butt off for you that day that you get all the information you need around this topic. If you get value for me you see a way and a path that you could get even more value and you could grow your business and you get better results, I’m going to share some resources if you’re continuing to work with me. I’m going to put out all the money to earn your trust. If I share an opportunity that resonates with you, hopefully, you will say yes to us out of the respect that we’ve given you and hosting this amazing event and you’ll work with us down the road. That’s why I’m hosting a free event.”
You’re doing something that we did years ago in the webinar business. We telegraphed clearly in advance that we have an offer for them towards the end of the event. I love the way you put it too. It’s respectful and you’re asking permission in effect. That changed everything when we started doing that that took our conversion rate up by ten full points. The free event is hard because if it’s free and people wonder what’s the catch. It’s probably going to be nothing but an ad for something else. How could I get a lot of value out of a free event? You offered a simple strategy to mitigate that. How about you give us a seat deposit? We now believe that you’ll show up if you pay a small amount of money. I’ve seen other people refund that seat deposit when you do show up and then later exchange that envelope for entry into a higher-level program. There are lots of strategies around that that are better than saying, “Something is free. Show up at the Marriott Lounge at noon and listen to somebody speak for two hours.” I like the strategy that you use to do that.
That’s the other piece I was going to say. There are all kinds of things from a seat deposit to, “I’ve done a donation to a charity.” The opportunities to market an event and fill an event are also unique to the individual. There are not one-size-fits-all for marketing your business. It depends on the event and who is attending and the lie and the promise in you and all of that.
Suzanne, this information that you shared is enough to get most people to the point where they could say, “I think I can do that.” I love the idea of doing it. I love the idea that it’s simple and it’s straightforward. Assuming as I said when we first started that you only have a small list, how would you propose promoting a local event when your list is tiny?
That’s my point. I said put twelve people around a boardroom table. I have had clients put four or five people around the boardroom table and walk out making six figures. This also comes down to what is the offer you have. If you want a $20,000 coaching package when you put three or four people around the table, you close two of them. That’s $40,000. It’s all about scale and it’s about your offer. It doesn’t matter how many people you’re putting in, it’s about the intimacy and one-on-one connection. Not many people get married virtually. Not many people go, “I’m going to go on vacation.” What I’ll do, I’ll run images of Jamaica on screen. There is something about in-person that is everything. It is the handshake, the trust factor, it is the getting hit on the left cheek with saliva sitting on the front row. It is all of those things that are about intimacy. While we are technology age and we are an advanced society, at the end of the day, we are still humans that connect on an in-person human level.
It’s the simplest thing of all too. Most people are shy I’ve found that most people would consider themselves introverts. I think most people warm up quickly and love to talk to people. Everyone I know loves to talk and even shy people. It’s a matter of warming up and establishing a basic means to communicate. If you put people in the room and if you’re shy and they are interested in the topic because they showed up, they have to be interested, then readers, you can do this. I’m going to offer one other interesting thought here. This is something that my audience knows and Suzanne, I think you know as well that I used to work with Tony Robbins directly. We used to run some pretty amazing large events. Here’s the secret. Even with Tony Robbins, he didn’t let any of these steps fall by the wayside. He knew that intimacy was a key component of getting someone not to attend but to buy.
That was the key. If you ever watched Tony stack a sale and stack human emotions so that they can one at a time be accessed while creating a selling environment, it’s a thing of beauty. Readers, it’s not that hard. All you’ve got to do is create enough value for people to like what it is that you’re offering and they’ll buy from you at an event. As Suzanne said, one-on-one live build that trust and make it happen. Suzanne, we’re at the point in the show where we like to use a question to let the audience get to know you a little bit better. Everyone says this is their favorite part of the show. I love this part too because it helps me to get to know you better. Who, in all of space and time, would you like to have one hour to enjoy a walk in the park, a quick lunch or an intense conversation with?
Aunt Rebecca. My father is a seventh-generation farmer. On the wall of my family’s house is the land charter from King George. We farm the same land for seven generations and my dad’s father had four sisters who never married. My dad took care of them as they became older. Aunt Rebecca was one of those four sisters. I never met her. She passed away before I was born. Everybody calls me Aunt Rebecca in the family. As a matter of fact, my sister and I are twelve years apart. My mom said that I got to name my sister and I named her Amanda Rebecca. I was obsessed with Aunt Rebecca.
The reason everybody calls me that is they say that she found a way to turn everything into an opportunity and she was an absolutely extraordinary spirit who in the area that they lived in have power. She founded a power corporation. She sold eggs and chickens to the Curb Market. I’ll tell you a quick story. My favorite story is my mom and my dad were newly married and my mom wanted to get some okra and Aunt Rebecca grew okras. She drove down the road to my aunt Rebecca’s house. She got the okras and she came home. On the bag, it said $1.28. Dad said, “Why does it say $1.28 on the bag?” Mom said, “That’s how much I paid for the okra.” Dad said, “Aunt Rebecca charged you for the okra?” He got on his pickup truck and drove to her house. He said, “Aunt Rebecca, are you out of your mind? Why would you charge Sue for that okra?” She said, “She asked to pay.”
That’s a great story and a great lesson because if you don’t ask, you don’t get it. That’s the same lesson that I taught my daughter at an early age, which backfired on me greatly. To this day, she’s learned how to ask in life. That’s the part that I’m proudest of because when she wants something, she knows how to get it and she starts by simply asking. This was great, Suzanne. I have the grand finale question, the change the world question. What is it that you are doing or would like to do that truly has the potential to literally change the world?
It’s not the first time I’ve been asked that question. I’m going to give the answer that I always give and that is I would not even begin to presume to have the power to change the world. Especially a world that doesn’t want to change and if it wanted to change, it would. I get up every day of my life and focus on changing my world. If I am a happier, healthier and more excited person and I am enjoying my life and getting the things that I want in life, it means that everyone around me is also forced to change and force to get what they and challenge to be who they want to be. I decided a long time ago in the personal development space not to try to change the world but focus on changing mine.
There’s another aspect of that too. When you focus on your own happiness, the energy shifts in you and that energy is contagious. It’s hard to be around a happy person when you’re not feeling so well because ultimately, you feel the pressure and you want to be happy too. I love the way you’re doing it. I love your spirit and the way that you approach this. It’s the best way to go about changing the world. It’s the way that you have the most control because it’s you. Thank you for that wisdom as always. Suzanne Evans, it’s been a pleasure having you here on the show. Readers, do not miss accessing the free offer that Suzanne’s about to tell us about. What have you got for us, Suzanne? What can my audience get or nothing from your company?Don't to try to change the world but focus on changing yourself. Click To Tweet
I have an amazing team of six-figure coaches. They work every single day with people who are thinking about putting on an event or uncovering a business opportunity or solving a business problem. They can also do a speaker evaluation or an event or a cashflow of evaluation with you. If you go to the link there, you can set up a call with them. They will dig in, support you and help you. Basically, get some private coaching we could all use it.
Just to be clear, you are offering a free one-on-one private coaching session?
If you don’t take advantage of this, I’m going to have to come over there and hit you. Make an appointment. It’s free coaching from a professional high-level coaching organization. How could you say no? Thank you, Suzanne. I can’t wait until we get a chance to talk again soon.
Thank you so much.