A couple of months ago (April 15th to be exact) the subject of doing back of the room (BOR) sales was brought up. The question had to do with selling merchandise following paid corporate gigs.
Is it acceptable when the client is already paying you a big fee? And either way (yes or no) what’s the best way to approach them about selling merch (showbiz slang for merchandise) following your presentation?
There were some good comments and advice about this from both comedians and speakers. I also heard from two booking agents who shared their words of wisdom. So this week I’m turning FAQs And Answers over to them.
First – speakers and comedians…
Great question, Dave. If the opportunity is offered, embrace it. Having a product whether $10, $100 or $1000 is a great way to give your message legs long after you leave the stage. Once you are 100% sure the client is on board with you offering BOR, offer several products that will allow your attendees to further their motivation or knowledge. Give them tools to expand what they learned from you.
Plus, if a person is excited about you when you are speaking to them they will be excited about you afterwards and it is a missed opportunity for branding and revenue generation to have BOR even at the corporate level. You never know who is going to move on or up and want you to speak with their group! – AW
I know comics who do and comics who don’t. I think it depends on the event and whether the company or sponsor minds whether you sell. I always feel uncomfortable selling at corporate events as they pay well to begin with. I wish I didn’t have to sell at regular gigs, but the pay has dropped and expenses continue to go up. I don’t think it’s wrong to sell at private events, it just hits me as a little tacky sometimes. But to each his or her own. – CW
Only if discussed upfront and the venue calls for it. – PV
My contract allows me to make additional educational materials available for purchase after the event. Clients see it as a value added. They pay me to deliver my wit and wisdom to their employees. They are thrilled when their employees want to take me home. – BM
I always have a clause in my contract for BOR sales. Sometimes corporate clients even want this so their employees have a chance to continue the learning.
I just saw this posted on SANGEvents FB page from Chris Widener, who shared a great idea.
The day after he gives a speech – when he isn’t allowed to sell from the stage, but has something of value for the audience, he immediately does a Facebook targeting advertising and drives them to a special page with a special offer just for people at the conference he spoke at. – PC
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Never conduct BOR sales without first clearing it with the meeting planner, no matter the client. Most corporations would probably not allow you to solicit their employees. However, many speakers work to get a product commitment up front, which is paid for by the client and seen as a “bonus” for participating in the training. – BA
The first step is make sure your client is on board with you and that they accept BOR sales. In today’s market, the majority of speakers believe that customers ask speakers not to sell products for some odd reason. Hence, the main reason for this respectful approach is that the latest research shows that Generation Y hates… absolutely HATES beings sold products, whether from the podium or likewise. This is the main reason why speakers bureaus, clients, etc… advise speakers to avoid selling BOR products.
The good old days that we think an attendee wants to leave with part of our knowledge, etc… are gone. You will have to find a different approach to sell products in a respectful manner that meets the ultimate needs of your customer. – GC
One approach is to offer them a link to some free downloadable content. When they come to retrieve it, you can require an email address and permission to contact. Now you can build your own fan base and have a potential ongoing client you can sell to over time. – RL
When being paid for speaking at a corporate event it is my policy to make any other materials such as my books, cd’s and / or any manuals that are supplemental or ancillary to what I’ve spoken on available for purchase through the corporate sponsor at a discount with an established contact person within the corporation. I attempt to make prior arrangements to accommodate the sponsor of the event’s wishes to accomplish a win-win situation. – LH
Finally, from two who HIRE the talent…
As one who negotiates contracts for speakers for corporate events, before I ever book the event, BOR sales is always discussed! I want as much information about the event and audience that I can secure. Usually I offer the event planner books and materials as part of their door prizes, and also even negotiate for the event to purchase material at a discount to give to each participant, in addition to the speaker’s fee.
This works a win / win for the event planner and the speakers. The speakers by having a BOR table, display, can then meet and greet each person and also can give away something else to collect the participant’s information. Building data bases are important!
My speakers love the BOR time and have it organized into their normal part of speaking! Also any additional referrals normally come from this time, and then the speaker gives it to me to follow up for them. We do not, however, let the BOR sales be the speaker’s fee. They are two separate parts of the event, and each need to be included for the event to be a success for the audience, and also to honor the event planner for a job well done. – SF
The client must be on board with providing BOR sales. Whether you are the keynote speaker or part of a larger group panel.
BOR sales seems to be a moving target for several of my clients. Some of the larger speakers are telling me that their fees are being cut and they are being told by the clients that they can make up the difference with BOR sales. Others are being told they can’t have any sales, giveaways or mass contact with the audience because the promoter doesn’t want to lose control of the data base. All of which are understandable, but if not discussed can lead to ill will and loss of revenue for the speaker and promoter.
Here are some solutions my clients are finding.
As a keynote speaker or corp trainer, one speaker is attaching his book (for sale) to a list of items that are provided free to the audience. By using a mobile delivery platform he is able to deliver a digital workbook and copies of other self-promoting material. He has just landed a 17 K speaking gig directly connected to this type of delivery system. Plus he’s a jam up speaker!
Another client of mine was asked to speak to an international group of her peers. When she told the promoters that her material would be delivered via mobile to the audience they called her back to thank her. This was saving them over 2500 pages that they would not have to print.
It’s still a mixed bag of what is permissible, but the bottom line is communication and negotiations between the speaker / agent and client.
Dave – you started a good discussion here. You mentioned you had some thoughts on this but wanted to hear from us. Now that we’ve chimed in, what do you think? – DW
What do I think? I think you all did a jam up job sharing helpful thoughts and innovative advice. I offered a few tips in the original article (April 15), so won’t repeat myself here. But I will say that I’m a firm believer in the value of building revenue and contacts either through direct BOR sales (a great meet and greet opportunity) or through product giveaways that are SPONSORED by the clients. This can either be provided through a discount price per item (books at half price, etc…) or added directly into the speaking fee.
One option – also good for price negotiations – is to offer a fee for your presentation and have BOR sales. The other option is a higher fee that includes x-number of products written into the contract. The fee and products are paid for in advance (or at least partial as deposit returned with the contract). Total is paid for in advance and the items are shipped directly to the client – and there before the speaker even arrives.
Referring to a term used a couple times above – it’s a win win situation. Plus the last option allows us to travel lighter – instead of packing a case of books, CD’s and DVD’s into an overhead compartment while a flight attendant gives us dirty looks… ha!!
Thanks everyone for reading and sharing!! I hope you find the advice and words of wisdom helpful in your career.
Dave’s next comedy workshop at The Cleveland Improv starts Saturday – July 13, 2013
Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy, Comedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.
For information about these books, comedy workshops at The Cleveland Improv, and private coaching for comedians and speakers in person, by phone or via Skype visit www.TheComedyBook.com
Copyright 2013 – North Shore Publishing
Tags: advice, back of room sales, booking agents, BOR sales, Comedians, corporate comedy, corporate events, corporate gigs, corporate speaker, educational materials, event planner, humorous speakers, keynote speaker, marketing, private events, Promotion, revenue generation