Selling from the Platform

“Why don’t you sell products from the platform?” my fellow speakers ask me all the time. “You are leaving money on the table.”

My original answer — that I just don’t like it personally and find it unseemly — didn’t convince them.

“There is nothing wrong with selling from the platform,” these speakers responded.

They pointed out that many conferences don’t pay the speakers a fee or even cover their expenses.

So as a result, they, as speakers, have a “right” to pitch their products. “It’s how we make our money and get compensated for our time.”

“How could you object to selling?” they ask me. “You are a copywriter. It is your job to sell.”

But here’s the problem….

If I write a hard-sell e-mail, and you are not interested, you can delete it in less than a second with a mouse click.

If I write a hard-sell direct mail sales letter, you can tear it up and throw it in the trash — in less than 5 seconds.

But when a speaker sells products from the platform, I can’t escape! I am in the seminar room. If I got up and walked out, it would seem incredibly rude.

So I am forced to listen as the speaker drones on and on about his “big package” which is worth $68,458, normally sells for $14,997, but if I buy within the next hour is only $2,777.

As for the argument that the speaker is unpaid by the seminar promoter, how is that my problem or my concern?

I paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for my seat at that seminar. Shouldn’t the platform time be devoted 100% to educating me, not 80% to educating me and 20% to selling me more stuff?

I am least offended by the sales pitch when, proceeding it, the speaker has delivered genuine value and real content, without holding back.

I am most offended when the entire presentation is clearly crafted not to educate me, but to tease the audience and maximize orders for the big package the speaker is selling.

How about you? Are you offended or turned off when a speaker begins to transition into his sales pitch, which he delivers on your time?

Or do you cheerfully accept it as a standard operating procedure in the seminar business today?

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758 thoughts on “Selling from the Platform

  • I have to agree with you, Bob. It’s not so easy to “opt-out” of a live sales pitch without looking like a buffoon/ass.

    I think a viable alternative would be to have a short “intermission”.

    After the educational part the speaker does, announce “In 5 minutes, after the break, I’d like to offer you a discount on a product that I think will help you increase conversions/leads/sales, etc. You are welcome to stick around if you want.”

    That way, the presenter could get a clear cut measurement of who actually wanted to hear the pitch in the first place, and give something by which to optimize future presentations.

  • I have been part of that captive audience, where the minions close all the doors to the auditorium so you cannot escape.

    Butt that I am, I just got up and walked out (AWAI conference). You pay $3,000 for a conference and you do not expect the hard sell.

    But it was the same conference you were at, Bob, and I got so much from the content you presented. I just don’t like being manipulated.

  • I completely agree with you Bob. The hard sell is VERY disrespectful to the audience. Who cares whether or not the speaker got paid. Does the speaker give back money to the audience if she/he doesn’t doesn’t deliver appropriate value? Does the speaker EVER disclose what she/he paid?

    Nope.

    None of my business…or concern.

    And I’m a speaker.

    Don’t sell…tell…from the platform…in your emails…all the time.

    Great reminder! Thank you Bob!

  • I go with Joel. After all a speaker should not package his sale. If 97.5% of the time is education and 2.5% is sale (that is an acceptable quota) the speaker should spread the selling all over the session. That means that the speaker talks two or three times, when in match with the educational stuff, about his products/service. And good speaker will make this smooth, so the audience will still feel taught something valuable.

  • Yes, Bob, I totally, totally agree with you. If you start pushing your product when I am really looking for your support, as an expert, I’d say it is nothing short of a rape. I come out, pay the money, and then you don’t care, you just want my money. Well, frankly, I would like to know the names of those colleagues who said it would be ok to take advantage of the captive audience.

    And then again, when skillfully applied, a speaker has plenty of possibilities to work around this, and still be able to plug his stuff, but if the speaker really does his/her job well, and truly gives something of value the people will seek you out. They will come.

    So, really, if the venue does not pay, and nobody comes looking for you after you speech, what does it tell you?

  • In actual fact, there is a conspiracy between the producer of the event and the speaker selling his wares. There is a 50/50 split of all sales between the producer and the speaker.
    The speaker has to be invited by the producer to present in front of his list. He puts the bottoms on the seats for the speaker to present to.
    So in all honesty, the speaker is only earning his living after receiving an invite from the producer to speak.
    It really is the producer who needs to stand up and be honest to his list that attend as an audience. They should be told of his intentions that he has invited someone to give them valuable content on a particular subject, and then will offer his services at the end.
    Hope you all have a fantastic day

  • In my day job I am a freelance corporate trainer. My clients expect me to perform front of the room sales to promote THEIR products (I do earn commission).

    When I train I am very focused. When I sell, I am very focused. Rarely am I successful at doing both at the same time. And I resent feeling like I have to.

    I have earned big sales under two circumstances: answering questions about the products during breaks, and creating “ads”, placed prominently on the products table (great practice for an aspiring freelance copywriter).

    Thanks Bob for this post. Now I know that I am not the only one who detests this practice.

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