If you have been following our How to Get a Gig Series, hopefully you have completed the serious work of implementing your own version of the plan we've outlined in our previous articles.
Let us be the first to say, "Congratulations! You've got a really great band!"
You've done your research, identified your targets, created a professional-quality product tailored to their needs, established a marketing plan and online presence, and assembled first-rate promo with which to sell your band. You know your product and your market inside and out. Now it is time to learn about your customer's product and your customer's market. You can tell the booking agent how great your band is all day long, but the whole time he is thinking, "What does all this have to do with me?"
You've Got to "Think Like a Customer!"
Read over the notes from your marketing research. Usually, most of your A-venues will have similar needs, as will those in your B and C categories. For example, the manager of an A-venue needs a group that can consistently bring a large crowd that spends liberally. They are looking for a product, not a project. In order to get there and stay there, you need to build a following. Give yourself time to establish a name for the band in their market before you approach them. If you are successful doing this, those A-venue managers might come looking for you! Now look at the other two categories. Both of them want bands that can deliver large, affluent crowds as well, but are limited by budget and market. The less popular venues can often be great places to "road test" a new band, and you can make a little money. The B-venues will expect more from you but can be an effective way for you to build the band's local credibility and fan base. But take notice, that no matter how much the club can afford to pay, they all want you to bring people into the establishment. If you can't do that, they won't care how sensational your Foo Fighters tribute band sounds!
When negotiating with venues, always frame every conversation, and every word you say, in the context of how many people can fit in the club. Weave it into your vernacular so your prospective clients will think, "Finally, someone understands what we need."
How to Make a Sales Call
Before you pick up the phone, you want to know exactly why you are calling and what kind of outcome you are looking for. Look at your notes and ask, "What's missing? What else do I need to know?" Do you know who does the booking? Find out what times and days are most convenient for you to contact them. From your market research, you may already know which nights they have entertainment, but use this opportunity to casually ask about anything you don't know. These are your first priorities, since they will be useful in establishing a rapport with your prospect. Get your head in the right space before you call, and make sure you are in a quiet place where you won't be interrupted, and you have access to all your notes and tools. Take a breath; if you have come this far you've already done half the work.
You should have your venues sorted into lists by category. Start with your C-venues. Your objective is to put some dates on your calendar and to finish fine-tuning your show on stage with a live audience. Call each venue one by one.
Start by identifying and greeting the person that answers the phone. Be super friendly and easy going. Give them your name and ask for theirs, "Hi, this is 'Joe' calling from 'Dance Kings', What's your name?" When they respond, play it back to them, "Hi 'Cindy!' May I ask who books the entertainment in your club?" Smile (people can tell on the phone when you are smiling). Go through your list of questions and gather whatever information you need, making note of anything extra they tell you. Politely ask them to leave a message for the decision maker to call you. Be careful to respect the person's time. Always treat any employee of your prospect like a VIP and call them by name. They may have the owner's ear. They might share how to reach the decision-maker. They could either tell the boss about your call or throw your message away.
If you reach the decision-maker, tell them the purpose of your call and ask if this is a good time to discuss booking your band. Otherwise, ask if you can schedule a follow-up appointment. Record everything you have learned in your notes. Call your prospects regularly even if they say they don't need you. Tell them, "I'm glad you're covered, but call us if you ever need a last-minute replacement." Treat them as if they matter whether they call or not and try to develop a casual friendship. All things being equal, people buy from their friends. All things not being equal... people buy from their friends. Don't be pushy, instead be laid back and confident. Did I mention clients are also more loyal to their friends? And remember, always treat every single establishment like they are an A-venue.
Get to know your prospects' business as well as your own. Within a couple of calls, you should be able to establish a rapport and learn what kind of entertainment they are looking for. You may have already been offered a show. But chances are, if you want to get the gig, you'll have to ask for it. In our final article of this series, we will talk about trial closes, overcoming objections, closing the sale and negotiating the terms. You should feel pretty confident at this point; you've done your homework and laid a solid foundation for a good business relationship.
Finally, get out to the club and meet the bands who play there. Get to know them and hopefully you'll be invited to sit in with the band. If not, it is okay to ask once you know each other, but respect their answer no matter what. One of the fastest ways to Get the Gig, is to give the venue a little sample of what you can do. Make sure to thank the bands who are willing to give you that opportunity.
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In our recently concluded series, "How to Get a Gig," we learned a systematic approach to building and marketing a band. We saw how to win gigs by relationship building even if you aren't a born salesman. But what happens when you get the gig? We have all heard how competitive the music business is, but what can we do to stay on the winning side of that competition? What are the secrets that the longest-lived working bands know about staying relevant? This week, we will look at Eleven Secrets to Keeping Your Gig.