A lot of preparation has led up to this moment. Now you are going to ask for the gig. You know the band is tight. You have the right songs and format. You've been hanging out at the other bands' shows and you know the regulars (and how busy the bar gets). And not only have you established personal relationships with the management and employees, you have also asked the manager how they run their business, what they expect from their entertainment, what they've been doing, and how well it's working. You have the right product to fulfill their needs. But the fact is, now it is time to sell or they will never know that.
Getting Down to Business
Since you have taken a more long-term approach to establishing a business relationship with each of your prospects, you have earned their trust and respect. They are familiar with you. They know about your band, and they've seen your promo and website (EPK). For many of the establishments on your list, the slick packaging with which you have wrapped your product may well get you an offer. But some of the most desirable gigs are the ones that already have solid entertainment. To win these opportunities, you will have to negotiate like a sales pro. Let's take a look at the key aspects of closing a sale.
Find a Need and Fill It
While you listen to your prospect tell you about their business, listen for what the client needs. Which areas are challenging to them and why? Consider your strengths as compared to these areas and look for ways that you can fulfill the client's need. If you notice any of these, make a quick note to refer back to later as needed. An obvious example would be if they told you a band was underperforming, or they said they didn't have a quality act to fill-in for their regular acts in case of cancellations.
The Trial Close: Ask for the Business
Once you've identified a place where your band can fill a need for the client, the next step is to perform a "trial close," which simply means asking for the business. For example, "You mentioned that you need a band for that upcoming charity fundraiser. Why not book our band to play the show? We'll draw a big crowd and keep them on their feet." The specifics will vary, but the idea is the same: propose your product as a solution to their problem. Hopefully, the prospect will share more information about their needs when they respond. As the client shares needs which you can fulfill, repeat these back to them: "It must be really frustrating to have bands that don't start on time. It's so important, don't you think, Bob?" You know his answer- he just gave it to you. If the client is being open and really sharing their need, you will probably find several ways your product can solve their problem (or fulfill their need).
What if the Prospect Raises an Objection?
Not all the information the prospect will tell you is good news. It's quite common for the client to bring up a roadblock in order to stop, slow down, or control the sales process. These objections also commonly sound like deal-breakers: "We do all our booking through the XYZ Company." "Our calendar is already booked until the end of the year." "We don't like rock bands, they always play too loud." While objections can be discouraging, they don't necessarily mean you can't get the gig. Rather, they present an opportunity to see how close you are to closing the sale. To make the most of this opportunity, you will practice the art of Overcoming Objections.
Begin by considering the objection. If you have the ability to address it to the customer's satisfaction, do so. They have shared their problem with you. How can you solve it? On the other hand, many objections are seemingly insurmountable. You will deal with these by setting them aside. "Bob, I understand you're totally booked, but if you did have an opening in your schedule, would you call us?" Socrates was famous for asking questions that led people to discover their own answers. "If there was a way to have live rock music in your club without having volume problems, would you be interested?"
Your goal is to help the client visualize your band in their club. You might say, "So, you'll want us to start playing at 9pm sharp. How long would you like our sets to be?" Alternatively, you might try asking, "What could we do better than the bands you're using now?" Put yourself into their picture. Sometimes an objection will "evaporate" once you set it aside. Perhaps the agent just doesn't want to discuss bookings today, or they can't commit to new entertainment until they see their quarterly report, etc. If it seems like a bad time, it probably is. Come back later.
Don't take up too much of the prospect's time. Watch for signs they are loosing interest and wrap things up quickly. Remind them you are always there to help. Take note of any important issues the client has raised. The next time you will try to come equipped with solutions to those objections. Before you leave, ask when you should follow up, as casually as possible. It is best to try to avoid sounding too precise or they might be afraid to say, "Yes." Tell them, "Hey Bob, it was great meeting you but I can see you're busy. Check out our website and I'll follow up with you in about a month, okay?"
Be Persistent and Organized
You will naturally focus more time on your best prospects, but don't neglect the others. Every so often, reach out to see if anything has changed. Tell them even though they are not booking you right now, they are still friends and you want to stay in touch. They might eventually use you. They might change jobs and end up booking the number one club on your list. Plus, you can be certain that club managers and booking agents will talk to one another, and they trade referrals (good and bad) all the time. Be reliably persistent. Your consistency will earn you credibility, especially if you make an effort to avoid seeming anxious. Be careful not to annoy the prospect or push too hard. Keep scrupulous notes, and use them to overcome objections. Dress for the job you want. Be confident, because you created an outstanding product that is ideal for your target market. The offers will start coming in, and you will be ready to capitalize on those opportunities when they do, because you have built your band on solid foundations.
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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.
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?"