Seminar selling is one sales method that is gaining in popularity. Some producers only sell through seminars. Don’t be fooled, though. Those producers who present successful seminars know that gaining business from one is both an art and a science.

There are many ways to define seminar selling:

? A marketing method to attract qualified prospects.

? A consultative and educational process.

? A mass marketing approach to group education.

? A short, concise, benefit-oriented program that solves problems.

But all of these definitions mean one thing: Seminars are an efficient way to convert qualified prospects into clients.

Step 1: Get an attitude (just make sure it’s the right one!)

Many agents take a product sales approach in their seminars. This quickly turns people off. To be successful in the seminar business, you need to show the audience that you can be trusted, that you’re knowledgeable, and that you’re sincerely interested in solving their problems.

Step 2: Set goals

Obviously, your number one reason for conducting a seminar is to get appointments. This requires setting benchmarks for success. Just ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish by delivering this seminar? What action do I want attendees to take? How many new sales do I want and how much do I want to generate in business?”

Preparing benchmarks is crucial. It helps you decide what to include in your seminar; if the seminar content doesn’t support the benchmark, don’t do it.

Step 3: Target your market

Many seminars are unsuccessful because the audience had been defined as “everybody.” You need to define your target market (those who have a common need or interest), determine your prospect profile and then use that information to guide the other elements of your seminar.

Step 4: Create your budget

The needs of your target audience will dictate how much you spend. But since that may be difficult to quantify, you should budget for these items:

? Pre-seminar activities — mailing lists, postage, invitations, advertising.

? Seminar activities — room rental, speaker fees, seminar materials, hospitality expenses, equipment rentals.

? Follow-up activities — telephone expenses, postage, envelopes, thank you letters, post-seminar marketing materials.

Step 5: Choose a topic

Although you may already have a topic in mind, you need to make sure it meets the needs of your targeted audience. You can do this by asking a few members of your targeted audience if they’d be interested in the topic. Or you can read newspapers to see what other agents or agencies are doing.

Step 6: Select a speaker

Should you use a guest speaker? The answer depends on your public speaking skills, topic, time and budget.

If you are comfortable (and effective) speaking in front of groups and thoroughly knowledgeable about the subject matter, consider being either the key speaker or one of a team of speakers. If not, consider inviting a guest presenter or team up with other agents or financial professionals (like an accounting or law firm). With a co-sponsored seminar, you’ll share expenses, rewards and administrative burdens.

Step 7: Time is of the essence

The date and time of your seminar should also be tailored to your target audience. For example, retired people prefer daytime and early evening hours. Small business owners will attend an evening or luncheon presentation, or even a Saturday morning.

Day and time are also important. Most agents find that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays draw better than Mondays and Fridays. As a general rule, your start time should be based on your budget, your targeted audience’s preferences and traffic patterns.

Step 8: Location, location, location!

People tend to prefer a setting they’re familiar with, so keep your target audience in mind when selecting the best location for your seminar. The key is to select a facility that:

? Reflects the tone of your seminar.

? Reflects the occupational and social level of your targeted audience.

? Is free of distractions.

? Is convenient and has adequate parking.

Step 9: Create your marketing plan

Now that you’ve created a quality seminar, you need to let everyone know about it. But do you use direct mail or advertising, or both? Are you mailing the right invitations to the right people? Are you getting free publicity for your seminar?

You’ll need to answer these questions when you develop your seminar marketing plan. A marketing plan establishes everything you need to do to promote your seminar.

Step 10: Develop your materials

Planning doesn’t end when you’ve learned your material, briefed the location manager and begun taking reservations. Several key tasks remain, such as developing easy-to-understand handouts and visually interesting audiovisuals, producing typeset name badges and creating signs that are placed in high traffic areas.

Step 11: Showtime!

It’s finally here: the day of your seminar. You’ve invested a great deal of time and energy, and it’s important to keep that momentum going–from the administration and registration process, through the presentation, to the close.

To help ensure your seminar will be profitable, make sure you:

? Do a quick site inspection. Is the room clean and the right temperature? Is your AV hook-up there if you requested it? Are your signs strategically placed?

? Register your guests. Ideally, you should have someone do this for you so you can introduce yourself to your attendees.

? Begin on time.

? Get the audience involved. Ask questions.

After you answer any questions, close your presentation.

Step 12: Convert your attendees into clients

A few key tasks can help convert attendees into clients. These include things like sending handwritten thank-you notes, scheduling consultations within 48 hours and mailing introductory letters to referrals. And finally, don’t forget to track your follow-up activity.