As a sales leader, when I attend events and conferences, I’m in a unique position; I’m looking to meet and engage new business opportunities, while simultaneously being prospected by other attendees. From this perspective, I’ve seen quite a few changes on both sides: bigger and brighter booths allow sponsors to hang back and wait for the leads to come to them, and more attendees limit their time in the vendor area altogether.
These changes reflect some larger trends in the industry. An increase in the number of B2B vendors has exacerbated what was already a competitive and over-saturated space. In addition, more and more potential buyers prefer to do their own research on their own time. If buyers are more empowered online, they are less curious to see new products and services when they attend face-to-face events.
Funnel Clarity is no stranger to the importance of buyer behavior, but sellers could be doing better to provide value at events. Often enough, it’s not for lack of trying; many of us have experienced an overly enthusiastic seller aggressively bringing attention to their booth. As with many sales skills, finding leads at events can be improved through training. Here are four steps that sellers can take to be more effective:
Put yourself in the shoes of the prospect, an attendee of this event. Imagine you are walking the vendor area, scanning the booths for something interesting. You might be looking at the signs, though it’s usually hard to quickly digest what the company does. You’ll probably move past any booths that appear too busy, or too quiet – especially booths with disinterested or distracted sales people. On the other hand, a salesperson who leaps into the aisle, reaching out for a handshake, would seem friendly, but a little over-enthusiastic.
It’s valuable to remember this perspective and the role that this plays in your success at events. When at the company booth, sales people can increase their likelihood of making connections just by seeming approachable and receptive. Often enough, prospects will approach a booth just because the people behind it seem reputable, positive, and friendly.
After casually initiating a conversation with the prospect, they might begin scanning your materials or your signage to figure out what you do. It will be important to elaborate on that later, but first, remember: people go to events for a reason. Craig Elias, the creator of Trigger Event Selling, tells us that event attendance is a signal that something might be changing to loosen the status quo within the organization. Discovering what your prospect cares about will be helpful in laying the groundwork for a continued mutually beneficial conversation. In order to find out what’s top of mind for them, you have to ask!
Here are the three questions to elicit that answer:
Let’s break them down:
Check social media in advance to determine which of your prospects will be at an event. Reach out to them to book a meeting at the event with a message like this:
“Jennifer – I noticed that you will be at the AA-ISP meeting next week in Chicago. Can we get together and have a conversation over coffee?”
Arranging appointments with prospects in advance means getting ROI on marketing dollars before you even show up for the event. If you plan to meet your contacts at your booth, it has the added benefit of bringing attention to your booth in a subtle and organic way.
In the changing business landscape, one thing that has stayed (pretty much) constant is the business card. However, badge scanners like iCapture and BadgeScan are being used more frequently at events to manage attendee information. In either case, at an event, it’s important to collect and organize attendee information after every meaningful conversation.
After the event, while you are going through your stack of business cards or notes, enter key information into your CRM. It’s easy to put off doing this and let a week go by, and run the risk that you won’t remember the context of the conversation. Record all the details of the conversation as soon as you can.
Finally, find the people you met and send them a LinkedIn invitation. Change the default LinkedIn invitation message to something referencing your conversation or worst case, a memorable moment from the event.
Your marketing team works hard to put together materials for the event. There’s a reason the booths or tables need people at them – to bring it to life! Don’t rely solely on your great display to attract potential customers. Focusing on these four areas is an effective first step towards being more successful when finding leading at events.
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Jill Ulvestad is the founder of Funnel Clarity. Jill applies her expertise in driving sales performance and results, developing sales strategy and streamlining skills development to the Funnel Clarity team. With nearly 20 years of business development and consulting experience, Jill provides valued sales performance insight to her roles as co-founder and managing partner of Funnel Clarity. Previously, Jill spent 8 years with the sales performance firm Huthwaite where she served as the Vice President of Sales. She most recently was co-founder of Business Performance Partners, a sales and strategy consulting firm and led the coaching practice.