After attending some amazing events this season and watching some truly exceptional minds bring a lot to the table, I wanted to share some of my own professional insights to help these talented individuals reach the next level.
One of the benefits of coming out of a Fortune 50 corporate background is the massive number of high-end trade shows and conferences I had the chance to attend, present, and exhibit at. I am privileged to have watched some truly talented sales/marketing teams plan, produce, and execute comprehensive event plans. We have to keep in mind that the fundamental basis for attending an event is to display your best… and have everyone on your team needs to be “game on.”
You have one chance to make a first impression,
and a lifetime of follow-up to make it real.
It is up to you to make an impact,
remind them who you are, and make the sale.
Realize that trade shows are costly for many reasons: you have a booth cost ranging from anywhere from $1k to $50k, plus a huge multiplier of flying two to ten staff members to the event. In my corporate life, the average cost of event staff at an event was $730 per person, per day (flight, food, lodging, salary.) If you have 5 people attending a day event, you have four days of cost accounting for travel time: equaling another $15k
If we consider the amount of preparation time needed for the team to strategize on the trade show beforehand, we could easily rack up another $5k to $25k in cost.
So we have to maximize this cost. There has to be a return. We have to keep in mind that “in the end” , trades hows and events do not end but before you do learn more about the company here. They merely act as catalysts for in-person relationships and professional follow-through.
- Ask your event staff to have a “power session” to list out the top ten candidates for outreach in your primary “opportunity buckets.” (at DEMO, the most common opportunity buckets are A- Sales B- Investors C- Press Coverage D- Channel Partners and E- Development Partners)
- Break out your to ten list to the members of your team who are most capable of handling those niche opportunities. *Keep in mind that the “sales” person should be on all of these. The member of your team with sales experience can help everyone else “close the sale” and “ask for the money.”
- Have your event team construct a bullet list of five to ten required questions to answer during follow-up with each opportunity silo. Typical questions revolve around:
- team/organization size
- industry coverage
- annual sales
- market opportunity
- speed-to-market potential
- Is there any “asset lead” that we are missing? Think outside of the box. There are a lot of people at events. Do a brainstorm with your team about the strange and unusual people you met. There are often a handful of people that you meet at an event that were completely unexpected and unplanned for.
- Rethink your sales mantra. Before reaching out to anyone, write down the three value points that you can offer them. Practice saying these over and over again. If you don’t know what you want or what you can offer, the person you are talking to never will.
- Realize that bad follow-up is almost worse than no follow-up. If you don’t have the bandwidth to do the appropriate follow-up, perform a simple and polite follow-up notifying everyone that you are busy doing business AND that you WILL get back to them.
- Rank all of your follow-up by importance. Out of the ten top prospects in each category, rank them appropriately from 1 to 10. Examine the top two or three candidates and invite the other members of your team to add additional thought and insight to them. The top 2-3 candidates in each category are the “sweet spot” of relationships you have made that deserve extra attention and development effort.
- Rethink your metrics. Ask yourself what you really want to know (refer to bullet list above) and how these bullet points need to be quantified and shared across your team. You can break up most leads gained during a trade show into some basic categories:
- Hot Leads
- Normal Leads
- Information follow-up
- Slow nurture follow-up
- Think about your business partners during follow-up. You should have a handful of partner companies that you are working with and building referrals for. When working through the follow-up of a trade show, do not immediately discount a “no sale” conversation. Have a team member hand it off to a partner company AFTER you have made your own sales effort.
Spending a good chunk of your budget and spending a few days working twenty hour days is always nice, but how do we grade our results to create both benchmarks and methods for improvement? We need to sit down and consider a lot of the things we learned during the trade show process (often consisting of weeks or months before and after.) Some fundamental questions we should be looking at:
- What were the top three benefits of the event?
- What were the bottom three disadvantages of the event?
- Were we selling the right thing?
- Brand Value?
- Community Awareness?
- New Relationships?
- Where did we excel and stand out?
- Where did we drop the ball?
- Could we have saved it?
- Was it a team failure or an individual one?
- What “crisis” items did we experience? can they be avoided?
- Was our team coordinated? did we know:
- who handled sales
- who handled partnership
- who handled technical questions
- Was the booth and demo functional?
- What could be done to improve the experience?
- What were the top 3 “likes” of booth attendees?
- What were the bottom 3 “flaws” of booth attendees?
- Did we meet the right people?
- Could we have met more of the right people?
- Where were the right people?
- After hours
- Smoking Lounge
- What did we learn from other vendors?
- What cool tricks did they have?
- What did they have that worked better?
- How did they save money and do things cost effectively?
- What did we learn about our competitors?
- What did we beat them at?
- What did they beat us at?
- Who were they selling to?
- How were they selling to them?
- Can we competitively shop them?
What did we sell?
I know sales isn’t the “end all, be all” of a trade show…. but it sure does make the investors and executives of a company happy. After moving through all of the above questions, we need to make sure that leads and relationships created during the event process are noted appropriately.
Depending on the type of business you are in, your sales process could be ten minutes or ten months. Many B2B enterprise relationships take 6 to 18 months to close.
During such relationship periods, it is critical to notate what type of relationship you have against what type of process time line you have. If you are expecting “instant gratification” from an event when you are dealing with six to twelve month relationships, you need to re-adjust your team to the proper expectations of the process.
On the flip side, if you are looking to get user and consumers using your services today… then you need to make sure your event team is thinking about process refinement and focusing on short-term conversion. This is often hard to do, especially if in-experienced team members are being distracted by “big fish” and “sparkly things” when they really need to focusing on actionable results today.
Like I said above: We have to keep in mind that “in the end” , trade shows and events do not end.
As results are monitored and leads go through the normal relationship process, you should be able to see how the top ten leads for each of your silos converted into a business asset. You should give a team member the responsibility of checking on the top prospect list over the next 30, 60, 90 days and beyond. This information will provide your team with an invaluable education to how long your different relationships take to mature into results for you company.
As a personal note: DEMO Spring 2010 was an amazing event. I professionally made some amazing new connections and personally found a handful of new friends. I encourage everyone to take the time to be “personally professional” and move forward!
If you have any tips or comments for how to follow-up at trade shows, conferences, or events… please leave a comment and help everyone out!