Sales Boots on the Ground: Conference Checklist
Maximizing the impact of a conference or event
I have leveraged conferences and events throughout my career to drive amazing pipeline growth and to sign some of my biggest revenue stream deals from an OEM and partnership perspective. As a sales executive or manager, there are some keys to successful event, and you cannot just leave it up to marketing and booth operations. Here is some guidance you should follow for these amazing, target rich environments.
Hand Pick Your Team – events are expensive from a raw cost and expense perspective, and a more importantly, a time drain. Choosing those that can best leverage the event, the attendees and exhibitors can be a key in event success. I typically divide it into two distinct opps: direct sales and partnerships. Do some prep work, and figure out if there are target partner exhibitors and attendees. Is it regional, country-wide or global in nature? Look at past attendee lists and identify target direct account attendees and customers, examine the speakers list and the sponsor lists. Use this to build out your team, and plan from there.
Work Hand in Hand with Marketing – Lose the “it’s marketing event” attitude. Nothing kills me more than the “sales royalty” attitude when it comes to events, booths and planning. The team attitude needs to be driven from the top down, and attending planning meetings and setting goals for the attending sale people is critical to maximize the result from the dollars spent. Don’t just wait with your handout for leads, drive the effort to gain more and build resultant pipe and dollars.
Set Success Criteria – Separate goals for your sales team in attendance, and always augment marketing goals. Leads per day, qualified leads per day, net opportunities, pipeline, closed dollars, etc. Why do something if you can’t, won’t or don’t quantify success? These goals need to be fully documented prior to and post event.
The Booth is Your Epicenter – Run your sales efforts, planning and meetings from the booth. People are drawn to activity and interest, it’s just human nature. Think about your own conference experience, are you drawn to the booth with 3 sales engineers staring at their phones with no engagement, or the booth with a flurry of activity, bubbly personalities and constant flow. As sales people, use you booth as a nexus, it will pay off.
Do your Homework and Prep – Use LinkedIn and your network to find partners, customers and prospects that are attending the event. Take the time to have existing customers come by the booth and chat. Nothing is better than having your best customer next to you and introducing them to a prospect (let them do the selling for you!). Announce your attendance, booth number and what you will show at the event on LinkedIn, and have all your reps/marketers/PMs do the same. Most conferences now let you interact with attendees ahead of time. If you have a conference community you can enter ahead of time, set meetings before the conference starts. DON’T show up without a plan, and expect to achieve max success.
Gamify the Experience – as a sales leader, set goals for your team, and offer daily prizes for success. Example: Top Daily Meetings gets a $500 Amazon card and gets announce to the sales team. It’s amazing how reps will fight like dogs for the top spot. Set goals: 50 biz cards/digital contacts and conversations per day, including you!! I’ve even set the bar with my own behavior: anyone that beats me gets the Gift Card!
Eat All Meals at the Event – Meals are a prime engagement opportunity. If you can’t strike up a conversation and create contacts at a meal as a sales person, you should find another career. Make sure your team attends all conference meals and events (happy hours), and is held accountable to drive conversations and make friends ;).
Attend Sessions – I know full conference passes aren’t always in the budget for sales, but if they are available, get them. Educate your sales team and have them attend sessions that up their game. This is also an opportunity to meet attendees, and introduce yourself to a speaker that may be a prospect or influencer.
If Your Company Has a Session, It is Mandatory – You owe it to your product or marketing folks to take advantage of any planned session. Having a max presence that engages before and after with the attendees is key and required. The last slide should always, always be the booth number and an “ask” to come by during the conference.
Step Away From the Conference in the Evenings – as a sales exec or manager, get your top prospects away from the conference in the evenings. Find the best restaurant, best bar or attraction in the area to build a memorable event, establish a relationship and gather information. Some of my largest most influential deals were signed or closed with a dinner or drinks at events. Be a person, not a digital avatar!!!
If You Aren’t Exhausted at the End… if you have done an event right, you and your team should be completely exhausted at the end. Being “On” 18 hours a day is exhausting, and if done right, it is worth every bit of the effort.
Anything I missed? I wish you the best for your next event.