Trade shows are expensive and time consuming and it can be difficult to justify the cost. Any trade show can be productive if you know what should be done before, during and after. This webinar is designed to teach you how to maximize your ROI at your next trade show.
Tuesday, June 19th, 1:00pm EDT or
Thursday, June 28th, 1:00pm EDT
Length: 45 minutes
Call 1-866-232-4908 Ext. 101 to register or with questions or click the blue button.
What You'll Learn
Pre show promotion
What to do when you arrive
Working the booth
Interacting with other exhibitors
Handling break out sessions
Handling leads at the show
Post show activities
"All businesses need sales and most small and medium sized businesses are subject to the feast/famine paradigm. When they're busy, the first thing that gets pushed aside is prospecting for new business. Until business slows down. Then there's a flurry of sales activity and soon business is back where it should be. For a while. Most small businesses don't have bandwidth to prospect effectively in a consistent way."
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1. Planning Many business owners have at best a rudimentary sales plan. If they do have one, often times it consists of higher and higher sales goals, without accounting for what will drive that new business. Will a new product line be added, a new market be opened or new additions made to the sales team? Will the company be able to support the added expense while markets are opened and new sales people trained? How much risk will the company bear? A good but simple sales plan takes this into consideration. Takeaway: Make a better sales plan with concrete steps to get to the desired goal.
2. Modernize There are many new technologies that make it easier to interact with prospects. Among them are CRM systems, collaboration tools, the cloud, dialers, email tracking, prospect and customer information systems. Existing systems are being upgraded all the time with the newest capabilities. All are designed to more efficiently and effectively reach more buyers, disseminate information, warm them up and help make sales. Social media platforms allow a business to extend its reach inexpensively and makes your business more visible to search engines such as Google.com. Takeaway: Evaluate new technologies on a regular basis to make sure you are keeping up and modernize as needed.
3. Training Training sales people serves three purposes. The first is that it provides them an opportunity to hone and refresh their skills. The second is that it reminds them that performance is important and that expectations for them performing well are high. The third is that it shows a willingness to invest in them and that they are part of the long term plan for the organization. Takeaway: Make sure you offer training to your sales people every year (a sharp axe cuts better than a dull one).
4. Lead Generation All businesses need sales and most small and medium sized businesses are subject to the feast/famine paradigm. When they're busy, the first thing that gets pushed aside is prospecting for new business. Until business slows down. Then there's a flurry of sales activity and soon business is back where it should be. For a while. Most small businesses don't have bandwidth to prospect effectively in a consistent way.
Lists should be highly targeted and refreshed regularly. Technology should be used and a proven process followed. The technology should reinforce the process rather than detract from it. Top management should enforce the use of the technology and following of the process. Utilize social media and blogging to widen your reach inexpensively. Finally, no one can be an expert on everything so get help from the professionals when needed. Takeaway: Make prospecting part of the company routine and culture and call in the experts when needed!5. Measurement You get what you measure is the old adage and it's mostly true. The challenge is top management often has a hard time pinning down the exact actions, activities and behaviors they are trying to encourage and measure. Here's a practical example. Maybe top management believes that offering free webinars will increase sales since it worked well in the past. So the goal is to run well attended webinars. How will these webinars be promoted to prospects and clients? Will a set of emails be sent, starting a few weeks before the first webinar? Then a prospect list with email addresses will need to be purchased and loaded and a compelling email invitation created. Will prospects be called and told about the webinars? Then phone numbers will be necessary, a script will need to be created and a person designated to make the calls. To track call results, an activity report should be created and run on a regular basis to test the messaging, to make sure the calls are being made and to analyze the prospect responses. Will the report be grouped by prospect type (or industry or state or city or source)? Then that data will need to be captured or imported for each prospect. Finally, reports should measure the success of each webinar, so that results can be tabulated. How many people registered and attended are important to measure, as well as what happened to the prospect once the webinar was complete to determine the ROI. Takeaway: Create reports that measure actions, activities and behaviors that drive sales success, run them regularly and share the results.
"Closing is asking to go to the next step in the sales process, nothing more. So in a cold call, you might close for a follow up meeting. In the second meeting you close for a demonstration. After the demonstration, you close for a product trial/proof of concept or pilot program. At the end of the pilot, you close for the sale. We used to say you close when the prospect is ready. How do you know? Well the reality is that there are sometimes signs but sometimes not. So the answer is ABC, “Always Be Closing”."
Part 2 of 2
6. Manage Your Intent
People are very good at reading other people. Studies have shown that two of the most prominent members of the natural world that share this talent are human beings and dogs. Humans are so good at it that they can do it over the phone! So try to manage your intent before making calls. If you are thinking “I’ve got to make a sale at any cost” or “I’ve got to schedule a demo today no matter what”, the prospect will hear that and they will recognize that you are putting your interests before your own. They won’t trust you and they will not buy or advance. Try thinking “I’m reaching out to prospects today to help them and if I can’t it’s okay. I’ll be direct and tell them so.”
It also has the secondary benefit of pulling back slightly from the prospect, allowing them to feel in control. Some of the best cold callers liberally sprinkle “I’m not really sure if we can help you” or “Now that you’ve heard why I’m calling, do you think there’s a fit?”
7. Best Day/Time to Call
Below is an overview of a study done by MIT. Download the entire study (15 pages) by clicking below.
The behavioral study revealed when sales representatives had success around calling web-generated leads. To find these facts, we looked at leads that were captured through a web form, and attempted or called at least one time. Summarized below are some of the more interesting findings related to speed and timing when responding to web-generated leads:
1. Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to call in order to contact (by 49.7% over the worst day) and qualify (by 24.9% over the worst day) leads. Thursday is the best day to contact a lead in order to qualify that lead (by 19.1% better than the worst day).
2. 4–6pm is the best time to call to make contact with a lead (by 114% over the worst time block). 8–9am and 4–5pm are the best times to call to qualify a lead (by 164% better 1–2pm, the worst time of the day). 4–5pm is the best time to contact a lead to qualify over 11–12am by 109%).
3. The odds of calling to contact a lead decrease by over 10 times in the 1st hour. The odds of calling to qualify a lead decrease by over 6 times in the 1st hour. After 20 hours every additional dial your salespeople make actually hurts your ability to make contact to qualify a lead.
4. The odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 100 times. The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times."
This study refers to web leads but I think its major points are relevant. Your business may certainly be different but these were the findings after millions of calls over a broad range of businesses were analyzed. One important take away from this study is that even more important than day of week or time of day is how quickly leads are called back (which is technically not a cold call but there it is).
When I first started my career in professional selling, I was like most people, reading books on sales and trying to learn the “art of the close”. After being in sales for a small number of decades, here are a few valuable lessons I’ve learned about closing:
Closing is asking to go to the next step in the sales process, nothing more. So in a cold call, you might close for a follow up meeting. In the second meeting you close for a demonstration. After the demonstration, you close for a product trial/proof of concept or pilot program. At the end of the pilot, you close for the sale. We used to say you close when the prospect is ready. How do you know? Well the reality is that there are sometimes signs but sometimes not. So the answer is ABC, “Always Be Closing”. Here are some simple examples I like:
“Now that you’ve heard what we do it sounds like there might be some interest in taking a closer look. (no pause) When would you have to time to see a demonstration of our capabilities?”
“Now that you’ve seen a demonstration of our capabilities, are you ready to move forward with a pilot program or do you need more information?”
In a cold call, you may be closing for different things and everyone has their own style. You should feel comfortable with whatever you’re saying. Be aware of the situation, be alert and don’t be afraid to try to close multiple times.
When training phone agents, I like to use the following analogy. When we were kids we had birds, either parakeets or canaries, which would occasionally escape from their cage. The younger kids would start screaming, my parents would start yelling and the escapee would be fluttering and flapping all over the house. Exciting times! The challenge was to catch the bird without hurting it and put it back in its cage before it found an open window and flew away for good. Let me tell you, my family was rarely that focused, determined or CAREFUL! Amazingly, 9 times out of 10 the bird was back in the cage unharmed within a fairly short time (which felt like an hour).
I like the analogy because good salespeople want to help their prospects but must overcome similar challenges. So close gently, matter-of-factly and warmly. Anyone can frighten off a prospect by being overly aggressive or rude so don’t do it. The skill is moving the sales process along with the prospect hardly feeling it. And once you ask a closing question, for goodness sake be quiet. You know that right?
9. Manage Objections
Every business hears different objections so your preparation might need to vary from what I’m outlining here. The operative word is preparation, as in to “prepare”. You should prepare your responses to common objections and have them ready when you start calling. Here’s a good example. Let’s say you make your call, get to the point, be a human, have control of your intent and they say “We’re all set.”
Here’s how our agents respond “John, are you all set because you’re not really the right person for me to speak with, do you already have a supplier or is the timing not right?”
Here’s how we respond to their answers:
Not correct person - "Who handles this in your company? Would you have their phone number handy? How about their e-mail address?"
Timing - "When would be a good time to speak again? Can we pencil in some time to talk then? (no pause) What works better for you, mornings or afternoons?"
Supplier - "How do you get involved with selecting suppliers in this area? Would you be interested in receiving a quote from us so that you could compare our pricing, value and customer service with your current supplier? Great, when would you have some time to…..[close for appointment]."
10. Thank Them and Get a Referral
Whether the call concludes the way you wanted it to or not, thank them for their time and smoothly ask for a referral. Try to help them focus on a particular source to make it easier for them to think of one. Here’s an example: “Mary, thank you for speaking with me. I’m looking forward to demonstrating our capabilities next week as discussed. By the way, are you aware of any other department or division within your organization that might be interested in our services?” Jot down the name and let Mary go.
Bonus Tip: Confirm the Sale or Advance
Please confirm all appointments when you make them, via email. People forget things all the time and you don’t want to work this hard to get an appointment and have the prospect forget about it as soon as you hang up. On the day before the appointment, email or call them as a reminder. Oh, and write it down in your book so you don’t forget it either!
|How to Hire a Sales Superstar: 10 Tips from the trenches
Finding a true sales superstar is never easy. It’s especially difficult to hire a budding superstar – someone who is affordable, that you can count on to hit the ground running, who will produce superior results quickly, and who will stay with your firm for the long haul. The ten tips below will help you determine if the person sitting across from you can make the big difference you need in your bottom line.
Your overall goal is to establish the following:
1. Are they new to sales?
If they’ve never held a commissioned sales position, it is very important to determine if they can handle the rejection that comes with the turf. The most successful sales people in the world sell 10-20% of their prospects, meaning that the best they can hope for is an 80-90% rejection level. Most people who leave sales early in their careers do so because they can’t tolerate this level of rejection. Questions such as these – “What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever done? Give me an example of how you are persistent. If I asked you to call thirty strangers right now, how would that make you feel? If I hired you, tell me what your first week would be like.” – should help you assess their tolerance level and persistence.
2. If they’ve been in sales for a while, what is their approach or methodology to selling?
Ideally, the candidate will respond with a clear, detailed response that makes sense. It really doesn’t matter if it’s totally different from how your product or service is normally sold (see question 10 for the exception to this rule). The more detailed their response, the better. If the details seem to excite them, better still. They should also be able to explain how they respond to the different reactions of their prospects, and their process should end with a sale being made.
3. How successful were they in their previous sales position?
If they claim they were very successful, ask about their biggest sale. While being friendly, get very specific about the details. You’re trying to determine if this person is a “sales fake”, someone who tries to take credit after the fact for a sale made by someone else (or when he or she played only a minor role in the effort). You want figures, how the lead was generated, names of decision-makers, locations of meetings, names and roles of team members involved, what went right, what went wrong, and how they managed the process. Repeat this line of questioning for their top three transactions. If you really want to dig, ask about their first and most recent sale with their current employer. You can also go back to their prior positions and ask the same questions. A successful sales professional will have most of the details readily available and will be comfortable with this line of questioning. If they get nervous or uncomfortable or confuse themselves, this is a big red flag.
4. If they claim they were moderately successful, ask the same detailed questions as above.
Listen for their weaknesses and strengths. What weren’t they doing right? What did their boss have to say about where they needed to improve? Would working in your company under your system produce better results for this person?
5. Have they had formal sales training?
A moderately successful sales professional who is working hard, but is not skilled, can sometimes be transformed into a top performer by a strong sales manager and a solid sales training program. It can therefore be a positive thing if a person who has been moderately successful has had little sales training. It’s a red flag if someone has had lots of sales training and is still only moderately successful.
6. If it’s unclear where they need improvement, ask them to rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 on the following criteria, with 5 being the best.
Interestingly, most people assess themselves fairly accurately on this type of test:
Do their strengths match your needs? If your product or service is highly dependent upon prospecting and they rate themselves a 2, this is a red flag. If they rate themselves a 5 on prospecting, a 5 on closing and a 2 on presenting, could you turn them into a sales superstar by strengthening their presentation skills?
7. Who was their best manager and why?
Hopefully, the profile described will match the sales manager and top management in your organization. If not, it’s a red flag. (An example of a mismatch would be “I liked my manager because he really let me run my own show” when you know your manager favors a structured, report-oriented approach.) Also ask about their worst manager and why.
8. What was the best job they ever had and why?
Ideally, their answer should offer a close match to your culture and environment. Successful people generally leave a position within the first 12 months not because of a lack of results but because of cultural mismatches. Also ask about their worst job and why.
9. Ask them to describe a customer service problem that they solved.
You don’t want a hypothetical situation. You want to hear about an actual problem that they solved on behalf of a customer. If they can’t think of any, it’s possible they either never had a customer or they were indifferent to their problems.
10. What is the sales cycle like for the product or service they are selling now?
Does it match your sales cycle? What sales cycle do they feel most comfortable with? Have they ever sold anything that matches your sales cycle? Some very successful sales people need transactions like the rest of us need air. They will never be happy if the sales cycles are long (actual sales cycles rather than wishful thinking). On the other hand, many big-ticket sales professionals may feel stifled by the process-oriented approach favored when selling in smaller transaction sizes.
Finally, ask yourself the following questions: Is this person credible? Would you feel comfortable working with them on an ongoing basis? Do they have energy and enthusiasm? Do they seem knowledgeable, trustworthy, and reliable? How you feel in your initial meeting is probably how your prospects will feel.
If you receive a positive response on all of the points above, you’re sitting across from a sales superstar!
"The old saying “begin with the end in mind” has real value in implementing Salesforce. Management wants increased sales. They understand that increases in certain actions, activities and behaviors will yield increases in sales. Salesforce.com was brought in to measure these elements and make them more visible (and therefore manageable) in the form of REPORTS."
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Many companies bring Salesforce.com into their organization with high hopes that they will receive increased sales, productivity and visibility into their company’s sales activities. With the right help and cooperation from management, some of these implementations go very smoothly. Sometimes, the opposite happens. Six months later, the system is not meeting expectations or worse, barely being used at all. In short, the ROI seems marginal.
Why do these other implementations fail? I’ve got news for you. If you have a failed implementation and you’re reading this, it's probably you!
Humor aside, we use Saleforce.com every day, in a high production environment, making thousands of calls and sending thousands of email. We love it. And while it’s not perfect, frankly we could not do our job without it.
Here are the major reasons Salesforce.com implementations fail and how prevent or remedy them.
1. Management does not have clear goals and objectives (other than to increase sales). The reports needed to manage sales activities are not available, either because Saleforce.com is configured in an incomplete way, the process does not match the requirements, needed data is not being captured or needs have simply evolved.
The old saying “begin with the end in mind” has real value in implementing Salesforce. Management wants increased sales. They understand that increases in certain actions, activities and behaviors will yield increases in sales. Salesforce.com was brought in to measure these elements and make them more visible (and therefore manageable) in the form of REPORTS.
Reports are the “end” described above. They contain details or summary information that is very useful in managing the actions, activities and behaviors of the sales team. Reports are derived from data captured (i.e. if a piece of data was not typed or imported into the system at some point, it generally can’t be included in a report (at least not in a simple way)). So all Salesforce.com implementations should begin by deciding what reports will be required by management and the sales team.
I like to sit with the stakeholders and write what's needed on paper, one page for each report. I ask “What will the report be called? What is its purpose? What will the column headings be? Will it contain details or will it be a summary? Will it be grouped or sorted in any way? How often will you run it? What will you want the sales team to do with it once it’s run?” I sketch out each report on paper and that becomes the beginning of the blueprint of the Salesforce.com design.
This can be a difficult step since management often has a hard time pinning down the exact actions, activities and behaviors they are trying to encourage and measure. That being said, the success of the implementation depends on how successful they are at this step.
Here’s a practical example. Maybe management believes that offering free webinars will increase sales since it worked well in the past. So the goal is to run well attended webinars.
How will Salesforce.com be used to promote these webinars to prospects and clients? Will a set of emails be sent, starting a few weeks before the first webinar? Then a prospect list with email addresses will need to be purchased and loaded and a compelling email invitation created.
Will prospects be called and told about the webinars? Then phone numbers will be necessary, a script will need to be created and a person designated to make the calls. To track call results, an activity report should be created and run on a regular basis to test the messaging, to make sure the calls are being made and to analyze the prospect responses. Will the report be grouped by prospect type (or industry)? Then that data will need to be captured or imported for each prospect.
Finally, reports should measure the success of each webinar, so that results can be tabulated. How many people registered and attended are important to measure, as well as what happened to the prospect once the webinar was complete to determine the ROI of running the webinar.
The devil is always in the details with these kinds of things since any one piece missing here can stop the project in its tracks.
Each major element in the “make more sales” process should be analyzed and implemented in a similar fashion. I realize that this can sound like a daunting process but don’t be intimidated. The first major element is always the most challenging. Once it’s complete, views and reports can be copied and edited for new campaigns and email content can tweaked and repurposed.
2. Salesforce.com does not support the way the sales team wants to use it so they view it as an obstacle rather than a tool to help them accomplish their goals.
If sales management and the sales team are expected to use Salesforce.com every day as a primary tool, they need to be involved in the design of the system. It's better to take a staged approach rather than to try to solve all of management's problems and concerns at the time of roll-out. Here's an example. Let's say that management has dictated that it's necessary to get the email address of any prospect entered into the system. So the email address is set up as a required field, which will keep the sales team from saving a record without a value being entered. What will they do? They'll make up email addresses so they can save the record. This is a good goal but situations and circumstances will occur in which the sales team will need to enter a record (perhaps even temporarily) without entering an email address.
3. Lack of administrator level knowledge (mass importing or updating leads, sending mass emails, tracking which emails have been opened, configuring Salesforce.com) causes utilization to get bogged down. Helpdesk support is lacking so questions or problems that come up are not addressed immediately, forcing work-around solutions by the sales team.
Businesses need their implementations of Salesforce.com tweaked all the time. These tweaks are the result of new management requirements, data irregularities, new campaigns and sales team requests. There needs to be a mechanism to address these requirements quickly and painlessly. The same mechanism should also provide a Help Desk capability for the sales team so that questions and problems are addressed immediately. Having an administrator on-site is ideal but really only practical for larger organizations. An administrator can be trained but this can be a long and expensive process and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Salesforce.com offers various levels of support and there are companies that offer support. This will allow the small daily bumps in the road to be addressed quickly and keep Salesforce.com humming along.
4. Management does not stand behind the implementation (meaning get help as needed) or require that the sales team use the tool completely.
If the implementation gets off to a rocky start and the sales team is offering resistance, sometimes management caves and the effort is soon abandoned. They fear that the sales team may lose productivity, get frustrated and perhaps leave the company. The answer is to get the sales team to help drive the use of Salesforce.com rather than be at odds with it. The way to ensure this is to use a “pull” methodology rather than a “push”.
This can accomplished in a number of ways. Creating a contest in which the sales team members who complete their Salesforce.com work in a satisfactory way win a prize is a good one. In these situations, I’ve learned that prizes are better than money for the following reasons. 1) People like gadgets 2) People who would yawn about $39 extra in their paycheck will go to tremendous lengths to win a $39 item in a sales contest. 3) They will tell all of their friends, neighbors and relatives that they won the item in a sales contest. Try this:
Buy a few cool new gadgets that you think your sales team will find desirable (ipod docking stations, AM/FM radios emergency radios, digital cameras, portable LCD TVs, etc.) priced in the $25-$100 price range. The items should have an increasing value up to the limit so some are more desirable than others. Set them somewhere where they are visible to the sales team and the whole office. This is important since seeing them and having the whole office talk about them really stirs up the competitive spirit. Explain that you will be awarding these prizes to any sales team members who complete all the things that you are requiring in Salesforce.com weekly (keeping Opportunities updated, completing prospect records, sending out one mass email, adding 15 new prospects or whatever actions drive sales). Whoever does the best job (should be things that are measurable and objective) chooses 1st, 2nd best chooses second and so on. Try to have enough prizes so everyone has a chance to win something.
Repeat this process as needed, varying the requirements and prizes. For example, August could be “cold call month” (most cold calls wins). October can be “demo” month (most demonstrations wins). Just make sure that ALL of the measurement, tracking and documentation has to be done in Salesforce.com or else it doesn’t count.
5. The sales team receives initial training or attains a beginner level on their own. No additional training is ever given to makes Salesforce.com more self-service.
After a few months of using Salesforce.com effectively, the tendency is to believe that no more training is necessary. This is a common mistake. Salesforce.com has a tremendous depth of features and capabilities. Ongoing, periodic training is important as it makes unused features accessible and keeps the sales team interested in wringing the most from the investment in Salesforce.com. Enhancing Salesforce.com knowledge can also reduce supports costs.
A professional training firm can be employed or the person within the sales team with the best Salesforce.com aptitude can be recruited to prepare a monthly or quarterly lesson. There are many books and online tutorials that can help.
Focusing on Success
"It's important to focus not on the number of calls that don't result in a sale (or an advance towards your objective) but rather on the number of calls that do. With enough calling, there will ALWAYS be advances. Some of these advances will turn into sales."
Part 1 of 2
1. Be Courageous
Cold calling takes guts and a thick skin. Sales in general is full of rejection and cold calling certainly has it in abundance. But to be successful in sales you have to be able to drive results and the phone is one of the quickest ways to do that. What if you make a bunch of calls and everyone says no? Like most things in life, it's better to face the results directly and understand your position completely. New lists can be acquired, new markets approached and scripts can be altered. It's better to understand and make adjustments based on what's learned than to do nothing and hope for the best.
When you reach voice mail, your message should say you'll be sending an email with a link to your website/brochure/whitepaper/case study. If they click through the link (which you will be watching for with your email tracking system, right?) they are a warmer prospect and should be called persistently but gently until you reach them.
If you don't have their email address, your message should say "I'd like to send you a link to our website/brochure/whitepaper/case study but I don't have your email address. If you are interested in receiving it, please call me back and leave your email on my voice mail or email me at ...". A small percentage will reply but the ones who do will be solid leads.
It's important to focus not on the number of calls that don't result in a sale (or an advance towards your objective) but rather on the number of calls that do. With enough calling, there will ALWAYS be advances. Some of these advances will turn into sales.
2. Have an Objective
What is the objective of your call? Is it to make a sale on the first call? Are you trying to set-up an over the web demonstration or face to face meeting? Your objectives need to be clear to you or you can't steer the call in the direction you want. Your process and script need to support your objective. If you have multiple potential objectives, you need to be ready to think on your feet and follow the path of least resistance. Or be ready to steer the conversation back on track. Finally, your objective needs to be attainable and help you and the prospect. Don't just tell them everything you know and let them off the phone without trying to advance the sale. Example:
Prospect - "John, thank your for outlining your lead generation process for us. Let me think about it and get back to you".
Cold caller - "Thank you for taking my call this afternoon. At this point, most people like to see a demonstration of our capabilities before making a decision. When would you have some time, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, to take a closer look?".
3. Get to the Point
People are busy and can't afford to waste time. Don't waste their time! Tell them where you are calling from and why. Ask them for permission to proceed: "Is this a good time to talk for a minute?". Ask them how they are involved in what you calling about. If they're not the right person, ask for a referral, thank them for their help and move on. If they are too busy, say that you really just wanted to schedule a time to speak and ask for an appointment.
4. Be a Human Being
Human beings have patterns of social engagement. If I offer to shake hands, generally the other person responds in kind. If I say "good morning", people usually reciprocate. To not do so violates our social norms and people won't do it without a good reason. People also have patterns of dealing with unexpected or unwanted telephone calls. They generally listen until the caller takes a breath and then say "I'm not interested" or simply hang up. The skill the caller needs to develop is an ability to break the latter pattern (hanging up) and engage the former (human social engagement). So act like a human being on the phone. Don't talk at people, talk with them. Respect that you may be catching them in the middle of doing 10 things or not at their desk. If they start to abruptly disengage, say "I'm sorry, it sounds like I caught you at a bad time. When would be a better time to call?" Sometimes they'll say tomorrow, at which point you'll ask "what's better, morning or afternoon?" Whatever they answer, say "how about" and name a time.
5. Question to Engage
People are more comfortable when they feel in control of the conversation. And people tend to like to talk to people who are good listeners. So let them talk! The best way to get them to start is by asking questions. Once you unlock the door holding in the words, the call will be extended and move in a positive direction. The skill to be developed is to learn to ask open ended questions, warmly and naturally, in a sincere way. People are good at detecting when people are being false so be real. Also, avoid asking questions that can be answered with the word "no". Example:
Wrong Way - "Are you involved with generating sales for your company?". "No", click.
Right Way - "How are you involved with generating sales for you company?". "Well I get involved when..."
Once they start talking, you can engage and qualify them with further open ended questions. Then close for the advance or sale.
I'll be posting tips 6-10 over the next couple of days.
Interesting article on free social media tools.
"Sit in the audience and listen to them describe their strategy, what products and services they use and in what direction their enterprise is moving. Learn what trends are happening in their industry and how they plan on responding. It can be amazing. You'll never learn more about what’s happening in an enterprise than you will in these sessions."
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I’ve attended and worked many trade shows over the years, as a business owner, a general manager and as a division manager. Just about every show can be productive if your expectations are in line with reality, you plan a bit in advance and you have a solid approach. Below are some techniques to get the best return on your investment no matter what trade show you attend.
Driving Traffic to Your Booth
Driving traffic to your booth before the show is a simple technique but often under-valued. The idea is that you want maximize the number of prospects you talk to, to create excitement that will draw in other prospects to your booth and give your sales team a chance to close any business that has been “dangling”. Having current happy clients mingling with future clients can also be very productive.
So start by inviting all of your clients, anyone you have ever presented to, leads, prospects, friends of your firm and colleagues in related businesses, to stop by your booth (provide the booth number). Explain that you will have the latest information on your product or service and will be offering some element of your service for free (I prefer this as you will get people who want your service but want a deal, rather than people who just want a free iPad). If your company will be presenting in a break-out session, panel discussion or keynote address, make sure you include that information as well.
If you have or can get last year’s attendee list there’s a good chance most of them will attend again this year. It's the same with exhibitor lists (if they can be prospects for your business). If the list does not have contact information, the names and contact information can be found using an online company database like Data.com or one of the free ones (try your local library). This takes a bit of time and energy but it’s well worth it, since the list can be updated every year and used again and again. When we provide this service, if we don't have a specific name to search for, we try to match on the most appropriate title. Remember to take out competitors and other non-buying names.
Email everyone on your list, providing your booth number, inviting them to stop by and providing information on what you are giving away and your breakout session (time, location, title, speaker). Provide the same information to your social media connections on LinkedIn and Facebook.
When we’re promoting an event for a client, we go a step further. We try to reach individual attendees by phone, requesting that they meet with our client on a specific date and time at the booth. Since trade shows often have uncertain schedules, we ask for the person’s cell phone number so that our client can reach them during the show to firm up the time and location. Those who provide their cell phone number are generally serious prospects.
Making Meals Productive
Trade shows offer terrific networking opportunities. You’ll want to try to meet several prospects at every meal. At the same time, you don’t want to appear overly aggressive or desperate. Remember, anyone can make everyone around them feel uncomfortable. The skill is in meeting people in a smooth and transparent manner.
First, attend all the meals, especially breakfast. Even people who skip meals like to have coffee (or something) so make sure you’re there on time. I like get there early and sit at a table that’s empty. As people approach or sit, I immediately say “Good morning, I’m Jerry” and offer to shake hands in a low key, friendly manner. After they shake I slide them my business card. If they don’t offer one back, I don’t immediately force the issue. There’s no sense in pushing if he or she is not a prospect.
So have a little small talk ready (the weather, sports, current events) that anyone would be able to relate to. It’s always useful to know where someone’s from and what company they work for, so ask them. It’s also a qualifying step but more on that later. Since I’m now having a friendly conversation with the person at my table, more people will usually approach. I’ll briefly interrupt my conversation to say good morning, offer my hand, slide them my card. Usually at least one person will offer their card in return and that can trigger a general exchange of cards, even with the people who were reticent.
When the table is mostly full, in your mind you should start to separate the individuals into categories. Are they a prospect, referrer or an information source?
If they are in the right role, in the right kind company, in the right geography, they are a prospect. You’ll want to engage in a meaningful way with all prospects at the table. Open ended questions are a good way to do this, for example “How are you involved in (product/service) for your company?” You can also ask if they’re familiar with your firm and then take the opportunity to tell them a little. Don’t take too much of their time and try to get them to accept an "advance", for example have them agree to speak by phone in the weeks after the show. Make sure you connect with all prospects (if you can) before moving on to referrers and information sources.
If they are the right kind of company but not the right role or geography, they are a referrer. You’ll want to give them enough information about your offering to help them understand who the best contact would be. Then ask for a name. One of the advantages is they may only know the name of the person in charge of your area of interest so you will be getting a high level contact. You'll also have the name of the referrer to help you get their attention.
If they are not a potential buyer but they are in a related business that also calls on prospects in your space, they could be referrer but more importantly, they can be an information source (this is especially helpful if you are new in the space). They may know the best industry groups, trade shows and have many contacts that could prove useful. As a referrer, they will need to be cultivated over time since they will be protective of their clients. You’ll want to get them to agree to talk after the show to discuss how you might help each other moving forward.
Once you've done what you can with that table, excuse yourself and make your way to another table unobtrusively. Then start the whole process again.
Prospecting Booth to Booth
If your product or service is likely to be purchased by people working in the exhibitor booths (business owners, CEO/President, VP Sales, VP Marketing of small and medium sized businesses), then it makes sense to visit each booth, dropping a card off and taking the card of the potential buyer. Some of them will contact you after the show but that's fine. Be sensitive to the fact that they are trying to make sales for their own company so don't tie them up talking about your offerings when their booth is busy. During a lull, it's fine to take a moment to introduce yourself and tell them you'll follow up after the show.
Break out sessions are terrific for meeting top executives in large enterprises. They're good for meeting people in other top roles too. Here’s how to go about it.
When you get to a trade show, the first thing you should do is sit down with the show program and a pen. Review all of the break-out sessions, panel discussions, seminars and keynote addresses looking for speakers who are potential buyers of your products or services. These could be people who are the CIO, VP HR, VP Marketing or CFO in companies like Fidelity, Bank of America or Exxon (prospects who have tremendous authority but are virtually inaccessible).
Go to their session. Sit in the audience and listen to them describe their strategy, what products and services they use and in what direction their enterprise is moving. Learn what trends are happening in their industry and how they plan on responding. It can be amazing. You'll never learn more about what’s happening in an enterprise than you will in these sessions.
At the end of the session, when everyone else is walking to the rear, walk to the front of the room. The speaker will be in a good mood since their presentation is finished and presumably went well. Introduce yourself and tell them that you really enjoyed their presentation. Hand them your card and ask if they would mind sending you a copy of the slides. Often they’ll look at your card and ask what you do, giving you the opportunity to engage for a moment. If they don’t offer a card, politely ask them for one so that you can email them about the presentation. If necessary, jot down their email address on the back of one of your cards. After the show, wait a week then email them, restating that you enjoyed their presentation and asking for a copy of the slides. Once you have them, wait another 3 weeks and email them asking if they would be interested in taking a closer look at your products and services. Be prepared to receive a referral since the the evaluation may actually begin at a lower level in the organization. With the top executive's endorsement, you should be able to parlay that into a meeting.
After the Show
There a few schools of thought on the best way to handle post show follow-up. Cherry picking the top handful of prospects and putting the rest in a drawer are not among them. But that's what many companies do. So, to quote a good friend of mine, "Do something, even if it's wrong!" This is another way of saying doing something is better than doing nothing, even if it's not perfect. So do something!
The challenge is that within 4-5 days of the end of the show, everyone who has a plan for following up will do so. All at once. The prospects will be inundated and it will be difficult to get their attention. So ideally, try to come up with a way to get the leads into your system during the show. That way you can start contacting them via email immediately, while they're still at the show. If you are getting the leads electronically, it's pretty simple but there are other ways. We use a little Cardscan device to scan business cards as we get them. This will give you a jump of the rest of the exhibitors.
You can also use social media to connect with prospects and that has the benefit of being almost immediate. For example, if you meet someone and exchange cards, using a smartphone, as you walk away, you can invite them to connect using LinkedIn.
Finally, any leads collected need to be contacted at least 6-12 times over the next year, in a sort of email drip marketing campaign. When they start clicking through your links and completing forms on your website requesting more information, they're ready to be contacted by your sales team.