Make the most of events
Events provide excellent opportunities to condense the outbound touchpoints—create a presence at the booth, reach out directly during a session, have follow-up capabilities right on the spot. The ability to offer three of the twelve touchpoints right at the event sounds pretty good to me. Industry events are one of the few places where (if you play your cards right) you can get in front of a buyer to talk shop. It takes prep, a method, and a certain personality, but very few other contexts are primed for that initial conversation. The attendees are there to learn about the industry, new vendors, and new offerings and are thus far more open to spending time with you.
I would break down industry conference participation into three objectives:
- Create brand awareness and presence for buyers (if industry event, targeting the specific vertical: health care, financial, etc.).
- Reconnect with current clients, prospective clients, and past clients.
- Hunt cold prospects from target accounts.
Since the first two objectives above are self-explanatory, let’s explore the methodology of hunting during events. Most conferences distribute a participant list, have a network app available, and share the list of sessions and speakers before the event. First and foremost, research the buyers participating in panels, presenting sessions, and attending the conference. Strategically discuss with your team what role you are going to play, such as pulling people into the booth or roaming the sessions to target buyers.
An explanation of how to run an effective booth is outside the scope of this book, but it is worth going through the steps we take while session hunting.
- Identify sessions where your buyer is presenting or is a panelist.
- Sit front and center, take notes on the content, and ask a direct, genuine question during the Q&A.
- When the session is over, intercept the exec (before they leave the room) to simply express your appreciation for the time and insight. Say your name and the company you’re with. Mention that you have a booth at the event and how what you do relates to the topic discussed on the panel. Invite the exec to the booth: “If you have fifteen minutes . . .” Note: Do NOT pitch. It’s too soon.
- Invite potential buyers to connect on LinkedIn with a brief personal message [add sample text].
- Add the prospect’s information and log the interactions in Salesforce.
- Send an email to the prospect with additional commentary on the subject they covered during their session, perhaps leveraging content and white papers created by your team—that same day as the session!
- If applicable, visit the prospect’s booth to meet with person x or y. Have materials on hand to socialize. Alternatively, drop off materials with a short, handwritten note if the prospect is not available (e.g., “Sorry I missed you. Would like to connect”—signed with your name and number).
- Stop by the prospect’s booth each day of the conference to attempt to meet up.
- Assuming you are able to connect at the event, invite the prospect to a capabilities session—could be in your booth or a shared space at the event locale. When running the session, pay attention to the areas that resonate with the prospect.
- Schedule follow-up activities for after the event.
Hopefully you’ll be able to execute most if not all of the steps above at the event. Then when back in the office, you can leverage your interaction with prospects to drive toward scheduling a workshop session.
Approaching people cold and rolling right into your pitch is an art in itself. You never know if your message is going to resonate or if you’ve got the right individual. I always recommend learning as much as you can before starting an explanation of Devbridge and our services.
In my experience, people love to talk about themselves but hate to be pitched to. Ask a couple of questions first to learn more about the person in front of you. Then follow up with a response based on what they’ve shared with you. Just knowing the person’s name, title, and organization sets you up to ask a number of good open-ended questions.
Do this several times in a row. Be naturally curious and respond where appropriate with relevant cues as the prospect engages. For example, ask two questions followed by a statement that sheds light on what you do.
Here’s how a sample conversation would play out:
DB: Hi, I’m Amy.
Prospect: Hi, I’m Steve.
DB: (reading Steve’s name card)You’re with [such and such], right? What do you do there?
Prospect: I’m the SVP of payments.
DB: How are you finding the content at this event? I saw a good talk on core platform refactoring to microservices the other day . . . Folks were talking about the idea of real-time payments as a capability.
Prospect: Yeah, we’re actually already in flight with that effort.
DB: Nice! We helped [a similar company] do the same. They were running a twenty-one-year-old legacy system; we implemented microservices and slowly factored out the underlying platform. Here, let me show you an app we used while working with them . . . (Show PowerUp.)
The point I’m trying to make is do not launch right into a pitch. Drop bits of valuable information naturally into the conversation. Be prepared with these snippets ahead of time. For example, if you’re at a payments conference, you’d better have a payments story. Last, have a clear and concise story ready to tell about how your organization—as in Devbridge—is different. For example, I’ll often talk about PowerUp or our values.
- Always listen first, introduce second. Take advantage of what you hear to customize your introduction for this customer.
- Always ask a question after introducing yourself. Make sure the question is open-ended so it lends itself to further discussion where you can provide insight.
- You’re not selling—you’re on a mission to inform, equip, and enable.
- Be genuine.
- Choose humor and authenticity over brute force.