How to Approach Prospects and Gain Interest at Events

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

By SummitSync


David Smith, CMO of SalesScreen, tackles how to get the most out of every event you attend and sponsor by putting your best foot forward.

Trade shows and sales events can be a brilliant way to generate new leads, show off your product and fill the funnel with prospects. However, the problem with most events is that they are filled with people trying to scan your badge for leads, throw business cards at you and hassle you with things you’re not interested in. Here’s our take on how to fix that.

It All Starts Before You Go

Successfully connecting with prospects at events starts with deciding which events your team should attend in the first place.

Early last year, we at SalesScreen decided to set aside a fair amount of marketing budget for events.

The reasons were fairly simple:

  • We have a SaaS product that is much easier to understand in-person than it is through a glance at our website.

  • We wanted to reach a whole new audience in various locations.

  • We had never really done large events before as sponsors.

After much research, we landed on about six events that we wanted to sponsor. They were all quite a bit different: some were free for attendees, some were paid entrance, some had speaking slots, some were industry specific, and so on…

It became very clear, very quickly that fancy advertising did not necessarily result in higher quality events. Some were wins, some broke even and some we got nearly no return from whatsoever. But, if you were to simply glance at our chosen events on a list, you would unlikely be able to choose which would be great and which would suck.

Nonetheless, it only makes sense to try and find the events that suit your objectives best, generally based on:

  • Attendee type (decision makers?)

  • Location (can you support new business here?)

  • Industry (look at your customer portfolio… find more of what works)

  • Theme (keynote speeches vs open exhibition style, for example)

  • Budget (you can spend more next year if it’s great)

  • Company size (targeting small, medium, or large businesses?)

  • Inclusions (do you want a networking dinner, speaking slot, etc?…)

  • Many more…

Once you’ve narrowed your focus, done your homework, negotiated price (sometimes), and ensured that everything is taken care of it’s time to prepare for actually approaching prospects at events.

Generating Event ROI on the Trade Show Floor… It Starts with YOU

There are some very common sense lessons and some less obvious ones to cover. I’ll try to keep this very short and to-the-point.

First, some basics:

  • Dress to impress. YES, potential clients are judging your attire and appearance.

  • Be organized. Don’t have flyers randomly scattered about.

  • Be early. Have the stand set up and ready long in advance.

  • Use multiple channels to let people know you will be at the show. (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, email, newsletter, etc…)

  • Have all the right equipment. Show day is not the time to go scrambling for HDMI cords, adapters, etc.

  • Know your product. Everyone should be able to address common questions.

Now, some less obvious concerns:

  • Make sure everyone rests up. Pre-partying the night before is common… but don’t overdo it. You’re there for work.

  • Don’t annoy attendees. Many may not care about your product. Don’t scan them, bother them, awkwardly chat them up on their way to the restroom, etc.

  • Talk less! Let people ask questions and give comments, don’t just try to “sell, sell, sell”. Feedback is gold.

  • First impressions count. Shave, dress nicely, comb your hair, don’t smell funny, don’t lean on the counters, don’t play on your phone all day,…

  • A smile goes a loooong way. People usually wander through and then double back to the booths that interest them.

  • Have plenty of marketing material, business cards, etc.

  • You need to stand out. Focus on creating an experiential moment that stands out from the crowd while drawing in your ideal prospects.

  • Lastly, and most importantly, don’t bother people! I can’t stress this enough. Nobody wants hassled at events. If they are interested and/or if you have a good stand and an inviting personality, they will come to you.

Measuring Your Event Marketing as a Sponsor

As with any business endeavor, you need to go into this knowing what you hope to get out of it. Be sure the team is aware of your goals: how many leads, email signups, business cards, conversations, demo requests, etc do you need to break even? What is the value of possible partnerships or new business acquaintances?

Many events have lead trackers (scanners) but some don’t. Be prepared for this. If you spend the day at an event and leave with a disorganized jumble of leads and nobody has any notes on who spoke with who about what, then that’s pretty useless. Each rep who speaks with someone and collects info should be recording key parts of the conversation to strike up the email where you left off. With 80% of trade show leads never getting followed up with, this is your chance to really shine.

I mean, why leave an event and cold-email a bunch of people?!

Lastly, let’s talk dollars and cents.

You had X number of conversations that led to Y demos and Z converted. Those conversions result in how much money? Is it recurring revenue? What’s the lifetime value of that customer? How will you be following up? If you have these answers, you can figure out how much profit (or loss) you have from the total cost of an event… and that’s what really matters.

David Smith is the Chief Marketing Officer for SalesScreen , a sales motivation platform that helps organizations around the world to track progress on KPIs, reward completion of key activities and surpass their goals. As a result, customers experience stronger culture, lower turnover, better awareness on targets and increased activity on the metrics that matter most to revenue growth and success. You can find his writings at The Art of Sales.

Free Ebook: Drive More Revenue at Conferences and Trade Shows

Learn how to book more and better meetings with the right prospects, so you can close more sales at the show and maximize your event ROI.