Networking at events and trade shows is a great way to build rapport for potentially sales-ready relationships.
Usually this means having a plentiful stock of business cards and a well polished elevator pitch.
But everyone else will be stuffing their carry on with business cards and have that tired pitch tagging along too.
How can you get ready for the event so that you’re remembered as prospects board the plane? What is the best way to follow up once everyone gets back to the office? These are our top five tips gleaned from the sales pros here at MediaRadar.
#1: Don’t forget about your current clients
Conferences are not just an opportunity to build prospects; they’re a chance to have some face time with your clients.
Successful client relationships depend on ensuring that you continue to address their business needs. While you may have your own methods for following up on this front, nothing beats an in-person meeting to show a proactive level of customer care.
Ahead of the conference, send out emails to your clients to ask if they will be attending. If they are, be sure to schedule a specific time when you can get together. This will be your chance to highlight any new offerings and tie in a timely conversation with the conference’s topics.
#2: Make use of the conference list
Use the conference list — complete with sponsors, vendors and speakers — to identify prospects you want to get in front of during the event.
Once you have a shortlist of prospects, do your research on each prospect. What has their activity looked like on LinkedIn and Twitter? What kind of media is their brand looking to buy? What efforts have been successful in the past, and how can you augment these successes for them?
Throughout this process, make sure you get organized so you have easy access to the list and relevant information.
#3: Take the time for a tailored approach
Research is one thing, and tailoring your sales approach based on the information you’ve gathered is another.
Using the shortlist you made above, ask yourself (and your sales reps) one critical question: if I get one minute in front of this prospect, what’s one thing I want to be sure that they know?
Having that piece of knowledge in the back of your head means you won’t have to completely revamp your sales pitch. Instead, you can simply plug in a specific value proposition you know will land.
Bonus: ahead of each event, spend some time reworking your elevator pitch — does it pass the “mom” test?
#4: Put that in-flight WiFi to use
During the conference, make note of who you meet and what you talk about. Make notes on the back of the business card if you have to; better yet, get organized with a spreadsheet in the hotel room.
Then, on the plane home, fire up your laptop and get cracking on those follow up connections. Send a personalized message referencing something that you talked about or something you remember about them. It’ll be waiting for them when they get back to the office.
Don’t go into sales mode with these messages. Just make the connection and leave it there for the time being. An initial “Have a good weekend” will sit much better than “Let me know how we can work together.”
#5: Schedule time for follow up
That initial follow up message plants a seed. But you still have to water it.
The people you meet at events and conferences are real prospects if you treat them like real prospects. After you make that initial connection, schedule time in your own calendar in the following two weeks to send a follow up message with more of a value proposition. Again, don’t just copy/paste. Use your notes from both before and after the conference to be sure you’re speaking on their level.
Conferences, trade shows and events are fantastic opportunities for prospecting — provided you put in the work. We’re not talking business cards that get forgotten in the bottom of a suitcase. We’re talking research, lists and a dedicated follow up. You’ll be glad you made the effort.