Sales: Conferences and You!

By Jacob Dunlap

The web hosting industry, although large, doesn’t have many events for its namesake. The one big event only happens once a year. So, it seems a good idea to prepare for this one and only event, HostingCon. The target market being web hosts, hosting software companies, large and small banking firms, internet security agencies, and this is to name a few. Regardless of what your product is, it is a good bet that others will be preparing also. What is your goal at this event? To put it mildly: to find new clients and build up rapport with current clients. It seems easy enough, but requires preparation and homework.

Prior Planning
Typically before going to the event you are going to want to establish what will be needed. For example, will you need a booth? Props? Giveaways, etc.?
Also, find out who will be attending: See if your clients or partners will be there. Contact potential clients, find out what new companies will be attending, and above all, find out who the VIPs are going to be. Your main goal should be to network with as many people as possible and give them a lasting, quality impression of yourself and your company. Leave open a good amount of time to be flexible. Only plan about 70 percent of your time and give yourself a good amount of leeway.

• Organize the information and do your homework: To be truly successful you need to do your homework on everyone you will contact. Find out how long they have been working at the company, find out about their families, their likes, and their reasons for attending. Work these tidbits into your conversations.

• Order the necessary supplies, book required tickets, and set up other travel expenses: Always make a list of those things that will be vital to your trip and make sure you have them, with time to spare, in case something goes wrong. Travel arrangements, expense budgeting, brochures, all equipment for setting up your booth, backup equipment in case of hardware failure, damage, etc, should all be planned and ordered ahead of time. Also, make sure you know the policy for your travel arrangements. What’s the policy on rescheduling flights? How much extra will it cost for a car rental upgrade in case you need to drive people around? These things should be on hand and ready to go in case of an emergency.

• Contact the individuals you want to speak to and set up a get-together: Make reservations at restaurants or simply find nice, quiet places away from crowds for more personable conversation. During these get-togethers just try to get to know each other — don’t even bother with selling your product unless it gets brought up in conversation. These informal meetings will help you build lasting relationships in the industry. Remember “face-to-face” is the best way to be remembered. If you can, have lunch with your current clients and partners, keep them happy.

These are just some of the things necessary to have a successful event.

At the Conference
It will be necessary to establish a booth if you want them to come to you. With a booth, remember you have limited space; you want it to be eye catching, memorable, but not cluttered with your information. Make them ask you what it is you do with your setup. Have few giveaways viewable, or don’t show any, and give them out only when talked to. Entice them to ask you what it is you sell.

Always have a business card ready to give out and make sure you hand it out such that the logo, company name, and your name are clearly visible and readable. If you have any sort of giveaways, make sure you present them with the logo facing the client. It might sound silly, but spend some time practicing how to hand them out.

When discussing your product or service, make sure you explain why it’s different from that of your rivals. Never slander your competitors. If your competitors impressed the people you are talking to, slander will only polarize them against you and drive away sales. If your potential client is sitting on the fence, slander is a great way for them not to want to work with you.
When all elements come together — the business card, the giveaways, the professional presentation — that shows you are knowledgeable and enjoy your own product. This is called polish. A polished presentation should be your goal with every person you talk to, whether they are the CEO of a Fortune 500 or a “gopher” for a mom-and-pop shop.

Once you are at the conference try to get in touch with those you were unable to contact. Try to make best use of the short amount of time available. For potential clients, invite them to a dinner or schedule something fun. Just because you want their business doesn’t mean it has to be a, “Hi, my name is…” and a hand shake. Treating others to meals or quite conversation isn’t just good business, it’s also a good way for yourself to relax after the hustle and bustle.

Learning the details of potential clients is what people in sales call blueprinting. You will learn more about people as you get to know them; write this stuff down when you can, as you may need it later. Do you have any clue how flattering it is when someone remembers your birthday? Or you children’s names and how old they are? Again, go the extra mile — it will pay off!

When All is Said and Done
After your successful event, don’t forget to follow up with everyone you made contact with. They may have enjoyed your company, but with all the things people do in the day, they will soon forget you if you don’t remind them. Send them an e-mail, call them up, etc. It is crucial to gain contacts and even more-so to keep them. Send postcards or even small gifts. Make sure they are happy and you will be also.

Above all, have fun and enjoy yourself. Conferences are about networking and building relationships, but they are also there to give you a break from your normal routine. Just remember nothing sells a product better than when you are happy and enthusiastic!

Writer’s Bio: Jacob Dunlap has been in sales for the past four years, with numerous conferences under his belt. Prior to joining the Web hosting industry, Jake was a recruiter for the U.S. Army, were he won several accolades and awards for his abilities. Currently, he is the SEO Editor for WebHostMagazine.com.

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