By TOM WOODCOCK
Money is being spent in all directions to try and to gain an advantage in sales. Websites, digital campaigns, graphics, giveaways and promotional materials grab the lion’s share of the attention. Though these are, (add comma) at times, (add comma) necessary, hoping these pieces will suffice, (remove comma) as your sales effort is overly optimistic. Still the most effective methodology is to get in front of people. But how?
There is a definite divide developing between those who hide behind marketing and promotion with those who use it to increase their opportunity to get around people. I really believe in some of the old, traditional, people-centric gathering functions. The difference is that I’ve always had a plan of attack for these events. What events?
Two of the most common, as well as the most effective, are associations and trade shows. I know. They’ve both been around forever. There is a reason for that. They’re effective. When worked properly, they serve as a great point of access to customers and potential customers. When I do seminars, I usually ask this question: “How many of you have to deal with a person when getting a project or making a sale?” Guess what? I usually get a 100 percent positive response. We all have to deal with people to get our opportunities.
The question is this: How can we maximize the effectiveness of attending these events? First of all, when it comes to associations, it’s critical that you select a couple active associations that are successful in bringing people together or are customer-rich environments. The more people in attendance, the greater the chance you’ll either secure a good piece of sales information or a direct opportunity with a potential customer.
Secondly, you have to dive in. Arrive early and review the nametags to see who’s coming. Stay late and milk it for all it’s worth.
Lastly, get involved. Committees, boards and volunteering for events put you in the limelight. It gives members a chance to seek you out for your ability to connect them within the association. I practice this firsthand. It really doesn’t matter if you feel awkward. Things will get comfortable as you move along. Go with the purpose of meeting people, as opposed to sitting back and criticizing those who are. There is an old saying in the association world: “You get out of it what you put in,” and it holds true.
Another misunderstood event are trade shows. They have been around since the dawn of time, it seems. Trade shows sometimes draw large crowds, sometimes not. They always involve people. Yes, it’s good to see new products and services at these events. You may even grab a great seminar. (I do a ton of them at trade shows!) The greatest value, in my opinion, comes from the people who are in attendance.
If it’s a customer-rich environment, you need to attend with the intent of making some connections. Introduce yourself during booth visits or at breaks in the seminar programs. Go with the purpose of walking away with at least three solid connections. Plan your attack, have your business cards accessible and bring a tool to jot down notes. Planning ahead will take your experience to a new level. I’m often amazed how one person can attend or work a trade show and say it’s a flop while another individual attended the exact same show and found it to be a tremendous success. It seems that perspective and attitude play a huge role with regards to results.
Lastly, there are business breakfast meetings, networking happy hours and luncheons popping up everywhere. They are worth the time if you qualify them first. Who is putting it on? From industry is the host? Are the times and locations generally convenient? If so, they’ll probably have higher attendance. Taking the time to include these opportunities in your event repertoire can produce significant results. With the weather improving, golf tournaments and barbecues pop up. Worked correctly, they can be big lead sources.
But all of this is useless if you don’t follow up on the information you secure from these networking opportunities. This is the biggest issue I find when training sales reps; they’re great at the event but then they never call their newfound contacts or take the next step. A lead is only effective when it is worked. Most leads go dead in 48 hours as people move on to new ventures.
Set aside a specific time to sit and make those follow-up calls. This takes discipline and few really take the time to pick up the phone. Most good sales people love the fact that so few individuals actually do follow up because it allows them to stand out that much more. It’s always easy to discount going to people-connecting events, believing they’re not worth the time or inconvenience. The highest percentage of people uses these excuses to bypass being involved. Sadly, this is a critical sales mistake. Easy to make, but just as easy to rectify.
I know that not every meeting or show is going to be a premium event, but you need to stay out there to catch the ones that are. Join the associations. Get to the meetings. Attend the trade shows and meet people.
This isn’t the most complicated of concepts. The biggest issue is making the time. If it’s a priority, you’ll make the time. The percentage of sales agents who do is woefully low. Getting around people is still a big lead producer. Finding events where people are congregating is critical. Surprisingly, if you put a real sales effort towards them, you’ll meet a ton of people. I highly recommend having a good schedule of people-laden events on your calendar. There you’ll meet someone who will be of value to your business. The strong ones tend to be strategically involved in your business transactions.
Tom Woodcock, president, seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached at (314) 775-9217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.