There are many ways companies stand out at tradeshows. Some use flashy booths, desired giveaways, even celebrity spokespeople. However, these tactics don’t always give you the best sales leads, which is the ultimate goal at tradeshows. Think about this: what if you organized an event where prospective customers could join in a private venue and hear about what your company has to offer straight from some of your existing customers?
A VIP dinner is an excellent way, especially during tradeshows when everyone is in one location, to demonstrate that a company has created a certain level of momentum and signal that it is hitting mass adoption by showcasing successful customers for analysts, media and prospects. Turning these dinners into sales opportunities makes them even more valuable.
Here are some best practices to consider before hosting an event:
Invite key customers and prospects to the dinner, letting customers drive more customers to attend. For example, the bigger the name of the customers company and the better the title, the more customers at that level you will be able to secure.
Offer customer awards as part of the dinner to recognize customers’ commitment to the vendor. Think “Best technology implementation,” “Best ROI” or “Best use case” as examples of awards that can be given out. You can create a Tiffany award, a handsome plaque or other form of corporate recognition. You can present the award at the dinner, acknowledge the person publically and tell the story about how they are using your product or technology.
Invite industry analysts, if applicable in your market, to round out the mix of attendees.
Seating chart is key….Strategically place customers and prospects next to each other so the prospect is able to talk to the customer about your client’s product or technology and how it’s working for them. Make sure your executives are seated near the business press.
Reserve a private room and have the chef talk to the group about the food and wine pairings. Choose a menu that is at least three courses and space them to allow for talking between courses. Good food, conversation and a nice bottle of wine are a winning combination for getting folks to open up with one another.
As you start to plan a VIP customer dinner, here’s an event checklist and tips to get started:
1. Identify venue (make sure it’s a private dining room), timing and location
2. Identify food, wine pairings and other culinary perks
3. Secure attendees: business press, analysts, customers, prospects
4. Create a table seating chart (think strategically)
5. Have an ‘anchor’ gift for attendees (e.g., autographed cookbook from chef, cork pull, etc.)
6. Prepare talking points for executives
7. Prepare customer(s) that will get the award before the event; you don’t want to surprise them
8. Hire a videographer and have video consent forms for attendees to sign
9. Write a press release about the event / award winners discussing why you chose the companies and what important industry trends were addressed
10. Have fun and be creative!
So next time you want to stand out at a tradeshow, think about hosting a private event like a VIP customer dinner that will give you the most ROI for your money and will help elevate your company’s image with existing customers and shrink the sales cycle.
Trainer has extensive experience organizing large and small events at the major technology conference in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. We also frequently put on VIP events for our customers who want to showcase their new services with their most valued prospects. Whether it’s Dreamforce, VM World, Oracle Open World, CES, NAB, RSA or BlackHat we are here to ease the stress of conference season while accelerating your sales cycle.
This entry was written by Business Strategy, Marketing, Sales, Security, Storage, Uncategorized and tagged award shows, BlackHat, CES, conference parties, Dreamforce, NAB, networking, Oracle Open World, RSA, tech events, tradeshows, VIP events, VM World. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
As we get into Spring, it is appropriate to assess how we are doing with our New Year’s resolutions. One of mine was to really get out there, try new groups, meet at least one or two new people at each event and expand my circle of contacts for both personal and professional growth to benefit Trainer Communications. For many, this is easy. However, the biggest question I’ve faced when I go to these events by myself is, how do I start the conversation – how can I master “the art of schmoozing”?
After multiple networking events, here are two important tips of the trade I have adopted:
1) PAY ATTENTION to everyone and everything around you.
Now, I have to give credit where credit is due. The best example of an amazing schmoozer is Susan RoAne. I was at an event with Susan and she introduced me to quite a few new people during our hour of networking. One tip she gave me was to, “pick the noisiest group of 3 or more people who are having fun, talking and laughing. Stand in the periphery. Give agreeable body language (smile, nod, open stance). When someone glances your way, say something and give your name if that feels appropriate. Then you can step into the conversation.”
2) Offer a genuine compliment to start the dialog.
One thing that is often overlooked, but is just as important as starting the conversation, is knowing how and when to move on! It’s important to understand that the other person is there to meet people too so if the conversation is going well don’t take up too much of their time. Get their card and agree to meet elsewhere to finish the conversation.
Here’s an example of what you can say to quit the conversation for another time and place: “I’ve really enjoyed meeting you! I need to run to another meeting, but would you be interested in meeting for coffee sometime? I would be very interested to find out more about XYZ.”
If the conversation isn’t going well, or you feel you’re not getting what you want from the conversation, you can use the same script above, but omit the invitation for coffee and wish them well at the event instead.
The key to effective business and personal networking is to find people that have a mutual interest and that you want to meet again. Follow the above two schmoozing tips and you will soon be confident in making useful new contacts and will enjoy the process.
- Michelle Reingold, Senior Account Manager, Trainer Communications
This entry was written by Business Strategy, Sales, Trainer Communications and tagged communication, events, how to work a room, networking, Sales, Susan RoAne. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
Recently the team at Trainer Communications had the good fortune to host a panel of talented sales executives and sales trainers from some of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley. Our objective was to find out if marketing and PR really matter in sales situations. And, if so, what matters most versus what is least useful? The panel consisting of Mark Musselman, Senior Director of Sales, of Sumo Logic (@SumoLogic), Carl Wright, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Field Operations of Coraid (@coraid); Eric Siegel, Borderless Security Sales for Cisco Systems (@CiscoSystems) and Chip Doyle, Franchise Owner of Sandler Sales Training (@chipsell) provided some excellent food for thought!
We started with a softball question – “Does media relations or analyst relations really matter when you are working with a prospect?” Our panelists unanimously answered – yes, but with a caveat – the PR or AR deliverable must be “the right one” to make an impact. All these sales hot shots believe that an analyst report from a credible firm, an affirming nod from a Gartner analyst (or better yet, a report from Gartner) can make a big difference in the sales process. They also all felt strongly that customer case studies, particularly those that have specific ROI metrics included, were very helpful in working with prospects. One panelist said that if the case study wasn’t balanced (mentioned challenges), it wasn’t credible and wouldn’t help much. So far, no big surprises…but wait…
A couple of the panelists suggested that the more complex the sale, the less marketing can do to help them – and the more the sales person had to do. They agreed that with simple products, marketing practically sells the product without sales. All of the panelists agreed that the selling process is much different for selling enterprise solutions, for example, versus selling SMB products and services. In an enterprise sale, prospects look at every type of validation including social media, collateral, media coverage, analyst reports, and many other types of marketing. In an SMB sale, the validation process is much quicker and much less rigorous.
One panelist cautioned that Twitter is an awesome sales tool, but not the way you would hope. He watches his competitors on Twitter and they invariably tweet (aka: brag) about the appointments they have set up with key prospects. That executive simply watches these sales guys’ twitter feeds and sets up meetings with the same prospects, knowing full well they likely have an RFP for a product he can sell. Note to the sales guys: not everything belongs on social media.
When asked what press helps the sales process the most, one panelist told us that the Wall Street Journal plays especially well on what he called the “money coast” – meaning the East Coast. They all agreed that awards were good – but no one could come up with the “holy grail” award.
At the end of the session, the team challenged the panelists to list their top marketing and public relations programs that deliver the most impact in a sales cycle, which resulted in the following list:
This entry was written by Business Strategy, Marketing, PR, Sales, Trainer Communications and tagged Analyst Relations, Marketing, PR, Sales. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
Want to go from questioning whether social business is right for you to creating social business strategiesand plans that
drive your business forward? Read Adam Metz (@theMETZ) most recent book, The Social Customer. I’m amazed that some B2B companies are still vacillating about whether social business ROI is out of reach. That’s likely because they simply don’t know how to measure success. The following are at least six good measurements that every company can employ with respect to measuring their social business, courtesy of Adam:
1. Membership (is your base growing)
2. Content strategy (is the content meaningful and useful)
3. Traffic (how many page views is the content getting)
4. Engagement minimums (are you attracting a solid base of people consistently with your messages / content)
5. Interaction (what percent of your base is interacting – posting comments, clicking through, voting, etc.)
6. Responsiveness (how long does it take your community to respond, on average)
My perspective is that items 3, 4, 5, and 6 are the qualitative indicators of membership and content (1 and 2). Of course, you’ll need to find the right tool(s) to capture these metrics accurately, and Adam has plenty of ideas about analytics tools, also. Trainer Communications is working with a number of tools, and the important thing to remember is that there is a good tool to fit nearly every budget (it doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive).
With a solid measurement in mind – which can be tightly aligned with business objectives – it’s pretty easy to justify social business for nearly every organization.
This entry was written by Marketing, Sales, Social Media and tagged Analytics Tools, Metrics, Social Business, Social CRM, Social Media. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
It’s exciting to see Trainer Communications turn 17 this month! As I look at my 17-year-old son, whose birth spawned my transition to being an entrepreneur, I’m reminded how quickly time has flown. This blog is dedicated to all entrepreneurs who are asking, “What’s the secret to sustaining business over the long haul?” Below are the maxims that helped me sustain and grow a business; their first letters also just happen to spell “seventeen!”
Say less; listen more. The longer I’m in business, the more I realize how important it is to listen. Good sales people have always known this secret – yet I don’t see it emphasized nearly enough in entrepreneurial books. Prospects, customers, employees, partners, and vendors are excellent sources of intelligence that can make the difference between a profitable and a not-so-profitable year.
Economize as appropriate. Bigger is not necessarily better; better is better. About a decade ago, the technology industry was flooded with entrepreneurs who were focused more on expansion than on building a sustainable business. They made silly mistakes, like investing in excessive infrastructure or committing to office space that was far too big and expensive for their revenues. Evaluating investment options and ensuring that you make a habit of building in a healthy profit margin is the only way to guarantee that you’ll be around in the coming years.
Value is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve fallen into the trap of offering the “perfect” solution without first checking with my prospect and customer base. It’s shocking and disheartening to realize that the only one who sees the genius in your idea is you! Formal and informal audits on pricing, packaging, and marketing of your solutions and products are a must for the long-term entrepreneur.
Education is not an option. Those in the technology industry can thank their lucky stars that innovation is a constant and is impossible to ignore. Without this constant reminder of how quickly things move and change, it would be tempting to get comfortable with a business model that is decidedly “old school.” Our largest budget (after payroll) is for education, training, and improving operations.
Never say never. Flexibility is a standard attribute in the DNA of an entrepreneur, but it still is worth mentioning that change is inevitable. The pragmatic entrepreneur is constantly evaluating his or her options, doing their best to leave bias aside when making critical decisions.
Teamwork takes you to the top. Many entrepreneurs started their business because they were good at a trade; they stayed in business because they are especially good at spotting and nurturing talent, building and inspiring teams, creating a culture of teamwork and trust, and trusting talented teams to carry out their missions. I’ve watched too many talented entrepreneurs drive themselves out of business by refusing to delegate or trust their teams.
Engage to stay relevant. Occasionally I meet entrepreneurs who believe that starting their company is an invitation to stop working so hard. That’s a retirement strategy, not a sound strategy for an entrepreneur. I’ve also met some who have no problem working hard but they become reclusive; they sequester themselves in their offices, only engaging with their direct reports, avoiding the opportunity and the necessity to inspire and learn from the teams and the individuals who are so vital to their own success. The reality TV show “Undercover Boss” continually documents the revelations that CEOs experience when they have the opportunity to spend a little time in the real world of their operations, teams, and individual employees.
Execution never goes out of style. Frequently our clients ask whether we are strategists or we are better at implementation. I like to say “yes” – as both are important. With that said the best laid plans mean nothing if they’re not executed.
Navigate your future with a strategic plan. The best execution means nothing if it’s not according to plan. My all time favorite quote is “failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Create a yearly one-page business plan for yourself and for each aspect of your operations. Have all employees create one-page business plans for themselves and for their departments. Create plans for projects. Everyone will benefit from defining and refining their visions, identifying and mapping the steps to transform their visions into realities. Execution will have context and likelihood of fulfillment and success when it stems from and is graded by a plan. Make sure your plan is reviewed and as much as possible accepted by all stakeholders; otherwise the resistance or resentment will be palpable. However, John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” While it’s important to plan and execute accordingly, never say never to listening, learning, engaging, refining, and modifying along the way. Routinely considering options, changes in your industry, partnership possibilities, new services and products is the habit that every successful entrepreneur not only engages in, but enjoys!
Thank you to the Trainer team members, clients, and partners that have made the last 17 years possible!
This entry was written by Marketing, PR, Press Relations, Sales, Trainer Communications. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
This story was originally posted at CommPro.biz. and you can listen to the podcast interview here: http://bit.ly/ADHKYl
For many, 2011 was a year of getting on more solid financial footing. That said, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese calendar—and Jan. 23 was the Chinese New Year Day.
So what lies ahead for your business in the Year of the Dragon?
According to a recent article by financial planner Katy Song, 2012 will be a year of unpredictability and intensity in financial matters. It will also be a great year for innovative businesses and ideas, she says.
But you don’t need various interpretations of what the Year of the Dragon may or may not mean to know that you can make this year a success—if you sign more clients and bring in more new business than you did last year. Regardless of whether you’re a PR, advertising, marketing firm—or an entrepreneurial business in ANY sector—these no-nonsense tips will help you sell your way to more success in 2012:
1. A network works. Ask your friends, colleagues and best clients for referrals and prepare to offer them an equal number of referrals (or at least a very generous thank you gift) for every referral they provide. Remember, people tend to have friends that are like themselves – so a great client has the potential to create more great clients for you.
2. Pitch what you know. No one wants to be first. Have examples of similar sized companies, companies in similar industries, and demonstrate the results you were able to achieve with those companies.
3. One size does not fit all. Be prepared to customize products and services to your clients unique business needs. After all, no one really looks great in a moumou.
4. Be prepared and don’t walk into a conversation cold. Know the competitors, how they size up against the competitors and identify some potential gaps.
5. Good questions are the key to being great at sales. Unlike popular folklore, the best sales people are the best listeners, not talkers. It’s not a matter of talking someone into something they don’t want, it’s a matter of listening to what the person needs, and determining if and how you can deliver it. The better attention you pay to their needs, the better suited your proposal will be and the more likely you’ll get the sale.
6. Sales are a process of elimination. “No thank you” can be the best answer you can hear from a prospect that is not interested in what you have to offer. I too often see desperate sales people try to hold on to a prospect because they can’t bear to hear no. If you listened attentively and presented what you believed the prospect asked for, and you still got a no – move on! A match is a two way street and you don’t want to try and work with someone that isn’t interested in working with you. Sales is a numbers game, make sure you have plenty of opportunity, so desperation isn’t part of your sales process.
7. Be specific. When you ask for a referral, be specific about what you want. Think about the size and type of company and what the perfect prospect would need from you. The more specificity, the closer the match.
8. Defining next steps in the sales process with your prospect is one of the best ways to ensure you understand how the prospect will make their decision. You can help the prospect outline their buying process and ensure you stay current with what they are looking for to make their decision.
9. Establish rapport with your prospect. Sometimes a sales person can dive right into business too quickly. There’s a fine line between becoming too much of a schmooze and too “hardcore” sales. Find a nice balance with your prospect by doing things like mirroring their communications style and pace, remembering personal facts that they mention and subsequently inquiring about them, but most importantly making sure that every meeting you conduct with them, you meet their needs.
10. Know when to walk. Honestly, in this economy very few sales people have felt like they have the opportunity to walk away from an opportunity. However, in some cases that is exactly what you should do. Are they trying to price you out of any profit on the deal? Are they asking for contract concessions that leave you vulnerable? Do their demands for service seem unreasonable? Usually people are on their best behavior when they begin a new relationship with a vendor. If the prospect starts out badly in the sales process, they will be a nightmare when they become a client. In fact, don’t just walk, run!