Most event salespeople are transactional. Their outbound phone calls and emails, whether to sell a booth or a sponsorship, tend to approach the sale as a transaction – a one-time thing. And then they wonder when these attempts don’t generate the successes they desire. Why? One key factor is that the salesperson is choosing the time, the product offered, and all the terms that govern the transaction. But many prospects aren’t ready to buy, particularly at a time chosen by the salesperson.
What can you do to change this dynamic? Wouldn’t it be great to have prospects calling you rather than putting them on the spot simply because YOU have a sales quota to meet?
The way to achieve this is to become a resource to your customers, transitioning from tactical salesperson to a consultant who offers more to customers than just “stuff” they can buy. That helps to change the context of your interactions, since success is not always defined by your ability to close a sale. As an example, a consultative salesperson should try to have at least an annual strategic conversation with at least 20% of their customers. The goal of this conversation is not only an order, but also a chance to understand your customers challenges, and to see if you can assist them in these. You might consider 20% a conservative target, but customers may well be wary of this consultative approach, considering it merely another sales tactic (which is what it shouldn’t be). The proof will be in your ability to offer value that is not tied to exhibit space or sponsorships.
Have I convinced you yet? Some may respond, “Warwick I already do this. I offer pre-show sales training for my customers on the event floor.” Some event managers may consider this an attractive benefit, but my own experience is that the last thing exhibitors want when prepping for a show – with all the last-minute tasks they need to complete – is to spend time with event management staff on training. And for experienced exhibitor staff, such offers might even be considered a bit presumptuous.
The key is to offer services that your customers could use WITHOUT your product. Examples are:
1) Education that helps your customer better market to their customers: perhaps a webinar or a luncheon briefing at a time and place the customer selects. If the information is valuable, it positions you as an expert and differentiates you from competitors. If you’re knowledgeable about the markets you serve and you invest some time developing compelling content, wouldn’t you want to have such an offering?
2) Industry education that helps your customers 1) better understand the characteristics of the buyers in their markets, 2) develop ‘buyer journey’ information for helps design their sales processes, and 3) tactics that help promote actions at each journey milestone to move things forward or, if appropriate, to disengage because a prospect is not ready or perhaps not right for the offer.
3) An invitation to a digital hub that fosters information exchange, which could include customers, industry experts, buyers, even competitors.
Your goal should be to think holistically about your customer’s long-term needs and offer a portfolio of capabilities that help them address those needs. If you can position yourself as a market expert who is a resource to your customers – rather than a sales pest – I believe your influence – and your sales – will increase.
Wouldn’t YOU like a leg up on your competitors? This is a way. Give it a shot.
The inspiration for this post is from Chet Holmes and his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, a book with a lot of good ideas. Check it out here.