12 Ways To Sell (Without Being Too Sales-y) At A Conference

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This article is written by Dave Rynne, a Business Development professional who writes about best practices for sales on his HubSpot Sales blog.

Sales is a relationship business. It always has been, and always will be, despite the rise of social media and marketing automation. Don’t get me wrong – social and automation are fantastic tools and can certainly help, but it’s the personal communication which solidifies the relationship and creates loyal customers.

This is why face-to-face meetings with potential clients are so important! A great way to land multiple shots at face time is at conferences . However, you must form a strategy; you don’t want to come across as a pushy used car salesman, pitching everyone in sight.

Your prospects all know that you would like to sell them something, but here’s the thing: prospects love to buy, but don’t like being sold to.

Here are a few great ways to get facetime with potential clients without being too sales-y:

Go in with a mindset of “give to get”
Giving means “constantly and consistently providing value to others, whether that’s in your personal or professional life” according to Bob Burg, Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Coauthor of “The Go-Giver” and Go-Giver Book Series.

When you focus on giving and providing value, you position yourself as a knowledgeable advisor rather than a salesperson. Ask not what your customer can buy from you- ask what you can do to help your customer achieve their goals.

Know what your purpose is
What is your gameplan? Is it setting future appts, demos, or (if you’ve done the proper groundwork) selling them right there?

Go in knowing what you want to accomplish, not only for the overall event, but the specific people you plan to engage with.

Start connecting with potential leads well before the event – make them WANT to see you
Studies show 76% of attendees use pre-show information to plan their trade show time, yet less than 20% of exhibitors use targeted pre-show marketing campaigns. (Source: CEIR, Deloitte & Touche Study / Jefferson Davis, Competitive Edge / Stroud Associates)

If you have had multiple encounters with a prospect through emails, newsletters or LinkedIn engagement and messaging, they will already be familiar with you and your offerings.

Ensure your targeted marketing email cadence is set up; email prospects articles they may find of interest, send them newsletters or make email introductions with someone that can help them improve their business. By doing this, you are building a positive relationship,and continue to offer value.

Have prospects register for prizes BEFORE the event
You will want a lot of foot traffic at your booth – if you have one – but not everyone will stop by your booth, so why not offer them a chance to register online to win your prize? This provides a prior touch, and will also give you a great reason to follow up. Send the info out through an email blast and/or social media announcement.

Leverage social media before, during, and after the event
Share prospect’s content, lightly engage and offer value (you are not pitching here – show them that you are helpful and knowledgeable)

Make sure to like, comment and engage with their activity on LinkedIn (ask questions, offer value), or tag them on a post that you feel may be helpful to them. Use the LinkedIn messaging feature to make introductions that may either be of service to your prospect or be a good referral for them.

You can give LinkedIn updates or send out tweets about where you will be and what event or break-out session is coming up. Use a hashtag for the event and continue to update. You may gain more followers and have people approach you at the event for a live update.

After the event is over, you can create a “conference wrap-up” post and send it out through your social channels. Be sure to tag the people so they see your post. Then you can follow up with an email referencing the post which gives you a great reason to reach out.

Set appointments before the event
If you’ve made a number of touches prior to the event, that’s opened the door for a meeting – make sure to set those appointments before the event (during off hours or break times) and don’t forget to confirm the appointment two days before the event – because the day before may be a travel day and hectic – and it gives you time to reschedule.

Have your elevator pitch ready
Do this AFTER you have asked them about their business first and offered value or help to them. Then be ready with a quick, value-driven statement that piques their interest and begs a question.

Not sure what to say in your elevator pitch? Think of the most common problem you solve for your clients. Now think of how you uniquely solve that problem with value. Identify the problem and position yourself as the helpful solution.

Be prepared when the event doors open
Be prepared for the preset appointments, know who your potential prospects are (using LinkedIn and social media to learn more about them which will make it easier to approach them with commonality or an introduction) and have a strategy for people who you haven’t previously identified as prospects.

Read their body language
You only have so much time – use it wisely. If a prospect starts fidgeting, looking at their watch, or looking around as you are speaking with them, you haven’t really captured their attention – wrap it up and ask to set up a call after the show (that way you show consideration for their time and they will have less distraction).

Make introductions
Again, you are offering value to them by being a connector – they will appreciate the introduction and now you have 2 people that see you as a value-adder and possibly reciprocate the gesture in the future.

Smiling makes you seem courteous, likable, and competent. Those first two qualities seem obvious, but what about smiling can make you seem competent? Look at it this way: If you look sad or anxious, perhaps others wonder if you know what you are doing. So perhaps a simple smile might be the first step on the way to trusted advisor status.

Smiling can certainly elevate your mood and give you a sense of well-being, but even if you don’t feel like it – a forced smile can even give you a mood boost.

Be kind to staff
Nothing kills a potential deal quicker than seeing you be dismissive or unkind to the service staff at the event. Make Miss Manners proud and be kind to everybody. And don’t EVER badmouth a competitor or speak negatively about a prospect that shut you down or blew you off. You never know who’s listening and it can come back to haunt you.

Follow up after event
If you made an intro, ask how it went. If they had questions, call back to reiterate the answer and ask if they had more. Thank them for stopping to speak with you, thank them for any intros they made for you. All of your interactions at the conference give you a reason to follow up.

You don’t have to be sales-y to sell. You need to be prepared, do your homework, connect and be connected, and offer tons and tons of value – then people look to you for help.

Keep these tips in mind, and you will be able to successfully build relationships, increase sales, and be seen as a trusted advisor.

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