Meeting new people at a business conference or networking event is easy. Turning those fresh contacts into actual business relationships is another story altogether.
Sales teams often attend conferences and networking events "just to get their name out there," with no strategy for what to do with the contacts they collect.
In fact, 62% of businesses don't follow up with their leads after events, suggesting a tremendous amount of missed revenue (and wasted effort).Trying to prospect for leads among the masses of a conference hall can be an overwhelming experience. Here are five things sales reps can do to get the most out of conferences and networking events, and come away with more than just a stack of business cards.
1. Find Out Who's Going
Understanding the event’s audience can help you zero in on your goals. Is the event specific to a certain industry? What topics are people paying to learn more about? Many events and conferences offer ways for sales reps to find out who will be attending. With an attendee list in hand, you can create a targeted list of people to email pre-event. Ways to discover attendees include:
- Reviewing the speaker roster
- Seeing who is tweeting about the event
- Joining an event’s Facebook group and checking out the member list
As you map out the audience, you can plan ahead so that you'll have opportunities to connect with potential customers in person or identify other new business development opportunities.
For example, the host of a podcast that's popular among your customers may not be a viable lead for your company, but finding a way to introduce yourself might be the first step towards forming a valuable co-marketing relationship.
2. Keep Your Customer Success Team in the Loop
If some of the event attendees are current clients, make sure to coordinate with your customer success team in advance. There could be opportunities to educate existing customers in person on new products, or ensure that they are still happy with your services. Your company's support team can provide important context on who might need special attention.
But beware a common pitfall: overspending your time talking to chatty clients. Make sure you have an exit plan in place for customer conversations so that you can maximize your time during the event. Connecting with new and existing clients should be a secondary part of your strategy; pursuing new opportunities should come first.
3. Use a Mobile CRM
After an event, many sales contacts slip through the cracks when a rep does not enter the information into their CRM. Having a mobile CRM at your disposal means that you can add your new contacts directly after each meeting—and at the touch of a button if your CRM app happens to have a business card scanner.
But what if potential leads don’t have a business card on them? “Take out your phone and open LinkedIn. Hand it to the person you are talking to, and say, ‘It’s been nice speaking with you. Would you mind looking yourself up?’ Invariably, the person does, and you make a connection,” advises Mike Schultz, President of RAIN Group.
In addition to timely data entry, a mobile CRM can also help sales reps prioritize their efforts by providing them with real-time lead information. With mobile notifications set up, you can get notifications if sales admins or managers qualify any leads back at the home office. That way, you can follow up with your new leads in-person before the event wraps.
4. Take Notes on Every Meeting
During many conferences, you will likely have impromptu meetings with people on your target list, or other potential clients you happen to meet. These all need to be documented in your CRM for later reference. In taking notes, make sure to include any objections and questions that are raised during the conversation, which can help you move leads along faster after an event.
Remember, all interactions should be documented in your CRM as quickly as possible. Once the meeting leaves your memory, the opportunity drifts away.
5. Assign Follow-ups and Prioritize Leads
Before an event begins, a process should be in place so that everyone on your sales team knows who should be following up post-event and how to prioritize leads.
“If they came by just for swag, that’s not a hot lead," says Carrie Simpson, Founder of Managed Sales Pros. "They’ll be in our marketing cadence, but our sales team will not be wasting their time on them. Our best leads say at some point during the conversation at an event they either want to work with us, they're talking with a competitor, or they're trying to do it in-house.”
The follow-up process can also cover what resources (ie. content, specific offers) to use in outreach. If reps capture in-person interactions accurately, it should be relatively easy to send personalized follow-ups 24 hours after the event.
Finally, make sure to tie your new contacts to the right event. Many CRMs have tagging features that can be used for this very purpose. You won’t have any way to measure your ROI on events if sales reps aren’t attributing first contacts to each specific event, and that information is critically important to determine how much money your company should spend on event attendance in the future.