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Too Many Conferences? Here’s How Sales Pros Can Pick The Best Events

Too Many Conferences? Here’s How Sales Pros Can Pick The Best Events

As you look over the various event calendars and conference compilations that tend to get posted on various publications and blogs this time of year, try using the following “EIA” Model to judge what will be the best way to manage your time.

Even if you’re the highest-performing rep on the sales team, there are only so many days you can spend wandering an exhibit hall or sitting in windowless hotel ballrooms.

On any given week, there could be a multi-day conference, a breakfast roundtable discussion or evening event that directly pertains to the audience for your company’s products and services. Sometimes there can be opportunities to directly pitch prospects and customers at these gatherings. In many cases, however, it’s frowned upon both by organizers and attendees. You don’t want to be the person trying to co-opt someone else’s learning experience by trying to close a deal.

That means many of the conferences for sales people that run over the course of 2018 will only be worth registering if you have other goals in mind. Some of these can be internal and intrinsic, while others might be part of a larger, longer-term strategy to stay relevant and connected to the industry you serve.

No matter how you look at it, though, there are inevitably going to be too many events to attend in a single year. Sales managers (and their managers) will want reps spending the majority of their time making calls, booking meetings or other activities that lead more directly to revenue generation by better managing the data in CRM like Sales Cloud.

As you look over the various event calendars and conference compilations that tend to get posted on various publications and blogs this time of year, try using the following “EIA” Model to judge what will be the best way to manage your time.

‘E’ Is For Education

The whole point of conferences and events is to bring the right mix of people together to share information that will be helpful and actionable. For sales reps trying to penetrate a particular industry, however, what gets covered in many of the sessions might not necessarily apply directly to their role. Instead, it might give a window into their customers’ and prospects’ day to day lives and challenges in order to be more relevant and personal.

Instead of just being a fly on the wall, however, look for a few clues when you’re studying the conference web site or event invite to see if there might be some extra value, such as:

  • Opportunity for one-on-one time with speakers or attendees: More events are scheduling specific meetups and even facilitating them through an event app. This could give you an ideal moment to ask specific questions about your target customer that only the best experts can answer. Remember that this isn’t about selling to them, but gathering useful insights.
  • Original research: A major conference can be the ideal launchpad for a new study or industry report that helps sales reps understand their total addressable market, the business priorities of customers and so on. Scan for any such sessions on the agenda, along with opportunities to get more context around the numbers from those who put the research together.
  • Insight from abroad: While there’s always value in learning more about what’s happening close to home, seeing how trends in your sector play out on an international scale can sometimes show new ways to approach customers and prospects. Those leading such sessions may also be more open to being approached by a sales rep to learn more about why and how they buy.

‘I’ Is For Inspiration

Great salespeople already know this, but it becomes a lot easier to close deals and meet your quota when you feel genuinely motivated by the people to whom you’re selling. Conferences and events tend to bring out the best of the best as keynotes who can remind reps that all those rejections are worth it — if they can eventually find ways to connect with and help those who really want the help.

Of course, inspiration may seem like a nice-to-have for reps who are facing significant pressure to make commission every month. You can probably skip the event or conference based on these factors:

  • Look for the livestream: Even if what the keynote speaker says becomes gospel among your customers, you’ll be in the know if you tune in from your desk for the biggest sessions on the agenda.
  • Dive in deeper, and offline: A ton of the best keynote speakers in any conference have distilled their learnings into a book. Why not skip the event and actually take the time to read their work instead? This can be done at any time, and leave you with more to discuss with customers and prospects than sitting through a 30-minute speech.
  • Check the sizzle reel: Keynote speakers tend to make the rounds, and their key messages don’t always vary that much. See if the highlights of their best talks are already on their site, on YouTube or posted on their speaking bureau’s site. You’ll either be convinced to go hear them in person or get enough of the gist to pass on attending.

‘A’ Is For Ammunition

Let’s say you can only go to two or three conferences a year. You need to have real, honest-to-goodness ROI baked in before you even arrive. More specifically, you need to make sure that by going to the event you’ll get something that will directly assist with your next sale. Be creative in how you make that call, though. Don’t overlook any of these opportunities:

  • Curing customer FOMO: Just like sales reps, customers can’t get out to every industry gathering, and they may have a fear of missing out, or FOMO. Check to see if you’ll be able to access slide decks from presentations afterwards, which you could then share with your audience and go over the best insights on your next sales call.
  • Quick competitive intelligence: A lot of what companies with rival products and services do may stay hidden behind the scenes — until they exhibit at an event or have their leaders speaking in keynotes or breakout sessions. There’s nothing to stop you from sitting in, taking good notes and getting ideas on how to better differentiate your firm — all of which should be immediately entered into Sales Cloud.
  • Contact lists: The lowest-hanging fruit of all. Some event organizers compile full lists of everyone who takes part in an event. In other cases you can message attendees directly through the conference mobile app. If all else fails, keep your eyes peeled for those final slides in conference sessions where speakers (and potential customers) include their phone, e-mail address or social media handles.

One last piece of advice: As you pick and choose the best events to attend, think of the lunch n’ learn you could provide to the rest of your team when you get back. They’re no doubt working on their own time management issues. If you can pack a good summary of what you saw and heard into a 20 or 30-minute session, it might become the most important event they attend all year long.

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