If you have a big conference coming up, you should always consider how to be strategic with your time and resources.

It’s easy to get distracted with all the different sessions and meetings you have on the agenda, but making the most out of a conference requires a strong sales strategy that ensures you’re prepared from the moment you decide to attend through to the follow up emails you write afterwards.


How to Improve Sales through Face-to-Face Networking

Forty-eight percent of sales reps have seen an increase in time spent on face-to-face customer communication since 2015 according to Salesforce’s State of Sales report– a number that becomes all the more impressive when taking into account the rising popularity of screens and virtual channels.

This is due to a variety of factors, from the insights gained through non-verbal communication to the bonds formed by social interaction.

It also means that conferences and large events are prime opportunities to increase your company’s sales. In turn, it’s vital that you show up armed with a well-planned sales strategy.

The following is a step-by-step guide to help you improve your selling techniques before, during, and after an event.


Prep Work: Make Sure Prospects Will Attend and Be Engaged

In Salesforce’s 100 Sales Tips for 2017, multiple experts stressed the importance of taking stock of your most valuable potential clients before an upcoming event and making sure they are aware of your presence.

How do the experts suggest you do this?

Personalised Communications

Reaching out to potential clients with personalised touches like handwritten invitations or special offers show that you care about their attendance and are prepared to go the extra mile.

Make Information Readily Available

Plain and simple – if your prospects are unaware of an upcoming event, they will not attend. Ensure they know what you have planned and when by making sure information is readily available to them. Adding a link to your email signature is very effective in achieving this goal.

Invite Prospects to Engage with You

A good way to get your prospects’ attention is to invite them to do something specific with you. If the event adds value, like a demo or talk that specifically applies to their needs, they are even more likely to attend and participate.


The Night Before: Network in a Casual Setting

One study found that 85% of people prefer in-person meetings and conferences because they allow them to build stronger and more meaningful business relationships. Still, attending a conference or large event can feel like you’re moving through a sea of people with little opportunity to really go in-depth with anyone.

How can you use a situation like that to get closer to prospects and improve sales? As Sean Zinsmeister added to Salesforce’s 100 Sales Tips, “it’s critical to focus on the right target accounts as opposed to trying to boil the ocean.”

Kickstart relationships or nurture existing ones by meeting with key sales leaders and prospects the night before a conference.

Keep your Eye on the Prize

This goes for every aspect of business: you should always start by considering what you want to accomplish, and then determine which strategies and techniques will get you there. Likewise, when planning a pre-conference meet up, it’s important to tailor the event to your specific goals.

For example, inviting a mix of guests, sales leaders and prospects, can create an ideal networking environment and sense of community that will last throughout the conference and beyond.

Keep it Small and Intimate

According to research from Loughborough University School of Business and Economics, 97% of people prefer small face-to-face meetings with fewer than 10 participants. This is likely because it gives people a better chance to interact with each other and form deeper connections.

Planning a smaller event – or at least taking the time to interact with your key prospects individually – will help create a lasting impression and allow you to make them more aware of what you have to offer. It may even be a good time to bring out your soft pitch.


Day of the Event: Plan to Meet and Pay Attention

At this stage, you’ve already met with some of the people you’re going to see throughout the event, and have made plans to meet with others. You should be armed with a clear knowledge of your goals and a well-defined sales strategy, so that you’re ready to network at your most effective.

Tailor Your Plans and Stick to Them

Being unreliable is a good way to lose potential clients in a hurry. Regardless of how much is going on, it’s crucial that you show up to any appointments you’ve made. Plan specific meeting times and locations, and make a point of attending events that apply your client’s particular preferences.

Pay Attention to your Prospects

According to a 2018 Salesforce Survey, 84% of customers agree that being treated like a person, rather than a number, is important to winning their business. That means that companies are expected to understand their customers and their priorities on a more personal level.

One effective way to gather that useful information is to pay close attention to how your prospects react during different events and interact throughout the conference.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be the words they say – body language, facial expressions, and inflection can provide deep insights. In the long run, this will not only improve your relationships, but also increase sales.


After It’s Over: Follow Up and Be Strategic

The work you’ve put in to create new connections with your prospects and existing clients is just the start. Now it’s time to nurture those connections into long-term relationships.

It’s important that you send a follow-up email after meeting face-to-face, in order to remind prospective buyers about shared experiences and plans that arose during the conference.

If you made any promises, such as offering to send additional information or materials along, it’s just as important to stick to them as it was to show up to your appointments.


The First Step in Creating a Lasting Relationship

Leveraging clients at big events is a great way to generate leads and improve sales, but it’s also part of something bigger than that: creating long-term relationships with loyal clients.

Read our blog post on “7 Steps to Perfecting Your Company’s Sales Pitch” to make sure you’re armed with an effective sales pitch the next time you attend a conference or event.


This post is part of our Navigating the Sales Cycle series. Download the e-book and discover the 7 steps to sales success