For the past 20+ years, my company has hosted its own annual trade show and conference. Clients, prospects, and partners from around the world join us to network, train, and learn about our upcoming product road-map while rubbing elbows with company leadership and industry influencers.
What I’ve always found interesting is that of the hundreds of people there, each has their own reasons for attending. Perhaps they want to network with other industry professionals. Or maybe they simply want some face to face time with my leadership. Often they want to take advantage of the free training provided during the event.
And sometimes, they just want to get out of the office and have a little work fun.
As an Account Manager, it’s my job to encourage my clients to attend. They benefit from all the value provided at the event and I benefit but putting my clients in front of our latest product offerings, hoping to spur a decision to expand their current software stack.
I remember the first conference after I started, I had a whopping nine or ten attendees in total from my account base. Not really something to brag about. But, this past year I’m proud to say that, out of all the sales people, I had the highest client attendance. 51 of my clients attended against my peer average of about 13.
I recognize that I’ve grown a lot in the last 4 years, especially as it relates to motivating clients and prospects to attend the events we host. Whether it’s for our annual conference or simply a quarterly meet up, I’ve refined my delivery and message to maximize my client attendance.
Today you’ll learn some simple tips to encourage more people to attend any event you want them to. First by zealously promoting it, then by incentivizing clients to attend, and lastly by creating a circle of influence to push them over the line.
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This should be a no-brainer but I don’t think many sales people take advantage of all the opportunities presented to them.
For the most part they’ll simply talk to it if a client asks or if it’s coming up in the very near future. But without a consistent message, rarely will that apathy lead to high attendance.
In fact, it very well may hurt attendance. After all, if you are indifferent about the event why wouldn’t a possible attendee be so too.
Luckily if you make a simple change, you can quickly raise your client attendance by multiples. All you have to do is mention it in EVERY interaction. OK well maybe not every on (if a client is pissed off at you it might not be the best time). But using good judgement will allow you to take full advantage of as many opportunities as possible.
In the daily life of a salesperson, there is constant interaction with clients in many ways. Each interaction is a new opportunity to promote the upcoming event.
There’s no better place to promote the event then when you’re face to face with a client or prospect. Being able to read body language while you’re promoting the event will help you determine how best to position your message.
Do they unknowingly nod their head when you mention meeting with leadership? Do they look at each other and smile when you mention free unfettered access to your consulting team? Do they lean in when you talk about the networking events with other industry professionals?
These queues help you evolve your message to be as effective as possible and get as many attendees as you can.
Besides in-person meetings, phone calls are the most common interactions you’ll likely have with clients. If you’re a true sales pro then you have an agenda and goal in mind for every call.
One of those goals, a topic you want to be sure to cover, is your upcoming event.
Obviously body language is pretty hard to read over the phone but there are still some important details you can pick up on if you listen carefully. Pitch, tone, and the words they use all tell more than the intended message. Listen for small variations in their voice as you mention the event. It’s not easy but with practice you will quickly be able to pick out when an aspect of the show piques their interest or conversely bores them.
“ya’s” “uh huhs” and “maybes” are the words I use when I’m trying to avoid saying yes or simply aren’t interested.
“really?” “hmmm” and “how so?” is what I say when I’m curious and want to know more.
I do a lot of demonstrations in my position. Often these demonstrations begin and end with a PowerPoint slide deck. And while you don’t want to spend a lot of time in PowerPoint, it is a great opportunity for you to plug your upcoming conference.
I recommend you include it at the beginning and end of your demonstration.
In the beginning you’d have a slide with some basic info about the event: when, where, who, etc. Then you’d continue your presentation as planned, but at the end you give another quick plug for the event. What I’ve found to work well is for you to mention that everything you’ve highlighted today will be covered, in greater detail and by product experts or leadership, at the event.
Alternatively, after your presentation you can come back to your PowerPoint deck with an ending slide. This slide could be titled something like “Questions & Next Steps” or “Follow Up Items” however, except for the heading, the slide showcases the event you’re plugging. The reason for this is so that the event information is up on the screen the whole time you’re talking about next steps and answering questions. You’re slowly burning the message into their mind.
Mentioning the event at every opportunity is important to get your message out, but attendees still need a reason to attend. They need motivation. And more importantly, their company needs an incentive to spend the money on travel, boarding, and attendance that has an ROI they can believe in.
Keep in mind that not all companies and attendees will be provoked by the same incentive. So it’s important to have a few talking points ready to use as the conversation progresses.
I love the term “economies of scale”. The more you buy, the less expensive each item is because the more you make, the more efficient your processes.
This holds true for conference attendance too. As the hosting entity the more people you can get to your event, the more influence you will have on that company’s buying decision.
No matter what deal you feel comfortable with you should be prepared to offer one as an incentive for larger groups to attend.
Many industry professions require annual or somewhat consistent training. These could include courses they have to take that award credits towards their professional designation.
Based on your industry you may be able to offer these industry credits to attendees who attend specific courses or training.
Outside of the event, those training often are very expensive because they are a requirement for professionals to keep their expertise relevant. But since there are so many other benefits to attending the conference, the ROI of attendance vs stand alone training is clear.
The opportunity to meet with like minded professionals can not be understated. Being able to meet with other industry influencers to pick their brain, get references, or better understand how your product is being used in the market are a great benefit to attendees.
In the same way as it’s a better conversation when you are in-person versus over the phone, so too is networking and personal introductions.
I very much enjoy introducing my prospects or clients to each other. Especially when I know there is benefit from the two of them talking.
Conferences and trades shows often revolve around seminars, panel discussions, training, or courses which enhance the ability for attendees to use the hosting product or service.
Often these sessions provide advanced insight into your products, or whatever the conference focus is on. And just like with industry credits, if a cost is normally associated with these training outside your event then there is tremendous value associated with attendance.
Attendees get to take advantage of these training at a reduce cost, in an atmosphere that will promote interaction and learning, and with a group that will stimulate an intellectual conversation.
The final way to help motivate client and prospects to attend your event is to apply a little peer pressure and create a circle of influence around on-the-fence attendees. Once you start getting registrations you can use those registered attendees to your advantage in a few ways.
The most effective use of registered attendees is to have them reach out to potential attendees to push them over the line. Within any industry employees move from one company to another constantly. This means they know professionals at other companies and likely stay connected to them.
Doing this allows you exponential reach on your event promotion. If each registered attendee reaches out to two colleagues, that provides exponential growth on awareness and potentially attendance.
Do you have major industry players planning to attend your show? Is an industry influencer your keynote speaker?
Then mention this when you are promoting the event.
An introduction to someone like that can be well worth the cost of attendance and motivate many to attend.
Disclaimer: Some companies or events don’t advertise or release their attendee list. Before dropping any names, be sure to know whether you are allowed to do so.
Being first is hard, being last is harder.
No one wants to be the only one not going to a party. And everyone wants to get into the club with the longest line.
Use this to your advantage by mentioning what competitors of theirs are going to be at the event. This alone is often enough to motivate someone to attend even if its only for them to provide market presence.
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