Major industry events are all about entertainment, motivation, and connection, right? Well, sure. But they’re also great opportunities for salespeople to build relationships and generate revenue.
Each year, the INBOUND event draws thousands of sales and marketing professionals to Boston (Hint: It’s happening in about two weeks, so click here to sign up). It’s an unmissable few days of networking, honing your sales craft, and drumming up business.
Why are events, and INBOUND in particular, such an incredible opportunity for introducing people to your product or service? Allow me to explain:
21,000+ attendees: Think your industry or vertical won’t be represented at INBOUND or that you won’t be able to make it “worth your time?” Think again. Attending any industry event is all about what you make it. INBOUND offers a large pool of motivated professionals primed to make themselves and their companies better.
Winter is coming: At the end of Q3 (September), professionals have a strong incentive to lean into a new way of doing business and push for big results before the end-of-year slump many industries experience. Use that desire to encourage prospects to take action and improve their workflow or results with the help of your product/service.
Events tailored for every level in the organization: Find content perfect for individual contributors, managers, directors, executives, partners, owners, agencies, influencers, and more. Whatever your role or goal, INBOUND carefully curates speakers and topics that will resonate with your unique needs.
Need more proof?
“I closed $9,000 of business at INBOUND.”
My colleague Caroline Ostrander, a HubSpot Freemium Service Manager, is a big fan of closing business at INBOUND.
She says, “INBOUND has such a great vibe. I do everything I can to get people to come. Attendees are motivated to talk about business, and the community is so supportive.” Ostrander goes on to share her tips for a successful INBOUND:
Think outside your pipeline: “Use your connections to invite people you wouldn’t normally connect with. Inbound is a multi-faceted event, so there are lots of attendees who are interested in the sales, marketing, or partner tracks. But picking up the phone to personally invite people goes a long way to actually getting them to attend at least one day of the event.”
Use your connections: “I like to book meetings in advance but also pull people in ad hoc -- especially if they’ve traveled a long way for a visit. Even if it’s a five-minute meeting, you can get a lot done with a handshake.”
Share what you’re wearing (Yes, really): “There are mobs of people -- many wearing orange -- so, share a description of what you’re wearing to easily spot prospects/leads you’ve never met before. It’s also a good idea to set an out-of-the-way or distinctive meeting place where you’ll easily identify each other.”
Using these strategies, Ostrander closed over $9,000 MRR at an INBOUND event. But I get it, you still need more proof. I don’t blame you.
“I closed $24,000 of business at INBOUND.”
Todd Hockenberry, my co-author of “Inbound Organization” was one of the first partners to attend INBOUND in 2012. I saw him sitting on a bench during the last session of the last day and asked how he’d done.
He told me, “Dan, I came with three prospects and am going home with three customers -- and I am exhausted.” Todd works primarily in the manufacturing and industrial segments. When I asked him to share his top tips for closing business at events like INBOUND, he said:
Attend sessions with prospects: “If you have clients who prefer a hands-on approach, events like INBOUND are perfect for that. Many of my prospects need to see and hear the message from more than one person, so I like to attend the sessions with them to talk things through.”
Remember to be a good host: “Make sure your prospects understand this is a big conference. It’s important to spend time in the morning and evening reviewing what they learned to get the most from each day of the event.”
Attend sessions with current clients: “Attending sessions with clients is just as important as attending with prospects. I like to see they’re really understanding the implications of what they’re hearing, and I answer questions they have about the service I’m providing them.”
Using these strategies, Todd closed about $24,000 at INBOUND. Alright, so maybe you’re starting to believe me, but what about other events. What are some best practices you can take to non-INBOUND industry happenings?
“I closed $50,000 of business at an industry event.”
Trekk Senior Account Manager Emilee Christianson recalls her success closing business at a large industry event. “Historically, we’d secure some great speaking opportunities, meet some great contacts, and have really productive conversations. But the sales cycle, from event introduction to phone call and, eventually, proposal, was simply too long. The conversion rates weren’t what they needed to be.”
By tweaking her company’s approach, Christianson was able to close a $50,000 client at her very next event, reducing her company’s sales cycle by half. Here’s how she did it:
Cross reference companies visiting your website against a list of conference attendees: Christianson reviewed the list of attendees provided on the conference website and used HubSpot Sales Hub to run that list against contacts who had visited her company’s website. This allowed her to focus conference outreach efforts on prospects who were truly interested in what she had to offer.
Prioritize leads based on website activity: Once you’ve used step one to create a list of companies that are a good fit for your product/service, Christianson recommends sorting that lead list by the number of times a company has visited your website or the number of pages they viewed (pageviews). To maximize her efforts once at the conference, Christianson focused outreach efforts on prospects who had visited her company website more than once.
Research the goals and challenges of these highly qualified companies: Christianson ended up with a list of about 15 highly qualified companies. Then, she used online data from their websites, blogs, social media pages, and employee profiles to understand everything she could about the current state of their business, recent activities, and challenges. Based on this information, she personalized her introduction and approach to each prospect she met at the event. This allowed her to demonstrate understanding and build rapport quickly.
Introduce yourself: When Christianson finally introduced herself to these prospects, she wasn’t just another faceless stranger trying to sell something. Her prospects recognized her company, already understood the basics of what she could offer, and were interested in hearing more. She recalls, “Doing some careful prospecting before the show made the introduction and subsequent conversation so much easier than at past events.”
Follow up: Timely and relevant follow up was key for Christianson’s team after the event. “I didn’t waste any time. I wasn’t going to let the positive experience we had at the event fade from memory.” She sent a follow up email that evening. It looked a little something like this:
Hi [Prospect name],
I hope you had a great rest of the week at the ACME Expo and your travels back were uneventful.
I really enjoyed meeting you and learning more about what [Company name] has to offer in the [Industry] space.
I wanted to follow up on your offer to introduce us to the folks on your marketing team. I know you mentioned there are a lot of things you're working to update, and I'm thinking that with the launch of your new app, strategies for integrating print and mobile to increase the value of both is a timely conversation for us to explore.
Please let me know what we can do or provide as a next step to help you make the appropriate introductions. Perhaps we can line up an introductory call within the next week to get the discussion started.
Thank you again for your time at the Expo. I’m looking forward to speaking with you and your team again soon.
The result? Christianson’s team closed $50,000-worth of business in a matter of days. When asked why she thinks the deal closed so fluidly, she replied, “By doing the right kind of research up front, I could present a customized solution from the start. My focus wasn’t pitching -- it was listening and helping.”