If you are heading to INBOUND or another conference in the next few months, it’s time to start booking meetings! If you wait until the conference starts, or even worse, after it’s over to follow up with everyone you meet, it's too late. The most successful conference goers go in with a plan and book a reasonable number of key meetings ahead of time, hold some impromptu ones, and forge meaningful new relationships.
I’m heading to #INBOUND15 with the Venngage team. Because most of our customers upgrade automatically, our biggest goal is meeting up with bloggers, influencers, and potential content partners to help us increase the amount of organic and referral traffic we receive. In previous roles when I was more focused on direct sales, I would be looking to meet new prospects, and connect with active opportunities and existing customers who I wanted to call upon down the road.
While the target audiences are slightly different, the goal is the same: Meet with as many people as possible during the however many days your conference lasts. Here's a glimpse into how I prepare for conference meetings so as to make the most of the event.
Start Connecting Now
If you haven’t already, set aside some time to research who will be going to your upcoming conference. Send out a tweet that you're going, and post on LinkedIn. In addition, reach out to your contacts with a personalized email to see if they’re going and possibly schedule a time to meet up.
When prospecting on social media, it’s important to work as a team. The last thing a great prospect wants is seven different people from the same company tweeting at them, “@prospect I'm going to #INBOUND15 - would love to meet up!” Divide and conquer among your colleagues, and be sure to search the conference hashtag every day to discover if anyone new has announced their attendance.
Reignite Stale Leads
Were you working on a deal a few months ago that went cold? If you know that the prospect is heading to INBOUND or any other upcoming conference or industry event, use this knowledge to reach out with purpose:
“Saw you're attending #INBOUND15 - would love to catch up and learn what’s new since April.”
It may very well be that nothing is new, but it's also possible that the influencer who was blocking you has left the company and your champion is now ready to push the deal through. All you need is a good reason to reach out.
If you’re working on a deal that's stalled or stuck, use an upcoming conference as a way to get face time and push it through. Get in front of as many prospects as possible to maximize the ROI of your ticket.
Offer a Valuable Introduction
This doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it is truly a win-win-win situation. You probably have hundreds, if not thousands of connections on LinkedIn. While they may not be the strongest relationships, it’s far better than a cold call.
Before heading out, ask your prospects if there is anyone you can introduce them to. They will appreciate the selfless gesture, and if they take you up on the offer, you can cash in on this social capital down the line.
In an absolute best case scenario they will request to meet an existing customer who can tell your prospect about the success they’ve had with your solution. Hearing a testimonial from an actual customer carries a lot more weight than if it came from you.
Separate New Connections as You Make Them
Create two different piles for people you meet at the conference. As you're handed a new acquaintance’s card and look them up on LinkedIn, ask yourself: Do I really want to meet with this person down the road? If the answer is yes, connect with them ASAP to set your next meeting while you’re both there in person.
For everyone else, send them a note immediately after meeting summarizing what you've spoken about (to refresh your memory later), and set a reminder using Sidekick to follow up once you’ve both gotten back to the office.
Look Out For Unexpected Meetings
Meetings can happen in unexpected places. Check the conference hashtag on Instagram and Twitter while you’re at the airport. Who knows who may be on the same flight as you? If you’ve cleared security and have some time to kill, it's a great time for a conversation without the exhaustion or pressure of having to be at the next session or meeting. The most successful sales professionals keep their head on a swivel, and know when to pick their shots.
Originally published Sep 3, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017