In my time in the B2B part of the business world we went to conventions about 5 times per year. These conventions would cost us between $20,000 and nearly $500,000 to attend when you considered all costs. You had the cost of the booth, transportation, entertainment, salaries, set up, hotel, and of course recruitment.
So, if you spent, say an average of $150,000 on a typical convention, how much would you have to close in revenue to break even? (Who works a convention to break even.) If you have a 20% incremental net profit from your B2B business than you would have to deliver $750,000 in revenue to justify the convention costs. If your typical sale is $125,000 you would have to be able to net 6 new sales from the convention to make a good investment out of your efforts.
So, that begs the questions - How do ensure you are going to make at least 6 sales from your convention? How do you keep your team on the right path to success? The answer? Create a roadmap for success. Here is my recommendation for that roadmap.
2 Months Out – Ensure your convention preparation team has everything under control. The booth looks good, the hotel and air reservations are made, booth refreshments are taken care of, and all handouts are ready to go to the printer. A list of all of the attendees has been obtained and assigned to people that will be attending the convention. Appointment goals for the convention are assigned to each individual. These should include both current customers and potential new customers. (Remember it is a wish until it is written down on paper, then it becomes a goal) A calling schedule has been set for each prospect and current customer and a kickoff calling day has been scheduled as well.
You should have determined if you are going to be introducing a new product or not at the convention. If you are, you should have determined the marketing campaign and you should start the kickoff.
6 Weeks out – The “Calling Kickoff” day occurs during this time. Have a contest for most calls, most people spoken with, most appointments made with existing customers, most appointments made with prospects. Keep a Scorecard up where everyone can see the results. Make the payoff fun, a suite at the convention, a special dinner the evening before the convention starts, tickets to a sporting event or a concert, fun stuff that is not too expensive but will get the group into the spirit. Perhaps you create a pool of money, $5 for every appointment you want made at the convention. Every time an appointment is made $10 of that money gets put into a pool. The person making the most appointments gets all of the money in the pool. By the end of this “Calling Kickoff” you should have 10% of your appointments actually booked and over 50% of your targets contacted at least once.
4 Weeks out – You should now have the base presentation made for all of your team to use with each prospect. (Set up a time to practice this as a team next week.)
It is also important to have a specific goal for each of your current customers you are going to meet. If you are going to be introducing a new product or service at the convention it should be completely locked down at this point.
Check to see who has made less than 50% of their appointment goal and meet with those people and perhaps have a calling session with them. Ensure they understand the importance of paying for the show. For the company to hit the appointment goal it is going to take pleasant persistence. While there are a lot of moving parts to your company, if you don’t have a priority on appointments at a convention (whether or not the show normally is an “appointment show”) you will never get the return you are looking for. I can assure you that your competitors will not have the necessary discipline to hit the goals you have set.
You also need to ensure your operations team is ready for all of the appointments that are being set. The gold is in the detail here. This will be your best chance to make a good impression on the customer. It may be the first time you meet these people in person. Perhaps you could have a picture of each of the attendees that will be having an appointment in your booth. You can instruct your greeters to look at the pictures before the appointments to be able to recognize the honored guests. How special would that make you?
3 Weeks out – With only three weeks to go, the concentration is going to become more intense. Set aside some time this week to have your initial role play with each of your sales team. You play the customer and they should play themselves. Make sure your team understands that they have to be quick here, but give the prospect enough information to get them excited. Your role in this effort is to play the part of the prospect without playing “gotcha”. If you take it seriously, your team has a better chance while they are meeting with a prospect. They may have heard the question and will be better prepared to answer it. Explain to your sales team that their objective from this convention is to set a face to face meeting with the prospect at their office. You won’t have enough time to successfully do anything else. You need to wet their whistle enough that they will take a meeting with you at their office. Have your calendar ready and suggest a specific time. Give them a week to get back to the office and catch up, but then you want to meet with them. If it gets vague here, you have lost everything you worked for.
If it is a current client meeting, each session will be different. Make sure you and your salesperson knows specifically what you want to accomplish. What, if any, are the current issues? What is going on in their business? What is going on in their sector? With their competitors? What do you want to walk away from the meeting with? Be very specific.
2 Weeks Out – With only 2 weeks left you should have between 75% and 80% of your appointments made. Hopefully none of your people have back to back appointments during the convention. With a block of time between each appointment they will have time to recharge and prepare for the next appointment. Everything should be shipped to the convention this week including booth handouts and fact sheets.
While I personally love picking up promotional items at shows, at B2B shows I don’t think they will deliver you any business. If you have followed the road map, then everything else should be taken care of. Sit with each of your sales team members and operations team and ensure they understand the investment the company is making at the convention. Make sure they understand the goals that were set and what we need to do during the convention to get there.
1 Week Out- With only one week left before the convention you will have made all of the quality appointments you are going to make. If people have not said yes to you by now, they are not going to. Take your foot off the gas and give your team a breather.
Set your expectation for behavior at the convention. Tell your team to have fun while they are on the convention floor. Enjoy their time with the customers, the walk ups and each other. Remind them that while they are talking with each other, it is important to immediately break away to say hello to someone that has walked up to the booth. The customer always comes first.
Talk with your team about how they will represent your brand at the convention. Remind them that while having fun is an important aspect of the convention, it is even more important to be on their best behavior and set a good example.
Show time – This is where the real winners win. Each morning take a few moments and ensure you are ready for the appointments that are going to take place. Communicate with the operations team to keep them in the loop throughout the day. At the end of the show each day have a recap with the team. Let the team members brag about the number of appointments they set for the upcoming weeks. Find out if there were any glitches during the day and determine the solutions for the next day.
Shows typically end early afternoon on the last day. When everything is packed up take the entire crew out to a nice dinner. Recap your successes, the meetings you have set, the progress with existing customers, and the walk-up meetings that took place. Determine areas where you could have done a better job in either preparation or execution. Finally, and this is vital, get a commitment from each of your sales people when they are going to finish their follow up. Then enjoy the meal and unwind from a busy convention.
Follow up – Don’t let grass grow under anyone’s feet. During the next week everyone will be a bit emotionally tired, but you cannot let this happen. Everyday make sure the follow up is going on. Post how many appointments are being made, how many sales are being signed, and how many new leads are being activated. Two months after the show, sit with your CFO and determine if you can afford to do this show again next year. Are you going to make the 6 sales at $125,000 each? How could you have been more efficient with the investment?
Reaching your Goals - As Yogi Berra said “If you don’t set goals, you’ll never reach them. Or like they say in golf, if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Yogi was a brilliant guy. We have built a road map, if you use it you have a much better chance of success. If you put it in the drawer of your desk, your desk may have a chance of getting there.
Rich Hollander is a retail expert with over 40 years in the industry.