Events can be a great tool for prospecting new clients in B2B sales. By event, I’m referring to an industry-specific conference or presentation. In the foreign exchange industry where I work, clients are importers and exporters and they are affected by currency market changes. Most of them are thus naturally interested in knowing more about market outlooks and macro-economic trends affecting international markets.
Planning a customer event doesn’t have to be expensive and the cost of it doesn’t define the value your clients will derive from it. Most customers will want to leave thinking they learned something, whether it was hosted in the most expensive hotel in the city or in a board room.
I started doing more and more events last year at work and it proved to be an amazing initiative both for getting new clients but also to secure better trust relations with the newly onboarded ones. Covering a vast territory that is Québec, my colleagues and I focused on differents cities to deploy our efforts and generate long lists of new leads. It was a huge success and now we’re repeating it for the year ahead.
I’m sharing some of the benefits I noticed from this initiative last year.
A Short-Term Goal
In sales, January is a month where motivation is tougher to get. For most people, we feel like we’ve just climbed a mountain and now, there’s another one ahead. Planning an event can become a quick win. If you set a realistic target of number of guests, it becomes a clear short-term goal for a team to achieve.
Personally, I believe it’s really motivating to bring a couple of interested and interesting people in a room since it validates the need for our services and the potential interest from prospect. As it is in a first meeting, it’s much easier to determine what makes a customer tick in a face-to-face meeting than over the phone.
Avoiding the Gatekeeper
When calling prospects, we often get ask a question which isn’t always easy to answer: “What is this call regarding?” It’s usually a type of question we want to avoid or have no easy answer for. When there’s an upcoming event we’re loooking to invite our prospects at, I simply reply that I’m looking to invite Mr. Smith to an event we’re organizing in their area. The gatekeeper might decide not to transfer the call but it usually create a sense of relief that this person wasn’t trying to talk to the decision maker only to sell services.
It’s even possible to partner up with the gatekeeper in that kind of situation and use it as a opportunity to qualify the prospect. Something along the lines of:
I’m calling from xx company and I wanted to invite Mrs. Smith to an event we’re hosting next week in your area.
Maybe you could help me before however. Do you know if she’s the one responsible for such and such decisions at your firm?
Ok, because that’s precisely the type of subject we’re covering in our Lunch and Learn event. We have an expert coming in to talk about this and that… Maybe she would like to attend then.
Would you mind passing me over?”
Becoming an Expert
Selling foreign exchange services, I have an easy access to quality conference speakers, i.e. the members of our dealing team (the traders). They are the ones monitoring the market every minute and making recommandations based on trends and changes to our larger clients. Bring the manager of a small business that spends less than 5% of his time watching the market and the knowledge differencial between the two of them is obvious. The result is that this prospect feels we are experts in what we do (which we are!) and he just got showed a clear demonstration of it.
I’ve seen more than one customer asking a perfect question at the end of the presentation: “That was very interesting. If I want to have access to your services for managing these problems at my company, how would it work?”
If this is the question they ask, our job is done.
Building a Qualified Pipeline
Quite often, I find it difficult to focus prospecting efforts and not to get lost in reports and views on Salesforce. Hosting an event in a specific region or tailored for a specific industry becomes a perfect reason for figuring out how to build a list of target clients in that niche and calling them with a clear objective in mind.
Along with some colleagues, we have done it in the past year by focusing of specific regions and the outcome has been great. Not only did we end up travelling once for this event but we ended up going back multiple times for follow-up trips and every time, we’re able to line up a couple meetings in a row. All the guests that assisted to our event and even the ones that didn’t show up, are way more inclined in meeting with us for a follow-up appointment. The general sense of distance between us has slowly narrowed down.
Just Try it
I now find that events are a perfect way to structure a yearly or quarterly plan. You want to deploy more efforts in a specific niche in the first half of the year? Start in month 3 by organizing an event. It will take you month 1 and 2 to build the lists and get the right number of guests and you’ll have months 4 and 5 to organize follow up trips.
It’s not the cure for all your sales problems but it’s definitely a must add to your B2B marketing mix.