5 Tips On How NOT To Work A Convention

Our learning, in many cases, is best achieved by knowing what not to do. In this case, conventions can either be a huge waste of time, or a huge opportunity. As Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can, or can’t, you’re right!” Success all starts with how we think, speak and plan for these opportunities to be great. As we head down this road, here are 5 guardrails to avoid:

1. Don’t call conventions work. Work tends to become synonymous with a chore, job, labor, or sweat. Conventions are a big opportunity for leads, revenue, expectation setting, networking, and brand development. Bring your top and most necessary people to the event; these handpicked individuals should view this as a privilege, since they get to interact with key executives in your company and key customers in the marketplace.

If you want to fail, you can have mediocre sales people attend, who will most likely complain, show up late, not know what to do, and work like sales people and less like the diplomat or ambassador your customers have every right to expect. The work should be done in the pre-convention planning and coordination stages, not on the convention floor.

2. Send top sales people with no politeness skills. Conventions are about networking, branding and cultivation of future business. Your convention may be a revenue-generating event, but remember in the training you provide to your team for conventions, it is more about creating buyers than merely pushing product. Successful conventions focus on asking questions and listening to the answers, rather than telling customers what to do and showing them how to do it. When they are away from the halls of their offices, your customers may give in to hard selling tactics, only to re-think that decision once they get back home.

Don’t make the mistake of being overly polite and involved with the entourage of your top buyer either, just focus on the buyer and ignore the peripheral distractions. Unless they are directly related to your sale, those supporting characters have little to no influence, but your won’t learn that until it is too late. Even if year-end sales are on the line, stop “always be closing” and start “always be clarifying!”

3. Describe to others all of the activities they will get to enjoy at the convention. We get so excited about putting on a great show, event, or spectacle, that we often overlook what our customers may really need. They may expect access to our executives, exposure to new knowledge, discussions of key industry or marketing trends, new policy updates, or meetings with other customers for networking challenges and brainstorming sessions. Maybe we make the mistake of talking all about our party, which we are excited about, but real buyers may not care about at all.

Prior to a convention you should analyze your top accounts to pinpoint their key needs and then put the right people and information in place to meet those needs prior to going to the convention. If you fail to approach a convention with purposeful pre-planning, you may end up with a fun event but wind up with less business later.

4. Over promise and under deliver. We don’t mean to, but often we make promises we don’t deliver on. We can get so optimistic, excited, and confident when talking to our customer, only to realize after the fact that our statement to our customer was premature or not as easy to achieve as we thought in the spur-of-the-moment. Many people on your team tell a customer “we’ll get back to you”, and “we’ll look into that.” These conversations become defining moments related to our customer service experience, branding, and trustworthiness, and if we miss these opportunities, we will never get them back.

Research has shown that over 75% of the time these conversations become the equivalent of goodbye statements, that they are the reason our customers’ loyalty diminishes, and that they are also the reason our customers don’t become repeat buyers. Customers are holding you accountable for these passing, spur-of-the-moment promises and use them as key reasons not to buy from you.

Your convention team becomes so swamped with other priorities that they fail to tell anybody the conversation they had with a customer about “getting back to them.” That customer, however, does remember that conversation and will tell 10 other potential clients about your lack of customer service or caring. So that heat of the moment talk at a convention can quickly become many goodbyes from potential customers.

5. Don’t waste time and money on team training. Don’t bother getting everyone in a room with marketing or executives to review key messaging. Nah, skip that, and just go approach your most important customers with high levels of energy and lots of brochures. In an environment where your competition, media, regulators, and hosts of other people are waiting to judge your business, people and ethics, don’t prepare yourself or your team, just let things shake out naturally. Only the top teams have game plan reviews, followed by brief huddles throughout the day to gauge progress and revise as necessary.

Conventions are Game Time. They are how you represent your brand. It is a waste of money poured into booths, flights, and hotels if you aren’t clear on who is doing what or what the key objectives are for the convention. Failure to clarify roles and purpose can be sure-fire ways to create rumors and gossip, and creates ineffective downtime and a need to re-group after the event instead of moving forward. Screwing up one customer meeting isn’t good, but screwing up hundreds of face-to-face meetings with top customers in front of the industry at a convention is Priceless!!

Make it a great event!

Jim

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