Corporate Events – A sales person’s perspective on users’ conferences

As a recovering sales manager and active sales person, this story may resonate with those of you who produce internal corporate events as a means to increase sales to existing and prospective customers. Today, I still see corporate events being managed in a similar fashion with regards to data capture and hopefully this will get your mind flowing for 2010 planning.

I used to manage a large sales team for a $120 million company in Seattle; we sold a large enterprise application with an average sales price of $125,000. Every year we would put on our Annual Users’ Conference that customers and prospects from all over the world would attend. We would typically have over 600 attendees with break-out sessions spread across three days. The sessions covered new product releases, support issues, and training. I had a total of 25 sales reps reporting to me from three regions, each with their VIP customers attending. These customers were either prospects or existing customers at different stages in a sales cycle considering a large capital purchase of our software and services. Like my team, I was compensated on quarterly quota achievement and forecasting accuracy. Essentially a large percentage of my pipeline was walking the floors of the Hyatt Regency. I found this simultaneously very exciting and nerve wracking as new products, pricing and value were being presented from folks not under my control.

Questions like these were always popping up in my mind:

  • Where is Cindy from AGT, and Dawn from Providian? The deals with them are forecasted to close this quarter.
  • Did they see the presentation that Jack gave on our latest release?
  • Did Jack piss them off with his rancid humor? Oh man, I hope not.
  • Did he cover the new features appropriately?
  • Did John from Capital One go to the session on our new telemarketing module or is he golfing with Rob?

Meanwhile, my calendar was packed with customer meetings, so I was unable to find the answers. Whenever I saw one of my sales reps without one of their VIPS, I immediately bombarded them with questions they couldn’t answer. They were in the same situation as I was and could only manage one customer at a time. Post Users Conference, I was running blind and unclear of the impact this show would have on my ability to make my number. Session feedback was sparse and solely speaker focused; plus it would take my team anywhere from 30 to 45 days to determine the impact.

I simply wanted to know– in real-time,–who was attending the event, where they went and what they thought.

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This is easier said than done. Validar has had the pleasure of working with some of the smartest event marketing companies in the world this year. As a sales person, I would have loved to get data from these shows. What they do well is appropriately ask questions during the various touch points– pre event registration, on-site check-in, session tracking and evaluation, and keynote evaluation—to further gauge the attendee’s interest level. Additionally they provide incentives and run contests to elicit feedback and ensure their response rates are high. The questions they ask are focused on propensity to buy and were developed in collaboration with the sales team. They also used technology to improve the delivery of these answers so if follow-up is needed it is done at an appropriate time.
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Our clients’ successful event efforts involved both the sales and marketing entities. I can’t stress how important this is and how I would have appreciated this opportunity in my previous role. We’ll be publishing a case study on this topic soon. Please let us know if you have questions or want to learn more.

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4 Comments

  1. I understand the value of corporate events. Another way to reach clients is to participate in a trade show that is directed at your target demographic. If it is a good show producer they will do all of the attendance marketing and you are responsible for your booth and your sales staff meeting the people that come to the show.
    There is still work to be done the exhibitor should be inviting their prospects to the show and putting forth an outreach campaign to do that. Making appointments with key accounts at the show works hand in hand with exhibiting and so does using the marketing materials provided by the show producer. Such as posting discussions on the shows social group sites etc.
    You are in total control, because you are not managing the show. You and your staff can spend the time building relationships and capturing leads for sales post show.
    The important thing is to select the show that fits best with your companies products, services and identified target buyer.

  2. Those are all great points. Some of which I could have improved on when exhibiting at Dreamforce. You are dependant upon a good show producer though.

  3. Nice site and I will be coming back so keep up the good work! When it comes down to it I think Alec Baldwin said it best in the Glenn-Garry movie. A.I.D.A attention, interest, decision and action. I’ll spare you guys the full speech where he cusses everyone out.

  4. One of the greatest challenges marketers continue to face is converting leads to pipeline revenue which could actually be the result of a bigger problem — marketers not generating high-quality leads in the first place.

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