sales


Keeping Your Head When All Else is Crumbling

One of the things that really has helped me in life is keeping calm when all around is going wrong. This is especially helpful at events where I must solve problems in real time and it’s not always evident that there’s a solution readily available. I have seen a real difference between those times when my response has reflected panic versus those when I remained calm. A panicked reaction is not conducive to a positive result. Frequently your clients depend on you, as the expert, to be the one who is calm and provide the assurance that “Everything will be fine!”

I just attended a six-day show (i.e. one with lots of moving parts) where the staff was calm and collected on the outside. But on the inside? Probably not so much. Though it’s likely that there were lots of minor things going wrong, you couldn’t tell from either their actions or their demeanor.

One way I have found to master this kind of situation is eliminate the extraneous elements and focus on the goal. In a crisis, you need to be able to appraise the circumstances, receive input from others, and determine an immediate path of action. Periphery details are distractions; I believe that keeping your focus depends on ridding your mind of the stuff that doesn’t matter.

From Rudyard Kipling’s “If”:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

I’ve given you the beginning and ending lines, but you can find the entire poem at the link below: 

http://www.davidpbrown.co.uk/poetry/rudyard-kipling.html

To keep your head is just another skill that will help you rise above your competition. 


Is Arrogance Professional Suicide? 1

I’ve worked with many confident people and, as is true with other Type A’s, I’ve had the occasion to clash with some of them. There were times when it was about agreement on performance metrics; other times it was a matter of how to get things done. With respect to the latter, I have come to learn how to step back and avoid battles about how tasks are executed, particularly if there’s a track record of success. I’d characterize my philosophy as “if it’s ethical, legal, and moral, I’ll usually tolerate the errant behavior IF the results are there.”  So, substance trumps style (though, in sales, style is often a key contributor to success.)

 

Steve Jobs

But what about the world at large? Will most people tolerate arrogance in the workplace? Consider Steve Jobs. He had all kinds of failure in his life, but he was driven by an incredible self-belief that transcended those circumstances. That drive had an impact on those around him. I ran Macworld for several years and was well aware of the fear within Apple that Jobs produced. Yet, the success of most of Apple’s products is directly attributable to his vision and his dogged determination to fulfill that vision.

 

Now that Jobs is gone, people are free to analyze his legacy, both for the brilliance of his ideas and the harsh ways he treated some of the people around him. Does his product legacy excuse his arrogance? Probably yes, since he changed many of the markets with his products (iPhone, Apple 2, iPod, iTunes, etc.) Perhaps he had personal regrets at the end, but he certainly was a game changer.

 

But what about mere mortals like the rest of us? Can we get away with arrogance? Perhaps. But you had better be extremely good at what you do, as the “fall’ is precipitous if you’re not.

 

And people have very long memories….


Whose Attention is the New Currency?

The more attention you can commit to things, the more value you will derive. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of awareness; attention spans are now shorter than ever and paying attention is a challenge. With the many information inputs available, people are easily distracted in ways that interfere with the focus needed to understand what they are seeing.

 

What’s the impact? You are making decisions with ‘shallower’ information than before. Thus, the chance of making a bad decision is proportionately greater.

 

Let’s look at this “attention economy” differently: as a way to create competitive advantage. How about this? I challenge you to find ways to devote more attention to the things that are important, assuming you can distinguish between what’s important and what’s not. That means avoiding the often guilty pleasure of distractions. A complementary skill would be to train yourself to focus on a fewer number of things. That could mean you are spending less time overall, but a getting the bonus of making better decisions.

 

How do you put yourself in such a ‘resource-rich’ position?

 

Put away the phone, turn off internet access, and do something in disconnected mode. Change things up by finding opportunities to do things in completely different ways. Maybe it’s having a business meeting outside while walking around the block or your office campus. Or perhaps it’s reading a book that has nothing to do with your day to day work activities, but gives you a perspective that extends beyond the here and now. Meditate. Find ways to force yourself to pay attention to (or think about) something without distractions for 5, 10, or 15 minutes.

 

Try it for a week and see if your attention span is longer and, as a result, your understanding is deeper. Having done some of these things myself, I’ve certainly seen huge improvement…..

 

Extra Credit articles on the Attention Economy:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/attention-is-the-new-currency_us_58ef947ee4b04cae050dc526

https://www.cuinsight.com/attention-is-our-new-currency-pay-attention-to-what-matters-most.html

https://www.hrchitects.net/attention-new-currency/


Gratitude is one of your biggest sales tools

Most of the sales people who I know have lots of confidence. With some, it might even border on arrogance. Confidence is a critical attribute for successful sales, as believing you can get a result is vital to making it happen. But another attribute is almost as important: the often-underappreciated trait of gratitude.

Ridiculous, you might think. Why would someone in sales need to be grateful? How is humility helpful?

Consider this. How many of you find overconfidence to be a turnoff, particularly when the offender is trying to sell you something? The feeling conveyed is that the seller is smarter, knows more, and overall is just better than you are. Of course, nobody likes that feeling. But so many in sales behave that way and never change.

What about gratitude makes it a great quality in a salesperson?

A grateful sales person is grounded in reality and can see things for what they are.

A grateful sales person does the necessary homework on an opportunity, doesn’t try to wing it in a presentation, and doesn’t assume that personality will overcome objections.

A grateful sales person can walk in the shoes of others, recognizing that while they may represent a different perspective, they are a peer with respect to any transaction or relationship.

A grateful sales person doesn’t push ideas too hard, recognizing that a sale should come more naturally, and the case made that it’s obvious that the prospect should buy, rather than be forced.

Who wants to feel that they are being forced to buy something? Don’t get me wrong, gratitude without confidence is a non-starter. But having the right balance can be the difference in a well-rounded sales approach.

In sales, as with many things, being grateful for what you have is the right foundation for getting what you want and perhaps what your prospect needs.


Your Network is Terrible and It Will Kill You

A couple of questions:

  • Could you quickly secure a new job solely on the strength of your connections?
  • Could you start a business and achieve self-sufficiency immediately based upon your connections?

I suspect that the answer is ‘no’ to both questions, as it proved to be for me in December 2005 when I chose to start my business. At the time, my thinking was “Hey, I used to run Macworld. Once people know I have my own company the phone will ring off the hook.” Unfortunately, reality proved to be different and I struggled for the first two years.

 

The Event Mechanic! struggles

The main reason for my early struggles? My network was only 10% of what was needed to make a living. With both time and considerable effort that network now is much healthier and now financially I do well. As a result of my network, I often get referrals for new opportunities or, because of the range of my network, I can usually reach whoever I need through a couple of connections.

If you have the six months to two years of savings to support the lean times between jobs, then you might be fine. If not, you should be working on your network. And the time to work on it is when you don’t need it, not when you are scrabbling for financial survival.

 

How can you create a vibrant network? 

  1. Focus on connections that offer value.
  2. Make sure that any connection is recognized as being mutually beneficial, rather than a one-sided ‘extraction.’
  3. Offer value before expecting it from others.
  4. Be open to making connections on behalf of others.
  5. Don’t neglect your core network in deference to focusing on new connections.
  6. Use LinkedIn as a roadmap.
  7. Treat your efforts as a business; develop a board of directors for advice.

 

More or better?

Is the goal to have more connections or better connections? My old boss, Ron Gomes, often would answer that kind of either/or question with a ‘yes,’ since ideally, you want both. But, if there’s a trade-off, I would argue that it is better to have fewer, stronger connections than have many distant connections who you don’t really know. As a metric, I’d recommend trying to develop a network of one hundred core connections with whom you connect at least annually. That number should be complemented by several hundred “secondary” connections who will, at a minimum, respond to an email or take your call on an “as needed” basis.

 

Don’t be an Extractor

Building and maintaining a network takes work, but you should consider it an investment in your ‘rainy day’ fund. And, as was noted earlier, remember the importance of reciprocity. To be successful with network building you should enjoy helping others, as there will be times when members of your network need YOUR help. Relationships that are one directional will not be sustainable and your network will have the fraction of the power it should have.. When you’re only seen as an extractor, there soon will be nothing to be extracted as your connections will leave in droves.

I learned the value of a good network the hard way, and now enjoy the benefits of having invested in that effort. Will you make the same effort or risk being caught short when you need the resources?

 

Extra Credit reading:

https://www.fastcompany.com/90246816/the-5-people-you-must-have-in-your-network

https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/articles/7-ways-to-build-a-strong-network/

https://www.fastcompany.com/90265127/how-to-build-and-maintain-an-effective-linkedin-network

And thanks to Dan Schwabel for his outline of the seven steps to creating a sound network.

 


The secret to success is……

The secret to success is the ability to stand in another person’s shoes. That’s particularly true if you are trying to do business with that person.

 

An Old Tale Still Rings True

Remember the story of the two brothers who had to share a piece of cake? The elder brother managed the situation in a way that ensured his younger sibling got the smaller piece. When the situation repeated itself with the same result, the younger brother complained to their mother. In her wisdom, she advised the elder brother that he could continue to divide their treats into portions, but “from now on, your little brother gets to pick the piece he wants.” From that point on, you can imagine they got equal pieces.

 

Transaction or Relationship?

It’s the same in business. If you are going to try to take advantage of every situation, then you’ll always be doing individual transactions where you try to maximize your advantage. But those transactions will rarely lead to long-lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial. Building relationships requires both sides to let down their guard and trust the other party in the long term, and to go into a transaction not expecting the other to take advantage.

 

Business is not a zero sum game where the gains of one participant must be achieved at the expense of another. If you take the long view where each transaction is part of a relationship to be developed and nurtured, then a concession is not a concession, but rather an investment in the relationship. Conversely, it’s usually a struggle if you are always engaged in transactional business.

 

Which would prefer? Are you willing to stand in the other person’s shoes?

 

For extra reading on this kind of thinking, I’d encourage you to check this out.

 


Six things that you must do between shows

The show is over, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. If you are smart, you’ll also do these things before taking too long of a pause.

 

1. Clean your database

You’d be shocked how many event companies don’t ‘sanitize’ their contact lists on a regular basis. Cleaning out the bounced emails and returned mail (if you do direct mail) is critical, particularly if you want to improve the open and click-through rates in your next campaign. If GDPR is a concern(and you should have a plan here), you also should consider removing the contacts in your database from whom you’ve had no activity in the last five years. You also may be considering plans to add new contacts that can be implemented later.

 

 2. Finish your rebook for the following event

If you know in advance that you are going to repeat an event, you should have prepared and implemented a rebook or resign process for the following year’s event. At the very least, try to get feedback on how you are doing, as well as information on your client’s budget cycles, any changes of decision makers, etc. Successful rebooks can save you hundreds of sales hours since you will have already taken care of the low-hanging fruit and can focus on newer companies.

 

 3. Survey your attendees, including making outbound calls for feedback

Most companies conduct on-site and/or post-show surveys. What I am suggesting   is that you make a shortlist of the changes/improvements you already are committed to make for the next event. That list can be part of your marketing effort to this year’s attendees   and it also signals your continuing effort to improve your program.

 

 4. Check in with your suppliers for event feedback

We event organizers tend to treat suppliers like ‘red-headed stepchildren’, failing to pay as much attention to their opinions. That’s a big mistake. Many have worked on hundreds of events and can offer valuable feedback on an event, both independently, as well as in comparison with others. Thanks to Nicole Peck for this one.


5.  Find 10 more influencers and figure out what to do now

Though buzzing from a recent show, you may know a number of key people who didn’t attend. They might be influencers who could have helped attract more exhibitors or attendees. Make a list of these people and start working on getting them involved – sooner rather than later.

 

 6. Write up and implement strategic and tactical changes to make for the next show

In addition to the above-referenced feedback from attendees and exhibitors, you likely have also compiled structured feedback from your on-site team regarding what went well, what didn’t, and what you can change for the next one. Make a list of these ideas, with a deadline regarding when you will decide on the actions to take.

 

 

Although what I suggest might be wearying to contemplate so soon after the conclusion to a [hopefully] successful event, all the above recommendations will save you hours and money when you begin planning the next one. Wouldn’t it be great to start things off and find that you are way in front of the starting line?


Brace Yourself for the Analytics Nightmare

There’s considerable talk within the events industry about analytics and how it can be used to attract and convert prospects into attendees and exhibitors. Much of the discussion is quite enlightening. Creating content that is of interest to your targets can engage them in ways that can get them to register. The event becomes a logical extension of online interactions, a physical venue for learning about the topics that have been explored online. And seeing what people click on – tracking their web behavior – is a great way to identify the topics that matter to your audience. In short, it makes great sense to use analytics to attempt to build an audience and fill your exhibit hall. We’re all doing it now.

 

Beware! You Are Being Watched and Tracked

But those who seek to benefit from such analytics should recognize it in action. Your own experience should give you a sense of what it’s like to be tracked and segmented. Have you ever been called while you were in the middle of something, cornered at the wrong time by people who really have no idea who you are, but speak to you as if they do know you?

I recently attended a digital revenue conference during which I asked one of the speakers if they understood what it was like to be a ‘hunted’ prospect and whether such understanding affected how they conducted their marketing efforts. My intention was not to embarrass the speaker; I truly presumed that he would have thought this through. But all I got was a blank stare; he had no idea what I was talking about. The answer I received was pretty much equivalent to “this one goes to eleven.” (Check out this YouTube clip if you’re not a Spinal Tap fan and don’t know what I mean.) ie I never considered what you are describing and have no intention of understanding what you are talking about.

 

Technology Solves Everything?

Unfortunately, despite the technology that is available to connect with prospective customers, many event organizers still don’t get it. In their minds it’s all about transactions and getting people to hit the register button. It’s not about forming relationships at any level for the long term. It’s often a simplistic view of customers: if someone is spending big, we will pay attention. If not, then automate an email blast with the right message based on their past behavior and have someone who does this work do it without any innate understanding of the prospect.

As an event manager, are you defaulting to dashboards and spreadsheets, delegating action to technology tools and numbers? If so, consider your own behavior when, as a prospect, you are the recipient of such attacks. What actions do you take to repel the effort?

 

Build Your Wall and You Can’t Be Ensnared

If you’re like me, you erect barriers so that you can’t be reached: spam folders that are rarely checked, cold call voice mailboxes that are often ignored, and executive assistants who are trained to find and delete junk emails, filter incoming calls, and toss out direct mail. Quite often websites no longer provide phone numbers that encourage inbound calls; they offer forms to be completed as a mechanism to vet the contact requests(and ignore them).

 

Should There Be a Marketing Code of Conduct?

Why has this happened? Because we, as an industry, have abused email. Analytics is not a silver bullet unless you have sound customer practices behind it that reflect that you really care about – and know – your customer. Trying to use analytics to automate a company philosophy that’s poorly conceived or outdated will not succeed. Automating poor practices just means you are doing the wrong things more quickly and more often. And that’s a proven way to annoy those who you are trying to attract.

 

Do you like to be hunted? If not, don’t do it to your prospects….

 


Is Your Event Leaving Money On the Table?

When I launch an event, one of my goals is to ensure that, from the very beginning, we are doing everything possible to maximize profitability. Given that goal, I’ve become pretty savvy about identifying opportunities where an event could generate a greater gross margin. The trick, of course, is to go beyond that step and take the necessary actions that avoid leaving any money on the table.

There are a number of signs that an event’s not operating to its full profit potential. Often, it’s a matter of being attuned to situations where things might be going “fine”, but your experience and expertise suggest that there are opportunities to do better. Here are five scenarios:

 

1) You lack a crisp value proposition

If you can’t explain in a concise and compelling manner why exhibitors or attendees should come to your event, then you’re really operating with the hope that your prospects can figure it out for themselves and then act. And, as the saying goes: “hope is not a strategy.” Garbled, unclear messaging will leave some of your prospects confused and uncertain. Uncertainty is not a pathway to maximizing sponsorship and attendance fees. It’s the road to lost revenue.

 

2) Exhibitors and attendees are wildly enthusiastic

This might seem counter-intuitive. When your target prospects are clamoring to sign up for booth space and conference registrations – and not balking at the fees – that’s obviously a good sign. Consider it as validation of your value proposition in terms of why your event is worthy of the investment and different from – and better than – others.

But also consider whether it’s a signal that your fees might not be priced appropriately for the demand. Is there an opportunity to raise prices (how much is up to you) the next time? Consider this year’s event as an investment in knowledge that should inform next year’s plan. Otherwise, the money you don’t make is just lost forever.

 

3) There’s a lack of urgency in actions or communications

It’s difficult to imagine anyone who would take on the risk of running an event, but not figure out how to instill the necessary sense of urgency about getting the money needed to pay all those incoming bills. But that cavalier attitude about cash flow often exists! The maxim I followed at my first events job was that you wanted 80% of the exhibitor money collected at the time you announced the conference program. Admittedly, that is a high bar to meet but doable if it’s your discipline.

More typically, for an existing event, you should try to rebook as many previous exhibitors as possible and attempt to get attendees to commit to the next year (If you can). And the ideal time is while the event is happening or shortly thereafter. From this, it follows that you want to have incentives (e.g. money-back guarantees for attendees, free stuff they can’t get otherwise) that make it worthwhile for exhibitors/attendees to commit early.

 

4) You don’t reach out, either in person or on the phone, to your attendees

This indicates an ‘I don’t care to know my audience’ attitude and it’s an unforgivable flaw to be found in any event professional who doesn’t personally know at least 10 attendees. Engaging personally with your customers is the best way – the only way – to know what they care about. And what they care about is what drives where they will spend their money.

Perhaps this is illustrated by a recent argument I had with someone at an industry event where concerns were raised about where her industry was going. Yet, at the same time, she argued that she had no time to speak with 10 attendees a month. To me, that kind of time spent is an investment that will pay off in the future. Ask the right questions and you’ll know where your industry is going. And you’ll be well positioned with the right offer to take advantage.

 

5) Your event isn’t making enough money

This is the toughest situation because it’s real, tangible, and has an urgency that requires prompt action, especially when you have other choices to make money. It could be attributed to a variety of reasons, some of which I have already listed above. If this is your scenario, you should probably hire someone from outside who can give you a fresh perspective on the likely causes and the prospective remedies that may not be obvious to someone inside who works on the event daily.

 

Whatever the situation, leaving money on the table is a bad strategy. It leaves opportunities both for new and old competitors. So why would you do that?

 


Warning: Event Launch Disaster Ahead 1

 

I recently read an article in Convene which captured the mistakes that were made during a two-year effort to launch a content marketing event in Europe.  For those who have not read the story, the conference manager of LavaCon – a successful, though relatively niche, US-based event – had been urged by a number of his exhibitors to try to replicate that success in Europe, where it was assumed that it could attract a new set of attendees.

 

In 2016, the conference manager tried to do so in Dublin, but failed. Undaunted, but presumably having learned from that first year’s experiences, he ran the event again this past May (again in Dublin, but in a different venue) only to falter a second time. Why did two successive efforts fall short of expectations? Simply put, he had some bad luck with an unexpected competitive event, but compounded the problem with some rookie mistakes.

 

Despite the lack of success, I still take my hat off to him. First, he had the courage to launch something new. Second, though it didn’t work, he still agreed to share his experiences in ways that could benefit others. How many of you would be willing to do that?

 

What factors contributed to the poor results?

  1. A lack of local market knowledge, such as an understanding that “bank” holidays in that region are not exclusive to banks, so should be avoided when scheduling a conference.
  2. The fact that a significant presence of target companies situated close to a conference location does not ensure that the right level of employee – senior decision-makers – work at those offices and are likely to attend.
  3. A misjudgment about the price potential attendees in Dublin would be willing to pay.

 

Why did those factors hurt his event?  In his own words, “because of the market research I didn’t do, and still haven’t done yet.” I believe that he’s correctly identified most of the problems and he has my congratulations for finally getting it – after two white knuckle rides. There is nothing worse than suffering the stress of a launch, then failing, and then suffering the same fate the following year.

 

Are there lessons you can learn from this?

  1. Hire someone from the target market area (or who knows it) for initial and ongoing advice about the feasibility of launching and sustaining an event. For example, Ireland is not Europe. Effectively there is no “Europe” as far as events are concerned; events are, if not local, then certainly regional.  That should guide decisions about location – and expectations about attendance.
  2. Ensure you do market testing and P&L analysis to understand the financial risk involved and the likely outcomes, given the many contributing factors. Approach any opportunity with a model that includes an understanding of what “success” is.

 

In addition, other questions I would ask to qualify an event opportunity are:

  1. In terms of attendee research, has any testing been done to see whether you can draw an audience to make the numbers work?
  2. What is the size of the target email audience on the attendee side and can it be expected to support the paid attendee number in your model? For example, I believe you need 100 names for each expected paid attendee, all other variables being accounted for.
  3. Were speakers and exhibitors engaged early on to help get attendees?
  4. Was there a budget with best- and worst-case P&L’s scenarios established prior to the decision to launch?

 

As I mentioned, this particular event manager is courageous and honest; I salute him for that.  But the things that I reference above seem common sense guidelines to me and reflect the advice I give my clients prior to a launch.

 

Are you equipped on your next launch or are you heading down a potentially rocky road?