I have been told that I have a Type A personality. So I looked it up on Wikipedia.
The theory describes Type A individual as ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status conscious, sensitive, caring for others, truthful, impatient, always trying to help others, taking on more than they can handle, wanting other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high achieving workaholics who multi-task, push deadlines and hate both delays and ambivalence. (Wikipedia)
I also read that Type A personalities are more prone to heart problems.
How rude. It’s probably written by some loser Type B-er.
After pulling myself off the floor (see above definition), I gathered what was left of my pride and began to write this month’s article: How To Get The Most Out Of Attending A Conference. If you’re going to go, you might as well use it to your advantage. Perhaps I should retitle my article “Attending a Conference-a Type A Perspective.”
Most of the conferences I attend fall between March and October. I’m often leaving one conference to attend another. My friends and family tell me, “I wish I had your life, traveling to fun cities, eating fancy dinners, staying in nice hotels, and attending lavish parties.” If they only knew – it’s not the glam it seems to be. It’s a lot of work and expensive. Don’t get me wrong, I always try to have fun, but leads don’t just fall in your lap. You have to go get them!
I attended a conference this April in Scottsdale, AZ (it started on my birthday). I was well prepared, full of energy and ready to meet new people. On the second night of the conference, I arrived back at the hotel after having dinner with a prospect. My friend Greg has started and sold three successful companies in the industry. He’s very well known and respected. People seek him out for referrals. He was in the lobby so I went over to say hi. The CEO of a company based in San Francisco was in his group. Greg introduced us and I told him about my company. The guy told me that his company was expanding quickly and was in need of a print portal to be rolled out no later than quarter three. I asked him what problems he was looking to solve with a print portal and what he thought his needs were. I asked permission to contact him so as to meet the person on his team overseeing the project. I followed up the next day and was able to close the deal. Their print portal system launched the week of 7/11. There are two key take-a-ways from my little story: (1) I spend a great deal of time getting to know and establishing credibility with key influencers in the industries I sell to, and (2) I make sure the influencers clearly understand what I do and the value my system provides.
The Top Ten List: How to get the most out of attending a conference.
- Begin Networking Early: Do whatever you need to do (try not to break any laws) to get the attendee list. At a minimum you want name, company and title. ZoomInfo is the system I use. Make friends with the people putting on the conference. Offer to provide them with PR opportunities and offer to help them get sponsors and more attendees. Now, when you ask for the list, they will gladly send it to you. I invite clients and prospects to the conferences. It allows me to check in, get face time and to be thought of as someone that adds value.
- Book Meetings: After I get my Type A hands on the attendee list, I spend 4 to 6 weeks booking meetings. I plan out my agenda for the conference and then fill in my timeslots with as many prospect meetings as possible. I leave a few minutes between meetings in case they run over, but I schedule my meetings back to back to maximize my time.
NOTE – Prospects get bombarded with meeting requests so your message needs to stand out and address a need. Clients have told me they get over 5,000 emails/phone calls before attending a conference.
Make a Prospect List: I take the attendee list
and narrow it down to a much shorter target list. I then find each person online and add his/her photo to my list as well as any other info I can obtain: hobbies, past employers, connections and associations. I want to know what each person looks like before I go. This prevents me from having to rely on nametags. Nametags are very unreliable – they are often too long or get flipped around.
- Get But Don’t Give Business Cards: Don’t give out your business cards. 99.9% of the time you will never hear from the person. Ask for your prospect’s card so you can take notes and follow up. Carry a pen so you can put notes on the back or take notes in your phone.
- Have a Client Make Introductions for You: Select someone to be your “introducer” at each conference. This person should be very well connected and have an excellent reputation. Walk the floor with this person – he/she will introduce you to the executives you want to know. A client is great because he/she can give the prospect a testimonial about how your print system is helping them.
- Don’t Do a Booth: Having a booth is really boring. And it will prevent you from networking, making meetings during the day and strolling the lobby and hallways during sessions. I won’t even go to a conference that requires me to do a booth (at least the first couple years while I’m checking it out)
- Throw an Event: Plan an event during the conference. It’s a great excuse to contact a prospect and invite him/her to something fun and social. I like to plan dinners. If it’s a super large deal I’m close to signing, I’ll keep it one to one. If it’s a larger group dinner, I’ll often pair up with other non-competing vendors to host. It allows us to share the cost and invite different people from our networks.
- Take and Track Notes: When I meet with a prospect, I take notes. I write them on their business card, record them in my phone or type them on my computer. I don’t want to forget anything. I ask lots of questions but let the prospect do most of the talking. I always ask a few personal questions (but not too personal). Prospects are impressed with details. If I find out someone loves white lilacs, I’ll send a lilac with a hand written note the day after as a follow-up. Each night, when I get to my room, I enter my notes into my CRM system. This can take awhile but is well worth it. I now have personal and business info to use in future correspondences. Birthdays are big for me. I record every person’s birthday so I remember to call or send a note. I think birthdays are very special.
- Follow-Up: I don’t believe in the “wait for a few days” method. I start my follow-up immediately after I leave the conference (sometimes even during the conference). I want to be the first supplier to reengage the prospect. If you make your presence known your product will stand out.
I connect with all my prospects on LinkedIn. This is part of my follow-up process. I’ll send a personal note requesting to connect (I don’t use the automated LinkedIn note) and then send an email. I make sure my LinkedIn notes add value. I don’t want to come across as a pushy salesperson.
And the #1 way to get the most out of a conference:
Take Care of Yourself: I have a special section in my closet labeled “conference wear”. I want people to remember and recognize me when I walk into a room. Red seems to be my best color – I have red dresses, jackets and skirts.
I need my sleep. I try not to stay up past midnight. Most people perform at their best when they get enough sleep. And lastly, eating healthy is a must if you wish to maintain maximum energy. I pack snacks (often fruit and nuts) so I can eat every four hours. This keeps me fueled and in a good mood. Hotel food is risky, especially if you a vegetarian. I avoid it all costs.
Be authentic and let your personality show through. At the end of the day, people still buy from people.
Time is valuable. Don’t waste yours or theirs. And remember, you are never going to get anywhere without asking. Ask for the meeting.
Oh, and one more thing. Here is how Wikipedia defines Type B personality:
The theory describes Type B individuals as a contrast with those of Type A personalities. People with Type B personalities by definition generally live at a lower stress level and typically work steadily, enjoying achievement but aren’t stressed when goals are not achieved. When faced with competition, they do not mind losing and either enjoy the game or back down (not sure what “back down” means). They may be creative and enjoy exploring ideas and concepts. They are often reflective, thinking about the outer and inner worlds. (Wikipedia)
This sounds like my parents. My dad reads Thoreau. My mom makes all their food from scratch. They are hippies. Who do you want running your company, Type A or Type B?
This article first appeared in the Print Solutions Magazine produced by the Print Services & Distribution Association (PSDA).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]