What’s the best way to capitalise on the new contacts we make at events and exhibitions?
Ask Silver Bullet: March 2017
New business is the very lifeblood of most organisations so Business Development is a vital role for most of us. Meetings, exhibitions, seminars and other events give us an opportunity to extend our networks, informing potential clients of our offer, yet all too often, the vital follow-up to such events falls flat, which often means the investment in making the original contact has been wasted.
Yet, with a little planning and effort, the follow-up can relatively easily be achieved, developing the relationship, justifying the expense of the initial contact and creating a real opportunity for new business. The alternative, of course, is to leave all those business cards you’ve carefully collected in the sponsor branded bag from the same exhibition along with the pens, stress balls and assorted other freebies, in the hope that the new business fairy will miraculously activate them into phone calls clamouring for your company’s products or services?
So, realistically, make sure YOU, ie the person that made the contact, do the follow-up - don’t pass this onto anyone else as your potential client made the connection with YOU and will want YOU to follow this up to develop YOUR relationship - people buy people, as they say. To pass it onto your sales team or anyone else is to effectively belittle the importance of the person and the potential relationship. Make sure you do this quickly - preferably within 48 hours but if this isn’t practically possible, set aside time to do your follow ups as soon as you can.
As to the message, this depends entirely on the relationship you want to build up and how the contact was left - ultimately you’d like an appointment with that company to make a sale, but this may not happen until much later in the relationship so don’t blow it with the hard sell straight away, unless, of course, that is what was promised - “get back to me on Monday with your price etc.”
More often, it’s akin to an old fashioned courtship which might begin with sharing information of common interest - photos of the company’s stand at the exhibition are usually welcome, for example. Another connection is to link via social media - use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to follow not only the person but also the company. Not only will you learn more about the company and what’s coming up for them, but you’ll be SEEN to be interested in working with them. Mention your contact and their company on own social media or even invite them to contribute to your blog?
An invitation to visit your own company never goes amiss too, especially if your products are produced in an interesting and quality driven way – should the relationship develop, your customers will inevitably expect and may even insist in visiting for QA purposes, so why not show off your process as a selling tool?
For service companies, it’s maybe not quite so interesting but your clients will still appreciate the invitation to see your company in action, and, if it’s ‘warts and all’, so much the better for a truly transparent relationship.
An invitation to one of your own events is another means of developing the relationship - lunch, seminar, sporting event even an after-work drink are all informal opportunities where the two organisations can size each other up and see how they’ll work together.
Why not try an old-fashioned hand written letter or card to continue the contact? Today’s email ‘infolanche’ means an email may be just one of hundreds received every day but if you’re looking to differentiate yourselves from the competition, why not revert to a note or card - we know a client who uses clever direct mail for just this purpose and to great effect. The only posted communications many of us now receive are invoices so mail is memorable, especially well-designed mail (OK, shameless plug…).
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