Apologies for the baseball metaphor. In San Francisco we’re a little pre-occupied at the moment (Go Giants!)
If you missed Dreamforce 2014, don’t make the same mistake next year. This was my third year attending Salesforce’s annual technology tradeshow, and I can’t understand how anyone in sales would miss it. Yet salespeople still ask me these questions:
- Do you attend Dreamforce to get leads?
- How many leads did you get at #DF14?
- Is Dreamforce worth attending?
They’re asking the wrong questions. Whatever event you attend, if your sole purpose is to get leads, you’re there for the wrong reason. The same premise holds true for any networking event, conference, or business gathering.
Network for Relationships, Not Leads
I did get leads at Dreamforce, but that was not my primary goal. It was the result ofmy primary goal, which was to build new relationships and nurture existing ones.
- I spoke at Dreamforce three times on three different topics.
- I arranged meetings with colleagues and clients from out of town.
- I visited the expo floor and moved two deals along with prospects who were also in attendance.
- I re-engaged with a former client, and we identified new ways to work together.
- I bumped into people I knew and got the chance to catch up.
- I learned from the speakers and all of the people I talked to between sessions.
- I got inspiration for new speaking topics and new blog posts.
- I gave and received referrals.
All of these activities will contribute to my sales pipeline and my referral network, but notice that “I gave my sales pitch to other attendees” or “I handed out my business card to as many people as possible” did not make my list.
Before the event, Matt Heinz, president Heinz Marketing, Inc., asked for my best advice for attending Dreamforce. I wrote: “Set a goal for Dreamforce and schedule as many meetings as you can in advance. It’s better to have a handful of robust conversations with specific action steps than to do the old ‘spray and pray.’ Prepare for packed, exhausting days, so eat well and get sleep. ”
I followed my own advice, except for eating well and getting enough sleep, both of which are almost impossible (at least candy wasn’t an offer at every booth this year).
What NOT to Do at a Tradeshow
Of course, if you’re an exhibitor at Dreamforce or any other tradeshow, your company is sending you there to talk business and bring in leads—at least while you’re on the expo floor. But your goal should still be to connect with people, engage them in conversation, identify key prospects, and leave with follow-up actions—not to gather as many email addresses as possible.
If you are an exhibitor, here are four things you should NEVER do at a tradeshow:
1. Pester People Who Aren’t Interested in Your Product
Please don’t have your booth bunnies lined up with devices ready to scan my badge, promising me a chance to win “whatever.” I won’t let anyone scan my badge. Why? Because you’ll use that information to pester me with lengthy, automated emails thanking me for visiting your booth (which I didn’t) and inviting me to download a whitepaper or attend an event you’re sponsoring. And I’ll receive a few cold calls in between. No thanks.
2. Forget to Use My Name
I’m a real person, so treat me like one. Extend your hand to greet me, ask my name, and tell me yours. Smile and act as if you’re actually interested in me, even though I’m the umpteenth person to whom you’ve spoken. I might just be your next big customer, but you’ll never know unless you make an effort to get to know me.
3. Give Me a Pitch
When I ask what you do, I don’t want to hear your party line. Rather than go on and on about your product and its features, ask about me and the needs of my business. Engage me in conversation. Explain how your solution will help my company, and tell me about the ROI your customers with similar business models have gotten. I don’t care one bit about what your product does unless you can tell me how it will benefit my business. And you can’t tell me that unless you ask me about me.
4. Ignore Me
This one should probably go without saying, but don’t zone out and ignore me. There’s nothing more off-putting than walking up to a booth and finding people so busy looking down at their phones that they have no idea I’m even there. Yes, I’m there, and so are your future customers. So where are you? Tired? I don’t care. Feet hurt? Bring comfy shoes. Hung over? Too bad for you. Think twice about the reason your company spent thousands of dollars to have a presence at a tradeshow. It’s your job to respect that investment and to respect the people visiting your booth.
Dreamforce is not a sales conference. It’s a technology conference. However, this year there was a sales track. If you missed it, check out my presentation—“Harness the Power of Referrals to Pack Your Pipeline”—and those of other sales influencers. InsideSales.com has on-demand video of all the highlights. Registration is easy, and the segments are short. (Click here to register.)
I hope to see you at Dreamforce 2015 and other sales events throughout the year. Come up and introduce yourself, and let’s start a conversation. Remember, the goal is to network for relationships, not for leads.