I have a friend who works for a large carrier and has absolutely been crushing it. Recently, she got a promotion and has already been making waves and getting stuff done. Now why is all this important? You’re about to read why.
My friend has been in the supply chain and logistics world for a bit and has built up an amazing reputation which I can personally attest to. I was thrilled when she said she was moving into a new role, yet also a little sad because it meant that she would no longer be in charge of my account. Now that she has been in this new role for a couple of months, it seems my feelings of sadness are not exclusive to me.
As we recently connected over the phone, she mentioned a few customers had requested, on pain of losing their business, that she stay as their rep. This is huge! Why, because it clearly shows that people are buying her, not her company.
You need to realize that when you are selling something, that people are buying you and not your company. Oh… and by the way, no matter who you are and what your position is you are selling something. The company’s name and reputation may get you in the door, but it certainly won’t close any deals for you or keep customers.
People are buying you and the experience you are giving them. NEVER… forget that.
People seems to be focusing on the wrong things… themselves. Now don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty as the next person. I love thinking about myself and how I can get better, improve, and grow my connections.
Life and these lovely social networks, like LinkedIn, are all about relationships. If you want to grow them, you need to plant lots of little seeds along the way. How you do this is by engaging with others that are in your network. Scroll through your feed, find an interesting picture or someone you respect, actually take in whatever their content is, and engage with it. Don’t just give a quick like and scroll on, leave a thoughtful comment. Leave them something that gives them kudos or poses a question.
If you want to grow your community and your engagement, it’s all about commenting and interacting with others. It’s about planting lots of little seeds and growing your brand, your community and your network one person at a time.
Ahhhh the infamous gatekeeper. The holder of the keys and the bosses schedule. The one who decides who gets to go beyond the proverbial curtain and see the wizard… too much? Gatekeepers, we all know them, we all struggle with them at times, and in fact, at some point or another we all are one of them. Gatekeepers are an integral part of companies and when they do their job well, they save the person they work with a lot of wasted time and effort.
The question to ask yourself, especially in sales, is how do you get past the gatekeeper, especially when there is one of those convenient no soliciting signs?
What I have seen and experienced work best is when we create a point of connection. To do that, you need to be incredibly observant of your surroundings and the non-verbal cues that individual is giving. To create a point of connection, as you are walking up to that persons desk and starting a conversation, you need to see if there is anything that can be a connection that you can talk about. If there is a picture of their dog on the desk, you can start bringing up their pet and ask questions. You also need to have questions prepared that will help you to go beyond the surface and get you some real information. What I mean is that you don’t just want to find out the dogs name, you also want to see if it has a favorite toy or treat. Once you are loaded with that information, as you follow up with that office again in a couple weeks, you come in to talk to Carol about her dog and you hand her a present for her fur baby that ends up being their favorite kind of toy. As you begin creating this good will and influence with this individual, you are making lots of relational deposits so that when you eventually go for the ask, it doesn’t feel like much of a draw on the relationship because you have already given so much.
If there are not any pictures to draw some data from, you have to be armed with some general questions that will lead to uncommon commonalities. Not only that, you have to realize that surprisingly enough, they don’t want to spend all day with you. That being said, getting past the gatekeeper takes time. As you focus on forming a genuine connection instead of getting past them, opportunities to do just that will start to pop up. Maybe instead of dropping off just your business card, you stop on by with a handful of gift cards for a local restaurant or coffee shop for the gatekeeper to use and share with others in the office. Maybe you bring by handwritten thank you cards. Maybe you don’t go straight for the person who you eventually need to meet, but instead you start to meet other people of influence at the company like the people who run the warehouse. Remember, the person you think you need to meet may not actually be the one to get you the business.
Think about doing business differently and start thinking about how you can form common points of connection that just may lead to the opportunity for you to make a sale.
You know what problem I have realized? A lot of us suck at making the most of the conferences and events that we attend. I recently went to my first conference this March and I realized after the event that the little prep-work I did wasn’t enough. I had done some research and listened to a great podcast from Jayson Gaignard called “Community Made,” and it was Episode 3 of Season 2: An Event Networking Guide. It had great content and info but I wish I would have done a better job applying it.
With my first conference down, and my first set of mistakes behind me, I plan on sharing this adventure of going to conferences with you in hopes that it can help us all make the most of these investments. Since putting all of the thoughts down would make for a rather wordy post, I am splitting this up into three parts: prep-work, event, post-event. Now, lets talk about the prep-work. (You can watch the video breakdown here)
The most time consuming and yet rewarding part of the prep-work is going to be doing some research on who is attending the event that you think would make for a great connection. Some conferences, like the one I attended, will send out an attendees list while others don’t. If they don’t send out a list, see if they have a hashtag they are using for that event that could possibly be used to find some folks who are attending. However you end up discovering who is attending, I would encourage you to take the time and find 5-10 folks that you think would be interesting to meet. The next step is to do a little LinkedIn search on them to find out a little more about them and their company. Once you have some general info, I would recommend whittling that list down to the top 3-5 folks you will seek out to meet. If you were able to find them on LinkedIn, their profile more than likely has a picture and now you know who to look out for. This next part is crucial and is something I botched with this conference. Once you have that list of 3-5, send out a message or a connect via LinkedIn, or if you have an email, reach out via email. Just give a brief non creepy / no pressure message saying that you will be attending the conference and would love to see if you can’t meet up for five minutes. Seriously, don’t make this wordy, and don’t make this a big commitment. Make sure in the message you give them an out. Once you have done your research and your messages are sent, it’s time to think about the next prep step… pre-planning for the morning of the conference.
You want to remove as much negative stress as possible for the day(s) of the conference and a big way to do that is to figure out how you want that first day go. You want to make sure that you pick out your clothes a day in advance, maybe even get a nice up-doo if thats your thing, and even put your business cards in an area where you won’t forget to take them. Side story, I forgot mine and had to turn around and get them. Having your clothes laid out the day before takes that stress of what to wear off of your mind and it gives you a chance to visually see how much of a #boss you are going to look like. Remember, when you look good, you feel good.
Now that we have our outfit picked out, and your cards in a memorable spot, there are two last pieces of advice for the morning. Get a mini workout in. I know, I know, you don’t work out… like ever. I am not suggesting that you go run a half marathon or pump some iron for an hour, what I am asking you to try is to go on a brief ten minute walk, maybe do a push up or crunch, and eat a healthy breakfast. What this does is get endorphins flowing through your body and it gives you eustress, the good kind of stress, and gets you ready for what will most likely be a day full of a little bit of anxiety and stress because you are in a room of hundreds of strangers.
Now, the very last bit of advice is this, leave in plenty of time to get to the conference early. You don’t want to throw away all the positive affects of your prep-work because you decided to give yourself 20 minutes for a 19 minute drive. Please, do yourself a favor and leave early.
I did some of these steps well and others I completely bombed, but what I know now is that if I put all of these together, it will set me up for an even better ROI for attending future conferences.
What prep steps do you take to crush the conferences you attend?