Recently, during a meeting with a client (who shall remain nameless) it became evident that a business with which they have worked for 14 years had never been to visit them in their own space. This dumfounded me.
As an industry, face to face engagement is what we sell. We spend our lives trying to convince people of the benefits of face to face engagement rather than a relationship based on emails and phone calls. If this business worked in our industry then how could they be so blind as to think that a relationship that is solely based over email and the phone is the most productive and profitable way to go about their dealings.
How can we, as an industry sell exhibition space and the promise of benefits that this experience will provide to exhibitors if we are not willing to live by the simplest of these rules ourselves?
For example, in the last 15 months I have been to Stockholm (FAM Trip), Mexico City (Ufi Conference), Las Vegas twice (IMEX), Russia (UFI Global Congress), plus Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Spain (again), Germany and Holland on client meetings, all this whilst servicing my clients in the UK to ensure they get my 100% focus when I am working on their behalf. It is part and parcel of what we do and something that has to be understood by people getting into the industry.
This industry is truly international and so if going to the other side of the world for 3 days of hard work isn’t your thing then you’re better off doing something else. Planes, hotels and hard work are par for the course, but there is a reason why people stick in this industry, there are plenty of great benefits. The work hard nature of the industry ensures that when it is time to enjoy an event we do it properly.
An organiser friend of mine once told me about going to Australia to see a show. He was in the country for such a short space of time (a matter of about 16 hours including airport time) that jet lag was never an issue. His body physically didn’t have the opportunity to realise it was in a different time zone. This is what you have to do to be a success and make your business successful in this industry.
One thing that is certain is that if you want to make a success of your business within the industry, be it organising shows or any other type of face to face engagement, you need to live by the rules that you’re impressing on your potential sponsors, exhibitors or attendees and engage them in exactly the same way. Hiding behind a phone or a keyboard, in the long term isn’t going to make you rich.
A large percentage of time in these meetings should be spent listening, letting the clients talk and so therefore letting them show off their goals and desires rather than trying to guide them through any kind of personal agenda. It is by listening that ideas start to form about how you could best help them, complimenting their plans with things that you have to offer. If you go in all guns blazing talking about how you can do this and that you ultimately turn clients off. It becomes about you rather than them. Let us not forget that these guys know you are there to sell them something, the sales people that will ultimately do well in the long run are those that listen to their clients needs and not push them down the road of products that they need to sell. It sounds simple but on so many occasions you hear people selling what they have to rather than what the client wants or what is best for their individual needs. Long term goals or short term wins…. I’ll let you decide.
The main point here is that in any industry, not just ours, face to face selling is hugely important. It builds trust and therefore allows a long term relationship to take shape.
Another thing I should mention is that every client, be it venue, supplier or organiser will claim that their levels of service are their USP. Everyone wants to believe that their service is the best that the industry has to offer. Some try harder than others but I think it is evident that to get a name for yourself as a purveyor of phenomenal customer service, you need to provide a 12 out of 10 service every time to every client. Clients have to be wowed to give a good review, even more so to talk about your business with real passion, therefore offering solid referrals that can make an actual difference to your business. 8 out of 10 is passive and these guys aren’t going to recommend you. That’s the cold hard truth of it so what are you actually doing to make yourselves stand out? And are you doing it or just idealising in the theory that you would do it if you could?
We all know in sales that you will face terribly poor objections from people who think what they’re saying is the first time it has ever been said, or, they are jumping on a bandwagon because they have heard someone else say something similar.
ROI is the big one at the minute, people are obsessed with proving ROI at events instantly and so use this as a way of saying no to attending. Some sales people have a ways of dealing with it that can be pretty sound, but when a potential exhibitor has something so stuck in their mind, without really understanding what they’re saying then sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. It must be remembered though, that more honest, open discussions will happen when face to face, and not over the phone.
The Event Collective