How to Generate Leads by Attending Tradeshow Conferences
I recently spoke with a San Diego based coach, Jack Cohen, who shared some of the details of his approach for generating leads by attending tradeshows. As he spoke, I furiously took notes and I thought I would share them with you.
He is a business coach, mostly for tech companies, and obviously the approach works for him but just about any coach could benefit.
Cut through the noise and get face-to-face with prospects
It’s great to have a website, a newsletter, and all that jazz but at the end of the day, the most effective strategy for selling coaching is to get people to experience coaching. How do you do that? You need to talk to people. The strategy is dead simple and yet, the execution of it can be difficult.
Think about how scarce your ideal client’s attention is. No matter who you’re trying to reach with your marketing, odds are they are inundated with marketing messages all day, every day. They probably get 50+ emails per day, see thousands of advertisements each week, and screen their phone calls to avoid unsolicited pitches from all kinds of service provides.
If you ever cut through the noise and get a response, it may take you weeks to finally have a conversation with your prospect. Therefore, any strategy that puts you in direct face-to-face communication with a prospect right away is gold. And that’s just what Jack’s strategy does.
Instead of sending emails, talking to admin assistants, making cold calls and generally hustling to get through the many layers of outreach, Jack goes right to the source by talking to his ideal clients (tech company CEOs or VPs) at tradeshow conferences.
How to connect with prospects at tradeshow conferences
If you’ve ever been to a conference or tradeshow, you know how overwhelming it can be. There is so much to see and learn and without a focused strategy, you can easily scatter your attention and results.
To solve that problem, here’s Jack’s approach to connecting with prospects at a tradeshow:
Before the event:
Find a tradeshow that your ideal clients attend. For him, it’s tech tradeshows. To his benefit, there are quite a few of those.
Review a list of presenters and vendors and highlight 10 to 25 companies or individuals that you would want to work with. For Jack, he looks for relatively new, up and coming companies that are experiencing hypergrowth and the associated growing pains.
Pre-schedule appointments with prospects. Depending on the tradeshow that you are planning to attend, you may be able to schedule appointments with specific companies or individuals ahead of time. If the tradeshow that you are attending doesn’t facilitate appointment scheduling, they will likely provide you with contact information of the vendors and speakers and you can try to schedule appointments with them directly.
At the event:
Plan your day for maximium impact. Assuming that you are not able to schedule appointments with everyone that you want to meet at the tradeshow conference, you need to plan your day so you don’t end up following every shining objects that passes through your field of vision. Instead, map out who you’re likely to see and where. Know when the tradeshow floor is open. Know where your prospects have booths. Know where and when the speakers are presenting and plan your day accordingly.
Have an impactful conversation. Your prospects are going to talk to hundreds of people throughout the day so you need to be memorable. More on this in the next section.
After the event:
Follow-up. Assuming you’ve made an impact, now you need to follow-up. You are no longer a perfect stranger so the prospect is far more likely to answer the phone or reply to your email.
How to leave a lasting impression in 5 minutes or less
Jack told me a story about one of his prospects. He was the CEO of a tech company that helps realtors get leads in real-time when prospects are looking at a house. They were proud of their technology and their banner said something like Artificial Intelligence for Realtors.
So Jack introduced himself and said to the CEO “I think you’re scaring your customers away.” It got the CEO’s attention. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
CEO: “Why’s that?”
Jack: “Because I can see realtors walking by and getting intimidated by the term Artificial Intelligence. It sounds very technical and rather than ask a stupid question, they’ll just keep walking toward the next booth.”
Jack: “Here’s my card. Give me a call. I’ve got 25+ years in tech sales. Let’s talk more to see how I might be able to help you reach your audience better. If you want, I can schedule a time right now.”
Boom. Connection made.
Obviously there’s an element of consulting or mentorship in Jack’s coaching arsenal. That’s why he introduces himself by mentioning his 25+ years in tech sales. He doesn’t emphasize the fact that he’s a coach. But there are other key principles that you should keep in mind.
Be assertive, not arrogant
When you meet someone for the first time, you want to demonstrate confidence but you don’t want to come across as a know-it-all jerk. To solve that problem, I think the best advice is to ground yourself. In Coach Marketing Bootcamp, we emphasize the importance of having an agenda for delivering free consultations, including a few minutes of prep time. That might mean clearing off your desk, doing a brief breathing exercise, closing your eyes and doing a visualization, or pumping yourself up in front of the mirror. Apply the same principle to meeting prospects. Obviously you won’t have a desk to clear off while at a tradeshow but you can still take a few moments to get grounded in who you are and shine on.
Emphasize the benefits and outcomes
Some of the most successful coaches that I’ve spoken to don’t talk about coaching with their clients. Instead they emphasize the outcomes clients get from the experience. They talk about busting limiting beliefs, overcoming fears, or getting crazy productive. The fact that they use a coach approach is secondary in the conversation. It’s the difference between “Hi I’m a life coach” vs “Hi, I help people get crazy productive.” When you introducing yourself as a life coach, only a small percentage of the population will know what that means. So don’t bother and instead talk about the benefits and outcomes.
Speak their language
In a webinar we hosted with branding expert Liz Goodgold, she shared the importance of introducing yourself in a way that 1) grabs your prospect’s attention and 2) stimulates a dialogue dance between you and the prospect. What that means is that you want to introduce yourself in a way that the other person understands what you’re saying and can ask a follow-up question. The last thing you want to do is alienate people by saying something weird like “Hi I’m an ontological relationship systems coach.” People don’t know how to respond to that. Instead if you talk to them about something that is relevant to them, you’re more likely to hit it off. If your prospect is an entrepreneur, talk about increasing ROI, getting more prospects, or building a stronger team. If you’re talking to an athlete, talk about staying healthy, eating right, building a winning attitude, etc… Talk in your client’s vernacular.
So there you have it. A solid strategy for getting clients at tradeshows.
One final piece of advice. The first time you go to a conference, you may not generate earth shattering results. Like anything, practice makes perfect so adopt the success mindset of attending more than one tradeshow before assessing its value to you.
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