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Observations from the Vendor Floor at Inbound 2018

October 2, 2018

The vendors did a terrible job. (As a whole.)

IMG_0377This is a marketing automation conference, and so many vendors bragged about their marketing automation integration – but I met:

  • Vendors collecting business cards, which lead to massive data entry mistakes and delays in responsiveness.
  • Vendors ignoring all inbound sales methodology, downloading all of everything into me before even asking basic segmentation questions to see if I’m a prospect.
  • Vendors giving away expensive promo items to people unlikely to become clients or referral partners.
  • Vendors staffing booths with people who didn’t know the product/service well. You don’t need to be a salesperson to make a great impression, but you must care about prospects. You have to show you want to be a service to the prospect and direct them to information that quickly and easily solves their problem. OR kick them out of the funnel fast – wasting time serves no one.


Know your audience

Remember who you’re dealing with and make yourself memorable for something remarkable you’re doing. I don’t care about your colored sneakers, funny suits, or silly giveaways – at least, I won’t be impressed by that if you skip the business development fundamentals.   

Understand who you’re talking to before the conference. Research your personas and what they want from your company. Know which personas are A & B prospects, which are potential strategic alliances, and which personas you want to eliminate ASAP. If you aren’t asking me qualifying questions early and often, replace your salesperson with a sales video.

I’m not saying I didn’t have any good conversations, because I had several good conversations with vendors.   

You can’t be all things to all people. Please don’t try. 

I met multiple vendors who professed expertise in all areas – which mostly convinced me they might be a jack of all trades but not that they fit my needs. I’ll also note that only one of them asked what my needs were before launching into sales pitches designed as if I’ve never worked with, let alone owned, an agency.

Always be a product of your product. If your product supports inbound-style marketing, SHOW ME YOU UNDERSTAND inbound-style marketing.

I met a vendor who shall remain nameless (mostly because I forgot their name – they were that unremarkable) of a super high-tech text messaging platform that wanted me to hand write all my information. They expect me to trust technology they don’t trust or use themselves? I was very interested until that happened. They could, based on the salesperson, easily have a text-based, personalized conversation right there at the booth. Instead, I walked away in disbelief at how little they understood how data management works.

Bottom line: if you don’t trust your product, why should I?

Be memorable

If you have people actively shopping at your booth, try to have a conversation. Set a meeting then and there, if possible. You’re rarely going to close business at the show, so set yourself up for a reasonable sale – selling me on the idea of giving you 30 minutes of my time later. 

At least five vendors I was interested in talking more with didn’t ask for my card. Didn’t ask for contact information. Didn’t set an appointment. How is that possible? It’s their job as salespeople to establish a list of follow-ups. If I have to chase your business down, I don’t need your product. I have 300 other priorities – I can’t and won’t care more about your service than you do. 

Have a plan for capturing and following up with leads

Conferences are exhausting. Yet I’m convinced at least 40% of the vendors I spoke with had no immediate plans for automated follow up. Are we supposed to waiting for the exhausted salespeople with hundreds of contacts to remember details, notes, etc.? No – that’s unrealistic. Sales always have to happen within the constraints of what is and isn’t possible for a person to do and remember. 

Technically speaking, salespeople are people, too. Plan for that.

Topics: INBOUND2018

Written by leadingresults

Leading Results helps businesses stop wasting money on marketing and improves their business development results by putting POWER in their marketing. The POWER is the Processes, Organizational Support, Why (you do what you do), Expertise and Refer-ability. You get strategy, tactics and execution. We work with both individual businesses and businesses as part of a larger ecosystem. Be more profitable.

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