Digital is great. We love it. Who doesn’t love some Google Ads and some email list segmentation and some social media usage? It’s a great way to reach people and research prospects. It’s awesome!
But, the sheer fact is … you will never replace face-to-face interaction, especially in sales. We all know the “tea” on trade shows. They are usually generic, too much is going on, all the speakers say the same things, all the breakouts cover the same topics, at least one of your flights gets delayed, the coffee is terrible, etc. But we all still go to a few every year (maybe more than a few!) because the chance for face-to-face interaction with current clients or future prospects is too valuable.
But when you go, there’s a class of people you meet. Here’s a handy little guide.
The “Thought Leader:” Been an over-focus on “thought leadership” for much of the last five years, but if you’re considered a thought leader, this is a good way to make money for yourself, so this type of person still exists at events. Here’s what they will do: mention AI, predictive algorithms, machine learning, and a host of other concepts every time you meet them. This might be in a speech or at the conference happy hours. It doesn’t matter. Verbal diarrhea of buzzwords and future concepts. What’s funny is, they will often be speaking to people who haven’t figured out how to use their existing tech stack yet. You cannot speak 18,000 miles past your prospect. Thought leaders haven’t mastered this yet.
The Brute Force Seller: Also known as “The Business Card Slinger,” this person will appear in every conversation somewhere around the edges, then burst right into the middle and get to his/her offer in about 10 seconds. There is no nuance here. There is no attempt to build a relationship. This seller is coming in hot with the sale, and if it works 1 time out of 100, he has justified his approach.
The “I’m Using This As A Vacation” Guy: Walks the floor 2-3 times cautiously, approaches one or two prospects sheepishly, has a quick convo, leaves a business card, and then heads to the bar/restaurant and spends 5x the per diem. When he submits receipts to his company, a sales director says, “Whoa, that’s a big bar tab. Were you with prospects?” “Sure was!” Nope. That was 7 beers and a chicken dinner by himself.
The “Knows Everyone” Guy: Comes into various conversations and finds the longest-possible string to connect him to the participants in that conversation. “Oh, I think my daughter walked your cousin’s dog a few years back…” Gets his foot in the door via any means necessary, which is doable because he knows everyone!
The Relevance/So Busy Guy: Tells everyone all conference how busy he is. Keeps looking at his email on his phone and sighing. “Oh, just so many leads! So many current clients wanting to re-up! You know how it is!” In reality he is reading emails from his wife about buying laundry detergent, but the game is in the deception.
The Earnest Guy: Junior sales rep who has never been to many of these. Goes to every keynote and breakout and talks to every vendor, often with a notebook and a conference-given pen. Writes down everything they say. Takes perfect notes. Trying to learn. Has not yet been broken by the idea that this is all just a big networking play and the “learning” aspect hasn’t caught up yet.
The Veteran: Talks about what these shows were like in 1983. Bemoans technology and how things are changing. Talks periodically about having an index card system for 30, 60, and 90-day callbacks and how the modern CRM is “too much” and “hurting sales skills.” Drinks straight whiskey, often.
The Con: Selling the worst tech at the conference, but still making. Looks like a snake from afar, and you’d be right in that assessment. Slithers in, hisses about a value prop, gets a deal or lead, and slithers away. Three weeks later as the buyer tries to onboard people into the solution, it breaks every 60 seconds. The con cannot be reached. Voicemail is full.