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Event sales are critical to your event success. Here are 5 tried and tested methods for building your own effective organic database and event sales pipeline and selling more tickets for your events as a result.
Too many event professionals these days overlook the event sales process when planning their events, concentrating on operational elements and more often than not relying on paid databases that have very little impact and offer very low engagement. End result – low registration take up and higher attrition!
As event professionals and event managers we all know that every successful event is the result of tireless and timely planning and preparation. The same then applies when looking at the event sales process, and it’s vital that you give yourself the time to allow for clear headed decision making and preparation from the offset if you want to see the best results.
Your event sales should be a critical part of the strategic planning process before you even begin to look at the operational management. If you want to get your strategic event sales planning off to the best start by building a great pipeline, then follow these five key steps.
1. Consider Who Your Customers and Target Audience Are
Every event is, in effect, a little business, it has it’s own marketing and operational procedure to be followed, profit and loss account to manage, team to recruit and supply chain to manage. Therefore, the sales process for each of your events deserves the same level of attention as the overall business, and shouldn’t be an afterthought later down the planning process when the registrations aren’t looking so great.
It’s vital from the offset that you take the time to consider who your audience and demographic will be for your event, exactly the same as your overall business. Look at the content of your event and think carefully about who it’s going to appeal to? Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, if I were them would I really want to attend this event? Once you have a clear idea of your target audience then concentrate your efforts on this group of people, simple.
2. Take the Time to Do Your Research
This part is really important and the one thing that gets overlooked the most. Yes we are all incredibly busy but we’re also incredibly lucky to live in an age where we have access to a wide resource of information by way of the internet, and we can now add social media platforms to that resource.
It’s no longer necessary to spend hours working our way through printed business directories, unless you’re appearing on the apprentice, aimlessly calling those pesky receptionists trying to find out the best person we should contact, and then only to hear those demoralising words “sorry we operate a no-names policy”. You do however, need to allow yourself time to do effective research but it’s much easier these days than it used to be and you can also consider employing the services of an experienced researcher.
You’ve access to a wealth of company and contact information now, and better than we’ve ever had before due to the rise of digital. Websites that offer you information in regards to the brand, culture and overall objectives of a company. Linkedin that will tell you the key team members within companies that you need to target and also who they are connected to. Twitter that will give you an idea of the personality, likes and dislikes of those particular team members. I could go on but I hope you’re getting the idea at this stage.
Use this information to your advantage and think about how your customers brand and personality fits with yours. The more information you have to hand on a company, brand and individual, the more powerful this will make you when it comes to the negotiation stage and the more confident you will feel in your approach. It also gives you a head start in building long term relationships with your customers which are crucial in the events industry.
3. Build a Contact Database and Prospect List
After you’ve spent time collating all of the above lovely information you need somewhere to record it. There are a wide variety of online CRM or customer relationship management applications now that you can use to effectively manage your contacts and prospects. Insightly is one that springs to mind for those that do not have the funds or resources to implement a system such as salesforce and it’s one that I currently use. If you prefer to keep it simple and basic then a spreadsheet will work just fine, just as long as you record everything.
Keeping a record keeps you up to speed on the latest communications and how things are progressing, but more importantly if someone needs to step in to assist they will also have all of the above prized information at their fingertips when it comes to picking up the gauntlet.
Your database should have a record of the basic contact information such as name, job title, company name, website, direct dial telephone number (great to bypass those pesky receptionists) and email address, as well as those golden nuggets of information such as brand, culture, tone of communications, likes and dislikes, and should also be up to date and secure, password protected if necessary, depending on the seniority and sensitivity of your contacts.
Data security is critical, and it’s also important to bear in mind the data protection acts for your respective countries as this can differ, particular for the UK in comparison to the US.
4. Be Tactful but Tenacious, Follow the 333 Rule
This a great tip that I like to share and pass on the anyone relatively new to the event sales process. On average it will take you 8-9 initial contacts with a prospective customer before you get that longed for sale. However, if you bombard your prospects and contacts with emails and calls from the offset, particularly when you bear in mind how many professionals now receive on a daily basis, the likelihood of getting that sale are drastically reduced, therefore try what I call the ‘333’ approach instead.
Basically the idea here is that initially there should be a maximum of three communications to your new contact. This can be in the form of a phone call, an email, a Linkedin message or a face to face meeting, any form of communication and make sure you mix them up and keep them as personal as you can. If at the end of those three initial communications the lead is still cold and there’s no sign of a pending sale, then leave it three months before contacting them again.
After three months send another three communications and then if necessary repeat the process. The timeline can also be adapted to allow for shorter event lead times so can be changed from three months to three weeks, however it’s important to remember that we are allowing for plenty of preparation time, and particularly for paid events.
If you follow these steps then at the end of nine communications you should be walking away with a sale, however if not the likelihood that the customer will buy from you at this time is slim, so best to leave for now and rethink your approach for the next event.
I’m not saying don’t contact them again, as you’ll pick on buying signals throughout the above process that will tell you otherwise, sometimes it can be as simple as a “not right now”!
5. Think About Emotional Decision Factors and Sell the Why Rather than the What
This is so important when it comes to sales and marketing for events. More and more people are moving away from simply being sold to and from old school style campaigns and tactics.
Practise consultative and relationship selling, this means taking the time to really get to know your prospects needs and motivations and what’s important to them before you have even mentioned anything about your brand or event.
As we like to say in the event sales world, two ears and one mouth, listen first, listen some more, then listen more still before speaking about yourself, and always make sure that what you’re offering in return solves a business and professional need or problem they may be having.
People use logic to process the information they receive but it’s really emotions that drive our decision making and actions, and these in turn are driven by our desires and aspirations, such as needing to get ahead of the competition and look good in front of the boss, wanting to expand our network or profile in an industry, or as simple as wanting to be valued and important. Recognise these emotive factors and you’ll be one step ahead of the game.
I’ve followed the above for my event sales throughout most of my career and each year have seen a growth of between 10 and 50% for my efforts. For more information on pipeline sales I also recommend you have a read of 4 Funnel Stages for Killer Event Sales
The event sales process should begin even before you have confirmed your venue or started booking your speakers. It’s an important part of the strategic planning process. Building an effective event sales pipeline will start you on the right track to establishing stronger relationships, which in the people industry we operate in will only result in your attendees trusting you, your event and the value your event offers them even more. The more time you allow yourself to prepare for this and really get to know who your target audience and customers are then the more effective your event sales and marketing will be in the future.