This post was originally published on Attend by Event Farm's blog and was written by Pia Heilmann.
The discussion around events usually revolves around the marketing team. It makes sense—marketing typically plans events, and the events come out of marketing's budget. But when the ultimate goal of a marketing event is to create and accelerate sales pipeline, it’s important to look at events form a sales perspective as well. The more involved a sales team becomes in planning an event, the greater the ROI typically becomes.
So what’s the issue? The problem is that many sales teams don’t have a good process for handling events—keep reading to learn our best advice for how to go about changing this.
BEFORE THE EVENT
Sales and marketing alignment
The first step in improving a sales team's event strategy is to make sure they're aligned with the marketing team. Most sales and marketing teams understand that this alignment is important, but it’s often easier said than done.
To start, it's helpful if the sales team generates some ideas for events that will help move the revenue needle. Sales should identify the accounts and contacts (both prospects and customers!) that would benefit from event engagement and determine good cities for those events. They should also consider the various stages of pipeline in those areas—are there certain locations that would benefit more from an event geared toward thought leadership? Or are the opportunities in this location nearing close, in which case they would benefit more from an intimate dinner with both prospective and existing customers?
Events are extremely effective for pipeline acceleration. And even when they lengthen the sales cycle, they also tend to increase the deal size. So, if your sales team can generate some ideas about how to target specific prospects and locations in order to accelerate pipeline and drive revenue, they can then take those ideas to your marketing as a springboard for planning the event or series of events.
Another thing not to overlook is looping in customer success. Events aren’t just about new business; they can help with renewals and upsells for existing customers. Having your happy customers at an event is also a great way to advocate for your product in a non-threatening way.
Communicate expectations for reps
Reps often get sent to events without clear goals and expectations, which will not produce effective results. It’s important to clearly define the purpose of the event and the desired outcome, and to outline exactly what reps are expected to do before, during, and after the event well before the event takes place.
Similar to the approach taken in setting quotas, set goals for reps around registration numbers, attendance numbers, and engagement at the event itself. Beyond their day-to-day activity, it helps to incentivize reps with contests and compensation for hitting these goals. Some examples include getting the most registrations, logging the most notes on on-site conversations, creating the most opportunities sourced from an event, and setting the most follow-up meetings.
Invitation best practices
Even though it usually falls solely on marketing to drive attendance, it's often more successful if the sales and customer success teams are brought in to help fill the room as well. Sales and customer success generally own the relationships with accounts, and leveraging those existing relationships with personalized invitations will help you get more of the right people in the room. People also (generally) feel more inclined to attend if they’ve personally responded to a phone call or email, as opposed to just filling out a standardized form.
When it comes time for the event, we've seen success with sending only the reps that have driven the most registration. There’s a greater sense of ownership which also drives their excitement and accountability on-site. Using technology to track individual contributions makes this kind of thing easier for both teams, too. For example, you could use unique URLs to track which reps are driving registrations, and apps like Attend's can help you track which rep has engaged with the most attendees on-site.
One of the most important things to do before an event is to identify who needs to connect with whom, which we call engagement mapping. On the most basic level, this means assigning every rep a specific group of prospects and customers with whom they will engaged on-site.
To get even more out of engagement mapping, it helps to think about which attendees would benefit from connecting with each other. For example, a prospect may be interested in chatting with customer to hear about their experience working with your company, or there might be an attendee you want to introduce to your marketing team in order to facilitate a guest blog post.
Do you want more tips about how to align your marketing and sales teams while planning an event? Check out our webinar, Supercharing Sales and Marketing Alignment at Events, now on-demand.
DURING THE EVENT
Execute on engagement mapping
If you’ve done a good job planning and set clear expectations for your team, this should be easy. The key is for your reps to prioritize their most important attendees and make sure they spend the most time on the accounts with the greatest potential impact.
Make sure your reps don’t get stuck talking to a chatty customer they closed last month when they have people from accounts they are trying to close this month. Have a “bump and exit” strategy for getting your team members out of conversations that are carrying on too long.
The biggest (and likely also most common) mistake among sales reps is that they tend to cluster together at events. When you work for a start-up and are wearing your company’s T-shirt, it becomes obvious to everyone in attendance what's going on. With clearly communicated expectations and engagement mapping, this should be less common, but it can still happen. If you see reps chatting with each other without attendees, break them up and send them to find one of their prospects.
Keep track of interactions
Another key aspect of the on-site experience is keeping track of the conversations that sales reps have with prospects. Scribbling notes on the back of a business card to enter into your CRM later isn’t an effective or scalable strategy.
Research on the forgetting curve shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50% of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they will have forgotten an average of 70% of new information, and within a week, they will have forgotten 90%. Would you want your reps to hold off on writing notes into the CRM during a phone conversation or demo? No! So don't allow this to happen at an event, either.
AFTER THE EVENT
Quick, personalized follow-up
For sales, the most important thing that needs to happen after an event is personalized follow-up from reps. The timing of the follow-up will depend on the type of event, but in many cases within one business day is ideal.
Marketing should send a general follow-up email with info like a slide deck, recap, photos, etc. Make sure your reps see this email so they don’t send the same info in their personal follow-up.
It’s important to have a specific process outlining exactly who will be following up with which attendees and what they should include in their outreach. If any event follow-up will come from reps who weren’t at the event, make sure that the handoff process between the different reps is seamless.
Tracking event success
Have a post-event meeting with your reps and the marketing team to go over what went well and what didn’t—it'll help when you're planning future events. And becaue your event was focused on pipeline, sales needs to take an active part in tracking it's success.
Some key metrics you'll want to track are how the event impacts pipeline with new opportunities, the length of the sales cycle of deals stemming from the event, and the close rate. If you want marketing to host more events to help you close business, you need to help them prove the value to increase the size and scale of your event strategy.
Following this plan will ensure that your sales team is ready take full advantage of your next event, and optimizing your event strategy for sales will ultimately help both sales and marketing by driving more opportunities and revenue.
Do you want more tips for how to better align your marketing and sales teams at events? Watch our webinar, Supercharging Sales and Marketing Alignment at Events, on-demand now.