Kids are back in school and convention travel season is here. Some of you will eagerly wipe the dust from your roller bag and some will beg their boss to send the new guy. However, regardless of your emotional state, Datalliance’s Industrial Sales Director, Tom Hoar, has some tips to make you look like a real pro at your next trade show or buying group meeting.
Tom, you’ve been traveling for business for more than 20 years, and we hear you have come up with some helpful advice for seasoned and new-to-the-road travelers.
Yes, but I can’t take all the credit. I did come up with some of the tips but others are tried and true. However, I think the mix of techniques - old school and new school - keeps business travel refreshing.
Well don’t keep us waiting. Lay them on us!
Okay. Without a doubt, the number one, must-have is a 10-second elevator speech and you must practice it. You might think that you can deliver an elevator speech, but until you can say it aloud, you don’t have one. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in front of a coworker. Practice in front of your family. You should always be adding, deleting, tailoring, and practicing.
Why is it important to “be adding, deleting, tailoring, and practicing” your speech?
No company stays the same. Brands, goals, services, value propositions - they all change over time. It’s important your message matches your company’s. As far as practice, besides being smoother, you might discover your message is mired in jargon and acronyms. If someone outside of your industry can’t understand what your company does, keep working on it until they can.
What other tips do you have?
Meeting prep is critical and it includes a lot of different items. First, make sure your LinkedIn profile has a recent, professional-looking headshot. And your LinkedIn profile should have your current job title and responsibilities. Second, request the attendee list and reach out to a few targeted prospects before the show. Whether it is email, a phone call, or even a text message, it can make a difference in setting a meeting or accomplishing your objectives at an event.
Why do you recommend updating your LinkedIn profile?
If a prospective buyer is conducting research on software – in my case, vendor managed inventory – I know my name is going to show as a result. I want that buyer calling me. Plus, if I meet someone at a show, I want them to be able to find me on LinkedIn and see if we share any connections. A recommendation from a mutual acquaintance can make the selling process a lot easier.
That’s some quality advice. What are some of the other preparations you do?
So, the next thing I always recommend is to carry a light laptop bag and make sure it is stocked with your computer, tablet, electronic chargers, a pen, a pocket-sized notebook, and mints. You never know when an emergency back at the office will need your attention or when inspiration will strike.
You mentioned paper and pen, are you a traditionalist?
I don’t mind technology but even if you love your electronic devices, you should always carry a pen and pocket-size notepad. Sometimes it’s easier – and less distracting (to others) – to just write something down. Plus, it’s nice to be able to sketch out ideas.
That makes sense. What kind of goals do you set for yourself when you are at a conference?
For each conference, I try to learn something new and meet 10 people every day. And when I say something new, it can be a process or technology. Anything that I can do or experience to help my customers, I am going to do it.
Do you always accomplish what you set out to do?
I wish. But I have found that if I am specific as to what I want to do, I know what actions I must take to make it happen. It gives me a clear sense of purpose.
Earlier you mentioned customers. Do you meet with them at shows?
Well, to be honest, I sometimes travel to a show just to meet with a customer. However, it’s not always about selling. I might be trying to introduce my customer to people I know. Or even the opposite. And sometimes it is to help my customers improve their program with Datalliance because their needs have changed. But I always know what I want to do before I leave for the show.
That’s good advice. We’ve heard that you also have some non-traditional tips.
Yeah, I probably do. What have you heard?
A few things. Something about city facts, Starbucks and helping others.
There are only so many cities that conventions travel to – places like Chicago, San Diego, Las Vegas, Orlando, Rome, Hanover and a couple of others. Many conference attendees have been to these cities several times. To make small talk I always try to know a couple of weird stats about the city.
Ooh. Tell us one!
Okay. Um, Walt Disney World is so large that you can fit the entire city of San Francisco inside it.
Really? That’s crazy.
Yeah, it’s just something different that you can use in conversation. Another thing that I like to do is wake up early and head down to the hotel Starbucks. From about 6:00 a.m. to 7:45 a.m., I can catch up on work, meet with several friends who are also attending the conference or sometimes I just try to meet people.
That is a good tip. Now, what about helping others?
When you meet someone at a conference and you know that your service is not right for them, you can still bring value by asking what their goals are for the conference. Earlier I talked about how small of a world it is and you can open a lot of doors by attempting to bring value to someone else. And I think it sends some good karma or vibrations into the world. No reason not to be friendly…
We might have to add Director of Good Vibes to your title.
[Laughs] I would be honored. In all seriousness, I think it is important to help people. For a lot of show attendees, it can be intimidating to have several hundred people try to sell you something. For instance, the “dreaded welcome reception.” You’re supposed to meet people but you also know everyone in the crowd is trying to get you to buy their product. That’s why I keep it fun at a reception. I extend my hand, introduce myself, talk for 15 minutes, get a business card and move to another person. Oh, and get there early so you don’t spend the entire time in line for a drink!
We’re running out of time so give us three more tips.
Okay. If the show has an app, download it. It’s a treasure trove of contact information and the schedule makes it easy to plan your day. Next, these shows take place in windowless caverns. Get outside and take a walk to refresh and recharge the batteries. Oh, and try to eat one night at the hotel restaurant. You save so much time and it reduces stress as compared to eating off property. Finally, don’t forget to document all the people that you meet and key takeaways. This will help you determine if it is worth your time and your company’s money to attend next year.
You cheated. That was more than three.
Hey now. When you have 20 years under your belt, you get a lot of knowledge. I just hope our readers find it useful.
We’re sure they will. If someone wants to reach out to you and discuss vendor managed inventory, what’s the best way to reach out to you?
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org– or they can find me on LinkedIn.
More about Tom
Tom Hoar is a Director at Datalliance. Tom has transformed how the industry views VMI by helping 29 electrical manufacturers and 160-plus electrical distributors leverage the value of the VMI process. Hoar is currently expanding the geography of VMI by educating suppliers and distributors in Europe on the process. He consistently attends industry events encompassing the datacom, electrical and utility segments.