Last week I posted Part 1 of Sales Hacks for Startups where I covered how to Catch People at the Right Time. This week we’re digging into Conferences and Events. To give some context to how we think about sales at Parse.ly, I’m reproducing the introduction to the series below. If you’ve already read Part 1 then feel free to skip the My Perspective section.
One of the hardest things, arguably, to do at a startup is to sell. And selling isn’t limited to just trying to convince someone to pay you money for your product; it’s a pretty big umbrella. The concept of selling includes convincing talented folks to join your company, bringing on investors that believe in your company, partnering with other companies to get an edge up in the market, and, yes, getting people to pay you for your product. And even when you just limit it to the latter you still are encompassing a lot of variables. Is it B2C? B2B? Freemium? Rev Share?
So before we get into the details of hacks that I’ve found or heard of, let’s limit the scope of what I’ll be discussing here. Over the past three years my company, Parse.ly, grew into a data and analytics platform for the web’s best publishers. Though we work with some smaller publishers, the majority of our client base includes the biggest producers of content on the web. For the most part this means that we’re dealing with B2B direct sales focused on large companies and large contracts. That said a lot of the hacks that are discussed in this series of posts can be applied to other areas of sales or startups in general. The point of the series is to showcase tools and strategies that startups with small (or nonexistent) sales teams can leverage to sell into the biggest companies (or investors) out there.
There are three parts to this series that focus on the intersection of important areas of the sales process and opportunity to “hack.” The three are: Catching People at the Right Time, Conferences and Events, Staying Persistent.
Let’s get started with part 2…
Conferences and Events
There’s a reason why companies, both big and small, spend time and money on conferences and events: they drive sales. However, as an early stage company, you can’t afford to spend too much time here. Mainly, because attending events can easily become a rabbit hole that doesn’t always produce the ROI that you’d expect. The key to success with events is knowing which ones to go to, doing your homework before you attend, and participating in events even if you don’t attend. There are three hacks that we use at Parse.ly to accomplish all three of the tasks above.
- Knowing Which Conferences to Attend – There are thousands of conferences across the globe that are relevant to your company and you could most likely attend, but does that mean you should? The best ROI we’ve seen for conferences are when we know that there are people that are attending that we’d like to connect with or if someone from our company is presenting. Sifting through the thousands of relevant events are daunting, to say the least, so how can you find the best ones for you? Enter Lanyrd. Lanyrd leverages your existing social networks to figure out what events your colleagues and peers are attending. It then gives you a breakout of the most relevant conferences given your connections. The prerequisite here is that you are already connected to individuals you’d like to meet at the event, but that’s as simple as a twitter follow.
- Doing Your Homework Before You Attend – Though Lanyrd helps in letting you know what conferences to attend, you really need to do your homework before you get to the event. This includes looking through an attendee list (or building one through twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook) to prioritize who you want to meet. Again, this can be a time intensive task that you most likely don’t want to have someone doing at your company. Instead, you can use the awesome services of FancyHands to help you on the research and data entry task here. FancyHands is cheap, quick and super effective at tasks like this. You can send them the list or create Google Doc for them to enter data into. From there tell them what data you need (i.e. Person, Company, Title, Industry, etc.), and BAM, you now have a sortable spreadsheet to build a plan of attack for the event. FancyHands can do a slew of other things as well, but a task like this should help you get your homework done!
- Participating in Events Remotely – Just because you’re not at the event doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the conversation and build strong sales relationships. Here’s what our Sales Director, John Levitt, suggests for remote participation. “Most conferences and events will have an official hashtag where people at the event will live-tweet and generally discuss what’s happening. Even if you’re not at the event, this is a clear opportunity to contribute to the discussion and get some visibility for your brand. We’ve seen many quality leads come through our door by tweeting from the @parsely account during events. Since Twitter allows you to see a list of all people that have posted to the specific hashtag, you can also use this as a lead gen opportunity. Find a relevant discussion and contribute something meaningful to further the conversation. It may or may not relate to the product you’re trying to sell, but you’re not directly selling at this point as much as you’re creating an opportunity to build a relationship. After a few tweets back and forth, suggest meeting for coffee at some point where you can talk more in depth. If accepted, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to build a personal relationship and get the sale!”
How do you handle events and conferences? Are there hacks that you use that aren’t listed above? Let me know in the comments happy sailing!