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The discussion around events usually revolves around the marketing team. That makes sense because events typically get planned by marketing and 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 problem is that many sales teams don’t have a good process for handling events.

Before the event:

Sales and Marketing Alignment
The first step in improving your event strategy for sales is to align with your marketing team. Most sales and marketing teams understand that this alignment is important, but it’s often easier said than done.

It helps to go to marketing with ideas for events that will help the sales team move the needle. To start, identify the accounts and contacts (both prospects and customers!) that would benefit from event engagement. Use the data in your CRM to identify where they are located to help determine good cities for events. Also consider the various stages of pipeline in those areas–is this a location that would benefit more from thought leadership? Or are the opportunities in this location nearing close and would benefit more from an intimate dinner or roundtable with both prospective and existing customers?

Events are extremely effective for pipeline acceleration. Consider which contacts or accounts would benefit most from face time. We’ve actually found that events, at times, lengthen the sales cycle but also increase the deal size. Try to think about deals that are stuck or who may benefit from a different touch point to progress the deal forward.

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. It’s important to clearly define the purpose of the event and the desired outcome. Outline exactly what reps are expected to do before, during, and after the event well-before the event is taking 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, or setting the most follow-up meetings.

Invitations
While it often falls on marketing to drive attendance, we find far more success when sales and customer success are also responsible for filling the room. 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 as opposed to just filling out a form.

We’ve seen success with sending only the reps that have driven the most registration to the event. 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, InsightSquared’s sales teams uses unique urls to track which reps are driving registrations.

Engagement mapping
One of the most important things to do before an event is to identify who needs to connect with who, which we call engagement mapping. On the most basic level, this means assigning every prospect and customer who is registered for your event to a rep who will be 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 perhaps there are attendees you want to introduce to your marketing team to talk about writing a guest blog post or being interviewed.

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 going on too long. This could be someone from the marketing team or a sales–anyone who doesn’t own contacts that are at the event.

The biggest (and likely also most common) mistake amongst 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, this becomes even more egregious of a mistake! 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 event interactions
Another key aspect of the on-site experience is keeping track of the conversations that your team has. Scribbling notes on the back of a business card to enter into your CRM later isn’t an effective and scalable strategy.

Research on the forgetting curve shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, forgetting claims an average of 90 percent of it. 90%! Would you want your reps to hold off on writing notes into the CRM on a good conversation/demo? No! So why would you allow this with an event?!

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 that follow-up.

If any event follow-up will be coming from reps who weren’t at the event, make sure that the handoff process between different levels of reps is seamless.

Tracking event success
Have a post-event meeting with your reps to go over what went well and what didn’t. Make sure this feedback gets recording and reported to marketing to use to improve future events.

When your event goals are focused on pipeline, sales needs to be involved in tracking the success. You need a way to track how each event impacts pipeline with new opportunities, length of sales cycle, and 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.

Source: Pia Heilmann for Attend.com