You’ve seen them. They look a bit out place. It’s obvious they don’t know their way around. They tend to remain close to the people with whom they arrived. Who are they? They’re the overlooked prospects at the trade show, conference or other networking event you’re attending—the first-timers.
The next time you're at a networking event and overhear salespeople complaining that they only meet the same people year in and year out, or find yourself making such a complaint, take some time to look around the room. Who looks lost? Which groups of people look too tightly knit to be people meeting for the first time? Who looks as though they want to have a conversation, but don’t know where to turn? Who simply looks unfamiliar?
First-timers or newcomers to an event are some of the easiest people to approach and engage. If you see someone looking at their trade show map or program of speakers or seminars, just offering to assist them in finding their way around can open the door to an opportunity. Trust isn’t the easiest thing to build, especially in the B2B space. By making yourself available and helpful to event first-timers, you can create a memorable experience and instill a level of trust that might otherwise take weeks or months of calls, e-mails and webinars to cultivate.
What’s the most important thing to remember about approaching event first-timers?
Don’t let them walk away without exchanging contact information. This might seem like obvious advice, but it’s worth considering. Think about it: How often have you asked yourself the name of some person you talked to for a few moments at some seminar or other? How often have you searched LinkedIn or company websites post-event in attempts to locate the contact information of event attendees with whom you connected? It should go without saying, but it's critical to make a point of offering your business card and gathering prospects’ business cards.
Also, take the time to record your personal observations. After you meet prospects, it may be worth your while to make written notes on the backs of business cards such as, “Has purchasing power,” “Key influencer,” or “High interest level.”
Alternatively, you may want to create a simple, efficient system for qualifying and scoring prospects based on your face-to-face interactions. Simply writing “1,” “2,” or “3” on the backs of business cards in an effort to record prospects’ interest levels or the value of a potential opportunity could prove very helpful to you during post-event follow-up campaigns.
Use a two-sided scanner or scan both sides of the cards so that your personal impressions and evaluations are recorded and can be easily integrated into your CRM system. Yes, some scanners, readers and apps will allow you to make typed notes, but at busy events, it can be easiest or more convenient to simply pen notes on business cards and then scan them later.
Have you been overlooking potentially valuable prospects at your sales or other events? Even if you have a back-to-back schedule of pre-set appointments or packed program of meetings to attend, chances are that you will be able to find opportunities to engage with event first-timers, however briefly. Don’t let these potentially valuable prospects and connections slip through your fingers! Making newcomers feel welcome at an event can be a powerful first step towards converting them into leads.