I attended a procurement conference in DC last week. It was a content driven, thought leadership, focused event attended by 290 motivated supply chain professionals. Because I was attending this event as a supplier, my focus was to meet as many valuable contacts as possible and find companies looking to outsource their print buying. Most people consider me an extrovert, but the thought of having to network with people that may be hesitant to do business can cause even the most vivacious, outgoing woman to have turtle-like symptoms. How should I introduce myself? What questions should I ask? What’s appropriate to say and not say (no hard selling)? How do I come across as a resource instead of a sales person?
5:30 Tuesday morning: I’d finished my workout at the gym and Roger Blumberg (V.P. of Business Strategy at SynerTrade) approached me. He told me that he recognized me from Monday’s registration and wanted to meet me. Roger said, “I have not heard of your company.” He wanted to know more about our business model and value proposition. He asked about our sales and marketing strategy and how we were meeting decision makers. I discussed some of our challenges and he offered to mentor me. Roger said, “When I was younger, someone helped me. It was the turning point in my career.” He advised me to seek an ambassador for each conference I attend. He offered to serve as my ambassador for the week. I accepted his offer.
I’ve been advised by mentors, coaches, role models and my amazing parents, but I’ve never sought the help of a conference ambassador. It makes perfect sense, though. The best way to gain trust and get a meeting with a decision maker is through a referral. Having someone else recommend me gives this tall blonde instant credibility.
Each morning Roger and I met in the lobby at 7:25, and we marched off to breakfast. Breakfast quickly became the most important meal of the day. And it had nothing to do with nutrition or my delicious yogurt parfait. It was about Roger helping me make connections. He knows a lot of people.
Here’s how he helped:
He discussed my print service capabilities to the appropriate potential buyers.
He showed how our print management model service might be of interest to each prospect. I didn’t have to try and sell my product. He was doing it for me.
In some cases, he asked the prospect if I could reach out to them. Because Roger is highly respected, all the responses were affirmative.
He was able to arrange several meetings (phone or otherwise) with prospects.
He made sure we breakfasted with at least one prospect.
He encouraged me to write notes that included relevant information about each person I met and the company they represented. This will help me be better prepared for future meetings.
Dinners with my ambassador were beneficial too: I spent the evenings walking with Roger. He gave me insight on each person, their company and who I should and should not reach out to. Introductions followed.
I’ve attended a lot of conferences. I’ve met a lot of people. Never have I made better connections. I owe this to my Ambassador Roger Blumberg. He did the selling for me.
How does one find an ambassador? I have no clue. I lucked into finding mine. Perhaps that will be the focus of a future article. But I humbly suggest that you try to find your perfect conference ambassador. Here’s my first attempt:
“My name is Sarah Scudder. I am attending a marketing services procurement conference in April. Would you like to be my ambassador?”
“Seek, and ye shall find.” (Matthew 7.7)
This article first appeared in the Print+Promo publication.