Here are some tips & tricks for success when working the company booth at a conference. I'll be talking about some of the best ways to make good use of our company's dollar and your time.
Anatomy of a successful interaction
Inspirations - learn from the experts
- Consider doing something like a pre-sales engineer demo ride-along - they'll probably be willing to conference you in on a call and you can watch/hear their demo style to inspire your own.
- Read the marketing materials from our website - has some great verbiage on it. 20 minutes on the site will give you some new ways to say things you already know and help you put our products/pricing in perspective.
Identify your audience, and speak to their role & level (dev, ops, DBA, C-level).
- Are they just looking for swag? (key indicators: impatience, protective body language)? Try to give 'em one quickly, and move on to someone who is interested in our product.
- Are they existing customers? (if it's a group, take a show of hands) If it's a demo for one, it might make sense to navigate to their site and check it out if they don't mind others shoulder surfing. Try to highlight something useful that they're missing if they're using a version without all the features (e.g. free account). Up-selling and more importantly making sure that current customers understand the value of what they are getting now is probably at least as important than wowing prospective customers.
Pitching to win hearts and minds
Of course you don't need to "sell" if they know who we are, which is quite likely. So, once again, identify your audience as Step 0.
But if they need selling, start out with a soft-sell...
Next, show off what we're great at
- Where do you host your web projects now? What are your biggest concerns? Casual passers-by sometimes need to be shown that something is missing from their arsenal; that there is a better world than traditional web hosting.
- You're trying to be engaging (smile, make eye contact, stand non-confrontationally) and part of that is obvious interest and concern about solving this person's specific problem and addressing their interests.
Social graces are useful
- Some good bullet points to start with:
- We are a software as a service type solution (some might argue platform as a service, but whatever - TL;DR you don't need an operations team to use us.)
- We have a fully functional free tier to try before you buy.
- You can spin up a demo site in minutes.
- Stress how easy we are to use. Like, really really easy.
- Have a demo site loaded up already (Our www site is a good one as it is public and showcases a lot of feature usage - team config, analytics snippets, pull requests with Branch Deploys and Deploy Previews)
- Demos should include some narrative to keep them interesting: "This is something that would be hard to do in a traditional webhosting setup - look at last year's site layout to see what's changed!"
- Be professional, and approachable but have fun. Try to find something to be a bit self-deprecating about "we use a ton of redirects because we have changed how we layout the marketng site...more than a few times...and want old links to break."
- Don't forget that customers might see your desktop background, open applications, etc.
- Leverage your buddies - got a sales guy, a frontend developer, or the CTO hanging around? They're resources!
- "Our self-serve pricing is X and shown on our pricing page, but we have a lot of added value that is possible with a custom contract like better bandwidth/per-seat costs and fancy features."
- "Keiko here worked on the service that lets you transform images in real-time, not to distract from our other sponsor Cloudinary with a similar offering"
- "Funny you should ask about why the we built our own CDN. Our founder Matt here is the man who decided to start a company to bring the industry to the next level."
- Don't forget - you can recruit teammates as well as customers! These folks are our peers, treat with the same respect you'd like.
- This is a great opportunity to get insights about how customers and potential customers use our product and wish our product worked. Spend less time focusing on the shortcomings of our product (perceived or real), and more soliciting feedback, if the customer is opinionated and "our type".
- Don't hesitate to say "I don't know, but I can find out", take their card, and then follow up with the promised info.
Gotchas - it's easy not to screw up with some forethought
- If you plan to do a demo, this is most important: do a run-through without an audience, on the conference network, to make sure you've got a smooth presentation that explores substantial parts of the product.
- Try to wear some company logo-wear to look official-but not a t-shirt a customer would have--to keep from blending in with fanboys.
- Terminology is important. Make sure you include definitions of terms you have to use: "Our CDN serves static files, but dynamic content is possible with functions". It's best not to use Netlify-specific words like "ADN" unless you define them.
- Be ready to fess up to things that we doesn't do well - "We use other services like Zapier to handle some more complicated notification workflows; we integrate well and are a complement to some tools rather than a competitor."
- Be prepared to handle competitor rivalry productively - they might be around the corner, and people will certainly ask about what differentiates us. My response:
"I've never used their service, but understand that it is similar. In general our feature set is inspired by customer needs rather than by chasing our competition, but we fully believe that competition is healthy and drives innovation and we're thrilled to be part of a larger community."
- Be "on" and excited when you're in the booth - not eating, boozing, yawning, or checking email or your phone. Step away to do those things. Don't stop doing them, just do them elsewhere.
- If you are in deep conversation with a prospect in the booth, and another party comes up - MAKE EYE CONTACT - and when you can pause from breath, say, "Hi, thanks for waiting, one of us will be able to help you in just a moment. Of course, you are welcome to listen in!" You know, like the Apple Store does.
- Further, if you aren't interacting with a customer in the booth and it's busy, there are frequently folks hanging around just out of range of a demo waiting their turn-you can walk out and engage them.
- If you're at a domain specific conference (for instance: AWS Re:Invent) spend an hour or two researching the state of the art/exciting news, and figure out how we interact with it. "We deploy Lambda functions for you without you having to worry about routing or IAM security roles!"