In B2B sales, what we are most interested in is moving our customers down the sales funnel and through the customer journey as fast and seamlessly as possible. For companies we work with at Growthanomics, events are a chance to hop through a few of the stages in a sales funnel – and we are constantly on the hunt to crack and hack these events and turn them into unique growth engines.
And that’s why whenever someone at our booth hands out a business card I get the shivers.
Looking for your fit?
The Weakest Link
When we give out a business card to a new prospect, like a new contact we meet at a conference, it’s like showing them a banner ad on a relevant web page. We are relying on them to reach out and be proactive and take steps (like calling or emailing) that may take anywhere from a day to a month to never. You want them at the next stage of the journey, use this engagement to bring them there yourself.
I haven’t used businesses cards in years. Do I really want to put my trust in the hands of someone else to remember me and the context of our encounter, to reach out, and to connect, getting as proactive as inquiring about the topics we discussed or setting up a meeting? Do I really need this added stress in my life? Additionally, why would I want to end up at the end of an event with a stack of business cards that I then need to sort through and contact individually? No thanks – I’d rather get the job done on the spot and head for the end of day cocktails.
Down with Business Cards, Up with…What?
So now you know why I don’t abide by business cards. But what’s the alternative?
Conversion #1: Play it social
Here’s what I do: When I meet someone at a conference that I would like to further engage with, they almost always ask me for a business card. Saying I don’t have a business card sounds kind of unprofessional, so I tell people that I’m going for green and paperless (damn hippies). And you know what? It works!
Alternatively, I offer a fun and immediate alternative. Right on the spot, I open up my LinkedIn account and connect with them then and there. I’ll also spend a few minutes showing interest in their profile, look for and find any common interests we share, and use these to launch more conversation.
BAM! We’ve made a true connection; they have a way of getting in touch with me (that’s easier and more direct than a business card format) and looking into me further; and I have a way of reaching out to them directly
Simply put, it’s the face-to-face communication that builds a connection instantly. And you know what? When I do it (take an interest, look into them, reach out, spend time), they do it as well. That automatically moves someone along the customer journey from possible lead to awareness and maybe even interest. Conversion #1, check.
Conversion #2: Keep the Ball Rolling
Now we’ve built our initial connection on LinkedIn, but we want to get our lead into the pipeline. So, I offer: “How about I just shoot you an email so you have me in your inbox”? I open my inbox, and shoot them an email based on our conversation. I add two sentences that would remind them of me and the reason they wanted to connect in the first place. It takes a few seconds, but it’s a way more personalized sales touch point, and spot on in timing than a generic salesy email sent out by your marketing team. And BOOM! That’s Conversion #2.
Since the potential customer has already had a few personal interactions with me, I’ve laid the groundwork for growth. In order to move them to the next step of the customer journey, all I need to do is follow up in an email. And yet, I still need to rely on their inbox settings or spam filters and their habits of reading, responding, or showing any interest in a service or product, leaving me feeling totally out of control – and we’ve already covered my views on that, right?
So, if we are already talking maybe there is another alternative and one that is a lot more likely to yield positive results?
Conversion #3: Securing the Touch Point of Intent
Now if you want to go for the gold and are willing to test your lead’s intentions, what you can do is actually offer and schedule your follow up call with an agenda that is relevant to the interest they expressed and can’t resist.
Consider the immediate benefits of scheduling a call with someone whose job it is to help customers with the same challenges that your new contact is facing (i.e. customer success), or to connect them with one of your analysts or strategists to help this potential client map out and plan their next steps. This kind of direct move will be a welcome step towards the next step of your mutual journey with the lead. Aim for engagements that are not directly linked to your product, unless the contact explicitly expressed an interest to learn more. And BAAM. You’ve now hit Conversion #3. (FYI, this step places you way down the middle of the sales funnel – interest ++. You’re already at the phase of interest and maybe even intent. Good job!)
Sure, we live in a digital era, and automation and engagement tools are amazingly powerful sales tools you don’t want to ignore. And yet, when a good old face-to-face, shake some hands, experience comes along, real-life tactics can help you convert a few digital journey steps in a just a few minutes. Conversions that digitally could take weeks. So, next time you’re facing your potential customer, use your precious minutes together to create a memorable journey that will nurture them right into one of the lower stages of your sales funnel, and with higher chances to convert to a signed deal.