Event Tech Strategy, Insights & Trends.

Win Over Your Boss by Thinking Like a Salesman

As a sales professional with a decade of efforts under my belt, I have come to the conclusion that many would-be buyers could benefit from some sales training.

In the meetings and events industry, event managers often come up with a great idea to improve a process at work.  They develop the idea, they go out and research vendors in the market, they find out if their company has money to spend and then they decide to buy something.  If only things were that easy.  Sadly, most of these great ideas never come to fruition because the buyer encounters an unexpected NO from a senior staff member in their organization.  And just like that the great idea is dead in the water.

A good sales professional understands that there are many people in a buying organization that can derail a purchase.  Event managers often forget that they are engaged in an internal sale.  This requires a certain level of sales skill as well as an understanding of the agendas or goals of senior staff members.  I’ve recently started interviewing senior executives to shed some light on what they think about meetings and events.  My question has been very simple: What do you think of events that are put on by your organization?

The results of my interviews have been quite enlightening.  Here are some of the answers I’ve collected:

“We’re not getting the right people out to our events.”

This response came from a law firm partner referring to educational evening sessions designed to attract new clients to the firm.  Expenses associated with these events are typically high due to the lavish venues and F&B involved.  The partner feels they are a waste of money because the wrong clientele are showing up for free food and drink.

You might be in the position of manually updating spreadsheets with registration data for these events.  Can you imagine trying to convince this executive to approve your budget request to buy registration software when they aren’t convinced the events being hosted are even targeting the right clients?  It’s very simple.  Unless you are able to demonstrate that your proposed purchase is going to get more of the RIGHT people to these events, your idea will not be approved.

You will need to sit down and approach things as if you were the partner and had a vested interest in ROI from these events.  Ask yourself, and your vendors, how their product or service can assist with attracting the RIGHT audience.  Interview your senior executives so that you are very clear on what the RIGHT audience is.  When you start demonstrating that you are thinking like they do, you will be surprised how much more they are willing to listen when you pitch your idea.

“Events are a pure cost drain.  I want to reduce headcount any way I can.”

This response came from a marketing executive in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry.  They host an annual staff conference and if they could do away with the conference they would be much happier.  Having to payroll 4 event planners to organize this conference is already more than they would like to budget. If you are trying to get any purchase approved under a decision maker with this outlook, it had better show very clearly how it is going to reduce cost or planner headcount.

Your pitch needs to be centered on showing real savings, and using spreadsheets or graphs to accurately outline this will help your cause.  Demonstrating to this type of executive that you are thinking like an accountant rather than just a planner will have them looking at your proposals in a much more supportive manner.  If you don’t know how, try asking some of the vendors you’ve engaged with. You’d be surprised how creative they might be when it comes to showing how buying their stuff can drive savings for you.

“I want to get my sales people fired up, and am willing to spend money on that.”

This response came from a CEO who had a career in sales before rising to the executive ranks.  She thinks that putting on a very memorable sales kick off conference for the sales team will result in better sales performance.  Whilst the immediate decision maker that you report to might be driven to contain cost within the allowed budget, a CEO like this can increase that budget number on a whim. If you are trying to get a purchase approved that isn’t forecasted in the budget in this type of scenario, you need to romanticize how amazing it will be for the sales team.

The real trick here is that you have to find a way to get the CEO to fall in love with the idea so they override the budget.  And you have to do all this without your immediate decision maker feeling left out.  Otherwise, they will find a way to kill your great idea before you even get a chance to pitch it.  In this case, the idea needs to come from the CEO, not from you.  You need to reverse sell.  Providing seemingly innocuous white papers to the CEO about how the product or service you want to purchase will get the company’s sales people dialed right in is a fantastic way to plant the seeds for success here.

Perhaps you’ve found a product or service you want to buy because YOU think it will improve some aspect of how you manage events.  I suggest you sit down and start thinking like a sales professional.  Who do you need to win over in your organization? What do they think of events? How can your purchase address what they care about?  Answer these questions or get your favorite vendor to help you answer them, and you just might get to buy some stuff!

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