SEMINARS...TELLING MORE TO SELL MORE
If the rising cost of sales calls has your organization's
back against the wall, maybe it's time to look at ways of
reducing the number of calls your people are making in each
territory and each market segment.
At face value, the idea runs counter to what would be
considered prudent practice of you're to increase sales.
However, making three and four calls on the same organization
doesn't improve your chances of closing. In fact, 50 percent of
the calls are spent just finding out who the decision makers
That's a lot of wasted time, money, and effort.
One way of making your sales calls more efficient and
cost-effective is what we'll call the "front-end loading
process". Rather that beat the bushes for live prospects, bring
the most likely suspects to you and help them sell themselves.
How? By conducting meaty seminars tailored to your product's
Does is work? One firm we worked with wrote $4 million
worth of annual business as a result of a three-day off-location
seminar. Another closed $2 million worth of business that had
been pending for more that six months as a result of a five-
city, one-day seminar program.
Testing Know How Conference
The first firm's effort was highly tailored and targeted
because they had been working with a group of 25 major purchase
prospects for more than a year developing proposals. The
decision process went on and on. The objective was to shorten
that process to a definable period of time.
To accomplish our objectives, we established a defined
program objective. In this instance it was "Testing Quality
Throughout the Corporation." Next, we selected our presentation
areas including those which could be presented by the technical
staff as well as outside experts (obviously not from the
competition) and from existing customers.
After obtaining indications from the various speakers that
they would make the presentations on the subject areas we
outlined for them, we printed a meeting agenda and sent personal
letters to two key individuals in each of the prospect
The meeting was truly a management level overview of the
needs, approaches to problems, and prospective solutions.
The attendees' companies paid all transportation to and
from the meeting. The sponsoring company paid for most of the
expenses during the conference.
In addition to full meetings during the days we also
planned for off-hour functions including activities for spouses,
a hospitality suite, and luncheon/dinner speakers on business in
The seminar was attended by 50 key members of prospect
organizations from the U.S. and Europe. Even though the
attendees knew who was underwriting the conference, they had
plenty of time to talk among themselves and with their
counterparts in other organizations regarding this focused
problem of automatic testing.
The total cost of the effort meeting/seminar was $50,000.
But three months after the conference the
company received an organization-wide order from one of the attendees
for $4 million as well as $2 plus million in smaller orders from
the other attendees.
What would it be worth to you to have 50 of your best
prospects away from their facilities for three days talking about
almost nothing but your products, their problems/issues and their applications?
In the second instance the company annually conducted what
we called the "June Seminar Series". This was a one-day seminar
in five major cities around the U.S.
Each area sales office was responsible for selecting the
location and providing corporate with names and addresses of
200-400 prospective customers in their area.
We then worked with product marketing management to develop
audio-visual presentations including multimedia, slides, and
overhead projections. In addition, product/service promotional materials
were developed which could be easily set up in the various
The invitations were sent from corporate to the prospects
around the country with a request that they contact the local
sales office to ensure their reservations. In addition, the
sales personnel were to follow up to make certain they got
people attending that they had been working on for some time.
This kind of a seminar program is particularly hard on the
people who must give the presentations. As a general rule, we
allowed only one down day between presentations. This meant a
day of presentation, a day to travel and relax followed by
another day of presentations.
To ease the strain of the load slightly, two people carried
out the presentations. But even then it meant that two key
people were away from their offices for a two-week period.
The days were planned to be filled with technical, application and
product information. In addition, there was ample time for
questions and answers and the exchange of ideas among
participants and attendees. We found that as a general rule the
seminar lasted two hours past the planned shut-down time because
of the questions from the floor.
The key in this type of situation is to have your
presentation people well trained. We've found that the best way
to do this is to put them through "dry runs" of their
presentations a number of times so that they're familiar with
the information they're presenting, the audio visual materials,
and questions which may arise.
After reviewing their presentation mannerisms and content
several times and having technical and marketing people ask them
questions on what was presented three or four times, the people
going out in the field are ready for almost anything. The only
thing we would have liked to have added was to capture on video the
presentations so they could critique themselves and that the presentations could be edited down, put on DVD and sent to prospects who couldn’t attend the meeting. But at the time it wasn't possible.
In addition to the presentations, every attendee also
received summary and in-depth discussions of the various areas
covered at the seminar. As a result, they were able to take back
with them complete information as reminders.
They also received automatic letters from the corporate
offices thanking them for attending the seminar and inviting them
to direct additional questions to their local sales office.
The total cost of such a seminar effort, including the
audio-visuals, display materials, invitations, leave-behind
materials, and similar items (exclusive of staff time and travel)
usually ran $25,000-$30,000 per five-city swing. As a general
rule, 50-100 people from prospective customer locations attended
the seminars in each city.
The cost per sales call came down dramatically, and sales
invariably followed the seminar effort each year.
Return on Investment
In both instances there was a tremendous return on
investment. The key was that there was a considerable amount of
planning and preparation that went on before each seminar.
It's one thing to say seminars are worthwhile, but quite
another to carry out a strong, effective program.
What does it take for such success?
* Present more than just product information. Give
people an overview of the state-of-the-art, where
things are going, and why the alternatives you are
offering make the most economical sense.
* If at all possible, bring in "experts" from the
outside and/or users. Existing customers tell some
of the most believable stories you can put together
in such seminars.
* Provide your guest speakers all of the assistance
possible including help in writing their presentations
and assistance in the preparation of their audio-
* Mix your audio-visuals. Don't stick with only one method of
visually presenting your information, especially if you're
concerned with a full-day meeting or up to three days.
* Give the attendees complete back-up information when
they leave so they that have reference information when
they return to their offices. They can't order if
they don't remember all the information covered.
* Don't be totally hard sell. You have 50 plus
prospective customers hidden away for a total day to
yourself. Give them time to mingle and talk to
others. They often help you sell their counterparts
by reinforcing or amplifying points brought out in
* Be thoroughly rehearsed. There's nothing worse than
watching someone fumble through a presentation,
especially if the presentation is going to last for an
hour. At the end of that period it will take at least
another half hour to get the group's mind back on you
and what you're saying. In addition, know the infor-
mation you are presenting well and be able to field
the questions. No matter how well prepared though,
you'll never know everything. When the tough question
arises admit you don't know the answer, take down the
question, the name of the person making the inquiry, and
then get back to them. It reinforces your credibility.
The first four such presentations or seminars
are the hardest. Then they either get harder or easier depending
upon how you look at them. They get harder because you're
constantly searching areas which can be improved. They get
easier because you learn by your mistakes what can and will go
Properly planned, developed, and carried out, a seminar can
shorten the decision making time, reduce the number of sales
calls required for major purchase decisions, and improve your
image in the prospective marketplace regarding your
firm's technical and product leadership.