We sponsor a lot of conferences, and we're pretty good at picking relevant events - rich with current and good prospective customers. I'm going to run through some tips & tricks for success in these situations. 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
- Pre-sales engineer demo ride-alongs - they'll conference you in on a call and you can watch/hear their demo style to inspire your own.
- Marketing materials from our website - has some great verbiage on it. 10 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 a t-shirt (key indicators: impatience, protective body language)? Scan their badge, give 'em one, 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 application and check it out...and try to highlight something useful that they're missing if they're using the free version. Up-selling and more importantly making sure that current customers understand the value of what they are getting now is probably more important than wowing prospective customers.
Pitching to win hearts and minds
Start out with a soft-sell...
Next, show off what we're great at
- How do you monitor your applications? Do you have any missing pieces? Casual passers-by sometimes need to be shown that something is missing from their arsenal; that application performance monitoring is important.
- 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 solution.
- We have a small agent that is easily added to your production application (mobile or web) to monitor the health of your application and report it to our service.
- You don't have to modify any of your code to show the data that we demo - the agent does all the work.
- Stress how easy our installation is. Like, really really easy.
- Have a demo application with a performance problem you can zero in on loaded up already (I tend to use a customer who has given us permission to use their account in a demo - there are a few.
- Demos should include some narrative to keep them interesting: "Here's where we can correlate web performance to database performance and get the whole team to work towards improved customer experience."
- Be professional, and approachable but have fun. e.g.: when focusing on a slow transaction, use humor and incredulity to highlight that the SQL query took entire seconds and had a non-indexed full table scan over hundreds of millions of rows! And don't forget that customers might see your desktop background, open applications, etc.
- Leverage your buddies - got a sales guy, an agent engineer, or the CTO hanging around? They're resources!
- "Our default pricing is X, but we can certainly get you a better deal for more licenses"
- "Ashley here worked on the code that handles extended JMX metric harvesting"
- "Funny you should ask about why the world needed another performance monitoring solution–our founder 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 explaining the shortcomings 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
- Most important: do a run-through without an audience, on the conference network, to make sure you've got a smooth presentation that explores much 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: "You'll install our small agent on your servers". It's best not to use words like apdex and collector and RUM unless the person mentions them specifically.
- Be ready to fess up to things that we doesn't do well - "Yeah, we use nagios to monitor our ssh process for instant feedback on a down machine/network - we 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: MySQL or Drupal) spend an hour or two researching the state of the art/exciting news, and figure out how we interact with it. "Rails 4 is going to ship any day now, and we've got preliminary support for it already, with full support coming shortly after the GA release."