The critical role of sales development in your conference and event strategy with Tenbound’s David Dulany

Collin Stewart, CEO

19 August 2019

It’s almost universally accepted in today’s sales development world that effective prospecting must be multi-channel. That means email, phone, social touches, direct mail, and events.

That’s right…events.

Everyone loves throwing, or attending, a good event. But crafting a solid event strategy – including sales development tactics to either invite people, or book meetings – can be a challenge. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: you attended a great event, had a ton of killer conversations, and generated zero pipeline from it.

We’ve been there, too. 

To avoid that all-too-regular pitfall, David Dulany, Founder, and CEO of Tenbound and organizer of the annual Sales Development Conference, says effective event outreach takes alignment with marketing, an age-old hurdle for sales teams, and a keen focus on your buyer personas. 

By combining those two powerful forces, a prospecting team has the opportunity to connect with a fantastic pool of leads.

(About 25% of our meetings at Predictable Revenue come from events, webinars etc. These are very powerful channels)

“There has been an explosion of tools, and setting up of sales development teams – it is one of the first things companies do, once they build a viable product. As such, it is harder to get your name out there and stand out amongst the crowd,” says Dulany, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast. 

“If you can get people at an event, and you have a good strategy, it gives you a great option to get in contact with people.”

Why events?

In addition to the potential pipeline and revenue, an event is a unique aspect in the life of a prospector. For example, we live in a digital world – we do everything over the phone and online. Everything has become scalable.

It is an amazing time to be in this profession.

That said, the one pitfall of that convenience is you could spend all day never speaking to anybody face to face. In some ways, it’s become a lost art.

But some of the most meaningful relationships we build and networks we cultivate still happen face to face. That’s the power of an event – it changes how we connect with our market.

“Sales development can get monotonous, so what’s cool about events is that they are on the calendar. They are a forcing mechanism to have even more conversations, and then get a couple of days off,” says Dulany. 

“And, of course, you can have great conversations at the event as well. Conversations are, ultimately, what we’re doing. That’s what everything is driving toward.”

(Editor’s note: we had Boast Capital’s Lloyed Lobo on the pod a while back to discuss how to maximize your ROI from SaaStr and other conferences. You can read about our chat here, or listen to the whole interview here)

Getting the most of your event outreach…and working with marketing

Of course, a successful event needs to be full. Whether you are inviting people to an event your company is throwing or reaching out to attendees of an event popular amongst your particular market, it is important to connect with as many people as you can. 

To do so, Dulany says “you need to know your market like the back of your hand.” That means reaching out in the ways your industry likes to be reached out to, using the language your industry uses, and effectively imparting the value of the event in question.

But, adds Dulany, this process is a two-way street: yes, your SDRs need to understand your market, but they also need to filter that frontline knowledge back to your marketing team so they can receive the best possible support.

“If you know your personas like the back of your hand, and their pain points as well, you can work much better with your marketing team. You can give them very important information from the frontlines and help iterate as necessary,” says Dulany.

“And don’t forget – give your marketing team reasons that things aren’t working. Create that feedback loop and make it worthwhile. Go through your lists, or collateral, and talk through what you think is valuable and will get people to the event.”

(Editor’s note: we’ve written extensively about our experience driving pipeline from events. Read all about it here, and here)

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The role of AEs and managers in your event outreach

So what does one do when your SDR team kills their quota and either sells every last ticket to your event, or books qualified meetings at an event?

Well, like your “typical” sales process – you get your AEs involved. And when it comes to conference activity, Dulany has simple advice for any AE that will be navigating the event.

Be prepared…and have fun. Yes, these are sales motions so you will have focused conversations, you will have to qualify, and make sure you are meeting with people that make that can buy. This is work, afterall. But, if you sell online, this is also a great time to kick back, have a coffee (or a beer), and get to know people. 

“Take advantage of every moment you have at the event. Salespeople are typically very good at this, But for those introverted people, events can be overwhelming. So, if you can, build up the energy going into the event,” says Dulany.

“It is such a golden opportunity to connect and build relationships. You have to take advantage of every single moment there.”

As for managers, your role is to act in a coaching capacity. You should train your team before the event and arm with any tools necessary to support them. As well, you can run mid-event debriefs to chat about how things are going and course correct, if needed.

Finally, it is the managers responsibility to set the goal(s) for the team at the event. As mentioned up top, it is so easy to drift off and have conversations about nothing. But a clear set of goals will help the team focus, avoid pointless banter, and engage in effective follow ups, if needed. 

“The manager is like the quarterback – they make sure the follow ups are being done and really drive the drive the process while the event is happening,” says Dulany.

“You have to be deliberate about this work. If you are, it can be very powerful.”

For more information on The Sales Development Conference, being held August 23rd in San Francisco, check out Tenbound’s site

And for more on Dulany’s thoughts on sales development, events, and everything in between, check out the rest of his interview on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.