Individual appointments are a great way to make a personal contact and build trust, which is so important in business. Having the opportunity to meet in a setting such as IMEX will usually result in a better working relationship compared to cold calling or emails. Individual appointments allow exhibitors and buyers to hold a relaxed and friendly business conversation where they can discuss business opportunities.
Preparing for appointments at IMEX is crucial and researching each buyer in advance is highly recommended. Where available this can be done using the buyer’s profile in the IMEX system in addition to the exhibitor’s own CRM system. An exhibitor who is able to show a buyer what they think the buyer is looking for will not only impress the buyer, it will save precious time and make the appointment more appropriate and effective.
It is paramount that the exhibitor understands the role of the buyer, the parent organisation and the organisation’s procurement procedures. Corporate buyers have very different needs and procurement procedures to association, third party and agency buyers.
The type of events planned can also be dramatically different ranging from exclusive international incentive travel to large-scale medical congresses to internal corporate meetings. The type of event directly affects the buyer’s needs. Certain industries, in particular medical meetings, are subject to compliance rules and codes of practice that exhibitors should be aware of. This type of information can be useful for the exhibitor to make the best use of an appointment.
The IMEX messaging service allows for communication before, during and after the show between the exhibitor and the buyer once an appointment is confirmed. In effect the conversation can start before the appointment.
Buyers are encouraged to create one or more appointment profiles which give exhibitors a full range of useful information. This feature also enables buyers to upload RFPs to their appointments. If a buyer has not sent this we recommend that the exhibitor ask for it and use it to prepare for the appointment in advance. This may enable the exhibitor to prepare a specific proposal for the buyer.
A comfortable seating arrangement along with an offer of refreshments or coffee is always a great way to start an appointment.
Thirty minutes is very short so it’s important to use the time wisely. Ideally the exhibitor will already know what the buyer is looking for, but if this is not the case it should be established promptly. Does the buyer have a particular event in mind or are they just prospecting?
Understanding the buyer’s knowledge and previous experience, if any, of a destination or product is important information that should be used to shape an appointment. With this information an exhibitor can lead an appointment as a friendly but targeted business conversation, ideally using open-ended questions.
Having a sales pitch well prepared is always useful, but this should not be forced on buyers from the start of an appointment and the pitch should be highly customised to the buyer’s needs, never a “copy paste” conversation.
The most important factors that influence the success of an appointment are communication skills, multicultural sensitivity and a genuine interest in the buyer’s needs. Proactive listening is encouraged, as is note taking.
Exhibitors may want to allow five minutes at end of the appointment to go into more detail on any issue that the buyer has shown a particular interest in or to gauge the buyer’s interest in the product.
Before ending an appointment both parties should agree on the next steps. Where applicable it may be useful for the exhibitor to connect the buyer with any relevant colleagues in an operational role or other and pass on relevant notes so that the buyer can continue the conversation and close the deal.
A personal follow up email within 48hours of an appointment is recommended. This can be just a simple email to establish a connection but if specific information has been requested, this should be acknowledged and sent within a week.
A generic email with a wide variety of attachments is unlikely to be well received, particularly if a specific piece of business was discussed during an appointment. This is also the case when the buyer did not actually have an appointment and was only scanned with a lead retrieval system.
In some cases the exhibitor’s products may not be right for the buyer. This does not mean that the personal contact made will not be important in the future, so a follow up focussed on building a relationship and not selling a product is a good approach.
Exhibitors also appreciate a reply from the buyers once the connection is made, after all that is common courtesy. If the exhibitor’s product is not the right fit, then it helps to let them know.
Exhibitors who have an industry certification or accreditation or have specific training are more likely to “speak the same language” as the buyers and this is always well received. Buyers understand that the selling process is challenging and value the exhibitors’ efforts.
Many thanks to the following IMEX hosted buyers and exhibitors who contributed to this post: