Sales Tip: Work An Event Floor with Conversation Strategy


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You go to an event. There are prospects there. You look through the crack in the door and you see 80 people in a big room sipping wine and eating cheese. The event lasts for 90 minutes. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the five prospects in that room that can do business with you.

How do you do it?

The first thing you do, before you even open the door, is you ask yourself a very important question:

Am I drinking, or am I working?

If you’re drinking, drink! That’s fine, but make a conscious decision.

If you’re working, work! It’s hard work to find those needles in the haystack, so you better have a strategy.

The key to working a room is finding the right people.

Here are the three critical elements to finding your prospects:

1. Give yourself an out.

The first natural thing that will happen with any and every person you talk with will be the age-old process of making small talk. You are establishing rapport. This is critical, of course, because it would be awkward and jarring to jump right into business. But there’s a very important thing you need to say during that “small talk.” You need to say; “It’s nice to meet you. I’m glad to be here at this event and, like you, I’ve got a bunch of folks that I need to meet while I’m here. So, tell me about yourself. What are you working on (or some other straight-forward question)?”

This simple statement gives you a very important “out” in case that conversation goes sideways.

Chances are, that person you are talking to is not a prospect. And that means that sooner rather than later, you’ll need to be moving on. It’s hard to do gracefully if you haven’t given yourself an out. You say; “Hey, it’s good to meet you and thanks for connecting with me. As I mentioned, there are a bunch of folks I need to connect with here, so I’ve got to do that. I hope this event is productive for you, and I enjoyed meeting you.” And you move along. It takes discipline to realize which conversations are worthwhile and to physically move on.

2. Use the conversation progression

As rapport is established and the small talk winds down, you will inevitably be asked; “So, what do you do?” Be ready. Have your Sales Trailer? and use it.

Then, give the person your “second bubble of conversation.”

The second bubble contains either:

  • the three clear points of your business,
  • a statement of what makes you different in the market,
  • or the value you bring to the table.

The second bubble is usually two or three very short sentences. When people ask us what we do, we respond with our sales trailer: “We help companies build and tune their sales engine.” We find the discipline to pause here and wait for the individual to say something like, “Ok, that sounds interesting. What exactly does that mean?”

Here’s our Sales Engine second bubble: “We look at the sales process companies use, the tools they use to support the sales team, and the knowledge, skill and discipline of the team itself.”

Simple. Easy to understand. No big words. Then shut up and let the person into the conversation.

The conversation progression should be like an on ramp to a highway.

3. Qualify right now.

As the person asks you a couple of follow up questions to your second bubble, respond with qualifying questions. In reaction to our second bubble above, people often say; “Okay…people, process, tools. I see. How do you do that?” And we respond with; “How do you think about these things now?”

That’s not just any question, it’s a qualifying question. We need to know if the person thinks or cares about any of these things. If not, that’s fine, but the person is probably not a prospect and we will soon be moving along. If so, then we pursue that conversation with deeper questions to determine whether this person is indeed a lead.

How Most People Work A Room

If you observe people closely at your next event, here’s what you will find: most people engage someone in a conversation and they stay there for 20 minutes. Why? Because it’s comfortable. Working a room is uncomfortable for most people.

But better to be uncomfortable with a full pipeline than full of wine and cheese and empty of prospects.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Craig Wortmann
Craig Wortmann is the CEO and Founder of Sales Engine, a firm that helps companies build and tune their sales engine(s). He is also a renowned professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. His course, Entrepreneurial Selling, was ranked by Inc Magazine as one of the Best Courses of 2011. Craig published his book What's Your Story?: Using Stories to Ignite Performance and Be More Successful in the same year and continues to speak on the topic of using stories in the sales process.


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