So you have decided that
running a sales seminar is the ideal way to launch your new product,
service etc. But you are not sure where to begin? Over the years I have run somewhere in the vicinity of 50 product
launch seminars and so it made sense early on for me to develop a basic template that I could use as a reference framework. Here it is...
Why do seminars work for new technologies/business models and products?
Seminars can be a time efficient way to get your story to as many clients as possible (although not always). I tell sales people that a seminar is 'a way to visit 60 clients in one day'.
Sales seminars offer one of the unique opportunities in sales to build and present a case and present and set a new vision/paradigm for a client. By comparisons most sales calls should concentrate on the client's story (issues, requirements, vision, etc.)
Seminars are also great for profiling your focus and expertise.
Seminars are a great way to educate clients to your opportunity.
Your guest list also shows prospective clients who else you are working with, which is great for credibility and engagement confidence.
Seminars allow smaller company's to look bigger.
Unlike advertisements and news releases, seminars give you the opportunity to know who is 'attending to your story' so that you can blend into the next phase of the sales process. While you can rarely make a sale directly from a presentation, you can set a very solid foundation to proceed from.
Should I really be running a seminar?
Running a successful seminar typically consumes a lot of resources (principally time) and hence seminars have a real opportunity cost so the results need to be worth the effort.
- Set detailed goals and expectations to measure against for future seminars. Your goal might be to use the seminar to get 20 follow up sales meetings with pre educated clients.
- Specify how you will actually measure the success of the seminar.
- Before committing to a seminar think of the other options of telling your story. Maybe conducting radio interviews, etc.
- Decide on the name of seminar. Make it descriptive of the value the client can expect to get from the seminar.
- Decide who will be on your seminar guest list. Remember that is often worth inviting press journalists as well as your target clients.
- Decide how to get an effective invitation to them. Previous first hand experience demonstrated to me that less than than 50% of our audience registered in response to a direct emailing campaign. I typically noted that there would always be a panic in the last 10 days when the product managers for the seminars realised they did not have enough attendees and would ask all the sales reps to call their top clients. (This was always a good excuse to call and chat to our key customers.) Note if you are sending out invitations via email make sure that you only email to people who have previously opted into your email permission list. If you haven't already read “Permission Marketing” by Seth Godin, I highly recommend you read it.
- Spend some time crafting the invitation script. Remember to highlight what is in it for them. I found that sometimes just changing a couple of words or lines in an invitation made remarkable differences in response and registration rates.
- Never run a mid week seminar as invitees get caught up in stuff on Monday that stops them attending on Tuesday, etc. Given the choice I will always elect to run a seminar on a Monday.
- Choose the venue carefully. Your choice of venue says a lot about your market position and your company culture. If your audience isn't swanky then you don't need a swanky venue. Remember to think about ease of finding parking. Easy parking can mean the difference between everyone turning up in time and people drifting in and interrupting the seminar up to 20 minutes late.
- Think about catering. For a short seminar (up to 2 hours) you only need to serve coffee as people arrive and stop for coffee and biscuits midway or serve afterwards. Serving coffee enables your team to interact with your clients – arrange to call for sales meetings, etc. If it's a whole day seminar don't skimp on the quality of the catering. The quality of your catering again says a lot about your market position and professionalism.
I won't attempt to cover seminar content or delivery here - just some quick tips.
- In your invitations advertise that registration starts 15 minutes before the seminar and serve coffee during registration - some of the most valuable work you do at a seminar is in the 15 minutes people meet and network while having a cup of coffee before the seminar starts. Make sure you have no tasks such as setting up projectors, laptops, displays etc. so that during this time you are free to meet and greet your clients. Use this time as a an opportunity to network.
- Give all attendees a pre-prepared name tag sticker when they arrive. (Saves embarrassment later when you can't recall names and left over stickers tell you who came and who didn't). Have one of your staff do this at a registration table as it gives them a chance to talk with the clients.
- Hand out a sheet for all attendees to fill out. Name, address, job role/title, email address, include tick boxes for: i) permission to email seminar follow up information. ii) permission to email other information. This step is imperative for follow up marketing and sales activities.
- Make the seminar fun and lively.
- For most new product launches I would recommend a maximum of 1.5 hours.
- Make your seminar as interactive as possible. Include questions for the audience and reward respondents with instant prizes e.g. branded T-shirts etc. You might even want to provide them with something like a working sheet for them to fill in during the seminar.
- Prepare handouts. Don't hand out the whole presentation as they will never find the time to read it. Give them 3 sheets maximum to take away – preferably with summary charts or diagrams
- Start your seminar with house keeping (keep it brief and make it quick).
- Introduce your presentation team (DO NOT TALK ABOUT YOUR COMPANY AT THE START OF THE SEMINAR!)
- Tell your guests where the amenities are.
- Tell them how long the seminar will be.
- Tell them the format of the seminar.
- Tell them what's in it for them.
Follow up activity?
- Pre-prepare your follow up activities before commencing the seminar. This will help in maintaining a tight focus on the detailed goals and expectations you set right at the beginning.
- Design and schedule your follow up activity. e.g. A short thank you email. Perhaps some follow up info, an appointment request, etc. Make sure that you have scheduled time and specific people to complete the follow up activities.
- Schedule a time for a forensic analysis or debriefing session with colleagues to measure the effectiveness of your seminar against the expectations and targets you set.
Please use the comments option below to add your recommendations or make comment on this framework.
Liam Venter: Author of the popular sales training manual
'The Consultative Sales Professional'
You can obtain a copy here