Exclusive Features

Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off: Part 8

tED magazine is continuing this exclusive series, Making Your B2B Business Meetings Pay Off, by interviewing a series of distributors and manufacturers who participate in B2B meetings. They tell us about what works best and what happens when the meetings do not go well. This series allows you to learn from the best practices and the mistakes to get the best return on your meeting investments.

by Bridget McCrea

While arranged B2B business meetings held at the NAED National Meeting are a great idea and usually worthwhile in their own right, at least one marketing professional for an electrical distributor feels that he gets more out of the impromptu encounters that occur during the broader event. “It’s those one-on-one conversations that take place over a cup of coffee or at the hotel bar that tend to be most productive,” he says, noting that the ad hoc groups of professionals that tend to convene in those settings are equally as effective.

“I’ve been sitting in sessions and struck up conversations with individuals who were asking questions and making comments during the panels or presentations,” says the marketing professional. “Inevitably, when you walk out of the room, those same three or four people (i.e., distributors, manufacturers, etc.) get together and continue that discussion. It’s those kind of impromptu and ad hoc coincidental meetings that you get the best benefit out of.”

Of course, those opportunities don’t always fall into your lap when you’re attending a comprehensive national meeting. You have to look for them. “You have to be aware of the people who are out there and pay attention to what’s going on and what’s being said,” he says. “Then, go find those people and strike up a conversation with them.”

Making that task a little easier is the fact that industry conferences like NAED’s National Meeting typically attract a high degree of like-minded individuals who share certain commonalities. “We’re all in the same business, and whether we’re distributors or manufacturers, we’re driving to the same end,” says the marketing professional, “to serve our customers and maintain our place in the supply chain and our presence in the midst of the high degree of competition that’s out there.” 

Dealing with the Higher-Ups
In assessing the value of 20-minute vendor/distributor pow-wows at events hosted by groups like NAED, this marketing professional says the meetings could be more productive if the right people were involved. Many times, he says high-level individuals on both the distribution and supplier side attend these events. And while getting one-on-one time with a CEO can be a positive experience, that high-level executive isn’t exactly in the position to make decisions on the spot or even talk at the other person’s level, so to speak. 

“I understand that there are strategic issues and commercial issues that often times need to be addressed, and there’s value in that,” says the marketing professional “But when you get down into some of the details, I’m not sure that the message gets conveyed appropriately when a CEO takes the information out to the people who actually have to do something with either the distributor organization or the manufacturer organization.”

In assessing possible solutions to this issue, the marketing professional says a good approach is to set realistic expectations in terms of what can actually be accomplished during a 20-minute session with a CEO. “Understand that you’ll probably only be able to share a few things with that person, and that only certain topics will resonate,” he says. “Dive into some of the nitty-gritty details with someone who isn’t out there ‘living it’ in the field, and things may get glossed over by the time they make their way to the most applicable point person in the organization.”  

In general, this marketing executive sees national meetings as a great opportunity to gather a large number of industry professionals in one place to network, share ideas, and learn. “Instead of having to set up individual meetings with companies located all over the country, we can use this venue as a good backdrop for getting a lot of ‘touches’ handled under one roof,” he says. “There are always good things that come out of these interactions.”

This is part seven in our series. Read part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, and part five here, part six here, and part seven here.

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net

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