Guest blog post from Matt DeLeon, Chief Programmer at KnowYourCompany on the value of a conference.
“So, what’d you think of the conference?”
my co-worker asked me on our way home from Business of Software last year…
“I don’t know… Good, I guess?”
I had doubts.
I wasn’t convinced the experience had been worth it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a stimulating three-day event at the beautiful Boston Seaport. I’d heard thought-provoking talks from the owners of well-respected businesses. I’d met and mingled with a lot of smart people. The food was fabulous.
Yet, I wondered, would anything come of it all?
I recently had this question answered, and the answer was a resounding yes.
I work for a two-person software company, Know Your Company. And just a few months ago, we went through the biggest change in our young, 2-year history: we launched self-signup along with a free trial of our software. Before, we’d sold our product exclusively through personal demos done by our CEO.
While self-signup was a big step forward for our business, it introduced a challenge: people could now sign up without talking to us, but we hadn’t eliminated the need to talk to people to close sales. It just placed the onus on us to make first contact.
This was an exciting time for us, and for me personally. My title is programmer, but I wear a lot of hats and relish the opportunity to do so. So I saw a chance to stretch myself while helping grow the business.
The only problem: I’m not a salesperson.
- So where do I start?
- How do I talk to customers?
- What do I say on the phone?
I needed direction.
This is when I saw my time at Business of Software pay dividends. At the conference, Steli Efti (CEO of Close.io) delivered a stellar talk on making sales calls. Steli’s talk piqued my interest enough that I even attended his sales workshop at the end of the conference. I listened, took notes, and told myself I’d eventually use Steli’s advice.
So months later, when finally faced with the chance to call customers, I had the confidence to make my first phone calls. I knew just enough to get started on the right foot.
- Have questions prepared to ask the customer? Check!
- Prepare answers to common questions? Check!
- Sound good on the phone? Check, I hope! (I sometimes scripted what I wanted to say in advance.)
But even more valuable than Steli’s advice was my vivid memory of his passion for talking to customers. I have little doubt his zeal for sales rubbed off on me.
Had I not attended Business of Software, I would’ve never had this extra push to pick up the phone.
Fast forward to today, and we just had our best month of business ever! In June we signed up more new customers than any month previously. July is looking pretty good too 🙂
In fact, Steli and Close.io came onboard as customers!
On top of having a record-breaking month, we also learned a ton from talking to prospects. We saw trends in questions and hesitations that were new to self-signup and our free trial. We’ve since addressed some of these issues.
And my favorite reason for having called customers: we gained their trust.
A genuinely helpful call with a customer can go a long way towards establishing trust. Customers that we create a relationship with are more likely to share feedback with us, contact us for help, and be happy customers.
I can now say with certainty that the Business of Software conference was worth it. The value of the conference wasn’t that I heard 10 great talks or met 50 brilliant people, but that I latched onto just one idea that changed the course of my business and maybe even my career.
If you make the choice to attend Business of Software, I think you’ll find one idea to latch onto as well.
[Thank you Matt. The value of a conference can be hard to quantify for an individual, one of the principle reasons that we ask people to commit to changing one thing in their business when they leave the event. We then ask them for a date for us to follow up. You can see some of the other outcomes here.]
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