How deals are made

Got an email today from a company shilling an upcoming trade show asking a bunch of leading questions designed to get me to agree to come to the show.  The plan didn't work because I didn't answer they way they expected.  But in the process, I think I got some grist for us all to grind on today.  Here are the questions:

Most productive opportunities are generated by connecting with decision-makers

Executive participants have the majority of the decision-making authority

Face-to-face meetings are the best marketing channel to create opportunities

The deal was if answered those questions with "fact" then I should come to their conference.  But I said they were all false.  Here's why:

"Most productive opportunities are generated by connecting with decision-makers." Decision makers rely on influencers to make decisions.  They don't respond to in-person sales pitches but take what they hear and go back to their influencers to see what they think.  If they don't do that, they take information they pick up from the media and discuss it with the influencers.  When a majority of the influencers side in the positive, the decision maker ratifies the decision of the combined network.  If the decision maker goes to a trade show with that information in mind, and seeks out the vendor while there, a deal can be struck.  The vendor may think he is a brilliant sales person because he got to an affirmative decision or, in the least, a meeting, but in fact, the decision to work with the vendor had been made long before the decision maker made contact.  Trade shows are where action is taken on decisions, not where decisions are made.

"Executive participants have the majority of the decision-making authority."  This is fallacious, too.  Executives have the majority of the responsibility for decisions, but most of their decisions are made for them by committees and influencers.  If the decision is wrong, the executive that signs the agreement takes the credit or the blame.  And you can be sure that those that told him to go in that direction will be rewarded accordingly.

"Face-to-face meetings are the best marketing channel to create opportunities."  With the proper preparation that can be true.  A vendor at a trade show has to find the customers whose problems he can solve, but just setting up a booth and waiting for the right customer to come along is an exercise in frustration.  Most companies I talk to that go to trade shows already know who they are going to talk to.  They very rarely find customers just walking up unannounced.  What that means is the vendor has done the homework and already prepared the way with the proper influencers who want to get that decision maker to the vendor's booth on that fateful day.  The axiom should actually be, "Face-to-face meetings are the best marketing channel to finalize opportunities."

The problem is that 90 percent of companies going to trade shows put 90 percent of the marketing money and efforts into attending a specific trade show.  They don't do their homework, they don't spend time trying to identify and connect with influencers and by the time they get to the show they will end up with a bunch of leads that will go nowhere because no one will remember them.

Ask any PR firm in any industry niche when the busiest part of their year is and they will tell you, 4-6 weeks before a major trade show.  That's when the phone starts ringing off the hook.  When that happens, they either laugh out loud and hang up or they are hungry enough to suck whatever is left out of the client's marketing budget to push out a few news releases and set up some useless press meetings.

Successful marketing is an ongoing process, not a once-a-year effort, unless you are selling Christmas trees.