I read Gary’s missive this week and to be fair, I love the tactic he suggests but hate everything else about his recommendation because if you blindly follow it, you’ll fail. Let me explain.
Conversations Become Customers
I couldn’t agree more with Gary’s recommendation to create proximity with your sales prospects using events as a tool to initiate conversations between you and your prospects.
As the founder of an agency premised on the idea of turning conversations into customers, how could I not be?
But that’s about the only thing Gary and I agree on.
Overall, he’s oversimplifying the execution considerations of the idea by ignoring a few key underlying truths. But don’t just believe me. Let’s go through the three biggest misses IMO and you decide for yourself.
Gary V’s Best B2B Marketing Strategy Explained
In case you missed his post, the crux of Gary’s piece is based on a simple premise. Back in high school, “mid-tier” popular kids could become “dramatically more popular” by throwing house parties and inviting the popular kids. Those kids would come, bring others and by the principle of proximity, your garden variety mid-tier popular kid becomes or appears to become popular.
He calls this his “High School Party” Strategy.
And he says that if you throw modern day “house parties” and invite your prospects, you’ll find similar success.
And he couldn’t be more incorrect. Here’s why.
Sales Prospects Don’t Need Your B2B Social Event
… because the popular kids needed a place to hang out.
Here’s the first big failure of his analogy. In high school those popular kids “needed a place” to hang out. Heck we all did right? That need drove their willingness to associate with a less popular kid and risk their seat at the cool kids table.
In the post Gary uses the example of a dinner party for 20. Ok… so ask yourself, does your sales prospect really need another dinner party? Are your prospects at a place in their life where a free meal is worth more than their valuable time?
Where there is no need, there is no way.
If the cool kids had a place to hang on the weekends, they’d have had no need for the semi-cool kid’s house and thus would have ignored the invite just as your sales prospects will ignore yours.
Sales Prospects Don’t Visit Strangers
The second place the analogy falls down is the difference between high school and the real world we live in today.
High school is a closed, insular audience.
The real world is a huge, open space populated largely by unknown and sometimes invisible buyers.
I don’t know about you, but I went to a really big high school in Austin, Texas. My graduating class was something like 600+ kids. And here’s the thing, even in that large high school universe, everyone kind of knew everyone.
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Sure you might not be friends or even know the other kids beyond a name or the social group they ran with (jocks, preps, goths, nerds, etc) but every kid was KNOWN at some level. In Gary’s example, he’s even sliced it more finely by focusing on the “mid-tier” popular kids, which means they were already a known commodity to the cool kids.
That same familiarity doesn’t exist in today’s B2B sales prospecting world. And in a world where time is consistently shown as one of the most valuable resources, people aren’t going to commit to spending a few hours over a meal or anything else for that matter with an unknown stranger. Even if that stranger made a cool, authentic video as Gary suggests.
Sales Prospects Are Cooler Than You
This is probably where the analogy or strategy as Gary calls it, completely falls apart.
The mid-tier popular kids didn’t vet the popular kids. There was no hurdle to entry. The offer was clear, concise and one-sided.
Mid-Tier kid UNCONDITIONALLY invites cool kid to party.
Cool kid agrees to share space with mid-tier kid in return for a place to hang on the weekend with the other cool kids and do cool kid stuff.
But in Gary’s example, he wants you to design the registration form (survey) with an open ended question where the “answer will give you an indication as to whether or not you can convert them.” Then you can “invite the people who give the ‘right’ answer to this question to your event.”
Please fill out the form and I will pick 20 of you to join us for a private dinner. Can’t wait to see you!”
He even suggests you call out this vetting process in your authentic advertising video ad you run on Facebook inviting your sales prospects to join you.
Call me crazy, but that seems like a CONDITIONAL offer, which is completely different from the one those semi-cool kids in high school made when they threw a party. Feels a little more like the invite a cool kid might have issued to a semi-cool kid when the semi-cool kid had something the cool kid needed doesn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong… I have a ton of respect for Gary V. I still remember watching his wine tasting show on my Tivo back in 90’s (I think…. maybe it was early 2000’s) and thinking how brilliant it was — a guy had created his own “network” by leveraging Tivo’s distribution platform and totally side-stepping the big networks.
But like many luminaries that have come before him, over time there is a tendency to over-simplify and reduce complex needs into silver bullets that raving fans can consume, share and discuss. This is one of those times.
The Three P’s of Sales Prospecting
Gary’s basic idea of using an event to create Proximity is excellent. One I highly recommend you follow. The fact that he suggests you create a social event vs a purely educational one is even better. Because at it’s base, social selling is most effective when you’re being social.
But Proximity alone doesn’t assure the development of Preference. No for that you’ll need Presence — before, during and maybe most importantly, after the event, to truly turn those conversations into customers. More on that last one in a future blog.