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Making the Most of a Partner Conference

In a field crowded with competitors, differentiation needs to be part of everything you do -- even how you attend a partner conference. Interacting with vendors and other resellers at a partner conference is inevitable. You need to have an appropriate strategy going into the conference to yield positive results, though. With the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) coming up this month, it's a good time to think about maximizing interactions. Here are strategies, suggestions and tips for any VAR to make the most of the WPC, or any channel conference.

Make a Plan, Work the Plan
The key to making a conference worthwhile is to develop a plan ahead of time. Map out your goals and objectives, figure out your timelines, analyze how you want to measure success, and schedule a post mortem meeting so that you can understand if the plan worked or not. Too often, companies head to conferences without a mission. They just show up, wasting time and money in the process. Get a plan and work it!

Networking, Networking, Networking
You've got a plan in place and most likely a component of that plan is to meet people who can help your business: vendor executives of the host company (such as Microsoft executives at the WPC), and vendor executives from exhibitors and peers. All three types are extremely worthwhile to meet and in fact should be weighted equally in importance. Why? Well, the host company executives will help you in navigating the "bigger picture," committing resources and money to help you grow your business, and introducing you to other important people.

Meeting vendor executives from exhibitors is important because these are the folks who have the technology that will help you expand your portfolio of offerings. Get to know these individuals. As a suggestion, call a few key executives ahead of the conference and schedule dinner with them. Finally, make time to sit down with your peers, so you can compare notes on different vendors. You might be surprised at what they have to say -- both good and bad.

Be Unique
Host a party. Wait a minute, isn't that what vendors do? Think of it this way: If you host your own party or happy hour or golf tournament, then you'll stand out among your peers and even more so among vendors. You'll get their attention -- which is what you want. They will seek you out because you will automatically be considered a top performer. Even if you aren't really a top performer, the mere perception of being one will often motivate your people to rise to the level of this expectation. I've seen five-person companies jumpstart their businesses because they hosted an event at a partner conference. Try it.

Be Bold
Partner conferences can all be the same. If you go to simply be "one of the herd," guess what -- you'll be one of the herd. Boring. However, if you go with a bold approach, you'll differentiate yourselves. Instead of going to vendors' booths and collecting their T-shirts, switch strategies and directly hand the vendor one of your T-shirts. Make the T-shirt memorable and the technique can take you even further. Years ago, I saw a group walking around handing out neon green T-shirts. They told everyone they handed a shirt to that they must wear it the next day to be eligible for a prize. Guess what happened? The entire trade show floor -- the entire conference for that matter -- was full of people wearing those neon green T-shirts.

There are certainly no magic formulas for success. As always, good planning and hard work produce the best results. Keep this in mind and positive results should abound. This is a year to be a thought leader, to be bold and to kickstart your business through new relationships. Use the strategies here and make the second half of 2010 unbelievable. See you in Washington, D.C., at the WPC!

About the Author

Keith Lubner is Chief Business Strategist at Sales Gravy, the sales acceleration company, and managing partner of C3 Channel, a global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies. For more information about Keith, visit www.c3channel.com, www.channeleq.co or www.salesgravy.com.

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