Making the Most of the RVAA Executive Conference
Part 1 of 3: Getting the Appointments You Want
By: Dana Nelsen, RV PRO magazine
The Value of Attending the Executive Conference
How much time would it take to visit 22 distributors throughout the U.S. and Canada? If you took a day to fly to their corporate headquarters, a day to meet and another to fly home, it would take just over 2 months to meet each distribution member of RVAA. When you factor in, the cost of a hotel, rental car and airline ticket for 22 different locations throughout the country, it could easily amount to more than $22,000.
Even if you were willing to invest the time and money to visit each one independently, there is still no guarantee that each distributor would be a good fit or is willing to stock and sell your products.
Sometimes just getting the opportunity to have a real business conversation with a decision maker can be daunting. Don’t waste time spending countless hours sending emails, mailing product samples and trying to get past a secretary to have a real conversation.
The RVAA executive conference allows you the opportunity to meet privately one-on-one with every key distribution decision maker in the industry, in one location, over a period of 3 days. The conference offers suppliers more sales opportunities than any other industry event and is designed to save you both time and money.
Even if you already have well established business relationships with the RV distribution community, no other venue brings all your best customers together in one place to discuss the various aspects of your business relationship in a private setting.
What will be the next big innovation in the RV Aftermarket? What companies have new product that will increase gross sales in the coming year? RVAA’s Executive Conference offers an efficient way to “separate the wheat from the chaff.”
Quick, distraction-free, 20 minute meetings allow you to review a whole host of new products from companies who are both interested and prepared to enter into a business relationship with your company. The appointment times are set so you can quickly determine what products are real business opportunities, without wasting unreasonable amounts of time listening to product sales pitches. Either way, you will leave with comprehensive information on what new products are entering the market and the choices you have in every product category.
Add in that nearly every one of your major supplier partners have converged in one location, specifically to talk to you, and the conference is a real opportunity to touch base just before catalog deadlines. Other distribution companies will be soliciting your best customers at the event.
Time, money and opportunity – three resources everybody could use more of – especially busy executives encompassing the RV aftermarket. The conference is designed to maximize opportunity, while saving both time and money. No other RV industry event has so much potential! That is, if you are prepared to make the most of it.
Once RVAA Registration for the conference is announced, submitting your registration early has its advantages. The most important being that conference attendee’s schedules fill up quickly and companies who ensure they are listed on the website early are most likely to get the appointments they want. Make sure your company is listed on the website before people start going there and tagging companies for appointments. Registering early also ensures that the information listed about you on the website is accurate, or is corrected prior to people requesting appointments.
The website automatically matches up parties who have mutually listed each other to meet with. The software then automatically schedules an appointment at a set time on both parties’ schedule. The software will not make an appointment when there is not a mutual meeting request match.
Here is a little secret to help ensure you get the appointments you want: identify your most important potential meeting prospects. E-mail and call them prior to the deadline. Ask them to select you when tagging companies for meeting requests. A simple, “Please pick me for a meeting,” goes a long way. You can find an up-to-date list of RVAA members with contact information at www.rvaahq.com under the “member directory” tab.
Another tip for ensuring you get a strong appointment schedule is to email potential candidates with a list of points you would like to discuss in the meeting. This shows them you have carefully considered how the time will be mutually beneficial, and helps them prepare to have a productive meeting with you.
A complete list of who is attending the conference will be sent out as the conference draws near.
Another helpful tip: Make sure you leave blank spots on your schedule that you can manually fill in later. As the conference draws closer, invariably you will have last minute people contact you requesting a meeting. If your schedule is completely full, you may miss an opportunity to meet with someone important.
Once the meeting request deadline is past, attendees are e-mailed the appointment schedule of mutual matches that the software has generated. Review it carefully to ensure everyone you want to meet with is listed. Often, appointments will be missing because there was not a mutual “request” match.
This especially will be true for companies new to the association. Don’t let this discourage you. This just means your schedule needs fine tuning. People may not have selected your company because they didn’t know who you are or what your company does.
Nearly every conference attendee picks up the phone and calls people to request meetings that were not listed on the schedule by the software. Failing to do this as soon as you get your schedule will probably mean you don’t get appointments you really wanted.
Other Helpful Tips
While some meetings do require 40 minutes to cover everything, be respectful of other’s attendee’s time. Distributors and service members will literally be running from one appointment to another, so try to limit as many appointments to 20 minutes as you can. The distributors and service members are much more likely to agree to a 20 minute appointment than a 40 minute appointment. Remember, they have many people vying for their time. Keep in mind that there will be other opportunities to talk business, not only at the conference, but also afterwards.
Be mindful of setting appointments with people you have an established business relationship with, especially if you talk with them on a regular basis. Filling a meeting slot with them may not be the best use of your schedule. A dinner appointment (not on the official RVAA schedule) is a great way to catch up with these attendees. Much like the scheduled appointment slots, dinner appointments fill up quickly. Be proactive and schedule a dinner meeting as soon as you can.
Another great use of an evening is to contact members and plan a social group dinner. Invite seven or eight people from a variety of companies who you don’t know well to dinner. Invite a variety of distributors, suppliers, manufacturer’s reps and service members. This is a great way to build lasting friendships and often leads to unexpected business opportunities. Don’t feel obligated to pick up the dinner tab. It’s a long standing tradition for everyone to throw in their credit card and split the tab at RV industry after hour dinners.
Making the most of your schedule will help make sure your trip to Boston is a productive one. Be proactive on the front end, call members that the software didn’t match you up with and then make the most of conference after hours will undeniably bring a good return on investment. See you in Boston.
(In the next article, we will cover making the most of every appointment.)