Five tips to build connections and generate leads

Whether you are attending OTC for the first time, or are an OTC veteran, you know from the moment you enter the showroom floor that your primary challenge is to rise above the noise (literally and figuratively). With tens of thousands of oil and gas professionals converging in one spot for a few days, how will you identify your target audience and make meaningful connections? We have some tips which we've used successfully over our 20+ years attending OTC.

Turn a missed target into an opportunity

You've spotted the booth of one of your target companies and you confidently stride up to it and shake the hand of the first booth representative to greet you. But there's one problem: he/she is the head of HR and you want to meet with one of their engineering team leads.

Now you're wondering how to gracefully bow out of the conversation. Don't worry your listener doesn't want their time wasted either, so use a statement like; "Thanks very much for the information you've shared on your HR efforts. I've been interested in (company's) initiatives in (area) and believe we can work together in several ways. Would you mind introducing me to your Offshore Engineering Manager?"

When you show a genuine interest in the company's progress and offerings, any request for more information will be met with cooperation. People like to connect with other people.

Use probing questions.

Once you've introduce yourself to the person who operates in your target realm, be sure to ask them open-ended questions to increase your ability to learn more about them and their company. This is also a good tool to help you qualify the lead. Instead of asking "Is this conference going well for you?", ask "What are you focusing on at this conference?" or "What are some of the key takeaways you want to achieve at this conference?" The answer to those questions will tell you where that person's priorities lie and will inform how you approach them with your service(s).

Engage in active listening.

Active listening is the art of purposefully absorbing what another person is saying and pairing that knowledge with the way in which you can provide solutions. Think of it as a keyword search, only using your ears to hear instead of your fingers to type.

Listen out for the words or phrases that are used repeatedly, as this knowledge should uncover the issues that are top of their mind. When paired with probing questions, active listening should give you all the data you need to qualify that prospect and move you on to next steps (schedule a follow-up or cross them off your target list).

Enough with the "All about me/us" speech.

Your audience, a person whom you're hoping to do business, does not care about the litany of things you've done in your career, when your company was founded, or how big your business is (actually they might care about this, but that's for a future discussion).

Rather than starting the conversation by reciting your resume, encourage the other person to talk. It is a fundamental tenet of human nature that we like to talk about ourselves. By inviting your potential prospect to share with you what their job entails, which internal teams they interface with, and where they see "things" going in the near future. When you create a listening environment that is focused on the other person sharing details with you, you will benefit from a wealth of knowledge in a short period of time.

Pitch to the pain.

Unlike the baseball philosophy of "pitch through the pain", there is enormous value in pitching to the pain. Should you find yourself in the enviable position of not only meeting the right person and gleaning critical details that propel you onto the early stages of your pitch, be sure to focus on how you can solve their challenges. No one ever pulls into the auto mechanic when their car is running perfectly. People seek solutions when they have a problem. By asking the right probing questions (see point #2), you're now ready to illustrate how your service(s) solve a problem for your prospect. Even better, if you can help him or her look like the hero to their organisation through the use of your product or service, you've positioned yourself as their go-to supplier for years to come.

Keeping these in mind, you should be able to leave OTC with a pocket full of new leads. Now you just have to pace yourself and walk the walk. Read five more tips to surviving OTC.