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Vendor Guide – Maximizing A Business Exchange

Vendor Guide – Maximizing A Business Exchange

Business exchanges are becoming more and more popular as association events as a way for vendors to get in front of key property management personnel.  In a lot of ways, a business exchange is a cross between speed dating and a trade show, but rather than the vendor having a booth, the property management companies man their own tables, with suppliers having the opportunity to visit each table and pitch their service.  Oftentimes, the business exchange has time limits, such as 5 minutes for each meeting, which gives it a speed dating feel as vendors move from one property management company to another, trying to woo each one in the process.

Since these events are becoming more popular, we visited the Houston Apartment Association’s Business Exchange to discuss vendor strategies with both vendors and property management representatives.  Here are eight tips to maximizing the business exchange from a vendor’s point of view:

1)      Do you have a plan or are you “winging it”?  Do you know exactly what you want to cover, and just as importantly, what goal you want to achieve at the event?  One supplier told us that they attempt to get included in manager meetings after the event, which means they attempt to find out the date and details for that managers meeting.  In a related conversation, we heard that being prepared to offer to sponsor a lunch at the manager’s meeting would definitely give an opportunity to address the group.  Another goal we heard was to identify who the decision maker was for your particular product or service so that follow-up could be directed to that person, as he or she might not be the representative at the business exchange.  All in all, the theme was to simply plan ahead, rather than blindly showing up and hoping for success.

 2)      What companies are actually a good fit for you?  Rather than randomly talking to each company, vendors who do the best at a business exchange will often research the property management companies beforehand and try to get a feel for which companies might be a good fit for their type of service before they even talk to them.  Plus, it provides a strong impression for the vendor to be able to intelligently explain how their service would fit their specific needs, rather than a generic pitch that could be applied to any property management company.

 3)      Never forget to explain WIFM – What’s in it for them?  With a giant countdown timer off to the side, you might feel the urge to immediately go into your pitch about your company.  But oftentimes, that means you don’t know exactly what their needs are or how your company might be the right solution for them.  One property management executive we talked to explained how a sincere attempt to helping meet her needs was obvious with the good pitches, and sorely lacking in others.

 4)      What makes you different?  If you are the 5th pest control company a person has talked to, you might see their eyes glaze over.  So always be prepared to focus on what makes you different beyond the basic elements of your business.  One property management executive told us that events like this are one of the best opportunities to learn about the latest products and services, as oftentimes their on-site teams hear about them sooner than they do.

 5)      Are you throwing everything at your prospect?  One tip from a supplier was to streamline your approach to only focus on one key aspect, whether it is a new service, or possibly a product you are trying to push at that moment.  Some people tend to try to cover everything during the 5 minute meeting, which can overwhelm the prospect.  So instead, keep your message focused and simple.

 6)      How are you memorable?  Beyond what makes your service different, does anything make you or your pitch different from all the other potential suitors at the event?  From edible crickets to an immediate demo on a tablet device, you need to be memorable relative to the dozens of other presentations they heard during the business exchange.

 7)      Did you actually follow-up?  What seems like such an obvious key is surprisingly missed.  We talked to several people who noted that follow-up was lacking in a large number of their interactions. 

 8)      When should you follow up?  We heard varying feedback on when a vendor should follow up after a business exchange.  A few property management representatives liked it when the vendor followed up within 24 hours, which indicated that the vendor might also be prompt in their service down the road.  In fact, one person told us they had the vendor come out for a bed bug treatment the very next day.  However, some vendors we talked to felt that responding too quickly could come off as desperate, and a property management executive we talked to felt it might feel too pushy.  In this camp, they felt that 5 to 7 days, or even as far as 10 days may be more appropriate.  Overall, it seems that a quick follow-up can work, but just make sure not to be too assertive if you do.

If you are looking to participate in a business exchange, we were impressed with HAA’s event, and we know that the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando has an event as well.  We hope that helps in your next business exchange, and I want to thank everybody who took time to give us their tips and suggestions on how vendors can maximize this type of event!

Photograph by Mark Hiebert, HiebertStock.com

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