Conventional wisdom dictates that the best way to woo those hard-to-impress c-suite decision makers is to fly them all to the Seychelles, put them up in the swankiest all-inclusive resort, buy them a few rounds of golf and along the way, chat up your product. The thing is, sometimes it’s better to leave the gravy at home and focus on the meat.
For its 23-city Exstream Results Tour, HP set out in a 45-foot motor coach and visited 48 current and potential financial services clients serving up the latest computer hardware and HP Exstream software. To make sure there were no distractions from the product, HP outfitted the coach with several demo areas, each focused on one of the software’s key features, and with room for only 30 customers at a time. The setup was designed to feel like a living room, with comfy chairs and couches gathered around a hi-def flat screen TV and little else.
The real secret was bringing the goods to the customers, according to Tami Webster, HP Exstream marketing manager. “We had two big challenges with the tour: attracting c-suite executives and expanding our ‘footprint’ with the client companies. I’ve found that when you bring [your product] to them, and all they have to do is go outside to see something, you’re more likely to attract them,” Webster says. “The ability to showcase HP Exstream technology and solutions in an informal, living room environment is an excellent way to accelerate sales cycles, educate accounts about new products and capabilities, increase brand awareness and provide a unique touch point for existing customers.”
And that approach worked, judging by the more than 600 financial services and insurance customers and prospects that visited the coach, resulting in three closed sales adding up to more than $5 million, in addition to many more millions in sales moved along the funnel during the tour’s 48 meetings, including 20 new business prospects and nine new major HP/Exstream revenue opportunities. An important point to remember is that HP’s enterprise software solutions typically have lengthy sales cycles, and though the closed new business was from existing customers, they indicated that the Exstream tour cemented the decision for them.
One pitfall was to be avoided at all costs, Webster says: death by PowerPoint. “This had to be more than a sales meeting to be successful,” she says. “The relaxed, conversational environment onboard helped people to listen better and enjoy the back and forth with our product and technology experts.” Each stop had a customized presentation experience, with HP/Exstream feature presentations tailored to the prospective customers’ business needs. The modular and custom nature of the demo areas allowed HP to be razor sharp and concise about the subject matter, covering the product’s nine key insurance, marketing and financial services solutions that addressed pain points ranging from data conversion to dynamic publishing to investment and bank statement generation, promoting only what was relevant to the prospective customer at hand.
If a larger, more traditional presentation was called for, the Exstream solution was to bring the prospects into the coach’s “diner.” The executives sat at restaurant-style booths, sipped a soda or coffee and engaged in an interactive viewing experience, with give and take from a subject matter expert.
Because of the intimate, at-home feel of the coach, HP sales reps were able to meet with several decision-makers at each stop, in addition to many end-users of the products, compressing the lengthy sales funnel. “For b-to-b clients, taking products directly to their customers provides the opportunity to really showcase their brands. It also attracts senior level decision-makers who may not go to trade shows,” says Steve Randazzo-president of Pro Motion, the St. Louis, MO-based agency that handled the tour.
The real proof of the tour’s success was more than the dollars, though the boost in revenue was a nice bonus. The customers are begging to have a repeat, Webster says, and so are the sales teams. This first run of the mobile trade show idea was anchored in the north and east of the U.S., but clients and reps in many of HP’s territories and verticals who heard about it and its success are calling for a visit a.s.a.p. One client told Webster, “This is the best thing I’ve seen in years. It’s like an executive briefing conference on wheels.”
“Some of these were first meetings, and all of the customers we met with are still alive and moving through the long sales cycle,” Webster says. “We’re definitely considering doing a similar tour again.” EM