A Meeting of the Minds: 6 Takeaways from ISA’s 2018 Sales and Marketing Conference

Who’s Brella? What’s a Vidyard? Why should we obsess about a “uniting idea”? And just what docustomers really think?

Sales and marketing leaders from ISA firms gathered in Tysons Corners, Virginia, this October to find answers to all these questions and more at ISA’s 2018 Sales and Marketing Conference. They not only learned from some of the leading thinkers in sales and marketing today, they had the chance to try out some new tools, pick up some strategic tips and share experiences with their industry colleagues. And with the helpful nudge of Brella (more on that in a minute), they came back to their offices with a broadened network of trusted colleagues to turn to for advice throughout the year.

But don’t just take our word for it. We asked participants about some of their most valuable takeaways and favorite features of this year’s conference. Here’s what they told us.

1. You can’t sell without being social:  One of the most buzzed-about sessions was Jamie Shank’s Social Selling Workshop. The author of “Social Selling Mastery” demonstrated a number of innovative selling and relationship-building tactics and tools — including LinkedIn Sales Navigator, PointDrive and Vidyard — that sales and marketing teams can integrate into their processes to connect with today’s digital buyer and accelerate sales success.
Based on Jamie’s advice, attendees say they’re going to be working more closely with their sales teams on developing their technical aptitude and social selling processes. As one participant said, the session has inspired them to “re-educate the team to a social selling routine that we can measure and report on.” Marketing teams plan to look at how to use social networking more effectively for lead generation.
2. Keep fine-tuning the sales process: A recurring theme in conference evaluations is the need to put more structure around the sales process. This might involve a review of the sales structure, talking to the sales team about what works for them in winning/losing sales, expanding sales to clients who may have moved to new companies, and making sure marketing and sales are aligned around new sales structures and playbooks.
3. Find that “uniting idea”: Kathleen Bowden of CXO Communication made a big impact with her session on branding. After discussing what C-suite buyers are looking for (relevance, differentiation, value, clarity and credibility), she emphasized the need to identify your brand’s differentiated brand opportunity. She calls this the “uniting idea” — the pivotal intersection of your clients’ pressing needs, your unique strengths, your business strategy agenda and your available competitive white space.
Kathleen also gave the group an outsider’s snapshot of what some of the ISA firms’ current uniting ideas appear to be. Participants left with inspiration and ideas about their brand’s uniting idea — as well as specific steps to take back with them so they can really nail it down.
4. Inject lead generation with empathy: Speaker Brian Carroll of markempa explored the power of empathy in understanding customer motivation and increasing lead conversion, a message that many attendees are taking to heart. We heard a number of ISA marketing leaders discussing the need to review personas, marketing content, messaging and the entire brand through the lens of empathy. They’re planning to interview clients to get a better understanding of what they really care about and how they feel, not just how they think. As Brian put it, to convert more leads, you have to “move from campaigns to conversations,” and that requires a lead nurturing approach that resonates emotionally, not just rationally.
5. Learn from the customer: Luckily, attendees didn’t have to go far to start picking up some valuable customer insights. Tony Rutigliano presented an engaging and provocative “voice of the customer” session that resonated with the group. Having spent time as a buyer of learning and development at ADP and Highmark Health and as a sales leader at Gallup and IBM, he had plenty of stories to share and lessons learned from both sides of the conversation.
6. Learn from each other: Attendees were introduced to the Brella networking app prior to the conference, which gave them a chance to get to know a little bit about each other before arriving in Tysons Corner. The app even scheduled meetings for people to connect up at specific times and places on site.

With plenty of time for networking and informal discussions, as well as specific break-outs for sales and marketing leaders to share best practices and brainstorm around big challenges, attendees left with new ideas as well as new connections and confidantes — something no app can replace. As one person said on their evaluation, number one on their to-do list after the conference: “Follow up with cool members I met.”

If you attended the conference, we’d love to hear about your takeaways and any new tools and strategies you’re putting in place as a result of what you learned. Share in the comments or over in the ISA LinkedIn Group.

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