…and turning down the sales fever
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d suffered a bit of a setback with my marketing activities and the time has come to explain what happened. Some time ago I discovered that an international conference on wine tourism is held every spring. It seemed like an ideal opportunity for me, combining as it does two of my specialist translation areas. Perhaps I should go in 2017, I thought.
I did some investigation, talked to the organisers, and made up my mind to go to Sicily for the event. Then, another idea came to me. Why not take things a step further and present a talk at the conference? I spoke to a colleague and we decided to present a joint proposal. It seemed obvious to present something on the need for good translations and well-written English to promote wine tourism. We could explain the need, show some examples of getting it wrong and getting it right, and finish with some gentle self-promotion. How could they turn us down?
But turn us down they did. It should have come as no surprise. Had I only listened to the various illustrious voices who have given advice on such matters at various times, I would have realised we were getting it all wrong. But I was naive and suffering from the peculiar affliction that comes, I think, to all those of us who are not natural salespeople. To cope with the discomfort of being forced into a situation where we have to get out there and sell, we put on the salesman’s suit as if it were armour and completely ignore subtlety and good sense. Of course no-one wants outsiders coming into their conference with commercial intent. We would hate it if someone did it to us. But with that suit of armour on, we can do no wrong and all we can see are potential clients who will be delighted to listen, allow themselves to be convinced and bring us their business. Self-delusion is always a trap for the unwary.
I have to confess to being very disappointed, initially, with the rejection. But then all the wise words I’d read in the past about what to do at this kind of event came back to me, and I soon realised I’d been taught a valuable lesson. If I’m going to get anywhere approaching potential direct clients, I have to take off the armour and turn down the selling fever not just one or two, but five, six or seven notches. So I’m going to the conference, but I’m going to listen and learn, not to preach and sell. I’m going to meet people, not to reel in clients. I’m going to work, but not with any great expectations of instant results.
It’s harder doing things this way. There’s no instant gratification; no immediate return on investment. But this is the way the real world works, not some silly dream. And I’ve just been brought another step closer to seeing it as it is.
Simon, I have to agree with your conclusion — much better to attend an event first as an observer to get a feel for content, attendees, vibe. Until you’ve breathed their air you’re not necessarily aware of what drives that particular group. Likewise, assuming we’re not talking about an academic conference, my experience is that most trade conference talks are on either strategic or practical matters. And if practical, should not be a pitch for me-and-my-services, rather insights that will help the attendees go out and do something more effectively for their own business. That will empower them. Something like that?
Thank you for your comment, Chris. Yours, of course, is one of the wise voices I initially chose to ignore. But you’re right, I’m sure.