It is one week until RSA, and now is the time to start planning to make the most of your trip. RSA has one of largest (if not the single largest) vendor Expositions for Information Security. Every year I use this as a one-week refresher course on the products and services that are available. Frequently the class sessions are very valuable to me, in terms of my long term professional development, but (for my employer) the information I collect on the Expo floor is valuable almost immediately.
Screen Now and Benefit All Year
I am very selective about the vendors with whom, I have meetings. Sure, I am missing out on free lunches, but the fact is that I don’t have endless time to meet with people. As a result I screen, and whenever possible pre-qualify vendors. Most of the time I spend on the RSA Expo floor is spent identifying who I don’t need to meet with, and establishing whom I definitely do want to meet with in the following year.
Understand your Organizations or Clients Needs !
In general you should have a good understanding of your employer or clients… Some key things to understand before heading out to the exposition:
Q: What are the emerging needs of your organization?
What are the areas of concern for your CISO, Risk Mgmt., LOB partners, or other important constituents? In the week or two leading up to RSA, I ping my CISO, key LOB partners, etc. to find out what concerns they have, what vendors have been hounding them for meetings, what alternatives they may need, etc.
Q: What products or services are subject to change?
I feel that, even for our deployed products, it is incumbent on me as a good corporate citizen to make sure those products are still competitive in the market. Information about the competition is especially important during contract renewals. No one negotiates a win-win deal without being fully informed.
Q: Who are you key partners, and what new offerings do they have?
Who are the top vendors whose products you have, and love? Make sure to take the opportunity to visit them, understand emerging features, and make sure that you are getting the most out of your existing investment.
Q: Who will your organization generally buy or not buy from?
Many organizations have firm rules about the types of organizations they will purchase from; know what these are. My experience is that if a product is truly compelling, there is always a way for purchasing to see that and make a deal happen. But, if you sense a weak offering from a company, that is going to be a hard sell to your organization, save time for both you and the vendor – tell them, and move on.
Be There Monday Night
Monday evening at RSA, the Expo opens to Delegates only. The fact that there are fewer people on the expo floor, the booth people are not burned out, and the free food makes this the ideal Expo floor time.
Arrange Key Visits In Advance
As I already mentioned, I try to pre-qualify vendor meetings. There are folks whom I know that I need to be meeting with (established relationships, emerging solutions, emerging risk needs, etc.) and there are a number of folks I know I don’t want to wast time on (lack of compelling product story, people who wasted my time in the past,etc.), but there are also a number of folks in the gray area in-between.
From November on, I start asking folks in the gray area if they are going to have an Expo presence at RSA. If they are, I ask for them to follow-up with me before the show with a booth # and contact name. After I arrive on-site and have the conference book in hand, I add to the list. I avoid setting up specific times, because with everything that happens at the show my schedule is too dynamic.
For each of these “quick meet and greets”, I prep one of my business cards in advance. I have the booth #, contact name, and subject clue on the back of the card. If my contact isn’t at the booth, I leave the card. When you in fact follow-up, you build credibility and relationship, even if there is no service to need synergy at this time.
Be Quick and Targeted
If the printed information, name, etc. on the booth catches my eye, I stop for a quick visit. I try to get the facts quickly, in 3-6 min. The secret is to not be afraid to ask tough questions quickly (but politely), such as:
- What’s compelling about your offering?
- Who is your primary competition?
- Do you have hard data, or a case study you can forward to me?
- Do you have reference accounts for the use cases that are most important to my organization?
- What industry analysis (Gartner, Burton, etc.) has been published on this space? Was your product included?
Be Specific About Follow-up
If I have an immediate need, I ask for contact info and I initiate the follow-up before I leave the show. If I am interested in follow-up for a long-term, or next budget cycle, etc. then I usually ask for follow-up later in the year (e.g. Q3/4). Q2 is always a very busy time for me and the people around me, so I try to defer long-term information and knowledge capture until later in the year.
Hope this is helpful – see you in SFO.
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