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October 2021 - Delving Into the Public Sector

I want to share 5 tips for NeoCon that are applicable to everyone but will put a public sector spin them.

As I reflect on NeoCon’s gone by, I also reflect on my career in the furniture industry. If I got the years correct, I have been attending NeoCon since 2002 when I was invited by an up-and-coming systems manufacturer as I was the VP of Sales for a dealer that they wanted to represent the line. I had been in the industry since 1996 but had never had the opportunity to attend the show. They were on the 7th floor of the Mart that year. The following year I was there as a VP of Sales for that manufacturer (the dealer I had worked for had closed its doors) and my career skyrocketed from there. NeoCon from then on always meant a lot of fun and friends, a lot of hard work and very little sleep. I honestly never looked forward to going (my bosses will tell you I would volunteer to not go) but I always ended up grateful that I went.

This will be my first year at NeoCon where I am not with a manufacturer working a showroom and my goals for the show are so very different than what they have been in the past, so I am looking forward to a new experience.

October being the month of NeoCon is throwing me a curve ball. It is my birthday month, a month of falling leaves and chill in the air not the month we normally head to the windy city for the biggest furniture show in North America but, I am looking forward to it. One of the many things I love about the contract furniture industry is that it is so very large but so very small at the same time. In my 25 years as part of the industry I have met many great people and a lot of them have become true friends. So, I look forward to reconnecting with old friends, celebrating my birthday with many of them, and meeting new friends. It will be different for sure, but sometimes different is good. I hope you wore your comfortable shoes!!

I want to share 5 tips for NeoCon that are applicable to everyone but will put a public sector spin them.

1. There will be public sector end users and designers at NeoCon. There may not be as many and they may not be from all over the US, but they will be there. In the past many federal, state, education and non-profits have been in attendance. Ask your contacts if they will be attending, you may be surprised. 2. Make Appointments. I am a big proponent of making showroom appointments at NeoCon and I think this year it may be even more important. The MART and all the showrooms can be distracting. If you make an appointment, you have a better chance of seeing your customer or prospect than if you do not.

3. Read nametags. Let everyone in the showroom know that if they see someone with a federal or SLED agency to let you know. Most nametags have the end user company. Make sure you pay attention. So many great meetings with new potential prospects have happened through just paying attention to someone’s nametag and/or by being alerted by a coworker that someone from XYZ agency was there and did I want to talk to them. 4. Work Wednesday. I know everyone is tired and many have left by this time, but someone needs to be in your showroom working and by this, I mean a salesperson! There may not be a lot of good prospects who come through on Wednesday, but that one person may come in that makes the show for you. Especially if you are not with a major manufacturer, it may not be until Wednesday that they make it by your showroom. A couple of years ago I learned this lesson when I was “stuck” working the Wednesday. There was a prospect I had met before that I knew was at NeoCon, but they were not responding to my request to schedule an appointment. I was bummed that they did not stop in on Monday or Tuesday when low and behold the main guy came in the showroom Wednesday morning incognito...jeans, ballcap. I did not even recognize him. I walked over to greet him, read his nametag and we had a great laugh over him being incognito and then a great presentation.

5. Walk/Work the hallways. This may sound stalkerish but work the hallways. If I had down time while in the showroom, I would hang around outside in the hallway and see people I knew to bring into the showroom. Sometimes people are super focused and will walk right past your showroom or they may even forget you would be there. This is a people industry; grab the ones you know when you see them. I would also be working as I walked to other showrooms or even the restroom. Always looking for people I knew and or nametags for people I want to know.

This year will be very different than the past, but I think these tips will apply and hopefully will benefit you in your pursuit of public sector.

About Michelle Warren

Michelle Warren is President of Catalyst Consulting Group, a firm specializing in providing strategic solutions to the commercial furniture industry to enhance companies' sales and positioning within their industry and distribution. Michelle has been in the commercial furniture industry for over 25 years with experience on both the dealer and manufacturer side of the industry. She has experience at the EVP, VP and National Sales Manager level for large and small manufacturers.


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