When was the last time you went line-by-line through your advertising or exhibit sales records? Maybe you feel it’s not necessary. The numbers look reasonable. No one is complaining. Everyone thinks they have their financial house in order, until they find out they don’t. Maybe the person in control of exhibit sales, for example, just left after 20 years and had developed their own way of tracking, record keeping and/or sales and comp structure. Perhaps over the years, special sales and comp structures have become the norm versus the exception. Or maybe the records are just sparse and/or incomplete.
There are many reasons things can go awry and remain under the radar. Which is why it’s never a bad idea to take a deep dive into your financial records, particularly before, or in conjunction with, bringing in a third-party sales partner. Having a clear and honest picture of your current financial situation will allow you to set accurate project goals and expectations with your partner and help them build a successful sales strategy. It paves the way for a more fruitful relationship with less disappointment.
The Financial Discovery Process
The financial discovery process should be broad in scope and include as much information as possible. This process should involve several team members such as your director of events, CFO and the sales team or person if they are still with the organization. Your goal is to gather as much information as you can to paint a complete picture of your sales process and results. Gather information such as:
- Basic financial numbers
- Number of participant companies
- Total revenue (bonus: broken down into categories like exhibits, sponsorships, and advertising)
- Total booths and/or sqft. sold
- Lists of the past years’ participants and the recapture rate year over year
- Segment into who came back/did not come back
- Lists of the discounts previously offered
- Records of which exhibitors or advertisers received special deals
- What is the process for who receives comps and why
- Lists of who has payment plans to pay over time (other words “special payment arrangements”)
- Current terms and conditions, cancellation policy, and deposit deadlines
After you’ve gathered everything related to the exhibit sales or advertising sales function, you will move to the data analysis phase. This means your partner will go through each sale line by line to identify outliers, ask clarification questions, and raise a red flag on anything that doesn’t align with stated policies. The analysis will uncover places where the numbers might differ from what they were previously understood to be.
Once analyzed and evaluated, this information will be the foundation on which to build a new strategy for growth in the right way. Understanding how the system has operated previously, will allow your new sales partner to make recommendations to improve the process and streamline payables and revenue growth.
Financial Discovery is a Win-Win
When both parties come to this discovery period with an open mind, they can come together on the same page and align growth goals. The working relationship will be stronger and exhibitors or advertisers will be happier.