The Advisor’s Guide To Evaluating Tech Vendors at Conferences

Written by: Justine Young

It’s conference season once again – and whichever conferences you choose to attend, you’re bound to run into tech vendors. 

But with all the smiling faces and shiny booths at these events, it’s easy to get sidetracked – or to even forget what tech your firm really needs. 

Related: 9 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Advisor Conferences

Whether you’re looking for new tech or not, conferences present a great opportunity to plug into the tech pipeline and see the latest advisor tools firsthand. To help you sift through the various tech solutions, we’ve rounded up our top ten tips for interacting with tech vendors at conferences. 

10 Tips for Talking to Tech Vendors at Advisor Conferences

1. Evaluate your firm’s needs

Before you head to the airport for your next conference, take some time to think about what tech your firm needs. Survey your team, survey your clients, leave no stone uncovered as you consider: 

  • What’s the engagement rate on your client portal (and could it be better)? 
  • Could you improve the tech you use to track prospects?
  • What rough spots in your integrations would you love to smooth out? 

In short, identify which parts of your tech stack you have decided you just have to “live with.”

Knowing what you need ahead of time can help you stay on track at the conference amid all the shiny booths and t-shirt freebies. Likewise, knowing what tech you don’t need can help ensure you don’t waste too much time with vendors you don’t need.

2. Stay flexible

While a game plan is always a good idea, it’s also a good idea to leave a little room for magic.

Even though you may not be looking for a new CRM, you could find a new one that offers lower cost and better capabilities than your current partner. You’re not really in the market for a new CRM, but the universe has aligned – and this could really be something. 

Make room in your schedule to browse all the booths, not just the ones you know you want to meet with. The mantra to follow is: “Know your needs, but stay flexible.”

3. Do your research ahead of time

Nowadays, it’s common for advisor conferences to provide attendees with relevant information via an app or dedicated website, like the Jolt conference hosted by Snappy Kraken. You may be able to find a list of sponsors and vendors on the app that will be present at the event. 

If so, take some time to browse ahead of time and make a list of those you’d like to learn more about. Visit their website and write down a list of questions you have for each specific vendor. 

4. Ask for a takeaway

You’re likely attending multiple sessions, networking, balancing Slack messages from back home and more. In all the hustling, it’s easy to forget everything the vendor told you or why you were interested in the first place!

If you’re short on time or worried about retaining all that new info, don’t be afraid to ask vendors for a takeaway, like a pamphlet, brochure or even a business card. Once you get some free time, sort through your takeaways and reach out with any questions you forgot to ask in the moment – they’d love to hear from you.

5. Be honest

It’s easy to want to be nice to vendors when they’re giving you their spiel. And while it’s important to be polite, you don’t want to waste your time (or theirs). If you realize mid-convo that this particular vendor isn’t the right solution for your firm, be honest and politely excuse yourself. 

Give them honest feedback on why it’s not a good fit – vendors love learning what their prospects are looking for.

6. Get the real costs

As you chat with vendors, don’t be afraid to mention your budget or ask for cost estimates. You don’t want to spend an hour talking to someone only to realize they’re way above your price point.

If you’re a smaller RIA, most vendors should have no problem telling you how much their platform would cost for you (enterprise tends to be a little trickier when it comes to pricing).

7. Give props to your current partners

Is there a vendor in attendance that you already work with and love? Make sure to stop by and say hello! This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours hanging out or being their best friend (although you can) – it’s just a good way to maintain and build relationships with your tech partners. 

8. Stay in touch

Even if you decide a vendor isn’t right for your firm now, it may be down the road. Keep a positive relationship with tech vendors and respond when they reach out – even if it’s to tell them now is not the right time. 

9. Share your finds with your team

One of the best ways to optimize your conference experience is to collect takeaways and ideas that you can then share with your team. With a decision as big as new tech, you’ll likely want to grab some input from your firm’s employees before signing on the dotted line. 

Once you’re back in your hometown, take some time to collect your thoughts, then set up a time to sit down with your core members and share what you’ve learned.

10. Take your time to make a decision

Even if you love everything you’re hearing from the vendor, it’s important to do your research and talk with your team. If you find a vendor that you think is a good fit, schedule a meeting for the week after the conference to learn more. 

Conference season is a great opportunity to explore new technology for your firm. With these ten tips, you can efficiently and effectively evaluate tech vendors at conferences and bring back the best tech for your team. 

Related: 15 Marketing Ideas for Financial Advisors Looking To Grow in 2023