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"How to Increase Your Trade Show Sales"
By Christine Corelli   Printer Friendly Version

Exhibiting in an industry show can be the best marketing vehicle for your company to obtain immediate access to potential and existing customers. It is also an excellent opportunity to display your product or service to the largest number of people at any single event. If you do it right, you can likely generate more leads in three or four days than you can in the field in a whole year.

But if you think that getting results from exhibiting comes from simply putting up a booth with a big sign, displaying your product, and standing around waiting for people to come is all it takes, you are sadly mistaken. Or, if you think that merely offering a "giveaway" that draws hordes of people into your booth will generate good leads you could be greatly disappointed.

If you want to win the game, it is essential to have a marketing strategy in place months ahead of the show and put some "trade show sales savvy" when interacting with customers at the booth. Here are some do's and don'ts I have learned from over twenty years experience working in the trade show field with a multitude of clients from numerous industries. These can make the difference between success or failure in your trade-show sales efforts.

In the months and weeks ahead of the show . . .


  • Brainstorm with your people

    Discuss what has worked for you when you have exhibited in the past and what hasn't. Discuss ways you can get your best customers and potential customers to visit. Decide if you will extend a special invitation to a dinner or reception, purchase special gifts, or perhaps sponsor a special event. Think of innovative ways you can differentiate your trade show exhibit and presentation from your competitors. For example, you might have a pedestal using special lighting on an enlarged version of a complicated molded part to catch their eye.


  • Exclude anyone who will be involved with the show

    People tend to promote what they help to create. A multitude of creative ideas can be generated by many people. Involving your people in the planning process can also create anticipation and excitement about the show.


  • Create a desire to visit your booth

    Purchase moderately-priced but usable gifts such as a walkman, funny T-shirt, smokeless ashtray, or sets of golf balls to use to help with your pre-show promotion that will entice buyers visit your booth. Be creative when selecting what you buy. Then invite your best potential and existing customers to your exhibit and let them know a gift is waiting for them at the booth in their name. (You will want to be sure these gifts are packaged, and handed to people in a bag so as not to offend anyone who may not have received one.)


  • Waste money on cheap promotional items for just anyone who might stroll in.

    I've seen too many "souvenir-seekers," and "just-lookers" who take up your valuable selling time and impede your availability to communicate with qualified buyers. You can get the biggest bang for your buck by investing in fewer usable gifts for strong prospects and good customers.


  • Promote the show

    Advertise and offer show-specials. Make sure credit managers; customer service and technical people promote the show when communicating with customers. Have your sales force make as many appointments as possible with customers and prospects before the show.


  • Rely only on trade show management to get the word out

    Trade show management's job is to sell booth space and invite the industry to the tradeshow. Each exhibitor must promote to its own customers and prospects.


  • Train your booth personnel on trade show selling skills

Booth personnel should learn about the products or services being displayed and brainstorm every conceivable question attendees might ask on the show floor. Carefully formulate the questions you want them to ask to qualify visitors and the sales message you want to convey. Then have them practice how to deliver information and answer questions concisely and powerfully. Be sure you have a lead-handling plan and that everyone knows how it will work. Know about your competitors' product and be able to state why yours is better.


  • Bring anyone from your company who is not friendly and outgoing and has a good attitude about being there

Booth personnel must have product knowledge, a professional appearance, and excellent communication skills or they'll be taking up space. Anyone who will be at the booth will be there for one reason and that is to help the sales force generate leads. (Remember: A company is judged by the people they keep.)


  • Compose a follow-up letter that you can personalize (NO FORM LETTERS!) and store it on your word processor for fast follow-up after the show. Be sure you leave space to recap what you talked about so they will know you remembered them specifically. Create an inquiry form if you will not be using the system provided by show management.


  • Wait until you're swamped with "Post-Show" back-mail and to-do's.

    Be ready for Fast follow-up after the show. Remember your main purpose of exhibiting in a trade show is to generate leads.

At the show . . .


  • Meet, greet, qualify and interest people fast

Extend your hand and say, "Hi - I'm Joe! How do you like the show?" Small talk for 30 seconds, then ask a question to qualify the person before discussing your products or services, i.e. "Do you have application for this type of mold making equipment?" - "What are your needs?"


  • Hesitate to approach, or use the phrase, "May I help you?" or spend more than five minutes with any one prospect unless it could mean big business.


  • Take the time to write information the salespeople need

Be sure to record the customer's level of interest, purchasing influence, budget, and specific application, time frames and phone number.


  • Hand out literature without scanning their badge or getting their business card.


  • Deliver an enthusiastic presentation. And remember, people buy solutions to problems.


  • Provide demos that are longer than four minutes.

Visitors' attention span will be limited. They may be tired, jet-lagged, and fatigued, but need to visit other booths at the show.


  • Display professionalism in every aspect of the business process. Be sure to introduce interested prospects to upper-level management. (It makes them feel important.)


  • Forget to ask for the sale!

Most salespeople don't do this, which is a mistake, but in many instances you can, and should close business on the trade show floor. Take the initiative and ask for the sale!

Exhibiting at a trade show can be a costly and labor-intensive endeavor: booth space, displays, marketing materials, etc. Despite the costs, if you properly plan for the event, conduct yourself professionally during the show, and make sure you are prepared to follow-up afterwards, your results will far surpass the investment. These tips will help you beat the competition and make your profits soar. Good luck with your trade show selling!

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