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"Selling Smarts on the Trade Show Floor"
By Christine Corelli   Printer Friendly Version

Exhibiting in your industry trade show can often generate more leads from one trade-show than you can in the field in a whole year. Here are some sales techniques that can make the difference between success or failure in your trade-show sales efforts.

Prior to the show...

Get your sales and marketing staff, to discuss what has worked for you when you have exhibited in the past and what hasn't. Be sure to include everyone that is involved with the show. Involving your people in the planning process can also create anticipation and excitement about the show. 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, or purchase special gifts for special customers.

Consider preparing invitations for an "in-house" event to be held at your company the week after the show for local people to come in for a demonstration. Think of how you can make it special for them so that they'll want to attend. You can also extend the invitation to your event to interested prospects at the booth.

  • Give some thought before you spend money on giveaways for just anyone who strolls in the booth.

Go ahead and purchase giveaways if you must, but I've seen too many "souvenir-seekers," and "just-lookers" who take up your valuable selling time collecting rulers, key chains, pens, pads of paper, and other popular small items. You might get a bigger bang for your buck by having nicer usable gifts for special customers and potential customers.

  • Set the bait!

Purchase moderately-priced but usable gifts such as a walkman, a toy, 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.)

  • Spread the word that you are exhibiting and promote the show.

Many salespeople make the mistake of relying only on show management and their marketing people to bring the buyers in. Trade show management's job is to sell booth space and invite the industry to the trade show. Each sales person must promote to its own customers and prospects to make it happen for them.

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

  • Train your booth personnel on trade show selling skills.

Your sales force must help all booth personnel to learn about the products or services being displayed to help them generate leads. Then 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.

This is especially important for technicians, service people, or receptionists who may be part of your booth staff, but have not had any sales training. You will need their help during peak hours when your sales force may be occupied. Know about your competitors' product and be able to state why yours is better. Be sure you have a lead-handling plan and that everyone knows how it will work.

At the show...

  • Meet, greet, qualify and interest people fast.

Don't wait. Initiate! Extend your hand and greet the visitor. Small talk for a few seconds, then ask a question to qualify the person before discussing your products or services, i.e. "What are your needs?" Try to not spend more than five minutes with any one prospect during peak show hours unless they are genuinely interested. Be sure to record the customer's level of interest, purchasing influence, budget, and specific application, time frames and phone number.

  • Make visitors feel important.

Be sure to shake hands, maintain eye-contact, and ask questions to all individuals who may come as a group from the same company to visit your booth. Don't make the mistake of paying more attention to the decision maker only. You need to make a positive impression with everyone.

If you are expecting an important customer or potential customer, an easel with a sign that says, "Welcome... Joe Smith, XYZ COMPANY," is a really nice touch. Introduce interested prospects to upper-level management and service people. All of these help to build relationships. And be sure to display professionalism in every aspect of the business process.

  • Deliver an enthusiastic presentation.

You must make buyers feel the same enthusiasm for your product as you do. The excitement of being in the trade show atmosphere will often help you in this area because of all the activity taking place.

  • Be sensitive and "in tune" with how your customer is reacting. Know when to talk. Know when to talk, know when to listen. Know when to shift gears!

Visitors' attention span will be limited. They may be jet-lagged and fatigued, and they will want to visit other booths at the show. Remember your main purpose of exhibiting in a trade show is to generate leads.

  • Get some type of commitment.

Bring your calendar and set up appointments with customers while they are at the show. If however, you have a customer who is ready to buy...

  • Ask for the business!

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. Remember sound confident and relaxed, then - "Ask for the sale!

  • Be ready for fast follow-up after the show.

If you go back to business as usual after the show, or become overwhelmed with to-dos, phone calls, and back-mail, you will miss the boat. Don't wait. Follow up no longer than three days after the show with strong leads. Phone and set up an appointment or demo and fax or E-mail a recap of what you discussed. Let them know why they should do business with your company, and why your product will benefit them.

Exhibiting at a trade show can be a costly and labor-intensive venture for booth space, displays, marketing materials, travel expenses, etc. Despite the costs, if you properly plan for the event, are creative with your sales and marketing strategy, are efficient and make a positive impression on the trade show floor, and do a fast follow-up afterwards, your results will far surpass the investment.

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