It’s show time! The stand is built, you have put the word out that you will be there, press releases are done and you are ready to go. There is a buzz in the hall as everyone is running around carrying out last minute finishing touches and at last the doors are opened and everyone waits in anticipation for the first visitor to stop at their stand for a chat.
Trade Shows are a marathon of face to face cold calling. Certainly you can use them as an opportunity to meet with customers and prospects already in the sales cycle but the main advantage of attending is for lead generation. The goal is to leave with a healthy number of contacts that you can jump on as soon as you get back to the office to get them into the sales cycle – or of course enough deals signed at the show to justify the cost of attending depending on the business you are in.
Part two – During the show
In order to protect your investment you need to remain focused on the goal and here is my advice on making the most of any Trade Show.
- The real art of working a show is to recognize who amongst all those visitors are the ones you need to spend time with. Many people visit shows to research and nose around and can take up a lot of your staff’s time. Have a mental list of qualifying questions ready and rather than go into your positioning sales spiel ask questions first. As long as you are polite and enthusiastic a true prospect will be delighted that you are interested in them and you will be able to quickly determine whether you should spend time with them or not.
- Work and turn. Many years ago I worked for a company who hired a specialist to review our effectiveness at trade shows and advise us how to the most out of the opportunity. He was the one who taught me to work and turn. Once you have identified a visitor as a true prospect spend enough time with them to ensure that they will leave with your company on their potential supplier list and not a minute more. While you are busy with them there could be many other good opportunities walking past. If you have to demonstrate your product then show just enough to peak their interest and then arrange to meet with after the show to go into the details. And if you are offering a service hand out case studies so it is clear in their mind where the benefits are. Work them and turn them but with a follow up plan clear in both of your minds.
- If you have room on the stand organize times for planned demonstrations or presentations but make them short and pertinent. Remember every visitor to your stand will be overwhelmed with information from multiple would be suppliers and you have to make an impact in a clear concise manner. If you do not have room see if there are seminar opportunities available and use them as a way to portray yourself and your company as experts in your field.
- If you find people are not naturally drawn to your stand engage people in conversation as they walk pass or come up with a giveaway that brings them to you. Years ago at a large and busy show I attended a new company gave away purple high top Converse sneakers and before long all you could see were people stopping those who already had theirs asking were they got them from. Everyone wanted a pair. You don’t have to go to that length but for that new company it worked brilliantly - their brand awareness and list of potential customers grew substantially overnight.
- And don’t forget the housekeeping – make sure you have a good system in place to capture leads. And collect as much information as you can about each prospect you speak to and write it down as this will really help with your follow up activities.
Trade shows are exciting, frustrating and tiring and can deliver a great return in the investment but only if you know what the goal is beforehand and if you keep it in mind at all times