We all know how important trade shows have become in the marketing mix of many companies. Make sure you and your company are paying attention to these important steps.
- ADVANCED PLANNING: How far in advance do you plan your trade shows? Likely it’s months in advance. Typically, that is mostly planning the booth space and layout. It is generally not preparing the people who will work the booth. Have you defined the overall objectives of the show for you and your company? It is vital to get your people in synch with your goals and expectations (long-term, short-term and immediate).
- APPEARANCE: Rate the overall visual appearance of the booth, placement, displays and marketing materials. Do you even have contests, drawings or giveaways? We know those are important to create engagement and opportunity. What is of key importance, however, is the people working the booth for you. Here we’re talking about Professionalism, Body Language, being relaxed yet “assertive” (not pouncing). Making eye contact, being friendly. Starting with the right questions. (“Can I help you?” doesn’t work in the retail store, and it certainly won’t work here either.)
- ASSESS: Understand and master how to Separate SUSPECTS from PROSPECTS to quickly qualify. This is one of the biggest issues for trade shows and maximizing opportunity. You need to prioritize your leads. How many times have you seen people making great Trade Show presentations to unqualified attendees or even competitors because they jump into a presentation every time someone steps near their booth? It is critical to be able to separate the real prospects from the crowd and avoid wasting precious time. Use ABC for classification. For example, a prospect that is an “A” has already agreed to meet after the show and there is a date on the calendar. “B” is a prospect that commits to meeting and asks you to contact them after the show to set the meeting. “C” is a longer term marketing opportunity for you. It allows you to touch them through strategic messaging.
- ASK (Questions). Most people working a trade show booth simply talk too much. There is a difference between “Telling” and “Selling”. In order to qualify the guests in your booth, you need to ask excellent questions. Developing a specific set or at least a format for questions will help you figure out which attendees warrant your time and effort.
“What does Smith Manufacturing do?” “What are you hoping to accomplish at this show?”
“Who do you typically work with?” “Who is your ideal client or customer?”
Your company MUST have a consistent message and common talking points. We refer to this as a masterful 30-second commercial. That’s right. Masterful.
- ACQUIRE (a decision), even if that means getting a “NO”.We’re not talking about a buying decision here. After a few minutes of discussion (and either qualifying or disqualifying), it makes sense to have this kind of dialog with the prospect: “We know how hectic these trade shows are. It certainly appears that there might be a potential match between some of the issues and challenges you’ve briefly shared and my companies products or services. Do you think it might make sense for us to talk further after the show? How is the best way for us to set that up?” If the prospect can get to that level of decision, you have a much more qualified lead. It’s worth the risk of having the prospect say, “NO.
- ADJUST (Outside Selling Style to Trade Show Selling). PACE is often a problem at trade shows for two reasons:
a. Attendees are usually in a hurry (and may rush you and the process itself).
b. YOU, as the exhibitor, want to touch as many as you can without pushing people away.
Your normal leisurely, consultative approach, whatever SYSTEM you usually use, may not work well at on the Trade Show floor. Using the questions we talked about developing, you can quickly get the prospect to talk about what he or she needs, and to identify when they see themselves doing something about that need.
- ACTIVE (not passive): Do more than just “put in your time”. We’re talking about active engagement here. Have you ever seen exhibitors just hanging around at a show, like 5th graders waiting for the bell to ring? Why do they act that way? They are NOT MOTIVATED. They DON’T UNDERSTAND THE OBJECTIVES. They WEREN’T INVOLVED IN THE PLANNING. Get them involved, and they’ll be motivated to really WORK the show.
- AFTERWARD (Follow-Up) after the show. The trade show ends, and there’s a huge sigh of relief. Don’t forget that NOW the rest of the work needs to begin -- the work of bringing in your Return on Investment. Hopefully you have some good qualified leads. Use the “fruit analogy”: leaving fruit alone for several days or weeks will result in a rotting artifact. Don’t let your leads become the same thing. Follow up quickly and effectively.
NOW, go out and make it happen! Good Selling!