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Getting The Most Out of A Trade Show

Whether exhibiting or attending, maximize your trade show opportunities.

For those exhibiting in an industry trade show, it can be the best possible marketing vehicle to physically obtain access to potential and existing customers. For those attending, the results can be just as fruitful. Networking with vendors, and learning about new products can help provide a competitive edge. Whether exhibiting or attending, there are certain steps that can guarantee that your trade show experience is a success.

Prior to the Show
Gather your troops. Be sure you involve everyone at your company who has customer contact. Involving your people in the planning process can generate ideas and build enthusiasm for the show. Discuss ways you can get your best customers and potential customers to visit. Strategize what you can do to make the visit special.

Give some thought before you spend money on common giveaways. Many clients experience success with small giveaways at their booth. However, I’ve seen too many “souvenir-seekers,” who take up valuable selling time collecting these small items simply because they’re free. You might get a bigger bang for your buck by purchasing nice gifts for your important visitors.

Talk it up. Spread the word that you are exhibiting and promote the show. You need the assistance of everyone in your organization who has customer contact to “talk up” the show. Of course, your sales force should make as many appointments as possible with customers and prospects. If you have sent them a creative invitation to your booth with a notification about a nice gift, it will make it easier for them to do.

Train your booth personnel on trade show selling skills. All booth personnel must learn about the products or services being displayed to help your sales force generate leads. Brainstorm every conceivable question attendees might ask on the show floor. Then practice how to deliver information and answer questions concisely and powerfully.

At the Show
Greet, qualify and interest people fast
. Never 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. During peak hours, try not to spend more than five minutes with any one prospect unless they are genuinely interested. Get their contact information!

Make visitors feel important. Be sure to shake hands, maintain eye contact and direct questions to all individuals who come in from one company as a group. You need to make a positive impression on everyone if you want to see results.

If you are expecting an important visitor, placing a sign on an easel that says, “Welcome… Joe Smith, XYZ COMPANY,” can be a nice touch. Introducing interested prospects to upper-level management, service people and other key people in your company demonstrates class and professionalism.

Deliver an enthusiastic presentation. Make buyers feel enthusiasm for your product or service! Be clear, concise, brief and confident. Know when to shift gears! Visitors’ attention spans will be limited.

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! You can and should close business on the trade show floor. Sound confident and relaxed and ask for the sale.

Tips for Attending a Trade Show
Trade shows are often the best forum to view new products, make new contacts, develop relationships, make purchasing decisions and learn about your industry. Here are some tips to help make your trade show visit more productive.

  • Eat light and rest up for a few days prior to the show.
  • Before the show, prioritize a list of whom you want to visit. Set up appointments in advance if possible.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Avoid excessive salt and alcohol, and drink plenty of water.
  • Arrive early to avoid lines. Register, pick up your badge and relax over a healthy breakfast before the show opens.
  • Take a quick walk down the aisles to preview the show and make note of the exhibits you wish to explore.
  • If you have a problem you’d like to solve, come prepared with questions you need answered.
  • To maximize time spent with vendors, be direct and assertive when communicating.
  • If you get caught by a long-winded salesperson, don’t be afraid to politely interrupt them.
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities with people who do the same thing you do for a living to share ideas and industry knowledge.
  • Don’t forget to meet lots of people and have fun!

After The Show

Don’t wait. Initiate. Call prospects immediately to demonstrate your professionalism and dependability. When you follow up, don’t bother to send mail without speaking to your prospect first, unless you want to end up in a big literature pile with everyone else. Fax a brief letter with a recap of what you discussed and the key benefits of your product/ service. Then keep calling until you set up an appointment or demo.

Remember this: If you say the same things and use the same approach as the competition, how will you ever stand out in the mind of the customer? Use a different selling style and be sure to effectively communicate why your company can meet their needs, how your company can help them increase their profitability and why you are better than your competitors.

Exhibiting at a trade show can be a costly and labor-intensive venture. 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.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Christine Corelli Meet the Author
Christine Corelli is a popular Chicago, Illinois-based keynote speaker, trainer, author and expert in sales and customer service. A member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), Christine has provided speaking, training and consulting services to major corporations, associations and other organizations throughout the United States and internationally. She can be found on the Web at www.christinespeaks.com.

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