Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Trade Show Success: Learn From An Expert

Have you ever been an attendee at a conference and gone to the exhibit area? You know, where all those trade show booths are and the vendors are standing behind them, ready to espouse their company's benefits to you?

I have been to many; and have been on both sides. I have been an attendee many times and even more so, a vendor.

What baffles me is that when I am an attendee and walk the exhibit booth isles, I see much aloofness. Many of the vendors don’t even look up because they are talking to their co-worker, checking their Blackberry and/or gazing deeply into their laptop monitor.

I am quite sure that this is not what their boss envisioned when he/she paid thousands of dollars for the company to be there.

What do these vendors expect? That potential customer will make a bee-line for their booth? Good luck with that....

No, an exhibit hall vendor must be very proactive in getting the attention of all the prospects walking by. Odd are, they don’t know much about your company and if you give a smile and good morning, they will do the same to you. Then a simple, "Have you heard of what our company can do for you?" will probably buy you at least a minute to reel them in a bit more.

At a recent event, I walked around a bit to see what the other exhibitors were up to. It never fails to amaze me, but most of the exhibitors barely looked up as I walked past them. I blame them for laziness but also their boss for not being clear about the expectations of a trade show.

Here are some good trade show tips that I found to get the most out a trade show:

Don't sit - The tradeshow environment is a tough one. I know that. By the end of the day your entire body feels weak and numbed. I also know that the next day you’d rather have your legs amputated than stand on them, but buck up! When you’re sitting, you look lazy and less approachable. In that state, lead-generating opportunities will pass you by like grandma getting passed on the highway.

Talking with other booth staff - Remember, this is not the break room and you’re not at the show to talk with “Joe." Save the conversation for the hotel later. Otherwise, if you’re in the middle of chumming it up, show attendees will not even try to interrupt your conversation to ask for information. The same goes for the cell phone as well; if you need to take a call, excuse yourself from the booth.

80/20 - Remember the 80/20 rule – listen 80% of the time and talk 20%. Many people, when put in the show situation, tend to “throw-up” on the attendees. You’ve seen it, I’ve done it. It’s just wrong. For example, the attendee asks a question, “Does your product do this?” Then you reply, “The product does this and that and my company was founded in 1912 by a farmer and a goose. I started working with the company when Carter was president. Boy, it was a hot summer.” You did nothing but point out that you’re uncomfortable being there. Listen to the customer. Process what they want to know, then respond with pertinent information. Wait, then ask if your response adequately answered their question. If you’re nervous, take a breath or two before speaking. You’ll be glad you did.

Train your trade show team - Trade shows are unlike other sales environments. Limited time and attention of attendees requires quick qualifying, and lead generating tactics. Make sure your staff is prepared and has a clear goal for each day.

Call them while they're hot - Sales staff frequently make the mistake of contacting trade show leads, months after the show. Make sure your sales staff has extra time and incentive to follow-up with all leads within weeks of your trade show exhibit.

Booth Love - Effectively utilize display accessories, banners, graphics, lighting, booth design, and materials to heighten visibility and drive sales.

The bottom line - For a successful trade show, make sure you are as approachable and professional as possible. Remember that at any given moment, you will be on center stage. The customer is looking at your booth and asking themselves, “Do I need what they have?” Then they’ll look at you and decide, “Do I want to work with them?” That is not a good time to pick your nose.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. At a trade show, you are making that impression on someone at every moment. How will you and your company be remembered?

This post provided by David Mammano, founder NextStepMagazine.


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