Sales Directors and Marketers are under greater pressure than ever to deliver demonstrable ROI from their tradeshow exhibitions.
Pitching up to a tradeshow exhibition having spent all your money on making your presence ‘look good’ may play to your organisations vanity, but it is only damaging a bottom line already under pressure if it does not deliver qualified sales leads. Getting a sales performance that brings an actual ROI - qualified leads that convert to sales – turns a questionable activity into a must-have item on the Marketing calendar.
To achieve maximum results at Exhibitions and Trade shows means going back to the basic sales; marketing and tradeshow fundamentals.
Here we look at 10 sales and marketing principles when deployed at a tradeshow will bring in guaranteed returns on your next tradeshow investment and help you build a brilliant sales pipeline.
Understand what the Tradeshow Environment is all about.
Your industry tradeshow should be taken very seriously as a business opportunity. It is an opportunity to meet more prospective buyers face to face in one day than your sales people will potentially meet during a whole year! It is about face-to-face interaction. However the tradeshow environment is not a typical sales environment. Seldom will you have an opportunity to close a multi-million deal there and then! What the environment does offer you however is the opportunity to meet new prospects potentially in the market for your product or service.
It allows you to go through two or three steps of the sales cycle efficiently without having to go through gatekeepers to the key decision maker. Your key tradeshow objective should involve a clear strategy of how to get your sales staff face to face with the show visitors.
Marketing v Sales - Identify and Set Reasonable Objectives.
Very often, the Sales Department will have a very different objective to the Marketing Department for the same show. The Marketing department wants to launch a new product; the Sales department wants to write new orders; the Marketing department wants to communicate a corporate message; the Sales department wants to meet prospects and customers. It is vital that both departments have a common company objective and that all people involved “buy in” to the objectives. The objectives need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Dependant. These can be set for each department; and then broken down to each person attending the event so that everyone has clear understanding of what they need to do to make the show a success. You need to set reasonable expectations as to what will make your show a success. Is it the number of leads you generate; Is it the volume of orders? Is it simply the footfall to the booth? It is also very important that the objectives are reviewed after the show so that you identify any areas for improvement for your next tradeshow event.
You have heard of the phrase “It’s a numbers game”. Well with trade shows it truly is.
Your objectives should be based on how many leads you need to generate from the show so that you can be in profit from the show. To work this out you should know your sales people’s closure rates and your profit margins from your sales. Once you know this – each person can be given a target to achieve in terms of generating new leads from the show. These targets can even then be broken down to activity on an hourly basis.
Man the booth with the right staff.
How many times have you seen staff members or sales people at a tradeshow, whinging that they hate trade shows and that they have 10 million better things to do?
Having enthusiastic staff at the booth makes a huge difference to visitor perception and interaction. It’s a fine line selecting staff for trade shows. There are some that just want to go for the jolly; some that go for freebie collecting; and some that just want to get out of the office and there are those that go because they have been told that they need to go.
You should select staff based on those who can communicate; are enthusiastic about the show; and willing to be part of a team that has one common objective; to generate more business for the company. They should also be very positive people; with a great smile and with customer facing experience. Taking a technical guy with no people skills does not work; even if he does know all the answers to tough technical questions!
All staff members working at the booth, should be fully briefed on your objectives prior to the show and de-briefed after the event to highlight the successes and things to improve on for the next show.
Make sure all your staff members operating at the booth use the Tradeshow Visitor Engagement process effectively
According to research, an effective tradeshow visitor engagement process is carried out in a maximum of six minutes using the “AIDA” philosophy. (Get Attention, Generate Interest, Build the Desire, Take Action)
The key stages are:
1. Engage & Greet, this should last about 30 seconds. It is important that you break the ice in a friendly non-confrontational way. Using a line like “What brings you to the show?” opens up the visitor to start a conversation with you.
2. Qualification, this should last about 90 seconds. You should ask questions specific to the visitors situation, specific to the solutions that your products/services offer,
3. Asking the right questions will determine if they are a QUALIFIED potential sales lead or Timewaster. If they are a Timewaster you should dismiss them by shaking their hand and thank them for coming by the booth. Also define from the outset what a QUALIFIED sales lead means to you? For some exhibitors, a lead is anything with a badge that you may have scanned, and for others it can be very precise, based on the job title, company type, buying timeframes etc.
If they are a qualified sales prospect that meets your criteria, you can then take the conversation further by offering to show them a demonstration or finding out more about their needs. You should demonstrate the key aspects of your product/service based on their requirements and interests – not just tell how great the product is and deliver a lengthy detailed technical spiel. Ideally this part should not last more than 3-4 minutes. Direct prospects towards what they could improve, increase, reduce, save, or gain by using your services or products.
4. After you have done the demonstration, you should close them and agree an action after the event. So for example, fill out a lead form; make an appointment to see them; take their business card etc.
If your staff keep this discipline what this means is that each person at your booth can effectively generate an average 5-6 leads per hour which means that during an 8 hour show day they can generate between 40 - 48 qualified leads and times that by 5 people and you have over 200 potential sales leads.
Prizes linked to your product or service are a brilliant way to generate interest and potential clients. For example offering a free review to look at their current services is a great interest generator. Prizes that money cannot buy; are wonderful as visitor stoppers. Most people already have Ipads, TVs etc so they do not attract as much attention and motivation to enter for the visitor.
Make sure your Booth Staff show Positive Body Language whilst at the booth and that they are motivated to be there.
All booth staff should adapt an open body language so that they are approachable.
All staff should
- Make sure to make eye contact with visitors
- Smile and be enthusiastic (even though you got to bed at 4am after the show party)
- Have open body language at the booth – ie no crossed arms or crossed legs but with a pleasant look and ready and willing to talk to people.
- be a good listener – Don’t interrupt; show interest in what the visitor has to say and ask questions. Interact!
Be Pro-active in approaching Show visitors.
One of the biggest concerns in the Exhibition industry is the “build it and they will come” mentality of Exhibitors.
Exhibition Organisers can bring the visitors to the show floor; from there it is up to you how you attract them to your booth. They will not necessarily come to your booth; even if it is the biggest one on the show floor; and you have the best giveaways. What makes the difference between a good show and a brilliant show is how pro-active your staff members are in terms of talking to people walking past the booth. Why wait for people to come to you? You have a fabulous opportunity to talk to people who maybe looking for your product. So step out and ask a key interest question! What is the worst thing that will happen? They will say no in which case you thank for the time and move on to your next target.
Dismiss visitors from your booth who are not relevant:
These can include
- Unqualified visitors who are wasting your time
- Unqualified visitors who will not help you meet your objectives
- Qualified visitors; and now it’s time to move on.
- People from surrounding booths who just want to chit-chat
You can dismiss visitors in a very easy and professional manner
- Make Eye Contact
- Shake hands
- Thank them for stopping by.
You have maybe 8 hours during the day; and x number of visitors – you have to make sure you see as many visitors as possible during the show hours. Any time wasted on the above is money down the drain. Time is money. Just think how many potential customers walked past when you are busy chitchatting away to non-relevant people.
Promotional literature; Giveaways and Attractions – Use them effectively.
So how many times have you visited an exhibition and been shoved a leaflet in your face? Of course you took it out of courtesy; put it in your show bag and as soon as you got back to your hotel or home; you took out all the freebies; the business cards and then shoved the rest in the bin?
Why do exhibitors have their staff do this even though they know that this is what happens to their leaflet or pamphlet? What does leaflet dropping achieve at exhibitions apart from killing trees and parting you with some of your hard-earned marketing budget?
Then there is the professional freebie collector. They will visit every booth collect their pens and stress balls, and do a runner as soon as a staff member comes near them.
Save some money; get your people to say hello and break the ice instead of shoving leaflets into people’s faces. If visitors request more information, then give it to them.
Give your promotional items to qualified leads. Don’t just give them away for nothing. Make visitors work for the item that you are giving away. Have a prize draw; qualify them; then give them a promotional item once you have a business card.
The same applies to attractions. So you have booked an artist; balloon man; shoe polisher; masseuse; face painter; origami’s; or whatever else. Visitors are showing up to the booth; but what are you doing to qualify them? Are your sales people engaging with them after they have had their pet poodle made out of balloons? Having an attraction is not enough – you need to have a strategy behind it to maximise your returns from the investment in your attraction.
It is estimated that 70% of all exhibition sales leads are never followed up after the event.
The following up is the easy part. Make sure that each lead gets a courtesy communication from your company straight after the event to thank them for coming by the booth and then when you get back to the office you can start contacting everyone individually. If you have promised to send something then please do send it.
By Lee Ali, Managing Director and Founder of Expo Stars Interactive, a leading worldwide tradeshow performance agency. With a deep interest in Sales and Business Psychology, Lee has worked extensively in the Communications sector including Telecoms, Mobile, Broadcasting, Online and Live Marketing. Lee is a Member of the Institute of Directors (IoD), a Fellow of the Institute of Sales and Marketing (InstSMM) and a Member of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)