So your bosses are asking you to take time out of your very busy Field Sales or Account Management job, to go and attend a Tradeshow Exhibition and work the stand.
Your typical reaction might be “Oh no, why can’t someone else go? I am so busy now trying to reach my targets” or even better, “I can’t wait to go, what a great opportunity for a p*** with the lads…”
Having worked worldwide at Tradeshow Exhibitions worldwide across many business sectors and cultures, what surprises me time and time again, is how experienced salespeople are reluctant to engage face to face with prospects at trade shows knowing that there are potentially 100’s or even 1,000’s of prospects all under one roof.
If I were to say to any motivated and hungry Sales or Account Manager, that I could guarantee that they have the potential to speak to at least 40-60 new sales prospects per day at a tradeshow, without making any cold calls; they would be seeing dollar signs in their eyes!
It is surprising then, that most salespeople are reluctant to attend trade shows, or dislike attending them.
Prospecting at trade shows is one of the easiest and fun ways a salesperson can build up their sales pipeline but like anything else, it takes hard work and skill to achieve success.
I will share the “5 P’s” that lay the foundation for salespeople to have outstanding and phenomenal Tradeshow success. By implementing these essential “5 P’s” for your tradeshow exhibitions, not only will you be able to build a fantastic sales prospect pipeline, you will of course, increase your sales commissions and earnings too!
P1 – Preparation and Planning.
A long time ago when I was in training for my first sales job, I was taught the acronym “PPPPPPP” - Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Based on my experience with selling at trade shows, this is could not be any truer.
So what can you do to prepare and plan effectively for each Tradeshow Exhibition that you attend as a salesperson?
1. Research the Exhibition and the Attendees. What kind of visitor is attending the exhibition? Information like this is readily available about the visitors on the Exhibition website or is available from the Exhibition Organisers. Build up a profile of your ideal prospect by job title, company type etc. so that you know exactly whom you are targeting on the day! If you are exhibiting at an overseas exhibition, research the local customs, like how you should greet people, and the business culture.
2. Understand your Company’s objectives. Why is your company attending the tradeshow? It is essential that your management team is able to identify core objectives for exhibiting, and what their expectations are of you. There should be a full team briefing before the event, and a team de-briefing at the end of each exhibition day to go through what went well and what could be improved.
3. Prepare Key Questions to ask visitors and the Unique Selling points of your products and services. A good salesperson knows how to sell, a great sales person asks questions first, and then presents a solution based on the client’s needs. Instead of telling visitors of how great your widgets are, the key is to learn some open-ended questions that you can ask visitors to determine if they are a qualified prospect or a timewaster. For example:
- Who are they?
- What caused them to visit the show?
- What challenges are they facing with their current product/service?
- Where do they stand in the decision making process?
- When are they planning to buy/change suppliers?
You should focus the visitor on how he can save, gain, improve, increase or reduce with your product/service versus their existing solution.
4. Research the Event Location and plan your travel. You have to know where the event is, where you need to go on the day, and how long your journey will take. Exhibitions are notorious for long queues for badges. Plan to be ready to talk business when the exhibition opens.
5. Know what you need to wear. First impressions count. You should prepare your clothes accordingly and know what you will wear on the day of the event. You should also ensure that all your clothes and shoes are clean and appropriate for the event and in line with your company objectives.
Arriving at an event being fully prepared not only gives you self-confidence but also the visitors feel the energy and the positive vibe from you to give them immediate confidence that they can talk and relate to you.
P2 - BE PROFESSIONAL
Whilst you are working in the tradeshow environment, you need to ensure that you conduct yourself in a professional and business-like manner. You have to be professional from the time you arrive on the stand to the time you finish the event. You have to expect more from yourself than your employer can ever ask of you.
What does being “professional” actually mean in real terms whilst working at an exhibition?
- As discussed in the above paragraphs, being professional starts with preparation and your punctuality.
- Turn up professionally dressed ready to do business. Your clothes, shoes must be clean and tidy at all times. Please ensure that your hair, make up and personal hygiene are of the upmost high standard even if you have been out partying all night long.
- Ensure that you are wearing comfortable shoes, as you will be standing up for most of the day. Looking the part and wearing comfortable shoes gives you extra confidence and energy to cope with the long days. Top tip: Do not break in new shoes at an exhibition!
- Be professional in terms of your communication with your client, fellow team members, supervisors and all visitors at the event. Always be smiling and create a positive first impression to visitors.
- Be a team player. If you are working within a large team, then you have to be part of the team rather than perform your tasks as an individual. Remember TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More.
Then there are negative behaviours that you should avoid at all costs. If you walk through a typical tradeshow exhibition, you will find some people engaging in these actions time and time again. Please take responsibility and do not engage in this behaviour. It is off-putting to visitors that may want to approach you to discuss business.
- DO NOT Eat or Drink in the booth/work area
- DO NOT Engage in idle chitchat with your team members whilst visitors pass by.
- DO NOT Read magazines/newspapers in the booth
- DO NOT Use your personal phone or ipad/laptop in the booth/work area
- DO NOT Use bad language whilst at the booth or argue with your colleagues
- DO NOT file nails, fix your hair, or put make-up on in the working area.
P3 - BE POSITIVELY CHARGED
Tradeshow Exhibitions are about face-to-face communication. Sellers are meeting buyers. Remember, people buy from positive people, not from the fantastic stands, which are on display or negative people that have their shoulders slumped.
It is your personal responsibility to be in a positive frame of mind during the course of the exhibition. This starts from the moment that you enter into the exhibition hall. Leave your personal issues and problems outside the exhibition centre. Your focus should be on how you can engage and talk to as many visitors as possible. Nothing else matters during the time that you are on the exhibition stand.
After standing up for 9 long hours, yes your feet will hurt, and you will just want to go home and have a long hot bath. But what is point in complaining and whinging that your feet hurt? Everybody else is in the same position as you, so rather than let this affect you in a negative way, stay positive, and stay focused on your objectives.
Being positively charged also means going through the day with a beaming smile. Your smile will attract visitors to your client’s booth, your smile will create a positive first impression, your smile will get you through difficult situations, your smile will make other people smile, and most importantly, your smile will make people happy and allow them to approach and talk to you.
Having open positive body language helps you be approachable. When was the last time you approached someone whose arms were folded or someone that didn’t look interested and wanted to be somewhere else? Ensure that your back is upright, your shoulders are straight, your arms are by your side and that you are looking ready for business. Try and catch people’s attention by making eye contact and smiling. It’s amazing how many people will be drawn to approach you unconsciously.
P4 - BE PROACTIVE
Over the last 7 years, I have walked miles and miles of exhibition floor. If I had a dollar for every person that I have spotted at their booth/stand chit chatting to their colleagues, talking or texting on the telephone, eating their sandwich, just standing there staring into empty space or working on their laptop whilst potential prospects walk past, I would be a very rich man.
Your core objective as a salesperson should be to attract the event visitors to your booth. To do this effectively, you must be proactive in your approach to engage visitors, qualify them as prospects and move the prospect to the next stage in the sales process, be it to collect their business card, arrange a follow up meeting, seat them for a presentation, fill in a questionnaire or to hand them over to a product specialist.
Being proactive means knowing your products/services, what kind of visitors you need to be talking to, your objectives, and what you need to do to achieve them. It means having the discipline to constantly approach as many people as you can in the 8 or 9 hours you have on the exhibition floor.
By being proactive, not only your day will go faster, you will stay focused, you will generate qualified sales leads and ultimately you know that means more sales, more commission.
P5 – POST SHOW FOLLOW UP
70% of tradeshow sales leads are never followed up after the show. No wonder Exhibitors complain that a tradeshow was useless and a waste of money. You should have a clear plan and strategy to follow up sales leads, both as an individual and as a company.
It is essential that you also have qualification criteria for how hot a lead is, and that priority is given to the best sales leads. You can rate them out of 5, so 5 being a hot lead etc down to 1 being a cold one.
If you promise something like more information or a follow up call to a visitor, then please follow it through even if it is a long-term prospect.
A great follow up strategy, starts with ensuring that you collate all the leads on the computer and that everyone gets a courtesy email thanking everyone for visiting your stand at the end of each day or one day after the show. Software is available that will help you to do this effectively and measure your ongoing results.
A hot lead is only hot if you make it hot. So asking the right questions, determining a requirement, agreeing a follow up call, meeting or proposal and following it through determines your trade show success!
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)
Copyright 2015 Expo Stars Interactive Ltd.