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Chartwell Seventeen Advisory Group Inc. | New York, NY


Trade shows are to salespeople what Christmas is to retailers.  All year long you look forward to a brief period when you have the potential to sell a great deal of merchandise.  Most salespeople will, at some point, be asked by their managers to work a booth at a trade show.  I have heard various responses from people I run into.  The WIMPS say, “Oh sure, the parties and time off work are okay, but I hate standing all day in that booth”!  The WINNERS say, “I love the opportunity to meet new prospects.  What a gold mine”!  There is one very important thing to understand.  Selling at a show is a lot different than selling one-on-one.  And your approach needs to reflect these obvious differences in the selling climate.  There’s not enough room in this column to list all the differences, but here are some suggestions to improve your prospecting outcomes when attending these shows.

Obtain a list of attendees at least two weeks before the show

Plan to have meetings with targeted prospects, either at the booth, in your hospitality suite, or during breakfast or dinner.  NEVER eat alone or with co-workers!  Confirm these meetings - just because you’ll already be there doesn’t mean you should “be wimpy” when booking these meetings.

Plan your attack

Leverage the time and energy available to you to achieve optimum results.  Draw up a plan with specific goals like these:

  • Refresh relationships with current customers.
  • Make sales calls on a specific number of new prospects.
  • Learn about new market trends.
  • “Shop” the competition.

Arrive a day early

Arriving early assures that you are rested and organized on the first day of the show.  It will also give you chance to make opportune calls on participants who might have arrived early.  A casual "non-selling" atmosphere provides a great no pressure environment for prospecting.  This is true especially after booth set-up is completed.

Consider conducting a “Group Meeting”

A "Group Meeting" is where prospects who are interested in your booth come back to see you in your hospitality suite either that evening or the next for a formal discussion/presentation of your service.  Nail down prospects’ commitments to attend by stamping either “FIRST CLASS” or “STAND-BY” on their “Invitation Cards” that you give them during the day.  “FIRST CLASS" means you are coming, and I don’t have to worry you’re at home watching ‘60 Minutes’ when you’ve committed to be at my meeting.  "STAND-BY" means you’d like to attend, and in all good efforts you’ll try and make it, but you haven’t committed in your own mind you’ll be there for certain.  If the group presentation won’t work in your business (it should, especially if you are selling a service), then use these same “words” for setting up face-to-face appointments.

Learn how to draw people into the booth

Eye-catching displays, self-scoring tests and drawings and contests are all ways to attract people into your booth; however, understand that people do business with people, which means you will need to re-tune your bonding and rapport skills for these “brief encounters.”  Are you unknowingly chasing people away by lingering in front of the booth, like a vulture awaiting its prey?

Learn how to sift the prospects from the suspects—quickly!

You don’t have to tell your story to everyone…and it’s OK to ask questions to determine who is qualified to hear your story.  Far too many salespeople working trade shows drop immediately into their “spiel” once someone hesitates even for a second or two in front of the booth, deciding whether or not he or she wants to see and hear more.

You should NOT be serving as an educator at a trade show

You should be asking questions to determine who gets your time and energy.  At the same time, you should be looking for a decision, even if it’s a “NO,” from the prospects you are talking to at the booth.  Have a bunch of unqualified leads after a show will give you the wrong "Read" on the success of a show.

Trade show attendance is an expensive use of resources (time & money).  If you see them as dungeons, then don't attend.  If you see them as gold mines, go and reap the benefits.

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