Want Better Trade Show Results? Advice From 5 Experts

Feb 22, 2017 | Business Owners, Events, Sales

Trade shows can be a great way for sales leaders to position their sales team to meet prospective clients, market their business, and increase their visibility. But, these events can also be a huge waste of time, energy, and money without the right planning and strategy.

I wrote the book (no really, I did) about how to make your company’s trade show booth awesome. After planning and preparation, the key to any successful booth is the behavior of the people who are working it. As a sales leader, you need to train your sales reps to make the most of these advantageous opportunities. To put together a great list of tips to help you coach your team, I reached out to some of my sales expert friends and asked what they would recommend ensuring top trade show behavior. These are suggestions to share with your team as you prepare for your next trade show!

Jeff Beals Says: Consider The Audience And Environment

Trade shows are a good chance to network and prospect, but not necessarily the place where you’re going to do a lot of hardcore deal-making.

Unfortunately, some people don’t quite understand that.

Our company exhibits at that trade show every year, and every year a very nice (but clueless) salesperson approaches our booth and blathers on and on about their product or service. I’m amazed that salespeople still behave this way despite all the energy we sales consultants expend helping professionals sell more effectively.

Exhibitors pay a lot of money to rent a booth and display their goods and services at trade shows. It has always rubbed me the wrong way when people go up to everyone else and use in-your-face selling tactics on the exhibitors who are there to meet their own prospective clients.

As has often been said, people love to buy, but they hate to be sold to. This advice certainly applies to trade shows and other networking events. Successful salespeople consider the audience and the environment before deciding how to approach new people. At first, the goal is to build rapport and start to learn what a prospect values.

Be patient. Letting the process play out the way it is supposed to give you the time you need to work your magic. When you jump in too soon, you alienate prospects and become the person who people avoid when they see walking down the trade show aisle.

Ken Thoreson Says: Invest In Training Your Trade Show Staff

I speak at many trade shows/conferences. To better understand the audience, I regularly walk the exhibit hall to listen to conversations and view the exhibits. The most common mistake I see is that many individuals representing the company at the booth have never been trained on how to work the booth. There is an art and science to capturing awareness. In most cases, several open-ended questions should be prepared to ask individuals walking past your booth. Too often I see people sitting behind a table or looking embarrassed that they are even in a booth—or worse they are reading their phones!

Matt Heinz Says: Add Value With Every Interaction

Making eye contact and saying hello. The best booth staffers are engaged. They scan the crowd and proactively make direct eye contact and greet visitors. This is a great way to get event participants to break their stride, pause for a moment, return the salutation, and start to engage. Remember, eyes down, watching a Blackberry, is not a good way to get prospects.

Script the first five seconds. Before the event, reps should think about the company’s value proposition and what specific handful of words would get the most visitors to say “Wow, tell me more.” The first few words and those first five seconds of an introduction will help visitors decide if they’re going to learn more or move on.

Move longer conversations out of traffic flow. Get someone who wants to learn more or see a demo out of the aisle and into the booth—especially in a crowded exhibit hall. Move somewhere that allows a more direct, less-distracted conversation. This will add more value to that deeper conversation and allows more prospects to walk by and engage with others working the booth.

Jane Gentry Says: Set A Goal And Aim For It

Trade shows are one of the best opportunities to make sales or move a prospect further through the sales pipeline. But, they often get a bad rap. Usually, any lack of success can be tracked to poor preparation or implementation.

I’ve secret shopped many client booths only to see companies and salespeople make many of the same mistakes.

Know who you want to speak with. Like any goal you set, trade shows work best if you have a plan. Strategize who you’d like your team to speak with. Have them reach out to those targets ahead of the event to schedule time to meet. Coach them through a plan for how they’ll manage the conversation. The best successes at these events don’t happen by accident.

Engage. This is a skill you can help your team prepare for and practice in advance. What opening questions can they use to engage prospects in conversation? Coach your team to develop some opening so that they sound natural and conversational.

Know how to be a great qualifier. Your reps have 60 seconds to keep a prospect engaged—or not. Remember that the best qualifiers are clear on what makes a qualified opportunity and ask questions that get the prospect to do most of the talking.

Elinor Stutz Says: Keep Your Visitors Happy and Engaged

As a vendor in a busy convention hall, the last thing you want is for people to leave your business’s booth because the line to speak to someone is too long. You can have a long line of people anxious to speak with your reps, but only if you provide something of value to keep those waiting entertained.

For example, provide a top 10 tip sheet or postcard for those waiting to speak with you. This tool should share your company’s best insights that also provide a good idea of how you work. Include pictures of your reps at the top of this tool, and don’t forget to include contact information. By the time each person reaches the front of the line, he or she will be further encouraged to inquire about your business’s services.

With this sheet, these new prospects become engaged with your organization and excited to speak with your reps. This simple tool can be key to higher conversion rates!

I hope these tips are helpful to you and your business! For even more guidance on how to develop a great trade show presence for your company, download this free ebook here.

If you want to dig in specifically on how to make your next trade show rock, I can help! Schedule an appointment with me here.

Alice Heiman

Alice Heiman

Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion.  Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.


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