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Keys to successful trade-show sales


Most salespeople and managers attending trade shows dread "booth" duty. Maybe these concepts will help.

Shorter time span
Not much time to develop rapport
Booth visitors not pre-qualified. (More "suspects" than prospects.)
One chance to qualify

Are the above advantages or disadvantages?

Can you make use of the advantages?
How do you deal with the disadvantages?

What specifically do you want to accomplish at the show? (Sell? Give out literature? Qualify prospects? Set up post-show activities?)
[To answer the above, look at previous shows. What worked? What didn't? What did you get accomplished? What was a waste of effort - before, during and after the trade show? What would you do differently?]

What is the specific strategy for following up with the people to whom you spoke at the show? Do you send literature? Do you call? (It must be consistent with what was done at the show.) What you want to accomplish after the show will determine the booth "strategy" and the questions you ask during the show.

Suggest "U" shape with display at the back. Keep the front open so people have to walk "into" the booth. Stand to the side. Don't "pounce" on people as the approach. Let them walk into the booth area first then engage them in a conversation.

Keep literature out of sight. At the back of the booth or under a table. YOU control who gets literature. If the visitor is really interested, they'll ask. That gives you a chance to ask questions. (It also reduces your literature costs. Most trade show attendees collect literature only to deposit it in the trash bins before leaving. At most, it makes it back to their hotel and it deposited in the trash then.)

Questions to ask: What made you stop at our booth? What attracted you to our booth? Have you used _________ in the past? Do you currently use __________ ? What has your experience been? Whose _________ are you now using? What reasons might you have for switching to another company? Who's responsible for making those decisions? Does it make sense for us to talk after the show? How is the best what for us to set that up?

Now, you can discuss product, give out appropriate literature, etc. Then, set the agenda for the follow-up. If a phone call, you might say "When we speak next Thursday, you will have had an opportunity to read through this information and I'll answer any questions you may have. I may also have some questions for you. Then we can talk about whether or not these is an opportunity to do business together. Are you OK with that?"

For the person who is in a hurry and just wants some information, select some "generic" information - company booklet, brochure, new product bulletin, etc - then , before handing them the information say: "Before you run off, would you be kind enough to tell me who in your company is responsible for budgeting and making decisions about ___________? We have some additional information we'll be sending out after the show and I'd like to make sure it is sent to the right person. Would you help me with that?"

Get the name of the individual with whom you should follow up. Then CALL!! Trade show contacts are worthless if you don't follow-up and make that call. Get as much information as possible.

Their experience with your type of product or service.
With whom are they doing business now?
What do they like? What would they change? Why?
What reason(s) would they have for changing suppliers?
How much do they spend on your type product/service each year?
How much is budgeted currently?
Who is involved in the decisions regarding purchasing your type of product/service?
Who would be involved in the decision to change suppliers?
How would they make that decision?


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Gary Harvey

Gary Harvey is the founder and president of Achievement Dynamics, LLC, a high performance sales training, coaching and development company for sales professionals, managers and business owners. His firm is consistently rated by the Sandler Training as one of the top 10 training centers in the world. He can be reached at 303-741-5200, or gary.harvey@sandler.com.


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