Tradeshows are dressed up in flashy graphics, entertaining interactivity and endless hype.
But the real reason you’re there is to SELL. So how are your tradeshow sales skills? Are you asking the right questions? Are you qualifying and disqualifying visitors with ease?
Since selling is generally not a one-step process, do you have the logical steps laid out for company reps? The steps might look like this: engage, qualify, assess interest (cool, warm, hot), gather contact information, agree upon the next step and when that will take place, turn the lead over the sales person.
The steps are flexible depending on your type of service or product. But you’re generally building a relationship to the point where the prospect likes and trusts you and values your product enough to make a commitment to buy.
Tradeshows offer a lot of distractions to visitors and staffers, but by focusing on the end goal – the SALE – you’ll come away with better results.
You’ve no doubt arrived at a tradeshow booth wanting to find out more about the product or service being offered. Maybe you even scouted them out or found them on a recommendation.
But when you arrive you find that the staff greets you with indifference. Or worse, you find yourself ignored, and not because the staff is busy with other customers but because they’re chatting with themselves.
What do you do? Turn and walk away? I’ve seen it happen.
It’s a missed sales opportunity that will likely not be regained. All because your booth staffers didn’t have the presence of mind or proper training to greet you.
When you arrive at the tradeshow with a well-trained staff, you communicate a subtle message to visitors and fellow exhibitors: We Came Prepared. We’re Ready for You. Bring It On.
It’s all part of your bottom line: a well-trained staff can increase both the quality and quantity of your take-home leads. Team meetings every day can keep your staff focused and on task. A well-trained staff will invite visitors in by smiling and asking pertinent qualifying questions. They’ll determine who’s a quality prospect and who’s not, and effectively move the prospects into the sales funnel and the non-prospects out of the booth.
By taking the time to train your staff in engaging and qualifying your visitors, you’re investing in a valuable resource. And that investment will reap dividends in the real world – your tradeshow marketing ROI.
Have you ever been walking through a tradeshow only to be diverted by the onslaught of a loud steady hip-hop beat from a booth three rows away? It’s happened to me a few times.
Typically, if music at a booth is too loud, neighbors will complain and it won’t take long for the music volume level to drop to acceptable levels, whether voluntarily or through enforcement by show organizers.
So does all music at a show rub people the wrong way? And with thousands of exhibitors won’t low-volume music get lost in the hustle and bustle?
Perhaps, but there are ways music can be used effectively. At a recent show I was drawn to a light reggae beat emanating from inside a small structure. When I stepped through the door I was treated to Bob Marley’s ‘Jammin’’ and I was treated to a small art display that enhanced the exhibitor’s image.
Across the show floor at another booth my ears detected new age music that was barely audible from ten feet away – but it sounded perfectly appropriate for the product on display and added to the overall booth ambiance.
In both cases the music was unobtrusive and supported the client’s image. If you’re going to consider music as a background for your tradeshow it should do both.
What About the Legalities?
Not being a lawyer, but at least being familiar with the licensing requirements of ASCAP and BMI, it’s my understanding that any event or venue that features licensed music is required to pay a fee. For instance, if you play a radio over your on-hold system, technically you’re required to pay a licensing fee. Same at a restaurant, bar or other gathering place where pre-recorded music might be played – or a live band for tha matter. If you play music in your booth at a tradeshow, often the event organizers or convention operators will have a license to cover that performance.
If you want to play music at your booth, check with the show organizers first and see if they’re covered. If they’re not, check with your company legal advisor. If they determine you should cover your legal you-know-what, purchasing a performance license is relatively cheap.
Here’s a simple way to show off your company to prospective customers and clients from the minute you walk out of your door until the minute you return.
Wear a branded shirt or coat. It may sound simple, but look at what it does: it puts your name in front of people in the cab or shuttle to the airport. It shows your name off to people in the airport and on the plane.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with traveling anonymously, and it may suit you best. But why not take the opportunity to not only show off your company name while traveling, but to show how cordial and engaging you can be? This may be a better fit if you’re a salesman or PR person who enjoys interacting with other people, but it can work for anyone.
Some companies I know have all of their tradeshow staff wear nice branded clothing, such as a long-sleeve button, collared shirt with an embroidered emblem, so everyone on the plane, bus or hotel knows who they’re with.
Thousands of people come to tradeshows. Most are pretty nice. Many are a joy to meet and greet and do business with.
Then there are the annoying ones. Worse than Uncle Marvin at a family reunion. Harder to put up with than sand in your beach barbecue.
So what are the most annoying behaviors at tradeshows? We scratched our collective heads – then asked some of our online friends. And we came up with the following obviously incomplete list.
10. The guest who won’t leave. Yeah, you’ve done all you can, answered all his questions, put up with his lame jokes and made it clear you need to talk with other visitors…but the guy is still standing there. Waiting for…something?
9. The visitor who tries to pick up dates with booth workers. ‘Nuff said.
8. (related to #9) Guys who hit on the ‘models’ in the booth. Okay, so the company decided to bring ‘booth babes’ to attract an audience. But it’s still a pretty eye-rolling thing to have guys try and pick ’em up.
7. When visitors bring their bratty kids to shows. Now, bringing youngsters to a tradeshow (as opposed to a consumer show) is a bit questionable…but when they’re in a horrible mood and bratty? Yeah, annoying.
6. When an attendee says “I’m just looking” when I approach them. Trade shows are NOT The Gap!
5. Petty annoyance, but how about people who just dart over to your booth to grab the “free stuff” and then vanish? (too typical, but still annoying)
4. Stand in your booth talking to each other but refuse to engage your booth staff! grrrrr…
3. When attendees don’t wear their badges or turn them around. Just let me know who you are and what I can do for you..
2. The ones who refuse to accept that a female booth personel could be the expert and keeps addressing the men in the booth.
1. “They don’t show up!”
Your own exhibiting experiences would give you a different list…but for today and today only, those are the top 10 annoying things tradeshow attendees do!
Tradeshows are a busy and distracting environment in which you’re trying to make sales and generate leads. By asking qualifying questions you can cut to the chase quickly.
Tradeshow consultant and author Mitch Tarr says it takes practice. For instance, you should come up with a pertinent question, such as “Do you own a small business nearby?” or “Do you have kids in elementary school?”
If you spend a moment to qualify and engage the person, you’ll quickly determine if they’re qualified prospects. Each show might require a different qualifying question. A regional home show would have different requirements than a national tradeshow.
Ensure that everyone on your staff is well-rehearsed and able to ask the question to qualify visitors. While this may seem simple, in practice it often is not. In the heat and bustle of a tradeshow, it’s easy for someone to forget what the question is – or forget to ask it consistently of the booth visitors.
Yeah, you could find most of these websites through Googling your little heart out, but why not let me do it for you?
Some of these sites I just came across, others I’ve used for years. All are focused on providing news, information and commentary on the exhibit and events industry. I’ve left out any corporate sites that pretend to be industry news but are rather blogs or sites that are pitching products.
So enjoy this collection of online magazines, newspapers, news sources and blogs. (If I missed a cool resource, add it in the comment section!)…
Center for Exhibition Industry Research
“Our goal is to promote the image, value and growth of exhibitions. This is accomplished through producing primary research studies that prove the effectiveness and efficiency of exhibitions as a marketing medium.”
“…to represent the interests of tradeshow and exposition managers, the International Association of Exhibitions and Events™ is today the leading association for the global exhibition industry. Today IAEE™ represents over 8,500 individuals who conduct and support exhibitions around the world.”
Exhibitor Magazine Online
For tradeshow managers and exhibitors. Includes a buyer’s guide, exhibit tips and stories, resource directory and marketplace. Lots of stuff here for the exhibitor!
“The Ultimate Event Resource” including tradeshow lists, a job board, press releases and industry training links.
“TSW.com is news and information about meetings, events, tradeshows and associations…”
“We aim to help show managers stimulate growth, profits and customer satisfaction so that their show, organization and the trade show industry can prosper.”
Exhibit City News
“Exhibit City News, the nation’s only tradeshow industry newspaper…”
“A newspaper and website for the trade show, convention, meetings and exhibits industries….”
Industry insider stuff from Jeffrey Brown. Tradeshow news with an attitude.
A tradeshow is a unique selling environment. One where you can talk with literally hundreds of prospects over a few days – all one-to-one.
So what does it take to get the most out your personal interaction?
Keep these few tips in mind:
The visitor may or may not be ready to buy. Treat them as if they are on the verge of getting out their checkbook. Be personable and engaging and make sure you’ve answered all of their questions. They may not buy for a month or a year or more, but if they leave your booth feeling good about you chances are good they’ll be more willing to write a check in the future.
A visitor will probably only stop at your booth once during the show. Unless you have something they REALLY want, one stop is plenty for them. Don’t assume they’ll come back. So when they do stop, fully engage for the time they’re granting you.
If you’re tired, try not to show it. Yeah, we know you’ve been on your feet all day. But if you act bored and tired, your visitor will probably just keep going. Make a sincere effort to find out what’s important to your visitor. It may mean having a little fun at your own expense (making a joke about that yawn you just let out) so they see that while you’re tired, they really are important to you!
Please enjoy this guest column from Marlys Arnold…
In these days of reduced budgets and sky-high travel costs, every company needs to make the most of their exhibiting dollars. Here are some tips to help you save without sacrificing value.
Plan ahead! Reserve booth space and show services early to take advantage of discounts and avoid overtime rates at the facility.
Consolidate shipping. Charges are usually rounded to the next hundred pounds or CWT (one hundred weight). Bundle smaller things together to make one larger shipment. And be sure to ship far enough in advance to avoid paying any “rush” charges.
Take your own trash can, extension cords, and power strips with you instead of renting them at the show.
Use online tools to promote whenever possible to save on postage. With the tools available now, this goes far beyond basic e-mail! Try using YouTube, podcasts, a Facebook page, and more.
Use existing artwork on your booth graphics and promotions. Not only will it save money, but will also reinforce your company message.
If you feel giveaways are important, select something that can be used at multiple shows, perhaps for an entire season. You’ll save by taking advantage of larger quantity discounts as well as not having to throw out items after only one show. Better yet, consider giving away something from your own product line.
Scale back the number of staff to those who absolutely must attend, or use temporary staff in the host city for basic duties like greeting attendees or scanning badges.
Choose alternate airports (Midway vs. O’Hare, Love Field vs. Dallas-Ft.
Worth, etc.) to save both time and money.
Request that staffers room together. Let them have a say in who rooms with who.
Look for hotels that provide a free breakfast, WiFi service, and other amenities. This may not seem like a lot, but can really add up over an entire year of travel for your team.
Marlys K. Arnold, ImageSpecialist http://www.imagespecialist.com
– Build a Better Trade Show Image
– Pack Your Bags!
… And host of the Trade Show Insights podcast