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How To Eliminate Trade Show Sales

Trade shows have developed into one of the foremost ways for companies to market their products and services. Too often, personnel with the responsibility of performing booth duty — whether it be salespeople, managers, technical people, or office personnel — find themselves the least prepared to handle the job. Studies have shown that the following problems are being faced regularly by the people who work the booths at trade shows:

1. Neglecting to commit to specific objectives.Thousands of companies participate in trade shows every year. Many of those companies spend days, weeks, months, and even years planning the display. However, they neglect to invest appropriate amounts of time and money to properly prepare their personnel with the methodology and technique to be applied at the show. Defining specific objectives in advance only starts the process to determine the strategies involved in providing effective and efficient coverage at a trade show. Are your trade show objectives to sell, gather leads, qualify leads, expose your product, service and/or your company, or some other goal that you are looking to achieve? Prioritizing your , in writing, help to define what has to be done.

2. Neglecting to draw people into the booth.

Gimmicks may be great — an eye-catching display, drawings and contests, a demonstration that allows the visitor to participate — and they will get people to stop. But people do business with people, which means your people have to effectively communicate with others. Are your people prepared to deal with the people that come into the booth? Or are they chasing them away by lingering in the back of the booth like a vulture awaiting its prey? Perhaps they are grabbing them in front of the booth with some version of the old “retail” store opening, “Can I help you?”. Training your people to be as strong and different as the eye-catching display is worth as much, if not more, towards getting people to stop at your booth.

3. Neglecting to separate “suspects” from “prospects.”

Part of prioritizing your leads is qualifying the people that come into your booth. Far too many people, who work at trade shows, believe that they have to tell everybody their story. Not every person has an interest in your product or service, nor do they qualify, or even deserve, to hear your presentation. Being able to differentiate the suspects from the prospects effectively allows you to spend more time with qualified prospects and will certainly increase sales.

4. Neglecting to ask the right questions.

Especially at trade shows, emphasis is placed on “the presentation.” Too often salespeople launch into their “pitch” as soon as someone slows down in front of your booth. Too many people make presumptions and then provide solutions prematurely. Developing a format for questioning the suspects, to see if they become qualified prospects, will help in determining which people warrant your time and efforts.

5. Neglecting to get a decision, even if that means getting a “NO”.

The person at the trade show should not be serving as an educator. There is a definite need to get a commitment and learn the priority which the prospect places on a certain type of product or service. Lack of such a decision, or avoiding the “NO” that so many people fear, results in not knowing which prospects require follow-up. Too many leads, especially unqualified or misqualified ones, can be worse than too few leads, and produce unproductive sales time after the show.

6. Neglecting to adjust outside selling styles to Trade Show selling.

The pace of a good trade show is generally fast moving. The people in attendance are in a mode to see a lot in a short period of time. Ad-libbing and working your way through the detail of a typical sale doesn’t work in the trade show environment. While one is being sold, ten are getting away. The truth is that you need to apply a strategy that gets the prospect to show or tell you what he or she needs, and identify when they see themselves doing something about that need. The difference between the outside selling strategy and the trade show style is similar to the difference between an airplane taking-off from an aircraft carrier instead of the standard airport runway.

7. Neglecting to do more than just “put in their time”.

Many people are not motivated to work at the show. They spend their time chatting with other exhibitors (lot’s of time about how they hate having booth duty), looking to take coffee breaks, or walking around and making small talk. Management never dedicated the time that is necessary to develop the motivated person to work the trade show. More often than not it is dictated that certain individuals will have to “put in their time” at an upcoming show. There is no attempt made to arouse interest in the show. There is no time allowed to prepare the people for the show (lack of understanding objectives), thus the people are not in a goal oriented mode. Working the show is not presented as a privilege, and the people are not included in the planning and decision-making stage of how to accomplish certain objectives. With any or all of these ingredients missing, how can we expect people to do more than just “put in their time.”

8. Neglecting to understand the role of the person working the Trade Show.

Along with lack of motivation, comes the inappropriate role of the person at the trade show — that of being subservient, even to the degree of being a “Beggar.” The trade show should be viewed as that Broadway Play, in which you are the star. Do you take control? Or do you fail to use the talent and ability necessary to investigate, examine, and understand the prospect’s situation? The solution is then either inappropriate, or, more often, misunderstood by the prospect who doesn’t convert to a customer.

9. Neglecting to develop a detailed plan for the follow-up after the show.

The trade show ends, and there is a sigh of relief from everyone involved. The problem is that now the work should begin — the work of bringing in the Return On Investment (ROI). Even those companies that have planned on sending out thank you letters, literature, gifts, or some other sort of advertisement, often find themselves failing to make that person-to-person contact so necessary to close the sale. Be it lack of personnel, technique, goals, qualified prospects, or planning, without the sales call for follow-up, you better not sit around waiting for the orders to flow in.

©2009 Sandler Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

Jeff Callahan of Sandler Training New Jersey is a nationally recognized trainer, author and speaker who leads a team of proven sales development experts helping leaders enhance revenue generation through superior sales teams. Our clients range from individual sales professionals looking to achieve the highest levels of success they deserve, to the sales forces of Global 1000 companies who must achieve sales excellence in any and all world economic conditions. We provide growing companies with the timeliest and most accurate insights for growing sales, profits and market share by objectively examining your people, processes, strategies and systems. “We earn our reputation as Sales Development Experts every day by helping leaders who are dissatisfied because sales revenues are down, margins continue to shrink and the only thing they can count on from their team is more excuses. We help companies who are sick and tired of hiring sales people who look good on paper and sound great in interviews, but who do not sell in the first 90 days,” says Callahan. “Which of these, if any, do you have on your plate?”

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About the Author

Jeff Callahan, Sandler Training New Jersey
Freehold, NJ 07728

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