How to Sell to Vendors at Trade Shows

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to exhibit at a trade show. There are various reasons for this. Maybe the exhibit booth fee is too high, or only a handful of the attendees are your target audience. Regardless of the reason, you feel that the vendors exhibiting at the show are your real best prospects.

But how do you network and solicit business from vendors without being a pest? After all, put yourself in their place – if you are exhibiting at a trade show, who would rather speak to – a potential customer or another vendor?

You see my point?

selling to vendors at trade showsVendors are spending a lot of money to exhibit at trade shows. For example, not only are they paying for exhibit booth registrations, but they are also forking out money for travel, meals, hotel registrations, and miscellaneous expenses like swag and marketing literature.

In some cases, vendors don’t appreciate other vendors approaching them at trade shows because they feel you are hurting their ability to generate new business. And they may also resent that you are not an exhibitor, and see as an interloper interfering in their business transitions.

So how do you approach a vendor without hurting his sales, and developing a win-win situation for both of you?

Here are 14 tips to help you –

1). Trade Show Traffic – it’s better to approach vendors during slow times of a trade show. This will give you a better opportunity to meet them without hurting their business. Slow times are usually early in the morning, mid mornings and afternoons (when workshops are going on) and late in the day. The busiest times are usually when coffee breaks and lunch is being sponsored in the exhibit hall.  Depending on how long a trade show will last, the first day is generally the busiest time. Why? Because most attendees want to take a quick peek at the vendors before going to workshops or general sessions.

2). Booth Traffic – are vendors busy speaking to customers at their booths? If yes, stand back and wait for traffic to slow down before approaching a vendor. Nothing is going to undermine your ability to get a sale more if you hurt your customer from getting a sale himself. Trade shows can be very stressful for vendors. So don’t take it personally if they quickly reject you, or only half listen to your introduction. Most of the time, they are looking over your shoulder to talk to a “real” customer – not you. Take it in stride and try to return to the booth later when traffic dies down.

3). Target – depending on the size of the trade show, you may only have a limited amount of time to visit vendors. With 300 or more vendors exhibiting at the trade show, are you really going to have time to visit each one? Not really. So the best solution is to target key vendors that you want to speak to, and hopefully generate sales down the road. This requires research. Do your homework. Most organizations will provide lists of vendors prior to a conference. And if you are lucky, most organizations will send you a list of all exhibitors, along with their contact information like phone numbers and email addresses. Use all of that information to your advantage and select which vendors to meet. If you are fortunate enough to meet everyone on your top list, then go to your “B” and then “C” vendors, and so on.

4). Appearance – how to dress when you attend a trade show can sometimes be hard to determine. Unless you attended the same event before, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether you should wear a suit, go business casual, or go completely casual. I usually prefer to take the middle ground and wear a nice sports coat with casual business pants, which the option of wearing a tie. I’ve never worn suits while attending a trade show (either as an attendee or exhibitor). It’s a judgement call. As the old saying goes, it’s better to dress to impress. You will be taken more seriously and you will feel like the true professional.

5). Knapsack – I always bring a knapsack with me when I attend trade shows either an attendee or vendor. It’s easier to carry around all the literature and swag that you know you will pick up. Also, it’s easier to carry around your laptop if you want to give a quick demo of your product or service.

business cards at trade shows6). Business cards – this goes without saying, but always make sure you bring plenty of business cards with you. Also, rather than carry around large stacks of fliers, bring a postcard instead depicting what you are selling. Postcards are easier to carry, hand out and most people will read and keep them.

7). Be Honest – don’t try to pretend that you are a potential customer. Tell trade show vendors know upfront that you are a salesperson too. Believe me, they will appreciate your honesty. Just let them know that you stopped by to learn more about their business, and see if you could schedule a call or online tour after the show. Of course, exchange business cards, maybe pick up some of their literature, take a quick look around their booth, and then leave. Don’t be rude and take their swag – that’s for customers. If you really are eager to bring home swag, wait until the end of the trade show. Most vendors would rather have the leftover swag given away to attendees than pack it up and take it back home.

8). Small notebook – Do you have a great memory? If not, bring along a small notebook and pen with you to jot down notes or ideas.

9). Attend workshops – not all your potential customers are going to be exhibiting at the trade show. Some will attend workshops. Review the agenda beforehand and select workshops where you feel you have the greatest chance to meeting good prospects. Or better yet, if you know that a key customer will be speaking at a workshop, as a matter of courtesy (and good business sense), attend his event. After he speaks, go up and shake his hand and congratulate him on a good presentation. Or better yet, if you can swing it, ask if you could speak at a trade show or participate in a panel discussion.

10). Social events – All conferences and trade shows have social events. Again, review the agenda and select ones that will give you the greatest chance to meet clients.

11). Your Mother was wrong. Do talk to strangers –  When you were a child, your mother offered you good advice about not talking to strangers. But as a grownup sales professional, you need to talk to strangers to network and generate new business. See a lunch table with an open seat? Ask if the seat is taken. If not, sit down, introduce yourself, eat, and maybe find a customer. Standing in line waiting to use the restroom? Introduce yourself to the person next to you and strike up a conversation. You rarely are going to find a lot of potential customers in one setting than at a conference or trade show.

12). Scott Ginsberg is right. “Surrender your agenda”Scott Ginsberg, author and speaker, made a very good point in an interview published in an article on How to Network at Conferences and Trade Shows: Mini-Guide by MarketingSherpa.

Rather than attend trade shows with a hard agenda, Mr. Ginsberg recommends that you try to be more approachable and have fun. In the interview, he states that “people can usually tell when you have an agenda, and that’s certainly not being approachable. Surrendering your agenda puts you more at ease to be yourself.”

Unless you spoke to a vendor in advance of a trade show, you rarely are going to get a sale on the spot. Sure, prior to attending the conference, you may want to schedule some meetings while at the event. It’s not unusual for attendees to be sponsors and lease a small makeshift office or table for conversations or demos. But try to set the right expectations for yourself. You should focus on generating relationships with the goal of scheduling more time after a conference for extended conversations, online tours, free trials and eventually getting the order.

BTW, when you have a chance, please read his book Hello, My Name is Scott.

13). Avoid the hard sale. When you are working at a booth, you usually can’t avoid doing the hard sale. Time is money and you want to meet as many attendees and potential customers as you can. But when you are a vendor visiting other vendors, you have to take the soft sale approach. Don’t go in with guns blazing and tell everyone about your company or product. Instead, show some interest in what they are selling. Ask good questions. Take some notes. Remember, your goal isn’t to sell on the spot, but try to get an appointment after the show.

14). Be social. That is, be on social media and follow vendors before you attend the trade show. Follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites. Let them know that you are showing interest in the company, and hopefully, in return, they will show interest in you.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Here are some articles that can help you –

“How to Network at a Trade Show” by WikiHow
“How to Work a Trade Show” published in Entrepreneur
“Top Ten Networking Tips at a Trade Show” by Chaz Brooks

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Sales and Marketing Conferences for 2017

We all have busy schedules. But no matter how busy you are, it’s important to attend at least a couple of conferences or trade shows a year. Conferences and trade shows help you network and stay in tune with the latest news and trends in your industry.

To help you find the best sales and marketing conferences for 2017, I have compiled a list below from several sites for your review.

Here are the links –

Sales Conferences

From PeakSales Recruiting

The Top 14 Conferences to Attend in 2017

From Sales Summit

2017 Sales Conferences

From Maria Milea

The Complete Guide – Marketing and Sales Conferences 2017

From the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP)

AA-ISP Event Calendar

(I’m an active member of AA-ISP. I attended the Boston event last year. There are always great opportunities at their events to network and learn new skills).

Marketing Conferences

From Brafton –

12 Marketing Conferences to Mark on your 2017 Calendar

From OnSpot Social –

Top 2017 Marketing Conferences to Book Today

From Digimarcon –

2017 Marketing Conferences

Tips for Attending Conferences

1). Register early, you usually get better deals.

2). If possible, obtain an attendee list so you can schedule meetings with key people (Note – not all organizations provide attendee lists).

3). Trade Shows are usually part of the event. Review the list of exhibitors and plan which booth you would like to visit. If there is a vendor that you are interested in, try to contact the company prior to the event and schedule a meeting during the conference. Vendors tend to be very busy, so having a scheduled meeting may save both of you time.

4). Make your airline registration early to receive low fares.

5). When attending an event, especially if I’m walking around during a trade show, I prefer using luggage with skate wheels and a retractable handle. Why? Because besides carrying your laptop, business cards, pens and notebooks, you will also be given a lot of swag and free literature to take home with you.

I’m currently using EAGLE CREEK TARMAC 20 LIGHTWEIGHT CARRY ON BAG (BLACK) (see below).

I hope the above lists and my advice will help you.

Safe travels this year!

What Salespeople can Learn from Book Fairs

book fairsI’ve written several posts about how salespeople should act at tradeshows.

Having attended two book fairs in the Washington, D.C. area this month, I would like to share with you some tips I’ve learned that you help you sell better at trade shows.

The book fairs I attended were at Roscoe Neapolitan Pizzeria in Takoma Park, MD. and at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md.

Here are my tips–

1). Smile – yes, you may have written a book about depression or divorce, but if you want to attract people to your table display, you need to smile. While the subject matter may have been difficult to write about, you don’t want to make it more difficult for people to connect with you and buy your publication.

2). Business cards – put your business cards on your table. If you’re busy speaking to someone, a potential customer could at least pick up your card and contact you later, or perhaps circle back when you have time to speak. Or better yet, if you are selling books, offer free bookmarks with your contact information.

3). Summary – when someone ask you what your book is about, be prepared to give them a one or two sentence summary or pitch. Don’t go into a long explanation. After summarizing your book, ask the attendee if he has any questions or interest in what you are selling. In other words, learn to engage with attendees.

4). Price Sheet – depending on the size of the book fair (or trade show), it doesn’t hurt to display your price sheet. Also, if you are offering a special “book fair” price only, make sure you mention that to attendees.

5). Apparel – if you want to attract attention, wear a funny hat or shirt displaying your book or subject matter.

paper bag6). Got bags?Jennifer Bort Yacovissi, author of “Up The Hill To Home,” a historical novel based in Washington, D.C., came up with an interesting idea to encourage books sales – She brought paper bags and gave them to her customers to carry books. Not a bad idea for someone like myself who likes to buy a lot of books.

7). Don’t share tables with other writers – yes, I know that you want to save money at book fairs. I get that. But nothing hurts your feelings more than someone returning later to buy your neighbor’s book and not your copy.

If you want to stand above the crowd, you need to stand alone.

8). Promote your attendance – don’t forget to promote your attendance on social media and your website so all your fans and friends can stop by and offer you morale support, not to mention purchasing your book.

9). Swag – providing free pens with your website and contact information never hurts.

10). Never give up – so you didn’t sell a lot of books at your book fair. Evaluate what you did right or wrong. Should you have had a larger table? Should you have created a better display of your books? Should you have rented a better location? Live and learn, and then move forward. There are more book fairs to come.

Frankly, selling at a book fair is a little tame and less stressful compared to working at a trade show. But I hope my tips will help you sell better in the future.

Note: If you like my post, please read my book Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Recommend: Tim Wackel, Sales Consultant & Trainer

While attending the AA-ISP conference in Boston a couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of taking a session from Tim Wackel, sales consultant and trainer, on “Stop Pitching, Start Solving.”

(For some bad salespeople, I would have renamed the session, “Stop Bitching, Start Working.”)

Mr. Wackel’s presentation was one of the best sessions I attended during the conference. Everyone I spoke to after the session had the same opinion. My only regret was his session was only 30 minutes long. I wish they had scheduled more time for him. But fortunately for all of us, he did squeeze a lot of good information for us.

I’m not going to reveal too much detail of his session, because I want to encourage you to ask your company or organization to hire him to train your sales team. Instead, I’m only going to offer you some sample nuggets.

One of the most surprising take-aways I got from his session is that the number one reason why most prospects buy from you isn’t because of price, product or the solution you are offering – it’s because of you. That’s right, you! The more effective you are as a salesperson, the better chance you have to increase your sales.

(Mr. Wackel obtained his information from Success Magazine).

Think about that for a second. How often have you heard prospects say they would love to buy your product or service, but the price is too high, or they need to check with their boss, or they will call you back when they are ready to purchase. Sure, some of the reasons are legitimate. But you know in your gut sometimes the reasons are none of the above – the real reason is that they just don’t trust or like you.

For example, in one of my previous jobs, I was working with a Florida hospital that was seeking a more robust password security program. The decision came down to me and a major competitor. My client was getting a lot of push-back from his boss and colleagues to purchase from the competitor. However, even though the competitor’s price was lower, my client bought from me.

Why? Because he trusted me. I went through several hoops to close the sale. For example, I quickly and honestly responded to all of his questions and concerns. I outlined some of the key differences between our products vs. the competitor. I did this without bad mouthing our competitor.  At the client’s request, I conducted two separate online tours rather than one tour because I wanted to show our product not only to him, but also to his colleagues.

After nearly four weeks, I closed the sale.

My client told me that the biggest reason he bought from me because I was willing to spend more time working with him than my competitor. He added that I showed the more enthusiasm and willingness to work with him than most salespeople he had worked with in his career.

So what is the solution to get more sales? Mr. Wackel outlines four principles.

They are –

Principle #1 – Prescription before Diagnosis is Malpractice!

Principle #2 –Make Fewer Statements, Ask More Questions.

Do you want to know the next two principles? Do you want to learn more? Contact Mr. Wackel. Hire him. You will not regret it.

Here is his contact information:

3415 Westminster Ave. Ste. 207A
Dallas, Texas 75205
(214) 369-7722
tim@timwackel.com

Below is a video about “Who is Tim Wackel?” –

 

Is your Sales Department a Turkey?

Is your sales department a turkey?With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is a good time to remind ourselves what we should be thankful for. If you are working in a good sales department, be grateful. But if your sales department is a turkey, you better start seeking a new job.

Should you be thankful or gobble like a turkey?

You decide. Please review the list below of what makes a good sales department –

1). Customer relationship management (CRM) software – If you are using a good CRM software program, be thankful. There are still a lot of companies that are using outdated or lousy CRMs to manage their sales, customer interactions, and record keeping.

Need some reliable sources to find a first-class CRM?

Check out –

Capterra
Software Advice
PC Magazine

2). Sales Manager – if you have a sales manager who gives a damn about you, pray he doesn’t leave your company anytime soon. If he does leave your company, pray your employer hires the right replacement. One of the major reasons why salespeople leave their jobs isn’t because of money or status, but because of poor management.

Need some advice on what makes a superior sales manager?

Check out –

“How to Become a Great Sales Manager from 10 Sales Experts,” by Russ Henneberry
“The 4 Qualities New Sales Managers Need for Success,” by Lou Carlozo
“The 6 Traits Every Sales Manager Needs to Succeed,” by Phil Harrell

beware of back stabbers3). Co-workers – every sales department has their share of backstabbers and sharks. You know who I’m talking about – the ones who steal your leads or prospects, or sabotage your work. Eventually, they are weeded out, but not before they create a toxic environment that could lead to high turnover or added stress. (As if you don’t have enough stress at work already). If you work with colleagues that you trust, be very thankful.

Need advice on how to work better with your colleagues?

Check out –

“How to Create a Team Selling Environment,” by Irene A. Blake
“How to Handle a Toxic Work Environment,” by Alan Henry
“11 Tips for Staying Sane in a Toxic Work Environment,” by Kassy Scarcia

4). Marketing – while I think the on again, off again, love/hate relationship between sales and marketing is overrated, there is no doubt that without an effective marketing department, your sales would be mediocre at best. If you have a marketing department that’s providing you with great leads and prospects, be very thankful.

Need some advice on how to build a good marketing team?

Check out –

“How to Build a High Performance Marketing Team,” by Kevin Barber
“Tips and Tools for Building a Marketing Team,” by Tiffany Black
“7 Characteristics That Make Up the Best Marketing and Sales Teams,” by Ross Simmonds

5). Customers – Let’s face it, all the best sales and marketing strategies in the world are not going to do you a bit of good without having reliable and repeat  customers. Do you want to earn and maintain a high commission? Take care of the ones who brung ya!

Need some advice on how to find and keep good customers?

Check out –

“The 80/20 Rule of Sales: How to Find your Best Customers” by Perry Marshall
“10 Ways to Make Customers Fall in Love with Your Business,” by Brian Honigman
“Four Simple Ways to Find Customers,” by Brad Sugars

But beyond business, most important of all, be thankful that you have family, friends and loves ones looking out for you. Life is too short to spend all of your time worrying about work. Enjoy the holiday and don’t eat too much turkey!

Note: If you like my post, please read my book Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Are Salespeople White Collar Garbage men?

Are salespeople white collar garbage menA Rockville, MD publishing company has all of their editors and administrators working in sun lite offices, while the sales team sits in a windowless office in a dank basement.

While being interviewed for an exhibit booth and sponsoring sales position, a job applicant is told that he will not receive health insurance like the rest of the employees because he’s going to be “earning enough money to pay for it himself.”

A newly hired salesperson accepts a job at a Washington, D.C. nonprofit trade association to sell advertising, sponsorships and other services. He quickly discovers that he is the only employee who doesn’t have an office. Instead, he finds his desk located in the hallway and his seat is actually a high stool.

A national publishing company does not pay annual bonuses to their salespeople. The bonuses are only awarded to non-commissioned salaried employees. The thought is that salespeople are “earning enough money” and don’t need the bonuses.

All the above stories are true.

Which begs the question – are salespeople the garbage men of the white-collar world?

Now I’m not knocking garbage men. On the contrary, we need them to keep our communities clean. Without them, our neighbors would quickly be overrun by rodents and rats, and our property values would drop.

In fact, I agree with Rutger Bregman in his article “Why Garbagemen Should Earn more than Bankers” that they offer a great deal of value to our society. And yes, garbage men should earn more than bankers…as well as of other people.

But let’s face it. Garbage men are usually seen as a necessary evil – we can’t live without them, but they rarely receive any respect.

That’s the same for salespeople. Sure, most business owners intellectually realize the need for people to sell their products and services. After all, you can’t rely on word of mouth to sell alone. You have to be proactive these days. The problem comes into play when salespeople are not given the same respect as others in a company.

Why?

1). Business owners don’t always understand the sales process. Some in fact don’t even want to learn. They feel that selling is a grubby business. Just like enacting legislation has been compared to making sausage, the less you know about the selling process, the better off you will be.  As long as your company is earning profits, you really don’t want to learn all of the details.  But not understanding those particulars could mean the difference of keeping or losing your job. Just ask John Stumpf.

sleazy salesman2). Business owners have watched too many movies or plays depicting bad or desperate salespeople.  You know the ones – The Wolf of Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, and of course, everyone’s favorite, Death of a Salesman.

The underlining theme of most of these films is that all salespeople are sleazy liars or losers who would sell their own mothers to earn commission. No wonder some salespeople don’t get any respect.

3). Business owners are too busy trying to develop their products and services, and would rather hire a consultant or sales manager then deal with the day-to-day operations of selling. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but sometimes business owners get duped into thinking their sales manager or consultants are geniuses, when in fact, some of them are just the opposite – con artists. They say all the right words, and go through all the right motions, but in the end they are just lining their pockets at the expense of gullible business owners and inexperienced salespeople.

The best owners that I’ve ever worked for were former salespeople. They may not have been the best salespeople in the world, but they came away from their experiences with a much better appreciation of the sales profession.  As a result, they usually paid generous compensation packages, invested in superior sales tools (e.g., CRM), and always made sure their sales team had enough qualified leads and prospects to keep them productive.

If some business owners and other employees would walk in the shoes of their sales team for a week or so, I bet most of them would come away with a much better appreciation for salespeople.

While selling is difficult, getting a little respect can sometimes be tougher.

While I’m not suggesting that you hug a salesperson today, at least take the time to thank him. After all, your likelihood depends on how much new business he’s generating for your employer.

Note: If you like my post, please read my book Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

Top photo credit: North Charleston Hurricane Matthew via photopin (license)