10 things to consider before Exhibiting at a Trade Show

For most major companies, exhibiting at a Trade Show is a no-brainer. With large marketing budgets, they can afford to set up booths.

But when you are a small to mid-size company, exhibiting at a trade show can be a major expense. In fact, just attending one trade show could eat up half of your marketing budget for the entire year.

expenses for trade showsFor example, besides paying a registration fee, you have to consider the following expenses –

  • Airline or travel expenses.
  • Hotel room reservations and food.
  • Shipping fees of your booth and related supplies.
  • Marketing material to display and hand out during the show.
  • Scanner rental fee (for badges worn by attendees).
  • Ground transportation to and from your hotel and the convention center.
  • Designing the exhibit booth.
  • Labor Fees for unpacking and setting up your exhibit booth, and then tearing it down and packing.

According to Smart Trade Shows, the rental fee alone for floor space is about $20.00 per square foot, but the pricing will vary depending on the event, organizer, location and attendance. So for a 100 square foot booth area, you may be paying about $2,000.

(To help you budget your trade shows, please download the free “Trade Show Budgeting” booklet from Red Cedar PR and Marketing).

So, what should you consider before exhibiting at a trade show?

1). What are your goals?

Most companies attend trade shows to gather new leads, meet with existing customers or launch a new product or service. Others may attend to expand their brand awareness.

There is nothing wrong with those goals, but you need to ask yourself if you can achieve the same objectives without going to a trade show? With so many sophisticated social media and communication tools now at your disposal, attending a trade show at the early stages of your business may not be a good idea. For example, if your website is attracting and converting a lot of prospects into customers, or if you have a good outbound and referral sales campaign, is it really necessary to exhibit at a show? In addition, more companies than ever are conducting webinars, and offering free trials.

My suggestion – take a hard look at your budget and your goals before exhibiting.

2). Attend the Trade Show, but don’t Exhibit

Rather than exhibiting at a trade show, consider going as a regular attendee. Odd? Not really. As a regular attendee, you can spend time networking by walking up and down the aisles, and attending social events and workshops. If you know of key clients that will be at the event, you may want to schedule a lunch or dinner appointment. Plus, by going to the show as a regular attendee, it will give you a firsthand look at whether it may be a good event to exhibit next year.

3). Partner with another company or join a collective

Rather than pay for an entire booth space yourself, why not partner up with another company that is related to your industry but is not a direct competitor. In other words, share the booth space by having two display table and signs. Sometimes, you may join a collective a several companies and share a larger space. However, be careful with this approach – some trade show sponsors may frown upon this, or have very strict rules about who should occupy the space. So read the exhibit contract carefully before partnering up or joining a collective.

4). What are the best trade shows to attend in your industry?

If you have been in your industry for a while, you probably already know this answer, but it doesn’t hurt to dig deeper. In almost every industry that I’ve been in, there is always one or two “must go” trade shows – the ones that are so large and well attended that your phones don’t ring for nearly a week, or if you call your clients or prospects, they are not in the office because they are attending the “big” show.

However, exhibiting at large trade shows can be expensive. So maybe you should consider going to some local or regional events.

5). Does size really matter?

Large attendance at a trade show does not guarantee that you are going to get a lot or the best sales leads. You need to determine the type of prospects who will be attending the show to see if they match your client profile. Sure, the event may attract 10,000 attendees, but if only one percent of that number matches your client profile, is it worth the time and expense of exhibiting at the event? And even if one percent sounds good to you, there is no guarantee that all 100 attendees will even stop by your booth. To help you, some organizations will provide statistics on who normally attend the events, e.g., industry types, geographic locations, business size, etc. Read that information carefully. Ask good questions. Make sure that the attendees are in fact your best prospects.

6). Contact previous exhibitors for their advice

Most organizations will publish a list of previous or current exhibitors on their website. Obviously, this is done to encourage new exhibitors and make them aware, indirectly, that some of their competitors will be attending the event.

My suggestion – call some of the non competing exhibitors and solicit their advice. Maybe they can offer you some tips on how to be successful or if it’s a good idea to even attend.

traffic at trade shows7). How will the event organizer increase traffic at the exhibit hall?

It’s in the mutual interest of both the event organizers and exhibitors to have good walk through traffic during the trade show. As a result, many organizers will seek out sponsors to provide free lunches, and happy hour snacks and drinks throughout the event. However, it doesn’t hurt to ask specifically what the organizers plan to do to encourage high traffic.

8). Contact your clients for their advice

If you know that some of your clients have attended a trade show, contact them and find out if they think it’s worthwhile for you to attend the event. It doesn’t hurt to get the client’s perspective. And while you’re at it, why not obtain pointers from your clients on what they consider to be the best practices of exhibitors, and what they look for when they attend trade shows.

9). Does the event organizer have any advice?

If the event organizer has been sponsoring the trade show for several years, they may provide tips or a Q&A sheet on how to get the most bang for your buck while exhibiting. Of course, their advice is going to be bias because they want you to exhibit at the show; however, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

10). Networking

Will you have an opportunity to network to find clients? While most trade shows have after hour social events, sometimes just going to lunch or attending a workshop related to your product or service could be a great way to network. Review the agenda carefully to seek out the best networking opportunities. Also, keep your eyes and ears open for the exclusive social events with high attendance.

To learn more on how to be effective at trade shows, I recommend that you read How to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows, by Steve Miller.

Also, please check out some of my previous posts on trade shows, including “What to bring during Trade Show,” “Good Questions to Ask during Trade Show,” and “What to do after Exhibiting at a Trade Show.”

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

Content Marketing World Conference in Cleveland from September 8th – 11th

Content Marketing ConferenceThe Content Marketing World Conference will be held in Cleveland from September 8th -11th.

From the website “Content Marketing World is the one event where you can learn and network with the best and the brightest in the content marketing industry. You will leave with all the materials you need to take a content marketing strategy back to your team – and – to implement a content marketing plan that will grow your business and inspire your audience.”

Speakers will include John Cleese, actor, Kathy Button Bell, Vice President, CMO of Emerson, Judd Bagley, Director of Communications, Overstock and Sydni Craig-Hart, co-founder of Smart Simple Marketing.

Agenda items will include “Position your Agency for Success with Content Marketing,” “Content Strategy 101,” and “Developing a B2B Demand Generation Model.”

For more information and to register, click the link here – http://www.contentmarketingworld.com/registration/

Inbound Conference in Boston, September 8-11th

The Inbound Conference will be held in Boston from September 8-11.

From the website, the purpose of the conference is to “provide the inspiration, education, and connections you need to transform your business.”

Speakers will include Seth Godin, a bestselling author and marketing expert, Daniel Pink, bestselling author, Dr. Brené Brown, author and CEO and Chief Learning Officer for the Daring WayTM, and Aziz Ansari, Comedian and Author.

Major topics will include “Disrupting Digital Business,” “5 Steps to a Successful Video Strategy on YouTube,” and “The Intersection of Content and Social Media.”

For more details, please visit the website –  http://www.inbound.com/inbound15/about

10 Things Start-up Owners need to know about Selling

start-ups and sellingYou’ve done it. The months or years of toiling in your basement, garage, dorm room or tiny apartment have finally paid off. No more eating dry cereal or soup for dinner. No more working late in the evenings or weekends.

You have successfully created your first new product or service that you want to launch into the market. Your loyal employees who stuck by you are also thrilled. Your ship has finally arrived.

But wait a minute? You don’t know how to sell!

All those courses in computer science, coding, engineering or business never taught you the fundamentals of selling. Sure, maybe you watched a video or two of Zig Ziglar, or some other great salesperson. Or you cracked open a sales book once or twice, or read some articles online. You may have even taken a workshop or two about selling. But beyond that, your knowledge of selling is weak.

You admit it. So now what?

Well, like most start-up owners, you decide it’s time to hire your first salesperson or two. But before you place employment ads, there are some things you need to know.

1). Do you really need a salesperson? Is your product really ready for the marketplace or do you still have some more beta testing to do? While no product is perfect, no salesperson wants to spend hours over the phone dealing with a constant stream of technical issues or complaints about bugs. Unless you are paying that salesperson well to be a glorified technical support person, you may need to go back to the drawing board.

For example, I recently spoke to a new business development manager at a Maryland start-up who complained to me that his company was having a high turnover of salespeople. Some would stay for only a few weeks or a couple of months, and then leave. When I probed further, I discovered that his product was still being beta tested for the enterprise market. However, the good news is that his product was actually doing well in the consumer market, which didn’t require the same heavy technical demands as the enterprise clients. In fact, the product was receiving high ratings on Amazon and positive reviews from independent tech bloggers. I suggested to him that he immediately stop hiring sales people until his product was more ready for the enterprise market. I also suggested that his company switch gears, and focus more on the consumer market since he was having greater success. Sure, maybe he wouldn’t generate as much revenue in the consumer market, but at least he would be receiving some cash flow and generating positive buzz.

By using public relations, partnerships, and affiliated marketing, I suggested his company could do quite well in the consumer market. Hopefully, that good well in the consumer market would spill over into the enterprise market once his market was ready.

2). Amateur or Pro, does it matter?  There is a running debate within the start-up community about whether your first couple of salespeople should be amateurs or pros. Some argue that hiring inexperienced salespeople are better because they are hungrier and will hustle more. The argument goes that if you hire an experienced salesperson, he will not be very motivated to sale; instead, he would only rely on his contacts rather than making a lot of cold or warm calls. However, others argue that your first couple of salespeople should be more experienced because they can quickly increase your sales by their expertise and knowledge. In addition, they can also establish a sales process that can be used later when more inexperienced salespeople are hired.

My response – unless you are selling a highly technical product or service that requires advanced training and education, trust your gut and hire the salesperson who will help you generate a lot of sales. Young or old, if they know how to sell, if they are willing to learn about your product and market, and if they are trainable or coachable, hire them and get them prepared to hit the ground running.

Having a diversity of salespeople from different ages and backgrounds can offer your company different perspectives on how to grow your sales.

You can’t always judge a salesperson by his age, the length of his resume or his previous sales results. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut.

3). True believers, are they the best? Some start-up owners feel that only true believers, the ones who really understand their mission or see their vision, should be your first hires. Really? Chances are you may be hiring a wolf in sheep’s clothing – a con artist who pretends to believe in the “cause” but will quickly bail out as soon as your company hits rough water.

Look, forget about hiring true believers. You are running a business, not a religion. Just hire good salespeople. Once they start selling, if your product or service is good as you think, they will eventually become true believers.

I once worked for a small tax research publishing company where I didn’t know anything about accounting. However, over time, I became impressed with our products because our clients really loved what we were selling. Then and only then, did I become a true believer.

4). Should you learn how to sell? Let’s face it – popular culture has not been kind to salespeople. The Glengarry Glen Ross movie and the Death of a Salesman play have done little to enhance the image of salespeople by depicting them as losers or con artists. I actually know people who don’t admit they sell for a living.

So what do you do for a living?

“I, well, you know, I’m a new development person. I mean, I’m a new business opportunity person…I mean I develop new business.”

Whatever.

As a start-up owner, you may feel it’s better to hire a sales expert, so that you can tend to other matters, like product development.

But if you don’t learn about sales, your run the risk of either hiring lazy salespeople, or worst, con artists who will take advantage of your naïve. Either way, you could lose a lot of money, time and prestige.

I once knew a small publishing company owner who admittedly knew nothing about sales or marketing. He never held a sales meeting. Never cracked open a book about selling. His marketing campaigns were from the Dark Ages. Instead, he hired a saleswoman who literally sat by the phone all day waiting for it to ring. She spent her three-year tenure at the company reading books. When a prospect did contact her, she went through the motions of qualifying him, scheduling a short demo, and offering a trial. Sometimes she would follow-up and sometimes she didn’t. With a large base salary, she had no incentive to work hard. Then one day, she quit. A more proactive and assertive salesman was hired. He ended up generating more new sales in 4 or 5 months than the previous saleswoman did in an entire year.

Why? Because he made cold and warm calls. Because he followed-up. Because a true salesperson can’t live on his base salary. In short, he knew how to sell.

The owner, realizing his mistake, now regretted not hiring a more proactive salesperson in the first place. All those potential sales slipped through his fingers because he didn’t take the time to understand the sales process and hire the right salesperson.

On the other hand, I knew another owner who not only took the time to understand sales, but provided a small library of sales, marketing and business books for his sales team to read. He even watched videos about not only how to sell, but how to hire good salespeople.

But let’s say you are an extremely busy start-up owner, and have little time to read about selling. Have no fear.

I would like to suggest two books you should read to get you quickly up to speed –

The Big Book of Sales, by Alan Gordon
The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies, by Chet Holmes

If you are ambitious, and want to read more, HubSpot has created a list of the 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time.

Also, there are several excellent YouTube videos about selling that you can also watch.

And BTW, I know there is a lot of debate about which is the best sales process. Is it The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, or could it be SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackman? Maybe you believe in Relationship Selling: The eight competencies of top sales producers, by Jim Cathcart.

Look, all three are good books. Read them. Consider their arguments. But at the end of the day, you will have to decide which sales process really works best for your sales team and your company.

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Speaking of books, if you like this post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career for help.
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5). Should you create a Quota system? As a start-up company, I wouldn’t worry too much about setting quotas for the one or two salespeople you have on staff. In the beginning, you are going to spend most of your time testing the market and seeing who is actually is buying your product or service – if in fact, there is a real market. Sure, you can guess. Create a client profile of who you think will be a good customer. You can make some cold calls, send out some emails, and maybe send out some direct marketing pieces. But I would avoid creating any hard quotas for sales until you have a better feel of your market.

Rather than creating sales quotas, you may consider doing activity quotas. Activity quotas are when you expect salespeople to make x-number of phone calls per week, or schedule x-number of demos or trials per week. On paper, this sounds like a great idea. However, be carefully that you are not forcing salespeople to do a lot of “make or busy work” – you want them to focus on selling, not dialing for bogus dollars.

carving up sales territories6). Should you carve up and create sales territories? If you had three or more salespeople, my answer would be yes. But if you only have two salespeople, and the entire country (if not the world) to cover, I would say no. However, as your sales team grows, in order to avoid duplication and hard feelings, setting up sales territories by geography or market segmentation may not be a bad idea.

Some companies prefer using the Round Robin method of distributing leads – where inbound leads are dole out on a rotating basis among the sales team.

Experiment. See what works. But no matter how you distribute leads, always focus on the end game – obtaining sales.

7). Should you use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool? My answer is yes. Using Excel spreadsheets or Post-it Notes isn’t going to cut it for you. While Salesforce.com is considered the dominate CRM in the market, as a start-up, you may not afford to purchase it. There are other CRMs that do cater to start-ups and small businesses for free or at a reasonable price, including –

Close.io
Contactually
Act!
Insightly
Pipedrive
PipelineDeals

To get a full listing of CRMs and obtain independent reviews, please check out Capterra, a Northern Virginia based company that helps businesses and nonprofit organizations find software.  Not only does Capterra provide reviews, but you also receive product details, deployment, vendor contact information, and features checklist. You can even request a free consultation from a Capterra customer service rep to find the right match for you. They also publish interesting blogs and infographics that you can download.

My final advice is this – buy the best CRM you can afford. In the long run, a good CRM will save your sales team a lot of time and money. Take your time. Do your research. I recommend that you consider at least three CRMs before making a final buying decision. You may want to contact other start-up owners and compare notes with them.

8). Are the Yellow Pages a good source for sales leads? Unless you’re living in the 1980s, my answer is No. As a start-up, you are probably under a tight budget. However, there are several inexpensive or free lead generation sources you can use including –

Data.com (formerly Jigsaw)
LinkedIn
Twitter
Industry newsletters and blogs
Business websites
List of clients from your competitor’s website (yes, I know this is sneaky, but if your competitors are going to publish their clients, you might as well call them. Who knows, some of them may be upset with their existing vendor).
Google Alerts
Networking events
ZoomInfo

RedJester created a list of 23 lead generation tools you may want to consider.

Also, check out Neha Jewalikar’s article on the “7 Must-Have Lead Generation Tools for Marketers” in Radius.

As you grow, don’t forget to take advantage of inbound phone calls or emails, referrals, and trade shows.

No lead generation tool is perfect. You will always have bad contact information. When I receive a new lead, one of the first things I do is check the contact on LinkedIn. While not everyone keeps their LinkedIn profile up-to-date, it’s usually a good way to verify if you have a good lead.

sales pipeline9). What are your expectations? You really need to keep your expectations within reason. For example, in most cases, it takes a good salesperson at least three months to build a pipeline from scratch – that means straight cold calling with no referrals or no inbound leads. And even if a salesperson is lucky enough to receive some inbound leads from your website or word of mouth, converting that lead into a customer can take weeks or months. I’ve worked at sales jobs where the sales cycle can last anywhere from a few months to two years. I know of some salespeople who spent five years closing a sale.

It really depends on what you are selling and the type of industry you are in.

And when it comes to cold calling, it’s not unusual to make at least 6 to 8 attempts before you reach the decision maker. I know some sales people who have told me it will take them at least 12 attempts before they reach the key person at a company or organization.

And yes, there are ways you can help shorten the sales cycle, like providing a good CRM, generating good qualified sales leads, and offering great marketing solutions. Remember – your salespeople are serving on the front lines. Like any good soldier, they need your support.

10). Are Salespeople miracle workers? Do you still believe in the tooth fairy? If your product or service is crap, the best salespeople in the world aren’t going to help you.  While it’s expected that any new product or service will be shaky during the first couple of years, if what you are offering is completely bad, salespeople are not going to save you. Sure, they may use hard sell or strong-arm tactics in the beginning to generate sales, but in the long run you are going to fall flat on your face. Selling is a team effort – the product, development, shipping, marketing and administrative teams all have to work together with the sales team to ensure success. In today’s economy, and this is especially true for a start-up, all employees are salespeople.

Summary:

Selling is tough. But for a start-up it’s even more difficult because you are facing several obstacles – tight cash flow, little brand or no name recognition, shoestring budget, and an ever evolving change of plans or directions. You have to be agile, smart and focused.

You have to face the fact that some salespeople you hire won’t cut it or just don’t like working for a start-up. It’s nothing personal. It happens to the best of us.

When it comes to hiring salespeople for a start-up, you need to be brutally honest. If the hours are long, tell them. If the compensation package is low, tell them. If your resources are limited, tell them.

But also tell them this – that you worked your ass off for months, if not years, to create a product or service that will benefit thousands of people. That you truly believe in what you are doing is not a pipe dream. That you really believe your product or service could change the world for the better. That you are committed to improving your company. And if they hang on, the ride will get rough, but the rewards may be great.

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

Social Media Strategies Summit, Atlanta, August 19-20

The Social Media Strategies Summit will be held in Atlanta from August 19-20 at the Westin Buckhead Hotel.

The Agenda includes workshops on “Social Selling – How to Use LinkedIn for New Business Development” and “Building Your Brand With Live-streaming apps.”

Speakers will include Toby Bloomberg from Bloomberg Marketing, Douglas Busk from the Coca-Cola Company, Allen Gannett from TrackMaven, and Ashley Sasnett from the MSL Group.

Discovering Chet Holmes, a great Sales & Marketing Expert

I recently discovered a series of videos on YouTube presented by Chet Holmes, who passed away about three years ago. Mr. Holmes is one of those rare breeds who was an expert in both sales and marketing. I’m surprised I never heard of him before until now.

Working with Business Breakthroughs International (BBI), he conducted a series of workshops over the years that have been recorded and made available on YouTube. I also found out that he wrote a book called The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies, which I just completed reading.

Here are some key takeaways from both his videos and book that I would like to share with you –

1). Cold Calling – your tonality has 5 times more impact than the words you use. If you really want to get through the gatekeeper and make an impression on your prospect, you must sound like someone important, i.e., like someone the prospect already knows and is expecting a phone call from. I’m sure we have all received those weak and wimpy phone calls from sales people who sound almost apologetic in their tone. That’s the wrong approach to take. You must sound confident. If you act like a professional, you will be treated like a professional. If you act like a salesperson, you will get the brush off.

2). Marketing Material – no one wants to receive the same old tired email each time from a salesperson. Spice it up a little. Send some interesting and relevant material that the client would like, e.g., white paper, case study or an interesting article. Maybe send a humorous note. Or maybe send some testimonials. Or perhaps a short video link about how you can help your client.

3). Try a Fax Machine – remember those? Hey, they still exist. Rather than just sending emails (which can be quickly deleted), why not send out a fax or two. Sometimes having a document in hand sends a more powerful message to a prospect, and in most cases, he will be forced to read your document (yes, it could still end up in the trash can, but at least he read it and didn’t delete it).

4). Persistence matters – the one with the most passion wins. We all know this, but some salespeople still give up after only one or two attempts. That’s not enough. According to the videos, at least 5 percent of all salespeople will try 4 times to get a sale. In reality, it actually takes 8 rejections before you get the respect of the prospect. And don’t worry about bothering or pestering a prospect – they are in business too – they understand sales. A smart prospect will begin to respect a persistent salesperson. How much respect do you think he would have for a salesperson who makes only one attempt and then gives up?

If you truly believe in your product or service, and you feel what you are offering them will help your prospect, you owe not just to yourself, but to your clients to keep contacting them. Sure, you don’t want to call everyday (a common mistake with amateurs). Space out your contacts – maybe once every 4 days or so.

5). No doesn’t always mean No – if a client says No, should you give up? Of course not, you are just getting started. Maybe the prospect is having a bad day, or doesn’t quite understand what you are offering. OK. Take a deep breath. Think this through. Come at him in a different angle. Maybe circle back in a couple of weeks.

6). Whittle down your Prospect List – one of the biggest mistakes many companies make is that they send out marketing material or make sales calls to every company under the sun. Wrong. Take a hard look at your existing clients. Develop a client profile. Who are you best clients? Why are your higher end clients buying more than your lower end clients? Rather than use the shotgun approach to prospecting, narrow down your list to the top 100 clients and start targeting them.

No marketing plan is an island7). No Marketing Plan is an island – there are at least 7 marketing weapons at your disposal – direct mail, the internet, company brochures, advertising, public relations and trade shows. At some companies, these marketing tools are handled by different departments that don’t always interact with one another. Big mistake. Mr. Holmes recommends that you use a stacked marketing approach and develop a consistent theme. Also, don’t forget to provide your sales people with marketing pieces that they can use in their sales presentations.

8). One hour a week – most companies, especially small ones, are so busy trying to generate revenue that they may be losing money by using ineffective or duplicate efforts. Mr. Holmes recommends that you take at least one hour a week and review your business procedures. What’s working and what’s not working? Can you improve you ordering process? Can you improve your up sell or cross-sell offerings? Can you help your sales people make more productive sales calls? Taking one hour a week could save you a lot of money and time down the road.

If you are interested in learning more about his book, or would like to purchase it, please  click here – The Ultimate Sales Machine: Turbocharge Your Business with Relentless Focus on 12 Key Strategies.

Please let me know if you have any comments about his publication or videos.