10 Tips for Working at a Trade Show Booth

I recently came back from a trade show in Charleston, S.C. It was my first trade show in nearly a year. Based on my observations, here are 10 tips on how to work at a trade show booth.

How to work at a trade show booth1). Stand, don’t sit. Yes, I know it’s tough to stand all day. But by standing, you are inviting attendees to approach you and engage in a conversation about your company. By sitting, you are signaling to attendees that you are not interested in speaking with them, or that you are tired. Look, if an attendee is spending most of their day walking, you should at least have the courtesy to stand. If you are tired, take a short break and sit down somewhere else.

If you only have a tabletop display, try to stand next to the table – not behind it. Why? When you stand behind a table, you are putting a defensive barrier between you and the attendee. By standing next to the table, you are signaling to the attendee that you are accessible and friendly, and are interested in engaging in a conversation.

Don’t stand in front of the table, because you want to give attendees a chance to look at your display to determine if your company is a good fit for them. Also, you don’t want to be a stalker and pounce on attendees while they are walking by. Remain calm, compose and inviting.

2). Don’t read your laptop or smartphone. Yes, I know it’s tough to be away from the office. And there may be times during the day when you have to respond to an emergency e-mail, or make an important phone call. But try to do it away from your booth. Again, your focus should be on the attendees, not your work or personal life. And if you are still reading print newspapers (remember those), now is not the time to catch up on sports or the latest news. Put all print material that is not related to your company away.

don't eat at a trade show booth3). Don’t eat at the booth. If you are working with a group, take breaks to eat. It’s discourteous to eat at a booth while others are walking by. However, if you are working at a booth myself, wait until traffic is slow to take a break or eat. By reviewing the conference agenda, you should know when to time traffic flow during a trade show. (And don’t raid the candy bowl at your booth – it’s for the attendees to attract them to you).

4). Limit your conversations with your colleagues. I know. Working at a trade show can be boring at times, especially when traffic is slow. So you want to strike up a conversation with your co-workers. I understand. Just keep your eyes open for an approaching attendee. Most people are polite. If they see you talking to one of your co-workers, they may be less reluctant to approach you at the booth.

5). Be friendly. Nothing discourages an attendee from coming to your booth more than not seeing a friendly or inviting face. Sure, you don’t want to be a stalker or stare at attendees as they walk by your booth. But on the other hand, you don’t want to be looking down at the floor, or staring in space. Be casual and cool.

6). Speak to the right attendees. Don’t waste time speaking with attendees who obviously are not interested in your company, or are not good prospects. Be firm, polite and diplomatic, but steer an attendee away if he’s not a good fit for your company’s products or services. Remember – you only have a limited period of time to speak with people. Try to keep the booth open for the right prospects that you need to speak to. Attendees don’t want to hear about your vacation plans or your recent travels. While it’s nice to chit-chat, stay focus on the business at hand.

7). Keep plenty of marketing literature at your booth. Not everyone will want to speak with you. It’s nothing personal. Attendees are busy. So keep plenty of marketing literature, swag and business cards at your booth for quick retrieval by attendees.

8). Don’t scan and spam. Don’t waste time scanning every attendee who approaches your booth. Most of them probably are not going to be good prospects anyway. Take your time and engage in a conversation with attendees to determine if they are worth pursuing after the conference. I would rather return from a trade show with 50 good leads than 100 bad ones.

9). The last hour can be the most critical.  When the closing bell goes up, don’t be like everyone else and visit other booths for free (and better) drinks and food. Stay at your post. Some of the best orders I’ve received were from attendees who raced from booth to booth at the last-minute seeking information, and scheduling appointments after the show.

10). Collaborate with neighboring vendors. Right before the trade show begins, talk to neighboring vendors and see what they are offering. If they are not a competitor, form a quick alliance – if an attendees arrives at either of your booths that are not a good fit for you, but could be a good fit for the other vendor, encourage the attendee to visit the other booth. This could increase more traffic and sales for you. Plus it’s just good business.

Note: Like my post? Then please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

pcruciatti / Shutterstock.com (top photo credit).

The 10 spookiest things about Selling

spooky things about sellingWhat keeps you up at night? Is it the imaginary monster you remember from your childhood that is still hiding underneath your bed? Is it the ghostly sounds that you hear outside your window while you’re trying to sleep? Is it your black cat that’s scratching your bedroom door?

With Halloween fast approaching, what are the 10 spookiest things that scare you the most about selling?

1). Not getting enough qualified sales leads

Do you want leads? Sure, here’s the Yellow Pages – start calling! Seriously, most salespeople complain about the lack of leads or the quality of what they receive from their marketing team. But hey, thanks to the Internet, there are tons of free and paid sources now available. So stop complaining, and don’t be afraid of doing a little research.

Need help? Here are a couple of books you should consider –

New Sales. Simplified: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development, by Mike Weinberg and S. Anthony Iannarino.

Power Prospecting: Cold Calling Strategies For Modern Day Sales People – Build a B2B Pipeline. Teleprospecting, Lead Generation, Referrals, Executive Networking. Improve Selling Skills, by Patrick Henry Hansen.

2). Getting little or no training

You were told by your employer that you would receive training after you were hired. Instead, you were introduced to your work area and given a prospect list – now start selling. What should you do? Start reading. That’s right – start reading sales books, blogs, and articles. Start watching YouTube videos about selling. Study your company’s products and services inside and out until you know them by heart. Do what you have to do to be successful – because while your employer may not care, you better give a damn about your job. After all, what’s even scarier than little or no training is standing in the unemployment line.

Don’t know where to begin? Here’s help –

Here is a link to a guest blog post I wrote for Will Reed Jobs, an Austin based job hunting agency for young salespeople –

Ten books that New Salespeople should Read

And HubSppot has a list of the 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time.

don't panic in sales3). The “no show” prospect

I know. The prospect accepted your meeting calendar invite to view your short webinar, but he disappeared. Where did he go? Did he fall down a pit? Are you going to curse the darkness? Of course not! Don’t panic. Just pick up the phone and try to reschedule the appointment. Things happen. Prospects get busy. Don’t take it personally.

4). Competitors who lie, cheat and steal

Hate them or respect them, competitors exist in every industry. You can either be afraid of them or fight them. The choice is yours. While you may want to boil your competitors in a cauldron of oil, the better approach is to stop worrying about your competitors and just do your job. In the long run you will succeed while your competitors fail.

5). Cold calling

A cold call isn’t cold unless you make it so. Do a little research first before you call a prospect. Is he the key decision maker? Do you feel you have a solution that will help him? Or better yet, try to get a referral.

6). The mysterious marketing department

You heard about the mysterious marketing department, but you’ll be damned if you know if it really exist or not. Is it a ghost department that only comes out at night when everyone else has left work? You were told that the marketing department was going to provide you qualified leads, but you haven’t seen any for a while. Did the leads end up in the quicksand?  (See number 1 about finding your own qualified leads). And if your company’s social media efforts are still in the dark ages, start your own blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn account, and become more active on social media yourself. While your marketing department may be invisible, you shouldn’t be.

salespeople pouncing on trade show attendees7). Trade Shows

So you’re afraid to stand at your exhibit booth during trade shows. Don’t be. Chances are, most of the attendees are just as scared as you are because salespeople are pouncing on them like vampires every time they near a booth. Rather than asking good qualified questions, those salespeople are sucking the life out of attendees. Don’t be like that. Act cool. Show some respect. Don’t scan and scam. Take a more consultative sales approach when meeting with attendees. Believe me, in the long run it will pay off.

Here is a good article from Jane Applegate on “How to Work a Trade Show.”

8). Conversions of your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system

You love your CRM. It helps you keep track of your sales notes, customer contact information and all of the records you need to do your job. But another salesperson came along and sold your employer on a better CRM. Now what? It’s conversion time – that long, lengthy, agonizing period of exporting all of your data into the new CRM. Scared? Hell, you should be. Because sometimes important data has a way of ending up in a dark hole that will never be found again. (I’ve gone through 5 conversions in my career. In one case, the programmers forgot to transfer our sales notes. In another case, they forgot to transfer all of our expired clients). But don’t be afraid – instead, download and save all your information or print it out. But whatever you do, protect your information or it may disappear.

Here a good article from Chuck Schaeffer on “Lessons Learned in CRM Data Conversions.”

bogeyman as a sales manager9). Bad sales managers

Yes, we’ve all been there, done that. But your sales manager may not be the bogeyman you think he is. Like you, he’s under pressure to make quota or achieve sales goals. The only difference is that he has to depend on you and the entire sales team to make it happen. That’s scary. There are a lot of books and articles on how to deal with difficult managers – here are a couple –

A Survival Guide for Working With Bad Bosses: Dealing With Bullies, Idiots, Back-stabbers, And Other Managers from Hell, by Gini Graham Scott Ph.D.

Dealing With Horrible Bosses: How To Handle Bad Managers at Work! (difficult managers,poor boss,difficult bosses,work bullies,bad bosses,bullying at workplace,bullying at work), by Damon Lundqvist.

And VorsightBP, a Northern Virginia based sales consulting firm, has an excellent webinar on “10 Tips to Transform Sales Leaders From Micromanagers into Great Coaches.” (You have to submit your contact information to watch it, but it’s worth it).

10). Slow sales periods

Every industry has its slow periods. You know, that time when most clients are not buying because it’s the holidays, or it’s the summer or whatever lame excuse you are given. So does that mean you slow down? Hell no. Find other prospects to contact. When I once worked in the accounting industry, tax season was considered a slow time to call on CPAs, accountants and tax preparers. Unless you loved getting chewed out by stressed out accountants facing the April 15th tax deadline, you pretty much left them alone. While that made sense, we didn’t sit around and feel sorry for ourselves – instead, we contacted libraries, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions that we thought would be good candidates for our tax research program. You do what you have to do to hit your quota.

What scares you about selling? Please send me a comment.

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

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 be 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 biased 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 about 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.

What to do after exhibiting at a trade show

You just returned from your first trade show. You are both tired and excited. You have plenty of leads to call. You are anxious to start dialing.

But before you start making any calls, what did you learn from the trade show? What were the key takeaways?

It’s always a good idea to sit down with others who attended the show with you and analyze how well you did, and how you could improve at the next show.

trade show, exhibit boothsHere is a checklist of what you should discuss –

1). Did you obtain the number of leads that you expected? If you have gone to the same trade show in the past, that should be a good measuring stick on how well you did. If you fell short this year compared to last year, what happened? Was attendance down compared to last year? Were you in a bad location? Was your booth too small? Did you have enough people managing the booth this year compared to last year? Could you have done a better job publicizing the event prior to exhibiting at the show?

If this is the first time your company attended the trade show, did it meet your expectations? If not, what do you think happened? Would you attend the same event next year?

Sometimes it’s not the quantity but the quality of the leads that matter. Sure, maybe you had fewer leads than expected or the year before, but if you need a better job this year qualifying your leads, you may actually obtain better sales.

2). Exhibit Booth Location. Were you in a location with good walk-thru traffic? If not, is there a better location that you can select for next year? At most trade shows that I’ve attended, the prime location is always near the front entrance. However, that location is usually expensive. The next best location is at a corner, or near a heavy walk thru areas like the restrooms or food court area. Depending on the number of exhibitors, booth location may not make much of a difference. For example, I’ve attended trade shows where you only had 15 to 20 booths. So no matter where you were located, you would expect prospects to eventually stop by.

3). Exhibit Booth Size. Was your booth large enough to attract more prospects? If not, does it make sense to make the booth larger next year? At larger trade shows were you have 50 or more exhibitors, and 5,000 plus attendees, size does matter. Depending on the length of the trade show, not all attendees are going to have time visiting each booth. So if you have a larger booth, have more displays, and have more literature, you stand a better chance of attending more prospects.

4). Pre Show Publicity. Did you do enough to publicize that your company was exhibiting at the trade show? Did you promote the event well on your website? Did you send out enough emails to your clients and prospects before the show? Did you use social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook) effectively prior to exhibiting at the show?  If you were lucky enough to obtain the attendee list prior to the show, did you do an effective job publicizing your booth? Would it have been a good idea calling attendees prior to the show?

5). Enough Booth Coverage. Did you have enough people working the booth this year? Did you have too many attendees walk away because there weren’t enough employees managing the booth to help them?

I hope the above checklist will help you in future trade shows. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

 

How to prepare for a trade show

You paid your dues. You worked hard in the inside sales department. Now it’s your turn to join some of the senior sales reps to your first trade show with the company. Great! But wait – how do you prepare for a trade show?

Besides making a list of what to pack and places to see while attending the show, you need to come up with a game plan. Hopefully, your company has attended enough trade shows that they have a good sales and marketing plan in place. But what about you – the first timer? How are you going to be successful? How are you going to obtain good leads and shine in front of your colleagues? How are you going to look good in front of your prospects and clients?

Here are some tips –

1). Research the show – study the agenda, workshops, and speakers. Get a clear sense of the type of prospects who will be attending the show. Also, review YouTube clips or videos of previous shows. These days, most show organizers post videos of past shows to promote the event, and to encourage more attendance and exhibitors for future shows.

2). Talk to your colleagues – get their advice on how to do well at the show.

3). Notify your clients and prospects that you are attending the show – yes, you expect your employer to announce that your company will exhibit at the show, but you need to take a more “hands-on” approach. You could send out a short email to your clients and prospects announcing that you will be attending the event, and encourage them to stop by. You could casually trade show exhibit boothbring it up in conversations.

4). Schedule important meetings – if you have major clients or prospects that you know will be attending the event, schedule a meeting with them while at the show. Or better yet, invite them out to dinner.

5). Ask your prospects and clients for advice – if you know that some of your prospects and clients will be attending the show, ask them for their advice. What do they hope to get out of the show? Why are they attending the event? And more importantly, is there anything you can do to help them while they are at the show?

6). Find out if your competitors are attending the show – for the record, I really don’t worry about competitors – I worry about making sure I’m doing a good job for my clients. With that said, it doesn’t hurt to know if your competitors are attending or not. This way you can be prepared if someone comes up to you during a show and says “your competitor at the booth two rows down claims your product isn’t any good, what do you have to say about that?” Hopefully, you have been in sales long enough to know how to handle this question.

You also need to be prepared if your competitors come to your booth. Now, hopefully, your competitors will be professional and polite. I’ve attended trade shows will competitors will stop by briefly at our booth, shake hands, and wish us well. In short, we exchange some pleasantries, and then we go about our business. On the other hand, I’ve attended a couple of events where competitors will act like total jerks. In that situation, you need to remain cool, be polite, but assertive enough to ask them to leave. After all, you have a limited time to gather leads, so wasting it with competitors is not good time management nor good business.

I hope my tips are helpful.  Please let me know if you have any tips that you would like to share.
photo credit: MedicalTourismAssociation via photopin cc

Good questions to ask during Trade Shows

What is the best way to find good prospects during a trade show?

It all begins on the exhibit floor. When a prospect arrives at your booth, don’t treat him like a side of beef ready to be cooked.

Instead, treat him like a human being. Your goal is to engage in a conversation with the prospect and determine his needs and interests. Remember, the prospect doesn’t care about your products, he only cares about his problems and how you can help him.

Some good opening questions are –

1). Why are you attending this trade show?

2). What do you hope to gain from attending this show?

3). Is there anything that catches your eye in our booth?

4). Can you tell me a little about what you do and some of the problems are you trying to solve at your company?

5). How is the show?

By asking some open-ended questions like the above, you can determine fairly quickly if you are dealing with a serious prospect, or just a sovereign hunter looking for swag. It also helps you create rapport.

Time is very critical at a show. You have to look at a trade show from the prospect’s point of view. There may be literary hundreds of booths for him to visit. He is spending most of his day walking from booth to booth listening to sales pitches and watching presentations. So you have to determine his needs and problems quickly, gain his interest, and most important of all, try to arrange a phone conference or meeting with him after the show. This is not the time to try to hard sell the prospect. It is extremely rare that a prospect will make a buying decision on the spot. This is especially true if you are selling services or products with a long sales cycle.

As a general rule, the longer you speak to a prospect at a show, the better chance you will have to continue the conversation after the event. And if the prospect is asking you a lot of questions and showing interest, that’s definitely a good sign.

From your point of view, you will only work at your exhibit booth for two or three days max. On top of that, you will be taking some breaks or going to lunch. So you need to use your time wisely and try to engage with as many serious prospects as you can.

Finding good prospects at a trade show isn’t difficult. You just need to be patient, ask good qualifying questions, quickly establish rapport, and arrange an appointment after the show.