How Attendees can be Successful at Trade Shows

Attending a Trade Show can be like walking through a maze unless you plan ahead.

Attending trade shows is a huge investment.

First, you are spending a lot of money on conference registrations, hotel reservations, travel, and meals. You may also pay extra fees to attend exclusive breakfast or lunch workshops.

And let’s not forget, you will be spending even more money to attend evening social networking events. While some networking events are free, some vendors may charge a small fee to weed out freeloaders and curiosity seekers.

And second, you are spending time away from your office. Sure, you can bring along your laptop and respond to emails. You may be able to squeeze in some extra work between workshops or the early mornings or late evenings. But you know from experience when you return to the office, you will have a pile of work waiting for you.

So, how can you be sure you are investing your money and time to be successful at trade shows?

Here are ten tips to help you –

First, define your goals. Why are you going to a trade show? Do you want to make new contacts? Do you want to learn more about your industry? Do you want to catch up on the latest news and gossip that you’re not finding in trade publications? Regardless of your reasons, have some specific goals in mind before going to a trade show.

Second, select the right vendors to meet. If your goal is to buy new products and services, do your homework before attending a trade show. Most trade show organizers provide a list of all vendors on their website who will be participating in the event. Links to vendor websites provide a brief description of each company and their specialty.

Take full advantage of that information. You may want to contact some vendors in advance to view an online tour or do a free trial. Or, better yet, schedule an appointment with some vendors at the trade show to save time.

Networking at Trade Shows is critical to your success. Try to meet the right people.

Third, go to evening social networking events. Many vendors will sponsor social networking events to meet and greet potential customers. While you may pay for some events, if you visit a booth and show real interest in the vendor, you could receive a free or discounted pass.

Fourth, let the vendors pick up the tab. Let’s say you are a high paying, high flying customer, and the vendor wants to wine and dine you. Great. Let him.

Fifth, make sure the right people attend. If you are an employer, you most likely will want to take part in a trade show. But, in most cases, you will invite some of your employees to attend too. I would recommend asking your sales and marketing people to go with you. With more employees attending, you can use a “divide and conquer” approach by spreading everyone out to meet key vendors on the exhibit floor.

Sixth, prepare for a long day. Attending a trade show can be exhausting. I’ve attended more than 30 trade shows in my career. Based on my experience, trade shows can last two to three days. According to Spingo’s post “20 Powerful Stats on the Value of Trade Shows and Expos,” the average attendee spends 8.3 hours viewing exhibits.

That’s a lot of time on your feet.

To prepare for those long hours, bring along a knapsack. Or, even better, bring a small carry-on suitcase so you can wheel around all your content. This way, you don’t hurt your back with all the swag and literature you will pick up. I always pack a small notebook, laptop, business cards, water, snacks like protein bars, and cell phone.

Seventh, ask succinct questions. Most experienced salespeople know that they should ask qualifying questions of attendees. Their goal is to determine if they are a good fit for what they’re selling. But trade shows can make even the most harden salesperson giddy with excitement.

With all the potential leads approaching his exhibit booth, a salesperson may disregard his training. He may do a “product vomit” on you, i.e., tell you everything under the sun about his products and services before having a chance to qualify you as a good lead. Or worse, he may ask you to watch a long video presentation with the promise of giving you…yes, you guessed it, more swag to pack and take home.

To avoid lengthy and unnecessary visits at exhibit booths, don’t ask the age-old questions, “What do you sell or what do you do?”

Instead, ask this question –

“What kind of problems do you solve?”

That question gets to the heart of why you are attending trade shows. If the salesperson at the exhibit booth can help solve your problem, keep talking. If he can’t solve your problem, keep walking.

Don’t let problems stick to you; instead, seek solutions from vendors.

Eighth, take advantage of early-bird specials. If you know for sure that you want to attend a specific trade show, then see if the event sponsor is offering early bird specials or discounts. The discounts usually apply not to conference registrations but hotel reservations too. Depending on the popularity of the event, you may want to book a hotel room early.

Ninth, sparely hand out business cards, and avoid being scanned by too many vendors. I know it’s tempting to hand out your business cards to everyone you meet. I also know you want to be polite when a vendor asks if they can scan your conference badge for your contact information.

My advice is to be careful who you give out your contact information to, or you may end up getting flooded with spam and bombarded with phone calls. Since your time is valuable, you only want to connect with vendors that you feel will help your business. So be selective about who you give your contact information to.

And please – don’t fall for the old trick of dropping your business card in a jar to win a prize. Based on my experience, I’ve seen some vendors selectively and strategically pick a prospect’s card to “win” an award. Why? So they can curry a favor with the winner and get a large order. The remaining cards are for lead generation.

And finally, have fun. Trade shows can be stressful. You don’t have to stick with a rigid schedule. So, wander the exhibit hall for a while. Go to a couple of booths that aren’t on your list. Take some swag. Make new contacts. Develop new ideas. Go to lunch outside the exhibit hall to clear your head.

Trade shows are a learning experience. The more information, contacts, and ideas you take away from a trade show, the better chance your company will be more successful.

Don Lee is the author of  Jumpstart your Sales Career, Help for New Salespeople.

Special Note: Middle Photo by HIVAN ARVIZU @soyhivan on Unsplash
Last Photo by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Are you a Teller or a Seller?

Running your mouth too much could hurt your sales.

Once upon a time, two salespeople worked at the same company. While both were friendly, they are competitive and hungry for new orders.

The salespeople were Mr. Teller and Mr. Seller.

After several months of hard work, Mr. Teller was depressed. He wasn’t making his quota. On the other hand, Mr. Seller was not only meeting his quota, and he was exceeding it – big time.

What was Mr. Teller doing wrong?

Here are the differences in the approaches between Mr. Teller vs. Mr. Seller.

Mr. Teller loves to talk to his customer’s about all the features of his company’s products. He was like a walking encyclopedia or brochure and telling everything he thought his clients wanted to hear. Mr. Teller was doing what is commonly referred to as a “product dump or vomit” to his clients.

Mr. Seller liked to talk too. But he learned from experience it is always better to listen more and talk less. He viewed his role as being a problem solver. But before you can solve problems, Mr. Seller first had to uncover the pain points and needs and wants of his clients.

Mr. Teller avoided asking too many questions. He was afraid of rejection, and he didn’t want to offend his clients by being too noisy or appear pushy.

Selling is better than telling when you listen and engage more with your clients.

Mr. Seller, on the other hand, enjoyed asking questions because he knew it was the only way to qualify his clients. He didn’t fear rejection or take it personally when a prospect said, “No.”  He knew it was all part of the job.

Mr. Teller was not proactive when it came to finding new clients. He was very passive. Rather than make cold or warm sales calls, or ask for referrals, Mr. Teller used social selling. Mr. Teller thought all he had to do is connect with key decision makers on LinkedIn, and like their comments or posts, and the key decision makers would magically call him or appear at this door.

Mr. Seller liked using social selling too. But he didn’t rely on it exclusively because he knew that few key decision makers would contact him because of connections and likes on LinkedIn. Mr. Seller believed in warm or cold calls. He also effectively left good voice mail messages and used interesting subject lines on his emails to gain the attention of key decision makers.

Mr. Teller always waited for the prospect to decide. He never asked for the order. He just hoped and prayed that the prospect would make the “right” decision based on all the information he presented.

Mr. Seller didn’t wait for the prospect to decide. Instead, he helped guide the prospect through the sales process by asking qualifying questions, determining needs, and pain points. Once Mr. Seller thought the client was ready,  he asked for the order. He didn’t use tricks, gimmicks, or high-pressure tactics because he knew that wasn’t necessary.

Finally, frustrated, Mr. Teller went to Mr. Seller and asked him what his secret was to get more sales.

“Stop telling and start selling,” replied Mr. Seller.

So, are you a Teller or a Seller?

You decide.

In Sales, Should you Leapfrog?

leapfrog over your sales lead

Leapfrogging may be fun, but not when you have to decide to go over someone’s head to get a sale.

You received an inbound lead. After weeks or even months discussions, exchanging emails, doing online tours, giving on-site presentations, maybe doing a free trial or two, you feel the sale is about to close.

Then suddenly, crickets.

No return phone calls. There are no responses from your emails.

Nothing. Silence. Dead silence.

You thought everything was going well. Your inbound lead asked all the right questions. He showed interest in your product or service. In short, he was making all the traditional buying signals.

Now what?

You now face an impasse that most salespeople fear – do you leapfrog over your lead and contact higher level, and perhaps better, key decision-makers?

Or, do you continue to be patient, make more phone calls and send out more emails, with the false hope that your contact will finally respond and say those magic words that we all want to hear “Let’s order.”

My answer – if you have honestly made every attempt possible to reach your lead, and he hasn’t responded to your repeated efforts, it’s time to leapfrog.

But first, let’s back-up – Why is leapfrogging even necessary?

Several factors come into play

First, you are dealing with the wimp factor –

Your inbound lead is a wimp. Straight-up. He may be afraid to talk to people in upper management. Maybe he doesn’t want to interrupt busy bosses. Or he’s worried they will reject his idea and possibly demote him, or worse, fire him. Perhaps he never had permission to speak to you in the first place, and now he’s caught between a rock and a hard place – a persistent salesperson (you) vs. a dreadful manager.

Like it or not, many people are employed in toxic work environments. They have to deal with layoffs, lousy morale, unpleasant bosses, endless gossip, etc. In those malicious environments, some employees are afraid to speak up or offer ideas.

Second, you were never working with the key decision-maker –

Yes, people lie. Sure, they tell you they are the decision-maker and puff up their responsibilities and role, but when push comes to shove, they play “duck and cover” when you start insisting on a decision. Of course, maybe you should have asked tougher questions in the beginning about how decisions are made, and if others are involved in the decision-making process besides your initial contact.

And third, you are getting drawn into office politics –

Never underestimate the power of office politics when it comes to hurting your chances of landing a sale. You may think everyone loves your products or services, and that the world revolves around you, but that’s rarely the case.

For example, several years ago I was trying to sell a password security software program to a major hospital. While the IT Director admitted to me that my company’s software was better than the competition, he had to purchase the other program over mine. Why? Office politics. Because my prospect was hired recently as the IT Director, he didn’t feel he earned enough brownie points or confidence yet in upper management to recommend a higher price – but better – program. As a result, he purchased what he knew to be an inferior, but a cheaper product, to keep his job.

On the other hand, around the same time, I was also working with another IT Director at a major university. He held his position for nearly 20 years. His colleagues and upper management respected him. So, when he recommended that the academic institution purchase my company’s software, he faced very little opposition or objection.

leapfrog over your first lead

Only use leapfrogging as a last resort if you are not getting anywhere with your prospect.

How do you leapfrog?

First, research and find out who you think the key decision-maker is.

Second, send him an email briefly describing your conversations with your initial contact (but don’t chastise him).

Third, in the same email, explain the value that you are offering the company.

And finally, propose the next steps – e.g., schedule a phone call, meeting, online tour, etc.

Then wait a few days and follow-up again. Send another email. Make some phone calls. Leave some voice mail messages. You know the drill.

Sometimes the critical decision-maker will respond quickly. He may even ask your initial lead to contact you to continue the sales process with firm marching orders on how to proceed with you.

Or, maybe nothing happens at all. In which case, you may have to go higher up the ladder until you reach someone who will see the value of what you are offering and continue with the sales process.

Yes, you may offend your initial lead. Yes, you may not get the sale.

But when you’re hitting a brick wall, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

And if all else fails, there are other fish in the sea to pursue.

 

What Girl Scouts Can Teach us about Selling

Girl Scouts selling cookies

Girl Scouts can teach us a lot about being good salespeople.

With so many Girl Scouts selling cookies near my work and grocery store, I have to assume that the Girl Scout cookie season is upon us again. (Girl Scouts sell cookies from January through April, but in some  cases, they may sell them in September).

For most of us, selling is a career that we either start as soon as we graduate college or mid-life when our current job isn’t panning out.

But for most young girls, selling Girl Scout cookies is a Rite of Passage that begins at an early age.

(Full Disclosure – My mom was a Girl Scout leader, and all four of my sisters sold Girl Scout cookies).

What can we learn from Girl Scouts?

Here are some observations

1). Location, Location, Location – it’s no accident that many Girl Scout troops will set up a tabletop display near a busy street corner, a grocery store, or shopping center. They know that location is the key to selling. The more people traffic, the better chance you have to sell more cookies.

(I once saw a Girl Scout troop hold a cookie sale in someone’s front yard. Despite all the cheering scouts, it appeared they didn’t get too much traffic).

2). Product – unless you are a con artist who can sell ice to an Eskimo, selling requires having a good product. Being a connoisseur of Girl Scout cookies, I can testify first hand that the cookies are delicious. (My favorite is Thin Mints®).

3). Free samples – I notice that some Girl Scouts have taken a page out of the professional salesperson’s handbook and are offering free samples. That’s a great idea. It’s an excellent way of driving foot traffic to your location and increasing sales.

4). Branding – at most Girl Scout table displays, I notice a lot of signs. This is not a coincidence. In this busy and hectic age, you must attract the attention of busy shoppers and pedestrians. Large colorful signs tapped to a table, or better yet, waved by girls, is a right way of drawing attention and more sales. Also, having a large stack of boxes of cookies on display will help people quickly see the variety you are offering, and enhances your branding too.

5). Variety – According to Girl Scouts’ Meet the Cookies, there are 12 brands of cookies this year. There is a debate on whether companies or organizations should offer too many products or not. Think 1-800 Flowers with its large display of flowers and other gifts. Too many products can be overwhelming.  But given that most people expect a lot of variety when it comes to snacks or desserts, 12 different types of cookies appears to be a good fit.

6). Referrals – most of us have worked in offices where at least one employee has an order sheet in the office kitchen for people to sign up for orders. If it’s the boss or manager, some employees may feel some undue pressure to order cookies to secure favor and harmony in the workplace. But for most of us who like cookies, it’s the convenience of completing a form and knowing that our favorite snacks will be arriving soon.

7). Enthusiasm – I’ve never passed by a Girl Scout cookie display without witnessing enthusiastic girls (and sometimes the adults are more excited than the kids). Enthusiasm is contagious. It also helps with sales.

(Several years ago, I saw an overweight man sitting in an office lobby behind a display of Girl Scout cookies. His arms were folded. He had this overconfident smirk on his face as if he was expecting people would rush to buy the cookies. That didn’t happen. With his arms folded, no display and no real enthusiasm, he wasn’t very approachable).

8). Dress for success – most Girl Scouts wear their uniforms when selling cookies. This is important. It shows professionalism and credibility on their part and underscores that they are raising money for a good cause.

There you have it.

Most Girl Scouts may never be salespeople. But we can learn a lot from their techniques in selling cookies.

In Sales, How to Deal with the Hand-off

the hand off

Being handed off to someone else could turn into success or failure depending on how you handle the situation.

You spent weeks, if not months, working with your client to close the sale. Just when you think you finally see dollar signs in your eyes, your client decides to hand you off to someone else.

What just happened?

You just got handed over to someone else who may or may not give a damn about what you are selling. In fact, he may never even have heard of you or your company before.

Why did this happen?

First, your client wasn’t a serious buyer. Sure, he may have told you he was the decision-maker, but he lied. Don’t be surprised. It happens. In fact, it happens all the time.

Second, maybe your client is interested, but he’s too busy working on other projects, or suddenly, a personal or professional crisis occurred, and he has to break discussions with you temporarily. Because what he’s going through isn’t your business, he hands you off to some flunky or low-level employee to keep you busy for a while until he gets his affairs in order.

Third, he honestly wants a second opinion from an outside expert or consultant, so he decides to have an outsider hear what you are pitching. This happened to me once when I was selling password security software. After months of free trials and online tours, the decision-maker wanted to cover his ass, so he decided to bring in a cybersecurity expert to review the software I was selling. Was I confused and hurt? A little. But then I put myself in my client’s place – because this was going to be a significant order for him, he wanted to get a second opinion before signing the dotted line. If I were in his place, I probably would have done the same thing.

So, rather than get my feelings hurt, I decided to treat the outside consultant with respect. I repeated all my online tours. I provided him with all the information I sent to my client. I patiently listened to all his questions and answered them accordingly. In a couple of months, my efforts paid off – I won over the consultant, he became my advocate, and I got the large order.

How to avoid the hand-off?

First, make sure your client is the decision-maker. And in most cases, the decision-maker isn’t always one person. Sometimes decisions are made by a series of people in upper management or even by a committee.

Second, try to get a time commitment from your client. What is his deadline? Is there a sense of urgency on your client’s part to making a purchase? Or, is he just window shopping.

And finally, if you do get handed off, don’t panic. Depending on what you’re selling, the sales process could take a long time. Be persistent. Be professional. And if all else fails, there are other fish in the sea. And who knows, your current fish that you’re trying to reel in may just voluntarily jump on your boat when you least expect it.

A hand-off doesn’t always mean you’re getting the backhand. It just means you have to work harder to seal the deal.

 

Should you send out Reminder Emails?

sending reminder emails to clientsAfter months of work, you finally scheduled an online tour or webinar with a large client. You sent him the meeting invite to his Outlook Calendar. He has accepted your invite.

The tour or webinar is tomorrow. Do you send your client an email reminder notice? Or do you just assume that he will be available tomorrow when you call and do the presentation?

There are two schools of thought about this issue –

1). Don’t send the reminder

The thought behind this is that if you send a reminder, the client may use that as an excuse to opt-out. He may have second thoughts about viewing your tour. As a result, your client may send you a lame ass excuse about his cat being ill, or he has a conflict on his calendar, or he will suddenly be out-of-town tomorrow.

Not only are you a believer in the “assumption close,” but you also believe in the assumption meeting, i.e., you take the client’s word that he’s going to show up, so why give him an excuse to bail out on you. You call tomorrow and hope and pray he will pick up the phone and be available for your presentation.

2). Do send the reminder

The thought here is that by sending your client a reminder you are showing him that you a professional. Sure, you know that your meeting invite is on his Calendar. Sure, he accepted it a week ago. However, you know from experience that professionals like yourself are busy. So sending a reminder is your way of being polite.

What would I do?

I would send the reminder. Why? Because by sending him a reminder a day or so in advance you are showing professional courtesy to your client. But most important of all, you want to make sure your client is really serious about viewing your presentation. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be excited about your product or service as you are. Sure, they may tell you to send them a meeting invite to make you feel good or to save face. But a few minutes before the presentation begins, you receive a last-minute cancellation, or without any advance warning, the client doesn’t appear at all.

In short, you have a “no show.”

We all know it takes time to prepare for a presentation. Like most salespeople,  you already have prepared a set of slides or screens shots in place, and you probably have customized your demo, e.g., adding certain benefits that you know the client will like, or addressing specific pain points that you know the client needs to resolve. But all that work takes time.

Better to know in advance if the client isn’t going to show up, so you can devote more time scheduling other appointments, prepare for other tours, or make sales calls.

And who knows – maybe your client is being honest and can’t view your presentation. No worries. You can always reschedule.