Who is representing your brand and your company at a trade show?
There can be a misconception within a lot of organizations that going to a trade show is akin to having the days off. All you have to do is stand there with a brochure and wait for people to walk into your booth, go out for a beer or two and a really nice meal on your expense account. That is so wrong...
If you have prepared for this event properly; contacting your clients and leads in each city, sending them an invitation to come and meet up with you at the trade show, perhaps setting up a draw that is ONLY for your pre-show contacts, as well as setting your goals in a number of areas as it relates to your property, then it will be very far from “time off.”
So, who do you send? Your very best sales people and that's not necessarily the person with the most seniority. If you have gone through the exercise of goal setting, making sure you are bringing the right collateral for the audience, contacted your current and potential clients and used part of your budget, why would you send a sales person who perhaps does not have the product knowledge – or authority – to talk deals with your clients.
An inexperienced or lazy salesperson in your booth could do you more harm than good. I have organized events where the exhibitor is sitting at the back of their booth, newspaper open, coffee cup in hand and ignoring traffic as it goes by….how far is that person going to get in reaching established goals? Not far, and when they get back to their office, they will say the show wasn’t very good either.
Does that mean no junior sales people should attend? NO, not at all. Just make sure that an experienced sales person is there to mentor them, set good examples of what it means to “work” the show and to reiterate their goals for the program every morning before the show opens, and review the day with their staff after the show closes.
You want people who can set up a welcoming space that invites people to come in and talk. Those who have the ability to start a conversation with open ended questions; those that can determine who is a potential client from a few well thought out qualifying questions. You want people who understand what your goals are for the show and who will help you reach them.
You need people who can walk into a trade show knowing that other exhibitors can become their clients, or they may know someone who can use your services. If you can, slip away from your booth, leaving your associate for a few moments, take your business cards and go meet the neighbours.
Because of circumstances, time or budget constraints you may only be able to send one person to an out of town event. Spend some time with your sales people before they leave and give them the benefit of your knowledge and expertise. Make sure they know what your priorities and goals are for that event.
A trade show is a true test of anyone’s sales abilities! No hiding behind a computer-generated newsletter, you are face to face with your potential client. Make sure the people you have working possess all the knowledge, collateral, open-ended questions and ability to make the connection with the client!
Written by Lisa Marin
Lisa has been organizing trade and consumer programs for the Canadian Travel Industry for almost 30 years. She has also worked in Sales & Marketing within the industry for both Hotels and Resorts.