Now that the trade show is upon you, what is it that you are going to do there? All the planning in the world will not do you one bit of good it you don’t execute it well or if things are tossed in your lap and you don’t know what to do. Most newbies hit the "trade show floor" without a clue as to what comes next.
Trade show guy: “Good morning”
Okay, what was that? Well, that’s was a typical trade show scene with someone working the trade show booth who doesn’t have a clue what he is doing there, and hates every minute of it.
First order of business: If employees do NOT want to be exhibiting at the trade show, leave them home with a few unpaid days off of work. You don’t need them. They will not bring you one piece of business unless the customer begs them, and they will give you a bad image.
Your trade show representatives are your ambassadors to your community. They are the ones that are interacting with the people that you hope will be paying your bills next month. If they’d rather be home watching Oprah, let ‘em. Trade show booth opportunities should be held exclusively for salespeople that want them and preferably have earned them. This is gravy opportunity and you don’t need yawners and slackers.
Trade show impressions
Make sure everyone working the trade show knows to wear a nice set of clothing and that everyone is on the same page. It’s no good to have some people showing up in formal business attire while others are wearing their company shirts and blue jeans.
Unless your are in a craft, food or other messy business, men and women should both be wearing casual dress clothing. Professionals should look professional though the professional style could extend to company shirts and pair of Dockers.
Keep the shoes comfy! Working a trade show means that you will be on your feet for a very long time. Unless you thought to supply your booth with extra lush padding, your feet are going to be in agony by the end of the day. Ladies… do not wear heels! Keep it a flat-soled, cushioned shoe. It is also recommended that you bring a second pair with you. Changing shoes will give you different pressure points and make things a lot less painful.
Trade show accoutrements
Things at trade shows get interesting. We’ll just leave it there. If possible, make sure that you have your cell phone with you and that there is someone at a local office that you can contact. If not, plan to have a local runner at the trade show who can run out and get or do something that you forgot to take care of or didn’t anticipate.
Develop a checklist for all the things you need to take to the trade show and start this ahead of time. Try to picture the show and walk through a presentation. Make sure that you write down everything you need to touch or use and this will be your Master Trade Show List. Keep this forever and add on to it as you discover new essentials. Don’t forget the obvious things like business cards, laptops, company brochures, power cords, pens and paper.
Your trade show list should also include tape, stapler, roll of duct tape, packing tape for boxes, scissors, knife, and a couple of markers. Once you start doing trade shows, it’s always a good idea to keep this kit in it’s form so you don’t have to hunt each item down each time.
Also consider adding some comfort things to your trade show kit: A box of wipe towelettes for your hands, lotion, powder, a couple of boxes of cookies for your staff, and a few cans of Slim-Fast in case you get a bit hungry and cannot get away for lunch.
Trade show stamina
Trade shows can wear you out! Stand too long, talk to too many people, smile way too much and everyone can get a bit cranky or drop the ball. Ensure that your trade show staff has an adequate break every once in awhile. Schedule this out so that everyone knows and nobody takes advantage of it while others are going through burnout. In general, try to give everyone a break every 2-3 hours to walk around the show, use the facilities, grab a bite, and just relax a bit.
If you are a one person show, consider hiring a relief staffer to come in during a slow time, just to give you a break. If you must leave without a relief person, be sure to leave a big sign on the table with a time that you will be back. That way, if a serious customer comes looking for you, they will know that you are on break and when to come back.
Drink plenty of water during the show, eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of sleep, and take a good B complex vitamin to give additional energy during the show. In general, it’s good to avoid alcohol on or before show days, but especially during the show.
Getting attention at the trade show
Every trade show is busy. That means that trade show participants are being pummeled with hundreds of messages. The hard part of working any trade show is to walk up to a stranger, get their attention, be friendly, qualify them, and do it in the middle of this chaos.
The first words out of your mouth will be important in determining whether the visitor will be staying at your booth or moving on. Look at the example at the top of this page. Standard greetings such as, “how are you”, “Can I help you”, or “How’s it going”, are only going to give you general comment back, and often it’s a negative.
Work up 3-5 opening lines that your staff will use. Comments should be open-ended to require the visitor to start to talk. Example: “Good morning Ma’am, we provide a wide range of services to seniors and convalescents in their homes. Do you have family or friends in the area that are or will be needing assistance soon?”
What you’ve done here is to greet the customer, explain what your company does, and ask them a very general but qualifying question that requires an answer from them. If you get any kind of a positive answer, you can move in from there to determine who, what, how, when, why, and where.
When you are asking question, you are in control, you are leading. Ask questions that help you sell your products/services. Don’t worry if it’s raining outside right now or how they like the show. It’s irrelevant.
Though you should be using this trade show opportunity to ask questions, don’t forget to listen 80% and talk 20%. People like to be put at ease and when you ask questions and let the visitor talk about themselves, they are more at ease.
Effective trade show presentations
Before the trade show opens each day, ensure that everything is working properly. A plug might have been pulled or something knocked out of place. If you have developed trade show presentations, make sure they are out and that all staff is familiar with them. If possible, consider trade show presentations that involve the trade show visitor. Ask them if they have questions. Most important… keep reasonable eye contact.
Following a demo example of your services is key to helping the trade show visitor understand what it is that you do and how it can benefit them. Show a feature, outline the benefits, show proof, examples and then ask how the service would help them.
Know all the strong features of the product or service and plan what benefits you can talk to people about.
Moving on to the next trade show booth visitor
Now that you’ve established a rapport and assessed their interest in your service, make sure that you have their contact before they leave. Once you have that, you will need to find a way to disengage and move on to the next trade show visitor waiting for you. If traffic is low or nobody is near you, feel free to spend additional time, but still be ready to go if you have to.
In most cases, the conversation will come to a natural close, but in other cases, you may have someone who is perhaps lonely or simply doesn’t understand that you need to move on.
Disengaging isn’t too terribly hard once you know what to do. A simple closure statement such as, “Thanks for stopping by” along with a hand reached out to shake their hand will terminate a conversation. Just be sure to try and schedule the follow up or at the very least, let them know that you will.
Once you have conversed with a visitor and assessed their interest in your product or service, you will need to find a way to disengage from them so that you can be available for other booth visitors.
You can spend extra time with booth visitors during low-traffic times. But during high-traffic times, you will be missing important opportunities if you continue talking.
Often, the conversation will come to a natural close, but there are times when your prospect is not in a hurry to leave and is not sensitive to your need to attend to other visitors.If that happens, use body language and closure comments to give your prospect the message. First, change your body position and reach out to shake hands. Then communicate your follow-up plan – arrange a time to call or offer a takeaway item. Thank the visitor for their time, shake hands, and move on.