Event Industry

Maximize Your Sales Team’s Budget & Time — Selling on the Trade Show Floor

Written by Leah Layzell

Seven Steps to Get Trade Show Attendees to STOP WALKING – So You Can START TALKING!

By Christine CorelliCCPhotoAutoPartsCityStillImageIT

Trade show exhibiting is, by far, the Number One way to gain access to potential customers! But exhibiting costs can be very high — for travel, exhibit fees, booth rental and design, pre-show marketing communications, and many additional miscellaneous expenses that can really add up.

You want — and need — to see a significant return on that investment! 

You, and every member of your sales team must put forth their best effort to make your company’s trade show marketing effort successful.  What’s in it for you?  Plenty of opportunity to increase your commission check!

tradeshow display

Selling At a Trade Show – Your Main Goal

Months before the show, you have started working.  You set up appointments with your existing and “most desired” customers.  You even sent reminders.  If you were smart, you have a nice gift waiting your best customers and most desired prospects and you let them know that gift will be waiting for them at the booth with their name on it.

Early on opening day, you plan to call or text them to let them know you are looking forward to seeing them.  Great.  Every smart sales person does all of this and more.

Your main goal, however, is not to cement current customer relationships.  Instead, it is to obtain the most leads for new potential customers.  Your ability to successfully meet this goal depends on whether you are able to grab an attendee’s limited attention and get them to stop walking down the aisle and talk to you.

A Critical “Booth-Selling Skill

Getting trade show attendees to stop walking so you can engage them in a sales conversation is a critical booth selling skill.  It is also challenging.  Consider the reasons:

  • Roughly 70% of show attendees have an appointment with, or plan to visit, select companies even before they ever enter the convention center.  They are not inclined to stop to talk to anyone on their way. I’ve seen this occur at every show.  It’s good for the exhibitors on their list, but it’s not good for you.
  • Many attendees walk the show to get a quick overview all at once.  They walk through the aisles looking at products and signs — but not at you.  There is so much to distract them.  Both The International Builders Show and the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show come to mind.  There are beautiful new products with breathtaking designs at these shows everywhere you look.  If you had to choose a booth that had the most “eye appeal”, you’d be hard pressed to pick.

My experience at these, and many other shows, is that attendees are so anxious to see what’s new, that they want to walk the show first, before they even think about talking with anyone.

  • Some trade show visitors want to get their money’s worth by seeing as many exhibits as they can — as quickly as they can.  Recently, I delivered three educational sessions on the opening day at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas — “Are You a Boss, or a LEADER?“, “Selling to Women”, and “Creating and Executing a Smart Business Plan.”  I walked the show afterwards.
Gene Simmons, KISS, rock

The SEMA Show 2013 with KISS star Gene Simmons

The SEMA Show is not open to the public, but it is one of the most exciting shows in the country.  It is strictly for manufacturers, car dealers, and business professionals in the automotive aftermarket industry.  This year, (2013) it drew some 150,000 people.  Show management does a spectacular job of organizing the event.

The exhibits entice the attendee with eye-catching signs and graphics everywhere.  Many automobile manufacturers show their 2014 models.  There are numerous franchise opportunities.  Racing celebrities from NASCAR and Indy 500 make appearances for their sponsor.  Even celebrities who are not from the industry are contracted by exhibitors to make an appearance.  This year, Ford had Gene Simmons of the rock band, Kiss, in their booth.  It was a mob scene.

As in many other shows, music and videos are playing and people are talking, making the noise level extremely high.  Under these conditions, any booth sales professional will be challenged to catch someone’s attention.  Even if your company exhibits in a smaller trade show that is not as noisy, prospects will only slow down if something (or someone) in your booth “hooks” them.

Seven Steps to Help You Sell on the Trade Show Floor 

Based on twenty-five years’ experience in the trade show arena, I have determined that the following steps are the most effective ways to get people to stop walking and step into your booth. Then, you can quickly qualify them, and either wish them a good day or start selling!

Step #1 – Don’t Hesitate–Initiate!  

As traffic goes by, stand near the edge of your exhibit (not on the very edge or you will look as though you are about to jump on someone).  Make eye contact with as many people as you can and smile.  If it is the first day of the show and the aisles are jammed, it will be more difficult.  Don’t hesitate when someone slows down to smile back or look at your exhibit.  You could lose your only chance to make a connection.

Step #2 – Ask a quick informal question.

“How do you like the show?”  Or, “How are you today?”  Ask anything similar that will engage the person or group walking by.

Step #3 – Extend your hand and quickly introduce yourself.

Just say, “Hi, I’m John Jones.  Where are you folks from?”  Be casual and comfortable — as though you are greeting someone in the neighborhood.  Don’t come across too aggressively or you will turn people off.

Voila!  You got them to stop.

Step # 4 – Ask another question to generate small talk.

“How do you like the show?”

“How did you like that opening general session speaker?”

Make appropriate small talk for 30 seconds.  Then, move to Step # 5 fast.

Step # 5 – Qualify quickly.

Just by looking at someone’s badge, you  probably know if this person is a prospect.  If you’re not sure, ask a quick qualifying question to determine whether you are, in fact, talking to a potential customer.

“What are you looking for at this show?”

“Do you use ____________ in your operation?”

“Do you have application for…?”

While these are examples of questions to start small talk, they are important because they can help to qualify the individual and establish that critical first connection.

I’ve seen more sales people waste precious time with trade show attendees who were simply curious about their product or service, but were not buyers.  Once you know they are not qualified, gracefully suggest they take a look around the booth and move on.

Step # 7 – Qualified?  Then start selling.

tradeshow qualified leadsStart with a “Sales Conversation Starter Question”:

“Would you like to take a closer look at our new equipment?”

“Would you like to learn how we are helping customers with our service?”

“Would you like to take a look at the latest technology we’ve put into our equipment?”

“Would you like to see our hottest selling item?”

“Would you like to see our newest design?”

“Would you like to hear about our show special?”

These questions are like lures in a tackle box.  Not every lure works for all situations.  Just like a smart fisherman, use experience to gauge the conditions and select the appropriate lure.  Once you find what works best for you, memorize a matrix of questions to ask so you can apply them at the trade shows you attend.

An Insiders’ Secret to Trade Show Sales Success

If you take a small step toward the product as you ask a “Sales Conversation Starter” question, you will find that your prospect is more likely to follow you.  How do I know?  I’ve done it a thousand times, and it works.  Try it.

More importantly, stay one-step ahead of the competition. Rise to the challenge of selling on the trade show floor.

Getting results in obtaining new leads and selling in a trade show environment requires savvy, sales expertise and perseverance. For now, follow these seven steps to make your trade show sales more rewarding.

©Copyright, 2013 Christine Corelli & Associates, Inc.

Christine Corelli is a dynamic keynote speaker, business columnist and author of five business books including the best-selling Wake Up and Smell the Competition andCapture Your Competitors’ Customers and KEEP Them. She has extensive experience in the trade arena. To learn more visit www.christinespeaks.com, or call 847 581 9968.

To make your trade show experience even more enriching, check out these solutions in our Event Tech Decision Engine that might make your lead gen easier:

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Leah Layzell

Project & Directory Manager at The Meeting Pool
Leah is a designer and digital specialist based in Essex, United Kingdom, She specializes in assisting small to medium-sized enterprises with their technical support, design, projects and digital implementation so that they can run their business with ease.