Today’s post is by Alice Heiman, who has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. Her innovative sales leadership programs – coupled with her top-down approach to creating long-term change – set up sales leaders and sales-managing business owners to get consistent and sustainable growth. She has recently launched TradeShow Makeover™ to improve the results companies get from exhibiting at events.
Many sales leaders have strategic plans for 2019 that include attending and exhibiting at trade shows to generate leads. But one of my clients told me he spent more than $200,000 annually on one trade show and got disappointing results. The show was huge, and thousands of people walked through the exhibit area. His salespeople swiped a lot of badges; but, unfortunately, the booth visitors were not the decision makers they had been hoping to meet. They did some follow-up but got very little response. He felt sick about it. He’d wasted all that time and money.
Trade Shows: Doomed to Disappointing Results?
Are trade shows a waste? They don’t have to be – not by a long shot. Recently, Spingo reported 77 percent of executive decision makers found at least one new supplier at the last trade show they attended.
Yet, I would say that more than half the contacts made at trade shows are either unqualified leads or are wasted because the salespeople don’t follow up – and marketing doesn’t have a plan to stay in front of prospects. In fact, if you’re leaving money on the trade-show floor, you probably have at least one of these problems.
- The right people have not been attracted to your booth.
- Your message wasn’t clear.
- Your follow-up is insufficient.
- Your team finds it hard to track leads from trade shows.
The Three Phases to Increase Results from Your Trade-show Experience
You never have to be disappointed again. Here’s my proven three-step process to improve the results of any trade show – whether you are exhibiting or just walking the floor. If you want more insight, register for the TradeShow Makeover Virtual Summit.
A successful trade-show plan has three phases.
Phase #1: CREATE
First, you need to plan a winning strategy. Planning starts when you pay your fees to secure your booth. At least eight weeks before the show you will meet with your team and plan all your marketing and sales efforts.
Here are some of the most important actions to take before the show:
- Think about the results you need – and set goals.
- Plan to stand out! Think through your booth’s appearance and how it will attract prospects. As prospects walk down the aisle toward your booth, what will they see? Is your message clear and compelling? Are the colors attractive? As they approach, will they feel invited? Or will they feel intimidated by a large table taking up the conversation space?
- Figure out how your team will connect with prospects in advance. Some shows provide a list of attendees (although you may have to pay extra for it). Send messages to your clients and prospects asking if they plan to attend the show. Watch social media to see who among your clients and prospects is using the show’s hashtag.
- Make a plan to follow up after the show and prepare all the follow-up messaging.
- Train your team to be present when they are in the booth. That means they are looking up, smiling, and greeting guests – not looking at their phones or laptops. Let them know what they should wear. Also, ask them to stand in front of the booth rather than in the back or behind a table. Make sure they avoid dragging people in from the aisle – practically strangling them to scan their badge and then pitching to them (these are the things attendees dislike most when walking anywhere near a booth). Since your team can’t have their phones or laptops out in the booth, make a show schedule. That way everyone knows when they will have a break to check email and interact on social media.
- Make a social media plan and follow the hashtag even before the show starts. You can learn about who is attending by designating someone to watch and interact with the social posts around the show. This person should not be sitting in the booth – and, since the booth staff should not have their phones out, I recommend one person in the booth be assigned to step out of the booth and check text messages from the social media team to see if there is action needed. All of this needs to be decided in advance when you are creating your strategy.
Phase #2: DOMINATE
While you’re at the trade show, focus on these activities to dominate and maximize your results.
- If your team has set up meetings in advance of the show, some of the booth staff will need to leave the booth to attend pre-arranged meetings.
- Ask the right questions and listen to build relationships. In your planning you will have determined what questions to ask to get conversations started. Those questions might be about industry trends or company success and challenges. They are questions that will get the prospect talking.
- Don’t pitch. Yes, you are exhibiting so you can find new business...but selling in the booth doesn’t work well. Selling should take place when you have the prospect’s undivided attention. There’s no telling how many demos and pitches the prospect will see that day – and what are they truly likely to remember? Stand out by having memorable conversations and setting up meetings for after the show.
- Make connections and build relationships. When you impress someone by asking questions, listening, and then adding insight, they will want to talk to you again. Focus on building relationships so you can connect and continue the conversation after the show.
- Give booth visitors a high-quality, consistent experience that leads them to want more. That’s memorable. Remember: They will have seen tens or hundreds of booths during the show.
- Don’t neglect the other exhibitors – they may turn out to be your best leads!
- Use the event hashtag to interact with attendees posting on social media.
The work you do in the CREATE phase before the show should make it easy to DOMINATE at the trade show. Proper preparation will assure you meet the prospects and customers you planned to meet, attract ideal prospects to your booth, ask good questions, and have time to walk the show, attend sessions, and interact on social media.
Phase #3: GENERATE
- Be prepared to reconnect with your leads within 48 hours.
- Have a series of personal touches ready to send over the next three to six weeks.
- Be creative: Use video and hand-written cards to send personal messages.
- Connect on social media and learn information you can use to build the relationship.
- Don’t try to sell right away.
- Offer useful information and insights so they want to meet with you.
Everything you have done up till this point will not turn those leads into deals. It’s what you do when you get back to your office after the show that gets you results.