Trade Show Floor Basics: What You Need to Know Before Exhibiting

September 1, 2007

Feature TradeShowBasics


By Stan Fine

How many times have you heard people complain about a trade show being a waste of time? The most crucial aspect of any exhibit is your people. Your image does not stop with an elaborate display, fancy advertising or impressive literature. These help, but it will be your people who sell your company, products and services. The team you choose will be the individuals who make or break relationships with attendees. Your team will need to be enthusiastic, observant and keen listeners and have excellent product knowledge. Training will be essential for a unified effort on the trade show floor. In particular your booth duty participants will need to know:

Why you are exhibiting.

Know the purpose for your involvement in the show and what are you expecting to achieve through participation. Every show you attend should have a targeted goal.
What are you exhibiting. Each show has its own personality and target market. You need to make clear what products and services you plan to exhibit. There cannot be surprises when your team arrives at the display.

What you expect from your team.

Your selected team for each show must be encouraged to set personal goals based on overall exhibiting goals. They also need to know what you expect them to do on a daily basis. For example, how many prospects do you expect them to interact with and what kind of information do you want them to gather?

How to do what you expect.

You must train your representatives to be effective on the trade show floor. You will need to show them how to talk about the product, programs and services displayed and to effectively qualify prospects. Although it is assumed that a salesperson knows this, trade shows have their own set of rules of engagement and guidelines.

To keep everyone on track, you will need to meet with your team regularly prior to the show and at the end of the day. You will need to remind them of what needs to be accomplished, evaluate performances, answer questions, monitor goals and keep everyone motivated.

Guidelines for Engaging Prospects

• Prepare three to six engaging questions before the show
• Create the right impression, smile and maintain eye contact
• Encourage visitors to want to spend time with you
• Be friendly and non-threatening to build rapport
• Ask open-ended questions – beginning with who, what, where, when, why or how
• Relate questions to the attendees’ industry, your products and services and their benefits to a specific situation
• Practice, practice, practice

Guidelines for Qualifying Visitors.

• 80/20 Rule: 80 percent of the time, listen to visitors; 20 percent of the time, talk about your programs and services. Never talk for more than 2 minutes straight.
• Ask questions that reveal their level of interest or need for your programs and services.
• Inquire into their decision-making process, i.e., the prospect’s influence or authority in the buying decision.
• Explore time and budget parameters.

Guidelines for Sales Literature

• You should not hand out expensive literature. Sixty-four percent of the literature handed out at shows is thrown away.
• You need something inexpensive – maybe a clever tri-fold – to go.
• Only 10 percent of all literature handed out finds its way back to the prospect’s office.
• Offer to send information. You will need to send literature in a timely manner. It should be on the prospect’s desk within 48 hours of the show.
• Only give literature to qualified prospects.

Guidelines for Presenting

Use the feature/benefit/inclination (FBI) formula. Your incentive programs (feature) will help to boost employee and field sales productivity (benefit). Explain how your program would satisfy the need for improved employee and sales productivity (inclination).

• Let prospects know how your products and services compare with the competition’s. After all, your competitors are doing the same.
• Show existing customers new products and services.

Guidelines for Closing

• Change body position, minimize eye contact and shake hands
• Communicate your follow-up action plan

Obvious But Often Overlooked Tips

• Rehearse the sales pitch and live demonstration beforehand
• Do not sit, read, smoke, eat or drink in the exhibit
• Avoid drinking alcohol or eating garlicky or spicy foods during the day
• Dress in a conservative business manner or one notch better than your visitors
• Wear comfortable shoes
• Arrive at the exhibit at least 15 minutes before your scheduled time and complete your paperwork before you leave
• Let your colleagues know when you leave the exhibit
• Refrain from using the phone in the exhibit while visitors are around
• Avoid crossing your arms while talking to prospects
• Keep a reduced, photocopied product price list of past proposals in your pocket for easy reference
• Write down as much prospect information as possible for follow-up
• Get plenty of rest and exercise, as shows can drain your energy level.

(Stan Fine is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.)

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