As a sales manager, you probably have the responsibility of manning your company’s exhibition stand. But like most sales managers I have met with over the years, it’s unlikely that you have received any formal training on how to manage your sales team at an exhibition and get high quality leads.
One of the main challenges for anybody manning an exhibition stand is qualifying the suitability or potential of a visitor. It’s not like your typical face to face customer or supplier meeting where the pre qualification has already taken place. So in order for you to maximise your exhibiting potential I have put together a few tips that might help you qualify your leads and improve your team’s performance.
1. Gather and share your exhibition objectives with your team prior to the show.
2. Identify the profile of your typical customer using job titles, purchasing authority, size and nature of company or location.
3. Explain ways to identify these types of prospects so your team can pick them out from the crowd.
4. Look at using open questioning techniques to help confirm that the visitor fits this profile, and as a way to assist in the initial introduction.
5. Produce a VIP list of visitors that you would personally like to meet. Perhaps call it your “Top 20 dream client wish list”.
6. Ensure that your stand is manned by your most personable staff. There is no point sending people that don’t want to be there. The people manning the stand should be the best communicators, who enjoy face to face conversations and are good with people.
7. Identify reasons why customers might want to switch suppliers and reinforce those messages in your graphics and in your conversations.
8. Think about the questions that you are likely to be asked by your prospects and make sure that your team knows the answers.
9. Regularly monitor your teams performance to see who is having the most success and why.
10. Share best practice and encourage those that have less success, experience or confidence.
11. Encourage activity by offering incentives for achieving objectives.
12. Agree on a method for accurately recording your lead information and regularly check to make sure that your system is being followed
13. Think about what follow up action you are going to take so that your team and your prospects are clear as to what is going to happen after the show.
14. Ensure that all leads are followed up after the show according to the agreed actions and timelines.
By following all, or at least some of these tips should help you justify exhibiting and be an eye opener as to how successful it can be to attend shows to raise awareness of your product and brand, and most of all, generate those all important leads!
Guest blog by Peter Bowen, CEO at www.accessdisplays.co.uk
Every year I attend about 200 or more exhibitions and trade fares around the world and it doesn’t matter what country I am in or what market the exhibition is representing I always meet with the same types of exhibitor.
The Passive Exhibitor
The Passive Exhibitor is very polite and is always smiling. They are proud to promote their company at the annual exhibition. But as they have been exhibiting for several years they feel uncomfortable to ask their manager for advice on how to man the exhibition stand or what to do on the day.
Instead they perch themselves on the corner of the exhibition stand and ask passersby if they would like a brochure or leaflet.
They work hard and at the end of each day they inform their team leader that they have been really busy and given out hundreds of expensive brochures”!
As far as they are concerned an exhibition booth visitor that smiles back is as good as a sale! If they receive a really big smile they might even throw in a tentative one liner – “Good morning are you enjoying the show?” or “Have you just arrived at the exhibition?”
What really throws them is when the visitor responds with a question about their company, product or service. In their mind that’s an answer for the Sales Director and he’s already talking to somebody so “Do you want a brochure?” is as far as they can take the conversation.
We have all seen the Exhibition Prisoner. You know the one, that person that doesn’t want to be there and can’t wait to get out. They don’t value exhibiting. They knew even before the show started that the leads would be rubbish and the attendance poor.
They would sooner spend their time on their mobile phone than talk to prospects and don’t even think about approaching them when it’s lunch time, can’t you see that they are eating!
They’ve been to loads of exhibitions and it’s always the same every year.
They spend more time talking to other exhibitors about how slow the show traffic is than they do telling visitors about their products and services. The only good thing as far as they are concerned is that they can go home early to avoid the traffic!
The Exhibitor Expert
The Exhibitor Expert understands his objectives and knows how to engage with any visitor at any level. Confident in his own ability and social skills he uses positive body language to encourage visitors to enter into conversation and engagement. This allows him to establish potential prospect quickly and effectively ensuring maximum use of time. The Exhibition Expert’s primary purpose is to establish where the visitor is in the buying cycle. This will allow him to agree any follow up action after the event.
Carefully and accurately recording the visitor’s details he will make meticulous notes so that it is clear to see what the visitor was interested in and what further action is required. Before the visitor leaves the exhibition stand he will shake their hand and verbally confirm the agreed action by saying something like “Thanks for taking the time to visit our stand today. I am confident that we will be able to help you with your requirement and I look forward to discussing this project further next week”.
We all have fewer customers with smaller budgets to spend, so if you are thinking about exhibiting please consider the basic principles of face to face selling. After all unlike a “Market stall” where we “pile um high and sell um cheap” your exhibition visitors have gone to a great deal of trouble and expense to come and visit you!
What sort of exhibitor are you?
A series of training programs are available from MTD Sales Training. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Tailored courses can be designed to suit any level of competence from the first time exhibitor right through to the seasoned professional who exhibits on the international circuit.
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(Image by Susan VG)
The prospect stops by your booth. You make a connection and engage in a productive conversation, discussing possible interests and developing some rapport. Then a few days, a week or more later, you call the prospect back, only to find that the situation is the equivalent of a cold call.
If you have ever returned from a trade show or other type event, with a basket full of business cards; then you are familiar with that awkward, unpredictable moment when you make that second contact and you don’t know what to expect.
Below are a few tips to help you better control and cultivate those leads and take some of the chill out of that after-the-event follow-up call.
#1. A Definitive Next Step
When you have that meeting at the trade show booth, you want to conclude the conversation with a clearly defined next step. Perhaps you will contact the prospect to set up an appointment. Or maybe you agree that you will send further information or send a quote. Whatever the next step, make sure you clarify it, and let that be the last thing the prospect hears.
“Sarah, again, thank you for stopping by our booth, and I will contact you next week to talk about setting up a skills assessment for your staff.”
“I will call you in a few days Steve, and send you a detailed outline of the program design.”
“Ken, I will call you Friday after you get a chance to check your calendar, and we can arrange a time when we can get you together with one of our technical instructors.”
#2. Take Image Notes
You also want to note more than just the basic interests of the prospect. You built some rapport with the person at the show and you noted that she was interested in your XYZ product. However, most of the times, a few days later, you will have no reallocation of that person; their personality, speech patterns, appearance. You will have completely lost the “feel” of the conversation and hence the rapport. Therefore, when you call back, you have to begin all over again. That is a cold call.
Instead, make notes on the image and personality of the prospect. If you do not have some type of a lead form, then have some small slips of paper that you can make notes on and attach to business cards. Jot down things that will remind you of the person you met:
“Tall guy in brown suit, made lots of jokes…nice funny guy”
“Woman who had the very hard handshake and talks really fast…”
#3. Begin Where You Left Off
Now, on that second contact, use the above information to help make that call a little warmer. Begin exactly where you said you would begin and remind the prospect of who you are and what you spoke of. Do not make the mistake of expecting the prospect to remember you or anything. If they do, that’s great. But do not assume they will recall your meeting.
“Hi Sarah, Mary Smith with AOK Copiers. We met briefly last week at the, ‘What’s new in office equipment show,’ and we spoke about setting up a skills assessment for your staff…”
“Yes Ken, Ethan Robert with Exacting Software. We met at the PC Fair on Monday. You know, I am still laughing at that golfing joke you told me…Anyway, we were looking to arrange a time to get you together with one of our technical instructors…”
In addition to those three effective tips, remember that you have to make those contacts fast. Don’t wait weeks to follow up on trade show leads.
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(Image by Estate Agency Events)
After a recent visit to a trade show, I felt I had to point out a few of quick thoughts that we all need to keep in mind. I am going to make this short and sweet and not going to give you too much, because that is the problem—TOO MUCH!
#1 – Too Much Fanfare
Please, tone it down a bit. I understand that some businesses and products need a little more trumpet-blasting than others do. However, for most, it is just over-the-top. Usually, it is a professional fair, show or exposition—not circus. I also understand that you often need something to help draw attention, but if you would never do it at your place of business, perhaps you should not do it at a trade show.
Also, at least make sure the attention getter relates to what you do. Come on; if you sell accounting software, I don’t see how the clown doing balloon tricks makes any sense.
#2 – Too Much Stuff
You obviously need a lot of marketing material at your booth, but don’t go crazy with this. When you give people too many options of things they can pick, they usually choose to pick up nothing. Narrow the parameters.
Part of the problem is that many sales and marketing people realize that a select few pieces of their normal material is insufficient for a trade show. Therefore, they put out EVERYTHING. Why not create a piece or two specifically designed for the event?
#3- Too Much Talk
Why is it that so many sales people seem to take their normal sales process and throw it out of the window at a show? Even at the show, you still have to ask questions, uncover problems and expose need. However, for some reason, when standing at that booth, some sales people become automated-TV-commercials with no pause or off switch.
Prepare a list of questions to ask people that stop by. Have at least one powerful “hook” question that will make attendees stop and think and simultaneously, help you begin to qualify the prospect.
Trade shows are simply another prospecting avenue and deserve the same diligent and professional sales processes that you use with other prospecting methods.
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(Image by Mark McLaughlin)
I presented my session on eselling® at the ISMM’s Successful Selling Conference recently, where I met and had a very interesting conversation with Peter Bowen, CEO of Access Displays – who produce modular and custom built exhibition stands for all manner of venues and events.
Peter Bowen is an industry expert and panel member at the Event Supplier and Service Association. Having been in the sales and marketing industry for 28 years, Peter has helped thousands of SME’s increase their presence through exhibitions and display solutions – which makes him somewhat of an authority figure on the subject of exhibiting at key events.
Peter had some really interesting information about the benefits of exhibiting and how to get the best out of your place at the show, so I have invited Peter to share his insights with you all. Enjoy!
How To Maximize Your ROI At An Exhibition
The value of face to face selling at exhibitions is well documented, so in these testing times, where we all have fewer customers with less money to spend, it is imperative that we plan ahead and train our stand personnel to work harder and smarter than our competitors. The following tips might make the difference and help you realise the true potential of exhibiting.
Think about why you are exhibiting. Is it to sell more products, improve brand awareness, meet existing customers, collect leads for future appointments, find distributors or something else?
What are your objectives for the show?
Do your research about the show
Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS)
Once you have agreed your objectives make sure you explain them to the people that are manning the exhibition stand and make sure that everybody knows who is responsible for what!
Whether you use bar code readers or a simple pad and pen, make notes on what your customers were interested in so that you can send them the correct information or speak to them in more detail after the show.
“There is nothing worse for a customer, who has spent half an hour on the stand explaining his requirement, than receiving a telephone call a week later asking him what he was interested in.”
Before the show discuss what questions your customers are likely to ask and make sure you have the answers or know where to get them.
Train your staff on products, availability, distributors, prices, trade discounts, delivery costs, production times, service agreements, returns policy and don’t forget it your customers might want to “know who else has bought your product or service”.
For more tips on exhibiting go to
Peter Bowen, CEO of Access Displays
Peter has got some fantastic best buy offers on a wide range of exhibition displays and stand equipment from Access Displays, so head to for more information on these great deals.
(Image by Estate Agency Events)
Bestselling Author, Sales Authority & Speaker On Modern Day Selling Methods
I speak at a lot of trade shows each year and I’m flabberghasted at how eager people are to give me their businesscard as though it’s a numbers game.
I come back to the office with a stash of cards!
About 50% of them are from people want us to deliver training for them, about 40% of them are from vendors trying to flog me something and the remaining 10% of them are what I call “nice to meet you” people – these are the people who you meet over coffee or lunch, you got on and just exchanged cards for the fun of it because it seemed to be the right thing to do.
Now if everyone is the same and they all go home with a wad of businesscards, then what is going to make yours stand out? I’m not talking about the design of it, but what is going to make the experience stand out and what is going to make you so memorable that the person will actually give a damn and give you a call or follow up later on?
The bad news is that your card will be one of 30 that this prospect has taken from the event.
The good news is that the vast majority of people just hand their cards over as though it HAS BEEN the thirtieth they’ve handed out!
So make it memorable and special.
Take out your pen and write something on the card for them. Can you give them a free gift? Do what it takes to make “that moment” stand out.
Maybe it’s from where you take your businesscard from? Not your jacket pocket or your wallet but maybe from your briefcase where there is a gimmicky toy holder, I don’t know! Anything so you become memorable.
And remember, you don’t need to be BETTER to be memorable, you just need to be DIFFERENT!
“The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling”
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I was recently asked to write an article for Equestrian Business Monthly Magazine providing some tips and techniques on how to get the most out of Trade Shows.
Now whilst this article is for the Equestrian industry, the content of the article is applicable for any company who exhibits or is thinking of exhibiting at a trade show.
Please CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD the 2 page PDF of the article.
Puor yourself a cuppa, print off the article and enjoy!
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Here’s another great question I received this week:
“At trade events/exhibitions etc, how do you approach people without sounding like a real “sales” person?”
Wow! I like this question and I am surprised I do not get it more often. It is very easy to come across to attendees at these events like a Monty Hall, lets-make-a-deal pitchman with a bunch of cheesy lines. This is a very overlooked area of the sales profession and really requires skill and practice. In fact, I think I may create a class or CD set dedicated just to training on how to handle trade shows. Anyway, let me see if I can summarise a couple of the most important points:
(a) Be very careful of the appearance of your display both, contents and backdrop. The first thing to do in eliminating that cheesy approach is to make sure that you do not have a cheesy stand. Now, I understand the need to attract attention and even to “impulse” people, but come on—some go way overboard with this. If you have clowns at your stand and you are giving away cars, how can you NOT come on like a circus ringleader? Stay professional and invest in a high-level display backdrop. They can be expensive, but if you attend more than one of these a year and they are a main source of leads for you, then get the best. Also, be careful not to put too much on the table as far a written material. Often companies have a dozen pieces of paper all with a thousand lines of text resembling “technical white-papers.” You need to have a few brochures that are very clear and that can convey a simple, readily understandable message from arms length.
(b) Don’t bum-rush people. When people stop and begin to look at your table, give them a moment. Watch their eyes and have patience and confidence. Often sales people are too afraid that if they don’t start yapping the moment someone pauses that they will loose them. Assume a more relaxed, cordial atmosphere.
(c) Create your own referrals. This is a powerful technique I use that works wonders. First have at least two of you: one stationed at your booth and one who mingles all around the event. As you walk around, almost like one of the attendees, simply meet people as you would if you were not an exhibitor; after all, that is what it is all about–meeting people. Just introduce yourself as you walk around. Stop and meet other exhibitors as well. Then after a short simple greeting, you pass out a card or a brochure to the person with, “Hey, when you get a chance, stop by our stand over on isle 16….” Now when those people stop by, in a sense, you know them! Now it is a “warm call” because you already meet in another area. I could talk about this for a long time, but I think you can get the gist of the idea.
(d) Have a good “hook” question. You want to design a question: one simple question that will get people to ask you a question, in turn. You need to look at the benefits your product offers; turn that around into what problems people suffer from when they do not have your product, and ask that question to people. You see, first of all asking a question is a far better approach than making any type of statement. A person pauses at your stand and looks at a few articles on your table. Instead of, “Hi, Sir! How are you? We are Acme Water Purification Products! Are you familiar with us?” This is the standard type of approach. Instead when that person pauses, try something like this: “Hello. Did you know that the average business owner loses about £6,000 a year due to the damaging effect of regular tap water?” “Uh?!: What do you mean?” Bingo!! Find a well designed question that you can ask that will uncover a problem that your product solves and ask that question to the attendees.
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