I was preparing a client team today for a trade show they are attending next week. We reviewed account entry strategies and how to “work” the floor at a trade show.
Their objective: differentiation from the rest of the folks doing the same activity. Their task: creating value propositions and relevant dialogue.
A couple members of the team felt like they were at a bar trying to use a pick-up line.
How many of you feel the same way?
You are at a trade show. Someone asks you: “So, what do you do?” You answer as though they asked you for your astrological sign. Or worse: you simply stumble over words and start spieling about product features and benefits.
Why? You haven’t adequately prepared for the trade show.
My client’s team decided that trade shows reminded them of the bar scene from the first Star Wars® movie. Just a weird place to find yourself if you don’t have an agenda from the time you walk in the door. You gotta have a plan.
Here are 3 tips for getting the most out of your next trade show experience.
Tip 1: Trade shows are visually overwhelming unless you are prepared to observe and learn. If you think you are going to walk the floor and gawk and prospect, guess again. That’s what the majority of attendees are doing. Identify the booths which have conference tables set up. Business is being consummated, and it didn’t start that day at the trade show. The deals closed at trade shows are months if not years in the making. There’s the exhibition portion of the trade show and there’s the behind-the-scenes business portion of the trade show. That’s the real reason these companies exhibit: to close deals.
Tip 2: Call your current customers to find out who from their company will be attending the show. New opportunities to increase your business are waiting for you. Introduce yourself to whomever is at the booth, mention your affiliation with their colleague, and do your homework about what their company is emphasizing in their booth. It may be a new capability that your company is exquisitely suited for. Yet you’ve been pigeon-holed and associated only with one type of output. Enlighten them.
Tip 3: Identify at least 5-10 prospective customers to whom you want to introduce yourself. Again, do your homework about their company. Prepare a well-crafted and relevant value proposition to showcase your understanding of their needs. Resist the urge to show up and throw up about your own company. Keep the conversation focused on their company. Listen to what they are telling you. Start a dialogue that will be continued and nurtured post trade show.
Trade shows can be an important way of not only building your customer base, but building your brand and image as well. When you understand the dynamics of trade shows, you move from spectator to engaged and networked participant. That’s the person everyone wants to do business with.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, catalyzes revenue-producing business transition, startup growth and professional development, one millimeter at a time. She works with manufacturing and engineering firms and small business entrepreneurships. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page.