I just finished up a tradeshow and figured I should share some thoughts and things that have worked well for me over the years.
The biggest challenge with shows is that even the best ones have a low signal to noise ratio. You have to wade through a lot of unqualified prospects to get to the real opportunities. This is why shows in general can seem very long and less enjoyable. It’s the closest thing we as SEs have to do to cold calling. Here’s how I try to maximize my time:
- Schedule booth meetings – Your entire sales team should be reaching out to everyone in the area letting people know you’ll be at this show and encourage them to come and meet you. Sometimes a prospect isn’t ready to talk to your sales team yet, but if they can knock out a meeting in 20 minutes while meeting with other vendors that can be a win for them. Not only does this bring more traffic to your booth, but it brings in more interest from others when they see you have an engaged audience. You should be reaching out to your existing customers for this purpose as well
- Don’t always demo – SEs always like to get right to the tech, it’s where we’re most in our element. But you should always have a 2-3 question lineup to qualify your prospect. If they aren’t technical and clearly aren’t a fit for your product, then give them a very high level understanding of what you do, then ask if they would be willing to make an introduction to the right person. Grab their contact information and provide them with a brochure. This frees you up for more productive conversations and demos
- Know what you’re closing for – This is a numbers game, after all, and your goal should always be to provide the minimum effective dosage of your pitch and demo to get them to the next step. For most of us this would be a follow up meeting and enhanced demo. Once you’ve gotten commitment, stop selling! Just because they are standing there doesn’t mean you have to keep talking. Thank them for their time and tell them you’ll be following up with them this evening
- Abbreviate your demo – A tradeshow demo is designed to close for a follow up meeting and full demo. They shouldn’t be the same thing. Aim for 5 minutes. If you can’t get your main point and value across in that time you’re doing it wrong
- Leverage your team – Oftentimes you’ll have other folks from sales, product, marketing, etc there helping. Don’t be afraid to transition them off to another team member if they can help you. Just make sure you conduct a warm introduction and clearly communicate why you’re making the move. Let the prospect (and your team member) know that IF they have follow up questions, feel free to come to you afterwards. That implies you have their information already and a next step (which you should)
- Follow up right away – Since your rep is the one who will usually do the follow up, just make sure you’ve communicated which leads you think are valuable and ensure they are receiving something from you the same day–especially if the trade show is more than 1 day long.
You’re voice and feet will still be tired at the end of the day, but doing these things should help take some of the sting away from the process.
BTW – The abbreviated pitch is just one of the many topics we cover in our Certified Technical Sales Professional certification. Group rates available