I sell, as part of a team, very expensive software computer systems for the Internet analysis market consisting of a hardware engineer, software engineer and a sales person who also acts as a project manager. When the company participates in a trade show the only people that they send from the company is the sales staff. What frustrates me is when I am at a trade show and a prospect comes to the booth with his Chief Technical Officer and starts asking very detailed technical questions. I can handle some of them, but I certainly could use some technical support from my company. How do I tell my manager who is always complaining about cost of sales and costs associated with a trade shows, that I need this support in order to be more successful at a trade show. You can only tell a prospect, “I’ll get back to you on that” only once before they go look at someone else’s software and equipment.
Ed T., Technical Sales
New York City
I could write a book just on companies who invest major money in booths and equipment for a trade show but do not “man” the booth with enough of the right people. Many years ago when I was President & CEO of a company that manufactured application oriented computer systems, I was faced with a similar problem. What I did was develop, what I referred to, as a “Tiger Team” consisting of a hardware, software and sales person. They not only worked together, they also shared in commission as well. When we went to a trade show I usually sent two teams. If it was to a show in California I send the teams that were working and selling in California and the sales territory next to it. While the sales people got them into the booth, the rest of the team were given the opportunity to speak with them and to get more of the details necessary to be able to respond to the prospect in a detailed and timely fashion. It also prevented the sales person from being to enthusiastic and promising the prospect the world! This whole approach worked very well, and also got the respect of the hardware and software engineers who participated in the trade show. Most engineers think that a trade show, in a city like Las Vegas, is all fun and games and all the sales people do is party. They found out that is not the case, and that the real work started each day, after the trade show closed for that day, when we went back to the hotel room and reviewed and analyzed all of the leads that we acquired at the show that day. The discussion was lively, the leads challenged as to whether it was a lead that should be followed up in a week or a month. But it made everyone aware of how important it was to work as a team and to support each other, and to qualify the suspects and prospects. I hope this give you some insight into how important it is to have the right support people in the booth.
To your continued trade show success
John Hill, Trade Show Coach
There are just so many questions that an exhibitor will be asked at a trade show regarding his/her products or services. These questions usually pertain to, price, delivery, specifications, modifications, quantities and specials. You can prepare all your booth people to respond to these questions the same way.
Yet, it is not uncommon for someone to ask a person standing booth duty the price of XYZ product and get a price, then come back a half hour later and ask some other person in the booth the price of the xyz product and get as different number. It happens every day, at many trade shows. Every person standing booth duty should tell the same story, if they don’t the attendee will certainly think you are telling them what you think they want to hear, not, what the real facts are.
Don’t put your booth personnel or your company in a bad light by not having information that they all can use. One of the best give and take at a trade show between an attendee and booth personnel went like this. The attendee asked, “How soon can I get this unit? The booth personnel responded “How soon do you need it?” The attendee responded, “I need it in 45 days” The booth person said.” If I can guarantee you delivery of this product within 45 day will you give me an order?” With that type of give and take, it is obvious that the booth person takes his trade show booth duty seriously, and he certainly doesn’t want to waste any time on “tire kickers”, cup and pen collectors, and talkers.
If you are going to invite your clients, prospects and suspects to visit you at your booth you have to contact these people. You need to write copy for regular (snail) mail, E-mail, and if you use it, FAX. Yes, there are phone calls involved as well.
No one, especially business people today read long verbose documents, especially letters. Business people today, brained washed by the e-mail revolution expect to read curt, cryptic, bulleted items telling in as few words as possible what they are reading is all about.
Form letters need to be written in such a way so the person reading the letter can “Skim read” and still get the gist of what you want them to do.
E-mails are even briefer. The person reading the e-mail will first look at the Subject line. If the person who sent this e-mail did not articulate effectually what this e-mail is all about, there is a strong possibility that your e-mail will be deleted.
You have to have a plan in place in order to have a successful mailing campaign, which is part of your overall trade show marketing plan. This is true for regular mail and e-mail as well. The ideal way to approach this effort is to analyze, plan and anticipate what you will be doing before the trade show, then what needs to take place during and after the trade show. When I say during the trade show, some company are very organized and structured and with the latest CRM software in place that can be used effectively at a trade show. For example, at a trade show: An attendee come to your booth, the booth personnel qualifies this person, usually using a handheld device. When the qualification sequence is completed, the booth person sends the information to the company’s main computer. The computer enters all of the information into the database and sends either a letter, or an e-mail thanking the person for stopping by the booth. Depending on what the outcome of the qualification sequence will determine exactly what will be sent to the attendee either via e-mail or regular mail. This is all done before the attendee leaves the trade show. What usually happens by the time the attendee returns to his/her office. Either a letter, E-mail or both along with literature will be at their desk.
Very little literature is handed out at the trade show because the knowledgeable trade show exhibitor knows that most of the literature handed out at trade shows is thrown away before they return home, or to their offices. These are great marketing and sales tools, but they can be costly.
Your mailing program should include at least 3 to 6 variations of your basic letter, with certain changes that will still spark the readers’ interest. One client of mine had six letters that focused on one of the six products that were being presented at the trades show. It is not necessary to have multiple products in order to have 3 to 6 different letters. It is important that you develop your letters so that they will stimulate enough interest to insure that the reader will continue to read past the first sentence or first bullet. What you want to have happen is that they will become interested, and they will want to visit your booth. After you feel that you have generated sufficient interest you should consider what you will do after the trade show. The follow is the sequence that has worked for a number of my clients:
1. Letters to your clients, prospect and suspects minimum 3, no more than 6.
2. After the show letters to:
a. Those that came to your booth
b. Those that did not come to your booth
c. Those who you made appointments to see
d. Those that you contact to set up appointment at a latter date.
(Note) Letters, e-mails, Faxes would be treated the same.