Getting Value for Your Money
Participation at trade events and exhibitions in these challenging economic times can be very expensive – travel, accommodation and related expenses, stand rental, display material, perhaps floral features, audio-visual, signage, hospitality etc. In other words, a costly mix of investment outlay that can make serious inroads into the sales and marketing budget of any business, so it’s important to have the right sales strategy.
There are some simple guidelines that can make the difference between success and disappointment when taking part at consumer and trade markets. It’s really all about good preparation. And then the manner of delivery. Obvious but essential points of emphasis.
It’s important therefore to be very focused on what you have to sell, how you present your propositions, and what you expect to achieve.
And then, there’s the all-important matter of follow-up.
Research your Potential Market in Advance
Find out beforehand what companies will be attending. Study closely the scope of their business activities. Prepare a short list of your Most Preferred Contacts. Do some background research on their buyers, their sales representatives.
Ideally and if you can, let them know in advance that you will be attending and would like to meet them. So make definite appointments if at all possible.
Then get ready to maximise your time by preparing a daily timetable or diary. Remember that time is one of your most valuable commodities when interfacing with potential customers. You must invest it wisely. To quote that well-worn cliché and with no offence implied: make sure you’re not a busy fool!
At the Event
Dress appropriately to do your business. A casual look might be interpreted by some as a casual approach. Make sure your name badge can be easily read and preferably, that it’s positioned on the right hand side of your body– that will make it simpler for all to see.
Stock up with sufficient supplies of your business card. Keep printed material to the necessary minimum. Nobody wants to have to carry bagfuls of sales literature around an exhibition venue all day long.
Don’t expect your guests to stand around to talk business. For this, you need comfortable lounge seating. Good quality drinking water is probably the most suitable hospitality drink. Don’t over-do the freebies or the gimmicks. It’s really not necessary and it’s almost always expensive to do this well.
Be sensitive and sensible in the matter of mobile phone usage. Don’t ever interrupt a sales pitch by taking or making a call. It’s always best to deal with your daily business by text messaging and to leave your mobile conversations to the end of the day. For all of that, your potential customers may well have a different set of priorities – or rules – so do respect them if and when they get diverted.
If you are using hi-tech aids, be conscious that not everyone is fully conversant with the complex language of today’s IT world. Keep it simple and don’t over-elaborate to show your expertise. Establish a connection at the appropriate level and stay there. You don’t want a client nodding animatedly in agreement unless they fully understand what you’re telling them, and most likely trying to sell them too.
If you quickly establish that the contact is unlikely to be productive, don’t hesitate to move things on. ‘You probably have a very busy schedule, so I won’t hold you up’ is a good finishing line. Likewise, if things are going well, you might suggest having ‘five minutes more’ or better still, make an appointment for a follow-up personal call.
As soon as the event is over, you should grade your contacts by order of priority for follow-up purposes. It’s a good idea to write them all, even the ones who don’t make your Top Ten. You never know when a door might later open.
Your ideal objective is a personal appointment with some real business potential. There’s nothing to equal a one-to-one sales session in the privacy of a secure environment. And then comes the real test of your selling and negotiating skills. But that’s another day’s work altogether!
One final observation. If you are participating at an event that is open to the public at large, don’t have your sales material contribute to the mass of merchandise that frequently ends up in the venue’s refuse bins.
It’s still OK to give out balloons to the kids though!