Nine Steps To Selling At Trade Shows

Nine Steps To Selling At Trade Shows

You’re all set…

… for your company’s trade show.

Stand, decor, brochures, business cards, smile.

Sorry, but deep inside, you know you’re still not prepared.

You need a sales approach, a tactical plan of engagement.

While a beautiful stand, a great product and an edgy brand might help you stimulate interest, one of the most overlooked tools to achieving your objectives at a trade show is solid salesmanship.

You’ve heard all about the elevator pitch. But an elevator pitch to stranger after stranger? It still feels… pitchy… disingenuous… used-car-salesman-like.

What to do?

  1. Know The Paradox of a Pitch.
    Pitch is a word that we will never replace in business vernacular, but don’t let vocabulary drive you to behave like a pushy salesperson. You’re a valuable professional… and herein lies the paradox: the best pitches should not feel pitchy. When the pitch is over, for both parties it really should have felt like a helpful interaction.
  2. Move The Conversation Toward The Customer
    Pushing your product sends the wrong signal. It alienates more than it attracts. Instead, ask passers-by a question about their company that aligns with your product or service.
    – “Are you folks pursuing opportunities in….?”
    – “What are you guys up against in the area of….?”
    – “What’s keeping your CEO up at night?”
  3. Qualify Quickly
    There’s nothing worse than wasting people’s time. And guess what… there’s nothing worse than wasting your time. Let go of false hope. Not everyone you engage will be a qualified buyer, nor will they be motivated to put you in contact with one. Are they motivated? Are they able? Can they provide a name? Fine. If not, smile, thank them and politely let them know that you won’t take up more of their time. Move on.
  4. Listen
    You’ve determined they’re a qualified buyer. So don’t launch into your product spiel. If you haven’t listened to them, you won’t know how to really address their needs, will you? And they’ll smell that like a forest ranger smells smoke! So listen. Really listen. Make eye contact and search for the meaning in their words, search for the importance in their tone. Ask further questions to drill deeper. You’re the professional in this area. You must have good questions, especially if you’re listening intently.
  5. Now Pitch, But Tailor It
    The key here is not to pitch everyone the same way, but to adjust based on what you’ve discovered so far. “That’s interesting. Last year we helped a client with a pretty similar issue…”
  6. Case Study
    Real results from other real clients are one of the best sales tools. This lends credibility and builds trust.
    – “That client had this situation…”
    – “We were called in and did this…”
    – “Their results were these…”
  7. Explore A Little Bit More
    Ask them to make a link between your case study and their business. Don’t worry if your case study is a bit different from their situation, because they’ll tell you and, by listening, you’re being customer-focused… and you’ll be garnering valuable information about precisely how you can help them. Keep exploring. Keep encouraging them to talk about their business challenges.
    – “Oh, so in your case, your end users would require…?”
  8. Suggest A Follow-Up
    Perhaps you invite them in to your trade stand’s back office for a product demo, or to the trade show’s cafeteria for an impromptu meeting. But even then, you’ll want a course of action after the show. The extent to which the buyer contributes to the next steps is a strong indicator of their motivation. And by getting them to contribute to the next steps, you’re also getting the buyer to become emotionally engaged with you. This is powerful stuff.
  9. Then Follow-Up… Promptly!
    Follow-up not only with your agreed course of action, but also with a quick communique as soon as you know the buyer is back to his/her office. A quick email reiterating your understanding of their situation and summarizing next steps keeps you fresh in their mind. Buyers don’t dislike sales professionalism. In fact, they like to know that you care about their business, that you’re pro-active!

The beauty of planning customer-focused approaches is that it not only makes you more effective, but it also makes you more comfortable.

Comfort and effectiveness then become a virtuous cycle.

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I love to talk about my readers’ sales challenges and opportunities. Feel free to arrange a conversation by emailing me at:

Check out my book “Sales Pitches that Snap, Crackle ‘n Pop.”

Photo by Irina Kremin, KGS Global