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May 21, 2023

Trade Show Tips for Your Sales Team

Choosing to exhibit at a trade show is no light feat. This effort is often expensive and requires a ton of attention and coordination from many departments in your organization. However, while the preparatory work is a lot to conquer – the true testament to your success comes down to what happens at the booth.  

For many brands, your customers will be coming face-to-face with your sales team during the day of the trade show; however, many companies don't do any booth training until the day of, if at all. If your goal is to develop a unified brand experience for your customers and generate quality leads – you must educate your sales and marketing teams on how they should present themselves in the booth. Stick with us, and we'll tell you what to do.

For this blog, we worked with longtime business partner Tom Zimmerman, Principal of SHIFT Sales Training & Consulting. Check out this article to get more expert insight on preparing your team for a trade show.

It's Not Always Sell, Sell, Sell

In the day-to-day role of a salesperson, you're often pressed to sell as much as you can – and selling your product or service comes naturally. However, you might need to adjust your tune at a trade show. It's great to know and believe in your product so much that you could list the features and benefits without a single hesitation, but this approach could be a turn-off for a potential customer attending a trade show.  

Trade show attendees are learning about new products all day and getting inundated with information from every corner. So, instead of boasting about what your product is, it's time to talk about what problem or pain point of theirs it will solve. It’s classic marketing 101: WIIFM (what's in it for me?) This method leads to the most crucial factor in booth training: what and what not to say.  

Here are some examples of how to engage a booth visitor:

  • Hi! What brings you to the show today? The answer to this question gives you immediate insight to know whether or not your product or service can resonate with the reason the person is attending the show. If it does, that's your 'in' to start talking about the product.  
  • How are you doing today? What line of work are you in? Asking this helps you gauge whether or not the individual is among your target audience.

Here are some examples of what not to say:

  • Hi! Have you worked with [Brand Name] before? You can expect that a good amount of traffic coming to your booth are people who are unfamiliar with you. Instead of asking them if they're familiar with you and your products, broach the topic a bit more broadly and ask them if they've ever worked with the type of product/service you're selling. If they have, this may allow you to flip a customer from a competitor if they're unsatisfied or looking for something new.  
  • This should never be your opening line. They might be unaware of your product or brand and not know what questions to ask. Doing this could cause you to turn away a potential customer because you've missed your chance to shoot your shot.  

Adhere to Proper Trade Show Booth Etiquette

It's essential to ensure you always have more than one person operating your booth at a time. Preparing a schedule beforehand is a great way to accomplish this. You'll also want to build in time for personal breaks for your team. While no one can plan a bathroom break, it is beneficial for you to break up shifts between your team to allow them to handle phone calls, eat, and explore the show for themselves. If they need to make a call or take a break during their scheduled shift, encourage them to do it outside the booth. Having team members sit, or lounge around may not look great to potential customers.  

It's just as important that your team isn't huddling at the booth when they're all together – the last thing you want to be seen as is a sea of shirts. Doing so can make your team seem unapproachable or even uninterested. Not only do you want your team to interact with those in your booth, but in some cases, you may want them to step a few feet out into the aisle and chat with those who might just be passing by. These individuals may not always be a fit, but you might find a golden nugget or two.

Get All the Information You Need From Your Prospect

Not only do you want their time in the booth to be effective, but you also want to make sure you're using that time to gather everything you need to turn this individual from a prospect into a qualified lead and, eventually, a sale. Here's where it's handy to have a pre-developed checklist in place and easily accessible.  

Your checklist should consist of two segments. The first should be a hit list of the items you want to cover with the person you're talking to. There will be many distractions for you and your prospect, and your conversation will often be interrupted. Having these written down means you won’t forget anything, making it easy to segue between key points and topics. In addition to having this handy, you should have easy access to brochures, sell sheets, samples, or anything else that might help you sway a potential customer.

If the conversation goes well, and you believe this individual might be a good fit, you'll want to move on to the second half of your checklist. This part of the list captures all pertinent information from your prospect, including name, email address, phone number, physical address, occupation, company, and a spot for you to identify the individual's interest/what was discussed.  

At most shows, the simplest way to do this is by scanning an attendee's badge, which preloads most of the standard contact information. When putting together your lead fields before the show, be sure to coordinate with the sales and marketing teams to ensure all relevant and helpful information is captured. Another thing to note, technology can fail you – so make sure you have a backup plan. Something as simple as a running visitor list can save vital info in the event of a tech glitch.  

Not All Business Happens on the Show Floor

The show floor may be where conversations start, but often, it's not where you close the deal. If your team members have a good feeling about someone, encourage them to take them out for coffee or a bite to eat. By doing this, you can create a more established relationship with your prospect away from the overwhelming show floor and dig deeper into their issues and how you can solve them.  

It's safe to say you won't be able to have lunch or dinner with every person you come across. For any lead you develop at the show, you'll want to ensure you're efficiently following up with them in a timely manner. Executing this follow-up may be something your marketing team is already planning. Use the few days following the show to connect the dots between sales and marketing to ensure leads aren't forgotten. One of the worst things you can do is put a stack of business cards in your desk drawer and forget about them for a month. Learn more about what to do post-trade show in our blog post: The Trade Show is Over, Now What do I do?

Does Your Team Need Trade Show Training?

Now that you've read our tips, how do you feel your team measures up? Whether you're a trade show newbie or a 20-year veteran, you can always refine how you approach trade shows – and True is here to help. Our team is experts in all things trade show. From strategy to training to execution – we've done it all. Contact us to chat about your next trade show.

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