Taking Control of the Trade Show Conundrum

Is this your company’s standard approach to trade shows: You show up for the install, put up your booth [or watch others put it up for you–making more money in that 4 hour period then you will make over the next 3 days], dress in your trade show uniform [if you are lucky enough to have one] and then proceed to stand in the booth for the next couple of days dreaming of the show’s close?

How many people pass by the booth without ever stopping? How many people look down at their feet as they pass your booth? How many people take a giveaway and then walk quickly away before you can say, “Hi. Would you like a pen?” Isn’t it amazing that horde of people can be so rude as to pass right by without engaging you in conversation or notice your presence?

Well if you have been a victim of the above, it’s time to take control of the trade show conundrum. Trade shows are an event unlike any other. Standing at the booth while waiting for people to approach you is a surefire recipe for disaster. You need to take control and here are some steps that will allow you to do so:

  1. Engage passersby in conversation.The beautiful fact of trade shows is that attendees walk around all day and night with their name badges hanging around their necks. As people pass the booth, make eye contact, address them by name and engage them in conversation. You would be surprised at how successful you will be with this approach.
  2. Qualify prospects BEFORE swiping their lead card. The show shouldn’t be about getting as many leads as possible. It doesn’t help anyone to come back from the show with 10,000 leads if only 100 are actually a fit for your offerings. You should come to the show armed with qualification questions that are asked before the card is swiped. If the lead is prospect, sales will armed with qualifying information up front, which makes for a more productive follow up call.
  3. Pack limited amounts of collateral and store it away from the front/registration counter at your booth. It’s well known that attendees at shows will grab every piece of collateral known to man with the best intentions on reading it. However, when packing up to go home, typically every piece of collateral is thrown into the hotel trash bin do to weight and/or available space in luggage. Let qualified prospects know that you would be happy to send brochures to their office after the show. Most will take you up on this offer. On the ones that don’t, give them the brochures that fit their issues/needs and let them know you will follow up with them once you are back in the office.
  4. Separate leads into different categories. As soon as you’re back in the office, you need to divide the show leads into different categories based on the answers to the qualification questions. Each category should have a different follow up mechanism: phone calls, emails or letters. Leads should be followed up withing 2-3 weeks after the show.
  5. Actually follow up on the leads. It is always surprising to hear that companies spend a small fortune to go to trade shows but never follow up on any of the leads obtained. Instead, reps often get back to their offices and continue to follow up on the prospects they were working, and the trade show leads languish and eventually become forgotten.

Your first attempts at putting the above steps into play may be a bit cumbersome. But eventually you will have all the steps down pat and your return on investment for each show will greatly improve. Shows can be tremendously successful. There aren’t many other opportunities where you will be hand delivered a large number of prospects that are qualified in regard to industry, decision making ability and more. It is your job to make the most of the opportunity. Good luck and enjoy the show!

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