From multi-million dollar booths to carpetbagging around the trade show floor, we’ve seen (and done) it all. During our trade show travels, we’ve learned a thing or two about effective selling on the trade show floor. We’d like to share our juiciest insights here, with you.
A trade show is first and foremost, a *show — *an opportunity to present your brand’s best self and engage prospects with a memorable experience. When preparing your strategies for your next trade show event, we invite you to focus more on the *show *than the *trade. *Purposeful connection and a little bit of illusion will be your tools of choice.
Use the techniques below to improve your trade show selling skills while creating a rewarding sales experience for you and your prospects.
1. Be Proactive
Successful trade show engagements begin long before the day of the event. From attendee research to booth design, there’s a lot of opportunities to optimize, and it’s best to give your team enough execution time to perfect your strategies. Take advantage of the attendee list or social media postings and connect with your leads via social or email before the event.
This simple gesture front loads some of the ice-breaking so you can focus on securing real leads on event day — not just scanning badges. Taking initiative and engaging before the event will also allow you to learn more about your leads, which will inform how you customize your day-of-event sales strategy and even your promotional giveaways. Here’s how to leverage your attendee list:
Run the attendee list through your CRM and see who matches up with your current funnel.
Secure meetings with prospects, even those who are off of your account. You don’t have to own an account to take advantage of it, you just need permission from the owner to take their leads; especially if the contact owner isn’t attending the event. A lost lead is a lost lead for the whole team, so if necessary, reiterate this big picture to your team to ensure all leads are picked up.
Can’t get the meeting? Provide plenty of incentive to visit your booth. Coordinate with your marketing team to incorporate incentives into your pre-trade show reach out strategy.
Case Study: SummitSync at IoT World 2018
2. Refine Your Event Elevator Pitch
Our attention span sits at a dismal eight seconds, so if your elevator pitch doesn’t capture attention within that short span, it’s time to start editing. At conferences and trade shows, people are listening to elevator pitches literally all day, so make yours stand out while being easily digestible. A perfect pitch compels prospects to ask specific questions that you can then guide towards a sale. Some tips:
Focus on direct, concise and conversational language.
While you should certainly practice your elevator pitch, it shouldn’t sound rehearsed. Practice your key points so you can rearrange it to suit different scenarios.
Effective elevator pitches solve a problem. This problem will be different depending on who you are speaking to. Make sure the problem is relevant to the person you are speaking to.
Begin your pitch with a question like “What brought you to [this event]?”. Be sure to tailor your pitch to the prospect with whatever information you have on them.
Check out more tips for crafting your elevator pitch from our CEO, John Corrigan.
3. Be a Human Being
We’d say this goes without saying, but after the hundreds of trade shows we’ve attended, we’ve seen a lot of robotic interactions between sales team members and prospects. Sure, selling on the trade show floor is an inherently unnatural setup but you can make it feel natural. The act of exchanging information about your products often feels transactional and tedious, but it doesn’t have to. Connecting with a prospect in a natural way will always be more successful than leading with a sales pitch. In order to do this successfully, you will need to know your stuff so well that you can weave certain talking points into any conversation.
Don’t be a human pop-up ad. Lead with topics that interest your prospects, then find an appropriate segue.
People know when you’re spattering off rehearsed lines, and they don’t like it. Make each interaction meaningful, because it is.
4. Engage in Mindful Networking
Networking does not mean handing out business cards like a Pez dispenser, but it’s not a directionless social gathering either. Networking is about engaging with different buyer personas in the way they want to be engaged so that each person receives something from the other. In this way, networking is closer to ballroom dancing rather than socializing. Consider yourself the leader, steering the conversation the way you want it to go, while simultaneously showing off your partner (talking about their interests, solving their specific problems, and engaging in the way they want to engage). Networking can be fun and successful if you put in the effort to get the results your team needs.
When networking at events, focus on communicating a clear next step (call to action) rather than explaining your entire product. People want to keep things surface level at trade show events, so don’t overwhelm them.
Come prepared with knowledge about your prospects’ interests and solutions for their problems. Don’t worry if you only end up using a few of your tricks* — *you simply won’t need everything you prepared.
Greet others like you mean it. Your team represents your brand, so take advantage of the way each team member greets prospects. If prospects spot your booth and see your team slumped over their phones, eating, or spacing out, you won’t get that lead. If you catch eye contact or see someone wandering into your booth space, immediately initiate with a handshake or a question.
5. Induce Serendipity
Serendipity is a wonderful thing* — *it’s also a rare thing, and therefore not something you should rely on for your sales strategy. The illusion of serendipity, however, is something entirely different and has proven to be a useful tool at trade shows and events. Inducing serendipity is a technique we use to “run into” prospects using research of their whereabouts throughout the trade show.
If you did your prep work, this will be easy. Before the show, familiarize yourself with the mini-events that your prospects are attending (networking parties, dinners, etc). Make sure you’re at these events, so you run into your prospects in a natural, or *serendipitous *way. This helps to open the doors to more organic conversation.
We recently used this technique at ExhibitorLive. Prior to the event, we tried reaching out to a prospect before the event with no luck. With a little research, we saw this prospect had posted it was her first time attending the event and that she’d be at the networking mixer. We managed to “run into her” in the drink line during the event and had a great chat that pushed the ball down the field.
Selling at Trade Shows Start and Ends With You
Teams can have all of the gadgets and gizmos to capture leads or scan badges but none of that matters if your team isn’t prepared to sell on the trade show floor. Focus more time on your pre-trade show efforts and creating opportunities for purposeful connection. If you come prepared for anything, you can be more natural, and natural interactions are the most trustworthy and the most profitable.
The team at SummitSync writes about the world of trade show and marketing and how to succeed within it. For more insights on conference and trade show success, subscribe to our blog.