Trade shows and conferences are an important part of business because they allow you to see way more prospective customers and partners in a short amount of time than you could possibly talk to face-to-face otherwise. Learn to love the trade show.
Working a trade show can consist of working your company’s booth or simply attending the show. Either situation can result in you leaving the event with a ton of leads.
You can be the master of your success at the trade show if you approach it the right way. Here are some keys to success:
Spend time researching who will be at the event. If your company is sponsoring, you may have an attendee list to review. If that isn’t available, you can look at the other exhibitors and speakers. Make a list of targets you want to connect with onsite. Look up the names of specific people that work at a prospect company. Set up as many meetings as you can in advance.
Wear comfortable, sensible yet professional shoes. You’ll be on your feet a bunch. Bring lots of business cards and don’t plan to lug a heavy bag around the trade show. These tips should be obvious but you’d be surprised.
Stand and look available for a conversation. Engage folks that are walking by. Ask them a leading question to entice them into talking with you: “Are you looking for a product that does X?”
Not only can this make the whole experience more enjoyable, but sometimes your neighbors are good prospects and/or can become part of your network. It’s nice to have industry friends to talk shop with.
If you’ve done the prep work in #1, you’ve identified some interesting exhibiting companies to talk to. It doesn’t just have to be just prospects; consider visiting your competitors’ booths. Listen to their pitch.
Before stopping by a prospect’s booth, check your notes or CRM to see if there is a specific person you can ask for. “Hi, is so-and-so here today?” This changes the conversation in a positive way. If that person is there, you can jump right in. If they aren’t, you can ask when they’ll be back and stop by later. You can also say something like, “Well, maybe you can help me. I am stopping by because..."
If you don't have a name of an individual, your interaction will start with you listening to their pitch. Make sure to listen carefully and politely to their pitch. There’s bound to be some useful information in there. Find a segue into why you’re stopping by. Generally this works well when they ask about your company. However, this part can be tricky. Remember that they are paying good money to have that booth and reach their own prospective customers. Keep it light and friendly with the goal to find out the decision maker for purchasing your product. Ask something like, “I’m stopping by because I was hoping to talk to the person who is in charge of X. Do you know who that is?” If you’re lucky, you'll get their contact information. Make sure to get the name of the person who is giving you the information so you can reference it in a follow up email.
If you’ve done all this, you’re leaving the conference with a fat stack of business cards and all sorts of people for follow up. Do your follow up within a few days of the conference, while everything is fresh. Send “Nice meeting you” emails and ask to schedule another conversation or meeting.
Follow your new friends on Twitter, ask them to link up with you on LinkedIn and, very important, put that information into your CRM. Use something like CardMunch to get that data into the CRM without the manual data entry.
As grueling as a trade show can be, it can also be great fun for bonding with your team and meeting new people.
Do you have any other tips? Please share them in the comments below.
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