With over 20+ years of experience at trade shows, I have attended more than 100 shows. While each show is different, I seem to always take a similar approach to each one.
I’d like to share my 7-part game plan for playing the trade show field with you. Hopefully, this rulebook helps you accomplish your goals in an efficient manner.
- Know the Playbook: Almost all trade shows have a Pre-Show Planner on their web site. These planners can assist your company in tailoring your game plan for the show.
- The amount of companies exhibiting at a show is overwhelming. You want to know which of your targets will be there before the show kicks off so that you avoid leaving a prospect without coverage. At the same time, you don’t want to rush the passers so make sure to work with your teammates. If you and multiple colleagues are going to the same show, be sure to know who will be tackling which exhibitor or event. You don’t want to double up – wasting your time and making your company seem unprepared/non-communicative.
- You may be able to set up certain plays before the show by finding information on prospects via LinkedIn, the company’s website or even the trade show’s publication. Finding this information can enable you to leverage the meeting systems within the trade show organization. Consider establishing a quick meeting ahead of time to page through visual examples and capabilities.
- Get your Jersey Ready: You want to present yourself so that your prospect welcomes you to their booth, is happy to have you on their sideline and introduces you to their teammates.
- Dress professionally. If you belong to a world class company, present yourself as a world class individual. This includes comfortable shoes. You’ll need proper support to endure the entire game. My pedometer shows between 7 -10 miles/day at a show.
- Practice good hygiene. You are talking to people and shaking hands throughout the day; so never leave the locker room unprepared – carry some mints and wash up after meals.
- Train for the Big Game: Get the sleep and exercise you will need to keep you at your best. Trade shows are long days – you will want to be in top physical and mental condition.
- Practice what you plan to say to each company. You want to be concise and direct; have a list of questions prepared that are focused on that company’s product offerings and be able to convey what it is you’re searching for. Be able to explain your company’s value proposition within 60 seconds. You will want to focus on the prospect but be able to convey your company’s value so that they remember you and what you are about!
- Make sure to take care of yourself. Eat right and get plenty of sleep. Avoid staying out late watching the big game on Monday Night Football.
- Stay on Your Toes: Be ready for anything from Warm-Up to Cool-Down
- Always be prepared to show your value. Talk to everyone on the plane, on the shuttles, at the bar, at the restaurant, in the elevator. Trade shows typically have 1,000’s of people attending them. You never know when the big score is right around the corner.
- Be creative. The last thing brands and retailers want to deal with is the “pesky” sales representative who is there to get business from them. You’ll need to present your company in an interesting way. Bring something of value that is relevant and captures the extensive knowledge base in their specified vertical market.
- Scope the Field: Know the show floor and detail your route so that you use your time most effectively and ensure you don’t miss a prospective company.
- If you walk into a trade show without a path of execution, you will wear out long before the second half. Print a floor plan and highlight the people you want to see – making a route for the day.
- Walk the floor several times. Try to come in and address their sales growth needs through the use of your company’s goods and services.
- Watch the Play Clock: manage your time wisely, and remember – it is a marathon and not a sprint.
- Manage your time from one company to another. Exhibitors are there to sell and they will keep detailing their products and benefits for hours if you let them. If they do not meet your requirements or help to advance your goals, swap business cards and move along.
- Budget time to allow for follow-ups and re-visits you may need to get that contact or business card. Show respect for their needs and they will show respect for yours in return.
- Review the Tape: Review and follow up with every contact you make.
- When you sort through the business cards remind yourself of every detail that is important to fostering a lasting relationship with them. Each night at the show, write a review of the prospect’s needs and follow-up specifics.
- Follow up with the individual. Don’t leave it up to the companies you met with to reach out to you.
Overall, remember – the prospect doesn’t owe you the time they are taking away from their important business at the show. Greet them with a smile, and leave them having a smile for meeting with you!
Good luck out there. I hope this game plan helps you succeed on the trade show field. If you plan to attend Global Shop this year in Las Vegas, stop by the Frank Mayer and Associates booth 3829 and let us know if any of these tips worked well for you.
Joe Holley is Vice President of New Business Development - Displays/Merchandisers at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc. Joe has over twenty years of experience in developing custom branded in-store marketing solutions at retail.