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Using tradeshows to find new customers

Tradeshows are like door to door selling, only at a trade show it is the customer that walks from house to house.  Most people are automatically drawn to the big houses (exhibits) because of the extra lights and activities/amenities, but your smaller house can attract new prospects too.  You need only slow them down long enough for the prospect to find out what you do.

The trade show attendee has purchased a ticket to get into the exhibit hall: so they are already interested in the general theme of the event.  Home and Garden shows, computer fairs, business expos, and holiday showcases are just a few of the general audience type events taking place in every major city.  Attendance does not automatically qualify one as a prospect for your business, but the attendee has the expectation that they will explore the possibilities.  Your task, in the seven to twelve seconds it takes for the prospect to evaluate you and your exhibit, is to engage, enlighten or entertain.

Image driving down the street and seeing a sign outside a vacuume store that reads, “Henry the Magician Performs Magic, come on in!”  Would you stop?  More than likely not, but change the setting to the trade show floor and the answer changes to probably.  Entertaining the prospects gives you more time with the show attendee.

When enlightening your prospects, you are giving them knowledge that can be useful outside of the exhibit hall.  Some products are very difficult to understand, setting up a theater setting and giving 5 or 10 minute demos may be necessary for people to understand what you do.  The down fall of in booth presentations is the loss of information gathering.  Sometimes you need just a little bit of information about your client in order to advance the sale, but if you do all the talking you’ll never gain important information.

Engaging the prospect is the act of striking up a conversation.  Too often I see exhibitors use one liners to try and start a conversation, but truth is people don’t like slick sales pitches.  Script out your questions.  Meet with you team in advance of the show and make sure every one asks the same intro questions.  Create your questions to gather information, not just give out sales pitches.  Let me put this another way, you’ll get paid for the information you gather, not the information you give.

During recessioniary times, trade shows will be one of the most effective ways to build trust with you prospect.  Meeting you face-to-face will make the difference between you and your competitor, but only if your meeting is memorable.  So when Engaging, Entertaining or Enlightening the prospect, make sure you do so such that they don’t forget you the moment they leave your booth.

Ed Bejarana

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