Q&A - SELLING FROM THE AISLE
QUESTION .... Julia - I recently moved from New Zealand to set up a new business in the USA. I will visit my first trade show next month. I am not exhibiting at the show, but would like to gain as much exposure for my product as possible. Do you have any suggestions as to the best approach?
ANSWER .... Thatís a great question. And Iíve got some great answers.
We put so much emphasis on the behavior of the exhibitor, we forget that the folks who walk the aisles have products to sell, too. So, here are points to ponder ....
DO NOT SELL FROM THE AISLE
Do not pass out literature, samples, goodies or resumes. Period.
WHY? Because if you do, you can get thrown out. Period. Itís the exhibitor who paid the big bucks to be the salesman on the floor, not you. At some shows, even the exhibitors are prohibited from selling. Each show has its own rules. When in doubt, contact show management.
Shows are governed by legal contracts. For exhibitors, all the details are in the Exhibitor Manual. For the attendee, itís in the small print - somewhere. Maybe in the invitation, show web site, show program or the back of the ticket.
In any case, exhibitors and show management know they can ask you to leave, physically escort you off the floor - ban you from the show forever - if you solicit.
STOP, LOOK and LISTEN
Even if youíre giving out the Keys to Heaven, not everyone is interested. If you are an exhibitor, an average statistic is that only 10-20% of attendees are interested in your products. As an attendee, with a new product to peddle, that percentage may be much lower.
Your goal as an attendee - who is not buying - should be to search out potential partners and folks you can sell to - After The Show. The person in the booth generally is not the purchasing authority, and may not even know the purchasing process in his own company.
STOP - BEFORE THE SHOW
- WHAT is your rationale for going to the show? It is NOT to sell. Gather information, learn about players and trends. Determine where your company fits into the overall industry and find your niches.
- GET the exhibitor list, select potential clients. Research the companies as much as possible. Check web sites. Read the annual reports. Ask your clients, no matter where they are, for referrals and information about exhibiting companies.
- REVIEW the show floor plan. Design an expeditious route for your available time. Leave time for serendipity. You are looking for partners, mentors, trend-setters and potential clients.
LOOK - DURING THE SHOW
- WALK down every aisle even when you have designed a route. Look for new products, new companies, new concepts. Some great ideas have lousy PR.
- DEMONSTRATIONS? Yes, stop. Have a critical eye about each one because you can learn from otherís mistakes or professionalism.
- PICK up only pertinent information. You have the show program and can follow-up from it after the show. Do not be a paper or give-away hog - it brands you as an amateur.
LISTEN - AT ALL TIMES
- LISTEN for buzzwords, industry gossip. If you hear a word that you donít know three times, that may be a trend. Learn all you can.
- OVERHEAR a conversation? Is it private? If you can hear it, itís in the public domain no matter where - phone, bar, elevator, airplane, etc. Use it to your advantage but listen for the truth.
- ASK intelligent questions when you stop at a booth. Equally important - participate in the showís educational and social events.
After the show, follow-up with all the people you met - who know who leads to whom. Now you will be smarter about how to position your product to the industry.
Enjoy your next show!
Julia O'Connor, President
Trade Show Training, Inc.
"...because it takes more than a display and a handshake
to sell at a trade show."