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3 Trade Show Selling Mistakes

By Susan Hall

Trade shows are not only a major financial investment but potentially even more expensive in human capital before, during and after the trade show. In this video, Susan Hall and Joane Ramsey share three trade show selling mistakes to maximize your trade show return on investment.

Susan Hall: 00:01 Many of our clients invest significant time and resources into trade shows, and it's no wonder that it's a $14 billion industry in the US alone. It's a great opportunity for you to network with clients, prospective clients, with partners. And yet we found over time that a lot of sales people are missing opportunities. I'm wondering from your experience, Joane, what would you say is one of the top three mistakes that sales people make trying to sell at trade shows?

Joane Ramsey: 00:37 That's a great question, Susan, and I think one of the number mistakes is thinking that everybody that's going to stop by their booth is actually a prospect. And then going on to pitch a product or a feature or a service that they're offering. In a recent study that was done by the Center of Exhibition Research, the number is clear, 59% of people that stop at your booth are there to actually experience your product and look at it. When we think about trade shows, people are coming in because they want to experience and see what's new and what's out there. They're not coming in prepared to get a pitch from a sales person. I think sales people should really try to engage the customer in answering questions, but not necessarily go into a full-on blown sales pitch.

Susan Hall: 01:31 And make them feel like they're being ambushed.

Joane Ramsey: 01:33 Yes.

Susan Hall: 01:33 In fact, when we consult with clients before trade shows to help them prepare for it, we encourage them to think about questions that they're going to ask. The whole idea is if you can hook into the theme of a trade show, for example, and ask a thought provoking question. Let's say that the keynote speaker is speaking on mass customization. You could ask a person walking by who stops at the booth. "We're seeing this as a real trend in our industry. Now how is that impacting your company?" And so involving them, engaging them in a conversation rather than ambushing them. Yes, I think it's important.

I think a second mistake is not deciding in advance what you want that prospective customer to do. This is where, again, preparing with your sales team before the trade show, "What is it that we want people to do?" "Is it give us their business card?" Well, if that's all you might as well just hire a temp to help with that. But if you really want to leverage your sales talent, you can have them again, engage them in a dialogue and maybe you want them to attend a demo or maybe it's attending a keynote speech that one of your employees is making or perhaps it's giving some feedback on a certain business related survey or question that they will then get the response to. So think about what you want your sales team to do in advance.

Joane Ramsey: 03:04 Yes, being prepared is so key, isn't it?

Susan Hall: 03:07 Yes. It always is. How about any ideas in terms of another mistake that sales people make?

Joane Ramsey: 03:13 I think another mistake that a lot of people who are attending trade shows do is what happens post trade show. And not really qualifying or having a strategy on how they're going to qualify the people, the prospects that are stopping in. Looking at that and saying, "Who is truly a prospect and who is not?" And then making a point of having a followup strategy. "How am I going to follow up with the people that came to the show?" "What kinds of questions am I going to ask? What is that going to look like? So there is an approach that again, asking the good questions to be able to then at the other end, follow through with a call or making sure that they can be available to answer questions that potentially can lead to a sale.

Susan Hall: 03:59 Yes, absolutely. So three common mistakes.

  1. Ambushing clients and not engaging them with a relevant business oriented question.
  2. Not having a plan in advance in terms of what you want that customer to do as a result of walking into or walking past your booth.
  3. Not having a good follow-up plan.

So by addressing all of those things, I think a lot of sales teams can avoid mistakes and really get the best return on their trade show investment.

Joane Ramsey: 04:29 That's so true.

Published: January 13, 2021

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Susan Hall

Vice President - Business Development & Performance Improvement

Susan brings over 20 years of experience working with global markets and organizations, helping them navigate through tough economic challenges while maintaining their margins. Since joining SEG in 1995, she has had the privilege of working with organizations that truly value the development of their employees and recognize the impact their people have on their bottom line results. Susan graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a double major in business management and speech communication. She has also completed course work toward her master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.

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