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Exhibitor training: The fast track to profitability

When is the last time you analyzed the results from a tradeshow? Have you ever taken the time to evaluate whether you received maximum production from your sales team or achieved profitability from your experience? Exhibiting is not cheap, and the expenses start adding up months before the exhibit hall opens.


Susan Ratliff

Susan Ratliff

Your long list of costs include the real estate for that great booth location, the graphic design and production for a professional impression, and the marketing materials and give-a-ways you’ll take to the show. Then there are the shipping fees, drayage and labor to get everything there and set up. And don’t forget the time the sales staff spends out of the office, as well as the travel, accommodations and meals you pay for.

No matter where your booth is located, how impressive your display is, how cool your freebees are or how much pre-show marketing you did to attract attendees, your efforts will fall short of expectations unless the people in the booth are prepared and make a good first impression.

A revealing statistic from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) claims that 80 percent of attendees base their opinions of your company on the actions of your employees at the booth. This is a strong incentive to provide some training to the people who represent your company at the show.

The three main areas of training that will have an immediate and positive impact on profitability are goal setting, lead generation and sales strategy.

A company’s commitment to participate should be followed by a commitment to get results. Having multiple goals to accomplish gives you multiple chances for a successful show. Make a list of additional benefits you can accomplish beyond making sales and getting leads.

• Gather market research: Check the pulse of the public about your products and services.

• Take a survey: Ask questions to uncover the wants and needs of your ideal customer.

• Introduce important people: Let attendees get up close and personal with the company President, the management team or important technical staff.

• Conduct competitive intelligence: Check out what your competition is doing.

• Attract publicity: Invite the media to your booth if you’re launching a new product, showcasing an industry celebrity or featuring a unique demonstration.

Most companies draft its seasoned sales people to work the booth. It’s assumed that their success will transfer to sales results on the show floor. This is somewhat true, but there are significant differences between selling in the field and selling at a show. The environment is distracting and noisy with limited time to engage and qualify prospects.

Unless taught otherwise, salespeople will use the same pitch at the booth they use in the field. Unfortunately, if you have three sales people giving customers three different messages at the booth, there is no ability to determine why one person is successfully booking appointments or closing sales and others are not. Without a consistent message and call to action, there is no way to quantify results.

Everything you do in your booth is focused on selling, whether money changes hands or not. The only way you have a chance of closing a sale after the show is by getting contact information. You might think having the attendee list to follow-up from is enough. Calling the attendee list from a show is as effective as pulling the names from the phonebook. There is no personal connection. It is the face-to-face interaction that makes tradeshows such a fantastic source of new business.

• Rank every lead: Whether you hold a drawing, take a survey or provide a lead form for attendees to fill out, it is important that each lead is ranked according to qualification.

• Add a business note: On the back of every lead, make note of what they need and your next step. Your call now has a purpose and they are expecting it.

• Include a personal observation: You talked about baseball, he recently transferred to Chicago, she just had a baby. Referencing these notes during the follow-up process will surprise them, create a sense of familiarity and help to jog their memory about the conversation at the booth.

Susan Ratliff is The Exhibit Expert. An award-winning business owner, author, professional speaker, event producer and consultant, Susan is a recognized authority on tradeshows and event marketing. To hire Susan to speak to your group or to discuss your tradeshow display and exhibiting needs, reach her at
Susan@SusanRatliff.com 602-828-1177 www.SusanRatliffPresents.com.

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