Heading to an industry show soon? Trade shows are an important part of our industry, and to get the best return on your time and monetary investment, we may have a few ideas to help.
First ... you need a plan. I know, you have heard this before, but it is true. Without a game plan for working the show all you will end up with is a ton of samples, a spinning head, and two sore feet.
There are many opinions on how to work a trade show, but we have found that many of our salespeople have achieved trade show success by following this simple two-step approach—first, know exactly where you want to go and who you want to see; next, know what you will ask or discuss when you arrive at each booth before leaving for the show.
Let's start by looking at the general categories available to you at each show: Vendor Exhibits, Professional Development Workshops, Keynote Luncheon Speakers, Awards Presentations, Dinners, Parties and even a Book Store.
Study these categories, select the ones you want to attend and mark the dates and times on your show map.
Before you arrive, obtain a map of the show floor, a handful of highlighters and the exhibitor list. Make a list of the vendors you plan to see first and highlight them in yellow, then mark the secondary vendors in a different color. Primary suppliers could be day one, and secondary day two. Use the booth numbers to plan the easiest route to see each in the order of their booth placement.
With your map in hand it will be very easy to work the show in an efficient manner. If you run out of time and can't stop at all the booths at least you will have stopped at the most important vendors that you wanted to see.
Another important step that many sales professionals follow is to have a separate sheet in a small binder for each supplier you are visiting with key questions you want to cover to jump-start your sales year. For small distributor owners, it could be 2013 pricing strategy, terms or perhaps sample policies. For other sales professionals, you might ask about spec sample policies, new marketing tools or which items in their line sold to what market in 2012. Having planned questions is professional and efficient!
An alternative tip is to use a digital voice recorder to record notes as you walk the show. Say the vendor name, ASI number, item number or description and move on. Even better, use the camera in your cell phone to visually document your most important "finds" or to immediately email the image to important clients.
One of your most important questions to answer is: Do I pick up samples and catalogs? Many sales people do not pick up anything at the show but they do order what they need and have it shipped back to their office.
Here is our question ... There are several large shows coming up including the industry's largest, PPAI Expo Las Vegas. Will it be a productive show that will help you earn more money or will you be a Trick-or-Treater and come home with bag after bag of samples that will never get used and probably be sitting in your office in July?
We hope you follow our previous recommendations and get more out of the show than sore feet.
Best of success!
Dale Limes, MAS, is Senior Vice President of Sales for HALO Branded Solutions. He is an industry veteran of 27 years, a frequent trainer at industry events, and consults with distributors at every level to help increase sales and efficiency.