Improving Your Trade Show Selling Skills


You can get the most value by showing this video at a sales meeting prior to your trade show and then leading your team on a discussion of:

  1. What did you think of the ideas on the video?
  2. How relevant are these ideas to us and our upcoming show?
  3. What do you think we as a team should all agree to use at our upcoming show?

I see too many companies spending thousands of dollars in fees and expenses to get a booth in a trade show or convention…but then do little coaching or preparation with their team assigned to work their booth.

In 30 years as a professional sales trainer I’ve gotten to attend and present to a wide variety of association conventions and trade shows…and I’ve always tried to spend time walking the show floors observing how sales people sell and work their booths.

My conclusions are really rather simple…the more persuasive your team working your trade show booth…the more booth traffic…and positive results you’ll generate from a show.

But there’s this antiquated assumption in sales organizations that experienced = trained…that you, having worked past trade shows, means you don’t need any additional training or coaching to work this upcoming show. How much training and coaching did you do prior to your last trade show?

The goal is to apply the concepts of “SWAT Team Selling” because the way you sell as a team with strategic leadership, active tactical account planning, and consistent implementation of your defined “selling best practices” can significantly increase your competitive advantage and selling success.

I’ve got seven quick ideas to help increase your team’s competitive selling advantage and show results as you prepare for your next trade show.

The first idea is to make sure everyone working an upcoming show understands and agrees with your goals for participating in this show.

What kind of show is this upcoming event? There are some strong selling shows where customers book orders, but the majority of trade shows are only “show and tell” events where you either stand in a booth or next to a table top display hoping to talk with perspective buyers and generate additional conversations.

Other than taking orders there are only two goals of ever participating in a trade show booth, affirming your existing customers attending that show, or collecting qualified sales leads…with selling information… that can be immediately distributed and followed up by your sales team. You can accomplish both at the same show but they each require different types of attention and selling effort.

If your goal is to affirm existing customers then you want to have a manager or company technical expert also working your booth to meet and talk with important customers and to listen to their issues. One of the best ways to affirm an existing customer is by get them talking with an important manager, not by having them talk with another sales rep.

If your goal is to collect qualified sales leads then you want to make sure all team members working your booth have strong competitive awareness and are strong questioners and identifiers of potential sales areas for their team to follow up later.

The second way to get the most out of your trade show booth experience is to identify, as a team, your major “talking points” you’d like every booth visitor to hear. Each person can say it their own way, but you want all team members sharing the same major points about your company’s value and uniqueness. What can you say that’s stronger or different than your competitors also working this upcoming show?

Make sure to spend time prior to the show discussing and practicing answering expected questions and delivering your talking points. Also have a manager or team leader walk around and coach team members during the show to insure your talking points are consistently being delivered.

Third suggestion is to keep things simple and focused on your goals for being in this show. Don’t do the stunts to get people into your booth by giving away free popcorn or having a game with prizes…you’ll attract so many non-buyers for the free stuff that you’ll have a hard time focusing on any real prospects or customers. Keep your booth clean, uncluttered and simple so the prospects who want to check you out feel comfortable enough to come into your booth.

My fourth suggestion to help increase your team’s competitive selling advantage is to prepare for a show by asking your field force to identify any current customers and identified prospects who’ll be attending. When identified, consider offering to schedule specific private meeting times with your customer and a manager or technical expert. Also develop a list to help prepare booth workers for any existing customers who might stop by your booth to complain.

My fifth idea involves you as a salesperson working your booth and how much time you plan to spend talking and pitching your products compared to asking questions and listening. Most sales people working a trade show booth just become talking parrots, all a prospect has to do is point at something and say “What’s that” and the rep does a 5 minute spiel about their company and products.

Your goal is to collect qualified leads that can be followed up later. You’ll be able to identify a lot more buyer areas of concern and selling opportunities if you ask questions and get your prospect talking, instead of just talking about how great your products are.

My sixth suggestion involves how your booth looks from the isle. How approachable and friendly does your booth look? I’ve seen sales reps working on their laptops while they waited for someone to enter their booth and I’ve also seen reps just sitting there blankly staring into space with a frown on their face. Be careful not to group together in your booth, deep in conversation with your fellow reps. I’ve watched prospects walk past a booth because the sales reps were all clustered together talking to one side absorbed in their own conversations as they waited for prospects to walk into their booth.

My seventh and final suggestion to help you increase your competitive selling advantage and trade show results is to make sure identified sales leads are immediately distributed and followed up after the show. I’ve seen it take months to sort through collected leads and get them out to the sales reps. The simple reality of selling is the faster a trade show lead is contacted, the greater the odds they’ll remember talking to someone from your company and still having an interest in talking further.

Call me at 952-913-8998 if you’d like help strengthening your team’s ability to function as a “Selling SWAT Team.” After all, we know you’re good, now the only question is…are you and your team ready to get even better?

Jim Pancero

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