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Generating Sales From Trade Shows

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Generating sales from trade shows is all about getting qualified leads and converting them into purchasers.

It is a good idea to "presell" your booth by sending customers and prospects a note or an email with your booth number, inviting them to stop by and pick up a small gift, participate in a giveaway, or take advantage of special show prices. If they take the bait and want to buy at the show, it's a good idea to have a separate location (or at least a quiet spot in the back of the booth) where you can close the sale. You can increase your exposure at a show by buying advertising in key publications connected to the show. Read Getting Media Coverage at Trade Shows for specific suggestions on how to boost your marketing around the event.

Trade show or group selling is slightly different than other sales methods, but it's not complicated. Sales fundamentals still apply: contact all the visitors you can. The more visitors you encounter, the more potential qualified leads you can identify. Develop a short list of questions to quickly separate the serious buyers from the browsers. Focus on the buyers. Prepare a 30-second rundown of the benefits of using your products. Get contact information and then move on to the next prospect. Buyers are busy, too, and they'll appreciate your cordial efficiency.

If you sense a big fish on the line, be prepared to go the extra mile. Rent a hotel suite to entertain small groups of VIP prospects. Invite qualified prospects for cocktails, dinner, or perhaps breakfast the next morning. The object is to spend quality time with people who are most likely to place large orders.

Because trade shows pack a flurry of opportunity into only a few days, you have less time to spend with each prospect. That means show pressure can be intense and the hours long. Be sure to have enough people working the exhibit and rotate your staff to keep them fresh. Upbeat people with stamina make good booth staffers.

You might also hire a specialized trainer to prepare your best people for the challenge. Training includes preparation, coaching, and then review. Training will help you pick the right show, select the right exhibits, assign the right staff and use the right follow-up system. Coaching really helps when you have different people working together for the first time. Review your marketing strategies, brush up your booth selling skills and remind everyone about intelligence gathering. A review is one of the most often neglected opportunities to evaluate how you did, what still needs to be done, and what you can do better next time. Use it to prevent recurring problems and missed opportunities.

Not every sale occurs at the show. Sometimes buying cycles are spread out over many months, so follow-up is very important to capturing those orders. Find a way to stay in touch with your show prospects. A letter or card might work. With email and fax machines so prevalent, a monthly electronic communique featuring your latest product information, new prices, or new services can become as easy to produce as pushing a few buttons on your computer — if you have a current contact list. If you've got one, use it. If you don't, get busy! You'll find more suggestions for the pre-show campaign and follow-up techniques in our article, Generate Buzz with Pre- and Post-Trade Show Marketing.

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