Sales management: 3 tips to make the most of a trade fair

Nicolas Caron

Published : 19 June 2017
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Sales management: 3 tips to make the most of a trade fair

Trade fairs are great opportunities to do business, sell and generate leads. Every year, hundreds of trade fairs take place in France and throughout the world. Some are just meant to be “big” like Sial, while others are more specific to a particular market like Equip Auto, Trustech and Intermat…

In any case, participation in these events should not be improvised. It is not sufficient to simply book a spot. Logistics, invitations, demonstrations, marketing campaigns, and contact follow-up are all key factors for success. But beyond all these aspects which you can work on with your marketing team, preparing your sales team is also an important step.

However, walking around the aisles of any trade fair, you’ll quickly notice that it is far from being systematically implemented.

At the time of writing, I just participated in a trade fair to present our digital solutions for the sales force… I wanted to see if my opinion about preparation was exaggerated or not… Well, no need to go very far. Observing the booth opposite ours, I had the perfect demonstration of what should be avoided. Vendors talking to each other, visitors passing by, looking at the booth and leaving without being approached, non-stop coffee breaks, negligent non-verbal attitudes, etc. The company’s director came to visit the salon on the second day. As soon as she arrived, she came to say hello to me and said: “So I hear it was nothing special yesterday…”. Indeed, given the attitude of the vendors at her booth. I did not tell her about her team… I just let her know that we, on the other hand, had identified a good thirty interesting leads…

In short, even if you have the best location, the best offer and the best marketing, if your sellers are not well-prepared, you will fail to make your trade fair a success.

Here are three tips for managers who want their team to be on top of their game in order to make the most of a trade fair.

Before the trade fair: Mobilize and train your team

Key messages to mobilize the teams

A trade fair is an event in the true sense of the term. It is a key moment in the business year. This is something you should point out and educate your teams about. Without overplaying the boss card, it still seems appropriate to highlight that it is a big investment whose profitability will depend on the energy and motivation of the sales force. Obviously, the other idea will be to highlight the tremendous opportunity that the fair represents in terms of prospecting.

If you need inspiration here is a list of ideas which you can use to work on your first motivational “pitch”.

  • Mention statistics from previous editions. The organizer of the fair will be delighted to provide you with all the useful information you need to illustrate the business potential you can hope for. Of course, if you are preparing for the new edition of a fair you have already attended, the results from the last edition will be the best lever to set the ambition bar for this new participation.
  • Clarify the objectives. Why are you taking part in this trade fair?
  • To generate leads?
  • To receive customers?
  • To increase your notoriety?
  • To take orders?
  • To meet key stakeholders in your ecosystem?

The preparation of your sellers will be different depending on the goal you set. So you might as well specify it and share it beforehand with the whole team.

  • Present the offers specific to the trade fair. This is not an obligation, but having a special offer is a plus. It helps you surf on the energy generated by the atmosphere of the event. This is especially important when your goal is to sell and take orders from your booth. But when your goal is more centred on generating leads it is still a good idea to come up with a specific “pitch”. Indeed, to generate a lot of leads you need to have a lot of interactions with different visitors. The more “packaged”, “prepared”, or “tailored” your speech is, the more your sales reps will be able to quickly convince visitors to stop for a more in-depth meeting.
  • Announce incentives. This is not an absolute rule, but it may be important in some areas. You need specify the rules of commissioning specific to the fair, in keeping with the priority objectives that you set.
  • Specify the rules of the game. For example:
  • Restate pre-opening and post-closing appointment hours. By specifying them upstream, you will avoid missing the morning briefings and/or evening debriefings because some “did not know about it”.
  • Remember that everyone must be on top form. No complaints office about the working pace and fatigue. Running a trade fair booth without getting tired is just impossible. Going to a trade fair means to be at 200% all day, to repeat the same pitch in spite of the noise, the effervescence etc. If necessary, make a selection and take only positive and motivated sellers with you. Here, like elsewhere, remember the – harsh but fair – principle: don’t trouble the best with the mediocre.
  • Validate the dress code. Maintaining some coherence across sellers, or having them wear a uniform outfit is a plus.
  • Clarify the organization rules to ensure a permanent presence on the booth.
  • Clarify expected attitudes. Observing a trade fair as a visitor, you’ll quickly spot what you would not want to see on your booth, so be sure to make it clear upstream.
  • Anticipate follow-up
  • If your salespeople do not have the time to follow up on the leads after the fair, then there is no point in doing it. Follow up is very important. So make sure that your sellers arrange time periods for chasing up customers in the days and weeks that follow. 

Train your team

After mobilizing your team, you would be well inspired to train them… Selling or generating leads at a trade fair is an exercise in style. Whether it is about approaching visitors, seeing them off, or adjusting your pitch, there are many details that can make the difference between a good or a bad day at the fair.

It is important to review all these fundamentals by adapting them to you spearhead offer. Everyone must be able to present the flagship offer of the moment. It is also useful to repeat the pitch in anticipation of commonly problematic situations: the “incognito” visitor who refuses to tell you which company he works for, the “glue pot” visitor that you cannot get rid of, the prospect who comes to see you with the brochure of the competitor opposite your stand, etc. In short, there are a lot of situations that need to be taken care of.

If you want to go further in terms of methods, the Halifax Online Academy includes a series of specific modules for selling at a trade fair. These modules can be used autonomously or with the support of our consultants.

During the fair

Lead your team