Selling - Trade Shows Vs. Regular Sales Calls


Remember those school exercises that started "Compare and contrast....yada yada yada". Well, here's an exercise to get your sales brains moving.

There are major differences between how you sell in a Regular Sales Call versus at a Trade Show. In other words, just because you can sell well, doesn't mean you can sell well in the trade show environment.

I've identified five major areas which cause concern for professional sales staff who have booth duty. This has nothing to do with the ability of the sales person, only that they often have to do a 180 to accommodate their concerns.

Above all this - note that many trade shows are not hard sell arenas but are marketing venues. If you make a sale, it's probably because of hard work before the show. The purpose of a show is to advance the sales process, so plan where the show fits into your sales cycle, and pass these tips along to your sales staff.

Face-to-Face Time

Regular Sales Call -
You set the schedule. You and the prospect determine the time necessary for you to explain and/or sell. It may be 30 minutes, an hour, a half-day or more, but you have control of the presentation.

Trade Show -
Unless you've made appointments prior to the show, or the prospect puts you on its short list of exhibits to visit, you're lucky to get three minutes on the show floor. Why? Time is short, and you're either an unknown or well-known.


Regular Sales Call -
You may be lucky and have the prospect in your office or factory. Or, you're on his turf. Or in a favorite restaurant. In any case, it's a familiar surrounding and you feel comfortable.

Trade Show -
Now you're on neutral turf. You have your company's image around you - name badges, signs, brochures, handouts, give-aways, etc. Should be good news - you're in control. Until the visitor leaves your booth and walks over to your competitor. (Remember, that's the essence of a trade show - competitors coming together to build an industry.)

Who Initiates Contact?

Regular Sales Call -
Generally, you make the first contact, so you know the prospect's major details - name, address, how you can solve his problem, time frame for the sale - maybe you've even toted up your commission. And if the prospects calls you first? Great, the sales cycle is moved along even faster.

Trade Show -
Oops, here comes a stranger. With a name you don't know, a company you've probably never heard of - or if you have, probably not that department. Now your people skills come into play. It's faster and more professional than a cocktail party, more demanding than an interview and more tiring because you repeat it all day.

Prospect Information

Regular Sales Call -
In today's fast changing sales environment, you have good intelligence about your prospect. You can use the buzzwords - enterprise, cybercorp, partnering - and you can probably adapt your sales competencies to the prospect's requirements.

Trade Show -
Remember, unless you've set up appointments with prospects or clients, you've probably got a stranger standing in front of you. Now, not only your sales competencies come into play but your knowledge and understanding of your industry and marketplace are challenged.

Time and Money

Regular Sales Call -
The internet has allowed companies to reduce drastically the initial intelligence gathering costs and time frame. Make sales proactive, not reactive. It still costs money. It still takes time. And it's still face-to-face.

Trade Show -
The key is follow-up. You can't swipe a card, shake a hand and wait for the prospect to call. People attend shows because they're in the same industry as you, and stopped at your exhibit because they're interested in your product. Trade shows advance the sales cycle. This is a great opportunity - don't blow it!

When you understand that you make a 180 from your regular job and comfort zone. then you will be more effective at trade shows.

Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - writes about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of Trade Show Training, inc,, now celebrating its 10th year, she works with companies in a variety of industries to improve their bottom line and marketing opportunities at trade shows.

Julia is an expert in the psychology of the trade show environment, and uses this expertise in sales training and management seminars.


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