Show and Sell

Here are the tricks of the trade show circuit and how to expo your way to profits

“Black Street.”

“We did this strategically to have a bigger presence for African American products within a mainstream show,” he says. While each business paid for its own space, together they created an impressive display for bookstores seeking to carry African American designed mugs, glassware and stationery products.

Use the right staff. At the supershows, where attendance can stretch well into the thousands, you’ll want to have at least three or four staff people on hand. McFarland warns that “the person who does well in telephone sales back in the office may not be good in a booth dealing with people face to face.” Salespeople can spend up to 30 minutes wooing customers over the phone in the office. They won’t get that chance on the trade show floor.

“You have about 45 seconds to draw them in,” says Rolle. “You have to be quick, concise and have some buzz words on hand that will get your ideas across right away.” You’ll want your booth staffed by people with high energy who don’t mind standing for long hours.

There are definite no-no’s when dealing with the public. For example, don’t crowd your booth with too many product offerings. Have a focus so that potential buyers aren’t overwhelmed. Be sure not to get so wrapped up in talking to one customer that you ignore others who stop by. Have enough staff on hand to greet each person who visits your booth. Don’t be afraid to interrupt an ongoing conversation to acknowledge a new visitor. And be ready to roll when the show starts. There’s no bigger turnoff than stopping to look at a product only to be told, “Come back later when we’ve finished setting up.” Chances are, the visitor won’t.

Put attention grabbers to work. “The average trade show attendee coming down the aisle determines within 15 seconds whether to spend time at your booth,” McFarland says. “You must have some kind of eye-catching graphic or signage that makes them stop.”

He suggests using creative and bold graphics or halogen lights to advertise your company’s name. Computers, live audio, and video demonstrations also help you stand out from the competition. Rolle wows potential clients with an animated computer demonstration that features rotating 3-D images of machine parts and electrical components.

“I showed the presentation to a buyer from Baltimore Gas and Electric during the Maryland/DC Minority Supplier Development Council Opportunity Fair. She was so impressed, she brought her associate over to the booth. They ended up writing a $3,000 contract with us. And we paid only $300 to do that show,” says Rolle.

Follow up on leads. Follow up is the key to turning exhibit floor contacts into sales contracts. After spending time on the exhibit floor with an enthusiastic representative from the book division at Target, Perkins recalls, “I had a package of samples sitting on his desk before he got back to his office in Minneapolis.” The result? Target wrote an order for 2,500 calendars. Now the company has requested samples of new calendars for

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