You may think that exhibitors and buyers go to trade shows to sell or buy. But there shouldn’t be any selling, says Dan Seidman, president of Sales Autopsy Inc., a national training organization in Streamwood, Ill.
In fact, he comments that people who do direct selling may be left out in the cold.
“Most shows don’t allow ‘selling’ on the floor,” Seidman states. “An exhibitor selling something on the spot for people to take home may be banned from future shows.” More correctly, he points out, exhibitors should be generating leads and strengthening ties with existing customers.
So why do people travel from everywhere to an event to fight crowds and feel overwhelmed by all of the exhibits? To build relationships.
One of the most complicated forms of relationship building involves buying teams. “These are teams of specialists, consisting not only of the specifiers (people who may use the product or service and therefore can influence the buying process), but recommenders, decision-makers, and the finance production and design staffs, depending upon the event,” observes Steve Sind, vice president and director of trade show development and international events at Cleveland’s Penton Media Inc., a leading diversified business media company.
“Booth staff have to be conversant in more than the sales message alone,” he continues. “They have to have more technical knowledge of a product or service, because customers are asking very detailed questions.”
For this reason, increasing numbers of engineers, whether they’re salespeople or not, are joining the team of exhibitors.
Speaking tongue-in- cheek, Seidman maintains that attendees, on buying teams or as individuals, must represent four key roles:
– Coach, respected for providing valuable input in the past, now shining by pointing out the best restaurants in town;
– User, slated to use a company’s product or service but without decision-making power, there only because someone has to drive the rent-a-car;
– Technical buyer, usually a computer person, assessing compatibility between the company’s system and the product or service under review; or
– Commercial buyer, the ultimate authority, deciding whether to cut the check (and when).
A more long-term relationship for some exhibitors to cultivate is that with the press in a position to educate the market about a product or service. The experience of Sean Sullivan, board member of ADDS Inc., a 3-year- old pharmaceutical technology startup headquartered in North Billerica, Mass., suggests the importance of not expecting instant results.
“Pharmaceutical companies would like data about where more than several billion samples of medicine go each year,” he notes. “Industry press is essential for increasing awareness of a problem and technology’s solution for health-related organizations. We attended a trade show in December by the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists, where we focused on introducing Drugsampling.com, a product to track and help control the distribution of drug samples in hospitals.”
Before the event, the company called and sent a press release to 20 trade journal editors and mailed 2,159 letters to hospital pharmacy directors. No editors visited the booth, but hospital pharmacy directors did. Within a week, the company logged 50 telephone calls from potential clients and 1,000 hits on its Web site.
If you’re a salesperson and you’re not allowed to sell, what are you to do? Seidman calls trade shows “a happy hunting ground” for most salespeople, many of whom he’s watched wilt, if not expire.
“Too many stand behind barriers in poorly designed booths,” he observes. “Get nose-to- nose with your prospects by removing all barriers. Get up from the chair and out from behind that table or display case ” Strike up a conversation.
Seidman also cautions against violating the basic premise of selling , never to give a person an opportunity to say “no” , by asking if you can help the person.
In other words, relax.
With Universal Press Syndicate, Culp sponsors the annual WorkWise Award. Look for more of her helpful information at www.work- wise.com.
& #352;2000 Universal Press Syndicate