Trade Show No Shows

By Jeff Bowman

I had the pleasure of attending a trade show for the promotional products market last week. First off, I have to tell you that I love going to trade shows and exhibitions especially for new products.  It comes from my days as a youngster attending TV and appliance trade shows with my dad. It was a world of wonder to a 12-year-old seeing the glitz and the hype and the barkers, not to mention leaving with a bag load of freebie stuff. I recognized that networking (chatting up the people in the booth) resulted in building relationships, and I would often see the same people for several years in a row. “Hey you’ve grown” was a phrase I heard a lot.

Last week, I was a little disappointed, not with the show, it was very well laid out and promoted, but with the sales skills of some of the representatives manning the booths. I should also mention the total lack of people at some of the display booths. How can you justify the expense of participating in a show if you have no live point of contact? Enough about the no-shows the majority of business owners are far too smart to let that happen.

As I moved down the aisles I was tempted by an array of colours, freebies, contests and noise. The noise  is like music to my ears as a sales trainer.  The sound of the booth hosts inviting you in, recognizing the company name, offering up a handshake, asking the right questions.  Questions like “do you use promotional incentives”, “have you seen the latest”.  I was most impressed by a guy who read the name of my supplier on my badge and said “Oh you use Richard”, I said “do you know him?” and he replied “no, but I need to meet him if he deals with you”.  Corny, maybe.  A little hokey, yes. A sound foundation for relationship selling? Definitely!

The booths that I walked past, and I do mean literally walked past, contained no enticement, maybe a small dish of hard candies on a barren table with a stack of business cards.  There was no noise, no chatter.  Often the two booth hosts were too engaged in their own conversation to notice my interest or total lack thereof. One guy was on a cell phone with his back to the guests, another lady was adjusting her make-up, and yet another man was eating in the booth, and leaving crumbs on the nice clean carpet. I have been to enough shows in my life to make the split-second decision, if I don’t see or hear anything that catches my interest or at least one of my senses, I walk on by.

Time, effort, cost vs result measurements will tell you if the trade show was a success.  You can blame poor results on a great number of things, but your company’s lack of effort in sales lead generation should never be one of them!

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Managing, Sales, Training and Development

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