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For the self-employed, trade shows and conventions are a golden opportunity to gain exposure for your service or product offering. Unfortunately many hopeful entrepreneurs take on their first show with no idea of how to get the most new business for their trade-show dollars.
Trade show participation is typically one of the more costly marketing strategies, so it pays to have a solid plan for success before you set up your trade show booth.
Before you get anywhere near the trade show, know your sales process inside and out. You will only have a few short moments with each prospect, so you have to make that valuable time count. Here are some sales skills to count on:
Lead generation for future sales is the number one goal of trade show participation. Most people do not intend to make purchasing decisions at trade shows. While many attend in order to gather product information, the majority of trade show attendees come for entertainment purposes it’s just a nice way to get out of the office on a Friday afternoon. Simply put, without some way to gather information on prospect leads, your time and money are wasted.
There are several means for gathering prospect leads:
Be sure that your information-gathering tool collects all the information you need. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that your contact card should have had a line for cell phone
When the show is over you will need to distinguish hot and warm leads from the mildly interested. This will help you set your follow up priority list and generate new business quickly.
Once your booth is finally set up and the crowd begins to arrive, you must be ready to take the lead in starting up conversations with visitors. If you sit back and wait for people to ask about your product, you will be ignored.
It doesn’t take an extrovert to be a great conversation starter if you follow these few tips:
Once the show is over, don’t sit too long on those precious leads. Have a follow up strategy in place to contact them before they forget all about you and your offering. For best results, contact all your leads within the first two weeks of the show.
Your follow up strategy will most likely involve a phone call to the prospect. This is where so many good intentions fail. Let’s face it, making phone calls feels an awful lot like telemarketing, and you didn’t start up your business so that you could be a telemarketer. Right?
Making the first call is the most difficult, but if you remember a few important distinctions, it will be a lot easier to get through your list of calls:
Contacting leads after the show requires your greatest selling skills. Much depends on how well you established rapport during your initial visit at the trade show. Did you leave them with something to remember you by or were you just another face in a long row of displays? In your post-show follow up you’ll need to take them from “Yeah, that looks like a cool product” to “When can you deliver that, and do you take Visa or Master Card?”
As with all small business owners, your marketing budget has its limits; you want to make sure that your trade shows are paying off by generating new business. For the highest return on your trade show investment, prepare a solid strategy before you go. You’ll see a boost in sales that will have impact the whole year through.
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