BIZTIPS - July 6, 2008

by Art Hill

Biz Tips: Be at Your Very Best for Trade Show Booth Duty

During the past several weeks, we’ve looked at trade shows as a component of your marketing strategy. We’ve covered trade show basics – how to evaluate them, get the most traffic for your money, survive set-up, and make the most of time away from the booth.

This time we’ll look at “booth behavior.” But first it’s important to understand what booth time is worth. Let’s say you’re exhibiting at a medium-size regional show. You paid $1,350 for a 5x10 space and another $1,000 for booth fixtures (nothing fancy). There are two of you staffing the booth. Including time, travel, lodging and other related expenses, you’re close to $5,000 for the whole package. Let’s say your sales target for the show is $15,000 and the show is open for three and a half days. The total cost plus potential revenue is $20,000 for 28 show hours. That’s $714.29 per show hour! 

How do you behave when you’re working at over $700 per hour? In a word “professionally.” This means looking and acting like an expert, avoiding anything that limits customer contact, maximizing the effectiveness of booth layout, and knowing and practicing effective sales techniques.

Make use of booth layout by making it easy for visitors to “shop,” and give them time alone with your displays. Don’t block or smother them. Welcome and inform them. Read their reactions, ask about their interests, and respond with empathy and valuable information. If there are two of you, one can be the “greeter and informer” welcoming visitors to the booth. The other can be the “reaction reader and closer.” Work as a team, show that you enjoy working together, and that your visitor is the most important person at the show at that moment.

What behavior blocks these positive activities? You’ll see it at other booths – dress that doesn’t match the product or market, body language that ignores or blocks visitors, lack of product knowledge, disappearing booth staff, eating in the booth and talking on cell phones. It’s a long list. Get advice from sales professionals, add it to your own experience, and act like your time with your customers is worth $700 per hour because it is.

Here are several tips from retail consultant Bruce Baker. Greet visitors promptly and with meaningful dialog, then back off. While you’re giving them a chance to see and touch your products, stay “busy” doing almost anything related to booth business – rearranging a display, checking a booth fixture. Demonstrate that your time is valuable, and that when they’re ready for your attention, you’re prepared to give them 110%. Answer even the dumbest questions pleasantly and seriously. Every answer can move you closer to a sale.

Baker advises that we give them reasons to buy now. Use catch phrases like “What people like most about this is…” or “Here, just feel the balance of this…” or “These aren’t for everyone…” or “We can’t keep these in stock…” Avoid insincere or trivial “sales speak” like “Are you enjoying the show…” or “How are you doing today…” and go straight to useful information like “Hi, I’m ___ and we design every one of these right here in the Pacific Northwest.”

These are great tips for trade shows or almost any other sales situation. But a trade show can deliver a “triple crown” of benefits that few other sales activities can. First, it’s an opportunity to learn about your industry, market, and customers. Second, you get to make serious sales. Third, you develop customer relationships that keep generating sales. That’s a return on investment that can keep on giving years after the show.

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