According to many
attendees a visit to the exhibit halls offers the unique opportunity
to see the offerings of hundreds of vendors in one place, to discuss
products and equipment in a hands-on manner and to speak with the
managers and technicians that stand behind products in addition to
company sales representatives. Where else but in an exhibit hall can
a person see products that are much too large to be brought to an
individual business and then have the luxury of comparing several
vendors? Where else will the attendee be able to see and touch the
latest products and supplies and have knowledgeable folks at hand to
immediately answer questions?
trade shows is essential for those who want to keep abreast of the
fast-paced changes that continually shape the scope of their
business. Every year there is a 20% change in how suppliers do
business, above and beyond changes in product lines. These changes
range from new technology to new materials to changes in sales
representatives. People who attend trade shows have the opportunity
to become acquainted with these changes first-hand plus the added
bonus of being able to network with their colleagues about the
various vendors and offerings presented.
Your Business Plan
Rather than view
the exhibits as an added benefit of attending a seminar or
conference, consider trade shows as unique and separate learning
opportunities in their own right. Plan and budget for trade show
attendance as part of your annual business plan and consider the
benefits of having one or more of your staff attend. They can provide
a fresh perspective on products they will use and, with some pre-show
preparation, can help you cover more of the sales floor in a shorter
period of time.
To make wise
consumer decisions about which exhibits to visit, keep an ongoing
list of information needs throughout the year. This list can include
new products that you have read about and would like to see, needs
that arise that are not being met by existing products and supplies
and problems that need resolution. After identifying your needs, you
can network with colleagues to determine the most appropriate
exhibits to attend.
trade shows to sell; you attend to gather information and make
purchases. And, while wise vendors recognize that information-sharing
is a necessary step in the sales process, it is the wise consumer's
responsibility to ensure that adequate information is obtained from a
variety of sources before the final purchase decision is made.
preparation is the best way to ensure that your agenda as a buyer is
first and foremost served. When a person enters an exhibit hall
unprepared, it is easy to be enticed by the give-aways, the contests
and any hard-sell tactics. With a planned course of action tailored
to meet your needs, it is much easier to maintain your sales
resistance and side-step sellers' agendas until your needs have been met.
To make wise
purchases, buyers must look beyond promotions which focus on one
aspect, such as price or innovation. The lowest price is not the best
price if in getting the lowest price something important has to be
sacrificed. Ask for references and ask that those references include
customers who have needed service. It is surprising just how much
information will surface with the vendor at trade shows. It's the
best place to obtain candid opinions.
Plan Your Day
spend more time preparing for a trip to the shopping mall than a
visit to an exhibit hall. Before entering an exposition, review your
ongoing list of information needs and identify four or five "must
see" exhibitors. An important second step is to structure
several questions for each exhibitor in advance. Thoughtful questions
indicate a serious customer and may afford you more time and
attention from a sales representative in addition to prompting the
information you need.
Some attendees use
highlighters to color code booths on a floor map into "must
see" and "would like to see" categories. If you're
attending a trade show with a colleague or staff member, compare
agendas in advance and look for opportunities to share information
from "would like to see" exhibits. Take advantage of the
"golden hours," the first hour the show is open and the
last hour before it closes. Exhibit halls are less crowded during the
golden hours, and opportunities are greater for handling products and
questioning sales representatives.
The busy nature of
a trade show often makes it difficult for sales representatives to
spend long periods of time with individual clients. To make the most
of the time you and the representative have on the trade show floor,
phone the vendor in advance to express your interest in a given
product and to identify your information needs. The sales
representative may be able to schedule an appointment with you, or at
the very least, prepare the information you need in advance so that
it is ready for you when you arrive. Do your part by arriving on time
and keeping the discussion focused on the business at hand.
Equal in value to
the information generated by those who exhibit is the information
generated by those who attend. Your colleagues are fellow consumers
and their opinions and experiences can help you make decisions about
the shows you'll attend and the products and vendors you'll consider.
Upon entering the
exhibit hall, look for colleagues that are exiting the show. The cost
of having a cup of coffee with a colleague who has seen the show can
be a good investment in the time you'll spend on the floor. Discuss
your information needs with your colleague, request a review of the
show's highlights from his or her perspective and ask, "What
exhibit should I be sure not to miss?"
Trade shows also
provide an opportunity for you to tell vendors and the show's
organizers about your needs, opinions and experiences. Smart buyers
know as much about what they do not buy as they do about what they
buy. Your input can result in products and services that better meet
the needs of your profession.
home, be sure to share the information you've gathered with your
staff and peers. The interest and enthusiasm you communicate to your
colleagues helps ensure that you'll be a grape on the vine when new
products are discussed or new shows are planned.
Regardless of the
amount of time you plan to spend at the exhibit hall, enter the show
with your priorities in order and your goals streamlined. You may
want to note key questions or areas of interest directly on your
program or floor map for easy reference.
avoiding the urge to pick up samples and literature from every booth,
until your "must see" business has been completed. Use
business cards for drawing entries and to leave messages for sales
representatives. Wear a watch and budget your time as you work your
way through your agenda and the exhibit hall. Be determined to
achieve your mission but not inflexible. If sales representatives are
busy at a "must see" booth, move on and return later. If
impromptu discussions or demonstrations arise on products important
to you, take time to listen and participate.
If you have more
than one opportunity to "walk" the show, make notes after
your first visit. List the booths you still need to see and any you
want to revisit. Revise your questions and concerns in light of the
new information you've gained.
A chief complaint
made by business people who attend trade shows is that sales
representatives often sell to individuals rather than to groups. At a
busy exhibit, this can mean that an attendee must wait,
unacknowledged, while the sales representative completes a one-on-one
presentation for another attendee.
are taught from an early age not to interrupt, there are ways to
assertively and tactfully join a conversation. Stand close to the
parties and interject a brief statement, such as, "I'm really
interested in [product] - do you mind if I listen in?" Both
attendees benefit from hearing the questions, comments and concerns
of the other, and the sales representative benefits from addressing
two possible buyers in one presentation.
Being an assertive
consumer also means respecting the value of your time and guarding
how it is spent on the sales floor. By identifying priority exhibits,
you are better able to avoid sales representatives who pitch leading
questions, such as, "thousands of dollars each year, would you
be interested?" Whenever cornered by a sales representative
forcing his or her agenda, state your interest and move on if he or
she fails to respond.
"today only" deals can be enticing, but be sure you have
the information you need about the product, competitive offerings and
the vendor before committing. If you must turn down an offer due to
lack of information, you may be able to revive it later by stating,
"Yesterday, you offered me [product] at [price]. Can you still
honor that today?"
The design of an
exposition offers some unique benefits to attendees. These benefits
include the ability to comparison shop among dozens of competing
vendors; the opportunity to handle new products and supplies; and the
chance to see and test products too large or cumbersome to be brought
to the office. These benefits also include the opportunity to see new
innovations before they hit the mass market. Trade shows really are a
showcase for brand new products, technologies and new trends in a
fashion. There are many new products that are held back for launches
at trade shows.
Take advantage of
the opportunity to speak with technicians and designers who are
directly involved in the formation of new product lines.
Other trade show
extras include special events, promotions and incentives that
encourage attendance and sales on the floor. Free training seminars,
workshops and seminars can be great opportunities to network with
colleagues who have similar interests and vendor-sponsored parties
provide an enjoyable social outlet free of selling pressures.
Attendees have the opportunity to enter a multitude of drawings for a
variety of interesting prizes; however, attendees may want to be
selective in their participation since the information provided on
the entry usually becomes part of a list for future mailings or
Make The Rounds
trips around the exhibit hall is a time management technique to
ensure your priorities are met up front. A buyer should walk a show
four times - - if not physically, then mentally.
With the first
rounds devoted to your "must see" and "would like to
see" exhibits, the third round can be a leisurely tour exposing
you to new products and services and affording you time to speak with
vendors and colleagues.
To maximize the
benefits of trade show attendance, take immediate action upon
returning to your office. If you've made any deals on the sales
floor, you may need to follow up with a sales representative to
provide specific information on quantities and to reconfirm delivery
instructions. You'll also want to record the names of any new
contacts you've made, those of both exhibitors and peers.
Take a few moments
to go through your collection of literature, sorting information into
four piles: one on which you'll take action, one that will be saved
for future reference/reading, another that will be passed along to
other colleagues and the last for materials to be discarded. Put any
samples to use immediately.
incorporating trade show attendance into your business plan. With the
new knowledge you've acquired, begin your "information
needs" shows and contacts with sales representatives.