Trade fairs are one of the best ways to make new contacts and sell your products and services.
The biggest advantage at trade shows is that you get to meet people in person.
If you remember, the big advantage of cold calling is that you get instant feedback, which you can respond to in real time. In other words, you can steer the conversation. In addition, you build a personal relationship with the person you are talking to.
This is even more true in a face-to-face meeting than in a phone call!
By getting to know someone in person, you build a much closer personal relationship than would ever be possible on the phone.
Not only can you use your voice to prove that you’re an enthusiastic, lightning-smart expert, but you can also impress them with your appearance, wardrobe style, posture, and body language.
The Perfect Preparation
As with cold calling by phone, preparation is the key to successful prospecting at trade shows.
- Determine your goals: What are your intentions of attending the trade fair? How many decision makers do you want to talk to onsite? How many conversations do you want to have on site? Which dream customers do you want to acquire?
- Download exhibitor list: Download the exhibitor list in advance. Every trade fair provides this online and usually also as a PDF version. There you can see all exhibitors in a table and typically on a hall plan with which you can also plan the most efficient route.
- Research and mark all relevant companies: Before you visit the show, research all unknown companies and mark those you want to visit (two different colored highlighters for new customers you intend to acquire and existing customers you aim to visit).
- Add relevant companies to your CRM: If you discover interesting new companies that you want to acquire, add them to your CRM tool.
- Research the right decision maker: Prepare yourself for the approach at the trade fair by researching the suitable contact persons and decision-makers in advance. Note them in your CRM as well as on your printed list.
- Prioritize and print the list: Prioritize the list from important (your dream clients) to unimportant (companies you won’t be sad about not winning) then print it out.
- Prepare conversation starters: Before you visit the trade fair, prepare snappy conversation starters, sentences with which you can immediately get into the conversation. Also prepare a list of questions with which you can qualify your interview partners and the companies.
- Prepare a product demonstration: Prepare a presentation that loads quickly and reliably on your laptop or iPad, even without the Internet. If you can demonstrate your software or hardware product on-site, do it! This will create a real “wow effect”.
Dress for Success
First impressions count and in person you only have a few milliseconds to make a good first impression! Before you can even say a word, people have already categorized you based on your body language, appearance and how you dress. Once you’re pigeonholed, it’s hard or impossible to get out of it.
The best thing to do before you go to a trade fair is to get yourself a good, tailored business suit, schedule an appointment with a hairdresser, shave your beard or at least trim it, and put on a good scent.
Not only will you be perceived more professionally by others, but you will also feel more confident, which in turn will have a positive effect on your body language and thus on how other people perceive you.
On the day of the show, I suggest you do a warm-up program, similar to sports. Before you enter a tournament, and before you start the real training, you warm up to avoid injuries.
Especially if you are still nervous or inexperienced in personal prospecting, a little warm-up program will help you avoid mistakes and embarrassment when meeting your most important dream clients.
- Choose unimportant companies or booths, which are either not on your prepared acquisition list or which are unimportant, i.e., at the very bottom of your list.
- Use these unimportant companies to warm up. Practice your conversation starters and get rid of your initial nervousness until you feel confident to approach your indispensable dream clients.
Once you are warm, confidently tackle your dream clients.
At the Booth
When you go to a company’s booth, you should already have the name of the contact person and decision maker in mind.
Ideally, you have already researched these in advance and noted them down on your acquisition list.
As soon as you reach the booth, immediately speak to the first employee – without staring at the booth for five minutes – and confidently ask for this contact person.
If you don’t have a contact person in mind, ask the first employee for the best person to talk to about your issue.
Remember all the techniques from cold calling because they apply just as much now as they do during a phone call.
Be enthusiastic, professional and get to the point in the first few seconds!
Your prepared opening lines will get you into the conversation quickly.
In case the decision maker is not on-site, write down his name and get his contact details!
Demonstration On Site
If you have something presentable, like a software or hardware demo or a brief presentation, have it ready to go on your laptop or iPad, so you can get going with an impromptu demonstration in seconds.
Try to create a wow effect.
When meeting in person – with a professional demeanor and a successful demonstration – your chances of closing a sale are higher than the best cold call could ever achieve
Documentation of the Conversations
If you approach a trade show visit the right way, you won’t have time for a big lunch break. You’ll ideally be in continuous conversations from 09:00 in the morning until 06:00 in the evening.
From my experience, I can tell you that due to this number of conversations you will definitely forget many important points discussed.
Therefore, I suggest that you record a voice memo after each meeting, in which you record all the key points of the conversation, information about the company and about the person.
Typing this information on your laptop or cell phone takes too long at the trade show.
Just use your phone’s voice recorder for that, or dictate your notes directly into the app from your CRM.
I use Telegram to send a voice message to myself after every conversation, it works the fastest and smoothest for me. I then later transfer the information into my CRM system.
For example: “I was just at Mr. Mayer’s, company XYZ, at 09.15. We talked about this and that. Mr. Mayer is nice, lives with his family in the city of Magdeburg. Likes to play soccer. The next steps are: …”
You can also quickly take a photo of the booth you visited for better classification and remembrance.
Follow-up by Phone
After the fair is before the fair. You will have collected hundreds of business cards at the show, you will have to revise all the conversations and the voice recordings, enter them into the CRM, work out quotations, plan follow-ups.
Following up on all the conversations is hugely important because otherwise you will leave a lot of potential to the left.
A few days after the trade show, call all contacts with whom you had fruitful conversations and coordinate and discuss what the next concrete steps can be.
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