OMP#54: Making A Stand!

“The only two things that matter for having a successful business model are buying right and sell better. All other processes are overhead.” Michael Dell

I love a market stall.  From a young age I was fascinated by laying out a stand, and remember trying to think up all sorts of things to sell to my neighbours.  It was a thrill, it was pure selling, and best of all it was great pocket money.


One time at the age of about 9 I set up a stand out the front of my house selling some old books or something, and got talking to a woman about desks.  Sensing she might be interested in buying the desk in my bedroom, I took her into the house and showed it to her, hoping that she would make me an offer.


She didn’t, but Mum did make me an offer:  not at all impressed with me attempting to sell my bedroom furniture, she offered to shut my market down forever.


That fascination with market stalls continues today.  The corporate version of a market stall is of course the trade show.  And right now, we are in the thick of trade show season.  Trade shows, exhibitions and conferences are seriously big business.  Companies pay £2000 – £50,000 to have a presence at any one of the hundreds of trade shows held throughout the UK every year.


Yet despite desperately wanting a big return for their considerable spend, we have found upwards of 80% of exhibitors really don’t seem to spend the time or effort on developing and maintaining a strategic sales approach.  In fact when I wander around tradeshows there is little evidence of any sort of selling process, organisation or skill being applied to this most challenging of environments.  So companies seem to spend all of their time and money on getting to the church, but forget to walk down the aisle.


The problem (like all sales problems) begins at natural human behaviour.  When you wander around a trade show you quickly realise that there is a ‘sameness’ of approach with most sales teams.   Questions such as ‘Can I help you?’, poor body language and lack of insight into human behaviour results in trade show delegates wandering straight past the stand because they are desensitised to the same tired old techniques.  The selling efforts of exhibitors, and indeed the whole stand, may blend in to everything else like wallpaper.  This is a large cost to their business.


So, what can organisations do to maximise their spend at trade shows?  Here are 5 strategic selling starting points – further explained in both our new 4 or 8 hour training workshop and new FREE e-book:


1.       Get your sales strategy right:  A sales strategy isn’t “get appointments in diaries” – that’s a measurable result of a successful strategy.  Nor is it “hard sell at all costs” like this video of Michael from a couple of years ago on The Apprentice.  A strategy is more like the one we give your team in our training, such as:  “Attract, Engage, Challenge and Close”.

2.       Understand your team’s talents:  Some people will be better at making eye contact, others engaging, others at recording information.  Everyone’s talents must be brought to the table, and used effectively.

3.       Know your role (and stick to it!):  Intra-team conflict is usually rife at events, mainly because of role crossover.  People need to know their role and must be proud to stick at it, however boring or procedural, for the greater good of the team.

4.       Tell the world about your upcoming trade presence:  Recently a client of ours I know put out a “See us at stand 45” mention in 6 months’ worth of communications (emails, invoices, newsletters) to clients.  When clients came to the stand (and over 100 did), they were rewarded with a goody-bag featuring over £50 of great stuff in it.  Written on the bag?  “Proud client of XXX”.  The trade show was a success and they received several large orders as a result of their strategic bonhomie.

5.       Take engagement seriously:  Human behavioural psychology dictates that “sameness” gets ignored – same approach, same stand etc.  The upside of this is that a fresh approach will be rewarded.  Usually with our clients we will spend a lot of time on the following question:  “What can you do or say in the first few seconds to establish that crucial engagement?”

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