3 Tips for Selling at Conferences and Tradeshows

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Earlier this week, as part of GMIC 2013, the G-Startup Competition named Badger a Top-20 finalist. We were ecstatic to receive the award mostly because of the opportunity to learn about and from other startups, particularly in our space. The conference lasted two days, featuring fun competitions and great take-aways. We began to understand the challenge it is to sell at conferences. Although it is expected that these events will attract like-minded individuals, most attendees go in with a pitch rather than a need making it exceedingly difficult to initiate discussions about your product or service when all anyone wants to talk about is their own. Without preparation and the right approach, these events can put a big hole in your wallet without any return. Try the following tips the next time you encounter a conference or tradeshow invite.

Tip # 1: Do your homework

Conferences and other events can be expensive; if you do find one that works for your needs, be sure you have done the homework to take full advantage of this channel. Some of the necessary steps of your research are:

  • Who will be there: For example, vendors, speakers, visitors/buyers, and media. You don’t need to know all of them; but make sure you know which vendors are your competitors, potential partners, and even potential customers. Nowadays, people attend conferences and tradeshows for reasons that automatically rule them out as customers such as searching for job  and business opportunities (e.g. Advertising Agencies). Knowing who will be there and for what reasons is an integral cog of your overall strategy for the event.
  • Know the venue and your selling space: Knowing the venue and your selling space will save you time and avoid unnecessary costs like buying an extra power extension cord because the power outlet is far way from your booth.
  • Engage people early in the process: Once you know the venue information and your booth number, let people in your network know. Promote the event early via social media channels like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. If possible, send free passes to your prospects and friendly media outlets who are in the area.

Tip # 2: Treat people the way they want to be treated

The Platinum Rule is applicable in this context as well. Most of the time, salespeople feel the urge to be chatty at conferences and tradeshows to maximize their reach, but it is more important to recognize your customers’ shopping style and adjust your selling style accordingly. Some prefer to browse in silence while others enjoy being chatted up. You can gauge their engagement level by observing their facial expression and body language. For example, if the prospects avoid eye contact by gazing past you or glancing around the room, it is best to give them some space. In another case, if you are presenting two options to a prospect and their gaze lingers longer on one than on the other, focus more on that option. In the Leadership colum, Forbes magazine pointed out some example of engagement and disengagement body language below:

imageTip # 3: Being memorable

Understanding your prospects’ engagement level is not enough to make a sale. Most buyers don’t come to conferences and tradeshows ready to sign on the line which is dotted; they want to shop around with a couple different vendors to compare their offerings, research in depth the few that struck their interest once they are back at the office, ultimately making the decision some time after the event. The point of the conference is to be memorable; your follow up will be received much more warmly increasing the chance of a close.

  • Talk less and listen more: People respond better to people who listen. Don’t blow your chance with the prospect talking at length about your own credentials and why you are better than the others. Direct the conversation to your prospects’ problems, discussing, in particular, how your solution addresses their needs.
  • Be authentic, avoid generic and cliche’ statements: We all know what they are. Avoid them. Nothing loses attention faster than an audience forced to listen to statements we’ve all heard a thousand times, mostly in tv commercials.
  • Be engaging: People tend to mimic their peers’ behaviors and energy level. So be engaging and excited during the conversation.

Selling at conferences and tradeshows is a daunting task, but a great salesperson will take full advantage of this channel by 1) Doing their homework, 2) Treating people the way they want to be treated, and 3) Being memorable.

Have other tips and best practices that work for you? Share with us on Twitter or Facebook.

Steve Benson

Co-founder | Badger Maps

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