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Effort counts in exhibiting.

After careful planning, booth activities create a lasting impression with visitors for developing strong business relationships.

The first article in this four-part series focused on preshow planning. After spending months developing a blueprint for success, marketing and promotion pieces should come together with your goals for an effective trade show. Executed properly, your activities at the show should lay the groundwork for future sales efforts and post-show activities.

Product Collaboration

One additional method of increasing your presence at a trade show is to have other companies use your product in their booths. For example, companies selling molding machines could use another company's flask in their display. A furnace manufacturer may use a certain crucible in its display.

Before the show, identify companies that sell equipment compatible to your exhibit and offer to supply them with a free product or pay them to use it in their display. In return, you should ask them to exhibit signs in their booth. If attendees repeatedly see your product in other companies' exhibits, you'll create a dynamic and lasting impression.

Inside Your Exhibit

An important component of the exhibit is the work space where sales staff interact with potential buyers. A general rule of thumb when planning for space is to allow 50 sq ft per salesperson.

Companies planning special attractions also should make additional considerations.

To help increase qualified leads generated from a show, presentations or demonstrations can be conducted. However, some thought should be given on how to conduct presentations. Presentations conducted near the aisle not only disrupt traffic at the show, but make it easy for attendees to walk away after the presentation.

By holding presentations inside your exhibit, your sales staff can identify interested attendees quickly and easily. Sufficient room should be set aside so attendees can comfortably watch the presentation. If they aren't comfortable, they'll keep walking. Arrangements should also be made for audiovisual equipment, if needed.

Literature and other show supplies should be hidden from view to deter theft and present a clean, professional image. In addition, the sales staff should hand out literature to only those genuinely interested in your products.

Leaving literature on a table encourages attendees to take brochures and stuff them in their bags without talking to a salesperson. And when the attendee is packing his/her suitcase for home, those bags of literature often end up in the wastebasket.

Experience Pays

Trade shows can be the first sales experience for engineers and other staff who are not accustomed to selling or taking orders. For this reason, it is important to review the company's objectives for attending the show before sending employees to a trade show. In some instances, you may want to provide a script for staff working the show.

Studies show that:

* when visitors leave an exhibit, 80% of their experience is influenced by the behavior of staffs;

* when an exhibit is rated "poor" by visitors, 98% of the dissatisfaction can be attributed to staff's behavior.

One common component of all successful trade show exhibitors is a properly trained exhibit staff. Booth personnel should be trained to listen to prospects and gather data that will be useful for lead tracking. Because trade shows are often the first contact customers have with a company, exhibitors should make sure the first meeting is pleasant and informative.

Good exhibitors stand in front of the booth and invite quality potential customers into the exhibit where they can obtain more information about the potential customer and their company's needs. Often, they can obtain some kind of commitment from exhibit visitors.

Discourage your sales staff from standing in a group at your exhibit because it intimidates attendees. Rather, have your sales people positioned throughout the exhibit so they can spend the majority of their time with prospects, not with other employees from your company.

Because trade shows are hard work, encourage your staff to take frequent breaks from the exhibit. This gives them a chance to get away and recharge their energy level--which is definitely a "must" at trade shows. In addition, discourage your sales staff from smoking, eating or trying to catch up on paperwork in the booth.

When using preshow mailings, it is important to remind employees that the mailings are not meant to sell the product; but rather, to provide a reason to visit your company's booth. Companies can significantly increase their success at trade shows by drawing potential customers to the booth and providing an opportunity to let their sales staff do their job--sell the company's products.

Qualifying Leads

Since your exhibitor staff people have a limited amount of time, they should concentrate on spending it with serious prospects. But remind your sales staff that trade shows can open the door for future sales activities and need not be limited to just closing sales.

During an initial meeting with a prospect, your sales staff should learn about the prospect's responsibilities; his/her potential purchasing power; whether that person can make a purchasing decision, and if not, who in the organization does; the firm's particular needs; its current product usage, and level of satisfaction. After you've had an opportunity to learn about the prospect, quickly explain the benefits of your products or services.

To help conserve literature, companies shouldn't leave stacks of it on tables. Not only will it all disappear, but you won't have any gauge of who is taking it. A more effective method of distributing literature is to have interested prospects leave business cards with someone from your sales staff. Then after the show, send them the appropriate literature. This gives your sales staff an immediate reason to follow up with the prospect.

Preparing for Later

Lead cards, which form the basis for future customer contact, are one of the easiest and simplest methods to obtain detailed information about prospects contacted at a trade show. While the majority of companies exhibiting at a trade show use lead cards, many don't use them to their full potential.

Lead cards serve as a valuable link in the sales process because the person who initiated contact with the customer at a trade show is typically not the same one who initiates follow-up activity.

A thorough lead card not only collects information about a customer and his product needs, but identifies the specific action that should occur after the show. An additional benefit of lead cards is that they help prioritize postshow activities in a standard format.

Many shows use credit card-type badges with imprinters. This is an effective method because exhibitors can ask attendees for their badge, run it through their imprinter and have the necessary information to add to their database.

At the AFS CASTEXPO '93 show April 24-27 in Chicago, exhibitors will be using the innovative CompuCard|TM~ system. Each inquiry card holds the attendant's name, title, address, phone number and demographic information in a symbol that resembles a bar code.

As exhibitors speak to prospects, they run the card through an automated lead entry system, which decodes the information in the symbol and feeds it to a printer.

While exhibitors are talking to the prospect, they can also press any of the nine buttons found on the top of the reader, qualifying the prospect's needs immediately. Does he/she want a brochure? Or are they ready to order? The qualifying code that is activated is printed directly on the form. An option is also available to transfer data directly to a diskette so exhibitors can walk away with their own database of qualified prospects.

Regardless of what method is used to collect information about potential customers, lead cards should include the following information:

* name and title of contact; * company name, address and phone number; * product customer expressed an interest in; * purchasing time frame; * purchasing power; * budget; * needs.

Lead cards should also include space to write additional information that could facilitate a sale, such as action to take after the show, who spoke with the lead and a systematic approach for prioritizing leads. Anything a salesperson can use to open up communication with a potential client is helpful.

Exhibit staff should prioritize lead cards at the show so they can focus follow-up activities on prospects who expressed the greatest interest in your product or services. Some companies number or letter priorities in descending order. There are many different prospect identification numbering systems and it is best to find one that best suits your needs.

One way to classify contacts made at a trade show is by using a three-tiered priority system. "A" prospects are those who have an immediate need for services; "B" prospects are companies that might have a need for services in the future; and "C" prospects are those companies that should be tracked, but are not hot enough to actively pursue.

Evaluate Your Competition

Trade shows also provide an excellent opportunity for companies to evaluate their competition. While your staff is on breaks, they can learn about new products, obtain literature and learn about the general business climate. Sometimes you can even tell the type of year your competition is having by whether their booth is smaller or larger than in past years, the number of people working their booth and the quality of their literature.

Another benefit of trade shows is obtaining ideas to improve your booth. Taking notes of what works for other exhibitors can give you a plan of attack for future exhibits.

However, you should also be aware that your competition is most likely evaluating your firm at the same time. Trade shows can also be used to conduct market research about your customers' buying habits.

The detail and thoroughness of your show activities will help make it easier for your sales staff to provide follow-up activity and generate sales.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Trade Show Series, part 2
Author:Bonk, Leslie L.
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Dec 1, 1992
Previous Article:Understanding ISO 9000: user benefits and drawbacks.
Next Article:AFS reveals new research plan.

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