If you are the person who signs the checks (the President, CEO or business owner) for all of the expenses that go along with exhibiting at trade shows, one of the things that can drive you absolutely nuts is trying to figure out how to get the maximum return on your marketing investment while also ensuring enough new business closes to justify the expense.
As many of our clients get ready for "trade show season" and prepare to send their sales teams off to exotic convention centers across the country, here are the top five (5) trade show mistakes we see VPs of Sales make that can absolutely destroy your return on investment.
- Planning as an after thought. Running a sales organization can be a tough, demanding job. There are so many moving parts to manage and often meeting with the VP of Marketing to provide input and feedback into trade show planning gets put on the back burner. Huge mistake. Your marketing team always needs a longer lead time than your vice president of sales believes. If your sales team is busy talking about problems solved by product X and your marketing team produces materials and give aways for product Y, you've got a big problem. Make sure your VP of Sales and your VP of Marketing schedule some time to plan well ahead of the show(s) you plan to attend.
- Customers or Prospects? The great thing about exhibiting at the right trade shows for your industry is that everyone is there, including your current customers and prospective customers. To maximize your sales teams time make sure there is a clear strategy about how to handle both groups and where sales people should spend their time. Our advice is typically to talk with customers before the show to find out if they will attend and perhaps schedule some time with them before or after the show or during off hours. It could be a dinner or a cup of coffee or just a quick hello. Let them know that you value and appreciate their business and then set the expectation that your goal is to focus on new business.
- Focus on Getting Leads. Many sales people (and sales leaders) attend these events expecting to get a lot of leads and connections - and they are often disappointed when they fall short. In our experience the sales people who leave the show with the most leads and connections are the ones who focus their time, energy and efforts and making connections for others first. What would happen if before the show everyone on your sales team invested some time thinking about who they could connect, who they could introduce, and what they could do to help your clients and prospective clients? Get your team focused on giving first, and they will receive plenty of leads and opportunities.
- Missed Opportunities. If all you are going to do is set up your booth and stand there for 8 hours, don't even go. Get involved with the show. Offer to moderate a panel. Use the event to learn more about your competition and your market in general. Leverage the opportunity to have hundreds of short conversations as a training opportunity for your newer sales people. Provide on the spot coaching and feedback as you observe them interact with tradeshow attendees.
- Poor Execution. The details matter. From pre-show planning (meeting with marketing to get the message right, identifying clients who will attend, calling prospects who will attend to book a cup of coffee during the show, etc.) to post-show follow up, successful sales organizations nail the details and execute with ruthless efficiency. Compare that to what you typically see as you walk a trade show floor (bored sales people nursing a hang over) and ask yourself which side of that coin you want your sales team to be on?
Investing in the right trade show can provide oppotunities to connect with current clients, fill your sales pipeline with propsective clients, increase your company's visability, and learn more about your competition and your market in general. Make sure your VP of Sales avoids these mistakes and you'll be on your way to a strong return on your tradeshow investment. If you need some help we have our free Trade Show Checklist.