Top Ten Tips for Successful Trade Show Lead Generation

Posted 29/05/2011
Top Ten Tips for Successful Trade Show Lead Generation

Tip 1: Understand what the Tradeshow Environment is all about

The tradeshow should be taken very seriously as a business opportunity. It is an opportunity to meet more prospective buyers face to face in one day than your sales people will potentially meet during a whole year! It is about face to face interaction. However the tradeshow environment is not a typical sales environment. Seldom will you have an opportunity to close a multi-million deal there and then! What the environment does offer you however is the opportunity to meet new prospects potentially in the market for your product or service.

It allows you to go through two or three steps of the sales cycle efficiently without having to go through gatekeepers to the key decision maker. Your key tradeshow objective should involve a clear strategy of how to get your sales staff face to face with the show visitors.

Tip 2: Identify and Set Reasonable Objectives – Marketing v Sales

Very often the Sales Department will have a very different objective to the Marketing Department for the same show. The Marketing department wants to launch a new product; the Sales department wants to write orders; the Marketing department wants to communicate a corporate message; the Sales department wants to meet prospects and customers. It is vital that both departments have a common company objective and that all people involved “buy in” to the objectives. As always the objectives need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Dependant. These can be set for each department; and then broken down to each person attending the event so that everyone has clear understanding of what they need to do to make the show a success. You need to set reasonable expectations as to what will make your show a success. Is it the number of leads you generate; Is it the volume of orders? Is it simply the footfall to the booth? It is also very important that the objectives are reviewed after the show so that you identify any areas for improvement for your next tradeshow event.

You have heard of the phrase ”It’s a numbers game”. Well with tradeshows it truly is

Your objectives should be based on how many leads you need to generate from the show so that you can be in profit from the show. To work this out you should know your sales people’s closure rates and your profit margins from your sales. Once you know this – each person can be given a target to achieve in terms of generating new leads from the show. These targets can even then be broken down to activity on an hourly basis.

Tip 3: Man the booth with the right staff

How many times have you seen staff members at a tradeshow; that are whinging that they hate tradeshows and that they have 10 million better things to do?

Having enthusiastic staff at the booth makes a huge difference to visitor perception and interaction. It’s a fine line selecting staff for tradeshows. There are some that just want to go for the jolly; some that go for freebie collecting; and some that just want to get out of the office and there are those that go against their will.

You should select staff based on those who can communicate; are enthusiastic about the show; and willing to be part of a team that has one common objective; to generate more business for the company. They should also be very positive people; with a great smile and with customer facing experience. Taking a technical guy with no people skills does not work; even if he does know all the answers to tough technical questions!

Make sure the staff members manning the booth are all made aware of and trained in your key products and your show objectives. Also make sure that everyone has FUN and enjoys the event.

Tip 4: Make sure all your staff members manning the booth use the trade show sales process effectively

The tradeshow selling process is carried out in a maximum of six minutes.

The key stages are:

1. Engage & Greet – (30 seconds)

– Take Control by asking open ended questions

2. Qualify – (90 Seconds)

–       Ask Questions specific to the visitors situation

–       Ask questions specific to your products/services

–       Ask qualifying questions

Qualified or Timewaster

3. If Timewaster – Dismiss (15seconds)

– Shake hands and thank them for coming by the booth


4. If Qualified – Demonstrate the product (2-4 minutes)

–       Demonstrate the key aspects of your product/service based on their requirements and interests – not just tell how great the product is


5. After Demonstrating  – Close (90 seconds)

–       Fill out a lead form; make appointment to see them; take business card etc.

If your staff keep this discipline what this means is that each person at your booth can effectively generate an average 5-6 leads per hour which means that during an 8 hour show day they can generate between 40 – 48 qualified leads and times that by 5 people and you have over 200 potential sales leads.

Tip 5: Use a Special Offer, Competition or Key Interest Question to attract and engage visitors

Competitions –

If you can offer a prize that money can’t buy; then these are wonderful as a visitor stopper. Most people already have Ipods, TVs etc so they do not attract as much attention and motivation to enter. Also any prizes that are linked to your product or service are a brilliant way to generate interest and potential clients.

Key Interest Questions

These are vital to engaging visitors. For example at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona; one client was using the phrase ”Is mobile TV interesting for you?” to visitors passing by the booth. The chances are that 8 out of 10 visitors will say yes to that. The important thing is to stop the visitor and make him think. Remember that most of them are in a trance looking around so you need to say something that sparks their mind into action.

What questions can you ask that will make the visitor stop; think and listen to what you have to say?

Tip 6: Make sure your Staff show Positive Body Language whilst at the booth.

The key points are:

–       Make sure to make eye contact with visitors

–       Smile and be enthusiastic (even though you got to bed at 4am after the show party)

–       Have open body language at the booth – ie no crossed arms or crossed legs but with a pleasant look and ready and willing to talk to people.

–       Don’t give any reason for visitors not to make contact with you

–       Be a good listener – Don’t interrupt; show interest in what the visitor has to say and ask questions. Interact!

Tip 7

Be Pro-active in approaching Show visitors.

One of the biggest concerns in the Exhibition industry is the “build it and they will come” mentality of Exhibitors.

Exhibition Organisers can bring the visitors to the show floor; from there it is up to you how you attract them to your booth. They will not necessarily come to your booth; even if it is the biggest one on the show floor; and you have the best giveaways. What makes the difference between a good show and a brilliant show is how pro-active your staff members are in terms of talking to people walking past the booth. Why wait for people to come to you? You have a fabulous opportunity to talk to people who maybe looking for your product. So step out and ask a key interest question! What is the worst thing that will happen? They will say no in which case you thank for the time and move on to your next target.

Tip 8: Dismiss visitors from your booth who are not relevant:

These can include

– Unqualified visitors who are wasting your time

– Unqualified visitors who will not help you meet your objectives

– Qualified visitors; and now its time to move on.

– Competitors

– People from surrounding booths who want to chit chat

You can dismiss visitors in a very easy and professional manner

–       Make Eye Contact

–       Shake hands

–       Thank them for stopping by.

You have maybe 8 hours during the day; and x number of visitors – you have to make sure you see as many visitors as possible during the show hours. Any time wasted on the above is money down the drain. Time is money. Just think how many potential customers walked past when you are busy chitchatting away to non relevant people.

Tip 9: Presentations – how to do them effectively and know what to do with the crowd!

A crowd at your booth is always a good sign. The more visitors you have at the booth; the more the interest from other visitors. One of the most effective ways to generate a crowd at your booth is to do a live presentation or product demonstration. However it has got to be interactive and involve the audience and must be very short – no more than 10 minutes at the most.

The ingredients for a successful presentation are:

  1. A lively and professional presenter used to presenting before a live audience.
  2. A presentation with an element of fun that the presenter feels comfortable with and is able to wrap their personality around it.
  3. Doing a show on the hour every hour or every half hour so that you have time to tell people and invite them to the presentation/demonstration.
  4. You must close the presentation with a close – invite those people interested in the product/service to fill in some lead cards; enter a competition, or speak to your sales people so they can qualify them even further.

Tip 10: Promotional literature; Giveaways and Attractions – Use them effectively.

So how many times have you visited an exhibition and been shoved a leaflet in your face? Of course you took it out of courtesy; put it in your show bag and as soon as you got back to your hotel or home; you took out all the freebies; the business cards and then shoved the rest in the bin?

Why do exhibitors have their staff do this even though they know that this is what happens to their leaflet or pamphlet? What does leaflet dropping achieve at exhibitions apart from killing trees and parting you with some of your hard earned marketing budget?

Then there is the professional freebie collector. They will visit every booth collect their pens and stress balls and do a runner as soon as a staff member comes near them.

Save some money; get your people to say hello and break the ice instead of shoving leaflets into people’s faces. If visitors request more information then by all means give it to them.

Give your promotional items to qualified leads. Don’t just give them away for nothing. Make visitors work for the item that you are giving away. Have a prize draw; qualify them; then give them a promotional item once you have a business card.

The same applies to attractions. So you have booked an artist; balloon man; shoe polisher; masseuse; face painter; origami’s; or whatever else. Visitors are showing up to the booth; but what are you doing to qualify them? Are your sales guys engaging with them after they have had their pet poodle made out of balloons? Having an attraction is not enough – you need to have a strategy behind it to maximise your returns from the investment in your attraction.

And finally… 10 Things NOT TO DO at Tradeshow booths!

  1. Eat in the booth
  2. Drink in the booth
  3. Talk too much amongst yourselves whilst visitors pass by
  4. Read in the booth
  5. Use your phone in the booth
  6. Work on your laptop uninterested in passers by
  7. Leave the booth unattended at anytime during the show hours
  8. Use metaphors; sports analogies, slang language and regional expressions. (Tradeshows attract a lot of international visitors so be clear; use plain English and be respectful)
  9. Wear uncomfortable shoes!
  10. Stand there and wait for people to come to you!


Posted 29/05/2011