How to succeed at trade fairs

Dienstag, 13. März 2018 - 9:30

In my three decades in the industry, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is how to maximize the value from the time, energy and money invested in exhibiting at trade shows.

The key is for exhibitors to have a defined and measurable objective. This seems logical, of course, but in reality, most people are vague about what they want to achieve. Many say they are there to find a new importer or distributor or because they want to “sell more”. Those are perfectly fine long-term goals, but a short term, measurable objective is more likely to be accomplished. One such goal should be to get a qualified candidate to agree to a second meeting.

Think of the empowerment that affords the people manning the booth. They now have two very clearly defined tasks. First is to qualify the booth visitors and second, to turn potentials into prospects who say “yes”.

Here are some simple tried-and-trusted tools to make your presence at a trade show successful.

Work your booth

Don’t just stand behind the table – get out in front, or at the very least stand beside it and engage people with open-ended questions. Don’t ask “would you like to taste my wine?” which can answered by a simple “yes” or “no”. Start the qualification process from the very beginning with a question, such as “What type of wines are you looking for?” Or “I recognize your company name and have always wanted to know how you developed your brand.” (Flattery always helps – just ask Donald Trump.)

Put your mobile phone away

Don’t just put it down, put it out of sight. The reason is painfully simple: if you’re looking at your phone, you’re not making eye contact with passers-by. And if you don’t catch their eye, it’s highly unlikely they are going to stop. Isn’t that the reason your company invested thousands of Euros to be there in the first place? So look at the situation from their perspective: “Is this person interested in doing business with me?”

Prepare your story

Your story needs to be compelling and logical, and it needs to differentiate your brand in a way that’s relevant and meaningful to the person you’re telling it to, in terms of their business objectives. They want to know how they're going to make money selling your brand and why your brand will make them more money than the brands they currently sell. Your story should be brief, concise and, most of all, personal and unique. There is a simple mnemonic to remember: WIFFFM? What’s In It For Me? Give your prospect reasons why they should be interested in hearing your story.

Write it down

This is basic, but important – take good notes. And when the conversation starts to feel like it’s coming to a close, ask for a next-step commitment. Write this down on their business card while verbally confirming it: “So, we’re agreed, I’ll follow up with an email with my price list and electronic brochure, and we have a phone call scheduled for Tuesday at four o’clock to discuss.” A good suggestion is to write notes from each conversation on the back of the person's business card, so you can remember to whom you promised what.

If you’re feeling confident, ask for two business cards. Write your agreement down on both of them – one for you and one to hand back to them.

Be prepared for questions

There are typical questions you are likely to be asked, so make sure you are prepared to answer them:

    1. “Do you have scores or awards for your wines from competitions?”
      Have a sheet ready to hand out with your current and most important past awards citing brand/product/vintage/score, and images of the relevant bottles and labels.
    2. “Tell me about you/your company/your wine.”
      This is your opening to give your ‘elevator pitch’ – that is, two or a maximum of three sentences that make it clear how you are different from everyone else in the show. (And don’t be tempted to answer, “We make great wine.” That’s what everyone says.)
    3. “Can you send me a sample?”
      This assumes you’ve already qualified them and moved them from a passerby to a prospect. The answer is always “Yes!” Define a date by which they will get it and confirm the address to ship it to. Do you want to communicate real professionalism? Then organize a system with your office, so that you can have a sample shipped immediately and delivered before the prospect even gets back to their office. Make sure a personal note referencing the conversation is inside.

Follow up, follow up, follow up

Follow up with everyone and deliver on every promise, whether you agreed to send an email, a price quote or a sample. Remember, even if the discussion didn't go anywhere, you have added a new contact to your network. If you haven't already, sign up for LinkedIn and connect with everyone you spoke to at the fair.

After the show is over, review how everyone did and start working on the next stage – contact everyone you committed to contacting, and create a mutually profitable relationship.
Steve Raye

Steve Raye is the founder and CEO of Bevology Inc, a marketing agency that specializes in opening the door to the US market for wine and spirits brands.