Trade show dos and don’ts

Supplement - Cultivate ‘19

Make sure your booth is in order and your staff is prepared to welcome customers and prospects.

June 4, 2019

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Too many times at trade shows I wonder why some people are exhibiting. Based on some of their behavior, I’m not always sure if they even are exhibitors. Companies exhibit at trade shows to make money. So here are some do’s and don’ts to make the best out of your company’s trade show experience.

Wear your badge where it can be seen. Your potential customers want to know your name and location.

Have plenty of business cards available in the booth, as well as brochures if you have them. No one can buy from you if they don’t know what you are selling or how to reach your company.

Do not sit on a chair with your back to the people walking by. That says you aren’t interested in customers.

Stay off of your phone unless you are looking for something specific to show a customer. I went to a vendor’s booth that I purchased from every year because I needed a new catalog. When I walked up to the booth, the two sales reps were on their phones with their back to the booth. One turned around, looked at me and went back to his phone. I bought over $28,000 worth of trees that year and I didn’t buy trees from them ever again.

Do not eat in the booth unless you are left alone and have no choice. I walked past a booth earlier this year and all four members of a company were in their booth eating. Not one looked up, which told me that they didn’t care about customers. Take turns eating, preferably at a table near food vendors.

If you have to leave your booth, leave a sign that says, “Back in 15 minutes.” I have seen some booths that were set up but never occupied by the exhibitor even though I went back several times over a two-day period.

Say hello and smile. Look people in the eye. Shake their hand. There’s nothing like a good handshake to tell a potential customer that you are interested in doing business with them.

For a long time, this industry has been male oriented, but now there are almost as many women who own businesses whether it be a greenhouse, garden center nursery or allied business. They might be someone’s wife or daughter, but they are there for the same reason as everyone else — looking for new products/equipment. Never assume.

If you are a company owner and not attending the show, you should set some goals for your staff. Introducing a new product? Increasing sales? Product demonstrations? All of these should be discussed long before they leave for the convention. Training for a trade show is just as important as being there.

If you have someone who is a real “people person” but not necessarily a sales person, consider sending them to the show to make the first contact with customers.

If you are selling your booth, have one person in charge so it is orderly at the end of the show.

At the end of the show follow up on the leads you get whether they are small or large. You have a 10% attrition rate each season, so these leads are your lifeline to future success.

Denise is a freelance writer and horticulturist from Pittsburgh.