A Business Development Manager’s Guide to Exhibitions & Trade Shows

Trade Show, Exhibition

As all Business Development Managers know, the best way to connect with your leads and ultimately win new business is through meeting actual people in the flesh. But getting that first meeting to understand challenges faced by a lead and how you might be able to help them is notoriously difficult to secure, particularly if you’re selling a service that you don’t yet know if they need.

The exhibition or trade show can be the ideal place to put real faces to the names you have in your CRM and connect with them on a human level. Though there are numerous strands to an effective lead generation strategy, exhibitions and trade shows can be part of this and can be essential in strengthening new relationships.

Have a look at my Business Development Manager’s guide to getting the most out of exhibitions and trade shows as a visitor:

1) Set some goals

If you’ve identified trade shows as a good way to generate leads, make sure you then form a business development strategy before attending. Define the sectors you want to target to determine which shows to attend, then build profiles of the businesses and individuals you’d like to speak to. Most importantly, think about ways of keeping in touch for when you’re back in the office and wanting to maintain a dialogue.

2) Qualify

I’m pretty sure no one actually turns up to a trade show without having researched the businesses that are attending first and which of them they want to speak to. But checking Linkedin for the person you might want to speak to when you get there and getting to know about their role will help you understand what their challenges might be and how your solution may suit them when you get the opportunity to talk.

3) Build trust

To really make a difference, give your lead a call before the event. Ask them what new products or services they’ll be exhibiting and let them know you’re attending. Letting them know you also understand what’s going on in their industry will help build trust which counts for so much more than the usual annoying sales pitch.

4) Plan your route

If you’re going to a huge event, it’s fully possible to get lost, or at least lose your bearings. Whilst having a wander can be beneficial for researching the sector and finding new businesses you hadn’t already identified, without knowing who is exhibiting where can mean you don’t get chance to speak to everyone you wanted to. So learn some map reading skills before you go and take a highlighter to start scrawling on the exhibition map when you get there.

5) Don’t sell!

Remember, your prospects have paid money to exhibit at the show so it’s their chance to sell, not yours. As a visitor, it is certainly NOT an appropriate time to crack out the hard-sell. Actually, you’ll probably get kicked out. So treat the events as close-up research on the businesses and individual people you think you can help with the solutions you have. Talk to them about what is new in their industry and who their audiences are, ask them if they’ve found the event useful and what the challenges have been for them. This will then inform how you approach them after the event. Basically take an interest in the person – it’s this relationship you want to build after all.

6) Be memorable

Striking up a rapport with someone is often not enough for them to remember you, especially when they’re meeting many people over the course of the show. A business card might not be enough, so get creative and leave them something fun or useful and promotional, much like our boxes of Brand Flakes – you’re always popular when your method of contact also involves some chocolate.

7) Follow up

If you had a great conversation with someone at the event, give them a call when you get back. This is the point where your CRM should really kick in and your lead nurturing process can really begin. Make sure you’re structured in nurturing the relationships that are working and letting go of those that aren’t.

Hungry? Request your own pack of our delicious Brand Flakes… they’re a wholesome way to build your brand and boost business. Always with a pleasant (chocolate rather than cereal) surprise inside.

By Rhiannon Hulse

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply