The Refined Art of Selling at Events

Kathryn Kosmides from SummitSync explains how to get the most bang for your buck at trade shows and events.

David

CMO - January 17, 2018

With the enormous crowds and never-ending rows of booths, trade show floors can be a daunting experience — especially when you’re working behind a booth.

Usually, event booth staff is comprised of members of the sales and marketing team at a company. During events, these folks become the face of the brand and have to use their skills to grab the attention of these thousands upon thousands of attendees while competing against every other booth there.

So how do you stand out from the noise at events and delight prospects on the trade show floor? Keeping in mind that selling at events is all about nuance, take a look at the tips below and be sure to share them with your team before your next event.

Don’t Just Wing it — Prepare Your Team for Selling at Events

Did you know 48% of event planners begin preparing for events 6–12 months in advance? While sponsoring and attending events can be a sliding scale of effort dependent on the size of your sponsorship package and budget, preparing your team well in advance of the event is critical to event success. The entire sales and marketing teams needs to be prepared; but in this article, we’re focused on preparing your event booth staff for selling at events.

The first thing to prep your team on is the type of attendees that will be at the event. Large, tentpole events like SXSW or Dreamforce bring an eclectic mix of attendees while smaller, more focused events like App Promotion Summit will mainly host mid-size app marketers. Taking the time to research and understand the event audience will help position the way your team sells at events.

Now that you understand the event audience, you can begin crafting the language you’ll use at the event and make sure your team has all of the necessary resources on hand to fit that type of attendee. For example, if you’re at a more technical event featuring CTOs and other top technical executives, your team may want to print rehearse technical pitches and have printed versions of white papers or technical case studies.

Fast forward a few weeks, and the event is finally here. Make sure your team is rehearsed and ready to start converting booth traffic.

First Appearances Matter (and we’re not just talking about the design of your booth)

How many times have you walked a trade show floor and see the people behind the booths on their phones, eating, or sitting down not paying any attention to the revenue passing them by?

While we’re always shocked by this behavior, it seems pervasive at many trade shows in recent years. Is this because event booth staff are constantly disappointed by the results they drive? Very well could be. But then again, that’s why we’re publishing this piece (and you’re reading it).

Stand out from the slumped over crowd by dressing appropriately (as deemed by your company) and neatly, bringing your smile to the trade show floor, and putting down that darn cellphone! Remember, spending your day at a trade show means you’re at work, not hanging out with your friends or at a laidback after-hour networking event.

We can’t totally disregard the physical appearance of your actual event booth. While the staff should be warm and inviting, you also need a well-stocked booth full of further reading material, swag, and enough business cards for everyone. The last thing you want to do is have a conversation with someone and not be able to provide more information or your business card.

Have Good Conversation Starters

Trade show attendees are desperate for a good conversation that filters through the noise at events. Your event booth team can tackle this by having a few good conversation starters that they can continuously recycle rather than coming up with something on the fly.

The best conversations on a trade show focus on the other person’s problems and provide value quickly. The three best conversation starters at events we’ve come across are:

  • What brought you [to this event]?
  • Are you facing [this specific problem]?
  • Are you looking for [a product that solves x problem]?
  • You can read more about how to utilize these conversation starters here.

Less Shill, More Chill

Once you’ve started a good conversation with someone on the expo floor and begun to ask qualifying questions around their problem, it’s still not time to sell.

Yes, you read that right…

Selling at events isn’t about aggressive, sign-the-line selling techniques and tactics. They’re about getting quick buy-in to your solution and how it solves the prospect’s biggest problem…and following up.

Less shill, more chill doesn’t mean you can sit back and chill out the entire event. It’s about understanding that while everyone else is “selling”, you’re providing value.

And value always wins.

Serendipity Happens — Be Ready For It

While we can’t preach preparation enough, sometimes you have to be open to the random nature of events and trade shows.

Being open to serendipity also means…being prepared for it. There is a lot of waiting in lines, for keynotes to start, and, of course, waiting for your coffee order to be called out by the barista. Use these moments as networking opportunities to connect with other attendees who are in the same boat as you.

You can make a light joke about the situation, ask why they’re attending the event, or what their favorite session has been so far. Again, it’s all about getting them to buy-in to you, not necessarily the product or service you’re selling.

The Nuance of Selling at Events

As discussed above, selling at events is all about the nuanced, personal touch. Trade shows and events provide an opportunity for attendees to meet the people behind a brand. Focus on providing value rather than selling your product, and your team is well on their way to event success.


Author bio Kathryn M. Kosmides is the Director of Marketing at SummitSync, an event intelligence platform helping sales and marketing teams discover relevant attendees, schedule meetings, and measure return on event (ROE).

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