Saturday, 5 February 2011

Why should sales exhibit? Are exhibitions like old horses only good for the knackers yard?

40% of Buyers said they used exhibitions as a location to meet with supplier sales people over the last twelve months. ( Scroll down to end of post for link to free copy of executive summary of Buyers' survey of Salespeople)
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Adam Ginty Marketing Manager at Lyme Media & Events Ltd set the debate going by questioning the value of face to face at exhibition encounters in the modern selling era.

In a later thread he wrote

“For the vast majority of (field-based) salespeople, attending exhibitions either as an exhibitor or as a punter ( exhibitions) will be a very rare event compared to the frequency with which they could/should be prospects and customers."

Measurement of return of marketing investment (ROMI) was also mooted by many forum contributors.
“We've tried and tested the merits and costs of each tactic and can apply these on a sale by sale basis."
Some forum members employ cost per sale targets, but they have found there is a spread and some sales are more involved at a higher cost compared to some which are way under Cost per Sale targets, - so they also monitor average cost per sale to analyse overall Gross Profit
As sales professionals in the Selling 2.0 era, we have got bag of tools to use as and when the situation dictates a particular tactic.

This has been described as ranging FROM; Tweet, Re-tweet, email, phone call, proposal then close (and an add on Linked In) - TO; Phone call, email, meeting, (a series of) phone calls etc. etc. to close.

A number of the discussion forum members raised additional “horses for courses” type arguments. But maybe to continue the equine metaphor we in sales need to “avoid putting the cart before the horse” before we even enter and run the race!

So here are some fundamental questions to help clarify our thinking:

  1. How important is it for you to meet people with the power to make decisions?

  2. How well attended-is the show for your industry?

  3. Will it give you the opportunity to meet more key buyers?

    Past attendance visitor attendance data are worth considering but how were they audited? ( ABC measured?).

    If you are investing in the exhibition to generate new business leads

What does the show’s marketing campaign consist of? (before, during and after the event)
e.g. advertising, ticket inserts, direct mail and electronic marketing, how does it target its audience

As an exhibitor you will be exposed to actively interested buyers, before, during and after the show.

Exhibiting at an exhibition enables you to meet more professionals at one time and gives you access to new prospects.

Buyers come to you
Well of course your stand presence needs to be attractive

An exhibition is the place buyers come to compare, contrast, source and select new venues and services

. The decision-makers and influencers who are your customers take time out of their busy schedules to come to see you.

Face-to-face contact is one of the most effective sales channels and at an exhibition you can meet more customers than at any other event. This makes an exhibition both cost effective and time efficient, resulting in one of the highest returns on marketing investment.

Customer retention
With the number of conventional face to face one on one meetings reducing in B2B sales exhibitions are a way to meet and nurture clients.

Meeting your existing customers can be part of retaining and developing business. At an exhibition you can benefit from a networking environment in which you can consolidate and develop existing business relationships, as well as gain new business leads and build your brand.

If your competitors are at the show do you need to be too? Your presence can remind your existing customers why they buy from you.

So there is life in the 'old horse' of exhibitions yet. Exhibitions will have to fight for their place in the ever widening array of marketing communications channels available in the selling 2.0 era - whether selling competes 'on the flat or 'over the fences'.

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study


  1. Hugh,

    A great article and definitely food for thought for all those integrating exhibitions into their marketing/sales strategy for the foreseeable.

    There are three crucial components that all add up to a successful exhibition presence.

    1.Research, select and plan your presence. This is where the objectives of the event should be set and where the game can be won or lost in the long term. You should also identify where the event will be marketed, but to really hit a home run you’ve got to put in your own groundwork to get your customers, prospects and suspects through the door specifically to see you. Not only will this make your stand look busier but you’ll be leaps ahead of the competition. Put a sales plan in place. Are there any specific products/services to push, or all. Also, how will leads be taken, how will they be tracked, who is responsible for them and what do you need for each sales person to work the stand effectively.

    2.The event itself. Get out of the habit of zapping badges to fill up your prospect list and listen to what your visitors requirements are. Grade them A, B and C – A for hot prospects that require immediate attention, B for warm prospects and C for those who were either just looking or may need what you’ve got in the future. This can be done by using a more detailed lead form for each sales rep working (this is covered in lot’s of Hugh’s posts) a particular area, and you can still have the zapper gizmo to scan for data of all those “lookers” and keep the priority lead form for the potential “buyers”.

    3. This is the business end and this is where ROI can be achieved or thrown down the pan. We’ve gone through grading in step 2, now is time to put this into action and this means more than a blanket email saying “thanks for coming”. Don’t leave the crucial follow-ups to marketing, you’ve exhibited to get hot leads and close business, sales must take ownership of all the leads requiring immediate action. By taking more detailed lead forms (i.e. something you can add specific notes and requirements too rather than just get data from) you’ll already be leaps ahead of the competition (providing they haven’t read this blog), you’ll already have something specific to call about and this may also help in getting through the gatekeepers that the other generic emailers may be getting caught up in. And you’ve used your zapper for the “lookers” so marketing can get stuck in with all the pretty emailers to those people they want.

    All the best,

    Adam Ginty
    Sales & Marketing Manager
    Lyme Media & Events Ltd

  2. Thanks Adam

    Yes before , during and after an exhibition there is work to be done - your three crucial components

    I like the way you stress the importance of ownership that sales takes ( should take) for processing exhbition enquiries.

    More business opportunity so often is lost by default than to competition unfortunateley.