I was talking to the VP of Sales at a very successful and highly profitable ($1.2 million in revenue per employee!) software firm last week about their 2007 marketing plan. This company will exhibit at 12 trade shows in 2007. We were laughing (well, moaning) at how some event organizers charge $500 or more per day for high-speed Internet access in the exhibit hall. To get around this, the company puts a watered down, locally driven demo on their rep's laptops. This is sufficient since their policy is NOT to do complete demos on the exhibit floor. In fact, the goal of this company at trade shows is to grab as many business cards from attendees as possible - qualified or unqualified. These leads are then given to their in-house telephone sales team who follows-up and schedules a comprehensive demo if it's a qualified lead.
Too many companies spend too much time selling at trade shows. It's a bad idea. Very few sales are closed at trade shows, especially if the trade show meeting is the first time you've spoken to anyone at that company (the category most meetings fall into). While sales cycles differ for every product, it is rare that any sale is ever made in under one hour of actual sales time. And even if it is an hour, it still may take three to six months and a few follow-up emails or phone calls to get the order. The average trade show has about 12 exhibit hall hours over a period of two days and even fewer high-traffic hours. If exhibit reps get caught up in a detailed demo or sales discussion, they miss out on valuable opportunities to collect leads. Leads that can be followed up with, qualified and sold at a later, less busy time. So as the trade show season approaches us, remember to remind your booth personnel not to get bogged down in long sales conversations during exhibit hall hours. It just doesn't make good business sense.