Traveling the convention near the end of each day, I heard the same thing from numerous exhibitors:

Today was slow.  No one wanted to stop at our booth.

Made me want to say “boo-hoo, crybaby.” 

Now, before you think me a complete jerk, know that I didn’t actually say it and I don’t mean the phrase as an insult.

Of course, if everyone had experienced the same kind of day, where no one was stopping at booths or buying anything, I’d have been lamenting right along with them.  But our booth averaged 36 sales a day.

Meanwhile, folks I talked to on Day 3 had still not made a single sale.  Others hadn’t even made any promising contacts with industry buyers.

But being the kind-hearted giver that I am – and the needy book writer who has to get some pages ready anyway 🙂 – I’m going to reveal our strategies for bringing visitors to our booth and generating sales.  Here are the steps:

1.  We chose a beneficial location.  Because we didn’t have to travel far (only 40 miles from our workshop to the Orange Co. Convention Center), I was able to spend a little more on booth rental this year and get a better spot on the floor.  But I still spent hours looking at the proposed layout and trying to decide where to place our exhibit. 

2.  We booked early.  We couldn’t have gotten that great location if I hadn’t made the decision early and secured it right away.  Early planning also helped me save for other expenses (we put a little away each month) and keep a look out for deals on our hotel and other purchases.

3.  We considered the competition.  This doesn’t just apply to others who sell similar products, although they’re important.  We actually considered how other booths would look and how those competing with us for a visitor’s attention might try to attract it.  That’s why we went with a wood floor in a contrasting color to the blue carpet the show organizers selected for the group flooring.

4.  I booked enough staff.  Even before we expanded our booth size (see #5) I made sure we had enough people scheduled to work the booth to talk to all the visitors who passed by. 

5.  We saw an opportunity to expand our booth and took it.  When it became available, we upped our booth space from 10×10′ to 10×20′ and made ourselves more visible. 

6.  We talked to everyone who walked by.  This can’t be stressed enough:  we made an effort to engage everyone who walked by our booth.  And we didn’t just say hello and let them walk away.  When they responded to our greeting we engaged them, either by asking “have you seen our beautiful quilted cot covers?” or “can I show your our covers?” or “do you use our quilted cot covers?”  And it worked!

7.  We qualified attendees.  The first qualification was getting them in the booth.  If they chose not to look at the product, they obviously weren’t a potential sale.  But even those who enter the booth might not be “our customer.”  We asked questions like “do you make removals?” or “what kind of cover do you use now?”  Answers to these questions helped us decide whether to give the full-on sales pitch or quickly finish up with the visitor to move on to the next prospect.

8.  We asked for the sale.  After walking people through our product’s features, we asked our visitors if they were ready to buy one.  If they resisted, we reminded them of our 10% convention discount.  If they were still reluctant, we gave them a brochure and reminded them that they’d have to order during the convention to get that big discount.

9.  After the sale, we thanked them.  Funeral directors are also businesspeople, so they understand how important it is to make sales and they enjoy getting a good product and helping out other people.  By thanking them, we reminded them how much we appreciated their business and how integral and important they are to us.

10.  We set a goal and kept track of our progress.  At our busiest times, all five of our booth workers were talking to people and selling covers.  When anyone made a sale, we added it to the total and spread the word to the others, so that everyone knew how far we were from our goal.  Even better, I promised our staff that we’d celebrate with a nice dinner if we reached that goal and that helped motivate my sellers even more.

Every time I hear someone complain that they’re not getting visitors to their booth or they’re not making any sales, I remember the odd little truth about trade shows:  As much as you work to qualify expo visitors, they’re also qualifying you and they’ll walk right by booths where the exhitor fails to invite them to take a closer look.

Before the next NFDA convention (in Boston next year), I’ll be holding a “booth camp” for exhibitors.  I don’t know, yet, how we’ll work it, so stay tuned for more details.