For exhibit and event professionals  

Value of Shows and Events

December 9, 2012 By Editor

Looking at it from a sales perspective
by Keith Reznick, President, Creative Training Solutions

Among the many challenges show and event managers face, one of the most daunting is gaining support from salespeople and sales management prior to, at and after a show or event. In this article, we’ll explore a few ideas designed to help you gain their support and, as a result, incrementally improve the return on your efforts and investments.

The sales mind set

Sales professionals are “entrepreneurs” who more often than not don’t really care about having a good show. Why? They’re not evaluated based on the quality of a show nor the number of qualified leads they capture for other people. Instead, most sales professionals are evaluated every 30, 60 or 90 days in terms of the revenue they generate; for others, the criterion is account penetration or development activities. Every 30 days (or less), they must share their results and their forecast for future business with their immediate manager and senior sales management.

Over the years, I’ve heard more than one top producer say, “In sales, you’re as good as what you sold last quarter or last year.” Every year, a salesperson starts at zero, and almost everything he or she does is focused on one thing: making his or her “number.” Make it, and you’re successful. Don’t make your number, and you might be looking for a new employer. So, if your company’s salespeople believe shows and events get in the way of making their numbers, they won’t support your show and event program.

Consequently, if you want salespeople to staff an upcoming show or event, you need to look at the matter from their perspective. Ask yourself, “How can this help them accomplish their goals?” As you answer this question, take into account the mind set of salespeople — how they think, process information and make decisions. The better you understand their sales mind set, the more effectively you can communicate with these professionals.

Understanding the sales species

There are primarily two types of sales professionals: hunters and grazers. Hunters excel at new account development. Grazers succeed at growing an account once it’s been opened. Therefore, if your show’s goal is generating high-quality leads, staff it with as many hunters as possible. On the other hand, if enhancing existing relationships or creating cross-selling opportunities with existing customers is your primary goal, staff your booth with grazers. And remember, it’s a very rare specimen that’s both hunter and grazer.

Another thing to take into consideration is the fact salespeople tend to be very protective of their time — with good reason. If a salesperson’s annual sales goal is $1,000,000, the opportunity cost of the person’s time is $500 per hour. In other words, the salesperson is expected to generate $4,000 of revenue per day every day, 50 weeks a year. So, if a salesperson works a three-day show, he or she is still expected to sell $16,000 worth of your company’s products and services while staffing your exhibit (three days on the show floor and one day for travel). To put it into perspective, how would you respond to being told you had to help out in the accounting department next week, in a city halfway across the country — and still be expected to do your own job or face having your salary docked?

Why make the investment?

Before you ask salespeople to invest their time to staff your exhibit, consider what’s in it for them, what’s their ROI at the show or event? Here are some things for you to keep in mind:

Sales Representatives’ Goals

Show or Event Opportunities

  1. Fill sales pipeline
A salesperson can generate more and better leads on the show floor than by telephone or in-person canvassing.
  1. Increase revenues — existing customers
Pre-arranged exhibit tours for existing customers can accelerate the buying/selling process as well as create cross-selling opportunities.
  1. Increase revenues — potential customers
Pre-arranged exhibit tours for potential new customers can eliminate (or reduce the number of) competitive options.
  1. Access hard-to-reach members of the buying team
Salespeople who are blocked from seeing hard-to-reach decision-makers can leverage sales and marketing management by pre-arranging and participating in executive-to-executive meetings.
  1. Develop competitive insight
Asking attendees about your direct competitors they’ve visited at an event is a great way to stay ahead of the competition.
  1. Maximize ROI on selling time
Sales representatives can schedule and conduct two to three times as many face-to-face sales calls with prospects and customers on the show floor as in the field.
  1. Demonstrations
Because it’s sometimes hard to conduct an influential demo in the field, salespeople can leverage the equipment on display and exhibit personnel to conduct great demos.
  1. Updated and accurate perceptions
Salespeople hate to hear a customer say, “I would have ordered from you, but I didn’t know you sold those.” Strong messages delivered at shows and events serve to update marketplace perceptions.

Salespeople can contribute greatly to the success of your show, or they can stand in the exhibit checking their email or calling their customers. The more you help them understand the value they can derive from shows and events — value related to their goals and how their performance is measured — the more motivated they’ll be to provide the experiences attendees want and help you generate the returns your company expects.

Gain executive level sales support

Executives (in sales, marketing, etc.) who fund shows and events have budgetary choices to make. They can invest in your show and event program, or they can invest in other elements in the marketing mix. Therefore, aligning your show strategy and plan with sales and marketing executives’ specific business improvement initiatives will lead to more executive level support for your program and better returns for all involved. But how do you do this?

Schedule “discovery” appointments with the highest-level sales and marketing managers (or other internal funding sources) months in advance of a major show or event. Then, use these meetings to develop insight into each executive’s specific goals and challenges, opportunities and needs for the quarter, the rest of the fiscal year or the following fiscal year.

Why is this important? Knowing your funding sources’ priorities empowers you to create an overall show and event strategy that supports their business improvement initiatives and priorities — and contributes to their success. As a result, they’ll recognize your program’s value and be more motivated to help you accomplish your goals as well. Here are a few suggested topics to discuss and questions to ask during a discovery meeting:

Sales and Marketing
Managements’ Goals

Questions to Ask during Discovery Meeting

  1. Reduce customer acquisition and customer retention costs
Is either important? If yes, which is more important to you?
  1. Create cross-selling opportunities
What audience(s) are you targeting to generate cross-selling revenues? Current customers? Potential new customers? Both?
  1. Enhance existing relationships
With whom? At which companies? At what level of the customer organization or chain of command?
  1. Enhance competitive posture
Which competitors? Their strongest differentiators and key messages? Your strongest differentiators and key messages?
  1. Align sales and marketing initiatives
Pre-show promotion? Exhibit staffing? Lead capture? Post-show follow-up? Post-show evaluation and measurement?

The more you know about sales and marketing executives’ specific goals, the more value you can provide by aligning your activities with their specific business improvement initiatives.

Great sales potential at shows and events

Shows and events provide great marketing, as well as sales, opportunities. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, when it comes to executive decision-makers:

  • 46 percent made purchase decisions while attending a show.
  • 77 percent found at least one new supplier at the last show they attended.
  • 51 percent requested that a salesperson visit their company after the show.
  • 95 percent met with their current suppliers at a trade show.
  • 76 percent asked for a price quotation at the last show they attended.

As Sam Walton once said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” To make sure customers call your company first and place their orders with you, carefully select the salespeople who will staff your booth. Choose only those with the skills, knowledge and motivation required to accomplish your goals — and their own — and you’ll all generate greatly improved results and returns.

About the Author

Keith Reznick is the president of Creative Training Solutions, a leader in the design and delivery of training programs for sales, sales support and marketing professionals. He has extensive experience as a sales trainer, executive development coach and consultant.

Reznick and Ed Jones, president of Constellation Communication Corp., recently created two cost-effective and easy-to-use training modules that will measurably improve your staff's ability to provide the experiences attendees want and the results your company expects. The Trade Show Advantage™ Online is a 12- to 14-minute self-paced, web-based Exhibit Staff Orientation, and The Trade Show Advantage™ Pre-Show Meeting in a Box is everything you need to plan and facilitate a great pre-show meeting. For more information, please contact Reznick (856-784-3466 or keith@creativetraining.com) or Jones (770-391-0015 or edjones@constellationcc.com) or visit www.tradeshowadvantage.com.


  • This is a GREAT post! We recently wrote something similar on how event planners and marketers can demonstrate the value of in-person events (http://bit.ly/Tytzpu). Even though the online world is huge, it’s still crucial to get face-to-face. Thanks for the great piece!

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