Thursday, October 28, 2010

Selling at Tradeshows

NOTE: This is the first in a series of two posts.  Without shame, I confess to pirating the ideas of Bob Hughes, president of The Hughes Group. But in the words of poet T.S. Eliot, "Good writers borrow.  Great writers steal."

Tell, Don't Sell

A tradeshow can be an ideal medium for "storytelling" (in Seth Godin's sense).  

Think of the attendees as scouts gathered round your campfire, except their badges aren't for merit.

Unfortunately, most companies don't maximize the medium.  That's because they define selling not as storytelling, but as revenue generation.

Desperate to generate revenue, most companies that exhibit at tradeshows try to engage attendees by "pitching" product features.  

But this definition of selling is passe.  Worse yet, allowing this definition of selling to drive exhibiting produces nothing but the real-world equivalent of spam.  And everyone hates spam.

Tradeshow exhibiting—when handled effectively—generates relationships.

And relationships are built on stories, stories that "start with why" (in Simon Sinek's sense).  Why are you in business?  Why should anyone care?  Why do customers spend money with you?

As an exhibitor, you have two compelling reasons to quit selling and start telling:
  • Most attendees have done their homework (product research) before the show.  They know what the players in your field do.  The one thing they may not know is why.
  • With all your competition—all the me-too products vying for attendees' attention—you can't afford to waste the chance to engage them with your why by focusing on features.
What's the lesson here? 

Revenue generation is imperative.  But storytelling precedes it.

Scout's honor. 

Next installment: Share, Don't Stare
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