4 Tips for getting the most out of trade shows

It’s that season again where many of you will attend trade shows throughout the country. Trade shows are a powerful tool for learning, and for growing your business. Meeting with industry professionals, vendors, and potential clients all in one place is one of my favorite things to do every year!

In today’s blog, I am sharing my top four tips for making your trips to trade shows a success.

Continuous learning tool

I can’t talk about the value of continuous learning enough! The truth is, changes happen daily in most industries. Some of those changes are subtle, others are more obvious. If you try to rest on your laurels and just skate through with the knowledge you have, your competitors will run right past you.

Trade shows are the smartest way to keep up with what’s going on in your industry. You can learn what is happening in your business all in one place and make the connections you need to grow.

Here’s the thing, though. You need to be selective about what shows you attend and who you meet with. Go with a plan in place so you stay focused.

One potential issue is alcohol. I’ve seen too many sales guys treat shows as one big party. Exhibitors have cocktail parties or open bar and it’s hard for some to pass those up. You don’t have to give them up entirely, just be smart and don’t overindulge. This will impede your ability to stay focused and to get the most out of the trade show.

Trade shows should always be used as a learning opportunity for its attendees and as a platform for vendors to showcase their products. This knowledge is key to your research before you attend. Know who will be there and who you want to make sure to see at the show. This will maximize your own learning and help you make the most effective connections with vendors and potential clients.

Keep in mind: it’s incredibly difficult in today’s business culture to get a face-to-face with top executives within any industry. Trade shows allows you that opportunity.

Networking is key

Most people know that networking is important for growing your business. This especially true for sales people and trade shows offer excellent networking opportunities with both suppliers you already work with, and your competition. Trade shows are also a perfect place to make new connections and to build on those relationships.

Many suppliers and customers attend trade shows to look for new talent in addition to new ideas that help expand their knowledge and contact base. Trade shows make it possible to maximize your leads all in one place, thus keeping your networking-related costs down.

Have goals for the show

I’ve already shared the wisdom of going in with a plan, including knowing who you want to meet. But the plan needs to come from the goals you establish for the trade show. Distinct goals are mandatory if you’re wanting to have a profitable experience.

Do your homework and decide ahead of time how you’re going to allocate your time. This will allow you to see all your key targets for meetings. I suggest even reaching out to them ahead of the show and schedule a time to meet with suppliers and anyone else you want to see.

These meetings are important for several reasons. True, connections are made but you might even be able to save money. Many vendors will offer price deals if orders are written during the show. If you’ve already done your research and are prepared, you are more likely to be able to take advantage of these deals.

Follow-up with your contacts

Follow-up is critical because it turns leads into sales. If you continue to show interest and follow-up with the people you met, I am confident it will be profitable. Both customers and suppliers need some form of capture method for critical contacts they meet during the show. What’s more, they both need to take those captured contacts and follow up. Without the follow up, there is no reason to attend.