Networking is one of the most important things you can do at a trade show, but it’s not as easy as chatting with a prospect over lunch. Here are seven effective ways to successfully network at a trade show or industry event when everyone else is as busy as you are.
1) Arrange for meetings before the trade show
Rather than trying to arrange meetings when you’re already at a trade show, find people you know will be there and schedule meetings well in advance. This way, instead of interrupting their schedule, you’ll be a part of it – and they’ll be able to pay closer attention to what you have to say.
If their schedule is so full they can’t meet you during the event, don’t press the issue – instead, just offer to meet in the near future instead. They’ll almost certainly accept.
Use Linkedin to find prospect companies that are exhibiting at the show and send a short message letting them know you will be at the show and a brief description of your offering. Ask for 5 minutes or at least the opportunity to drop off your card at their booth.
2) Be the host
Similarly, don’t try to focus on visiting the booth of a contact. Instead, be the host yourself. The best way to be invited to any party is to be the one who arranged it in the first place, and being in charge will automatically give you a certain level of prestige in the eyes of others.
This is especially useful outside the hours of the show itself. For example, you can host a small party each night and give your guests time to relax and unwind after a frantic day.
3) Spend some time with people who are already in your network
When you’re trying to increase your bottom line, it’s easy to focus only on making new connections. Butbecause nurturing current contacts is essential for your sales pipeline, it’s just as important to further the connections you’ve already made.
If someone you know is going to be at the event, make sure you reach out to schedule a time to talk with them as well.
Ask questions about how their experience is going with your company, and be prepared for the answers.
Your clients are a top source for referrals and new business. You want to ensure their satisfaction and make certain they have good things to say to others when they are discussing your value.
This is also a good time to make sure your current clients know about all the products and services you offer; by reaching out and listening to feedback, you can also uncover new pain points and sales opportunities.
4) Do your research
Whenever possible, make sure you know as much as possible about the people you’ll be talking to.
- Who they are
- What they do
- What challenges they personally face at their company
- How your products or services can help them resolve those challenges
This will also help you weed out the people who aren’t likely to convert into customers. It’s better to spend your time on a few good leads than it is to spread yourself thin over a bunch of people who are unlikely to be interested in your offer.
5) Have questions ready
Everyone is busy. Get right to the point with a series of questions to help gather the information that’s most important for your company to have. At the same time, though, be sure to leave them enough time to listen, and ask questions of their own. Successful sales networking is a two-way street.
6) Introduce other people
This is one of the most frequently overlooked parts of successful sales networking. Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself. You can introduce prospects to other people at your organization if they’d be a better fit for the talk – or even to other people in your network.
If you help another company get a customer, both of them will remember that… and they’ll be more likely to introduce people to you in return. Reciprocation is one of the most powerful tools you have.
7) Stand out by following up
Trade shows can offer hundreds of new leads. Now, in fairness, only a small percent of these leads are likely to turn into customers – but if you manage to get 500 potential leads, then a success rate as low as 3% could give you fifteen new customers.
If each new customer brings real value to your company, those fifteen customers are worth the effort they take to acquire.
Remember, most people won’t visit your booth unless they have at least some interest in what you have to offer.
Follow up within three weeks of the event, when they’ll still remember you.
Want more tips for trade show sales success? Follow these three steps to increase your success with potential clients and prospects.
What about you? Do you have any tried and true methods to successfully network at a trade show or other networking events? Please leave me a note in the comments.