Selling Booth Space To Today's Exhibitor
The lifeblood of any exhibition or trade show business is its ability to do three things; create an awesome experience that captures the industry's attention, construct a large audience of relevant attendees and sell booth space to exhibitors that are hungry for the opportunity to connect with your attendees and industry target. All of those items are interconnected. It's an ecosystem that must be in place if an exhibition, trade show or conference truly wants to grow, generate profit or even remain in operation.
Of the three items listed above, selling booth space and improving how the exhibitor sales team performs is typically one of the most important areas of focus for event businesses. Selling booth space is easy to measure and easy to understand. Most businesses have a reference for sales — and like most businesses — exhibition and trade show organizations want to grow their sales pipelines and close more deals. Unfortunately, often times traditional sales processes and strategies are applied to these businesses without consideration for the unique qualities of the events business. This means organizations miss out on several simple opportunities to sell booth space and often don't have the right infrastructure in place to support an actual exhibitor sales model.
Below is a tips and tricks guide to selling booth space and improving sales processes for event businesses that rely on sponsors, exhibition booth sales and other promotional offerings.
Tips & Tricks Guide: Selling Booth Space
#1.) Make it easy, and get out of the way
One of the biggest obstacles that exhibition and trade show businesses often face is their lack of ability to adapt to how their customers actually work. Potential exhibitors all want to know the same things, yet many organizations make this information hard to find and then create unnecessary step after unnecessary step to extract this information and act on it (buy booth space)! If you sell booth space, your new prospects are looking for answers to these questions:
- "Will I have access to the decision-makers for my product or service at your event?"
- "Does your event understand the industry/target audience and where my product might fit?"
- "Will your show create ample opportunities for me and my business? (what's my return on opportunity)"
- "Can you help me justify all the costs of this event?"
- "Tell me how this all works (the process of purchasing, exhibiting, etc.)?"
If you can give strong answers to those 5 questions in a timely and efficient manner, congratulations, you're probably going to make that sale. Here's the problem: many exhibition and trade show businesses fail before they even get started with these questions because a lot of prospects do their shopping online long before they ever contact a sales team member. They want a preview of the exhibitor experience (something we discussed at length here).
So how do you get these people engaged with your sales team before they make a decision? It's simple, provide the answers to those question on all of your digital platforms. Make your website your MQL machine. Understand best practices for delivering answers to these questions in a way that generates leads and enhances the front end of your sales process. Imagine if your sales team could start the sales process with the prospect fully-educated and with proper expectations? Which leads us to #2.
#2.) Create a real sales process to sell booth space
...this means that you shouldn't require your sales team to track or enter data that is irrelevant or not essential to the sales process. Many generic CRM systems are inherently designed this way. Sales people hate this!
The best way to create a true exhibition sales process that works is to integrate your event website with your front and back office systems (like CRM and accounting software). This helps arrange an agile sales process by which leads are nurtured and educated via digital marketing strategies, closed by sales people and managed with excellent customer service. But, what about your sales team? What should they be doing? Are they saying the right things, executing the right actions? How do you improve sales team performance?
Improving sales team performance to sell booth space is really about the processes and tools that your sales team is equipped with. First, if your sales team is using paper notes, excel spreadsheets or a disconnected contact database to track opportunities, it's almost a guarantee that opportunities are slipping through the cracks.
Businesses need a true relationship management system that is easy to use and meshes with your sales process (this cannot be emphasized enough). This means that you shouldn't require your sales team to track or enter data that is irrelevant or not essential to the sales process. Many generic CRM systems are inherently designed this way. Sales people hate this! Your CRM should enhance the way they work and over time they should be able to see how it helps them capture more sales; thus creating greater adoption. If your CRM is painful to use and sales people don't like it, they won't adopt correct processes and you will miss opportunities because of it.
Second, your sales process should leverage the educational process that was started through your digital marketing. If the questions above are answered on your site and by your sales team the same way, it will show professionalism for your event. Often, prospects see one thing on your event website and hear another from your sales team. This creates a thought in their mind that once the sale is complete, they will once again be told something different by service or operations.
Businesses never find out that they lose deals because of a lack of messaging synergy. Without direct feedback from the prospect, how would they know? This rarely happens. The best way to prevent this kind of loss is to implement processes on the marketing, sales and operations side that all use the same information and language. This sets the right expectations and creates an image of professionalism.
#3.) Don't flake out on the easiest sale you could possibly make
The easiest way to sell booth space is to sell something that has already been sold. If your customer has just finished an exhibition or trade show with you, that's the perfect time to talk about renewal. Hopefully, you've done everything you can to create a great exhibitor experience and now is your chance to capture the exhibitor when their success is fresh in their minds. When prospects return home and time passes, reflection and budgeting constraints can begin to cloud judgment. They will often forget about all the people they met at your event and opportunities that were created. This means they are more likely (on average) to make a financial decision than a business decision.
Having your sales team get out in front of these opportunities is key to driving easy sales. Unfortunately, many lack the technology to do this properly. Exhibition and trade show organizers will often send someone around with a clipboard collecting names of interested parties, or simply telling exhibitors that they will e-mail them with more info on renewal.
What if your sales team could go around to their customers and renew agreements for the next event right on the show floor using a phone or tablet? Some shows have done this with significant success, but many others have simply failed to adopt this technology. This is perhaps one of the easiest elements to implement and can often have the greatest impact.
Wrapping up how to sell booth space
Exhibition and trade show businesses should apply best practices for delivering the right information to prospects at the right time. This means having strategic answers to the most commonly asked questions available in a digital and searchable capacity. These messages should be echoed by sales and service teams to provide an image of professionalism ("these guys get it") and to provide a streamlined sales process. Technology plays a large role in organizing and executing these principles as well as creating and taking advantage of current opportunities.
Exhibition and trade show businesses that look at their sales processes and see gaps should address them immediately. A sales process evolves (as does technology). Understanding the customer and their behavior is key to driving revenue growth.
If you enjoyed this article, you should probably download our latest E-Book: Hacking The Exhibition Bottom Line — full of hacks for better sales, better experiences, and creative strategies for growth.