Beyond the Tradeshow - Being Relevant (Part 3)

Beyond the Tradeshow - Being Relevant (Part 3)

As mentioned in my last blog post—we are going to walk through the five main stages which design the process of successful selling to planners. We'll start with Stages 1 and 2 in this discussion. Then move on to Stages 3 and 4 next month. The five stages of selling are:

  • Research Stage.
  • Engagement Stage.
  • Listening Stage.
  • Understanding Stage.
  • Responding Stage.

Stage 1 - Research

I learned early in order to succeed you need to prepare and in order to prepare you need to research.

For both tradeshows and hosted buyer programs pre-planning will increase productivity. Researching who will be in attendance by reviewing the attendee list is invaluable. You need to target your customers and focus on who you intend to meet.

When planners go to these programs—we look at who is going to be there. What suppliers are there? What do I need for my upcoming meeting? What do I need for future meetings I'm planning? We research the list, determine who we need to meet with, as well as, who we want to gather initial information from. We set our appointments based on our needs, some immediate, some long term.

Therefore, during YOUR research you should ask yourself—Who do I want to connect with? Who am I interested in getting to know? Make sure to determine if  you are focusing on corporate planners, association planners, government planners or independents planners, etc. Create a target market.

Finally, during the research stage, qualify your planners. Do what planners do with suppliers. Reach out to fellow colleagues or industry forums inquiring if anyone has done business with a certain planner or organization. Spend time on the planner organization’s website. Inquire and research.

Remember—just as planners understand not every supplier is for them—not every planner is for you. Categorize the businesses you are seeking to engage.

Stage 2 - Engagement

Unless you have true engagement you cannot move on to any of the other stages.

With your research you will begin to know about the company, the events and possibly the planner you are interested in meeting. When planners first meet you we are trying to gain an initial understanding of who and what you are, how we might be able to work together, and ensuring you understand my piece of business is different from everyone else's—one size does not fit all in the planner mind. I am not just another planner that you can sell to, I want you to engage me not because you want to sell to me but because you want to partner with me and create something with me—an event.

If we create this initial engagement , it will become clear as we move through the other stages that you (your venue, your product, your design, your software, etc.,) is relevant to what I need—what my event needs.

So how do you engage? There are many different ways. Here are a few examples:

1. Staff your tradeshow booth with non-sales people—what?! I know, right?

  • Bring in your designer of your new renovation, new app, or new design element—they are the ones who can truly explain and describe the "NEW" in the new product. And how fun to meet the person whose passion is behind the creation.
  • Bring in your CSM or Project Manager—the person who will be face-to-face on-site with the client. Sell the team that will be working for them and ensuring a successful event.

2. Don't waste your money on mass mailings to the entire attendee database. Instead target those who you are seeking to attract. If you go the route of a pre-mailing or email make sure it is something that stands out. Do you even know how many notifications one planner gets before IMEX that states “Stop by Booth XXX to win an iPad” or “Learn about [insert venue, country, AV provider, etc.]”? One year I counted over 116 emails and fliers, before I stopped counting and just hit the delete button or tossed into the recycle bin. Put that budget money into something more productive.

3. Education, education, education. Planners like to be educated. Many times, the education at the event is an ability to acquire CEU credits for CMP certification (or recertification) and is one of the main reasons we are able to get support to attend the event or choose to take time away from our work to attend. Education sessions is where you will find planners.

  • Attend the educational sessions. This allows you the opportunity to engage with the planners within the session and after to talk about the session.
  • See if your organization would be interested in sponsoring an education session or a speaker for the event. Again, gets you in front of the planners.
  • Can you bring education INTO your booth? One that might garner CEU credits? Is there a current hot topic planners are focused on that you could provide an opportunity for planners to engage and discuss or learn about the topic? Some current hot topics planners are concerned with include risk management/crisis management planning, new technologies and justification of planner positions within organizations.
  • Participate in a roundtable discussion. Volunteer with the conference organizers to see if there are opportunities for this. Or design a senior planner roundtable discussion. Senior planners love to get together and talk about being senior planners. We love to brainstorm new ideas/new initiatives—ask our opinion. Get our feedback. Get us together—we’ll thank you for it and we may also become a champion for your brand or you as the supplier within the industry.

By being engaging planners outside your booth you can begin to focus on what the planner needs and start to Listen (Stage 3)...

(Next month: Part 4 - Stages 3 and 4 of the Selling Process). Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Posted by Larissa J. Schultz, CMP, MHA

Larissa is a writer, author, and professional speaker in the hospitality industry. She is also an adjunct professor at Glendale Community College teaching in Hospitality and Tourism.

Follow Larissa on Twitter: @LarissaJSchultz
Visit Larissa's Website:

Editors' Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

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