Setting up specific appointments to meet with high-value contacts during a trade show, is a common and well recommended practice.
These companies have the advantage of targeting key individuals and the time to prepare a presentation in advance. It’s similar to having a prospective client visit your office where you can plan your presentation and hospitality to make a positive impression.
However, one of the challenges these same exhibitors face is the increasing number of no-shows.
The first question is to identify the reasons for the no-shows. These might include:
A real lack of commitment on the part of the prospect,
Change in the clients’ priorities,
Other on-site meeting that effect the client’s timetable,
Unexpected opportunities the client has uncovered with other exhibitors,
I am sure you can add to the list.
At first glance most of these seem reasonable and yet out of your control. Although you have made a good attempt to establish the meeting, you feel that you are at the whim of the prospect’s time and attention. Yet, this is not so.
Trade show attendees have a strong need to find solutions to problems they are wrestling with. One of the primary reasons for their attendance is to find these solutions and if they are convinced that you may offer some help then the chances are greater that they will keep their appointments.
Here are some tried and true tactics that exhibitors have employed in the past that has helped reinforce the value in the meeting and greatly reduced the rate of no-shows.
1. Conduct an aggressive appointment scheduling campaign which includes lots of follow-up after a meeting has been scheduled. A request for the meeting should initially come from your sales folks because they have an established relationship with the client. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the sales person will be at the show. If the salesperson is not attending, explain to the client who they will meet and the credibility of this person. Now you can plan to bring technical experts or product development personnel to staff the booth.
2. Follow-up. Once a specific appointment is made the next step is to confirm it. This can be done with a simple e-mail or text. But, don’t stop there. If the client will be meeting with someone other than the sales person this is a good time for that person to introduce themselves to the client. This can be done with a personal phone call, or a quick note. Staying connected to the prospect prior to the show gives both the sales person and other representative an opportunity to open the discussion and uncover issues that the prospect is hoping to solve.
3. Last minute reminders. If you have the prospect’s mobile number you can text or call during the show to confirm their attendance. If you know where they will be staying then you can leave a message at their hotel.
4. If they are late for the meeting then you have the ability to text or phone to see if there has been a delay.
5. After the meeting use this same technique to confirm what transpired at the meeting and any follow-up that was agreed to.
6. Put time aside for meetings. There is nothing worse than showing up for a meeting and waiting until staff disengage from another visitor to meet with you.
7. Let the prospect know that you have set aside time to meet. Not everyone is prompt when it comes to meetings. Some arrive too early and others too late. In either case if your prospect sees that you have set aside meeting time, it will reinforce their commitment. This is accomplished with a sign welcoming the visitor and identifying the person that they will meet.
8. If for some reason the staff member who has the appointment is engaged, then it is the responsibility of another member of your staff to make the visitor feel welcome by offering them a seat or a beverage.
9. Provide the visitor with a tangible reminder or their visit. This can be in the form of a small gift or product sample. The trick to giving these reminders value is to ensure that they are not placed on counter-tops for everyone to take but rather are presented at the end of the meeting as a thank you.
Reducing the no-show rate is often a matter of taking the time to put into place a system that says to the prospect, “You are important.” Follow these nine steps and see if your no-show rate doesn’t drop significantly.
These are all tactics that have been used in the past. If you discover others, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.