I hate (and love) dated comedy tropes, which is why it pains me to say:

“In Canada, manufacturing trade show attendee…prospects YOU!”

I recently attended the ADM, a trade show here in Montreal for companies selling products to manufacturers (robotics, packaging, equipment, etc.).

I was originally shopping for an affordable conveyor belt to install into my apartment, but it instead became a prospecting expedition. My goal was to connect with and speak to the sales and marketing leaders manning over 100 vendor kiosques/booths.

They’re attending to sell and market their products, and achieve a ROI on their participation in this show – not to hear from vendors trying to sell them.

I attended the second half of the first day, and had a lot of great conversations, and drummed up some opportunities. But I wanted to find more – and I wanted to find them faster.

So, in an effort to save each other time, I approached each one and hit them with an up-front contract (one of the few things I remember from my Sandler training a lifetime ago) to:

A) Offer transparency (ups to Todd Caponi and 2) ensure both of our time was maximized.

B) Earn attention

C) Make them laugh, and earn more time so I could go deeper and suss out if there could be an opportunity to help them. If so, move them to a convo via Zoom-call down the road.

I started delivering the following spiel on day 2:

People always ask me “what’s humor’s impact on sales?” (a thing that no one seems to want to figure out how to measure).

“UNDENIABLY POSITIVE” is my non-specific answer. Here’s some rough, unscientific estimates for the 30 or so vendors I approached on day using this up-front contract I created:

I’d sweat the initial judgement of the three or so who looked at me strangely, but they all ended up being fine with the rest of my pitch.

The 10% who didn’t? I tried to convert the first one when they didn’t laugh. After I gave my pitch, they were dismissive. I tried to objection-handle. No dice. But – the next time it happened, I walked away ASAP from the next person who gave those vibes – even if I could tell they have no authority within their company. Move on. Nothing works all the time.

I focused – and followed-up on the engagers and generated a bunch of opps for myself.

I suspect that more meaningful conversations will be had in a day at one than in a month weeks of outbound prospecting.

Be where your prospects are. They’re not all online. P2P (person-to-person) is a lost art and when done properly can generate more meaningful conversations which leads to opportunities. Here’s my guide to prospecting vendors at a trade show/conference:

  1. Have an icebreaker
  2. Let them know you are NOT their prospect (up-front contract).
  3. Know your pitch
  4. Make sure your pitch articulates what’s in it for them
  5. Read the room. Are they on-board?
  6. If yes – have a quality follow-on question
  7. LISTEN to their answer.
  8. Read the room again – are you distracting them from why they’re there in the first place?
  9. If not – keep discussing until you sense they need to wrap it up.
  10. If try to get on their calendar on the spot.

Are you (or your reps) drumming up pipeline while ATTENDING (vs. sponsoring) trade shows/conferences?  I give them “five stars” as far as generating meaningful pipeline.

lanning your company’s sales kickoff, get in touch. We’ll roast the problems you can eliminate for your prospects, and arm you with messaging for cold outreach efforts and beyond.