Live Event Sales

How to Sell at Trade Shows and Industry Events

Bryan ElsesserLast updated on January 2, 2024
4 min

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For an SDR, conversations are gold. It’s good when they happen through email, better still when they’re over the phone, and best when they’re in-person.

Trade shows and events present a seriously valuable opportunity for SDRs. Who wouldn’t want to potentially make half their month’s quota in a single day?

Plus, events give sellers the opportunity to see new cities and build stronger bonds with their coworkers. Not to mention, it’s great practice for honing your pitch and applying that knowledge to your everyday cadences.

Live-selling moments give an otherwise anonymous sales rep the chance to show prospects interest, empathy, and personality while flirting with the discovery phase of the sales funnel.

But before we get into how you should crush your next event, you need to ask yourself:

Do I really want to be here?

For the sake of hitting quota and making tons of industry connections, your answer should be yes, but selling at events requires emotional, social, and physical stamina. For some, it can be uncomfortable and, at times, awkward.

If selling in person sounds completely horrible — that’s okay. There’s a reason a lot of sales organizations have separate positions for inside sales.

That being said, some sales teams need to be multifunctional — so however you got here, congratulations! Here’s what you have to do to crush it at your next live event.

Prep for the event

A successful seller is a prepared seller, and events should be treated with the same respect as a quarterback would treat game day.

SDRs should focus on three key questions:

  • Who’s attending this event?

  • What are their potential use cases?

  • Is the event sponsored or targeted in some way?

Is this an event for executives or middle-management employees? Will there be decision-makers present, and if not, is there a follow-up strategy for speaking to the right person?

Furthermore, how can the attendees of this event receive value from your product? Think about which pitch will work best. Think about these attendees’ pain points, and imagine the impact of what an ideal solution would look like.

These questions become much easier to answer if the event you’re attending is sponsored or focused toward a particular product or industry niche (ehem, Salesforce).

If this is the case, study closely how your product integrates or complements the host’s vision. This will be a quality conversation-starter.

Have a plan in place

Preparation counts for very little if your team doesn’t have a coherent strategy come game time.

For one, how are you driving traffic to your “booth”? SDRs should keep an open posture toward foot traffic and initiate conversations with event attendees. Sometimes, it doesn’t take more than, “Hey, how are you doing?” or “What brought you to the event today?” to get the conversation going.

The next step is to determine if this person could be a potentially qualified prospect. Ask them if they’ve heard of your product before, what they use in your space for a solution, and perhaps give them a 10-second pitch. Ask them about their goals as they pertain to areas your product can assist. This phase could potentially transition into deeper discussions. Your goal is to set a demo during a dedicated time after the event. So judge interest, dangle a carrot, and set the next steps!

Also, collect business cards. If not a business card, a LinkedIn profile and an email. You need some way to attribute this lead to you specifically, and this acts as a touchpoint you can reference in future conversations.

But this is if everything goes perfectly, and it doesn’t always.

When you’re initiating conversations, you need a plan for the unqualified event attendees as well. Sometimes, people will be interested in learning about your product but know they’re not interested in buying. Others are what we call swaghounds (or tire-kickers), and they’re really just angling for that row of branded water bottles on the table behind you.

For these reasons, it’s a good idea to have a non-selling company representative nearby to keep the sellers open to quality opportunities.

Follow Up [Important]

So many times, you see good event work wasted through poor follow-up execution.

As soon as an event ends (or even at the end of a single day), sales reps need to begin their outreach to the leads collected that day. Be it a sales engagement tool, CRM system, or otherwise, have a plan to use the tools at your disposal to engage your contacts.

Usually, a great start to this could be, “Hey Bob, It was great speaking with you at the Aircall event yesterday — I wanted to pick up where we left off. As a reminder of our conversation, here is how Aircall could best help you: Bullet Point 1, Bullet Point 2, etc.”

The days following an event are crucial. This is the best time to pick up the phone and have another conversation. Build rapport with the prospect and try to learn more about their organization.

High-value deals can even go a step further. Include their contact info for the next swag mailer your company sends out. Message curated content you feel they’d appreciate. Anything to keep the momentum moving forward.

And on a final note — keep track of how successful these events are. Do the leads convert at a higher win rate? Was the spend worth the ROI? A lot of times, it’s hard to see the immediate impact of in-person selling, but if you monitor progress over the long term, you may just find that the juice is worth the squeeze.

Published on October 10, 2019.

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