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Trade_showIt’s the beginning of a new year and as usual, businesses will be looking to expand their pipeline by attending trade show events at various glitzy venues across the globe.

As a sales engineer myself, with plenty of trade show experience under my belt, it can be easy to lose focus on why you’re attending these events, what you should be doing there and what’s stopping you from performing your role with panache.

With Dreamforce '16, our biggest marketing event, behind us yet fresh in my memory, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect and reassess why the SE function is so important at these events, both at a business and individual level. After all, your company might have hundreds of SEs on its books, but only the budget for a handful to attend. So what should you be doing to reaffirm the business's decision to have you there? Additionally, as a sales engineer it can be easy to feel a little isolated when the majority of your colleagues (and competition!) attending will be pure sales or marketing personnel, and so if you don’t learn anything from this, at least you can go away feeling that you’re not the only one experiencing the challenges highlighted below.

So, what should you be doing at a trade show?

Representing your company – perhaps an obvious one, but it is both the most important one to get right and the easiest one to get wrong. These kinds of events are often long and exhausting days but ensuring you have your game-face on and representing your company in the best possible light is paramount to how prospects and leads perceive your business. No yawning, moaning or looking bored! Be polite, smiley and engaging even when not in active dialogue with anyone.

Having quality conversations – This will naturally happen if you make yourself approachable and have an engaging opening gambit. You should ensure that you don’t spend 5 minutes rattling off your elevator pitch without understanding who you are speaking to and why your audience should be at all interested. Equally it is important that your booth-team qualify attendees before sending them your way for a more technical conversation. An effective method to quickly qualify when approached and asked “so what do you do?” is to ask “before I answer that, can I ask what it is you do?”

Differentiating yourselves – In all likelihood you will be surrounded by competition, businesses offering similar solutions to your own. In order to stand-out from the crowd it is vital that you concentrate the bulk of your conversation around your differentiators. Play to your strengths. If your product has weaknesses, call them out early and move swiftly onto the aspects that are going to stand out and leave a positive conclusion.

What shouldn’t you be doing?

Answering questions/pitching without qualification – You’re not there to be a demo dolly. It is a waste of your time and your prospect’s time if you spend 15 minutes demoing to somebody that is only giving you the time out of politeness or because you had nice marketing swag. Qualify fast and qualify hard before even touching that mouse.

Letting your audience come to you – This is an important one, and may sound contradictory to the above point. Whilst it is important to qualify before getting into a deep conversation, there is no excuse for letting people wander by your booth without a quick “hello, fancy a free pen? It’s cheap, but it works. What brings you here today?”. Don’t let the colleague standing next to you do all the work. It’s a team game and you will both get more confident and have more fun if you put yourselves out there. I can assure you that 10 minutes of conversation goes quicker than 10 minutes of twiddling your thumbs and it is far more rewarding both for you, and the business.

So, in summary there is one underlying theme here that capitalises on your business's decision to have you attend a trade show/expo event. It’s about maximising the time you have to spend having meaningful conversations that your skill-set compliments. It doesn’t have to mean having to dive into the technical weeds within minutes to prove your worth, but instead teasing out the value and the need whilst leaving a positive opinion of you and your company.

With that said, have fun, engage and see you at the next event!

Check out our upcoming events here.

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About Alastair Bowers

Alastair is a Lead Sales Engineer at NewVoiceMedia and has over 6 years' experience of attending tradeshows and events with the company in various capacities. Alastair wants to reassess why a Sales Engineering presence is important at trade shows and marketing events and suggest what you should be doing to maximise your value in attendance

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