Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

October 2000

Walkin' the floor

People with really good feet will have a tough time understanding my extra point this month. But I've got to tell you, you've never had sore feet like the ones you get walking a trade show at McCormick Place in Chicago. The place is basically huge and even if you take a bus or a cab, you're still a hike and a half away from where you're going. If you have your own car, forget about it. To make matters worse, a fair number of shows spill over to the annex, which is out the door and down the street. Oh, boy!

Inside the main building there are several floors. My personal favorite is the sub basement. The poor souls down there don't get a lot of traffic from bona fide buyers. Mostly it's just startup reps looking for lines or manufacturers looking for new ideas. Typically, there's a lot of Third World entrepreneurs glaring at each other. Picture two booths full of field hockey sticks: one from Bangladesh, the other from Pakistan. A buyer from KMart, WalMart or Sears would need a bodyguard and a fake ID to stroll those aisles, let me tell you.

And, everyone's feet hurt like the dickens.

Staffing a booth is no cure for barking puppies. Standing in one place on a paper-thin carpet covering a cement floor for more than three or four hours is almost tiring enough to make you volunteer to walk down to the mezzanine and check the message board.

And sometimes, the physical stress isn't the worst part when you're fronting your own booth. It's not unusual, even for a small company, to sink tens of thousands of bucks into its trade show efforts. So there you are, standing in front of your professionally designed booth in your best bib. Almost everyone you can entice through eye contact to actually talk to you asks you the big question: "So what do you guys do?"

Think about it: Your mission statement has been crystallized into a headline, logo and pleasing graphics plastered all over your freaking booth, which, by the way, is loaded to the railings with product, samples and catalogs, and you've got to smile and tell your prospect what you're going to tell everyone who asks for the next several days: "Why, we're the greatest ..."

If your prospect is still standing in front of you after that, no doubt the question will be: "So, what's new?" Of course, you tell anyone and everyone what's new: "Why, the new, improved, exciting ..." Cutting you off in mid pitch, people want to know about specials. You tell them: price-offs, promotions, samples, free delivery, dating, bing, bang, boom.

If you haven't lost yet, it's time to puff your people. You explain who your teammates are, their titles, functions and eagerness to delight and serve the company's market. Keep right on smiling and chugging. I like to ask for a purchase order number even if it's not a so-called "selling" show. Hey, if you're not there to sell something, why aren't you out on a golf course trying to get sore feet, I'd like to know.

In the end, you make sure your prospect knows six ways to contact you: phone, fax, email, mailing address, express mail address and Web address.

You want to get all that without the sore feet? Come to the ElectroExpo at VermontGuides.com. Whether you're a buyer, seller, prospect or prospector you'll find that, like this magazine, it's worth looking into.

By the way, call me at (802) 862-4109; email me at ; mail me at P.O. Box 953, Williston, Vt. 05495-0953; ship me at 237 Commerce St. Suite 202, Williston, or just browse around www.VermontGuides.com.