Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

March 2007

Show time!

For several years early in my business career, late winter/early spring weeks were reserved for trade shows. The companies I worked for exhibited at three big shows — in Munich, Chicago and Las Vegas. I learned that the key to success had more to do with footwear than booth graphics. Basically, to staff a booth, one had to be prepared for mind-numbing repetition of talking points and background music while making eye contact with potential customers, job hunters, media, old customers, competitors, spies, bores and — well — others.

There were five basic questions you needed good answers to: 

What do you do?

What’s new?

Any specials?

Who in your outfit do I need to talk with?

You got a catalog or something?

After checking out the name tag of your questioner — most big buyers hide their identities; for instance, at the hardware show a Sears buyer would be gang-tackled by exhibitors desperate to do business with a biggie, while at the ski show, no specialty manufacturer wanted to talk to a mass merchant for fear of harming the elite appeal of its brand — you might answer the questions.

“We’re the most focused company on the most important and profitable sector of your market. Our PDP 14X is a hot new design that’s getting rave reviews from focus groups all across the country. We have a promotion offering a gross of inventory plus a POP that will keep the registers ringing and a co-op ad program to keep the doors swinging. I’ll get your card to our rep in your territory— oh, Columbus! Great! Bud’s been serving your area for a long time, let me put our catalog in your bag there.” 

Then you pop the question, “Would you like a demo or would you rather just start writing an order?”

I’m telling you, you cannot do that for 20 to 50 times a day 10 days in a row if your feet hurt. You can’t smile that long if your feet hurt. Your ears will ring and your eyes will water if your feet hurt.

Shoes, man, shoes!

That’s show biz!