Trade shows are hugely popular in the seed industry, and for good reason — they offer an opportunity to showcase product, meet customers and potential customers, and see what your competitors are up to.

Being successful at a trade show isn’t as easy at it looks, though. Simply setting up a booth and trying to catch people’s attention isn’t going to automatically translate into sales. There are a few key success factors that determine whether or not you really get noticed at one of these events.

Presentation counts. You have to have a very professional-looking booth — something that’s clean and uncluttered. But you also have to take into consideration the time of year the show is being held. This often influences which items we put on display at the show. We try to display something that is very new to the market whenever possible. If there’s a new product line coming out, we want it there. A new colour sorter or gravity table is something that will generate a lot of talk.

Have the right staff. Who’s staffing your booth? They should be from the region the show is being held at. If we’re attending a Manitoba show, I ensure we have Manitoba sales representatives staffing the booth. Same goes for Saskatchewan and Alberta. Not only will they be familiar with many of the people they encounter at the show, they will know what regional issues were encountered over the current or previous season, which shows them to be knowledgeable people. That brings us to my next point.

Don’t sell — educate. I never go to trade shows to sell equipment. I go there to network with and educate customers and potential customers. People want to know their equipment supplier is a professional who should know everything there is to know about equipment, and when they view you that way, sales come as a result. I don’t ever want to be seen as just another salesman hawking his wares.

Trade shows can be a great way to sell product, but only if you approach them the right way. Do so, and you’ll find they’re a great way to establish yourself as someone who can be trusted as an expert in the field.

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