When marketing your B2B business, "old-fashioned" tactics such as cold-calling and tradeshows are often the most effective for achieving every company's top marketing goal: getting more customers.

But far too many businesses spend far too little time on choosing the right sales representatives for tradeshows and networking events.

Whether your company has experience with such events or it's preparing for its first one, you'll benefit from this article.

Don't choose a rep just based on sales skills

When you're choosing which people to send to a sales-focused marketing event, it's tempting to choose the top-performing salespeople.

But a tradeshow is different from a telephone call or corporate sales meeting, and making a decision based solely on an employee's sales figures is often a serious mistake.

Tradeshows attract a diverse range of attendees, and a salesperson who is used to talking to purchasing managers might not know how to act when approached by an engineer, a designer, or COO.

Instead of choosing a representative based solely on sales skills, use a variety of considerations to make your decision. Look for someone with in-depth knowledge of both the industry you work in and the benefits and technical features of your product.

Since the audience at tradeshows is usually diverse and varied, having a broad range of skills is important. Your sales representative (or representatives) should have at least a few of the following key skills:

  • Hands-on experience in sales and lead generation
  • Technical knowledge about your product (and your industry)
  • A professional appearance and approachable demeanor
  • Physical stamina to work throughout an all-day event

Choose someone who matches the event's audience

Not all events, even those within the same industry, attract the same type of audience. Each event has its own culture, and choosing a representative who matches the event's culture will help you connect with its attendees.

In the advertising industry, for example, ad:tech is known for attracting a corporate, brand-focused audience whereas ClickZ Live tends to draw technical ad professionals. Some events attract a high-tech audience with product experience, while others are aimed at the C-suite.

Just as customer profiles tell you more about who's buying your product, profiles of events tell you more about what type of audience you'll be interacting with. Before you attend a tradeshow for the first time, look at coverage of past events—e.g., the event's Facebook Page, blog posts from attendees, and industry forums—to learn what type of people are most likely to attend.

You can then choose a representative who matches the event's audience. If it attracts C-suite executives and upper management, send a corporate sales expert to manage your booth. If it attracts engineers, send your own company's engineers.

No matter how talented your sales representatives are, they'll often find themselves out of their comfort zone if the event's audience doesn't match your usual customer profile. Choose the rep based on the event and its attendees, and you'll never experience that problem.

Select someone approachable, friendly, and easy to talk to

Although persistence and a pro-active approach are vital in sales, they're not as valuable at tradeshows as they might be on the phone. The reason is simple: People at tradeshows are, for the most part, already interested in your company and what it has to offer.

It's therefore far more effective to create a team of representatives who are easy to approach and friendly, rather than intense and results-focused. One type attracts customers at tradeshows; the other, all too often, ends up pushing them away.

Appearance has a huge effect on approachability, so dressing the part will make it easier for your team to achieve its goals. Study the event to make sure you choose clothing that's neither too formal nor too informal.

Remember, too that tradeshows are tiring, and keeping a smile on your face all day isn't easy when you're constantly interacting with new people. Rotate your reps from the front of your booth to the rear to give them a break and avoid burning them out.

The key to success at a tradeshow is approachability. Some of your most valuable leads will come to you if your product and booth attract them. With a friendly, approachable team, you'll be better placed to earn their business.

Tradeshow experience is important, so value it highly

Tradeshow environments present unique conditions that can catch even the most talented of sales reps off guard.

In regular sales, good leads are scarce; at a tradeshow, leads are easy to find... so the focus shifts from finding leads to qualifying leads as valuable.

If your sales team has limited tradeshow experience, it could spend the entire event generating leads—possibly hundreds of them—that are of limited value to your business. Choose reps with tradeshow experience to avoid generating hundreds of disappointing leads.

Representatives with tradeshow experience not only understand the nature of a tradeshow better than first-timers do but also adjust to the fast-paced environment more quickly and can start interacting with prospects right from the start.

If a sales representative has previous tradeshow experience, put him or her in a leading role at your company's booth. The experience rep will keep your exhibit running smoothly while assisting the less-experienced sales reps throughout the event.

(If your team is new to tradeshows, download Display Wizard's tradeshow success guide to get you started.)

For large events, assemble a larger team

Building a team of sales reps for a small event is relatively simple, especially when the event's audience is clearly defined and its focus is narrow.

For larger events, however, especially ones that attract a diverse audience, building the perfect team can be more difficult. A team full of salespeople might be unable to answer the questions of an engineer, for example. Likewise, a team of engineers might struggle to close a deal with even the most interested of C-suite executives.

If the event you're attending attracts a diverse and varied audience, assemble an equally diverse team. From engineers to sales experts, each member of your team should add a new skillset and should appeal to a different type of tradeshow attendee.

The key is to combine complementary skills and knowledge, putting together a team of people who create a unit that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Does your company have a tradeshow sales team?

A frequent question in the sales and marketing world is whether top salespeople are born or made. Sales experts have argued for decades about which is the answer, ignoring the possibility that both could be true.

And that's the case for tradeshows: The best sales representatives (and teams) combine personality and experience. They're born salespeople who are also highly experienced at working in a tradeshow environment.

If your business frequently exhibits at tradeshows but doesn't have a team of tradeshow sales experts, start building it today. It could make the difference between closing valuable sales at your next event and walking away empty-handed.

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How to Choose the Right Sales Reps for Your Next Tradeshow

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image of Peter Symonds

Peter Symonds is a tradeshow marketing expert from Display Wizard, which supplies exhibition stands, roller banners, and other promotional materials for use at tradeshows and events.

LinkedIn: Peter Symonds