SEZ WHO? Tips About Recommendations, Sales Cycles, and Trade Shows


Here's the scene. You're at the trade show, having a discrete "Sales Call" conversation with a visitor. Things are going well until he says something like...

* So who else uses this upgrade?

* You mentioned Big Foot, Inc. as a client. Who can I contact there?

* I'm not sure it's worth the extra money to us. Got any examples of real savings?

* We're heavily invested in one of your competitors and I can't see junking everything we've already done even though we have problems with that system. You say the transition would be smooth. How do I know?

YIKES. There you are with great sales resistance, which you could overcome if you knew what to do. This fellow is asking for you to give up client info - and you don't know what your client will say.


1. A trade show is a job interview for your COMPANY. Just as you are prepared when you go on a job search - past history, skills, recommendations - so, too, do people who are looking to hire a firm want to be reassured about the history, skills and recommendations related to your company.

2. Few people will directly ask you for a list of recommendations for your company. The essence will be in general conversation. You've got to be sharp and listen for opportunities to bring up recommendations. You can't fumble this - you've got to be smooth.

3. Your personal recollections may be great but they are personal. You may be a great salesperson but it's still you. They want broader, and more distant, assurances.

4. Now you're thinking - If I give him Sam's name at Big Foot, what will Sam say? Even if you call Sam in advance, you can't control the conversation. Or Sam, either by preference or company policy, may not be able to say anything.


1. Know in advance the clients you can talk about and those you cannot. Understand there are reasons you can't - security, proprietary product or an agreement with client. No one and no company wants to be gossip fodder. Have true stories everyone agrees upon. Rehearse and do not embellish. Do not make yourself the hero. Buyers write the check to the company, not you.

2. Interview your clients before the show. You want current recommendations. People change jobs and titles. Maybe Sam was happy in the beginning but not now. Ask for comments. Ask Sam if he can be contacted on a particular topic only. Have this information available either at the show or for follow-up.

3. If you have a sophisticated web site, you could add audio or video clips. Make them short, impactful and change them often. Your clients have egos. It makes small companies look smart; big companies look smart.

4. You have to listen very carefully and get to the heart of the resistance or query. Is it really dollars or is an assurance needed that it will be a good value? Is ego in the way of a sale? Is this a new-broom manager or is there a real need to upgrade or change? Is this a disgruntled client?

Your clients want to see you do well, and most are happy to help you.

Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - writes about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of Trade Show Training, inc,, now celebrating its 10th year, she works with companies in a variety of industries to improve their bottom line and marketing opportunities at trade shows.

Julia is an expert in the psychology of the trade show environment and uses this expertise in sales training and management seminars.


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