This time of year I get invited to participate in lots of fairs, festivals, and expos. As a matter of fact, I just participated in one last Saturday. As usual, I gave the event some thought once I returned home.
I got to thinking about the interactions between exhibitors. These events are great for making contacts with the people who attend. I usually view these as marketing events—ways to make contacts, add people to my newsletter, and schedule parties. There have been times, though, when some of the best contacts I’ve made have been with other participants. As a matter of fact, one of events with the least number of attendees led to a great partnership/friendship with someone who has become a great resource for me. She invited me to become part of a networking group that has been a real blessing to my business, and she’s become a customer as well.
Here are some of my ideas for making the most of networking with other vendors at a fair or expo:
Set up early so you have time to wander and talk with others (maybe even lending a hand) as they get set up.
Pay attention to how other vendors set up their booths. If you wonder why they chose to do something, ask. Most will be glad to share their wisdom. You just might be able to learn things that will help you tweak your booth to your own advantage.
Talk with vendors about their products. You just might learn something that can help one of your own customers solve a problem. Remember that every time you help a customer with something that doesn’t involve your own product you become even more valuable in their eyes.
Be ready to answer questions about your products. Have enough catalogs to share with the vendors present and order forms so that they can place orders during any down times. At my last event I sold over $100 to other vendors.
On the other hand, don’t go around simply handing out your catalogs to all of the other vendors. They’re there to work. You know that pushy salesperson you never wanted to be? Don’t be one. Let me illustrate the difference. At that last event one of the vendors went around as we were all packing up and asked each vendor if they’d gotten one of the samples she’d had available. If not, would we like one? That was welcome and pleasant. Another vendor went around and simply handed a catalog to every vendor without asking if they would like one. That was pushy and, frankly, wasteful.
Be sure to be friendly and chat with the other vendors as time allows. The vendor who sequesters himself in his booth with his nose in a book or his phone the entire time makes it clear that he’s not interested in doing business or making friends.
Finally, if you have a referral system, make sure that you let others know. I can’t tell you how many customers have come my way because a DS for another business has shared my contact information with one of their own customers.
I hope you are able to make the most of the fairs, expos, and festivals in which you participate this holiday season.