How To Work Franchise Trade Shows, Part 3: Quick Tips For Greater Success - And What To Do After The Show

This last installment of a three-part series provides quick tips for greater success at the show, and the final ingredient for making the most of your trade show spend: what to do after you get back to the office to increase your franchise sales.

Quick tips for greater success

  • Write down something about the attendee, their spouse, child(ren), a particular benefit that excited them, a factor important in their business selection, or any item you can address more fully when you make contact.
  • Rate your leads. If you don't, you'll forget who impressed you and who needs dumping in the wastebasket. A simple "A," "B," or "C" noted on their lead forms allows you to prioritize the better prospects at the show for follow-up.
  • Don't place a table in front of your booth. This creates a physical and psychological barrier for attendees. Keep the front open to provide a more inviting, less formal environment for prospects to come in and chat with you.
  • Don't sit down. Who wants to meet someone sitting in a chair? Be respectful and stand up at their level when you greet them. Too tired to stand up? Leave the booth and take a break in the exhibitor's lounge.
  • Don't eat in the booth. This tells a prospective buyer that diving into your ham-and-cheese sandwich is more important to you at the moment than sharing your opportunity with them. That moment may be all you have with them as they pass by.
  • When your booth gets really busy, pause from individual conversations to engage others before they walk away. Acknowledge their presence and let them know you will be with them shortly. Hand out brochures as they wait, or inquiry forms to complete. Work the crowd or you'll lose prospects that lose patience.
  • Gracefully excuse incessant gabbers. Sometimes a visitor latches on to you at the expense of others waiting to get their questions answered. Remember, you're gathering leads, not making sales. Set up signals with your booth mates so they can "remind you of that meeting you are late for." Another technique is to cut off your marathon discussion with a handshake and say, "Thanks so much! Please fill out our request form and we'll get back to you after the show." Hand them the clipboard and form, provide them a pen, smile, slowly turn away, and start conversing with your lineup of other interested attendees.
  • Get troublemakers away fast. All of us encounter the nutcase who has come to hassle you, your business concept, or all the evils franchising represents. Squelch the disruption before it escalates. Immediately walk with these nutcases away from your booth area and, if necessary, signal someone to get show personnel or security to escort them out of the hall.

After the show

I recommend you call all leads within 24 hours of the show, thanking the person for visiting your opportunity. Make that individual feel special, bringing up a key observation you noted on their request form when you met. This wins big relationship points, separating your call from those of the other exhibitors. When speaking with an attendee on the phone, I started with, "Jill, you probably didn't have time to review our opportunity yet, but I really want to thank you and Joe for visiting with us. As you shared with me, owning our service business could be a nice fit for you two, and a great opportunity for your son Bob." I would then go silent, and if Jill jumped into a discussion, I was off and running with my prospect. If she said, "You're right, I haven't had time to review any of the businesses yet," then I asked, "Would Wednesday be an appropriate time to do this?" and I would book a time for a conference call.

Working nearly 100 franchise shows, I learned early that speed is of the essence in capturing the fast decision-makers. Many franchisors take three, five, seven, or more days to get back to their show leads. I know, I used to be one of them! Making the first contact with prospects will distinguish you from the pack. The slowpokes miss out with those buyers anxious to move forward with their business investigation.

Post-show seminars--Some franchisors are pros at running seminars during the show, or on the Saturday, Sunday, or Monday night following the event. These sessions are designed to sell the hot candidates when emotions are high, and owning a business is consuming their minds. These forums vary from well-scripted PowerPoint presentations accommodating 30 people, local franchise store meetings, or personal appointments at the show hotel. Have a sign-up sheet posted at your booth. If you successfully promote your special event, expect 50 percent of sign-ups to show up. For after-hours seminars, call to confirm the time and place of your session. I've sold from these seminars, and I've struck out as well. It's certainly worth a test if you're in a key development market and have successful franchisees in the region available for validation.

This is an excerpt from my book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world-class franchise system faster." Order copies at

Published: February 24th, 2010

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