Sales & Marketing: To Get the Most Out of Surfaces, Start with the Tote Bag
January 1st, 2007

By A. Craig Stimmel

January-February 2007

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure—what you get out of Surfaces, Coverings or any other trade shows you attend depends on what you actually do with all of that information you collect to bring home!

We’ve all welcomed the free tote bags at Surfaces or Coverings. (In fact, the canvas bags from TileDealer are especially coveted.) We’ve walked around, visited the booths and attended the classes with anticipation. In our head we’re saying, “this showroom idea is great—I can’t wait to get into it” or “the vendors that I met at that last booth are really going to help me improve my bottom line” and even “that training that told me how to make it easier for me to have my staff sell was awesome.”

You filled your bag up with all sorts of great things: brochures on all of the latest products, the new vendors’ business cards that you’re going to call and even those handouts that the trainers gave to you on ways to make it easier for you to run/improve your business. You filled it up because that’s what you always do and that’s what everyone else does right? Why would you ever want to act on contacting all of those vendors and/or begin to actually use the training ideas that you learned (smile).

Here’s a rough outline of what probably happened:

  • 1. Paid for tickets and flew to the trade show.
  • 2. Paid for the show as well as a room.
  • 3. Walked around and visited all of those great exhibitors.
  • 4. If you exhibited, paid to do so and you put out that wonderful “fish bowl”.
  • 5. Stepped up to the plate at that video baseball machine—that was cool!
  • 6. Went out after the show with some friends to see the sights/have some cocktails.
  • 7. Flew home with your precious tote bag in tow.
  • 8. Got back to your office and put that bag under/beside your desk.
  • 9. Said last week that you should get to it—but “you’re just so busy”.

Now, I know that there are a few of you that actually took some of the info and called the vendors and/or thought about implementing the training ideas. For those of you who haven’t done anything here’s a game plan for starting to take some action on the next trade show.

What To Do When You Return To Your Hotel

Towards the end of the show, the night before you leave to go home, spread out all the collected collaterals and product samples on the bed or on the floor and put them into product categories: 1) traditional products; 2) new/innovative products 3) consumables; 4) business ideas; etc.

Spend enough time, as you “review what you’ve collected,” to choose the information that looks promising. Anything other than promising information/samples/training material should be disposed of immediately. Remember, PAPER WEIGHS A LOT and you have to carry it home. Why carry something that has little, if any, value? Keep the stacks separate—put a rubber band around each stack and label it with a post-it-note (or equal). Put all the business cards into a special 9×12 envelope and mark it business cards for follow-up. Any business card, which you recognize as being of NO interest, should be thrown away now rather than taken back to the office to be thrown away there (smile).

If you’re really “trade show savvy,” you’ve probably brought a separate suitcase or sports bag that you can use to bring these materials home (sorted). If not, replace the information in the “tote bag”—sealing it as well as you can and put it into your suitcase or carry it with you home.

You’re Back At Your Office—Now What?

As you return to your office, recognize that you’re not likely to be able to avoid dealing with “time sensitive” issues such as voicemails, emails, and customers who want/need you to get back to them, etc.

So schedule time, an early morning time is best before normal business hours, where you can go back through the materials you’ve already “qualified” and determine which products/ideas/concepts are worthy of further time/energies or efforts. This shouldn’t take you more than one hour at the most. Determine what needs to be done to “evaluate” the information, who will do the evaluation, how it will be done and how they will report back to you with the results. Make assignments to your staff and/or yourself to follow up on these leads and contacts.

Next, schedule a meeting for 2-4 weeks away with each person who has been assigned the responsibilities for reviewing the material and make them aware of the timeline and what they are expected to deliver at that meeting.

The designated individuals who have been assigned the responsibility for evaluating the collaterals/product samples/training information you’ve brought back need to report back to you on this scheduled date. Prepare a detailed agenda for the meeting—calling on each individual. Allow yourself a minimum of 30 minutes for each presentation and take copious notes.

Making Decisions & Getting Results

Upon completion of the meeting, return to your office and re-review the information presented. Make decisions based on what you have heard and your own “intuition”—based on your years of experience and knowledge of the marketplace. An action plan should come from this step. It should assign responsibility for doing what’s necessary to take advantage of the knowledge, product selling opportunity, new “selling approach,” etc. Give your people the opportunity to succeed and don’t be overly critical. But hold them accountable for doing the job.

Converting these new information/product ideas into meaningful revenue is the goal—this technique will help you get there.


A. Craig Stimmel

Planned Growth Business Development Solutions LLC

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