Aviation Sales consultant Mark Leeper and Marketing Consultant Paula Williams discuss the three things you should do BEFORE your next trade show to make the sales justify the expense and effort!

Transcript – Three Things to Do Before the Trade Show

Welcome to this week’s episode. We are starting a three part series on trade show success. It is only July, but October will be upon us sooner than we can imagine, and NBAA is our biggest show of the year. Of course, there’s a lot of other shows during the summer that a lot of this applies to, so if you’re spending a lot of money and a lot of time and a lot of energy on trade shows, you want to make sure that they are really worth it to you. We’re talking with Mark Leeper who is the founder and president of Seabright Company, a consulting firm serving the aviation industry since 2000. His valued clients include Part 91, Part 135 flight departments, aviation insurance companies, excuse me, flight training organizations, and Part 145 repair facilities. Mark is a licensed pilot with advanced upset recognition and recovery training in single and multi-engine jets. He is a member of the ABAA, the Arizona Business Aviation Association, and a past board member of the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Safety Committee.

Mark and Carolyn are also great partners. We’ve worked together with Seabright Company on a lot of different projects including trade shows where we’ve worked to get some really great results for aviation companies who are exhibiting at those trade shows and maybe don’t have the personnel to do all the strategy and prep and invitations and sales process and followup and execution that needs to be done to make it a real big success. So we love working with these guys on different projects, and we love working with your company as well to make your next trade show exhibit a success. You can visit seabrightcompany.com/NBAA for details of some of the packages that we offer for trade shows support. Well, thanks Mark for taking some time. I know it’s getting to be a real busy time of year for you.

Mark Leeper:                Well, thank you for having me and appreciate the opportunity to share information with people. Yeah, it is becoming a busy time of the year. We’re getting, believe it or not, close to NBAA in October. It’s 108 degrees here in Phoenix, and pretty soon we’re going to be in Las Vegas at the big show.

Paula Williams:             Right. Time flies so fast. It was just barely spring, you know? So I think a lot of people are thinking NBAA is a million years away, but I was hoping we could talk today about three things. Mark, you and I and Carolyn and John of course have worked on a lot of trade shows together and have had a few successful ones under our belt, which makes it really fun to work together, but maybe-

Mark Leeper:                Absolutely, thank you.

Paula Williams:             No problem. I was hoping we could talk about maybe three things that salespeople can do to prepare for the trade show, things that people should be thinking about right now as they’re getting into summer.

1 – Make Appointments!

Mark Leeper:                Well, one of the things that we learned from ABCI was the importance of preparing for the trade show. A lot of people’s attitudes going into a trade show are they’re worried about making the plane, getting an Uber to the show and setting the exhibit up, and then everybody’s going to rush up to the booth and you’re going to do your presentation and go home. The success of this really starts in the preparation part of this. You need to treat this as an invitation process and secure some key appointments to bring people to your exhibit. It all depends, of course, on what your product is. If you’re selling millions on widgets, you’ve got a little bit different mission than you are if you’re selling million dollar consulting contracts, but again, it boils down to finding your top 10 list and who can you invite and set appointments at the show, just like you would at at your business. You want to set up appointments with people, so you track them. You start to call them now.

Paula Williams:             Yeah.

Mark Leeper:                Ask who is coming to the show. You start sending materials out that ABCI’s so good at producing to invite them, to remind them. That would be a huge thing is that preparation

Paula Williams:             Right. And people think, “This is a really long show. People will just come see us sometime while they’re there,” but people get so busy because they’re getting to have so many exhibitors and so many educational events and so many other things that demands on people’s time that I think, unless you secure those appointments early, chances are they just won’t happen if it’s just a, “Oh, we’ll see you at the show.” That never happens. Right?

Mark Leeper:                Well, exactly. I think a several years ago we were working on a project together that started the in August, and we didn’t really have a much of a customer list. We started dialing for contacts, and I was amazed being on the phone for a month how many people had already had their show planned out completely. So I was hearing a lot from key people, “Well, I’m at this educational seminar, then I’m being with this company and this company and this company and this company, then I’ve got a luncheon or a dinner engagement cocktail, whatever it is.” So they really get busy at the shows. Another good point you just made is that with all the effort that goes into NBAA especially, it’s really a Tuesday, Wednesday and everybody starts running from the airport Thursday types of thing.

Paula Williams:             Right. They’re just dead.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah, so it’s really half day on Thursday. A lot of people could head out to, and I’m talking about NBAA a lot specifically, but any trade show, the first part of it’s real busy and people start leaving in the last quarter of the shows to go home.

Paula Williams:             Yeah.

2- Plan Your Presentations

Mark Leeper:                Yeah, it’s that prep. Then I think you asked the three things, you’ve got to have a specific plan in place to conduct presentations. It depends on your industry and your product of course, but it’s all about getting people to your exhibit for a reason and being prepared to meet their needs. Like you said, there’s half a million people in the arena, but you’ve got maybe three or four or five great opportunities to capitalize on your investment so you get a return, so a lot of it’s in that preparation.

Paula Williams:             Exactly. When you’re planning your presentation, you kind of have to give people the specifics of we’re going to be demonstrating this new product and this is why it’s important to you, because you have to make it super worth their time. Right?

Mark Leeper:                Yeah, exactly. These shows are not just a show and either. They’re a good place to close deals if you’re prepared, but you’ve got to be aware of each and every customer in the situation.

Paula Williams:             Right.

Mark Leeper:                You need to sit down with your, your promotional people, business development, ABCI type people, and work up a way that there’s a benefit for doing business at the show. Everything needs a little bit of an incentive. There’s nothing wrong with having show specials at all, and not that they have to leave you a Visa card or a check right there, but you can certainly give them a window of benefit. Everybody that comes and does business with us within 30 days of the show, it’s a benefit, a discount, something along that line.

Paula Williams:             Right, or something added, an additional product or service or something like that.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah, and you need to find a reason that you offer the discount and make sure that you explain it to your customers too. It can’t be, “Well, we just give you 20% off.”

Paula Williams:             Right. Then they’re just thinking, “You’ll just give it to me anyway.”

Mark Leeper:                Yeah, it’s like going to the furniture store and the chair’s $900 retail, but they’ve got it on special for $299. It’s like what’s going on here? You’ve got to have a reason and a season for everything, and that can be a lot of different things, but.

Paula Williams:             Right. Okay. So number one is make appointments. Number two is to plan your presentation, and do you have a number three?

3- Plan Your Team’s Workload

Mark Leeper:                I probably blended in most of them in that, but another thing that’s really important is depending on the size of the business, you’re going to have key people missing from your primary daily operations.

Paula Williams:             Oh, yeah.

Mark Leeper:                This is some things that I really enjoy, like you, working with companies because you can’t send everybody into the woods to hunt. Somebody’s got to stay home and take care of the kitchen. You can’t have everybody unavailable doing the trade show and leave your business vacant.

Paula Williams:             Yeah.

Mark Leeper:                So that preparation is okay, what happens when my key business development team is away? How do I handle that and continue business operations. Usually what we like to do is of course that’s a blend. You leave your key people home too keep the fires burning, and then we step in and can shore things up from a sales business and on the marketing side at the show, so they don’t lose as much business as they gained.

Paula Williams:             Exactly. So the answer is not necessarily to make your current staff work twice as hard before, during and after the show, it is to plan for that workload of doing it correctly, which is a lot of preparation, a lot of work at the show and a lot of work after the show too. So planning for that workload.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah, follow up. The follow up side of this thing is probably for another session, but you’re exactly right. It’s going to pull a full, for NBAA, the big one, eight days out of your schedule by the time people travel and set up and go home and get over the travel.

Paula Williams:             Yeah.

Mark Leeper:                So you’ve got to have the right people in place and work with companies like ours that can shore things up to lend out additional support.

Paula Williams:             Right. There’s nothing worse than getting home from a trade show with your big pile of leads, and then having a big pile of work as well and just not having time to do everything well, and having something fall through the cracks.

Mark Leeper:                Yeah.

Paula Williams:             And usually it’s those new leads and things.

Mark Leeper:                Right.

Paula Williams:             Excellent. So that was a really good episode. So quick recap. You want to make appointments, plan your presentation, and plan your staffing for before, during, and after the trade show. If you’d like some additional help, we have got a lot of services that we’re offering for aviation companies on a first come first serve basis. Of course, trade shows, they fill up quickly, this is one of our busiest times of year, but if you’d like us to help you plan and get us on your schedule, get you on our schedule, visit seabrightcompany.com/NBAA for more details about the types of things that we can help you with, and what that would involve.