I have a friend who has a very different way of approaching the art of ordering at a restaurant than I do. When the menu is large, and filled with great choices, she struggles and suffers with the dilemma of quantity versus quality with respect to her potential meal choices. While recently working as a contract business development executive at a major international trade show, I realized how this is similar to a certain sales situations. Let me start with setting up the analogy, then I’ll tie it to selling.

My approach to a wonderfully complex menu filled with great meal choices is generally to find something on the menu that looks good, then quickly scan the menu for something that looks better – comparing each new possibility to the original choice that I have selected. In geek-speak, I anchor on one, then make a one-on-one comparison between my choice and the other choices. My engineer friends all understand this process quite well. This allows me to get through the menu quickly, and to feel good about my choice relative to other potential options.

My friend on the other hand really makes herself suffer. She will typically find three things that all look “incredible”, then torture herself because she does not want to MISS the experience of enjoying the choices that she does not select. Her method is destined to leave her unsatisfied. No matter how good her meal is, she will always wonder about the ones she did not order.

Now why did I think of this as an exhibitor at a trade show? For a trade show exhibitor who is trying to generate leads to convert into business, a trade show is like the menu with too many good choices because although there are a lot of choices (food on the menu, attendees at the trade show), it is not clear from the first look which choice might be good and which could be better (the bad ones can be weeded out pretty fast in both cases).

At the show, I see a lot of exhibitors approaching all of the attendees like my friend approaches the menu. They don’t want to miss any contacts, so they chase any and all that look decent, and run quickly from one to the next without taking time in between.

If you have worked a trade show, then you know that unless you are deliberate about how you capture information, you will forget by day 4 what was important on day 1. If you are not deliberate about a follow up plan, you will come back from the show, and get busy with your day-to-day work and never follow up on the leads that could have turned into business.

My approach this week has been to seek out great connections. In these sales conversations, I try to gather a general sense of the situation of the targeted prospect and how we can help, then as soon as we part company, I make quick notes about our conversation. Twice a day, I sit down with my business cards and write up on my computer a more detailed report of our conversation and enter them into a follow up system.  I usually do this away from the booth, which seem insane from the rookie perspective described below (there were other people at our booth for those who came by while I was away!).

I am sure that a lot of exhibitors around me wondered about my strange habits of not alternating between chasing everything that moves or sitting and doing nothing – which is a typical rookie, ineffective trade show exhibitor behavior. This middle road that I take seems strange to them. It is just not one of the typical trade show formulas. Most exhibitors are either talking to someone or “resting”. Not a lot of real-time post show planning, and accordingly, many of them will come back from the show with little to run with.

Trade shows are a great place to generate leads, but it works a LOT better if you are deliberate about how you do it. Those who are not deliberate claim that it was the show that was bad with respect to generating new business. Hopefully, those who have taken that perspective and have now read this might know that something else might be to blame.

If any of his is still unclear to you, practice on a menu at a great restaurant – if nothing else you’ll get a nice meal out of it!

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David