Lee Ali, MD global exhibition engagement company Expo Stars, explains how businesses can adapt their sales strategies for exhibiting success abroad.
Taking part in exhibitions is key for businesses to create new leads, nurture relationships and promote their products or services. For businesses that trade internationally, exhibiting abroad can provide a great platform to get in front of new audiences.
But with different countries come different cultures, communication styles and sales tactics. So, how do you ensure you tailor your strategy to fit the market and generate the best possible return on investment from your event?
Perfect your plan
Planning is a top priority when maximising results at exhibitions, so make sure you have a clear strategy.
Before you sign up to exhibit abroad, you need to check it’s the right fit for your business and target audience. Have clear objectives, outlining what you want to achieve and understand how you’re going to measure this.
Your objectives are likely to change depending on where you’re exhibiting. For example, in the Middle East a lot of deals come from strong relationships, therefore, it is key to meet people face-to-face when exhibiting to build these all important connections.
It can help to find an exhibition partner who has experience of the local market and who can support you. They can advise on local customs and ways of doing business.
Of course, you might get some sales during the event, but it’s more likely that you should aim to follow up with a meeting, free trial or some other form of communication that gives your prospects a further opportunity to find out how you could help them.
More competition for businesses to get noticed means buyers now have to be savvier when it comes to choosing who to work with or buy from, and our company is moving away from direct transactional selling to a more consultative approach in the B2B market.
According to the B2B Buyer’s Survey Report, B2B customers progress more than 70% of the way through the decision-making process before ever engaging a sales representative. If you’re so focused on what happens in the latter 30% (pricing, discounts, and sales), then you’ll miss the first 70% and wonder why your pipeline isn’t filling up.
Instead, you need to look at ways to inform, inspire and build relationships – and the best way to do this will depend on where you’re exhibiting and who you’re doing business with.
Get accustomed to the customs
Being aware of local practices and customs is important. For example, in many places in Asia it’s best practice to give and receive business cards with both hands. In Japan, bowing is a typical way of greeting. Handshakes sometimes occur, but you should let the other person initiate it.
If you schedule in business meetings at an exhibition in Brazil, do not leave before the meeting has officially ended, as leaving early is considered rude.
There are lots of other customs around the world – from avoiding jokes when talking business in Germany to joining in with a song if you’re taken to a karaoke bar in South Korea. The key here is to research before you travel.
Learn the lingo
It can be extremely beneficial to employ native speakers to engage with attendees on your stand. Expo Stars has 2,500 multilingual staff worldwide trained in attendee engagement and data capturing.
You may also need to get signage, business cards, marketing brochures and presentations translated, but be careful to avoid mistakes or misunderstandings.
Also, be aware of local taxes which could impact your sale objectives for an exhibition. For instance, Japan doesn’t have VAT but it does have a 10% consumption tax. You should also find out any restrictions on products for import. For example, if you’re a pharmaceutical company or food manufacturer you could well face restrictions on what items you can show at exhibitions and so may need to find alternative ways of demonstrating your products.
Stay in touch
Make sure you start the ball rolling during exhibitions by encouraging contacts to commit to an action after it is over, for example booking a demo or scheduling a conference call.
Preparation is clearly key to put yourself in a good place to form profitable long-term business connections at any event and any location.