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Are your sales people burnt out?  You may want to check.  Have they clocked too many twelve hour days?  Do they have enough frequent flier miles to charter a jet to Mars?  Are their faces permanently skewed into perpetual smiles from chatting with hundreds of thousands of trade show attendees?
Answer yes to any one of these questions – or even chuckle at a situation a little too close to home – and you’ve got a problem.  Working a trade show is hard.  Keeping your team  motivated can be even harder, especially during a busy exhibit season.
However, it is vitally important that your sales team is not only at the show, but excited about being there.  Enthusiasm is contagious – and absolutely central in creating positive word of mouth about your products and services.  When your sales staff are fired up and genuinely motivated to share what they know about your products with the buying public, they are more effective salespeople.
Luckily, creating this enthusiasm is as easy as ABC! 
Address the Individual
Selecting the proper people for your booth staff is the first step toward a great show.  These people are your company’s ambassadors.  Pick employees who are helpful, courteous, and professional.  Make sure they have excellent product knowledge and customer service skills.  
They must also have a positive attitude about working the trade show.  Attitude is everything – and it manifests on an individual level.  Walk around a trade show floor, and study the people staffing a number of booths.  Body language alone will show you which employees don’t want to be there.  Simmering resentment plays out in tense posture, negative facial expressions, and sour attitudes – none of which help generate sales. 
Why might your staff be averse to attending the show?  It may come down to cold, hard cash.  Sales staff frequently feel that working a trade show interferes with their normal selling routine.  Commission-based employees may actually be losing money by attending the show.  Address these concerns proactively, resolving scheduling and compensation issues so your staff are free to concentrate on the show.
Give each staff member an individual goal.  This could be generating a number of quality leads, a target number of new contacts, or something similar. Having a goal increases accountability, forces unproductive habits out of the picture, increases productivity, and builds motivation.
Bring In the Brass
Do whatever it takes to involve your management team in trade show activities.  You may have to pry them out of their corner offices, but it’ll be worth it.  Having upper management participating in training programs, pre & post show activities, and the actual show validates the trade show’s worth.  It also generates an in-house enthusiasm which will carry over onto the sales floor.
Many employees value the opportunity to build personal relationships with upper management.  Mingling together in the trade show environment can help create a culture of recognition and appreciation.  Never underestimate the power of personal recognition.  A compliment from the boss carries a lot of weight, and can spur your staff to even higher achievement levels.
Tangible rewards also provide an effective way of encouraging higher levels of performance and can encourage friendly competition amidst your booth staff – with the end result benefiting your bottom line.
Create a Team
For best results, everyone in the booth should be working together as a team.  Having a group that helps each other wherever and whenever necessary doesn’t just happen.  Great teams don’t serendipitously occur  — they are made.
Designate your teams before the show. Pre-show time is needed to give team members time to get acquainted, develop trust, and learn each other’s strengths.  If you’ve got a large staff, split them up, mixing technical and sales staff.  That way, you’ll always have customer service and product knowledge skills on the sales floor.  Have them establish plans of action for working the show, and promote a certain level of autonomy within the groups.  This creates a sense of collective responsibility.
Be sure that the whole team is aware of and fully understands the company’s goal for the trade show.  Additionally, teams should set goals for the show.  These will dovetail nicely with the personal goals set by individual staff members.  Offer incentives for those teams that meet – or surpass – those goals.  When you have good team chemistry, you’ll find team members coaching each other and striving to keep the collective morale up. 
Revisit your team roster throughout the show season.  If a certain group doesn’t click, mix it up.  Switching team members may enhance overall performance.  If you have a staffer that doesn’t work with any team, perhaps utilizing them at the trade show is not the best use of their skills. 
Don’t forget the Details
Rewards and recognition should be constant – and they don’t have to break the bank.  A small gesture like morning coffee costs next to nothing, yet shows you care about your team.  One creative manager provided gel insole inserts for her sales staff – a thoughtful present for folks on their feet twelve hours at a go.
Which brings us to E – for Enthusiasm.  An Enthusiastic booth staff will turn in a top notch performance.  It’s as easy as ABC!

This Marketing article was written by Susan Friedman on 5/29/2005

Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author:
“Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve their
meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training.