I love fairs and farm shows. The first farm show I ever attended was the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill., way back in the mid-'60s. Back then, farm equipment manufacturers displayed their newest equipment at state and county fairs. That day has largely passed. It was before the large farm shows of today were prominent, and before our society became so mobile. I always enjoyed seeing all the equipment and hearing salesmen from the factories promoting their products. It was a scenario we don't always emulate.
I remember one "block man," as they were called then, promoting the features of a certain model with great passion. He was prepared to tout his products' features, as well as handle opposing opinions from competing brands, and took time to discuss those with my dad.
That is my point. When you exhibit at a local show or larger regional shows, do you take time to sell? Sometimes, we get so caught up in setting up our booth, we forget the main objective is to sell, or at least cultivate prospects. As a friend of mine says, "It's hard to remember your main objective is to drain the swamp when you're up to your rear in alligators."
Many times we are so distracted by getting ready to sell, that we forget to actually start selling. I, like you, have worked so hard to set up a display, and admire my work when it's done, that I am too exhausted to actually start interacting with prospects. However, to be effective at building relationships that lead to selling, one has to stop focusing on the display and start being a helpful representative.
I admire good salespeople. A personal favorite are the cookware salespeople at fairs. Stop by and watch them sometime. They're enthusiastic, focused and really work at it. Learn from them. Establish a friendship with your customers. Listen to understand their needs, and then go over the features that mean something to them.
"Sometimes, we get so caught up in setting up our booth, we forget the main objective is to sell ..."
I always try to greet people with a disarming question, such as "Where are you folks from?" You can sometimes find out you know people in common and then you can start to establish a bond. Are they just there for the excitement of the show, or some other non-business reason? Or are they researching products for an upcoming purchase? The latter is usually a very small group; however it is the group you want to get to know. You have to work through dozens of the first group to get to any real prospects. However, it doesn't take many prospects who will eventually buy, to make a show successful. The key is to not get discouraged working your way through the countless "tire-kicking" non-prospects, the retirees, people looking to be entertained, the "arguers," or those who just want to put down your products.
I also find it important to keep standing. I know it makes for a long day. I have ended the day many times with feet hurting and simply too drained to move. But, standing shows you're interested and ready to help. Many times it's the difference between talking to a prospect or them simply cruising on through your booth without exchanging a word. I know from experience. I have sometimes seen a prospect at another booth interacting well with my competition. I then must have a talk with myself that I was just outsold by another salesperson willing to reach out and work, while I was sitting on my "laurels."
Make no mistake: Selling is hard work, as you all well know. It is mental work that can be shortchanged if you're physically spent. So, we must try not to get physically exhausted before we start selling or we won't give 100%.
I know that's tough when you must haul the equipment, set it up, clean it, and put out sales aids. Find some way to ease the physical stress, so you can be mentally sharp to sell. Try setting up a day early, ask your friends to help, or just hire someone to do it. It will be money well spent.
Good luck out there and keep your focus on the selling part of your title of "salesperson."
Rodney Miller is the host of RFD-TV's "Small Town Big Deal" which celebrates the great stories from America's Heartland. He has been involved in agriculture his entire life from working on the family farm and equipment dealership in Benton, Ill., to being CEO of McCormick International USA and Montana Tractors. He was also a territory manager for both Long and Mahindra USA tractor companies, managing dealers in several states. Since 2010, he's served as the assistant to the dean and director of advancement and external affairs for the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at the Univ. of Georgia. He remains an avid collector of antique tractors and equipment.