Blog for Building Materials Companies

How Not to Fail at IBS

  |  Posted in Builders, Trade Shows

How Not to Fail at IBS

If you are exhibiting at the IBS builder’s show, your priorities should be, first, to gain new customers and, second, to keep current customers happy—not the other way around. Unfortunately, many companies do little to attract new customers and make it easy for potential customers to walk right past their booths.

Here’s How to Be More Successful at IBS

Make sure you have a clear understanding of your objectives for the show. I am always amazed at how many companies don’t provide clear guidance to the people working their booths. They just assume that everyone knows why they’re at the show and what will make it a success.

If you are a sales person for one of these companies, set your own goals.

Start by putting yourself in the place of the homebuilders who are attending IBS. Think about why they came to the show and what they hope to get out of it, and you’ll be closer to knowing how to gain their interest.

You also need to consider what you’re up against. The fact is, your exhibit is not a high priority for most builders.

When I ask homebuilders why they attend IBS, they consistently tell me they come to find out how to be more successful and to find solutions to their problems. Because the show is so big, they have to prioritize how they use their time.

A builder’s priority is not the show floor and your booth. Their priority is finding solutions to their problems. So, many of them start with classes and educational events, followed by the opportunity to network with and learn from other builders.

When Builders Finally Get to The Show Floor, Here’s What Happens:

They tend to visit the companies they already know and buy from.

If they buy products like yours from your competitor and have had zero problems with that manufacturer, they tend not to see a reason to spend time at your booth.

Remember, they’re there to solve their problems. If they don’t feel they have a problem, there’s no need to waste time looking to solve a problem that isn’t there. Builders have many other problems that are a bigger priority for them.

Here’s Why Their Current Supplier is Their First Stop on the Show Floor:

  1. If I walk into a restaurant or bar that I frequent, the people there know me and greet me like a long-lost cousin. That greeting is meant to make me feel special. And it works. It’s the same with the show floor: if I stop by the other company, I’m not that important.
  2. This may be the only time they get to see their rep. They may even get to meet a senior executive who will tell them how much they appreciate their business. They might also get taken out to a nice dinner or invited to a party.
  3. They want to see what’s new and get some questions answered.

The Builder’s Next Stop is Still Not You

The next thing the builder wants to do is work on their shopping list. Before the show, the builder drew up a list of products they want to learn more about. For example, maybe they’re interested in switching to tankless water heaters and want to learn more about them. They probably have a list of the leading manufacturers and plan to stop by several of them to learn and compare.

Finally, They Have a Little Time Left to Explore and Maybe Stop by Your Booth

As you can see, you’re at the end of a long list. So, you’ll need to put in an extra effort to increase the number of new builders who stop by your booth. Those who do finally do make it to your booth are more valuable than you may realize.

It’s too late to change your exhibit for this show, but keep this in mind for future shows. Too many booths have very lame messages like, “Here’s our logo, the product name and some silly headline like ‘Built for Tomorrow’ or ‘The Quality Brand.’” Who cares? These are easy to walk by.

Use the signage on your booth to immediately communicate how your product solves a problem for builders. Give them something strong like, “Why More Builders Use Our Products” or “Build it Faster.”

How to Convert More Builders to Your Product

  1.  Make everyone who stops by your booth feel special and important, not just your existing customers.
  1. Don’t start by selling like an aggressive used car salesman. Most salespeople know to start out by asking questions and listening more than talking. Once the builder has told you more about himself, you’ll know how to present your product in a way that has importance to him.

There are still a surprising number of sale people who haven’t learned this lesson. It happens so frequently that builders tell me it’s one of the main reasons they are hesitant to step into a new booth.

  1.  Demonstrate that you are a product expert. Teach them something about your category of products, not just about your company. If you’re in the lighting business, tell them about trends in lighting. If you sell insulation, talk to them about different ways to meet the new building codes.
  1.  Do your preparation before you get to the trade show. Come armed with a handful of potential targeted customers. Reach out to them personally and encourage them to drop by your booth because you may have just the solution they are looking for. You can still contact prospects, even after the show has started, by email, phone or social media like LinkedIn.
  1.  Finally, and most importantly, follow-up after the show. Be patient and stick with it—they may not be ready to buy for several months. Most companies give up too soon (I will be sending an email next week about how to turn your show leads into sales).

If you put yourselves in the shoes of the prospect at a show and follow these steps, you will gain more new customers from your investment in trade shows.

Another important step you should take is to learn more about how to sell builders. Take some time to be curious and learn.

You Can Learn

  • What types of builders are interested in your product?
  • What size are they?
  • Where are they from?
  • Why are they interested in your product or company?
  • What challenges or problems are they facing?
  • What frustrates them about your type of product?
  • And more.

Most exhibitors at IBS do such a mediocre job that it only takes a few changes to outperform them.

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About The Author

I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.  As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.

My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best salespeople. Contact me to discuss your situation.