Why You Should Not Let Sales Work the Booth at Tradeshows!

Unless they are in sync with your event goals.

 It is kind of hypocritcal that I write this post given my actions as both a direct sales contributor and sales leader working tradeshow exhibits.  I say these things in repent knowing that I was wrong in my actions and ask for forgiveness from my previous co-workers. 

I used to manage a large sales team for a $120 million company in Seattle; we sold a large enterprise application with an average sales price of $125,000.  I had a total of 25 sales reps reporting to me from three regions and was one of four Regional Vice Presidents managing a team.  The culture within our company was very competitive across these regions on a quarterly basis with each of us vying to out-perform the other regions from both a revenue generation and forecasting basis.   Jim and I managed regions that were the primary contributors and we both respected and hated each other.  Essentially my team and I had two competitors we were dealing with on a day to day basis, our cohorts within the company and those external competitors we were competing with for new business. 

Now imagine deploying this culture at a tradeshow where there are no geographical boundaries with regards to ownership of leads and opportunities.  I had three primary goals with regards to my company’s exhibit:

1 )  A percentage of my pipeline was walking the floor; I did not want Jim or his team anywhere near these opportunities.

2)  I also did not want a new temp Marketing just hired or Marketing in general pitching these opportunities. 

3)  I wanted to make sure we got more leads than Jim. 

I can’t believe how shallow I was.  Jim was the same way though.  Bastard. 

By the way, Marketings goals were not in alignment with mine. 

Anyway, when I or my team was working the exhibit we naturally worked it with these three goals in mind.  If an opportunity from New York visited (not my region) we would pass these individuals to someone in Marketing or simply hand them a brochure and covertly send them along their merry way.  We would also inadvertently forget to scan these leads.  Actually I usually did not scan at all.  For my leads, I would grab their business card and slip them into my pocket.  Marketing was scanning everybody they could anyway to win a “Who can drive the most leads” contest.  This contest usually got a little out of hand.  I was often scanned by our own company to increase their counts.         

I was watching the NE region (Jim’s) closely and could care less about the scans Marketing was capturing.  We knew if an opportunity appeared because Marketing was instructed to get one of us in these cases.  Event success was determined based upon the number of business cards we captured versus Jim. 

Man, if our CFO knew this was happening I am quite certain he would have been pissed. 

For you marketing leaders out there, remember you have no boundaries so please make sure your team treats their leads with the company in mind, not themselves.  If you are inviting sales to participate, let them know you are working for everyone on the team and jointly create an event strategy.  Focus on driving leads that are categorized to Sales specifications (Validar eatings its own dogfood).  Get your CEO involved with the planning as a means to set the ground rules.  Don’t bring them in if this investment is coming out of your budget and they are not aligned.  Jim is a prime example of what will happen!  Let me know if you have any stories to share as well.  I know they are out there.