Congratulations on making it to the Clean Show! It is paramount that you use your time wisely so that truly is an investment rather than an expenditure. To make sure of this, remember the 5 “P’s”: Prior Planning Prevent Poor Performance (You can use that for just about anything!). If you have just picked up this magazine at the show, it is a good use of your time to get away from the hustle and bustle of the show floor for 20 minutes and read this and plan how you will best use your time over the next couple of days. You’ll thank me later. But since the show is very late in the month, most likely you will have had several weeks to plan how you will use your time. Let’s say that you are shopping POS systems and shirt units and looking for some new idea to spark your sales.
- Decide which vendors you need to visit and map them out. Try to prioritize them and then choose the most efficient way to see them all. Sometimes the “grocery store” approach doesn’t always work, especially when the trade show floor is the size of a few football fields. Save the browsing for after your important visits. This is sort of a standard trade show mantra, but it has a pitfall. When you peruse the list of exhibitors, sometimes you don’t recognize the company name of the exact vendor that you want to interact with. EZ-Products, for example, might be the manufacturer of a product that you want to buy, but you’re familiar with the product, not the maker. It’s easy to miss them because of that. Companies like Sankosha or Unipress are immune to issues like that
- Schedule important meetings. There are some trade show meetings you absolutely have to have — contract signings, sales presentations, customer service issues. Schedule a time with the appropriate people, either in their booth or over lunch or coffee. It’s easy to lose track of time on the show floor, so put the meetings on your schedule, set an alarm or two, and then text the other person to let them know you’re on your way. That can also be a reminder to them. On your phone, set an alarm, not a reminder ding. You will not hear the reminder tone on the show floor so for all reminders during your time at the show, set alarms and label them. This is the only way to stay on track.
- Don’t worry about work. Hopefully you’ve worked ahead, set your email auto responder to let people know you’re out, and have coworkers covering things back at the plant. You’re not going to be at a gathering this large for a while, so make the most of it. There’s plenty of time to answer emails later, like in your room at night. Don’t hide away in a lounge to get work done. You’re at the place that could end up being the most profitable and educational of the year. Plus, you paid a bundle to be there. Why would you waste those opportunities?
- Attend educational sessions. Many trade shows have educational sessions and classes. If there are any that will help you do your job better, attend them. The knowledge you get in an info-packed hour could save you many hours of reading and learning from your mistakes. I know that these sessions are early in the morning and many show attendees are sleeping in after a late night, but you are missing out if you choose to miss these. Because these often occur prior to exhibition hours, they do not interfere with your show floor schedule.
- You will get a bunch of business cards. I think that business cards are passe. I photograph them with my phone and then log them into my contact list later. The days of keeping a Rolodex or a folder of business cards are long gone.
- Wear the most comfortable shoes you have. You’re going to spend up to 8 – 10 hours on your feet, so take a couple pairs of comfortable shoes. Get some leather walking shoes or tennis shoes that don’t look weird with your show attire. Alternate between pairs every other day.
When you get to a booth with a shirt unit, you have a checklist to go through:
- First of all, how do the shirts look when pressed by a “professional”? This might seem like an obvious question that doesn’t need an answer, but this is not so. More than once, I have seen a purported expert pressing on a shirt unit at the show and producing very poor shirts. She was embarrassed and I was embarrassed for her. It was a lousy unit. This is not going to be the usual situation. Usually….
- …We all know this, just because the presser at the show presses terrific shirts with zero touch-up, it doesn’t that this will happen at your plant. I once had a client bring a bag of wet (high-end) shirts from his plant and asked the demonstrator to press those shirts at the show rather than the ones that are routinely pressed. The client was impressed that their shirts came out very well and subsequently bought the shirt unit. But I digress, when observing the presser at the show, rather than homing in on the quality of the pressed shirts, focus on how the presser is working.
- Are they frantic?
- Are they working hard? Or hardly working?
- Do they seem to be enjoying themselves?
- How many shirts are they pressing per hour? You are not going to stay there for an hour but count the number of seconds in between shirts. 100 seconds between shirts = 36 shirts per hour (PPH), 90 seconds between shirts = 40 PPH, 80 seconds between shirts = 45 PPH, 70 seconds between shirts = 51.4 PPH, 60 seconds between shirts = 60 PPH, 50 seconds between shirts = 72 PPH, etc. You may not be one that is all about productivity but a difference of 5 shirts per hour is equivalent to roughly $7800 per year. Over 10 years, that is way more than the price of the shirt unit so do not trivialize productivity or the value of it. If anyone should be capable of productivity, it is the demonstrator at the show. That said, keep in mind that they may not be working at peak performance as they answer questions from other attendees and are otherwise interrupted.
- Who is the local dealer? This is a tough one for me. I have seen some very interesting, innovative and ingenious shirt units over the years, but I hazard to recommend them because when it comes down to brass tacks, who will service the new-fangled machine? And perhaps more importantly, where will you get parts? It seems like at every Clean Show, there is an exhibitor that presents a brand-new shirt unit from an unknown company. I give them all the credit in the world. I have seen some absolutely brilliant designs. But breaking into the US market to compete with the mainstays such as Sankosha, Unipress and Forenta is a Herculean task! That said, I can remember when Sankosha was the new kid, so it isn’t impossible. In 1989, I did not have anyone to give me the advice that I just gave you. I was one of the first people to buy a FujiCar shirt unit. (It was introduced in Atlanta in 1987) That isn’t a misspelling. That company went on to become FujiStar and YAC, but was originally FujiCar. There was virtually no dealer network or parts availability. Fortunately, I am mechanically inclined, resourceful and the equipment is quite durable, but if I had read what I just wrote 33 years ago, I probably would have bought something else. Through the years, I often made my own parts and went on to buy 3 FujiCar units. In fact, I started out as a consultant because of my expertise with these units. The importer was remarkably inept with them and he used to hire me to fix them and/or teach people how to get maximum productivity with them. But the point is, I am not describing you. If your mechanic isn’t going to be capable of keeping this unit in tiptop shape for 10-15 years, there may be cause to keep looking.
- What about parts availability and their cost? If the unit that you are looking at is a next-gen of a previous model, chances are good that most of the parts have been around for a while. There surely is a key component that is new, but by and large, the valves, springs and hoses are not unlike the previous model. You also want to make sure that a key consumable is not cost-prohibitive to replace. Pads and covers come to mind. The show extends to Monday and Tuesday this time around, so the parts department for your dealer or the manufacturer will be open on Monday. Call them from the show floor and ask for a price on a couple of parts that you think might need replacing.
- Once you have narrowed the shirt units that you like to two or three, ask to make an appointment to be trained on the unit. Don’t expect to do this, unannounced, during a busy time. This is the busiest that the Sales reps get during the course of a year or two, so expecting them to give you a quality training session on a moment’s notice is unreasonable. That said, they are very interested in getting you excited about their shirt unit, and do want to train you, they just want to train you properly. Make an appointment with the sales rep, set an alarm for 15 minutes beforehand (don’t be late) and maybe even make a training film. Your appointment may be right at closing time. During your training session, don’t be concerned if you aren’t a shirt presser. You may hire someone that isn’t a shirt presser, so being all thumbs might be just perfect. If they can turn you into a decent shirt presser in 15 minutes, this could be very promising, don’t you think?
- Avoid getting fixated on the purchase price. The acquisition price is a one-time, fixed number that is spread out over time. The cost of labor, utilities, maintenance and parts goes on forever. Any single one of those things can dwarf the price of a unit. It makes sense for an exhibitor to discount a show-floor model because they have shipped the unit to Atlanta and (if they don’t sell it) they will ship it back to their facility after the show – two trips on a truck with no sale. If they sell it to you, they save the cost of the deadhead trip back to their facility. Instead, it goes to yours, and you get it in record time. However, this is no deal if you are getting the wrong unit. Saving $1000 here is very short-sighted, if this is the wrong machine for you.
Do the same thing for the POS system. The features will overwhelm you. Systems these days can do more than you can imagine. Concentrate on employee training, ease of use and monthly user fees over acquisition costs.
As for the cosmic ”new idea to spark your sales,” this requires a special technique. This is what I do. It’s not easy to stay on track. Start at one end of the show floor and go up and down each aisle, one side only and then back down the same aisle, but this time checking out the booths on the opposite side. At each booth, get a clue if there is something there that you need to return to. Don’t stop at any booth right now. If you do, you will run out of time. It’s difficult to stay focused, but it is important. If you see a booth that has something that you want to investigate, make a note of it and the booth number. Since you’re doing this systematically, your notes will be in geographically order. This will be handy later when you go back to these booths. Once you have covered the entire show floor, depending on how many booths that you have to visit, you can either prioritize them, or visit them in order.
Follow these tips that this will be the best show ever!