You can still visit us at Automechanika 2016 in Frankfurt am Main until the 17th September. Our stand has a lot to offer for our visitors at its usual spot at A51 in Hall 3 and at our outdoor stand in front of Hall 3.
Automechanika is a great opportunity for the sales and marketing team to meet our customers and also potential customers, and to exchange views and information. There are, of course, some essential elements for ensuring that everything runs smoothly and that the trade fair is ultimately a success. I would therefore like to invite you to join me today as I walk you through the preparation and post-processing stages of a large trade fair like Automechanika.
The customer comes first
The most important element of a trade fair like Automechanika is, of course, our customers. Every other year, they come to Frankfurt from all over the world to meet with us at our stand, find out about the latest innovations, discuss current developments and special features, close contracts or forge a new business relationship. An enormous amount of effort goes into organising the trade fair not only on the part of the trade fair team, but also the sales managers. The first priority is to plan the number of personnel required for the stand. The sales and marketing team is divided up to ensure that the stand is continuously manned over the full five days of the trade fair. This raises the question, “When am I scheduled to be on the trade fair stand and when will my customers be there?” Since our time at the trade fair is limited, it is necessary to prioritise which customers we would definitely like to see (e.g. if there are current issues to discuss), which customers it would be nice to see (e.g. because it is not possible to visit them often due to geographic location) and which customers you do not really need to meet with at the moment.
The coordination of meetings with our business partners is very much like a game of ping pong at this stage; you generally suggest two or three possible times to meet and hope that one of them will suit. Unfortunately, it is often not possible and you will receive one or several alternative suggestions, which sometimes also prove unworkable. Our customers, like us, have extremely busy schedules, but with the added complication of having to also conduct their meetings in completely different halls, and the distances between these locations can be vast – this is after all the world’s largest trade fair.
However, we are not just talking about finding a suitable time slot for two people, but very often we also need to arrange for the responsible Sales Director and sometimes also for the Vice President to be present. This also applies to meetings with international key account customers when other sales and marketing colleagues are expected to attend. Of course, we also need to ensure that a meeting room is available at the time planned for the meeting and then book it using the dedicated online portal.
In comparison to this enormous logistic challenge, the other preparatory tasks, such as planning the journey to Frankfurt, ordering the right clothing for the trade fair or familiarising ourselves with the local surroundings at and around our trade fair stand, are relatively easy.
Every day at the trade fair is very much like speed-dating!
The trade fair starts for us at 8.30 a.m. with a briefing at the stand before the doors open at 9.00 a.m. when things start to get serious! For organisational reasons, we only have 30 minutes available for each meeting to ensure that we can meet with as many business partners as possible during the few days we are there. This means that on some days we have up to 15 meetings back-to-back. There is no time for small talk or long-winded explanations; instead it is necessary to get straight to the point and to attune yourself very quickly to the next customer. Although, such tight deadlines make the proceedings highly efficient, there is no buffer at all for any business partners arriving late, for more involved discussions or for meeting rooms that have not become available in time.
Good preparation is the be-all and end-all
A trade fair day without careful planning for each customer meeting is simply not workable. For this reason, I make sure that I have gathered all the information I need prior to the meeting and have it to hand at all times during the trade fair. This information generally consists of outstanding issues from our side, points that the customer would possibly like to address and current sales figures and statistics.
It is also vital that all these points can be summarised and read at a glance from one piece of paper (what I refer to as a “one-pager”), to give other participants, such as the Sales Director, a brief and concise overview.
A good level of mental and physical stamina is important
It is clear that conducting more than ten conversations with completely different types of people on a range of different topics and then having to remember later that evening what was discussed and with whom is quite a mental challenge which can really make your head spin! Trade fair days can also be very physically demanding, if you consider that you will probably drink up to ten cups of coffee (it would be rude not to drink a cup with each customer), though you may not have enough time to “discharge” such large volumes of liquid 😉 The same applies to eating, either you eat too much (again to be sociable with the visitors) or you do not get anything to eat at all. And do not even get me started about the extremely dry air in the trade fair hall, the very high general level of noise and the anticipated outside temperature of 32 °C.
No clocking off at the end of each trade fair day
The working day does not end for the sales and marketing team when the trade fair closes its doors at 6.00 p.m. This is when we have to prepare a trade fair report for each customer meeting and also ensure that we provide all customers with any information we have promised or that we have addressed any issues that have arisen or passed them on to the relevant departments. Finally, it is important to follow up the information that was gathered and processed at the trade fair over the following weeks.
Automechanika is a real highlight for all involved, even if it is very exhausting. The sense of anticipation is now high, but in a week’s time we will also be pleased to have achieved our goals once again.