CASE 8.1-The Trade Show

Judy had just accepted a position as a sales representative with NewLine Papers, a manufacturer of high-quality specialty papers for businesses that use direct mail to promote their products and services. Typically, such companies must use paper that is attractive to look at and hold that absorbs ink quickly because of high-speed printing, and that can stand up to the rigors of automatic folding equipment. For Judy to learn more about the business and to acquire good leads, her sales manager has sent her to the U.S. Postal Forum (USPF) annual meeting in Las Vegas. Judy decided that for this trip to pay off in terms of generating solid leads, she needed to engage in careful planning. A quick check of USPF’s website allowed her to compile a shortlist of attendees who might be interested in NewLine’s latest product. About a week before the trade show, she phoned a couple of them to arrange an appointment. They willingly agreed, so she flew to Las Vegas in the hope that she could snag an order, not just a couple of good leads. That would surely impress her manager! After checking in at the convention hotel, Judy called Ned Harris, her first appointment for the next morning. Ned wasn’t in, but she left a message indicating that she could meet him just off the lobby at 10:00 a.m. Her second appointment, Anita Scoby, answered on the second ring. She and Judy agreed to meet tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 following the keynote speech by the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Everything was all set. Ned arrived for their meeting the next morning a couple of minutes late, explaining that he was not a morning person and needed a second cup of coffee. They moved to the hotel’s coffee bar and settled at a small table. Judy brightened when Ned reported that his company had done business with NewLine some years before. Immediately, Judy pulled out a couple of samples from her briefcase and launched into her presentation of the outstanding features of the new product. Ned listened attentively, sipping his coffee, and sitting with arms folded. When Judy finished her spiel, she asked if he had any questions. He didn’t. She then asked whether Ned’s company would be interested in placing a trial order. He replied, rather curtly, that he didn’t know and would have to get back to her on that. He added that he was late for another meeting. With that he picked up his newspaper and left, leaving Judy to reflect on what had happened. Her meeting that afternoon with Anita Scoby was even briefer. Before Judy could begin to describe the samples, Anita cut her off, explaining that she had no authority to engage in such discussions. She added that while she was interested in Judy’s product, her role was in sales for her company and that she was attending the trade show merely to network with other clients. She wished Judy luck and promised to pass along Judy’s information to more appropriate people at her firm. As Judy flew home the next morning, she wondered what she had done wrong. She had researched attendees of the trade show and had obtained appointments, but she was returning home with no orders and worse, no real leads. Where do you think Judy went wrong? What would she need to do to become a “master prospector?” If you were sent to the trade show by your manager, what would you have done? What would have been your objectives? Which tactics would you have employed to fulfill those objectives?

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