by Heidi Thorne…
Mention “sales position” to most newly-minted college grads and you’ll likely get an “Eeewww, I’ll never be in sales!” I find this a bit amusing, especially when you ask them what they want to do. The response is usually marketing, event management, advertising, etc. Well, guess what, you’re really in sales in any of those capacities.
Here’s the cold hard truth: Nothing happens until somebody sells something. (This gem has been attributed to both Tom Watson, founder of IBM, and Arthur Motley, CEO of Parade Magazine.)
When you’re in event management, your career success will be based on your ability to obtain enough quality attendees and exhibitors for your tradeshows or events. Sure, all the things you do to create a stellar experience for attendees—such as great food, comfortable atmosphere, well-organized show floor, signage—contribute to how satisfied they are with your event. That’s the customer service side of the business. But the most difficult thing is getting them there. And without the revenues that attendees and exhibitors bring, there is no show or event for you to manage. Period.
I began my tradeshow and events career in the hotel business. I needed a better job to get funds for college and got a position as an assistant to the director of sales for a major Chicago convention hotel. I was absolutely stunned at the amount of revenue that their sales team could generate for hotel rooms, meeting space, catering, and more. And I also thought, “Hey, I could that.” I kept bugging them to move me into sales. Finally jumped the administrative hurdle and my sales career was launched.
But I wanted to go farther in the industry. So after going back to school to finish my business degree, I got into the tradeshow management arena in exhibit sales. That was where the bigger money was! In fact, my commissions allowed me to pay off my college debt. Nice. Then after a few years, I moved into marketing and public relations for tradeshows.
Since 1999, I now own my own marketing and promotional product company. But none of this would have been possible if I hadn’t said yes to taking on a sales position. So don’t be afraid to take on a sales position in this industry. You’ll learn what makes attendees and exhibitors tick which will help you create successful events and be a valuable resource to your clients.
Heidi Thorne is a promotional products marketing and social media expert, specializing in serving the events and tradeshow industries. Her PromoWithPurposeToday.com blog educates marketing and events professionals on how to select promotional products and strategies aligned with their marketing objectives, image, and values so that they can build their brands, businesses, and communities.