EPISODE 091: How Do You Grow Sales Revenue When the Trade Show Venue is Full? Consumer Electronics Show Sales Leader Denise Medved Tells How
DENISE’S CLOSING TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Always be learning, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, don’t be afraid to take risks, don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re not taking the risks you’re probably not failing or making mistakes and if you’re not failing or making mistakes you’re not recognizing your true potential because every time you make a mistake you’re learning that much more and you’re getting that much more experience. Maximize and recognize what your full potential is because it’s a long journey.“
Denise Medved is the Vice President for Sales and Business Development at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). CTA holds events such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES)..
She’s been in the trade show industry for more than 20 years.
Prior to coming to CTA, she created, owned and sold a portfolio of consumer events for cooking and entertaining enthusiasts.
Find Denise on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Well us who exactly you sell to today.
Denise Medved: We sell to any company that has technology that ultimately hits the consumer. It could be automotive, it could be smart home products, it could be sensors. Literally every vertical is now in the technology industry so we’ve got over 4000 companies exhibiting in the show. Our universe of companies is enormous and it’s very broad.
Fred Diamond: What excites you about that? Tell us what specifically you sell and what excites you about that.
Denise Medved: My team is in charge of the exhibit space sales as well as sponsorship sales which drives the bulk of the revenue for the show and what excites me about it is this is the largest trade show there is out there. We are in Las Vegas every January, we’re over 2.78 million net square feet of exhibit space and believe it or not, we’re venue bound. There’s not a whole lot of room for growth for us so to me, that’s a phenomenal challenge. I love being able to have that kind of a challenge.
As you mentioned, I’ve been in the trade show industry for more than 20 years, CTA is my first foray into the association world. Prior to that I spent time at Reed Exhibition companies, National Trade Productions, IDG World Expo, and they’re all on the for profit side. Within those organizations I spent a lot of time launching shows so my expertise prior to coming, how I got my expertise in the industry was working in the for profit world primarily on either early stage shows or launching shows. I went out on my own in 2005 to take my business experience of trade shows and marry it with my passion of cooking and entertaining and I created the event that I wanted to attend called “The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show.”
I took my business skills that I learned along the way from my financial degree from GW and my time on Wall Street and working in the for profit trade show industry and created a consumer event that I wanted to attend as somebody who loves to cook and entertain. My goal was to launch it, build equity value and sell it within 7 to 10 years.
Fred Diamond: Where were those shows? Were they around the country or just local DC?
Denise Medved: They were around the country. The first one I launched was here in Washington DC and that’s actually still going on and then we launched the same show in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas.
Fred Diamond: You were a finance major, you said, in college?
Denise Medved: Yes.
Fred Diamond: And you worked on Wall Street for a little bit? Tell us a little more about how you made the shift into sales.
Denise Medved: When I moved home here back to Alexandria, Virginia I had very specific criteria in what I was looking for in a job. I was burnt out from living in New York so my criteria was I didn’t want to have to get on a highway to go to work, I didn’t want any more than a 10 minute commute, I wanted free parking, I wanted a nice physical environment in which to work and I wanted to be able to control my own destiny in terms of how much money I was going to make and so basically that meant I needed to be in sales.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned a few seconds ago that CES is the biggest show that there is. Give a little insight for some of the Sales Game Changers listening to today’s podcast on what type of sales challenges does that bring. That show has continued to raise in importance as companies launch new products and as the Internet of Things continues to grow, etc.
Denise Medved: There’s multiple kinds of challenges that we face. One of the challenges that we have is that the demand for our product is pretty high. We’re in a very enviable position where we have a lot of incoming leads, they’re not all qualified leads but there’s a lot coming our way. There is a tremendous amount of demand for companies with particular types of products that want to get in the show and we have a finite amount of net square footage or booth space available for companies based on product categories so that’s a challenge.
Managing the inventory, managing the expectations of the customers and it’s a heart breaker from a sales leader’s perspective as well as a sales person’s perspective to have to turn somebody away because we don’t have product for them to buy.
One of the other sales challenges that we have is when we’re launching a new marketplace so for example two recent market places that we’ve launched, we launched Smart Cities last year and we launched the Sport Zone the prior year. Those I can probably acquaint more to a startup type of a show where you really got to roll up your sleeves, put on your miner’s helmet, go out there, find the prospects, convince them why a technology show is appropriate for them.
When you’re calling on a sports company you’ve got to convince them why they should be thinking about CES as an avenue for them to go out there and do some marketing. Those are just two of the different kinds of many challenges that we have.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you answer that question for us: how would you convince a sports team that they would want to be at the Sport Zone?
Denise Medved: Sports teams are the ones that are attending so you take a company that has sports technology, say for example they have technology that’s focused on enhancing the athlete’s performance. Taking measurements in terms of their heartbeat or some of the different bio metrics and what have you. The sports world is starting to employ and use technology on a much more regular basis and using that data to make decisions either that’s driving an athlete’s performance or is making a venue smarter or enhancing a fan experience. They’re at the beginning stages of that.
CES is bringing together the entire community of people who are focused on using technology for their vertical markets to enhance their vertical markets so a sports team for example if you’re an NFL franchise and you’re gunning for the Super bowl, what do you want? You want your athletes in tip top shape throughout the entire season. You want them recovering as fast as you possibly can. You want to be able to use artificial intelligence to be able to predict when they’re over tired or when an injury might be coming down the pipe to protect that athlete ahead of time. That’s one example of how that information can be used.
Fred Diamond: Just to make sure I’m clear, you’re going after companies that make technology for sports teams so you’ve had to sell them that they want to participate in the show and the way you would promise them that it’s going to be a worthwhile use of their time is that you’re going to be bringing sports teams. How’s that been going?
Denise Medved: We’re going to be bringing sports teams, we’re going to bring player’s associations. Actually, it’s been going really well. We are so fortunate in the fact that CES is such a strong brand internationally and typically when you pick up the phone or if you write an email and you say, “I’m from CES” you’re usually getting a response so we’re very fortunate and I know we’re very fortunate in that respect. It’s not like we’re going out and launching a sports technology show from the ground up and it has no brand recognition, no cloud, no nothing.
Fred Diamond: What are you specifically an expert in? Tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.
Denise Medved: I wouldn’t say I have any specific areas of brilliance. I would say that throughout my long career and primarily as a sales professional and making my way up the ranks from having my own territory to managing teams, running and owning my own company, selling the company and what have you and managing different shows and all aspects of the shows, if I look at the sales piece of it there’s really two key components that I discovered very early on in my first couple of sales jobs.
There’s the people side of the sales business, it’s being able to go out and network with people and create relationships and get your foot in the door and sell them and have the right sales pitch and overcome the objections and not be afraid of asking for the close and presenting the material and being able to communicate in a really great, concise, professional manner and giving them the information they need to be able to make a decision and hopefully the decision is yes. That’s the sales piece of it, that is a really key piece to helping you accomplish your numbers but the other side of the business – and I don’t know that this is often thought of from a salesperson’s perspective – is really the operational/administrative side to running whether it’s your own sales territory as a salesperson or running a sales team or running a company or an organization.
I think that what I’ve been able to learn over the years through my experience is how to work smart, how to work efficiently, how to think really creatively and solve problems, all leading to driving that revenue and driving that bottom line. I would say if I had to say what’s the unique thing that I bring to an organization, it’s this background of having carried a bag, having had to reach my own revenue numbers, having had to figure out how do you run a territory, how do you manage that pipeline, how do you reach your revenue numbers, how do you use the tools that are at your disposal? I remember when I was at NTP, National Trade Productions, my first go round getting into the trade show industry when my criteria was free parking, so I landed up at NTP.
When I first got there we didn’t have any computers, we had big print outs of companies and we were calling companies and I said, “I got to figure out a way to organize this data. I got to create a pipeline” and then we got computers and I was like, “This is really cool, now I can put this in the computer, I can learn how to use this tool to make myself that much more efficient and work that much smarter than the person sitting next to me” and I would say learning and using and mastering the tools is what enabled me to be successful at the people side of the business which I had anyway. I had that people side of the business but what’s the difference between making your goal and exceeding your goal? It’s working smart and creatively and using all these tools that are at your disposal.
Fred Diamond: Obviously you’ve had a great career, you’re now running sales for the largest trade show in the industry, you’ve probably had some impactful mentors over the years who’ve given you some advice, some guidance. Could you tell us about one or two of those and how they’ve impacted your career?
Denise Medved: Sure. Sam Smith, I love Sam. He was my very first boss at National Trade Productions and Sam really taught me the whole sales funnel from a lead to a prospect to qualifying them to moving them through a pipeline to getting them to say either yes or no. A yes and a no are both really good answers. A yes is a really good answer because you’re getting a contract and you’re that much closer towards your goal. A no is also a really good answer because you’re getting them out of your pipeline and the key is keep that pipeline moving, keep it fresh, have things at every stage, don’t let things get stale.
He really taught me that piece of the business and the people side of the business and, “Hey, Sully, here’s how you overcome some objections” or, “Here’s how we’re going to get our foot in the door. Let’s go out and network” so that was phenomenal.
Then Nancy Walsh who just recently left as the president of Reed Exhibitions North America, she was the VP of sales when I was at Reed as a sales rep and then I got promoted to sales director. She was really a fantastic in terms of the organizational skills. Be concise, be efficient, get things done. I would say as I look at sales from both the people side as well as the organizational and the efficiency side, both of those really contributed, I learned a lot from both of those.
Fred Diamond: I have a quick question for you. You mentioned before that there’s a huge demand for companies that want to participate in CES. We’ve interviewed over 100 Sales Game Changers to this point for the podcast and that is a uncommon problem. Most people are struggling to find clients, to find prospects, there’s huge competition. Of course you have competition as well, but how does that lend you to being a sales manager of the people on your team knowing that you have this great demand and one of the biggest challenges you talked before is figuring out how to optimize the space and people that are coming in? How do you manage your sales team from that perspective these days?
Denise Medved: From that perspective it’s about managing the influx of the leads that are coming in. CES always has to be relevant, our marching orders every single year are it can’t be the same show as it was the year before. Let’s re allocate inventory and new products are always being announced. We always want to be on the cutting edge, we always want to stay relevant, we always need to have a marketplace that is focused on the latest technology. For example, wireless. That was a hot category umpty ump years ago, we still have it as a category but at some point it’s not new, it’s not fresh, it’s not bringing in the media, it’s not the talk about it factors.
One of our challenges is how do we control the size of that marketplace and control the vendors that want to get in there and give them the right messaging that, “Yes, you’re important but unfortunately there’s no space for you right not” and motivate and gear the sales team’s energy towards the new market places. Prospecting, finding the right new key companies and really managing the inventory that we have. Even though we have weightless for some market places there are other kinds of inventory that we have that are not always sold out.
Not only do we sell traditional exhibit space within the convention center, we’re selling meeting rooms, we’re selling hotel suites as both exhibit suites and hospitality suites. Looking at the inventory and managing the inventory and gearing the sales people’s attention towards, “Gosh, we have X number of square feet in hospitality suites in this particular venue that isn’t moving, we need to figure out how to move that” or, “We still have X number more companies we need to get into the sport zone or into smart cities or into smart home. Let’s gear our energies and focus in the areas where we have the inventory available to sell.”
Fred Diamond: You manage a team here at CES, of course it’s the largest trade show, we talked about that. As a sales leader, what are the two biggest challenges you face?
Denise Medved: I would say when I first got here, we have a phenomenal sales team and actually most of the revenue producers who were here when I got here are still here and I feel very blessed in that regards because there’s a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge, but one thing that CES did not have, we didn’t have a CRM. I looked at that and I said, “For one of the largest trade show companies or one of the largest trade shows out there not having a CRM I felt as though put the organization at a little bit of risk” and knock wood, yes, it’s been very successful over the last several years.
The economy’s been robust, this technology sector has been very robust, all of that was great and working in CTA’s favor but I looked at it from a business perspective and said, “Without a CRM, the organization’s at risk. If the economy takes a down turn, if we don’t have data that we can look at then we are setting ourselves up for some failure.” So the first thing I did when I got here is I put a CRM into place so we had to collect all of the data, all of the past exhibitors, all of the prospects, and that was a task.
Then giving people career opportunities within, the way it was structured there was not a lot of growth opportunities especially for the revenue producers so how do you create growth opportunities for revenue producers, career opportunities for them for revenue producers so that they don’t leave the organization. Then how do you create territories for them? Because it was a very unique situation and everybody worked as a team environment and they worked really well in that environment but there were no individual territories so with all of these incoming leads I didn’t know was everything being worked, was it not being worked so we worked really hard over the first year and a half, two years that I was here to instituting sales force, making it the center of our team, the center of the entire sales organization creating territories, creating career opportunities for the revenue producers, managing pipelines, teaching people how to manage the pipelines so things aren’t getting stale.
Managing the inventory and really putting a lot of processes into place that was going to mitigate what I viewed as serious business risks for the organization particularly since CES funds 90, 95% of CTA and all of its lobby and activities, research, membership, all of those things it’s feeding right back into the technology industry.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win from your career that you’re most proud of?
Denise Medved: The one that stands out for me the most is being able to get really creative. I’m going to talk about something from the metropolitan cooking and entertaining show which was a portfolio of consumer events that I launched. That business model is a little bit different than a traditional trade show. In that business model you’re still getting revenue from exhibit space sales and sponsorship sales but you’re also getting a significant amount of revenue from the consumers buying tickets to come in to see the show. The balance of the revenue coming into the organization is more heavily weighted towards the attendee side than it is towards the sponsorship and exhibitor’s side but just by a factor of maybe 10% versus in a B to B model, 95% of the overall revenue from the events coming in from exhibit space and sponsorship sales.
The reason I’m using this particular illustration as an example is because I want to illustrate and underscore how problem solving, getting creative to achieve what you want comes into play in any kind of a sales situation. We would build a big, huge theater that seated 2500 people and we would hire food network stars. Paula Deen was a big person that we worked with and we hired her and she cost us a lot of money but we built the theater that sat 2500 people and we were able to do 3 shows with her.
We had the opportunity to generate revenue off of 7500 ticket sales to see Paula. We were like, “Oh my god, this is great.” We said, “OK. $55 to see Paula. If you don’t want to see Paula, $25 to get in.” I knew that she was popular, I had no idea how big of a star she was. We sold out all 7,500 tickets. The first session was starting at 11 o’clock in the morning, the doors were opening at 10. At 8 o’clock in the morning, 2000 people were lined up because everybody wanted a front row seat to see Paula.
The head of the Washington Convention Center came down to find me with the fire Marshall and said, “Denise, what are you going to do about these 2000 people wind up here?” and I just started laughing hysterically and said, “Wow, this is a great problem to have.” We figured out how to get the people in and what have you so immediately after the show I said, “How do I solve that problem?” And after every single show I always say, “What are the top 3 things that need to be solved? No matter what role I’m playing in a show, what are the top 3 things that I need to solve?”
So I needed to solve that problem and I said, “OK, I know what I’m going to do. We’re going to not have every ticket be at $55, we’re going to create tiered tickets. The cheap seats in the back will now be $55, the ones the next few rows ahead of those will be $65, the next ones a few rows ahead of that will be $75 then $95 and guess what? The front row VIP meet, greet and front row seat is going to be $500.”
Just by making those decisions and getting creative on solving that problem led to an increase of about 25% revenue. Same costs, so the following year we increased our revenue by 25% just by doing that and solving that problem. We got creative about it, it was sales, we pitched it to the consumer and the consumer bought it.
Fred Diamond: Did you sell out again the next year?
Denise Medved: We did, yeah.
Fred Diamond: Good for you, with Paula Deen as well?
Denise Medved: You got it, yeah.
Fred Diamond: Good for you. Those shows are huge and good for you for finding that out and figuring that out. Again, we’re talking to Denise Medved. Denise, you’ve had a great career in sales. You’ve also had a great career as an entrepreneur but did you ever question being in sales? Was there ever a moment where you thought to yourself, “It’s too hard, it’s just not for me?”
Denise Medved: No.
Fred Diamond: OK [laughs]
Denise Medved: That’s it, no. Never. I’ve always loved the challenge.
Fred Diamond: Last question before we take a short break here, listen to one of our sponsors. How does it feel representing one of the – if not the biggest brand – in technology trade shows?
Denise Medved: It’s such an honor for me and I love it and after I sold my events and my management contract was running out I had an opportunity to go launch some more shows and I’d been in launch mode or growth mode for 12, 15 years and that’s exhausting, quite honestly. I was like, “If I could get that, I would feel so honored to be able to do that.” That’s truly how I feel, I’m honored to be part of this organization.
Fred Diamond: What would a good sales professional look like to sell this type of a product? What type of skills do they need to have?
Denise Medved: I go back to what I was talking about, you have to have the people set up the skills and you have to have the organizational set of the skills. You can have the gift of the gab and go in and close as much stuff as you want but if you’re not organized to run your territory or to have an up to date pipeline or creative enough to come up with solutions or have the skills to put together a good looking proposal in word or understand a tool that’s been put in front of you and use that to your maximum, your gift of the gab is not impressive to me if you can’t master the other set of skills.
Fred Diamond: What’s the most important thing you want to get across to junior selling professionals to help them improve their career?
Denise Medved: #1, if you’re in sales, you’re in sales for a reason because you’re highly motivated probably by money. Never expect to meet your goals, always expect to exceed your goals, just go in with that mindset right from the get go and if that’s not your mindset sales probably isn’t the right choice for you for a career. Know the fundamentals of sales, know how to prospect. I tell our team over and over again that just because we have gobs of incoming leads it doesn’t mean they’re all the right leads, we’ve got to know how to go out there and prospect and that’s a unique skill set in itself.
Master the fundamentals of both the people side of sales as well as the operational side of sales. Always know where you are in your personal territory against your goal. Every single day know exactly where you are and know exactly how you’re going to reach your goal and exactly how you’re going to exceed your goal. Know exactly what you are going to sell every single month and develop those skills in terms of soliciting objections and developing the rapport and all those kinds of things that are associated with being a good salesperson.
Fred Diamond: Very good. What are some of the things you do specifically to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Denise Medved: I spend a lot of time with the clients continuing to listen to them because I think as any kind of a salesperson you need to be a really good listener and that’s the way that you pick up on vibes of market shifts or a shift in trends of how the customers are thinking and what have you, or something that’s just specific and unique to that company because at the end of the day, if people are cutting budgets, you want to be the thing that they have to have and that they have to keep so I’m always listening. Then learning the new technologies that can enhance the sales process or processes within an organization, there’s new things coming out all the time and so one of the things that I’m starting as my personal initiative this year is to really use LinkedIn, connect with all the people that I have the connections to. I’m not always as disciplined in linking into my LinkedIn as I should be so I’m connecting with them on LinkedIn. Then I’m starting to get key messages about CES happenings out to them so that’s one way of communicating with the key audience without inundating them with yet more emails.
Fred Diamond: What’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Denise Medved: I’ve had a long, great career and I’m very grateful for all of the experiences that I’ve had and I feel as though I can contribute to make positive, valuable contributions to the organization, the organization is going to value me. Working closely with my peers in the marketing department and the conferences department and the finance department and the operations department is really key.
Having good collaboration amongst my peers there. Then I feel as though it’s my responsibility to groom the next generation of sales leaders here and one of the reasons that I wanted to come here was because I feel like I have a lot of experience. I went to the school of hard knocks, I got a lot of bumps and bruises and I made a lot of really expensive mistakes and I have a motto: never make the same expensive mistake twice. If you can help prevent somebody from making that expensive mistake, do it.
Give them the wisdom that you learned. Mentor people, help to coach them to get to the next place in their career. That’s sort of how I focus on continuing with my success. Staying relevant in the market, staying on top of things, on top of the companies, the organizations, the technologies, all of those kinds of things.
Fred Diamond: Again, you are representing perhaps the biggest brand in trade shows today, CES, but sales is hard. Even with all the demand for your shows you said there’s a lot of things that your team needs to do to optimize the space and to optimize the participation and make sure you have all the right vendors, etcetera. People don’t always return your calls or your emails, what is it about sales as a career that keeps you going? Tell us a little bit about why – you’ve had such a great career in sales – why you see it being such a great career for people listening to today’s podcast.
Denise Medved: I love the thrill of the chase and I love the win and sales is probably 95% rejection but it’s like that 5% that gets me charged and going. It’s 5% that the relationships that I created and somebody’s buying me, I’m a firm believer that people aren’t buying what you’re selling, they’re buying you, they’re trusting you to represent what it is that you’re selling. That to me gives me such a rush and creating the relationships that turn into lasting friendships with the customers, that keeps me going just as a salesperson at heart.
As a sales leader knowing that I am hopefully having an impact on the overall organization and people’s careers here, putting some processes and systems into place and coaching people to become the best sales professional that they can be.
Fred Diamond: This has been a great interview. Again, the number of people we’ve interviewed already Dan Cole with Hargrove, Ryan Brown at NTP Events, they all said we got to get Denise Medved on the Sales Game Changers podcast. So thank you so much, Denise Medved, again VP of sales and BD for CES, you’ve given us some great insights on how CES works and how your sales teams are – I just have one quick question before we ask you for your final thought as we hear some sirens going in the background, as we’re broadcasting today’s show from Arlington, the offices of CTA. Do you like Vegas? Are you a Vegas person?
Denise Medved: I like going to Las Vegas, I’m not a gambler. I’d much rather buy a brand new pair of loafers than throw money away gambling but yeah, I love Vegas.
Fred Diamond: Very good. What’s a final thought you want to share with the Sales Game Changers listening to today’s podcast around the globe?
Denise Medved: I would say always be learning, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, don’t be afraid to take risks, don’t be afraid to fail. If you’re not taking the risks you’re probably not failing or making mistakes and if you’re not failing or making mistakes you’re not recognizing your true potential because every time you make a mistake you’re learning that much more and you’re getting that much more experience. I just firmly believe in maximize and recognize what your full potential is because it’s a long journey.