Every year, we generate about a fifth of our sales — roughly $800,000 out of a total of $3.6 million — from leads we get participating in one event, the California Mid-State Fair.

When you're working a show this size, you have to have a plan, and that plan has to go to every person involved. Making the investment in time, money, and personnel pay off requires discipline, organization, and commitment.

Start with the booth. We're manning it 12 hours a day, for 12 straight days. Our booth features awards and plaques our company has won, as well as framed newspaper articles. This year, we'll also use an endless-loop video, with a small excerpt about Four Seasons, and footage of me on television hosting a home improvement program. Validation of your company by outside sources is powerful to consumers. It separates us from the rest of the people selling sunrooms.

An operation this size needs a coordinator with overall responsibility. That responsibility includes getting the people there and the display set up and making sure the display is maintained and adequately stocked with marketing materials, such as catalogs and appointment cards. If a demonstrator doesn't show up for some reason, the coordinator fills in.

Adequate staffing is key. We use demonstrators rather than salespeople to staff the booth. Salespeople would seem to be ideal. After all, they could get their own leads, make first contact with the customer, and actually start a relationship. What you discover, though, is that they tend to overqualify that prospect and get locked into selling the customer at the show, rather than just getting the appointment and moving on.

Instead, I use two-person crews of demonstrators. Demonstrators are usually people recommended to us. Most are women. Each crew works a six-hour shift, which includes several breaks so that they can step away from the booth and unwind. They approach show-goers in the aisle, usually with a question such as, “Have you ever thought about adding a sunroom to your home?” The goal is to greet, make the appointment, and send them on their way. Demonstrators need to be able to get show-goers' faces out of the cotton candy and pointed in the direction of our booth. Salespeople won't do that. People you hire by the hour won't either. But people making something from every appointment and every sale will. So, everyone who works at the Mid-State Fair gets bonused. When a demonstrator can make $500 a day, working only six hours, they tend to show up.

Generally, we set the appointments for the next three to five days, so we have time to overnight a pre-positioning packet. That way it will be in the prospect's hands when the salesperson shows up for the appointment. We will set 5 to 10 good appointments per day, and we can end up with as many as 120 appointments by the end of the fair. Of course, you can't see that many people right away. But you can see six people a day with two salespeople and nine a day with three salespeople. And I'll go on appointments if I need to.

We convert about 75% of the event contacts into appointments. It used to be a lot less. We give incentives. The major incentive is a job card printed on heavy paper stock. It's the size of a postcard and authorizes a certain discount for making the appointment at the show. Whatever offer we're making, it has to grab people's attention. We stay away from sales and lean more toward incentives based on the event and what the factory can provide. That creates legitimacy. And, as you know, some people don't make decisions quickly. So, we can get back to them in a month, two months, or six months, and they still have an incentive to buy. —Robert Reichek is the owner of Four Seasons Sunrooms of San Luis Obispo, Calif.