Sep 7, 2016
8:00 am

Top 10 Tips for Networking at the Convenience U CARWACS Show


The 2016 CARWACS Show takes place September 28 and 29th at the BMO Centre in Calgary. It is the place to be for those involved in the carwash, gas bar and convenience store industry. CARWACS provides a rare opportunity to network with product, equipment and service suppliers, franchisers – and equally important – your peers.

The idea of networking and meeting new people can be scary for some of us. Yet it can be an incredibly valuable source of knowledge and information. We’ve put together a few tips to help you out so you can get the most from CARWACS.

1. Determine what you want to get out of CARWACS.

Everyone has a different reason for attending CARWACS. Most people say they go to “check it out and see what’s new.” That’s fine, but it’s valuable to have a game plan going in so you can make sure you are spending your networking time wisely. You’ll likely fit into one of the following categories:

  • Are you in the process of building a new car wash, gas station or c-store? Then you’ll want to talk to as many suppliers as you can: from service providers to equipment manufacturers to soap and wax to food beverage and cigarette suppliers. Focus on your immediate needs first and come back and visit the other vendors later on.
  • Maybe you’re considering a renovation or upgrade? Keep an eye out for technologies and products that improve your ability to serve customers and enhance the efficiency of your operations. It could be a payment terminal that works with a credit card or fleet card. Perhaps a new vacuum system. CARWACS is known for showcasing the latest and greatest. That said, don’t overlook the tried and true.
  • Or, perhaps you want to compare prices and service offerings? You may have long standing relationships with trusted suppliers. But to keep them honest, it doesn’t hurt to see what else is out there and see if they offer something your existing supplier can’t.

2.  Go in with some key questions you want to ask of certain vendors.

If your purpose for attending to CARWACS is to shop around for a particular product, service or piece of equipment – think up some questions you’d like the person at the booth to answer – and be sure to ask the same question of each relevant vendor in attendance. It also helps to have answers ready to some of the questions they may ask you (traffic and sales volumes, etc.)

3.  And remember, they are there to generate business – so it can be a good time to strike a good deal.

At the end of the day, vendors are paying money to be at CARWACS and they want to generate business in order to justify their investment of time and money. As such, they may be willing to cut you deal if they know you are serious and not just a tire kicker. Be sure to ask if they have any special incentives for CARWACS attendees. It’s a great opportunity to test your negotiation skills and see what kind of deal you can strike.

4.  Don’t be afraid to talk with other attendees at seminars.

The seminars and information sessions are not only a great way to hear from the experts. They also provide a natural opportunity to network, as you can bet that the other people in the room are in the same business as you. While you’re waiting for the seminar to start, we suggest asking the person sitting next to you what they do. He or she might be a good person to bounce a question off of (for example, “I saw this company in the exhibition hall that sells payment terminals– have you heard anything about them.”).

Pay attention to the people who ask questions throughout the seminar. Those who aren’t afraid to ask a question tend to be outgoing and engaged in what they do – which means they are generally great people to approach after the seminar. One easy way to strike up a conversation is to say, “I’m glad you raised that question: I was wondering the same thing.” From there you can compare notes and potentially learn from one another.

5.  The same goes for the exhibition hall and coffee areas.

When you’re checking out the exhibits, there are times you find yourself milling around the table waiting to speak to someone at the booth. It’s a chance to trade some small talk with the others waiting in line.

You’ll also notice that many attendees are familiar with a vender and are dropping in to say hello. Likely, these people are already doing business with that vendor. As existing customers, these are good people to talk with to find out more about the vendor and what they are like to work with.

6.  Don’t forget to bring enough business cards. And be sure to hand them out.

It never fails that you arrive at a conference only to realize you left your business cards at the office. Bring a stack to hand out to suppliers, consultants and other attendees you would like to follow up with. They also come in handy when entering business card draws!

7.  If you met a vendor who impressed you, jot down some notes for a follow up call.

How many times have you come home from a trade show with a big bag of brochures, only to forget which company it was you had that interesting conversation with? Take a second to write down comments and observations on your smart phone, on the back of a business card or a brochure. You’ll find it is useful, particularly if you are following up several months after the show.

8.   In the case of service providers, try to get a sense of their people as well as their products.

Trade shows offer a fantastic chance to meet face-to-face with the people behind the products and services. Do they seem genuinely interested in your business? Are they knowledgeable? Experienced? Helpful? Enthusiastic? Friendly? Ultimately, could you see yourself working with this person and his or her company?

9.  Have fun.

CARWACS is an afternoon out of the office. Smile. Have fun. Meet people. See what’s new. Relax and enjoy yourself.

10. Most importantly, drop by the CTM booth and say hello!

CTM will have a booth set up at the Convenience U CARWACS show in Calgary, and would love to get a chance to talk with you and learn more about your design and engineering needs. You’ll get a chance to meet a number of our team members and learn more about the breadth of our integrated design and engineering expertise. We love being part of this show and truly appreciate interacting with business owners and managers who are passionate about making their stores spectacular.