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Cityscape Global 2017 highlights need for more nuanced sales strategies

by James Morgan on Sep 16, 2017

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Now that the dust has had time to settle on Cityscape Global 2017, the general consensus appears to be that the latest iteration of Dubai’s annual real estate exhibition was a resounding success.

Inaugurated on 11 September by the Crown Prince of Dubai, HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the property show saw 300 exhibitors from both regional and international markets descend on Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

There are many reasons for developers and real estate service providers to attend an exhibition like Cityscape, not least to showcase their latest wares. Indeed, the event saw a diverse array of high-profile participants, many of which unveiled their upcoming developments. Aldar Properties, Azizi Developments, Deyaar Development, Jumeirah Golf Estates (JGE), National Bonds Corporation, and Union Properties (UP) all launched projects at the show (page 25).

The organisers behind Expo 2020 Dubai, meanwhile, used Cityscape to showcase District 2020, a 2km2 legacy megaproject that represents a key component of the emirate’s strategy to reuse 80% of the exposition’s site infrastructure following the event’s conclusion in 2021 (page 14).

From an organisational perspective, a significant change this year was that, for the first time in Cityscape Global’s history, exhibitors were permitted to conduct on-site sales for UAE-based projects.

I paid a visit to DWTC on the first day of the exhibition, and I have to say that it was a pleasure to attend. There was a genuine buzz on the show floor – an atmosphere that was particularly refreshing, given the challenging economic conditions that the Middle East’s construction industry has had to contend with during recent years.

What was somewhat less refreshing, however, was the overly enthusiastic sales strategy of certain exhibitors. I was approached by representatives of major developers throughout the opening day, and I was completely comfortable with this. After all, one of the major attractions of exhibiting at a real estate show is the opportunity to engage with potential investors. Nevertheless, a small but vocal minority of these representatives simply refused to take no for an answer. Having explained that I was attending the show in a journalistic capacity, and even having offered to conduct interviews about the firms’ projects, a handful of salespeople continued to insist that I invest. What’s more, I received similar reports from the other members of Construction Week’s editorial team, and the culprits – by and large – were the same.

In truth, unsolicited and persistent sales pitches represent a minor inconvenience for journalists, but lessons can be extrapolated on a broader scale. Granted, exhibitions such as Cityscape represent an excellent opportunity to secure new customers, but not all deals have to be signed and sealed on the show floor.

In fact, during my four years’ reporting on the Middle East’s construction sector, numerous trade show exhibitors have revealed that the majority of the associated business that they conduct takes place after the exhibition. What can make this situation all the more frustrating is that, when approached in the right way, trade shows represent veritable gold mines for exhibitors. UAE-based Bloom Holding, for example, a regular fixture at Cityscape Global, credits the exhibition for approximately 60% of its annual transactions.

Essentially, the most adept salespeople are those that can read their audience. A one-size-fits-all approach, especially one that could potentially be perceived as aggressive, is unlikely to pay dividends in the longer term. Why not have a conversation with the prospective customer, explain what your company is offering, and – in lieu of an immediate financial commitment – arrange to follow up in a less pressured environment? Just because a person does not want to sign on the dotted line during a property show, it does not necessarily follow that he or she has no interest in investing in property.

I wholeheartedly appreciate that salespeople have a job to do but, if you push the issue too hard, a person who started out as a prospective customer could end up with a negative impression of the company that you are employed to represent.