A new report released by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) focuses on approaching customers in the trade show selling environment. It’s a unique place, and quite different than sending an email to a prospect, talking on the phone or even setting up a sales meeting.
How is it different? First of all, often the prospects entering your trade show space are strangers. They may know your company’s product or service (or they may not) and unless they are current customers, these prospects don’t know you either.
According to this particular CEIR guru report, making that important first connection starts with the right question. “The worst questions to ask are the ones that have no meaning,” writes CEIR Guru Barry Siskind.
He’s right. General ice breakers – questions about the show, the weather, the city — may get an answer, but they don’t lead anywhere. The questions your sales team asks should lead somewhere, preferably to an answer that can help you introduce your company and the solutions you offer.
Siskind also raises an interesting point. Seasoned salespeople have a lot of experience under their proverbial belts. They know how to read people and often have an instinctual feeling about what to do on a sales call. Because of this, they can really struggle with pre-scripted trade show openers.
There is a good middle ground to this. Instead of asking your booth staff to use specific sales lines, have them think more of approaches that likely will lead to certain expected responses. Think up a variety of questions that rely more on conveying certain ideas rather than scripted words. Having a wide variety of questions and topics to draw from becomes a safety net rather than a mandate, and it also helps in addressing the unpredictable nature of visitors to your booth.
Trade show staff should also avoid contributing to the natural information overload that happens to tradeshow attendees. Some visitors may be ready for a sales pitch; most are not. Why? Because after walking a trade show floor, they have been inundated with information that is difficult to filter out. Their minds are the equivalent of a tote bag full of literature: It’s hard to sort out what is meaningful and what is not as you walk the show floor.
Siskind suggests a great approach to launch a conversation that also helps you assess whether or not the visitor is a prospect: Question the need for your product or service. Phrase the question in a way that directly relates to the customer. For example, if you sell a software program that provides reporting options that the competitors do not, you could say, “Does your accounting department have to manually run x and y reports? How much extra time and effort is spent each week doing that?” Or if you provide a specific type of machine to the manufacturing industry, create a question asking how satisfied the visitor’s company is with their current capabilities.
Like holding a social conversation, the best way to draw someone in is to include him or her as an active participant. Lecturing about the five top benefits of your product or service is not effective if the information is not relevant or if the prospect hasn’t taken the time to see how this could be a solution for his or her company. But incorporating the show visitor’s own experiences makes him or her an active participant in the conversation.
Finally, one great way to start the right conversation with a visitor to your trade show booth is … the booth itself. The right design and the right accessories are perfect conversation starters. Use your booth space as a way to showcase oversized graphics of new products or your top selling products. Shelf and display cases, along with lighting options, can highlight actual products, which are great visual aids during a conversation.
Good design is engaging design; it catches visitors’ eyes as they walk the show floor and it gives you a place to start a solid conversation – one with the potential for a sale. Contact us or give us a call to talk about how we can help make your trade show booth a more successful one.