In this post you will discover some of the most effective ways to spend the maximum amount of time with your ideal prospects. This is what top exhibitors do every time!
This topic is one that we have found so many companies completely overlook… they’ve spend all this money of getting into the exhibition and on the stand and with all the marketing material, then send staff out into the live exhibition with little more than a simple “get leads” direction.
This post is part of a series of 17 steps to mastering your trade show ROI. If you haven’t already seen in you need to go back to the first post in the series that covers your goals and objectives. While you can take the information in this single post by itself and improve your results - you will have far greater success if you approach it like a mini course and move from one step to the next.
And sometimes it works! If the exhibition is specific enough and everyone there is your ideal client, this method will work fine. Unfortunately – for far too many of us this just isn’t the case.
So, we need a way to “filter” visitors. A way to easily tell who is a “tyrekicker” and respectfully move them on and find those genuinely interested prospects who are ready to talk and draw them in.
The perfect filter depends a lot on your company and industry, and we couldn’t possibly cover them here. So we will be just giving you a high-level overview and explain the principals behind it so you can apply it to your circumstance and make it work!
The core of this strategy and what makes it effective is a set of qualifying, well thought out question that will determine if the visitor is a fit or not within the first 30 sec. Sometimes you may need 3 or 4 questions, but the aim is to get it down to as few as possible – the quicker you can make the decision the faster you will get through leads.
The core principles that you need to form your questions on starts with what not to ask…
Don't ask a question if you don't want - or care about - the answer. When people ask, "How are you going?" do they really want to know the answer? Probably not, especially if they're staffing a booth, because: a) the person will reply with "I'm fine," and this answer will lead you nowhere, or b) the person will launch into a lengthy explanation of how not fine they are, in which case you've wandered into an uncomfortable social situation without a clear escape route. So, before your staff asks a question, make sure they are actually interested in - and prepared for - all of the possible responses.
Don't ask a question if you don't know what to do with the answer. This is pretty basic but we do it so often…! For example, if your staff ask, "Have you heard about our new service?" and the answer is "Yes," often the staff are at a loss for words. You can train your staff how to ask good questions, but you can't train your visitors how to answer them. So make sure you go through and think of all the possible answers and make sure you know how to respond to each of them. If you don't have a follow-up response for each answer, find another question to ask. You really need to do this as a team as you will find the different personalities on your team will have very different ways of answering or posing the questions.
Don't ask questions that leads to a sales pitch. Trade shows are filled with interesting facts and ideas; however, this also means that visitors are bombarded with information at every turn, and they struggle to sort, grasp, and retain the relevant nuggets. The last thing visitors want is to be “sold” before you’ve found out about their needs. As an example – a question like "would you like to stop in for a few minutes to watch our next demonstration?" is only offering them information they probably don't want because you know nothing about them yet. Plus, if they say "yes – tell me more…" your two options are to either launch into a clumsy sales pitch that you can’t tailor to them because you don’t know enough about them – or you have to double back and start asking some relevant qualifying questions again which in both cases leads to a lot of wasted time and embarrassment for everyone.
Now that we've covered the three “don’ts” – here are the three “do’s”. Make sure your questions are covering off on these three points.
Start on common ground. The best way to open a conversation is to ask visitors about something you have in common, such as the tradeshow itself or the functions that are happening during the show. So try questions such as:
- "What brings you to the show?"
- "Which networking sessions would you recommend?"
- "How many times have you been to this show?"
This is a key component that can have a double effect and be extremely effective in filtering out your prospects. If you know that all your ideal clients have a common ground or use a particular word or phrase that’s unique to your industry – ask your opening question around it. If it sounds rude or arrogant as an opening question – ask it once you have established the initial conversation opener using the “generic” common ground option that you know for sure, they will be able to link on with. Now if a visitor has difficulty answering the specific “common ground” question, you can easily determine that they probably aren’t someone you want to spend time with. You may only need one more question then to be able to mark them off your radar completely.
Give visitors an easy way into the conversation. Sometimes people are just as nervous about opening a conversation as you are. So offer them something to comment on, such as something that stands out on your booth or a product or something else on the floor. These questions also give you insight into how to direct the conversation based on their interests. Try questions such as:
- "What have you seen on the show floor that caught your eye?"
- "What have you found most useful at the show today?"
Make it about the visitor. Ask questions that demonstrate to visitors that you're interested in them and their individual needs such as:
- "What does your company do?"
- "What are you looking for from the exhibitors?"
- "What are your goals for attending the show?"
Once you have crafted your set of qualifying questions – and you now know who will just waste your time – the next step is how do you move them on without sounding rude or arrogant? You may come across a really nice guy or girl that is funny and has a great personality – but if they can’t buy from you, the longer you spend talking to them the more money you are flushing down the toilet!
While there’s no set formula to disengaging from every conversation, there are a lot of personalities and circumstances out there, we do have some transition techniques that work.
Regardless of what method you use that I'm about to explain, you still need to shake their hand – offer your business card and you can even direct them to your brochure stand to take a flyer if they would like. Always, always, always hand them your card – even if they aren’t the right fit for you now… they may be in 12 months’ time. They could even have a friend or just happen to pass your card to someone who is an ideal client.
So closing statements are a subtle way for you to wrap up the conversation and move on. If the visitor is sensitive enough they will take the hint and kindly move on – the closing statement can go something like this:
- “Thanks for dropping in.”
- “It was really nice to speak with you.”
- “I hope you enjoy the rest of the show.”
If they are someone who comes across as important or upper level management you need to be mindful of their time as well. For example:
- “I appreciate your time, and I’ll let you get going as I am sure you have a lot more you still want to see.”
- “Thanks for taking time to speak with me today, I won’t keep you any longer.”
Finally – if they don’t get the hint and want to keep talking you can simply explain that you don’t think that your product or service is a good fit for them. Depending on your industry it could go something like:
- “Thanks for your time Bob, I can’t really see our product working in your situation, but here’s my card and please get back in touch should anything change.
You will need to practice with all these so you are as ready as possible for whatever is thrown at you – it can be tough on the floor! Despite this you will still get people who just won’t budge – you have to use your own initiative in these situations but always remember that the longer you talk to them – the less you can talk to someone you will bring you closer to your goals. Just be calm, confident and polite and interrupt them with “I must move on…”
I trust you have learnt some new ideas and tips and I look forward to helping you with the next step!