The Puget Sound Business Journal asked me to give a presentation on tradeshow sales and etiquette recently since their Expo is coming up in October. I was excited to do it and asked my colleague Matt Heinz, with Heinz Marketing, if he would co-present with me and talk about the marketing and sales aspect of tradeshows.
We complemented each other well with the information we shared. Matt started the training by talking about how to get ready for a tradeshow, the importance of objectives, staffing, offers and follow-up.
I focused on the importance of making a good first impression, how to get people to stop and talk to you and booth dos and don’ts. I thought it would be helpful to share some information on appropriate “gait stoppers”, as Matt calls them, to get passersby to stop and talk to you.
When you think about it, most people don’t really want to talk to exhibitors. Why is that? Because they are afraid they will get a hard sell, and no one likes being sold to.
You must engage people by saying something that is about the person, not about you. Good gait stoppers include:
A sincere compliment. People love to be complimented.
A comment about something the person is wearing or doing. Let’s say a man walks by wearing a Yankees hat. You could ask, “How do you like having Ichiro on the team?” Or, maybe someone is walking slowly and looks tired (those concrete floors are murder on your body). You might say, “You look like you could use a rest. Come on in and have a seat, put your feet up.”
Get them to laugh. Humor is a great ice breaker. In the example above you could say, “Come on in and have a seat. No charge for the first three minutes.”
Comment or ask a question that is about the expo or environment. When possible, try to ask open ended questions that start with who, what, where, when, and sometimes why. Why can sound judgmental and/or put someone on the defensive when you start a question with it so be careful when using it. In general, open ended questions get people to talk more because they can’t be answered with a yes or no. This gives you more information about the person, which makes it easier to take the conversation to the next level and build rapport. Some examples of questions include, “What’s the weather like outside?”, “That sandwich looks good, where did you get it?”, “How was the last speaker?”
Once you have stopped someone’s gait and gotten them to actually talk to you, you can begin asking questions that move the conversation to their needs and what you have to offer. You might ask, “What brought you to the expo today?” Then listen. If what the person says has nothing to do with what you are offering, refer him or her to a vendor at the expo who is selling what the person is looking for.
If there is something in their answer that fits with what you’re offering ask more questions.
Let’s say you’re a credit union at a home remodeling expo. The person might say, “Oh, we’re thinking about remodeling our kitchen and we wanted to get some design ideas.” You could then respond, “You came to the right place; there are some great kitchen designs here.” Then you might ask another rapport building question. “What’s been your favorite design so far?” After that your next question could be the transition question to get to what you’re offering. For example, “Have you gotten funding for the remodel yet?” If he or she answers “no”, this is your opportunity to make your pitch.
Like any sales, you have to build rapport before making the sales pitch. Remember, no one likes being sold to. And, you can’t know what or how to pitch if you don’t know what the person’s needs are.
If you attend trade shows as an exhibitor, what have you done to get people to stop and talk to you? If you’ve attended as a participant what’s been the best gait stopper you’ve heard that got you to stop and talk to the booth staff?
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