The tradeshow floor is a unique place. It’s artificial and unreal. Thousands of people are darting about the show floor, all with different agendas and schedules and goals.
So how do you communicate in such a wacky, upside-down environment?
Keep three things in mind:
First, remember YOUR goal(s). If it’s to qualify a prospect, keep that at the forefront of your mind. If your goal is to make a sale or gather leads, keep that present.
Second, you have a limited time to assess whether your prospect fits your goals.
And third, once you have completed your goal, move on to the next person.
So how does this work in the real artificial world of the tradeshow floor?
The first – remember YOUR GOAL – must take place before the show opens. This is usually a simple statement or understanding of your company’s reason for being at the show. And remember that your company’s goals may change from show to show, depending on the nature of the show and the attendees.
One horizontal industry show might demand that you just gather leads. Another more vertical show might lend itself to racking up sales.
So if your stated goal is, for instance, ‘qualify prospects and determine if they’re in the market for our product or service in the next 90 days,’ you’ll just keep that in the forefront of your mind. It doesn’t mean that you ignore people that don’t fit the profile. In fact, you may want to gather those leads and keep them separately.
The second part of communicating on the tradeshow floor: you’re under an immense time pressure. You may not feel the pressure of time, but here’s how it works: let’s say the show is open for three days, a total of 8 hours a day. That gives you 24 hours of ‘show time.’
If there’s an expected attendance of 10,000, here’s how your numbers break down (thanks to the Tradeshow Manager’s Activity Level Planner slide chart):
* Visitors with a mission: 1600
* Likely to shop: 768
* Likely to be drawn to your exhibit: 576
* Likely to shop and talk: 328
* Visitors per hour: 14 – 24
* Staffers needed: 2 – 3
* Literature needed: 500
If you’re averaging 7 to 12 visitors per hour per person, that gives you approximately 5 to 8 ½ minutes per person during the time each person is engaged in a conversation.
That may seem like a lot, or it may seem like very little time, depending on your context. For most sales people who like to sit down and engage a prospect and really uncover their needs with question after question, it would seem like a short time.
Now that you know what your time frame is, it helps you approach the encounter with the booth visitor knowing what you want to accomplish.
First, you’ll want to find out who they are. Chances are they’re wearing a name badge.
Next, determine what they do for the company. Even if there’s a title on their badge, it’s appropriate to ask what kinds of things they do on the job. Use these questions to break the ice with them.
Next, you’ll want to find out how your product can help them. It will help you immensely if you go over a handful of potential opening questions before the show. Rehearse them with your co-workers.
Ask things such as: “What does your company do?” “How familiar are you with (your product)?” “What’s your most important need regarding (your product or service)?”
Now that you’ve asked the question, STOP TALKING and LISTEN! Don’t stand there trying to think of your next question or statement or sales pitch. When you listen, really listen, to the prospect, it gives them a chance to give you information which will mostly likely be useful to you. What they say will determine your next statement or question.
If they’re interested in your product, it’ll show. If not, you’ve disqualified them. So here’s the third part of communication on the tradeshow floor: politely disengage and move on to the next attendee. Even if they are a hot prospect, chances are you’ll want to just get their information and talk to them after the show when you’ll have a chance to expand your conversation and find out how you can really help them.
Of course, in the real world you may find that it’s important to spend a much longer time with the prospect. It may make sense to go into their situation in much greater detail – you’ll have to use your judgment on that. You might be able to meet them at a later time during the show when you’re not on the show floor.
Bottom Line: keep your communication pointed, specific, friendly and upbeat. You have a limited time to gather your critical information. Once you have done that, make sure you follow up back at the office!