Trade Show Chronicles – The right booth approach (chapter 11)
This article belongs to the “Trade Show Chronicles” series. It tells the story of Andrew, young sales executive newly employed by a Hong Kong company that will attend his first trade show in a few months time. From understanding what exhibitions are all about to organizing the booth, recruiting promoters and following-up on leads, Andrew will live a complete adventure unique to the world of exhibitions.
– “So what’s the plan?” asks my boss while swallowing a giant piece of Cha Siu Bao, a white bun filled with barbecue pork.
– “We are inviting all the candidates that passed our screening process for a group interview session next week”.
– “Group interview? What kind of questions will you ask?” he asks while rushing on some other dumplings.
– “We will start with a short company introduction and product demonstration. Then we will give them a questionnaire to fill with questions related to our company and products, to test their memory and interest. We will keep the best ones and go through a group workshop.”
– “What kind of workshop?” he keeps asking questions and jumps on the spring rolls while I answer. If it keeps going that way I won’t have eaten anything by the end of this meal.
– “Karen and I will play a visitor / booth staff conversation. I will highlight the different stages of the talk: opening question, qualifying questions, product demonstration, USPs highlight, next steps discussion and conversation ending.”
He stops eating for a minute to look at me:
– “You don’t talk about data recording?”
– “Not at this stage” I reply confidently. “For the moment we want to discover who has the best potential. Since we are not planning on keeping everyone, there is no reason to reveal all our strategies. We will discuss data recording with those that pass this step.”
He looks very satisfied with my answer. I must say I’ve grown a lot in the past few weeks. As complicated as it feels, this project has truly helped me develop new skills and improve my organization and presentation abilities. I should probably give a call to Charles tonight, just to thank him for his tremendous help.
– “Alright Andrew, keep going. What is the ‘opening question’ you mentioned earlier?”
Karen must have noticed that I didn’t touch the food yet and that there is almost nothing left. With a smile she answers the question for me while I reach for some Siu Long Bao – some kind of pork dumpling filled with hot soup that you dip in black vinegar. It would have been delicious if only it was still hot.
– “The traditional way for people to greet visitors on their booth is with ‘Hello’, ‘Welcome’, ‘How are you?’, and so on.” Karen explains.
– “True. And?”
– “And while this might seem to be the right approach because it is nice and polite, it doesn’t engage any conversation. What do you reply to ‘Hello’ besides ‘Hello’?”
– “I see… keep going.”. He stopped eating. I think Karen found the right strategy to trigger his interest. I decide not to waste this opportunity and attack the next dish that originally looked delicious but now looks half finished already.
– “Instead, we train our promoters to use ‘open questions’ to greet visitors. ‘What brings you here today?’, ‘What company do you work for?’, ‘What are you looking for exactly?’, ‘What product do you currently use?’, ‘What are the challenges with your current product?’, etc. Such question will force the visitor to give a longer more articulated answer that will engage a proper conversation.”
– “Smart… you not only get the conversation going but you also start gathering information… I like that!”. Karen smiles and continues:
– “Then, traditionally, we should continue with a product demonstration.”
– “Of course.”
– “But not this time.” Karen stops here, obviously trying to trigger the question she expected:
– “And why is that?” Karen smiles, satisfied things go as planned.
– “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new. Do you know this quote from the Dalai Lama?”
– “Maybe…” my boss says, chewing on some dumpling.
– “Well, that’s the idea. Instead of trying to talk and present as much as we can, the strategy will be to understand the needs and problems of the visitors. Only then, we would present the product they might need and focus on this one only. Less talk, more listening – that way we provide the right solutions and increase our selling probabilities.”
– “Sounds… reasonable.” he says, thinking. “But then you might miss opportunities of selling more.”
– “Not really. Instead of trying to sell things people might not need, we present ONLY what people are looking for. Then, we focus on providing not a full list of USPs, but the ones that we know will convince people because we already assessed their needs and problems.”
– “Alright, you got me on board with that strategy! Good job guys, well done!”
I decide to jump back in now that I’ve had a chance to eat a bit.
– “That’s not all. We’ve also identified ‘qualifying questions’.”.
– “What is that?” my boss asks, genuinely surprised. Satisfied, I continue:
– “A set of questions we will get the team to memorize that will help qualifying the leads.” As he looks puzzled, I decide to go further in my explanations. “I expect we will meet a ton of people at that event. Therefore, we will get lots of leads and it will surely take time to follow-up each one of them carefully. But the truth is, not all leads have the same value or carry the same weight. Some of them are just entering our sales funnel while others are almost ready to sign – we must prioritize our leads. And to achieve that, we will be asking qualifying questions”.
– “It makes sense… what kind of questions do you have in mind?” he asks.
– “I recently read an article containing a tool for qualifying leads* and it contained lots of smart questions. The idea is to first identify the visitor’s profile: is he from the media? Is he a distributor? A competitor? So asking a business card, so company information is the first step.”
– “Ok, I agree. What then?”
– “Then it is about identifying his product usage and knowledge. If he knows WAY too much, that might be a competitor trying to collect information. If he knows nothing, he is most certainly in the early stage of the sales funnel. That already gives some idea of his potential as a customer.”
– “Alright. What comes next?”
– “Once identified, if it sounds like a potential lead, it is time to dig a little deeper. We’ve prepared a set of questions that will achieve that. Things like: what territories does he cover? Is he a decision maker? How badly does he need the product? Is it a product he already distributes? Does he ask for logistics, payment terms, MOQ, etc.? All these questions help defining how serious is the lead then we can qualify it as ‘Hot’, ‘Warm’ or ‘Cold’ and…”
Karen jumps in:
– “… then Andrew will follow-up closely on hot leads, I will send EDM batches to the cold ones and we will split the warm leads case-by-case.” she says, satisfied.
– “Well… you guys did an amazing job! It seems you are in charge and know your subject! I’m impressed, well done!”
We both smile generously – it wasn’t easy, but we’ve done it!
– “Ok guys, the bill is on me, let’s go back to work – I’m sure you still have a lot to prepare and there isn’t much time left!”