A few weeks ago at the Supercomputing ’11 trade show in Seattle, I decided to conduct an experiment. I took off my headset microphone, borrowed an attendee badge and started cruising the show floor. And unlike many trade show attendees, I actually walked into most of the booths.
And what I experienced could very well have served as a crash course on “The Top Ten Ways to Get People To Run Away From You.”
Okay, here’s today’s point and it’s a simple one: It is absolutely critical to your success to know what to say when someone comes into your booth.
Let’s face it, if you’ve got a great booth design, solid branding, a compelling message, maybe even a world-class trade show presenter, it’s very likely that there will be a whole lot of potential leads standing right in front of you. The key to keeping them there is to have an arsenal of excellent open-ended conversation starters. (If the question you’re asking will elicit a yes/no response, it’s a conversation ender!) The initial questions should always be light and friendly, and then go deeper from there. But the underlying question-asking principal still holds.
Your Cheat Sheet of Effective Questions
These will get you started (not necessary to ask in this order):
Look at their badge and say: “So ___________, what do you do at [company name]?
“How did you get started in this field?”
“What would you say is the biggest challenge you’re facing?”
“How have you addressed that issue in the past?”
“How did THAT work for you?”
“What kinds of things are you looking for at this show?”
“Great show so far. What have you seen that you’ve really liked?”
“How have you been dealing with challenge of _______________?” (online security, identity theft, etc.)
Listen, then follow up: “That’s interesting. One of our customers had the same issue. Let me show you what we did for THEM. …”)
“How familiar are you with our company’s product / service / etc.?”
“You’ve heard about some of the features in our live demo. Which one makes the most sense for what YOU’RE doing?”
“What feature DIDN’T you hear about that might be something you’d be interested in?”
“What is your timeline for implementing this type of solution?”
Trade Show Exhibits Are Intended to Serve a Purpose …
… and that purpose, when you boil it all down, is new customers/more revenue/success. Why build a booth … why book the travel … why even rent the space, if you’re not willing to engage with the people you’re paying to attract? If you can’t get a good conversation started, all the booth whiz-bang in the world isn’t going to help.
So, start with the some of the “openers” above, customize them, make them yours and I promise, you WILL get better results at your next trade show.
Author’s note: I’m sure a lot of my readers already know how to ask a great opening question. In fact, I’m counting on you to help me. So, for the benefit of everyone, please comment and share your best conversation starters and let’s put together the most powerful list possible!