I sat down with Andy Saks, Chief Sparkler at the presentation design and delivery agency Spark Presentations, to discuss booth staff performance. From our conversation came the Top 10 Ways to Radically Transform Booth Staff Effectiveness, and last week we presented Nos. 1-5. The conclusion includes some incredibly valuable and concrete ways to get more out of your staffers and get better results:
6. Build trust: The relationship between a potential customer and a booth staffer revolves around trust. If you do nothing else during your five-minute conversation, just simply create a rapport with the attendee. No one is going to actually make the decision to “buy” while in the booth; it’s going to be a multi-step process. All you’re really doing is initiating that process and building trust. So, what two traits earn trust? Warmth and strength.
7a. Exude warmth: It’s essential that booth staffers understand that on the trade show floor, warmth always comes first. You must give the attendee ample reason to think that this conversation (and potentially working with this company) “is going to be a good experience.” That’s accomplished through humor and empathy and showing genuine interest. Help that person to feel relaxed and open up. Once you’ve established that you’ll have a fun experience together, you can move to the next natural question: Are you the right company for the job?
7b. Show strength: Once you’ve established rapport, the attendee is going to need to figure out if you know your stuff and if you can handle his or her needs. At this early stage in the process, it’s more about building confidence and having the command of language necessary to articulate all the amazing, life-altering ways this product or technology can improve that person’s life. Deliver answers to the customer’s questions with confidence. Stand confidently. Dress confidently. Again, it’s about the benefits for the customer; not the technology itself. When a staffer leads with warmth and follows with strength, it primes the customer to move to the next logical step in the acquisition process.
8. During training, ask for a volunteer: When it’s time to role-play, Rather than waiting for a reluctant volunteer to raise their hand, ask for the senior-most employee in your pre-show staff training to come up to the front and participate. Everyone else will want to see how the person in charge does it, and you’ll instantly have a rapt audience. And the person can’t say “no” and expect everyone else to participate. If you happen to get an upper-level executive on stage, you’ll have a riveting few minutes of training that staffers will remember and discuss long afterward. There’s very little you can do as a presenter or trainer that’s as interesting to staffers as watching one of their own in action.
9. Practice an exit strategy: When following the previous eight steps across these two blog posts, oftentimes the results of interactions with attendees will be dramatically different. In fact, it’s not uncommon to engage someone in your booth and then not be able to get rid of that person! Sometimes they get so comfortable and feel so cared for that they don’t want to stop talking and don’t want to leave. That’s nice and all, but as a booth staffer the time will come when you need to move on.
The key is for the staffer to engage in a directed discussion with a purpose, a goal and a rough time limit. It’s about efficiency of conversation without being curt. You simply can’t allow one conversation to go on for 20 minutes. So what do you do when that customer wants to tell you all about his last fishing trip? Ask wrap-up questions that would naturally flow into the end of a conversation: I’ve told you a lot, where are you with all of this? … Do you have any concerns at this point that I can alleviate? … Listen, I’d love to talk to you more in another forum when not on the floor. Do you have an hour next week to chat with me? Thanks so much for your time. Without an exit strategy, success can be a dangerous trade-show curse.
10. Pull new people into the conversation: When a 1-to-1 interaction is going well, oftentimes two or three others will begin to hover and listen in. Those hovering people attract more people who notice the crowd forming, and so on. The key is to pull those on the “outside” into the conversation where they feel a part of the interaction. That one moment of “I see you and I’ll be right with you” could literally be the difference between a million-dollar sale and someone walking away. People want to feel noticed and feel in control of the situation. When they’re ignored, they don’t feel in control.
Ideally, staffers should be mic’d so that attendees aren’t straining to hear. But more importantly, why repeat the same thing to five or 10 different people when you can tell them all at the same time! It’s about efficiency and conservation of voice and effort … and you might as well get 10 leads out of a single conversation.
This is all just logical stuff. Staffers know this from real life and regular human interaction. It’s just about bringing it onto the trade show floor. If you can do just a little bit more than the next guy in the booth one over—if you can just make a little more effort—you’ll really stand out. Then, your company stands out, too.
“Make sure the human beings you put in your booth who will speak on your behalf and represent your company with potential multimillion dollar accounts know what they’re doing, know the environment and are willing and eager to do their job well. If you do that, you could have an empty booth with nothing else in it but the carpeting, and you will sell.” —Andy Saks, Spark Presentations