When it comes to trade shows, staffing your exhibit with all engineers is never going to be your first response. However, when it comes to B2B exhibiting, there’s a need for both sales and technical skill sets. Salespeople are by nature good conversationalists, are high energy and articulate – in demand skills in a relationship driven environment like a trade show. Yet technical professionals (engineering, IT, design) can speak a language that sometimes eludes the sales professional. Finding employees that possess both skill sets is difficult at best, and in the absence of any Frankenstein-esque techniques for melding two people into one, the best approach is to staff your exhibit with both types of employees.
So how do you turn your technical booth staffers into sales superstars? Here are 10 tips designed to help them bring their A-game.
1. The art of starting and ending a conversation.
For those who aren’t as well versed in the art of conversation, share our Conversation Starters that Work as well as our How to Disengage a Tire Kicker tips as a primer for their time on the show floor.
2. Know when to hand off the conversation.
Prior to leaving for the show, team up your booth staff so that everyone has a “go to” partner on the show floor. As a general rule, have the sales team in front of the booth to initiate the conversation and have the technical team towards the product or demonstration areas. That way each can work within their comfort zone.
3. Get to the point.
Remind your technical team members that cool features are only half the battle. They have to clearly deliver the benefits to the attendee from the start. Quickly get to what’s in it for them before you lose them in the specifics. Be simple. Be concise. When asked for details, provide them; but start with the shorter version first.
4. Prepare talking points.
One of the best qualities of a technical professional is their passion. However, this passion can spill over into lengthy conversations and an avalanche of detail that overwhelms your prospect. Preparing approved talking points and allowing every staffer time to familiarize themselves with the messages will help keep everyone on topic. Again, cool features are what technical people love to talk about, but they need to direct the conversation as to how those cool features fulfill a need or solve a challenge for the attendee.
5. Role playing.
I’ll tell you upfront that you are probably going to get some resistance on this tactic from your technical team members. But the fact is that role playing will help both sales and technical booth staff become more comfortable with the interaction that takes place between prospects and clients on the trade show floor.
6. What smartphones should be, and shouldn’t be, used for.
Everywhere you look, people are glued to their smartphones – and with technical types it can be even more prevalent. With all of the apps available, phones can be one of your greatest tools at a tradeshow. But they can also be a huge distraction to your staff. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen staff members texting or playing around on their phones instead of talking to attendees. You worked hard to get attendees to stop by your booth, make sure your staffers give them their full attention to keep them there.
7. The dos and don’ts on the show floor.
Your technical team members aren’t going to be as savvy about trade show etiquette. This article on the basics of how to act on the show floor should serve as a good primer.
8. The 10-foot rule.
Another concept that might be foreign to your technical team members is the 10-foot rule. Explain to them that when a booth guest comes within 10-feet of them, they should acknowledge the guest with a cheerful hello, or at a minimum simply make eye contact, smile and nod his or her head
9. How to keep side conversations in line.
You’ve probably been to a store and heard an employee use inappropriate language, complain about being there or badmouth their competitors. Booth visitors aren’t interested in any of it. Talk to your staff about the importance of keeping their side conversations to a minimum and ensuring they don’t talk about things they wouldn’t want customers to overhear.
10. Avoiding staff cliques.
Especially when you have two distinct employee groups in a booth, the tendency is to group off along party lines. Having a group of staffers talking only to each other sends several bad messages to attendees: there’s not enough booth traffic; you’re ignoring customers; or you’re not interested in being there. Not to mention that potential customers may be hesitant to approach a crowd or simply be too shy to interrupt. While attendees like to see booth staff that get along and enjoy working together, make sure your staff puts attendees’ needs first.
In my 25+ years in the trade show business, I’ve seen it all on the exhibit floor. If you’d like assistance in any type of trade show consulting – from staffing your booth to designing exhibits that sell, we’re here to help. You can reach me at pswords@excaliburexhibits or 800-217-9479.
About Peggy Swords
Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.