Spotted a tradeshow booth for a unique USA-made product line at the ASI (Advertising Specialty Institute) Show in Chicago. I had previously seen promotions on this upscale line in magazines and was anxious to check it out for real. As I approached the booth, the lone company representative was engaged with a guy who wanted to tell the rep his entire career history, a recap of all his current projects, his opinions on everything… I hovered for a bit, hoping the guy would move on. No such luck. Finally the rep hastily asked me if I’d like him to scan my badge. Sure, why not? Looks like that’s about all I’m going to get out of this booth. Pity, it was a cool product.
Poor rep, he was dealing with a tradeshow booth “clinger.”
As salespeople at tradeshows, we have a tough balancing act. How do you engage with booth visitors while at the same time connecting with the maximum number of high potential customers? Tradeshow booth clingers monopolize your time and guarantee that you will see only a handful of attendees.
Here are some “pest control” strategies for the clingers:
- Adequately Staff Your Booth – If the show is one with high traffic, it’s probably worth it to have more than one booth staffer. That way one rep can spend more time with the hottest prospects while the other handles the marginal potential visitors. You might also want to consider hiring a professional tradeshow presenter–not a booth model!–to help qualify your traffic. (See my friend Emilie Barta’s Professional Tradeshow Presenter blog for more on the topic.)
- Develop a Procedure for Handling the Clingers – In advance, devise a method for handling those visitors who want to share their story–their entire story!–with you. When they start to become clingy, politely hand them a project questionnaire that they can fill out right then and there or fill out later. For example, you might say “Wow, sounds you have a lot going on! [Hand over the form.] Could you take a moment to give us some details about your upcoming projects? Then let’s talk after we all get back from the show.” You accomplish a number of things with this: 1) You get clingers to focus; 2) You get the most important thing you want out of your encounter which is a lead (if there really is potential); and, 3) You get your time back.
- Remember Why You’re Exhibiting – You are exhibiting to make sales, not friends, although that does often happen at shows. You are also not a show visitor’s on-demand consultant or therapist. Be polite, be professional, be productive.
- Get Your Story Straight – I’ve seen a lot of booth reps who set up their booths, sometimes very beautiful booths with lots of product to show, and then they screw it up by not having a clue as to what to say when someone arrives at their booth. If you prepare proper qualifying questions to weed out those with low potential, you’ll be spending more time with those prospects that matter. Qualifying questions also help direct your interaction with booth visitors so that you can quickly assess their needs, gather the information you need, and send them on their merry way.
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