As a trade show attendee I like to have my questions answered. I like to know how much things cost, what they do, what colors they are available in and all that kind of thing. Lucky for me, most trade show exhibitors are more than happy to hunker down and give me the 411 on their products. Good for me, bad for them.
When you, as the exhibitor, give in to this highly logical temptation to help your booth’s visitors learn about your products you are pissing away money. Rather than chit-chatting about your product you should be going through a highly rehearsed script and data collection process (be a Trade Show Samurai). By doing this you will be able to quickly determine if the attendee is a good fit with what you are offering or if they are a time waster. Either way, you will capture the right information and pass it onto your sales team for follow-up.
Remember, what you learn about the attendee is far more important than what they learn about you. If you learn the right things you can convert them to a customer. If they learn the wrong thing they may not come back.
Case in point: I was at the Strictly Sailing show in Chicago over the weekend. I was waiting to speak to a guy at a yacht club booth. I waited there why the man loaded up another attendee with a free tote bag, some stickers and a nice insulated cup. Five minutes into the conversation he learned that not only was the attendee from out of town, he didn’t even have a boat. He just wanted some free stuff. I, on the other had, do have a boat and I keep my boat in the harbor where the yacht club is located. When the guy finally got around to me he made the same mistake– loading me up with tchotckies before learning anything about me. My kids were so bored waiting that I had to move on before learning much. Too bad the club didn’t get my name and number so they could invite me to an open house or something. I’m about as good a prospect as they are going to get– but they will never know it.
Case in point number two: I took my kids with me to the show. They came home loaded with cups, a toys, and stickers, and candy, and expensive catalogs. My kids are three and six. Neither of them own a boat and they are both broke. Not good prospects. The booth people were nice, helpful and wasted a lot of money on my kids.
When we exhibit at trade shows we fool ourselves into thinking we are there to teach people about our products. This makes sense and sounds completely logical. The Trade Show Samurai knows, however, that we are there to learn, not to teach. Make learning about the attendees your priority and your show will be great.