Stop! In the name of sales

The Puget Sound Business Journal asked me to give a presentation on tradeshow sales and etiquette recently, since their Expo is coming up in October. I was excited to do it and asked my colleague Matt Heinz, with Heinz Marketing, to co-present with me and talk about the marketing and sales aspect of tradeshows.

We complemented each other well with the information we shared. Matt started the training by talking about how to get ready for a tradeshow, the importance of objectives, staffing, offers and follow-up.

I focused on the importance of making a good first impression, how to get people to stop and talk to you and booth dos and don’ts.

I thought it would be helpful to share some information on appropriate “gait stoppers”, as Matt calls them, to get passersby to stop and talk to you.

When you think about it, most people don’t really want to talk to exhibitors. Why is that? Because they are afraid they will get a hard sell, and no one likes being sold to.

You must engage people by saying something that is about the person, not about you. Good gait stoppers include:

A sincere compliment. People love to be complimented.

A comment about something the person is wearing or doing. Let’s say someone walks by wearing a Yankees hat. You could ask, “How do you like having Ichiro on the team?” Or, maybe someone is walking slowly and looks tired (those concrete floors are murder on your body). You might say, “You look like you could use a rest. Come on in and have a seat; put your feet up.”

Humor. Everyone loves to laugh and it’s a great ice breaker. In the example above you could say, “Come on in and have a seat. No charge for the first five minutes.”

Comment or ask a question that is about the expo or your environment. When possible, try to ask open ended questions that start with who, what, where, when, and sometimes why. Why can sound judgmental and/or put someone on the defensive when you start a question with it so be careful when using it. In general, open ended questions get people to talk more because the question can’t be answered with a yes or no.

This gives you more information about the person, which makes it easier to take the conversation to the next level and build rapport. Some examples of questions include, “What’s the weather like outside?”, “That sandwich looks good, where did you get it?”, “How was the last speaker?”

Once you have stopped someone’s gait and gotten them to actually talk to you, you can begin asking questions that move the conversation to their needs and what you have to offer. You might ask, “What brought you to the expo today?” Then listen. If what the person says has nothing to do with what you are offering, refer him or her to an exhibitor who is selling what the person is looking for.

If there is something in their answer that fits with what you’re offering, ask more questions.

Let’s say you’re a credit union at a home remodeling expo. The person might say, “Oh, we’re thinking about remodeling our kitchen and we wanted to get some design ideas.” You could then respond, “You came to the right place; there are some great kitchen designs here.” Then you might ask another rapport building question. “What’s been your favorite design so far?” After that you could ask a transition question to get to what you’re offering. For example, “Have you gotten funding for the remodel yet?” If he or she answers “no”, this is your opportunity to make your pitch.

Like any sales, you have to build rapport before making the pitch. As I said before, no one likes being sold to. And, you can’t know what or how to pitch if you don’t know what the person’s needs are. When you do make your pitch, focus on the benefits to the customer, not a list of features. In other words, tell the prospect how the product or service will make their life easier, better, more successful, etc.

If you’re looking for a great expo to exhibit at or attend, I encourage you to look into the Puget Sound Business Journal’s Grow Your Business Expo, taking place October 25. I had a great time at the Expo last year.

If you attend trade shows as an exhibitor, what have you done to get people to stop and talk to you? If you’ve attended as a participant, what’s been the best gait stopper you’ve heard that got you to stop and talk to the booth staff?



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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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