Qualifying prospects is a subject Mr. Mike Gruenberg of GruenbergConsulting.com had a lot of advice on (if you missed the blogs with his interview, I definitely recommend going back and giving them a read). The first thing he would tell you is to have a pre-screener at the front of the exhibit to ask basic “what are you here for” questions. The “Traffic Cop”, as Mike explains it, acts like a gatekeeper and shields the sales staff from casual conversation. They will direct the attendee to the best sales person after a few qualifying questions. The show floor qualification process needs to be direct and precise. There is no time for a lengthy conversation.
Here are some things to think about:
- You need to qualify people quickly. As Mike Gruenberg would say: “This is not a sales call, this is a trade show and trade shows demand the art of the super short conversation. You are on stage and there is no time to engage unqualified people.”
- If you are engaged with a “talker,” then you may let another 5 or 6 people go by. Know how to disengage. I like to use a small giveaway item. I would say something like: “It was great to meet you, did you get one of these? Please call us soon with any needs you may have.” It may sound like a brush-off, but it is as important to disengage with a prospect as it is to engage. They don’t necessarily know how to end the conversation and you can quickly move things along this way. Notice that the token giveaway item was used for a specific purpose: to disengage from the attendee.
- When a salesperson gets ambushed, have a prearranged gesture or signal that lets others take over the conversation.
So, how do you qualify a prospect? The marketing department, if they have done their job well, will have already put into place the necessary tools. One tool is the pre-show mailer that would include an incentive to visit your exhibit. The mailer describes the highlighted feature on display in your exhibit or prompts the attendee to pursue specific topics of discussion. For example: If you were visiting Exhibit Edge, we would say something in the mailer like “Ask about EdgeLink, our online management and inventory system. Visit us at booth number 401 to receive a free gift just by mentioning the name EdgeLink.”
Once they walk up to your exhibit. The “Traffic Cop” would have a series of questions like these (again, using Exhibit Edge as an example):
- Are you the person who manages your exhibit program? If they are not then ask who is. That would be a piece of critical information to us.
- Do you currently work with an exhibit company? If yes then ask who that is. Another piece of critical information.
- How can an exhibit company help you better?
Now, if they don’t want to answer these questions or don’t know the answer, then it is a good indication that you should disengage from the conversation. If they do answer and have specific needs, then it’s time to direct them to the proper staff person. In our exhibit we would have staff members that specialize in different things like EdgeLink or Exhibit Product Knowledge or Sales Processes and Operational Procedures.
Understanding the attendee’s needs and getting them to the right person is an art; it’s a much different process on the show floor than a typical sales call. Planning ahead, training your staff, good note-taking, and proper follow-up techniques are all essential. It all starts with qualifying the prospect so you are using your time wisely on the show floor.