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Lynn McInturf Associates Incorporated | Cincinnati, OH

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As Sales Professionals, we can't think of many prospecting options that we enjoy more than a busy Trade Show floor. Why? Where else can you get so much practice? Where else can you interact with multiple prospective clients each hour?  Where else do you have people approaching YOU about your products or services?

On the other hand, you must be really effective at engaging people in conversation, and in the RIGHT conversation, to assure your Trade Show success. In the fast paced environment of the Trade Show floor, where people need to move along to walk all the aisles, you'd better know what you're going to say when someone walks into, or even nearby, your booth. And you'd better not waste your time talking with people who could NEVER buy from you nor refer you to someone who can.


[WATCH] How To Succeed At Trade Shows And Events


So how do we get this effective conversation started? Do we need a "30-second commercial"? How do I respond when they say, "So, what do you folks do here?"

Many sales professionals think the first step to qualifying a prospect at a Trade Show is to have their "elevator pitch" polished up and ready to go. They believe that by doing this they are ready for any prospect who asks the question - "So, what do you folks do here?" They hear the question and automatically break into their "pitch", which may sound something like this - "We are a leading provider of health insurance to manufacturing companies on Long Island, with 35% market share, and the largest portfolio of insurance options available."

We strongly recommend a different approach. Try starting with a "framing statement", a non-pitchy, factual statement about your company. When we say, "We are a leading provider of health insurance to manufacturing companies on Long Island, with 35% market share, and the largest portfolio of insurance options available," who do we sound like? We sound just like every other salesperson at the show, that's who.

How about this? - "Hi, Bob. We do health insurance. What do you folks do over at ABC Company?"

Notice what happened: Rather than getting a sales pitch, Bob got a conversation. He has a Trade Show Badge clipped to his lapel; it has his name and his company's name. We certainly answered his question, but let's find out who the heck this guy is!

When Bob tells us a little about his company and himself, which he loves to do, we can then - if appropriate - go on to the next phase of the conversation - to determine if Bob has any issues, challenges, or opportunities that we can help him with.

We have two favorite ways to accomplish this. First is the tongue-in-cheek question, "Why would you POSSIBLY stop by a health insurance company's trade show booth?" That often gets a laugh, followed by a valid response, like, "Well, sometimes we have a problem with ________." Alternatively, you might ask the question, "As it relates to your health insurance, was there any particular issue or challenge you are having that you were hoping we might be able to help you with?" Notice that these are open-ended questions, intended to keep the ball in Bob's court. He may then launch into the details of his issues, in essence telling us how to sell him.

On the other hand, he may say, "Oh, I don't know. Tell me more about your company and what you can do for us."

Now we have to be prepared with the third phase of our interaction strategy (which is only necessary if phase two didn't get Bob talking about his issues). Provide Bob with several "Pain Statements" that Bob may be able to relate to, and that indirectly tell Bob what you do: "We work with business owners like yourself who are frustrated by the rising costs of health insurance eating into their profits, who feel they could be getting a higher level of attention and creativity from their health insurance broker, or who are concerned that their insurance has not kept up with the changes in their company. I don't suppose you can relate to any of these, can you?"

If these Pain Statements are well thought-out, you will almost always get a positive response, allowing you to say, "How so? Tell me more about that ...", which gets them talking once again. After a few moments, you can suggest that there seems to be enough going on there that, perhaps, Bob would be willing to keep your conversation going after the Trade Show. If he is, then you've accomplished a key Trade Show objective - you've developed a solid pre-qualified lead.

Remember your goals at a Trade Show: 

(1) Build rapport to make people comfortable enough to engage in conversation with you 
(2) Qualify them to a level that determines if you can justify spending much time with them 
(3) Get them talking about themselves 
(4) Determine a next step - typically a commitment to reconnect and talk further after the Trade Show.

Sandler Systems, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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