Make no mistake -- you're in a rough spot. Exhibiting
is a competitive environment. You're vying for attendee's attention,
against companies that are larger, better-funded, with newer exhibits and
cooler ideas than you've got.
What this means is that anything you can do to differentiate
yourself from the crowd is a "Very Good Thing." Being different
gives you an edge over the masses. On the other hand, being different
invariably costs money.
Or maybe not. You can differentiate yourself
effectively by embracing the power of questions.' Having a team that can
ask the right people, the right questions, at the right time, is the single
most cost effective thing you can do to guarantee fantastic show results.
Very few people know how to ask effective, powerful
questions, and quite frankly, those who do, tend not to wind up working the
show floor. Luckily, asking great questions is a skill that can be taught
to those who were not already having it. If you're like me, and weren't
born with that great skill, here are seven strategies your team can start using
today to make they better exhibitors:
Strategy #1: Listen
The best questions begin in silence. Train your people
to embrace the 80/20 rule -- they should be listening 80% of the
time. Listening is more than not talking. It's an opportunity to
focus on the information the visitor is providing. The data they're
sharing is invaluable and helps frame more appropriate questions throughout the
conversation. For sales people in particular, listening is a real
challenge. Yet, if they conquer and embrace this skill, they could easily
boost their performance in flash!
Strategy #2: Determine Identities Quickly
One of the first questions your team should ask is some
variation of "Who are you and what do you do?" Never, ever rely
on badges. People can easily swap them. This is probably the most
commonly used competitive intelligence gathering strategy.
You want to determine identity quickly for a number of
reasons, but the primary one is this: Knowing who you're talking to allows you
to deliver information in the most appropriate fashion: a buyer for a powerful
chain is a very different attendee than an intern at a friendly competitor!
Strategy #3: Ask Open Ended Questions
The first question you ask a booth visitor should never be
one that they can answer with a simple "Yes" or "No."
This is an easy way to give them permission to end the conversation
quickly. Known as "closed questions, "Yes" or "No"
answers, don't usually help you to understand your visitor's needs. The
better alternative is to focus on questions that invite attendees to tell you
more about themselves, their challenges or their particular situations (their
stories). These include questions such as:
- What are you doing about X?
- How do you handle X?
- When do you need X?
Strategy #4: Follow Up With a Relevant Question
When a visitor spends time telling you their story about a
particular situation or challenge, your very next question must relate to what
they've just told you. This then demonstrates that you're actually
listening, and care about what they have to say. Failing to do this is
likely to damage, if not destroy any credibility you may have established
throughout the conversation so far.
Since this is such a common mistake exhibitors make, it's
well worth having your team practice this skill in pre-show role-playing
exercises. Have them work at this until it's automatic and starts to
feels completely natural to them.