If you’re not seeing positive results from your trade show marketing efforts, there are several likely culprits. Sometimes your display doesn’t measure up to the competition. Sometimes you’ve chosen to exhibit at the wrong show. Sometimes, however, the problem is that your booth staffers are underqualified.
Few small- to medium-sized businesses can afford to hire professional trade show staff, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should limit your booth personnel to just salespeople. Take a good look around your office and you’ll likely uncover a number of employees who, while not officially trained in sales per se, exude many of the key qualities of a great trade show staffer.
With a little time, training and coaching, you may be surprised to discover that even somewhat shy or introverted staff members can become effective booth staffers.
Meet and Greet Skills. The art of striking up a meaningful conversation with a stranger is a skill that can be cultivated with practice. Schedule several role-play training sessions well in advance of the show so that booth staffers can learn how to adjust their greeting depending on the visual signals they observe when approaching prospects.
Listening Skills. Booth staffers are understandably excited about presenting your product or services to passersby, but make sure they understand that listening is just as important as talking. Before offering a one-size-fits-all solution, it’s important to question a prospect and gather details about their current situation. Often times, the solution the think they want is not necessarily what they really need.
Good Judgment. During your role-playing sessions, you should attempt to subtly evaluate your booth staffers’ level of emotional maturity and judgment. Test them to see where they might slip up and become too informal or unprofessional in their conversations with prospects. When this happens, coach them as to exactly what and how ideas are to be communicated on the showroom floor.
Hard and Soft Tech Skills. The trade show environment requires staffers to nimbly move from one prospect to the next and from one idea to another. Make sure your staffers are smartphone and tablet gurus who can quickly post “live from the show” social media teasers or connect with your cloud-based product inventory in just a few clicks.
In-depth Product or Service Knowledge. Remember that not every member of your staff works as closely with your product or service as you do, so you’ll need to invest time into bringing them up to speed through training. Ideally, by show time, all of your booth staffers should be service experts or “super users” of your product who can confidently field any question a prospect might throw at them.
MINDSET AND MENTALITY
Multi-tasking Skills. Being able to attend to a variety of prospects’ needs and requests (often simultaneously) requires great mental agility and focus. If one of your staffers expresses reluctance or doubt about his/her multi-tasking skills, trust your gut and have them stay back at the office.
Stamina. It’s important to manage expectations on the part of your booth staffers and let them know that working a trade show booth can be a grueling experience. Your staffers need both physical and mental stamina to keep the positive, upbeat momentum going — even though their feet may be killing them.
Problem-solving Skills. Despite our best-laid plans, situations often arise that require a fast workaround. Booth display pieces sometimes get broken or damaged in transit, hardware and software can suddenly malfunction, etc. The best trade show staffers are unflappable, creative solution-finders who excel during a crisis.
Team Player Mindset. How your booth staffers interact with each other is a key indicator of how well your exhibit will perform at the next trade show. In the often-chaotic trade show marketing environment, teamwork is absolutely essential. While you’re training your booth staffers about your products and services and how to communicate with prospects, consider doing some team-building exercises as well to ensure that each individual is on the same page and ready to support the goals of the whole team.
Qualifying Skills. A good trade show booth staffer isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions and to tactfully “release” a non-qualified prospect. Likewise, he or she is fully capable of capturing a qualified lead. Here again, role-playing exercises can help teach staffers how to do this with finesse.
Persuasion Skills. In a trade show environment, you may only have five minutes or less to capture a lead before moving on to the next prospect. Being able to persuade a prospect to take the next step — whether that means watching an on-site demo, signing up for a free trial, or registering for your next webinar — is a critical skill that can be learned with practice.
Presentation Skills. Trade show staffers who are also storytellers tend to get the most leads. Prospects respond positively to people who can demonstrate a product or service with confidence while also sprinkling into the presentation a few carefully placed customer success stories and some impressive statistics. Have your demo staff practice, practice, practice until their presentation is both polished and engaging.
TIMING IS KEY
As you can see, for your next trade show to be a success, it’s important that you invest time and energy into training and coaching your booth staff. You may even want to hire a professional trainer, if budget allows. Just don’t wait until the week before the show! Your staff needs time to absorb and practice what they’ve learned until their new trade show skills become natural.