Unqualified booh visitors and time wasters

Continuing my discussion on the different types of booth visitors . . .

Unqualified visitors and time wasters
Just the opposite of a qualified visitor. They are never going to be a customer, they have little or no influence on other people (as if they’d recommend you anyway), they may think they’re really important to you but they’re not. Anyone who keeps your or your staff from working with qualified visitors is a time waster.
Sometimes they’re easy to spot with their shopping cart full of recyclables. But often they’re almost invisible with their business attire, charming smile, and their first impression-making ability. But beware, just as what starts as a friendly conversation with your brother-in-law can turn into a MonaVie or Amway high-pressure sales pitch, savvy time-wasting booth visitors often seem like they’re someone you want to spend time with, but they’re not.
What follows are descriptions of some of the most common types of time wasters.

Unqualified visitors
After your exhibit staff’s wonderfully constructed qualifying questions, they discover that this visitor is unqualified. Well, that sometimes happens. More likely your staff ends up wasting time with a very pleasant or a very-qualified appearing visitor. If your staff were to ask the right questions, they might discover that this visitor is unqualified because they are a low-life peon with no respect or influence within their own company (maybe they’re at the show because they are the DD). Or maybe they don’t have any budget or funding or they’re thinking of making a purchase in eight years. Any of these missing qualifiers can make a visitor and unqualified visitors. What should you and staff do when they realize this? Just turn and walk away? Keep looking at your watch? Hum “Feelings” louder and louder? Well, those will all work but the more professional thing to do is to politely disengage from the conversation by saying something like, “Well I do need to meet with my 3PM appointment, but thanks for coming by, have a great show.” Or, “I’ve really enjoyed talking with you but I’ve got to make sure I get to talk with all these other visitors in the booth right now. Thanks for coming by, enjoy the rest of the show.”

Booth beggars
These “visitors” rate the success of their day by how much free stuff they can gather. A booth beggar’s first question is usually something like, “What are you giving away?” or “Are these free?” Experienced and professional booth beggars know what to say to get what they want. They know they stand a better chance of getting something for free if they appear to be qualified so they’ll say they’re the decision-maker, they want to buy now, they have money, etc. They’ll also ask for multiple items for their multiple children.
Most of the healthcare shows I work at don’t give anything away. At pharma shows it’s just about illegal. So there are no issues about handling booth beggars. But for other shows that still allow it and for the exhibitors doing give-aways, here are some tips on handling booth beggars. First, don’t waste your staffs time administering a give-away. Do it at the info or reception counter. Second, get something in return for your give-away. Treat it like a barter. Ask for a badge scan, ask about what they do or their interest level in your products or services, or at the very least, ask them what booth they’re at. This could really stump them as experienced booth beggars just look at counters, not at signs.
If they ask for multiple items, give them one now and then ask them to return at the end of the show at which time, if you have any left, you’ll give them another one or two. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell any booth beggar asking for multiple items that you are trying to get your give-away item into as many different hands as possible as it is advertising and promotion for you. If the booth beggars says they want three items for their three children, ask to see pictures.
Finally, don’t waste your time or make a customer service issue out of dealing with booth beggars. Save that for your biggest customers.

Competitive Intelligence Gatherers
Usually this is a person from a competing exhibitor. If they’re ethical, they’ll have their own real badge displayed and they’ll just walk right in your booth and start looking around. Many are very open about being a competitor and it’s up to your exhibit staff to explain to them that your booth is not a place for competitors and to politely escort them out. Or they can ask the competitor if they are there to drop off their résumé or if they’d like to meet with you later in their booth.
Some less-than-ethical exhibit staff personnel switch badges to conceal their affiliation or they turn their badge around so you can’t see it or they just take their badge off. It’s up to every one working in your booth to know who they are talking to. And my general feeling about these less-than-ethical visitors is that someone in their booth would not be happy if they knew this is how their company was being represented. I know of a couple of event manager clients of mine who went to their competitor’s booth to tell the VP of Sales or Marketing about one of their people’s unethical behavior. And it worked. These VPs were not happy. They typically do not want any of their people to unethical. They usually handle that by cheating on their own expenses and profiting from insider stock trading.

These types will often know more about your own products than you do. And they’re not afraid to quiz you and confront you about it. They’re obsessed with knowing as much as possible, trading off any pleasant interpersonal skills in the bargain. They’re always up for a game of “Knowledge Bowl” with you just to see who fails first. And as you or your staff is spending 40 minutes trying to answer every question they fire at you, you’re ignoring the visitor behind you who actually might do some business with you. You’re making a bad choice. Tell the know-it-alls that you’ve enjoyed talking with them but you’ve got to move on to some of the other visitors in the booth. If that doesn’t’ work, quiz them right back. Try this question: “If you are using C language to implement the heterogeneous linked list, what pointer type will you use?
Or this one: How does Plato’s view that the rulers in his ideal state must be philosophers affect the education that he thinks the rules must receive? Or this one: “Is the self identical with the body?”

Exceedingly social
These types are way too nice. They may appear to be qualified but they’re usually just lonely. And you, with that great smile and pleasant disposition, are their favorite listener. They’ll go on about their vacations, schooling, children, life experience, out-of-body experiences, etc. If there’s no one in your booth, it’s your choice give any time to them. If the booth is busy, you really have no choice. Politely dismiss them. Try this: “Sorry, but I have to call my parole officer by the top of the hour or I violate my probation again.”

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Different Types of Trade Show Booth Visitors

Mixed in with all of the attendees at any trade show are those visitors that you actually want in your booth. And depending upon the show, you may want all or just some small percentage of them in your booth. But you have really have no control over who enters your booth unless, as I’ve seen at some shows, you have “Dobermans at the Door” screening visitors before they can enter through a single guarded entrance of a walled-off booth. Not very inviting but it does communicate exclusivity. Sort of like not being in the “People Who Only Shower Monthly Club.”

So what are the different types of visitors that typically walk around an exhibit hall? And how can you and your staff handle them? Below is the first set of the most common types of visitors you might encounter in your booth at a trade show and some suggestions on what to do with them. This advice might also be good for on-line dating. They are presented in the order of their general importance to you.

This blog would be way too long if I tried to describe all of them at once. It will take another blog or two to get to them all. Stay tuned!

Hot Leads
These visitors make the show exciting. Hot leads are qualified visitors (described next), plus they want to go to the next step with you ASAP. They want to write an order, schedule an appointment, meeting, phone call, etc. right away. From the research my colleague Jim Obermayer, the Executive Director of the Sales Lead Management Association (SLMA), has done, 10-15% of your qualified leads will be hot leads. I have seen major sales happen at trade shows. I have also seen major sales screwed up. If you know who these hot leads are ahead of time, your staff should know too so that these valuable visitors get greeted quickly and escorted to the right person and/or place in your booth. But most hot leads are created real-time, during the show. You don’t know who is going to end up being a hot lead. It could be the guy wearing the suit and tennis shoes. Or the quiet nerd. Or an average looking, casually dressed, boring-looking visitor. You never know. Quick follow-up is key to getting the business as they are probably hot leads for one or more of your competitors too.

Qualified visitors
These visitors are why you’re exhibiting. Through the wonderfully effective questioning by your expert exhibit staff, these visitors have a need for your product or service, they have an influencing role in their decision-making process, they have a reasonable buying time frame, they have budget or funding, and they want further contact. Everything you do to drive traffic to your booth is to get as many qualified visitors as possible into your booth. So keep raffling off the Ferrari! And the only leads that really count toward a lead goal are qualified leads. You lead gathering systems should have all of your specific qualifiers programmed or typed in so your staff remembers what they are and for easy “tick-box” lead completion. Qualified leads are extremely valuable but they only cost, on average, about $300.

They may look like a regular visitor, their badge may not give them away, but these VIP Visitors often have more buying power than all of the other visitors to your booth combined. That’s why it’s important to greet VIPs quickly as they won’t wait very long – usually only 15 seconds before they’ll just leave your booth. VIPs are your biggest customers or biggest potential customers. They might also be consultants whose influence on their client’s purchasing decisions could be huge. Often, the qualifying process is turned on its head with VIPs. They decide if their time is going be well-spent with you and your staff. I recommend groveling, deep bowing, and offers to wash their cars as ways to differentiate your company from your competition with these VIP visitors. Not exactly the high road, but memorable.

Visitors with influence
These visitors will probably never be customers, but they can direct business to you through what they write, who they know, and what they recommend. But their influence can also work against you if they’re treated rudely or ignored. Visitors with influence can be from the media, they might be an association president, or they might be a presenter at a well-attended session at the same show and talk up your company. Remember that every visitor has a positive experience in your booth. You never know where the business will come from. If you blow off one of these visitors with influence, that negative experience will get around to everyone they know. Ever wonder why people are sneering at you in the aisles, why you’re the only one in the hotel elevator? You must have pissed-off a visitor with influence.

Just looking
That’s what these visitors say they’re doing when you first greet them in the booth. And that may be all they do. But some become qualified leads, some even become hot leads, and some are clearly time wasters. No matter what, every visitor should have a positive experience. Let them look and leave them alone. But be aware of them as they might want to ask a question or have an actual conversation with you or one of your staff. They remind me of shoplifters; they don’t want attention.

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Why your exhibit staff thinks they’re great

Everyone thinks they know how to work in a trade show booth because, well, what does it take? You have to be able to talk to people and how hard can that be? When they walk up to you, you talk to them. Easy.

And, you have to be able to know something about your own products and services in the booth. No problem, they’re in sales. If they’re not sure about something they’ll just take an educated guess. That does work. Sometimes.

You can also tell the experienced sales reps by their ability to kiss up to the boss while ignoring visitors. We call this an “advanced skill.”

So they are experts. Wait. No they aren’t.

Not sure now? Why not just ask them?

When I take a guess and ask my client’s if their exhibit staff thinks training is a waste of time and they that they’re already experts at working in a trade show, they always respond with: “That’s our staff! How did you know?”

Who would admit they need training? Why do most of the people staffing your booth think they’re good at this? Is it like driving a car where over 85% of drivers think they’re above average? If someone only works in a booth two or three times a year, how good can they be? You know they don’t think about it until the exhibit hall opens. How good would you be if you just showed up and started working at something you don’t do very often? Not real good. At least, not real good for a while.

Some staffers resort to putting on their retail sales hat when they work in a booth; they wait for someone to walk up to them, they ask the visitor if they need any help, and they smile the entire time.

Are these highly effective Walmart skills just as effective in a trade show booth? Unlikely. Maybe even counter-productive.

Do your people even realize that they need to do different things with the booth is slow or when it’s really congested? Do they know what social protocols change for a trade show booth (Politely interrupting any conversation and moving one-on-one conversations to one-to-many conversations)? Do they know how to get rid of a time-waster?

A perfect trade show staff will have as many conversations with qualified visitors as possible, generate as many qualified leads as possible, and this will result in your trade show generating as much revenue for your company as possible. But, you say, your

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