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.
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.”
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?”
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.”