Objective of a trade show conversation

On my way to Albuquerque to do some staff training and I’m thinking that this blog should be about something that’s often taken for granted and not giving must focus; what exactly is the objective for a conversation with a visitor to your booth?

I always assumed an exhibit staff knew why they were spending time with visitors but I am often proved wrong. Often, the conversation is almost totally driven by the staff person as they talk to the visitor about what they want to talk about. Or it could be the reverse and the conversation is dominated by the visitor. This might be a good conversation but it could also be that this visitor is a real time-waster; they just like to pontificate, demonstrate their vast knowledge, or they have have the buying potential of three-year old.There isn’t a lot of effort on a part of the staff person to keep the conversation focused on an objective that meets the needs of both participants.

As an exhibit staffer, meeting both your and the visitor’s objective should be your number one priority. Typical objectives include:

  • Qualified lead generation
  • An appointment
  • Commitment to respond to an email or to take a phone call
  • Commitment to attend a function, reception, seminar, etc.
  • A sale (this still happens at a lot of shows)

So suppose that the number one objective is qualified lead generation. When the staff is focused on this, they have to understand the visitor’s needs, timeframes, issues, and preferred method of follow-up. These are the qualifiers for a good lead. And when the booth is really busy, how long does it take to get to this point? Usually only five or ten minutes. After that, they can politely dismiss the visitor and move on to qualify another visitors. Very efficient.

Without clear, time-dependent, achievable objectives, conversations can be completely open-ended at the mercy of whoever wants to keep talking – possibly wasting both person’s time.

There are always exceptions for this objective driven strategy; when your biggest customer wants 30 minutes of your time in your booth, that’s probably a good use of your time. But in general, keeping the focus on meeting some specific objectives for a trade show conversation will result in more and higher quality lead generation, better experiences for your visitors, and a more successful show.

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Presenting the “So What?”

What does “Presenting the ‘So What?’” mean?

“The What” are the features of your products and services. What they do, what differentiates them, how big they are, what they cost, etc.

“The What” are the facts, specifications and descriptions of your products and services.

“The What” says nothing about how your products and services bring value to your visitors and to their customers.

What is the “So What?”

The “So What?,” takes “The What” and adds some need the visitor has to produce a “So What?”. It’s a form of the classic “features + needs = benefits” formula.

Talking about the “So What?,” personalizes your products and services to each visitor.

All of the “whats” are only features that have no value unless the visitor has a need for it and cares about it. Doing this is also called features dumping. The huge risk that is taken when you are only talking about the “What” is that it puts the burden of translating these features into something of value – benefits – on the visitor. And most visitors won’t do it.

When you simply laundry list a bunch of features it communicates that there is more complexity and more cost to the listening visitor. Two things you probably are not trying to do.

Don’t leave it to the visitor to make that translation from a “What” to a “So What?” Do it for them by understanding how your product or service will result in value to them. Find out what the visitor cares about. Their issues, plans, problems, and needs. You do this by asking questions, not by unloading “The What” on them. Here are some general, open-ended, sample questions to move from “The What” to the “So What?”:

  • “What specifically are you looking to improve or change?”
  • “What are you looking for to improve?”

• “How can our product improve your time-to-market or your client’s experience?”

• “What problems are you experiencing?”

The “So What?,” will be how the features of your products and services produce benefits based on the visitor’s needs.

The sales research I’ve seen over the past 20+ years consistently says that people will commit to purchase virtually anything based on the product or service fulfilling two or three high value needs. Not four needs or ten needs; two or three. So how do you know which two or three “Whats” will turn into the higher value “So Whats?” Ask some questions to understand how your product or service will:

  • Generate more revenue
  • Decrease some current expense
  • Avoid some future expense
  • Shorten their time-to-market
  • Improve their quality of life

So how do you deliver the “So What?”

You need to make the link between two or three key needs that the visitor has expressed to the corresponding features of your product or service that address or meet those needs. To do this, re-state each visitor’s need and supply the connecting feature one at a time.

You want to give your trade show booth visitors a different, more positive experience? Talk about what your products and service mean to their specific situation. Talk about the “So What?”

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