Blocking Bad Booth Behavior

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I was given an opportunity to attend a trade show conference this week. When I wasn’t attending sessions, I was in the traditional exhibit hall area where a variety of vendors have spent significant money to vie for the attention and interest of the decision makers that have gathered for the conference. I consistently see at these types of events sales and marketing teams that don’t recognize the impact they’re having on their brand and the experience they’re creating for visitors to their booth. They’ve invested time, money and people to making a great first impression, but too often fall flat because they haven’t disciplined themselves in a few key areas. So, here is my top ten list of bad booth behaviors that should be blocked from trade show exhibit halls in the future:

1. Sitting down in the booth waiting for people to come to them. This one is a very common problem. The mindset is that the booth will attract visitors and we merely sit here and wait for them to walk into our area and ask how they can buy something. Everything is wrong with this thinking. Visitors to your booth will be attracted by an interaction with your team, not your booth. You must have your team up on their feet assertively and respectfully greeting visitors as they pass by. Nothing can replace that simple human interaction in grabbing the attention of a passer-by and converting them into a lead. I’ve seen this work time and time again for those who do it. A simple, “Hello, good morning,” or, “have you heard of us before,” are great icebreakers to get a conversation started.

2. Leaving out food and drinks in plain view. A booth I was observing brought boxes of pizza to the sales team that were supporting the booth. The box was left out center-stage at their booth with a slice of pizza that someone had taken a bite from – bad manners and bad booth design. If you need to eat or drink, take it away from your booth where visitors don’t see it.

3. Texting or emailing at the booth. A number of booths had someone sitting in a chair looking down at their mobile device while numerous leads passed them by, admiring the lights and visual displays of the booth property, but missing any kind of human interaction that could have led to sales activity.

4. Internal conversations at the booth. When your team is at the booth, they cannot be having internal conversations about your business. Their business for that time is to support the booth and interact with visitors – period. The number of conversations I overheard that were internal to the company exhibiting was ridiculous.

5. Shifting focus. Once a member of your booth team is engaged with a prospect, they need to be fully focused on the person they’re talking with. Numerous times I observed sales representatives engaged in conversation with someone, but not holding eye contact and instead looking past the person in front of them to see who else was passing by.

6. Poor posture/eye contact. Slouching, hands in pockets, darting eye movements. Sales teams working exhibit booths must recognize they are on stage and are representing their brand. Video tape your team while they’re at the booth and ask yourself – would their body language, posture and energy level attract you to stop and visit?

7. Premature booth tear down. This exhibit ended at 3pm on the last day, yet many booths were already being torn down at 2pm and some even earlier than that. I have had so many times where one of the best leads I received came 5-10 minutes before the exhibit hall shut down. If I had torn my booth down, they would have passed me by and visited someone else who had the resilience to stay to the end.

8. No questions, just pitches. This is consultative sales 101, but really, you need to be asking questions of visitors before you start jumping into your typical sales pitch. Why are they visiting? What attracted them? Who are they? You do not want to be 5 minutes into your presentation before you realize you just presented some of your best features to a member of your competitor’s team that happened to be trolling the halls.

9. Badge browsing. So many teams would be so focused on reading the name and title on the visitor’s badge that they never made eye contact. Further, they passed judgment on the value of the lead based on their name badge alone. This is foolish. Make solid eye contact first, connect with the person through conversation, then ask them about who they are with and what they do. Unqualified leads can be quickly dismissed at this point and you’ve made a great first impression on those who are qualified.

10. No follow-up notes. After several days of a conference, all the business cards you collected and conversations you had will start to blur. Be sure to take 1-2 minutes after every good conversation to make notes about what interested that particular lead, what next steps to take and how to follow-up. After all, creating and activating leads is what conferences like this are all about – don’t rely on your memory. Take the time to put it in writing – you’ll thank yourself later.

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