It’s ShowTime!

Many entrepreneurs and business owners use business expos and smaller local trade shows to market their products and services and network with prospects, clients and colleagues. If that strategy works for your business, here are some Best Practices to help you maximize your experience, ROI and value by Asking the Right Questions.

The Attendee Experience

Business show attendees are usually in a hurry and most attend for specific reasons. They’re looking to connect with providers of products or services they may need. They cruise the isles quickly, looking for what they want, or good SWAG or … as in my case, snacks.

Avoid Lame Questions

Keep in mind that you only have a few seconds when they’re in range of your booth. Therefore, don’t waste this valuable time on lame idle chit-chat type questions like ‘How’s it going?’, ‘Hot enough out there for you?’ or ‘How about those (name of local sports team)?’

While those questions are innocent enough and might engage some attendees in casual conversation, that’s not why either of you are there. You want to know if they are potential prospects for your business, so cut to the chase. Actually, given the style of contemporary action films, cut to the crash instead. And you can do this with style while practicing uncommon courtesy.

Ask Great Questions Instead

Assume you can only ask one question as they pass by your booth. Try ‘Hi Joan, welcome to the (name of show) … does your company currently use (type of product or service you provide)?’ The answer will immediately tell you if Joan is a potential prospect or not.

If she says ‘no’, it would take way too much time and effort to try to convince her that they should, even if you could. A big waste of your time and hers, so why bother. Game over, so end it with ‘Thanks … enjoy the rest of the show.’

If she says ‘yes’, try a drill down like “Good to know – may I ask who provides it now?” or “Would you like some information on our (service or product) to compare quality and cost with your current provider?’ Wait for her answer – don’t just stuff your card, lit or SWAG in her bag.

If you get some positive signals, you could even ask if Joan would like you to call in a few days to discuss your offerings in more detail. Also ask if she’d like some information or would like to fill out an information card for a drawing for a (nice prize).

Follow Up Is Critical

Follow up with interested prospects quickly. A call or e-mail works better than sending out a lot of marketing material first. Ask people what they’d like to see and then only send what they ask for. You’ll save time and money on unrequested material that just winds up in the recycle bin.

And if you do call, continue your positive first impression with more uncommon courtesy. Try ‘Hi Joan, this is Bob from XYZ. I met you at the ABC show yesterday and you asked me to call to discuss our (product or service). Is this a good time for a brief chat?’ Follow her lead and conduct a brief chat then or reschedule the call at a more convenient time.

These simple and easy strategies are a great way to differentiate you from the other providers and support your value proposition. They can maximize your effective and efficient use of time and printed materials and, most of all, they can maximize your evolving relationship with prospects you can then convert to customers.

So … On with the Show!