By Jeff Beals
Our company hosted a booth at a large business-to-business trade show today. Thousands of people passed through the aisles and many of them stopped by our booth. Several of our employees took turns staffing the booth, giving them the chance to meet new people and reconnect with familiar faces.
B2B trade shows are a good chance to network and prospect but not necessarily the place where you’re going to do a lot of hard-core deal-making.
Unfortunately, some people don’t quite understand that.
I personally staffed the booth from 8:30 to 10:00 this morning. At one point, a very nice (but clueless) woman approached me and introduced herself. She was professionally dressed and had a pleasant demeanor.
But then things quickly went downhill.
Immediately upon introducing herself, she launched into a breathless litany of her product’s features and benefits. She went on and on. I probably only heard every third for fourth word, because I was so utterly uninterested.
It was diarrhea of the mouth, a vocal assault of meaningless features and benefits.
I listened for a while waiting for her to break her verbal cadence, giving me the narrow window I needed to end the conversation. Finally, she took a breath. I immediately tried the “give-me-your-card-and-I’ll-keep-in-you mind” trick, but to no avail. On and on she went, regurgitating features and alleged benefits.
I felt trapped. The booth was my cage and she was the captor. I was cornered with nowhere to go and no option but to stand there and take it. For a fleeting moment I looked around the booth in vain for a can of gasoline and a match – surely she would stop if I lit myself on fire.
Eventually, someone else walked up to the booth. I excused myself and said I had to talk to the new person.
Our company exhibits at that trade show every year, and every year the above scenario happens. Several times! I’m amazed that sales people still behave this way despite all the energy we sales consultants expend helping professionals sell more effectively.
Exhibitors pay a lot of money to rent a booth and display their goods and services at trade shows. It has always rubbed me the wrong way when people who don’t have a booth go up to everyone else and use in-your-face selling tactics on the exhibitors who are there to meet their own prospective clients.
More importantly, no selling of any kind works when you have not taken the time to figure out what the prospect values.
The hapless saleswoman did not appear to care what I valued. She asked me not a single question. She just talked at Gatling-gun pace.
As has often been said, people love to buy but they hate to be sold to. This advice certainly applies to trade shows and other networking events. Successful sales people consider the audience and the environment before deciding how to approach new people. At first, the goal is to build rapport and start to learn what a prospect values.
Letting the process play out the way it is supposed to gives you the time you need to work your magic. When you jump in too soon, you alienate prospects and you become the person that people avoid when they see you walking down the trade-show aisle.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.
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