Without exception, every tradeshow is of upmost importance to all the exhibitors I have been working with worldwide over the past 8 years. Investment is high, the high number of competitors exhibiting at the same event, and the volume of visitors can be overwhelming, therefore capturing the right prospects, and getting them to say YES, becomes a tough challenge to overcome.
The 2 key questions for any exhibitor planning for their next tradeshow, in my opinion, should be: How do I get the visitor to say: 1. “Yes, I want to learn more about your company right now” and 2. “Yes please contact me after the show to discuss how we can do business together”.
To help exhibitors get answers to these questions, I would like to explore three key psychological principles that can help exhibitors ask the right questions and trigger an effective conversation in a live tradeshow environment. This is based on the influence rationale of getting people to agree, accept and move to the next stage of the sales process when they are talking to you at a trade show.
Reciprocation is the old give and take rule describing the sense of obligation that people feel when they are given something they don’t expect. Psychologists have proven that this rule makes us want to do something for people who do something for us first. In a live trade show environment, the time to attract, engage and build rapport with people is much shorter than in a traditional business setting, therefore there is a fine line between giving out flyers to attract people, and making them feel welcomed and helped when they are passing by your booth.
In this context, reciprocation is very much related to your attitude in approaching visitors and questioning style to get visitors out of their trance and getting them hooked on what you are promoting or selling. Make sure the qualifying questions are asked in a conversational manner, naturally leading the visitors to become interested in what you are telling them. Raising curiosity in visitors to enable them to want to find out more, is the winning formula to change a “No I am not interested” into a firm “YES, I want to learn more about your company and your products and services”
Asking focused, open-ended questions about what they are looking for and directing these questions towards their current service provider or supplier issues and possible motivations to change or purchase, will also make them trust you and feel that they should in return, find out about what you do and see how you can help them to save, gain, reduce, increase or improve.
This principle goes hand in hand with reciprocation. Positive attitude and body language are just a couple of the things that really matter when building rapport and likability with visitors who can become potential customers for you. Throughout the past 20 years, likability was defined in very different ways and the way to create it, was and still is of course sensitive to cultural boundaries and to the team hired to be at your booth. Not everyone can project likability at your booth and that is perfectly ok too. Plenty of high-level professionals do this on a regular basis and become the face of the brand at the shows they are working at.
Therefore, the question you should ask your team is “What have we done at this show to make visitors feel special and how can we do this better next one?” Where can we get the experienced professionals from to do this for us at the next tradeshow?
Keeping it simple
The KISS principle is about drawing a set of key interest statements to use as an elevator pitch. Like I have explained in the AIDA principle, there are 4 important steps in driving visitors into a buying decision: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
Tradeshow visitors are buyers, suppliers, contractors and distributors but first and foremost, they are all people. They will say YES to people who make them feel good, people whom they like, or those who keep things simple throughout their sales pitch.
The challenge in getting people to say “YES I want to learn more” or “Yes, I want to follow up with you after the show” is learning how to attract, engage and interact more effectively. In an industry that is continuously changing and where psychology and live-face to face marketing are synchronising - in their nature - more than they used to a few years ago, exhibitors need to understand the psychology of the visitor and use that to effectively plan their engagement strategy.
In summary, every effective visitor engagement strategy, needs to have well-planned qualifying questions for the visitor, and proactive, motivated booth staff to execute them. Using techniques such as Reciprocation, Likability and KISS, exhibitors can psychologically drive prospects into saying YES and becoming committed to develop a long term relationship with the exhibitor’s brand at and after the tradeshow exhibition.
By Lee Ali, Managing Director and Founder of Expo Stars Interactive, a leading worldwide tradeshow performance agency. With a deep interest in Sales and Business Psychology, Lee has worked extensively in the Communications sector including Telecoms, Mobile, Broadcasting, Online and Live Marketing. Lee is a Member of the Institute of Directors (IoD), a Fellow of the Institute of Sales and Marketing (InstSMM) and a Member of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).