Introduction to Booth Staff Training As most exhibitors know, trade shows and events oftentimes consume a significant portion of a marketing or sales budget. Aside from the considerable financial resources that are pumped into each event, companies are also forced to invest a great deal of time preparing (travel, hotel, freight, exhibit setup, etc.) for a show to ensure everything is perfect prior to heading out to the event. However, recent studies have shown that very few companies take the time to prepare their staff to effectively manage and execute the show they are scheduled to attend. Over the years, companies have actually been decreasing their level of pre-event training at a staggering rate. Only 30 percent of exhibiting companies reported doing any pre-show training for all or almost all events. Of the exhibiting companies that do train exhibit staff, only 2 percent use an outside professional trainer. Forty-nine percent of exhibiting company personnel rarely or never receive exhibit staff training, and 51 percent receive training only for major events or at least a majority of the time.1 According to a recent CEIR research report, deciding to train your staff is a critical step toward increasing your ROI. The medium, location, environment and participants can all contribute to success, but choosing the correct trainer is the key to reaching your event objective.2 This installment of the Trade Show 101 White Paper Series seeks to help exhibitors understand the importance of training their staff to execute events effectively and to increase ROI as well as what the appropriate staff mix is for your company. Make sure to take advantage of the previous four installments of the Trade Show 101 White Paper Series, which you should have received in your Thank You email. 1 CEIR, “The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction.” 2003. 2 For the purposes of this white paper, we will use the terms “attendees” and “target market” interchangeably because at the end Key Points • Focus on “buyers,” not “visitors.” • Leave the “squishy balls” in the box. • Deliver one compelling message. • Integrate sales with marketing by involving them in the marketing process. • Engage, qualify, filter and measure. As a B2B marketer, you know that you have to approach sales differently, focusing on the benefits of the product and the business pain it answers. You don’t get to talk about the sex appeal of the product or kindle desire—you’re building value. So, why do so many B2B marketers use the same tactics as their B2C counterparts at trade shows and exhibitions? B2B marketers have to overcome the differences between B2C and B2B marketing and focus on closing deals rather than building buzz or brand management. And, they have to do it well. This two-part challenge—honing in on the sale and executing efficiently—is rarely overcome by any company at trade shows and exhibitions. Most companies collect numerous leads at trade shows but fail to fully capitalize on their efforts. Research shows that more than 80 percent of all leads never receive any form of post-show follow-up. Those who do often receive the follow-up too late—43 percent of prospective buyers receive buying material after making a decision. This tendency to ignore leads positions those companies that can gather, separate and follow-up on their leads accurately and efficiently (maybe your competitors?) at a tremendous advantage—enough of a difference to earn the sale or lose a customer. Honing in on the Sale • Focus on “buyers,” not “visitors.” • Leave the “squishy balls” in the box. A trade show is a costly endeavor—why engage if you don’t plan to recoup those costs during the show or as a result of the show? More executives demand ROI on all marketing campaigns, and the trade show is no exception. Marketers can show this ROI if they drive sales during the event. The first step at-show is to focus on the buyers. Focusing on the buyer begins before the show and comes to fruition at-show or post-show. • Choose promotions that appeal to your buyers. • Determine attendee status (buyer or visitor) when they approach the booth. • Politely dismiss visitors. • Focus on the buyers. The majority of your time, attention and effort should be directed at buyers, not visitors. While the occasional visitor will engage you in a lengthy conversation, many are waiting for you to engage them. Use that initial engagement to ask qualifying questions, such as: • What is your role at ABC company? • Tell me about upcoming projects at your company. • Do you have a plan to resolve this business pain? If they do not qualify, move on. Another important way to hone in on the sale during the trade show is by choosing your promotions to appeal to your buyers. Many B2C businesses choose promotions that will appeal to everyone. This drives everyone to the booth, increasing the number of visitors but not necessarily the number of buyers. Choose offers that will increase their likelihood to buy either now or in the future, such as white papers and company-branded and relevant items. Use these as tools during the sales conversation rather than as a gift to every passerby. Leave the “squishy balls” at home. Execute Efficiently • Deliver one compelling message. • Integrate sales with marketing by involving them in the marketing process. • Engage, qualify, filter and measure. Once your staff is focused on the buyer and the sale, they must make each interaction matter. Again, capitalizing on the conversation begins before the show with the development of the message. This one compelling message should be delivered to each buyer when he or she arrives at the booth (ideally buyers would receive it before they arrive, but that’s a different white paper topic), and it should be supported by the graphics of the booth, sales collateral and promotional items. Developing the message, determining how to deliver it and deciding the criteria for qualified leads are all excellent venues for marketing and sales to team up. When you integrate sales with marketing by involving them in the marketing process, you gain the benefit of the salespeople’s daily client interactions. Those same salespeople are also more likely to participate enthusiastically in the trade show because they are involved on the ground floor. Finally, follow this four-step process for each interaction: 1. Engage Engage the attendee and begin qualifying him or her immediately. 2. Qualify/Filter Once you’ve determined whether you’re dealing with a buyer or a prospect (an A, B or C lead), disengage or choose the best message for the potential buyer. 3. Present Deliver the one compelling message to the potential buyer. 4. Close Determine the next steps in the process. Ideally, the potential buyer should lead this discussion and set the timing and content of the follow-up to best fit his or her preferences and schedule. Examples of Lead Categorization A Leads B Leads C Leads • Decision maker • Influencer • Influencer • Buying within 90 days • Buying by year end • Unsure of purchase time • Familiar with product • Familiar with product • Has competitor’s product • Talking with • RFP process competition To improve the efficiency of your lead categorization process, there are software solutions available that can not only accelerate the process, but also allow you to better segment your leads and improve lead quality. One such solution that exhibitors are raving about is FISH Software. Check out www.FISHsoftware.com to learn more. Selecting the Appropriate Staff Mix Overall, attendees have a higher preference for speaking with exhibition personnel who have a technical background (production/operations, engineering, scientific/technical and R&D) than sales/marketing personnel. This is consistent with the importance they place on product knowledge and technical expertise as attributes. The majority of exhibiting com- panies have a relatively small percentage of exhibit staff with technical job functions. This suggests exhibiting companies should re-evaluate their onsite staffing practices. Sales and management staff must be technically qualified or trained in order to achieve the attendee’s needs. If this isn’t possible, you should consider using an online computer link from the exhibit floor to the technical staff. Using modern technology is often an efficient way to secure immediate technical input for a customer when it is not practical to have technical staff onsite. 3 3 CEIR, “The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction.” 2003. Keep in mind that one’s experience should greatly influence the outcome of the staff mix. Attendees can quickly sniff out a rookie staff member and are less likely to engage the staff in anything other than a high-level, superficial conversation. Try to staff your exhibit or event with experienced individuals. On average, 58 percent of an exhibitor’s staff has at least 10 years of experience within the industry.4 Strengthening Your (Sales) Backbone The success of the above activities is dependent on the strength of your event staff. More than 80 percent of the perception of your company is determined by the staffers on event days. If they are not aware of the behavior basics (such as the necessity of listening skills and product knowledge), they will not be able to successfully close deals and create positive ROI at events. If, however, you have a quality team in place that is a bit rough around the edges, The Trade Group® offers Booth Staff Boot Camp to shape those staffers into B2B sales machines. Contact The Trade Group® today to find a Booth Staff Training Seminar for your team to attend or schedule a customized booth staff training session specifically catered to meet your team’s needs. 4 CEIR, “The Role and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction.” 2003. Booth Staff Checklist Do’s 1. Wear your badge on your right side 2. Be assertive 3. Smile 4. Thank them for visiting 5. Listen 6. Know your product 7. Be aware of body language 8. Engage attendees Don’ts 1. Drink, smoke or eat in the exhibit 2. Read while in the exhibit 3. Sit during down times 4. Chat with booth staff 5. Leave booth unattended 6. Use negative body language 7. Cross arms while talking The Trade Group® Trade Show 101 White Paper Series This white paper, “Booth Staff Boot Camp™,” is the fifth in a series of white papers that The Trade Group® will be publishing over the course of the year. The purpose of the Trade Show 101 White Paper Series is to provide our marketing community with valuable knowledge and expertise that will ultimately help exhibitors maximize their potential at their next event. The series explores exhibitors’ challenges and provides valuable advice on how to overcome them. Each white paper will focus on a different and unique challenge ranging from setting effective goals and objectives, to pre-show marketing, to measurement and ROI. About The Trade Group® The Trade Group® is among the Southwest’s largest providers of exhibit products and services for trade shows, conventions and other business events. Founded in 1986, The Trade Group® has delivered approximately 40,000 exhibits to more than 15,000 customers. The Trade Group® occupies 100,000 square feet in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Oklahoma City and Las Vegas. The company’s reputation is built on obsessive customer service and creativity. For more about The Trade Group®, please visit their website at www.tradegroup.com.
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